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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The author of the Sherlock Holmes books had a very poor knowledge of firearms and of some other topics about which he wrote. Didn't care to do much research, either.

Given that Dr. Watson, an Army surgeon, retired somewhere around the early 1880's, I think his "service revolver" was probably an Adams or Tranter. They were better finished and more prestigious than Webleys until the mid-'80's. Or, so I've read. I'd have to see some to compare and haven't. I have handled a Webley Army Express .455 and it was well made, and looked somewhat like a Colt DA Frontier contemporary. I hope it had a better rep for durability of the lockwork... And I've seen Webley WG's, made VERY well, indeed. The later Webley govt.- issued guns were more plainly finished, with harder, less smooth trigger pulls.

Who here has seen and handled Adams and Tranter guns? What did you think of them? Now that I think of it, I have handled an Adams MK III, many years ago. Nice gun, and slimmer in the hand than expected. But the .450 ammo was weak, something that Watson, being a doctor, would have been aware of, especially as the gun did not perform well in the Afghan wars or against the Ashanti tribe in 1878. Never saw any figures from the 1879 Zulu conflict.

I do know that some British officers bought Colt and S&W guns for American cartridges. Fosbery said that the best stopper he saw on the NW Frontier of India was the Colt Frontier .44/40. He didn't say if he had observed the .45 Colt in action. Quote was in, "The Peacemaker and Its Rivals", by Parsons, about 1950-'52.

But a big Colt or S&W No. 3 wouldn't have fit in Watson's coat pockets in his London adventures with Holmes. An Adams might, or the Webley RIC model in .450 or .455.

What do YOU think Watson's gun was, and why? I danged sure don't think I'd feel comfortable using it against The Hound of the Baskervilles. I'd want a .45 Colt or a rifle for that errand.

Holmes seemed to carry a small .450 of the sort used by London detectives then. The Eley No. 2 of some books is, of course, a cartridge, not a gun. Sir Arthur C. Doyle may not have known the difference. His contemporary, Sir Henry Rider Haggard ("King Solomon's Mines") was FAR more gun knowledgeable, and had served in South Africa during the Second Zulu War. But his characters carried Colt SAA .45's. That was very logical for them, perhaps less so for Watson.
 

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Tranter started making these revolver in 1868

16B.jpg

By 1878 they were making these to compete with the 1878 Colts and Webley No. New Army Express.



28A.jpg
In 1879 Tranter started making this hinge frame revolver. 32A.jpg
 

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A number of years ago I purchased, through another dealer, the contence of a safe deposit box which had belonged to Sir Arther Conan Doyle, the box contained a .476 WG Model 1892 Army revolver and a .38 Colt M1902 military model pistol. The pistols had been left with Doyle's London solicitors in 1921 when the Firearms Act first became law. It appeared Sir Arthur did not trust the authorities, (how wise) the pistols were stored in the solicitors safe deposit box and appear to have been forgotten when he died in 1930. It was only when a rationalization of the various deposits was undertaken in 1974 that the weapons were found and sold.

The Webley WG revolver was retailed by the Army & Navy Co-op Stores Ltd. and so engraved on the rib of the barrel. Researching though the ANCSL records I discovered that it had been sold on the 8th March 1893 to J. F. I. H. Doyle R.A. (Royal Artillery) subsequent research into the Army Lists reveal his name to be John Francis Innes Hay Doyle. My search next turned to the Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, where I discovered that Arthur had a younger brother, named John Francis Innes Hay Doyle, known as Innes. The two brothers were very close and shared a residence together at Southsea near Portsmouth between 1882 and 1885. Later in 1894, when Arthur's books had made him famous,the brothers toured the U.S.A.where Arthur lectured and read from his own works, rather as Dickens had done twenty five years before.

During the South African War, Arthur volunteered his medical services and went to Bloemfontein where he helped to look after the British soldiers during a typhoid epidemic. It was during this time that he found time to write his book "The Great BoerWar".
Innes Doyle rose to be a Brigadier General. He served in China in 1900, South African War in 1902, operations in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, served in WW1, mentioned in Despatches on four occasions and was awarded the C.M.G. and D.S.O. He died on 19th February 1919 and is buried near Brussels.

The Colt Model 1902 was shipped circa 1915; it had original London Proof marks and also stamped "JJ" on the right side of the frame above the trigger guard. The use of the "JJ" stamp indicates retail sale by the London Armoury Company. It is not thought the records of the L.A.C. still exist, so I could not confirm who originally purchased the Colt.

It is not known when Arthur acquired the two pistols; possibly they were part of Innes' effects returned to his widow, Clara, who passed them on to Arthur. Both pistols showed the hard work they had done, they had been much carried and little original blue remained, this would possibly indicate their use by Innes for much of their working life, remembering he served both in China and South Africa as well as in France. It is interesting to consider that Arthur would have seen and no doubt handled the Webley at the time he was writing the Sherlock Holmes novels. It seems highly possible that when considering what form Dr. Watson's service revolver would take, he had this Webley "WG" in mind.

Richard Milner
 

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tranters  r.jpg Enfield and Adams (Canadian Mounted Police marked)  r.jpg

Attached some pictures of discussed Adams/Tranters etc. I leave it to Joel to sort out models and so forth. I won't comment on who carried what any more that what models Captain Horatio Hornblower used. Good stories are good stories. First group are tranter's manufacture, the second is top: Mk 1 Enfield and the bottom an Adams with Canadian Mounted Police markings. FWIW.
 

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The following is an extract from a New Zealand Auction House catalogue from May 2009 ( Carvells ) I had the misfortune of being high bidder on these items only to find that the auction house had lost my confirmed bid. This was the first auction after the owner had died and there was a new auctioneer so I accepted their story but it was a real shame. This may show some light on how Doyle was minded to arm his detecting duo but I wouldn't feel comfortable calling either a service revolver although a doctor might not want to be hampered by some huge cannon swinging from his hip whilst working on a patient. As per pro nothing but to throw something else in, the latest Watson in the recent "modern" BBC production of Sherlock Holmes, carries a Browning Hi Power and so far I haven't heard the faux pas of Holmes saying "bring your service revolver Watson"!

THE FOLLOWING 2 LOTS : are stated to have been
owned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the author of Sherlock
Holmes. They were purchased by our vendor late 1970’s
from British auction houseWeller & Dufty. A catalogue
page stating the lots have been loaned to Whitbreads by a
member of the Conan Doyle family for exhibition at the
Sherlock Holmes: public house in London. Also describes
the lots with serial No. & photos. Both are very fine guns on
their own but with this providence are a unique one off
oportunity and an interesting talking point.



A nice quality Tranters Patent Model of 1865, solid frame
D/action revolver 3 1/8" Octagonal barrel in .32CF caliber
marked J.Blisset & Son, High Holborn London. The frame
marked Tranters Patent and serial #31205, nicely scroll
foliage engraved frame, triggerguard & butt cap. Retains
most original blue and case colours. Ex. one piece chequered
walnut grip. Contained in its original oak case with green
baize lining with trade label, cleaning rod, screwdriver, oil
bottle,some ammunition and key. On the top of the case
are the initials A.C.D. Ex.W.O.& C. C.L.R.

357 - CASED 1867 TRANTER REVOLVER
The second of the Arthur Conan Doyle revolvers is a
Tranters Patent .450 cal revolver. 4" Octagonal barrel marked
with retailers name Cogswell & Harrison 223 & 24 Strand London. Also caliber & Birmingham proof marks. The cylinder is a
London proof replacement which is stamped with the same serial #38352. The frame parts of the barrel trigger guard and butt
cap are scroll foliage engraved. Metalwork retains most original blue. Excellent one piece walnut chequered grips. Contained
in its original green baize lined Oak case with Cogswell &
Harrison trade label, oil bottle, cleaning rod, key & 5 rounds of
ammunition. Ex.W.O.& C. C.L.R.
 

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Of course, given the slightly tenuous provenance there might have been a trend in the past of Conan Doyle "Billy the Kid" guns in circulation so maybe I wasn't too unlucky in losing the purchase?
 

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I tend to think Richard Milner's fascinating account has more credibility than my offering to this thread and a WG would be more likely as a private purchase by an officer but of course when one considers the size of some of our collections, I am sure that in the absence of any restrictive gun law prior to 1900, any Victorian Gentleman might hold a considerable collection of various weapons so it is possible that these revolvers were also owned by Arthur Conan Doyle.
 

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I say that Watson carried a small .32 caliber Iver Johnson type

and Holmes carried a Webley in .380 / 200 . Just a guess there .



FIVESHOT
 

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Normally I would always defer to Richard, but since Watson retired in the early 1880s, I don't think his service revolver would have been a 1892 WG. A Webley Pryse or Webley Kaufmann would have been more likely. The Adam revolvers were very large and would not have been easy for Watson to carry when out of uniform.
 

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Mr. Milner's account is absolutely correct. In fact, the late William "Bill" Powell from Texas later owned J.F.I.H Doyle's "WG" Model 1892 revolver.
Subsequently, it was sold at auction from a house in the United States.
 

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Richard, if you purchased Conan Doyle's revolver, The title of "junior member" is far from being appropriate!

I would elevate you to Grand Poobah in the tradition of Gilbert & Sullivan;)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Keep in mind that if Watson retired in the early 1880's, he was commissioned in the 1860's or earlier. But he probably bought a ctg. revolver when those appeared.
 

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Richard, if you purchased Conan Doyle's revolver, The title of "junior member" is far from being appropriate!

I would elevate you to Grand Poobah in the tradition of Gilbert & Sullivan;)
Having known Richard (and Molly) for many years, it always amuses me that I hold a higher title than he on this board. "It don't seem right." As Dick Van **** might put it.
 

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Beerhunter, I think its because Mr Milner is more selective than us with his comments and is highly focused. I have only used the Forum with some vigour in the past couple of months and I'm already over 100 posts which surprised me when I noticed it. Problem with my own posts is that it is quantity not quality...........
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Beerhunter, I think its because Mr Milner is more selective than us with his comments and is highly focused. I have only used the Forum with some vigour in the past couple of months and I'm already over 100 posts which surprised me when I noticed it. Problem with my own posts is that it is quantity not quality...........

Well, atone for that by posting photos of some Rigby rifles! Some .275's would be especially welcome, as well as some of the double rifles. Have you any idea of how popular the .350 was? It seems never to have competed well with either the .318 Westley Richards or the .375 H&H. I gather that the ballistics were similar to the .35 Whelen.
 

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I can't answer to Dr. Watson's revolver but I did get to view and hold Harry Flashman's revolver and so engraved on the backstrap. It is in the hands of a well known gun magazine writer and editor. He told me himself that it was the real article!
 
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