Webley Mk1 Air Pistol - Pre War
Webley Mk1 Air Pistol - Pre War - Early Third series transitional.
Courtesy of Leonardj.
All of the frame markings seem to point to this Mark I as being a 2nd series gun, with the obvious exception that it has the trigger adjusting screw present, suggesting it to be a very early 3rd series transitional gun.
It had been suggested that the presence of "USA Patents Pending" on the breechblock might be indicative of the possibility that this gun may have been a very early US import, and further correspondence with the previous owner has confirmed that he did indeed purchase the gun from a US source.
Webley Mk1 air pistol slant grip prototype?
Professor John Griffiths, author of the Encyclopedia of Spring Air Pistols, said of this pistol on the BBS: "At first sight I was also inclined to think that this was a modification made by a skilled amateur, who perhaps owned an old straight grip pistol and wanted to bring it up to date soon after Webley introduced their new slant grip design. However, it then struck me that the grip is removable via the two securing bolts (unless I am misreading the pictures). Surely an amateur would have no reason to do this, when brazing would be a much simpler and more effective way of securing the grip to the cylinder? On the other hand, if Webley were contemplating changing the rake of their straight grip pistol it would make a lot of sense to adapt a straight grip pistol in this way so that a variety of grip designs could be tested without having to go to the expense of forging a complete cylinder-grip unit each time.
"Another point to consider is that changing the rake of the grip frame of a straight grip pistol could have been achieved in various ways without having to discard the old trigger guard. In this case the new grip frame has an included new trigger guard, which would be an unnecessary and major engineering hurdle for an amateur but not for Webley.
"So on balance I think this has a good chance of being a genuine Webley prototype, and could be of historical significance...
"Without close personal inspection it would be very difficult to reach a firm decision one way or the other. However, there is one feature that is difficult to explain away, and that is the lack of any sign of stamped lettering on the body of the gun. To have rubbed away all traces of the impressed lettering by natural wear and tear is not really conceivable, as it is very difficult to do even with emery paper. If the lettering was deliberately removed there would either be evidence of depressions in the metal surface, or if an attempt was made to hide these depressions by rubbing down the whole surface of the pistol then the various edges of the frame would be very rounded, which they aren't. It seems to me that the gun was never stamped.
"So if the gun is a modification by an amateur how did he happen to come across a Mark 1 that had somehow left the factory without any lettering? I stand to be corrected, but I don't think such a lapse of quality control by Webley has ever been reported before. I find it easier to accept that if the gun had no stamping then it never actually left the factory and so could have one that was pulled out of production for experimentation.
"The fact that the pistol has a serial number corresponding closely to the end of the run of straight grip pistols is also a bit of a coincidence."
An alternative view sceptical of this pistol's authenticity was put, also on the BBS, by Guy G:
"My own views on this are that is is a home brewed "special" or maybe something that an apprentice had a go at?
"Ignore the cap head screws, they are probably what someone has fitted later on for ease of getting to the head of the screws. Also, why would you fit 2 screws side by side, when one should do the job? A recessed hole at the back of the frame would have been a simpler fix ( A hole in the bottom of the grip frame like a lot of guns would have had to be at an angle).
"An integral trigger guard------is something Webley might have looked into but as it wouldn't result in any less machining is not something I think they would have ever looked at seriously.
"For a very talented amateur modifying the pistol later, more of a slant gripped frame could have been used and the later trigger guard retained, so it looks like he wanted the "all in one" approach.
"I thought about the frame being brazed or silver soldered but you could not do this as you cannot remove the trigger without removing the trigger guard-----and the trigger guard is integral with the grip so the grip HAS to be able to be removed.
"Regarding the grips themselves, somebody handy with a a saw and file could knock a set up out of aluminium if they really wanted (remember those sold cast brass thingsthat surface now and again?)---------but why would Webley go to the trouble when wood ones would have been quicker to test a gun?
"The other thing that strikes me about the grips is that the original rear trigger guard hole is being used for the locating peg on the grips. This would not be a great position with the turning forces involved in cocking a Webley pistol. Often, the RHS wooden replacement grips available for Hurricane/Tempest will move forward slightly on cocking the pistol as there is no locating peg at the base of the grips.
"So--for me this is a home brewed one. I suppose the thing that swings it for me really is that if Webley were testing a slant grip, they would have used the existing trigger guard instead on making it integral with the grip. Webley would not have gone into production with a grip you could unscrew, and as I have pointed out, you cannot remove the trigger without removing the trigger guard."
Webley Mk1 Air Pistol spring clip serial no. 656
This pic copyright Holts Auctioneers.