AIR­GUN COL­LEC­TION

Ad­di­tional im­ages cour­tesy of We­b­ley Ar­chives, Nigel Allen and Ch­ester Purl­lant

Air Gunner - - CONTENTS - We­b­ley’s Pre-war Slant Grip ‘Se­nior’ Part 2 by John Atkins

Part Two of John Atkins’ study of pre-war We­b­ley Se­niors. This time, it’s the ‘slant grip’

In the past, I’ve of­ten played with the idea of get­ting some con­tem­po­rary We­b­ley re­volvers to se­curely dis­play along­side my We­b­ley ‘Se­nior’ pis­tols be­cause both car­tridge firearms and air pis­tols are re­lated by their sim­i­lar stir­rup latch fas­ten­ings and su­perb firearms qual­ity con­struc­tion. I’m now re­lieved that I never got around to this be­cause I’d have been dev­as­tated to have had to hand ex­pen­sive and prized re­volvers in to the au­thor­i­ties fol­low­ing the hand­gun ban. De­ac­ti­vated 1930s We­b­ley re­volvers could be sub­sti­tuted in a dis­play, of course, but cas­trated guns de­prived of power hold no ap­peal to me, what­so­ever.

So, I have to be con­tent with dis­play­ing my pre- WWII We­b­ley ‘Se­niors’ alone, al­though they have my old tins of We­b­ley ‘Spe­cial’ pel­lets for com­pany as seen in

Fig­ure 1. My photo fea­tures We­b­ley new frame ‘Se­nior’ mod­els from De­cem­ber 1935 bear­ing the se­rial num­bers: S7097; S7272; S11781; S11327; S12899; S15184; S15447 and S16616. Only one of the We­b­ley .22 ‘Spe­cial’ rect­an­gu­lar full pel­let tins shown here is known to be pre­war and con­tem­po­rary with the later se­rial num­ber pis­tols. The rest are post- war and mainly af­ter 1958 with the Wea­man Street, Birm­ing­ham ad­dress dropped from the lid mark­ings fol­low­ing We­b­ley & Scott Ltd.’s re­moval to the sub­urb of Handsworth.

There were four vari­a­tions of cock­ing link­age dur­ing the life of the old and new model Se­nior air pis­tols (June 1930 to 1964), rather than three, as I’d pre­vi­ously thought. The first of the old model ver­ti­cal grip Se­niors from June, 1930 had a semi­cir­cu­lar shoe above the cock­ing slider (small link) which cov­ered the hole in the top of the cylin­der, later changed to an im­proved wedge shape. This was the first at­tempt to stop the link­age fold­ing over it­self as it was in­clined to do. Not sur­pris­ingly, a cou­ple of the old pis­tols in the pho­to­graph have re­place­ments of their sec­ond pat­tern, patent dou­ble joint cock­ing link­ages and these ap­pear ra­di­ally at ‘6’ and ‘9’ o’clock’ in the pho­to­graph; no longer hav­ing the teardrop/wedge- shaped small link ob­scur­ing and pro­tect­ing the large oil port in the cylin­der top.

We­b­ley sug­gested in their post- war spares ad­vice that as the pat­terns had been changed, when or­der­ing the link­age com­po­nents for pre- war Se­nior air pis­tols it was nec­es­sary to pur­chase Parts S26 (small link); S27 (in­ter­me­di­ate link) and S29 (small link pin) as an assem­bly for 3/6d (17.5p). How­ever, an old Se­nior with later link­age just isn’t ‘right’ to a se­ri­ous col­lec­tor and it’s a shame to re­place one of the old link­ages with a later sprung type, so I rec­om­mend you to take worn ex­am­ples

of early link­ages to a spe­cial­ist who could re­place the pins with slightly over­size ones, drilling off­set holes to make the link­age frac­tion­ally shorter. This way you don’t de­stroy too much of the pis­tol’s orig­i­nal­ity. There’s not much I can do about my two, as the parts were al­ready re­placed long be­fore I bought them and the chances of find­ing old- style cor­rect links like these is re­mote.

HIS­TORIC LINKS

The rea­son for the more com­plex link­age was that it made the Se­nior nearly twice as easy to cock com­pared to the ear­lier and sim­pler Mk. I pis­tol and the Mk. II Tar­get Model De Luxe. It also made the ‘ throw’ of the cock­ing stoke about 25 per cent longer, thus mak­ing the ac­tion take place over a longer arc. The patent no. 326703 for the Se­nior was ap­plied for on May 3, 1929 and it was ac­cepted on March 20 the fol­low­ing year. This Patent cov­ered the im­proved bar­rel link­age de­signed to make the pis­tol eas­ier to cock by the use of dou­ble- jointed cock­ing levers, which serve as a ful­crum to help the ef­fec­tive pull dur­ing the last part of the cock­ing move­ment.

In the large bor­rowed box of old We­b­ley archive ma­te­rial that in­cluded art­work for the pis­tol boxes, 1930s cat­a­logues, orig­i­nal pho­tos, en­gravers’ proofs and old ad­vert. lay­outs, I found the mid-1930s photo for the new model Se­nior com­po­nents with the part num­bers all in­di­vid­u­ally cut out and pasted onto an over­lay. Also We­b­ley’s sur­viv­ing re­pro pull from the orig­i­nal art­work plate so I scanned it as Fig­ure 2 in the hope that it would print more clearly here, than is usu­ally seen as a coarse screen, printed spares sheet sent out with old We­b­ley pis­tols.

In pre- war days, the ‘whited- in’ cylin­der mark­ings were for pho­to­graphic pur­poses only. De­spite all the skilled hand­work height­en­ing the com­po­nents with process white paint, they have failed to up­date Part S26, which still ap­pears to il­lus­trate the orig­i­nal patent, semi- cir­cu­lar ex­ter­nal pat­tern of small link/cock­ing slider. Part S5, the cyanide hard­ened, ver­ti­cally act­ing Se­nior trig­ger sear was a com­po­nent that was al­tered dur­ing the life of the ‘Se­nior’.

At the top of Fig­ure 3 ap­pears the one­piece sear and below, the com­pos­ite type re­plac­ing it from 1955 when the trig­ger nose en­gaged an in­set pin or thin bar pre­sum­ably to act more as a roller bear­ing for a smoother dis­charge – al­though the pin did not ac­tu­ally ro­tate in the com­po­nent. At this time, the trig­ger coil spring Part S16 mea­sur­ing a lit­tle over half- an- inch long when new, fit­ting in a small hole in the top of the trig­ger, was re­placed by a dou­ble­dover plate spring a quar­ter- inch wide. The long­est arm of this tong- shaped part was about an inch long. There was then no ne­ces­sity to drill a hole in the trig­ger top for the ob­so­lete coil spring, and a bor­ing op­er­a­tion was saved.

The rea­son a Se­nior can fail to cock is of­ten put down to a worn sear that now fails to en­gage with the pis­ton and some­times, this is cor­rect and a new sear solves the prob­lem, but it can be very con­fus­ing to re­place the sear and find that the pis­tol still won’t cock. The fault very of­ten lies in the cock­ing link­age, which can stretch so the pis­ton doesn’t travel far enough back to en­gage the sear.

The link­age is fairly small and frag­ile, and it only works be­cause it’s made from excellent qual­ity steel. Even so, the link pins wear over the years – es­pe­cially if they aren’t lu­bri­cated. The pin holes be­come

elon­gated, mak­ing the link­age longer than it should be and pre­vent­ing it do­ing its job prop­erly. The an­swer is to re­place the link­age or at least part of it. Be­fore you do this, though, try to ob­tain an­other bar­rel with link­age at­tached to test the gun. If it will cock with this bar­rel, then there was noth­ing wrong with the sear.

The Se­nior’s link­age con­sists of a cock­ing slider, which We­b­ley de­scribed as a short link, an in­ter­me­di­ate link, a long link and three pins. Later pis­tols also have a small coil spring added to fur­ther pre­vent the link­age from fold­ing over it­self. Af­ter re­mov­ing the bar­rel, I knock out the link pins to check for wear. If nec­es­sary, I re­place them with new ones. This is some­times enough to make a pis­tol cock, but you of­ten have to re­place the whole link­age.

Far more de­tailed than the broad il­lus­tra­tion in­tended only for small scale re­pro­duc­tion, shown last month, was this highly de­tailed, early slant- grip model Se­nior art­work ( Fig­ure 4) to be used in some of the fu­ture pis­tol pub­lic­ity, pre- and post­war. Again, it’s hard to say if the mas­ter was a metal en­grav­ing or a scrap­er­board (scratch­board in USA, etc.) as only the orig­i­nal en­graver’s proof seemed to ex­ist among the fac­tory ma­te­rial. Scrap­er­board is ac­tu­ally a form of en­grav­ing and was pop­u­lar from the 1930s to 1950s, be­ing one of the pre­ferred tech­niques for il­lus­trat­ing prod­ucts be­cause it printed bet­ter on cheap newsprint than any­thing else at the time. Re­pro­duc­ing small pho­to­graphs was of­ten dis­ap­point­ing on the un­coated pa­per of news­pa­pers in those days of us­ing very course print­ing halftone screens – of­ten only about 65 lpi (lines per inch) or even less – with the few dots per inch fudg­ing up the pic­tures badly, rather than smoother, more photo- like tonal tran­si­tions whilst the fine lines of scrap­er­board work ( I did a lot of it in the ‘50s at ju­nior art school and later) could be pho­to­graph­i­cally re­duced for re­pro­duc­tion with­out los­ing qual­ity.

A rear view of We­b­ley Se­nior se­rial no. S11781 is given in Fig­ure 5. The cord­ing added around the grip tangs to pro­vide bet­ter grip, and the ad­di­tion of a small, of­f­cen­tre, keeper screw un­der the rear sight was an at­tempt to pre­vent un­nec­es­sary ac­cess by the in­quis­i­tively dis­obe­di­ent, at­tack­ing the coin slot of the rear bung with a big screw­driver, de­spite a stamped ‘NOT TO BE RE­MOVED’ warn­ing – the Se­nior pis­tol was only meant to be stripped from the front end. Both these mod­i­fi­ca­tions hap­pened around the same time in 1936.

Re­plac­ing the small lock­ing screw for the ‘breech screw’/air cylin­der rear plug shown in pis­tol no. S15184 (top Fig­ure 6) was the non- re­mov­able Parker Kay­lon drive peg – the po­si­tion in­di­cated by a blue pointer I’ve ap­plied to s. no. S15447 (below). The peg was driven in, hid­den out of the way, lo­cated at the top of the grip frame where it met the air cylin­der, pass­ing through the wall and into the breech screw mak­ing the lock­ing screw ob­so­lete. Fur­ther nar­row­ing the change from top lock­ing screw to non- re­mov­able drive peg is an­other pis­tol of mine, S15432 seen here in Nigel Allen’s pho­to­graph Fig­ure 7, which clearly has the drive peg. So the change to the more se­cure rear bung re­tainer hap­pened some­where be­tween se­rial num­bers S15184 and S15432.

The wa­ter- stained lid la­bel would once have been pale blue, like the one I showed last month on top of page 89. It demon­strates how the colour pig­ment of pis­tol and pel­let box printed la­bels should be pro­tected from in­sid­i­ous fad­ing and even­tual pa­per dis­in­te­gra­tion, due to ul­tra­vi­o­let ra­di­a­tion in day­light.

This nar­row­ing down of changes helps ex­plain to read­ers who’ve asked why I need so many ex­am­ples of sim­i­lar mod­els (and why can’t I send a spare one to them!) It’s be­cause they are for com­par­isons to be made, rather than any de­sire to cor­ner the mar­ket. The more ex­am­ples I can see – if not own – the more de­tails I get and the more I learn. It’s also not re­ally pos­si­ble to write an ar­ti­cle of any depth af­ter see­ing only one ex­am­ple of an old air­gun; you need to see sev­eral to get more idea of what was go­ing on over the pro­duc­tion years.

Fig­ures 8 and 9 show the .177 pis­tol no. S15432 out of the card­board box. It would be one of the first Se­niors to be fit­ted with the non- re­mov­able drive peg to pre­vent the breech screw be­ing re­moved. The right side show­ing the un­marked brown Bake­lite stock­sides and three in­ter­na­tional patents for Bri­tain, U.S. A. and Canada on the right side of the cylin­der in­stead of the long list of 11 patents that had been stamped be­fore.

A CLEAR CASE

We­b­ley col­lec­tors will have seen the old cat­a­logue pis­tol case photo ( Fig­ure 10) re­pro­duced in books, etc. but ap­pear­ing badly ‘ fudged up’ due to the ‘screen clash’ of old and new print­ing ‘dots’, but this is the first time it’s seen only ‘1st gen­er­a­tion’ away from the orig­i­nal con­tin­u­ous tone photo., be­cause I’ve scanned di­rectly from We­b­ley’s orig­i­nal sur­viv­ing 1930s pho­to­graph used in com­pil­ing their cat­a­logues to advertise the brown drill can­vas on wood, lock­able air pis­tol box with leather cor­ners, avail­able for a short pe­riod. De­pend­ing on the size it prints, the large amount of skilled brush­work in­volved with white paint high­light­ing and

defin­ing the pis­tol, trade la­bel let­ter­ing and re­touch­ing of the left- hand Cheney lock, with patent 1936 sprung- hinged fas­ten­ing hasp, etc., can be ap­pre­ci­ated. Priced at 12/6d (62.5p) in We­b­ley’s or­ange air pis­tol cat­a­logue ‘C67-June 1938’, the pis­tol case re­mained the same price in the C67-July, 1939 cat­a­logue. In an ear­lier, green printed ver­sion marked just ‘C67’ (with no date) on the back page, the pis­tol case does not ap­pear. Un­men­tioned too, on the pasted-in ‘Re­vised Prices - June 1937’ where only the can­vas ri­fle soft cov­er­ing case fea­tures at 5/- (25p) as il­lus­trated in the cat­a­logue, for the Mark II Ser­vice air ri­fle .177 or .22 listed at 84/- (£4.20) or 90/- (£4.50) in .25.

QUAL­ITY & RAR­ITY

It seems most likely, the We­b­ley air pis­tol cases in the pho­tos were made by Brady of Wal­sall, then mak­ers of high- qual­ity gun cases, and would have been made at the Shad­well Street premises close to We­b­ley & Scott within the Birm­ing­ham gun quar­ter at around the time Mr. Ernest Brady, son of John, one of the firms co-founders, would also have been busy at this ad­dress in producing the fa­mous fishing bags named af­ter English rivers that were a main­stay of the firm. I’m hop­ing to learn more from the present Brady Bags Com­pany if their records stretch back that far.

Of all vin­tage air­guns and ac­ces­sories, the 1930s We­b­ley air pis­tol and air ri­fle cases have prob­a­bly ap­pre­ci­ated more in value than any­thing else, with sto­ries reach­ing me of £1,000 be­ing paid for an empty pis­tol case! Clearly, these air pis­tol cases are now worth sev­eral times the value of the fine pis­tols they house to some col­lec­tors, which has led to some well­made mod­ern re­pro­duc­tions ap­pear­ing.

A cased Se­nior is shown in Fig­ure 11 with ac­cou­trements, in­clud­ing spare pis­ton rings; patent 1925 brass bushed leather breech seals and two in­serter tools ( Part 36); We­b­ley ‘Valvespout’ oil tin still half-full of No. 2 Oil; pel­lets; spare un­used We­b­ley Se­nior main­spring of the cor­rect pe­riod and bar­rel clean­ing brush. A closer view of some un­used We­b­ley Se­nior spare pis­ton rings ( Part S4) made of phos­phor- bronze is shown in Fig­ure 12. If cor­rectly lu­bri­cated they sel­dom need re­plac­ing, but should be in­spected from time to time. You don’t need spe­cial break-in oil when break­ing in a newly fit­ted We­b­ley com­pres­sion ring. Just use SAE30 mo­tor oil and keep them reg­u­larly oiled when and while shoot­ing. Grease just seems to scrape off, whilst oil seems to get more into the pores of the metal.

Two fur­ther pre- war, brown can­vas and leather cases with child­proof, sin­gle- lock­ing clasps and keys ap­pear as Fig­ures 13 and

14, the in­te­rior lid and three com­part­ments lined in green baize, Printed gold and dark blue, foil trade la­bels on the in­sides of the lids stat­ing ‘WE­B­LEY & SCOTT LTD, ES­TAB­LISHED 1790, PREMIER WORKS, BIRM­ING­HAM’. Both show­ing a lit­tle wear to the trade la­bel in the usual area, caused by con­tact with the thumb piece of the stir­rup latch, the cases con­tain­ing com­part­ments for an oil tin and a rect­an­gu­lar pel­let tin of ‘ We­b­ley Spe­cial Pel­lets’.

The case with­out an oil tin con­tains a fine, plated We­b­ley Se­nior once in the col­lec­tion of Ch­ester Purl­lant who kindly sup­plied the pho­to­graph. The blued pis­tol is no. S12877 with a gen­uine We­b­ley oil tin, but wear­ing a re­pro­duc­tion la­bel. Un­like the fac­tory pho­to­graph show­ing a left- hand lock (hinged hasp to the right) all these cases have right- hand locks, i.e. the hasp to the left. Whilst I’ve put two full, hinged tins of We­b­ley pel­lets in the ammo com­part­ments to bring the let­ter­ing into fo­cus for the pho­tos., it’s ad­vis­able to carry only one full tin, lest the com­bined weight of two, plus the heavy pis­tol it­self, puts un­nec­es­sary strain on the old leather case han­dle de­spite there be­ing enough depth in the com­part­ment to ac­cept two tins.

AC­KNOWL­EDGE­MENTS:

My thanks to We­b­ley Ar­chives, Nigel Allen and Ch­ester Purl­lant for pho­to­graphs and in­put.

FIG­URE 7 Fig­ure 1: We­b­ley new frame ‘ Se­nior’ mod­els from De­cem­ber 1935. Se­rial nos. S7097; S7272; S11781; S11327; S12899; S15184; S15447 and S16616; all still excellent shoot­ers. [ Au­thor’s Col­lec­tion]Fig­ure 2: Pre-war com­po­nents il­lus­tra­tion for the new model ‘ Se­nior’ scanned from We­b­ley’s sur­viv­ing re­pro pull from the orig­i­nal art­work plate show­ing num­bered parts. [We­b­ley Ar­chives]Fig­ure 3: Part S5, the cyanide hard­ened, ver­ti­cally act­ing ‘ Se­nior’ trig­ger sear was a com­po­nent that was al­tered dur­ing the life of the pis­tol. Top: One- piece sear. Lower: com­pos­ite type re­plac­ing it from 1955 when the trig­ger nose en­gaged an in­set pinFig­ure 4: Far more de­tailed than the broad il­lus­tra­tion in­tended only for small scale re­pro­duc­tion shown last month, was this highly de­tailed, early slant-grip model ‘Se­nior’ art­work to be used in some of the fu­ture pis­tol pub­lic­ity, pre and post-war. [We­b­ley Ar­chives]Fig­ure 5: Rear view of We­b­ley ‘ Se­nior’ se­rial no. S11781. The cord­ing added around the grip tangs to pro­vide bet­ter grip and the ad­di­tion of a small, off- cen­tre, keeper screw was an at­tempt to pre­vent un­nec­es­sary ac­cessFig­ure 6: Re­plac­ing the small lock­ing screw for the ‘ breech screw’/air cylin­der rear plug shown in pis­tol no. S15184 (top) was the non-re­mov­able Parker Kay­lon drive peg (po­si­tion in­di­cated by blue pointer) in S15447Fig­ure 7: Fur­ther nar­row­ing down the change from lock­ing screw to non- re­move­able drive peg is an­other pis­tol of mine, S15432, which clearly has the drive peg. [Photo cour­tesy of Nigel Allen]

FIG­URE 5

FIG­URE 4

FIG­URE 3

FIG­URE 12 Fig­ure 8: Left side of .177 cal­i­bre, no. S15432, ap­pear­ing to be one of the first ‘ Se­niors’ to be fit­ted with the non- re­mov­able drive peg to pre­vent the breech screw be­ing re­moved. [Au­thor’s Col­lec­tion. Photo cour­tesy of Nigel Allen]Fig­ure 9: Right side of no. S15432 show­ing the un­marked brown Bake­lite stock-sides and three in­ter­na­tional patents for Bri­tain, U. S. A. and Canada. [ Au­thor’s Col­lec­tion. Photo cour­tesy of Nigel Allen]Fig­ure 10: Scanned di­rectly from We­b­ley’s orig­i­nal sur­viv­ing 1930s pho­to­graph used in their cat­a­logues to advertise the brown drill can­vas on wood, lock­able air pis­tol box with leather cor­ners avail­able for a short pe­riodFig­ure 11: Cased ‘ Se­nior’ with ac­cou­trements in­clud­ing spare pis­ton rings; patent 1925 brass bushed leather breech seals and their two in­serter tools Part 36; We­b­ley ‘ Valvespout’ oil tin still half­full of No. 2 Oil; pel­lets; spare un­used We­b­ley ‘ Se­nior’ main­spring of the cor­rect pe­riod and bar­rel clean­ing brushFig­ure 12: We­b­ley ‘ Se­nior’ un­used spare pis­ton rings were Part S4 and made of phos­phor bronze. If cor­rectly lu­bri­cated they sel­dom need re­plac­ing but should be in­spected from time to timeFig­ure 13: A fine- plated We­b­ley ‘ Se­nior’ in can­vas­cov­ered wooden car­ry­ing case. Wear to the trade la­bel in the usual area is caused by con­tact with the thumb piece of the stir­rup latch. [Photo. cour­tesy of Ch­ester Purl­lant]Fig­ure 14: Pre-war, lock­able – and hence child­proof case – hous­ing .22 ‘ Se­nior’ no. S12877. Dark blue let­ter­ing on gold trade la­bel with some wear; We­b­ley’ Spe­cial’ pel­let tins and gen­uine We­b­ley oil­can wrapped with a re­pro­duc­tion la­bel

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