A trib­ute to John Barn­aby McCrossen 5th June 1938 – 16th April 2018

Air Gunner - - Airgun Collection -

I ’m deeply sad­dened to record the death of my good friend, John McCrossen, known to so many col­lec­tors for his huge af­fec­tion and en­thu­si­asm for the Birm­ing­ham firm of We­b­ley & Scott and their prod­ucts. As an en­gi­neer and busi­ness­man, John greatly ap­pre­ci­ated their work and long ago de­cided to col­lect ex­am­ples of the com­pany’s air pis­tols and air ri­fles and pre­serve them for pros­per­ity as a spe­cial­ist col­lec­tor.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, John would find air­guns from other mak­ers – like French Gif­fard gas ri­fles, BSAs, Clarke’s ‘Ti­tan’ pis­tols and an­tique pneu­mat­ics – and ac­quire them, of­ten for restora­tion and to even­tu­ally use as ‘swap items’ for his beloved We­b­ley prod­ucts. Apart from that, he fol­lowed a path with­out de­vi­at­ing from it, of­ten play­ing his cards close to his chest in his quest to find out more about the We­b­ley firm and the men be­hind it – the gun de­sign­ers and other key fig­ures and their work­ing meth­ods.

John’s mag­nif­i­cent col­lec­tion in­cluded many cased and boxed We­b­ley pis­tols and ri­fles, housed in su­perb, ma­hogany gun cab­i­nets, one of which he adapted him­self, build­ing a su­perb base unit with draw­ers, to match the top. In­deed, John seemed just as skilled when work­ing in wood as he did in metal – or on any­thing else, in his large, well- equipped work­shop. He re­stored many fine guns in­clud­ing two ul­tra- rare An­son’s ‘Star’ air pis­tols; my own ex­am­ple I’d lo­cated in relic con­di­tion, and one spec­i­men that Tony Wil­liams had found. I re­call a Parker Hale Pa­tent Pre­ci­sion, geared- wheel cock­ing pis­tol that John re­built us­ing my draw­ings and he even built his own dou­ble- bar­rel, ‘un­der- an­dover style’ dual cal­i­bre pneu­matic to shoot both .177 and .22 cal­i­bre pel­lets, which ap­peared on the front cover of March 1989, and a spring pis­ton, ro­tary mag­a­zine air ri­fle that l fea­tured in the Fe­bru­ary 1987 is­sue of this mag­a­zine; the un­der-lever ra­di­ally pulling the main­spring into com­pres­sion.


It was on a 1976 visit to The Lon­don Air­gun Cen­tre ( T.L.C. World Trad­ing Ltd.) once sit­u­ated at 32 Craven Street, W.C.2 that I first heard of John, in an in­di­rect sort of way. Eugene Alexan­der, the gun sales man­ager was try­ing to per­suade me to part with £18 for the fine, in­ter- Wars slant grip, We­b­ley ‘Se­nior’ air pis­tol shown here in

Fig­ure 8. “If you don’t have it, ‘ We­b­ley Mac’ will have it!” warned Gene, anx­ious to make a sale. I thought I’d bet­ter dig deep and pay the 18 quid be­fore this un­known ri­val for the pis­tol ap­peared and bought it from un­der my nose!

The iden­tity of ‘We­b­ley Mac’ re­mained a mys­tery for some months, un­til one morn­ing when I was work­ing in the news­pa­per art stu­dio with my as­sis­tant, Cherry, and the re­cep­tion­ist knocked on the door and en­tered, fol­lowed by a stranger who she an­nounced as Mr. McCrossen. I noted he was wear­ing a ‘We­b­ley Fly­ing Bul­let’ badge on his blazer lapel and as we shook hands it dawned on me that this was the col­lec­tor that Gene called ‘We­b­ley Mac’. While on a visit to my area, John had de­cided to call in on the off chance to in­tro­duce him­self at my place of work as he didn’t know where I lived. I was glad he did be­cause we soon be­come good friends. John was no stranger to news­pa­per of­fices, work­ing for ‘News Group News­pa­pers Ltd.’(A sub­sidiary of News In­ter­na­tional Ltd.) at the time.

With John as my or­a­cle, as far as We­b­ley air­guns were con­cerned, I pro­duced large We­b­ley ar­ti­cles like the 6- page ‘ We­b­ley Aris­to­crat’ piece on the Se­nior pis­tol for Air­gun World An­nual ’83 and the

Devel­op­ment of We­b­ley Pis­tols also over 6- pages for Air Gun­ner ’88 An­nual and it was to John I sent the rough drafts pre­pub­li­ca­tion, for check­ing and his ex­pert com­ment. John, seen in Fig­ure 9, soon be­came an es­sen­tial mem­ber of the Air­gun

Col­lec­tion team. Later, John was also to prove in­valu­able to Gor­don Bruce dur­ing the com­pi­la­tion of his book We­b­ley Air

Pis­tols by con­tribut­ing facts and pis­tols for photography and in­clu­sion. When set­ting off from John’s home for Bis­ley Arms Fair early one morn­ing, I re­call John point­ing out Gor­don’s house quite nearby.


I was of­ten in­vited to visit John and his fam­ily and spent many happy times there, talk­ing about, and ex­am­in­ing air­guns in the




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