Guns of the Peaky Blinders By: William Lawson

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The BBC’s sensational period gangster drama Peaky Blinders recently concluded its small screen run on Netflix. Running from 1919 to 1934, the show revolves around the Shelby family, who form the core of a Birmingham, England criminal gang called the Peaky Blinders. The gang takes its name from their trademark peaked caps with razor blades sewn into the brims. They sometimes use those blades to swipe at their enemies’ eyes in a fight or cut their eyes out after they’re down.

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Peaky Blinders
(BBC)

Maybe the Coolest Show on Television

Peaky Blinders is loosely based on a real Birmingham gang of the same name that was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though the real Peaky Blinders never wielded the power and influence of the TV version. Produced by the BBC, all six seasons are available on Netflix. And trust us, the music soundtrack is just awesome.

Real Peaky Blinders
Mugshots of some of the real Peaky Blinders. Tommy Shelby is loosely based on Thomas Gilbert, the man to the far right. (Historacy YouTube Channel)

The steely-eyed Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) is the gang’s undisputed leader. A decorated World War I veteran, Tommy combines intelligence, ambition, and ruthlessness to rise from small-time bookie to the most powerful crime lord in Britain. Of course, increased power means increasingly powerful enemies, and Tommy and his family battle rival gangs, the IRA, the American Mafia, and the British government. They even take on Russians and budding Nazis.

The Shelby brothers of Peaky Blinders
The Shelby brothers, John, Tommy, and Arthur form three-fifths of the core of the Peaky Blinders. (wallpaperaccess.com)

As you might expect, gang warfare means lots of gunplay, and Peaky Blinders doesn’t disappoint. There are so many vintage blasters in this show that we haven’t even been able to identify all of them. But here are some of the coolest and most prominent, from sidearms to rifles and machine guns. Step onto the Peaky Blinders’ turf.

Polly Gray and Ada Shelby Peaky Blinders
Left: Polly Shelby Gray, Tommy’s aunt, is the glue that holds the clan together. Right: Tommy’s sister Ada (Sophie Rundle) often serves as his conscience but is formidable in her own right. (BBC)

Pistols of the Peaky Blinders

The Shelby family goes strapped, as does their muscle. No matter who’s in the scene, they’ll likely have at least one concealed firearm, not to mention blades, wires, and anything else they might need. Webley revolvers are seemingly everywhere, so let’s start there.

Webley .455 MK IV Revolver

The Webley MK IV is a break top double action design renowned for its reliability. The .455 Webley cartridge hits hard and is just the thing for the fashionable 1920s gangster. The Mark IV is also Chief Inspector Chester Campbell’s (Sam Neill) blaster of choice.

Webley Mark IV revolver Peaky Blinders
The Webley Mark IV is prominent in the early seasons. (imfdb.org)

Webley .455 MK VI Revolver

The Webley MK VI is larger and longer than the MK IV, making it easier to control and more accurate. It still retains the break top double action design and .455 Webley cartridge. That it’s less easily concealed doesn’t seem to matter since the Shelbys pretty much do whatever they want.

Webley MK VI revolver Peaky Blinders
The Webley Mark VI is a rugged break top revolver that we see throughout the series. (imfdb.org)

Webley RIC Revolver

The Webley Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) revolver was a shorter double action handgun chambered in several calibers. The RICs carried by Tommy and Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson) in Peaky Blinders appear to be the Number 1 Second Pattern chambered in .442 Webley.

Webley RIC revolver
The Webley RIC is an older design than the MK IV and MK VI, but still a handy sidearm. (imfdb.org)

Webley Bulldog Revolver

There are different versions of the Webley British Bulldog, chambered in .442 Webley and .450 Adams. Polly Gray’s (Helen McCrory) Peaky Blinders version is a smaller caliber Webley Bulldog chambered in .320 Revolver. Webley dropped the “British” from the smaller caliber gun’s name.

Webley Bulldog revolver
The Webley Bulldog was an early snubbie. Here, Polly points her Bulldog at Tommy during one of their frequent disagreements. (imfdb.org)

Harrington & Richardson Premier 2nd Model Revolver

Government secret agent Grace Burgess packs a Harrington & Richardson Premier 2nd Model in Season 1. The H&R is a double-action break-top revolver chambered in .32 Smith & Wesson. Grace ably defends herself with the H&R more than once.

Harrington & Richardson Premier 2nd Model revolver
Crown Agent Grace Burgess wields her H&R Premier revolver. (imfdb.org)

Smith & Wesson Victory Model Revolver

The Smith & Wesson Victory Model is carried by Arthur Shelby and rival gangster and sometime ally Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy). The only problem is that the Victory Model was a World War II gun based on the S&W K-frame revolver chambered in .38 Special. The Peaky Blinders’ gun is the five-inch barreled version supplied to the British starting in 1941. This isn’t the series’ only example of using guns that didn’t exist yet.

Smith & Wesson Victory Model revolver
London gangster Alfie Solomons with his yet-to-be-produced Smith & Wesson Victory Model revolver. (imfdb.org)

Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” and C96 “Bolo”

The Mauser C96 is a beast. We don’t see it much in Peaky Blinders, but it bears mentioning. The semiautomatic Broomhandle was chambered in 7.63×25 Mauser, 9mm Parabellum, and a few in 9×25 Mauser Export.

Mauser C96 Broomhandle, C96 Bolo, and C96 with stock
L-R: Mauser C96 “Broomhandle,” C96 “Bolo” and a C96 with attachable stock. (imfdb.org/americanrifleman.org)

Rival gangster Billy Kimber’s (Charlie Creed-Miles) bodyguards carry the standard length C96 and shorter barreled “Bolo” when they “visit” Tommy in Season 1. One of them also carries a stock-equipped C96 in Kimber’s showdown with Tommy and the boys at season’s end.

Mauser C96 Peaky Blinders
Gangster Billy Kimber’s bodyguards carry Mauser C96 pistols, and one adds an attachable stock for the Season 1 showdown with the Peaky Blinders. (imfdb.org)

FN Model 1900

This John Browning designed single action only semiautomatic pistol was carried by Billy Kimber. He blew a hole in the ceiling of Tommy’s pub with it. The FN Model 1900 is chambered in .32 ACP.

FN Model 1900 pistol
Billy Kimber shoots a hole in the ceiling of Tommy’s pub with his FN Model 1900. (imfdb.org)

Webley & Scott MK I

The Webley & Scott MK I semiautomatic pistol was a robust design chambered in .455 Webley. Introduced in 1913, it was a reliable handgun that was nonetheless eclipsed as a service pistol by the Colt 1911. Peaky Blinders Season 1 sees it carried by IRA hitmen.

Webley & Scott MK I pistol
The Webley & Scott MK I was a solid design eclipsed by the Colt 1911. It’s used here by IRA hitmen. (imfdb.org)

Luger P08

The iconic 9mm Luger shows up as Freddie Thorne’s (Iddo Goldberg) sidearm in Season 1 and is used by London gangster Darby Sabini (Noah Taylor) and his henchmen in Season 2. One of Sabini’s men is seen using the longer 150mm barreled Luger in one scene.

P08 Luger pistol Peaky Blinders
L: Darby Sabini’s hitmen put a 150mm barreled Luger to good use R: Freddie Throne threatens his sometime friend Tommy Shelby. (imfdb.org)

Colt 1911A1

We first see the 1911 in Season 2 when Tommy is mauled by Darby Sabini’s henchmen. It later becomes Tommy’s primary sidearm for the rest of the series, succeeding the Webley Mark VI revolver.

Colt 1911 Tommy Shelby
The 1911 supplants the Webley Mk VI as Tommy’s sidearm of choice. (imfdb.org/BBC)

Rifles of the Peaky Blinders

Only three rifles feature prominently in Peaky Blinders. One of them, the lever action rifle of Aberama Gold (Aiden Gillen) appears only briefly. We believe it to be a Winchester Model 94 but can’t be certain. Hit us up in the comments if you have any info on that rifle.

Aberama Gold lever action rifle
We think Aberama Gold sports a Winchester Model 94 here, but we could be wrong. (BBC)

Lee Enfield SMLE

The SMLE (Short Magazine Lee Enfield) was Britain’s primary infantry rifle series in both World Wars. The bolt action design is chambered in .303 British.

Lee Enfield SMLE rifle
The Lee Enfield series was the British workhorse through both World Wars. (imfdb.org)

It’s no surprise that the Peaky Blinders would have crates of SMLEs since Tommy, Arthur, and John Shelby (Joe Cole) served in the World War I trenches and would be intimately familiar with them. The gang also has contacts in the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) which turned out rifles by the hundreds of thousands.

Lee Enfield SMLE Peaky Blinders
A Lee Enfield SMLE helps ambush Luca Changretta in Season 4. (BBC)

Enfield Pattern 14 Rifle

The “other” Enfield bolt action rifle also saw wide use in World War I and provided the platform for perhaps the finest sniper rifle in the world at the time. Also chambered in .303 British, the Pattern 14 is more robust than the SMLE series and served in the sniper role in World War II. Winchester, Remington, and Eddystone manufactured the rifles in the United States. Once the US entered World War I, those still in American hands were rechambered for the 30.06 cartridge and issued to US troops as the Enfield M1917 rifle. More Americans carried Enfield 1917s than any other rifle in the war, including the M1903 Springfield.

Enfield Pattern 14 rifles
The rival “Billy Boys” uncrate some P14 rifles to attack Aberama Gold in Season 5. (BBC)

The Pattern 14 is used by the rival “Billy Boys” in Season 5, as well as former Royal Marine sniper Barney Thompson (Cosmo Jarvis). Tommy recruits Thompson to assassinate a political enemy and gives him a modified P14 equipped with an aftermarket Parker-Hale PH5C aperture sight.

Enfield P14 with a Parker-Hale PH5C aperture sight.
Former Royal Marine sniper Barney Thompson with his Parker-Hale PH5C aperture sight equipped Pattern 14 rifle. (BBC)

Automatic Weapons

Automatic weapons are everywhere in Peaky Blinders. A stolen crate of Lewis machine guns starts the trend in Season 1 and gangsters liberally spray one another throughout the series. It’s great fun.

The Lewis Machine Gun

The Lewis Gun was an air-cooled American-designed light machine gun adopted by the British Army, serving from World War I through the Korean War. The gun features a wide barrel shroud and feeds from a top-mounted pan magazine. It was chambered in .303 British and produced by BSA, from whom the Peaky Blinders steal a crate of the guns in Season 1.

Lewis Machine Gun
Lewis machine gun (imfdb.org)

The Lewis gun is prominent in several key scenes in the first four seasons, giving the Peaky Blinders fire superiority when they need it most.

Lewis machine gun Peaky Blinders
The Lewis gun gives the Peaky Blinders fire superiority when they need it. (imfdb.org/BBC)

The Bergmann MP18/Haenel MP28 Submachine Gun

Honestly, we can’t tell which of these guns Tommy Shelby uses in Season 4’s firefight with American mafioso Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody). We think it’s meant to be the MP-18, considering the shootout takes place in early 1926, before Hugo Schmeisser’s 1928 upgrade to the MP18. But since the two look so much alike, they could use an MP28 with most folks none the wiser.

Bergmann MP18 submachine gun Peaky Blinders
Tommy Shelby with what we think is a Bergmann MP18 submachine gun. (BBC)

Either way, both guns were chambered in multiple calibers, from 9mm Parabellum to 9×25 Mauser Export. They were direct predecessors to the World War II British STEN submachine gun.

The M1928 Thompson Submachine Gun

The ubiquitous “Tommy Gun” is first used in the series by Luca Changretta’s hit men in Season 4. I won’t bore you by detailing the Thompson, but here’s another example of the series using a gun before it was invented. Season 4 takes place in late 1925 and early 1926, with the Thompson’s first appearance in the final days of 1925.

1928 Thompson submachine gun Peaky Blinders
The Thompson is Luca Changretta’s weapon of choice. Tommy Shelby keeps one in his office. (BBC)

The Haenel MP38 Submachine Gun

We’re not certain on this one either since we only get a few glimpses of this gun in one scene of Season 6. It is, however, a significant scene in which Tommy seeks revenge for his daughter’s untimely death. This is one more case of using a gun that shouldn’t yet exist, since the scene takes place in 1934. Again, light us up in the comments if you know better.

MP38 submachine gun
Tommy takes revenge with what looks like an MP38. (BBC)

Shotguns

Various side by side double barreled shotguns show up throughout the series. Many are sawed off for quick action in the streets and to defend one of Darby Sabini’s swank London clubs in Season 2. We’ve only been able to identify one of those guns. Let us know if you can do better. I expect many of you can.

Double barreled shotguns Peaky Blinders
Unidentified double-barreled shotguns appear throughout the series. We think the one on the right is a Charles Parker Model 1878. (imfdb.org)

Charles Parker 1878 Double Barreled Shotgun

The 12-gauge Charles Parker 1878 is carried in one scene by John Shelby. We also see a sawed-off version carried by an unidentified gang member at John’s wedding.

Charles Parker Model 1878 shotgun
The Charles Parker Model 1878 is the one shotgun we’ve been able to identify, thanks to the Internet Movie Firearms Database. (imfdb.org)

Peaky Blinders: The Best Show You Maybe Haven’t Seen

We started watching Peaky Blinders on a whim with Season 1. Assuming you like such things, the first episode will rope you in. The BBC produces great period dramas and this one is no different. The sets are authentic, and they weave real historical figures like Winston Churchill, Oswald Moseley, Darby Sabini, Billy Kimber, and Alfie Solomon into the story as major characters.

The cast is fantastic, with Cillian Murphy sometimes seeming like the Grim Reaper himself as Tommy Shelby. The characters are engaging and multi-faceted, particularly Tommy, Arthur, and Polly, though our personal favorite is London gangster Alfie Solomons, who has some truly hilarious lines.

Peaky Blinders
(BBC)

But Peaky Blinders is not for children. It’s violent, profane, and full of adult themes like promiscuous sex, drugs, and alcoholism. There’s plenty of blood and gore. But it captures the social and political themes of Britain between the World Wars very well, especially from the lower-class point of view.

All six seasons are available on Netflix and creator Stephen Knight promises to wrap up the saga in a forthcoming feature film. It’s literally one of the best shows we’ve ever watched. Right up there with Breaking Bad. It’s really that good. Check it out. “By order of the Peaky Blinders!”