This Enfield No.2 MK I* revolver was manufactured in 1939. It is a six shot top-break revolver that is chambered for the .38 S&W cartridge, which is also known as the .38/200, meaning a .38 caliber projectile weighing 200 grains. This No.2 MK I* is constructed of steel and has a greyish parkerized finish. It is a double action only revolver with a barrel length of 5 inches. The Patridge sights includes a blade front sight and a square notch rear sight, both of which are not adjustable. The checkered grip panels are made of wood and there is a metal disc inlay on the right grip.
There are three main versions of the Enfield No.2 Mk I revolver. The first is the original No.2 Mk I that was first adopted on June 2, 1932. The second version is the Mk I*, which was adopted on June 22, 1938 and is featured on this page. The MK I* had a spurless hammer and Enfield removed the single action notch from the hammer which made this version strictly double action only. The MK I* also featured a lighter main spring to help with accuracy and the grips were reshaped with grooves along the upper surfaces for the shooters thumb. The third version is the Mk I**, which was a variant of the Mk I*. This was a simplified version for wartime production and adopted on July 29 1942. This version eliminated the hammer safety stop. While the elimination of this feature made the revolver appreciably easier to produce, it proved an altogether false economy since it gave the revolver an alarming tendency to accidentally discharge if it was dropped. This version was discontinued and recalled and later converted back to the MK I* configuration in the post war years.
The vast majority of the Enfield No.2 Mk I revolvers were modified to the Mk I* configuration during WWII. This generally happened as they came in for repair or general maintenance. The official explanation of the change to the Mk I* version was that the British Tank Corps had complained that the spur on the hammer was catching on protrusions inside tanks, but most historians nowadays believe that the real reason was that the Mk I* version was cheaper and faster to manufacture. British combat experience with the .38/200 Enfield revolvers during WWII seemed to confirm that, for the average soldier, the Enfield No.2 Mk I could be used far more effectively than the bulkier and heavier .455 caliber Webley revolvers that had been issued during WWI. Despite this, the Enfield No.2 Mk I* revolvers were not popular with the troops, many of whom took the first available opportunity to dump them in favor of Smith & Wesson, Colt, or Webley revolvers.
The majority of Enfield No.2 revolvers were made by RSAF (Royal Small Arms Factory) in Enfield, England, but wartime necessities meant that some No.2 MK I revolvers were produced elsewhere. Albion Motors Ltd. in Glasgow, Scotland made the Enfield No.2 Mk I* from June of 1941 through November of 1943 whereupon the contract for production was passed onto the Coventry Gauge & Tool Company. These two companies produced approximately 24,000 revolvers by 1945. The revolvers made by Albion Motors will be marked with "ALBION" on the right side of the frame. Other manufacturers included the Howard Auto Cultivator Company (HAC) located in New South Wales, Australia. The HAC company manufactured a very limited number of Enfield No.2 Mk I* and I** revolvers in 1941. It is estimated that around 350 or so were ever produced. The revolvers that were manufactured by HAC were heavily criticized because their parts were non-interchangeable, even with other HAC produced revolvers. Today, very few HAC revolvers are known to still exist. It is thought that most of the HAC revolvers have been destroyed in the numerous Australian gun amnesties and government buy backs programs. The Singer sewing machine company manufactured components which they sent to Enfield for assembly into its revolvers. These parts will be found marked with "SM" or "SMC" on mid-war revolvers. A total of around one million No.2 Mk I and its variants were produced.
The top-break design of the Enfield No.2 insures that it is very fast to reload. In a top break revolver, the frame is hinged at the bottom front of the cylinder. When the lock is released, pushing down on the front of the barrel brings the cylinder up thus exposing the rear of the cylinder for reloading. This pivoting action also operates an extractor that pushes any cartridges in the chambers out far enough so that they will fall free, or can be easily removed. A modern speed loader designed for the Smith & Wesson K-Frame revolvers will function with any of the British .38/200 top-break revolvers, further speeding reloading.
The No.2 Mk I* is as accurate as any other service handgun of its time in normal short-range combat situations. The relatively light double action trigger pull is not, however, the best choice for precision shooting. The double action only design will throw even the most competent shooter's aim off enough to noticeably affect accuracy at ranges of more than 15 yards or so. Some unit armorers have been known to retrofitted the Enfield No.2 Mk I* back to the Mk I variant, but this was never an official policy and appears to have been done on an individual basis. Despite officially being declared obsolete at the end of WWII, the Enfield as well as the Webley revolvers were not completely phased out in favor of the L9 Browning Hi-Power until April of 1969.
A short history of this revolver.
At the end of World War I the British Government decided that a .38 caliber sidearm firing a 200 grain bullet would be as effective as the larger .455 caliber round. To me, this is hard to believe because the .38/200 round also known as the .38 S&W is comparable in performance to the modern .38 Special cartridge, which is not nearly as powerful as the larger .455 Webley round.
Nonetheless, the British firm of Webley & Scott tendered their Webley Mk IV revolver in .38/200 caliber. Rather than adopting it, the British authorities took the design to the Government run Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, England. The Enfield factory came up with a revolver that was very similar to the Webley Mk IV, but internally it was slightly different. The Enfield designed revolver was quickly accepted under the designation Revolver, No.2 Mk I, and was adopted on June 2, 1932, followed in 1938 by the Mk I*, and finally the dangerous Mk I** in 1942.
By this time, Webley had enough and sued the British Government for £2,250, on the grounds of the costs involved in the research and design of the revolver. Their action was contested by Enfield, whom stated that the Enfield No.2 Mk I was actually designed by Captain Boys with assistance from Webley & Scott, and not the other way around, accordingly, their claim was denied. By way of compensation, however, the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors awarded Webley & Scott just £1,250.