American-made "automatic revolver"?


March 21, 2013, 10:30 PM
The following excerpt is from an eyewitness account of the assassination of the "mad monk" Gregory Rasputin, on Dec. 29, 1916:

As he seemed to be disappearing in the darkness, F. Purishkevich, who had been standing by, reached over and picked up an American-made automatic revolver and fired two shots swiftly into his retreating figure. We heard him fall with a groan, and later when we approached the body he was very still and cold and - dead.

The only "automatic revolver" I can think of is the Webley-Fosbery -- a British gun. Was there ever an American-made automatic revolver, or was the narrator simply using the term "revolver" for any pistol? Thoughts?

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Jim Watson
March 21, 2013, 10:46 PM
In this case I think it is generic usage in a non-English speaking country.

Also consider that the term "automatic revolver" was used to signify an automatic EJECTING revolver in those days.

March 21, 2013, 11:28 PM
It could also mean a Double-Action revolver, instead of a Single-Action revolver common at the time.

Possibly an early Colt or S&W DA revolver.

But Wackypedia says:
Pounder came to the conclusion that the bullet which caused the fatal shot was a Webley .455 inch unjacketed round, the best fit with the available forensic evidence.[37]

So, a DA .455 Webley made in England was very likely the revolver used in his death


March 21, 2013, 11:38 PM
Also consider that the term "automatic revolver" was used to signify an automatic EJECTING revolver in those days.

Which therefore, could have been a S&W Model 3 .44 Russian.

March 22, 2013, 12:02 AM
Yes, it could!!

And that seems the most likely off all conclusions so far.
Including mine!

A S&W Model 3 .44 Russian top-break seems to fit the bill, exactly!


March 22, 2013, 05:14 AM
The only .44 Russian loading I am aware of is the .246gr LRN which would easily fit Pounder's criteria as well.

Old Shooter
March 22, 2013, 06:38 AM
Didn't someone (Webley?) make a semi-auto revolver at one time?

I recall reading an article and seeing a photo on one that when fired the upper assembly of barrel and cylinder rode back on the lower frame and cocked the hammer for the next shot.

Perhaps that is what was being refered to, just a WAG.

Edit: I googled it and there was a Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver made from 1905-1915. It had zig-zag grooves in the cylinder so it cocked the hammer and rotated the cylinder for the next shot.

March 22, 2013, 10:16 AM
There have been several of this type that I can recall; the Spanish Zulaica, the English Webley-Fosberry, and the Italian Mateba, but I can't see how the author of the lines the OP refers to could have been talking about any of these. That means that this has to be a misconstrued translation from the Russian, describing either an automatic-EJECTING revolver, or a DOUBLE-ACTION revolver.

March 22, 2013, 02:40 PM
There was an American made automatic revolver, the Union. The Union was patented by Charles A. Lefever and produced, beginning in 1906, by the Union Firearms Company of Toledo, Ohio.

March 22, 2013, 03:37 PM
The Lefever Union was only 32 caliber, and the design originated in France, but it was an automatic and made in America.

(I mention caliber because the forensics suggest Rasputin was shot with much larger caliber bullets.)

March 22, 2013, 03:50 PM
May I present.....

March 22, 2013, 04:45 PM
I think the most likely explanation is the S&W Model 3 in .44Russian. As we all know that had been standard issue to Russian officers up to 1895.

It's also important to remember that this was translated from Russian and so while "automatic revolver?" means something specific to us gun nuts in 2013 it may have meant something very different in Russian in the early 1900s. Or it could even be mistranslated.

Seeing as that automatic revolver at the time often meant the revolver had an extractor, it seems that the S&W No. 3 Russian definitely fits the bill.

March 22, 2013, 04:48 PM
rondog, see thread title. The Webley-Fosbery was not American made.

Jim K
March 24, 2013, 08:06 PM
I wonder why the British, even more than Americans, tend to write stories about their all-knowing and all-powerful secret intelligence services. Perhaps it is inevitable that, as a nation grows weaker in its real military and intelligence capabilities, its fictional prowess increases. (James Bond movies were big draws when a British Prime Minister complained that MI6 couldn't tell him if it was raining outside.)

Unlike half the known world, I was not an eyewitness to the killing of Rasputin, but it was unlikely that he was assassinated by a British agent using a Webley-Fosbery. My research shows it was actually done by Santa Claus, using a Kimber pistol; the old boy was working for the OSS under Allan Pinkerton. Russian police described the getaway vehicle as "a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer."

And if you believe that....


March 24, 2013, 11:30 PM
I wonder why the British, even more than Americans, tend to write stories about their all-knowing and all-powerful secret intelligence services.

Maybe they can't keep a secret? ;)

Steel Horse Rider
March 25, 2013, 01:45 PM
Maybe it is because the American and British "secret" agencies don't kill you for speaking of them as can happen is some other not quite so free countries.

Two Old Dogs
March 26, 2013, 10:35 AM
Iver Johnson Arms and Cycle Works produced both hammer and hammerless revolvers under the name "Safety Automatic Double-Action" in the period 1893-1950. They also marketed a model (possiblly the one previously mentioned) under the name "Automatic Hammerless" which was distributed by J. P. Lovell and Sons.

Hopkins and Allen Firearms Company had a model called "Automatic".

Forehand and Wadsworth had an "Automatic Police" model.

Forehand and Wadsworth was purchased by Hopkins and Allen Firearms Company in 1902 which might explain the use of "Automatic" by both companies.

March 26, 2013, 02:34 PM
I think it was probably a S&W 44 Russian top break revolver. They were called automatic because of the simultaneous ejection.

April 8, 2013, 11:22 PM
The American "revolver" in question was the Savage Model 1907 10-round semi-automatic pistol, most likely .32 caliber.
The "pocket" Savage was erroneously described as a revolver. The murder scene was chaotic. It took place in the dark. The snow was falling. Many details of how it happened are still debated by historians.

April 8, 2013, 11:38 PM
most likely .32 caliber. How do you explain the cornier conclusion it was from a .44 or larger lead bullet then?

I still think a S&W Model 3 .44 Russian 'Automatic Ejecting' break-top revolver was the most likely suspect.


April 9, 2013, 06:49 AM
Vladimir Purishkevich came to the party packing a gun that was American-made and automatic, just not a revolver. The revolver was much more familiar to a Russian bystander at the time, almost synonymous with a repeater handgun. Some sources do refer to the Savage as a pistol, while others call it a revolver. Those terms may have appeared interchangeably. Much of the Russian public was simply not concerned with such details that would be sure to draw attention in the US.

The gunshot wound attribution is still debated. It was not an American style daylight assassination in public. It was an improvised chaotic bloody mess in the dark streets of Petrograd. The investigation was never concluded. There was no government report, no trial. Instead, much of the evidence was swept away by two revolutions, the civil war, and the murder of Nicholas and Alexandra.

The coroner's view of the head wound as consistent with a larger caliber gave rise to conspiracy theories. One suggests that an English spy interfered with his .455 Webley. Nothing is proven to this day.

As a side note. Rasputin was struck by several bullets including one in the head, but was still able to resist. Legend has it, he had supernatural strength. But it also may have helped to be shot with a 32 or 380 rather than a 455 or 44 Russian.

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