Sunday, May 21, 2006

From the Vault: "Just close your eyes and think of England,"

The above quote is allegedly advice to a young woman about to attempt the isometric exercise of finding ammunition or parts for her Webley & Scott Pistol, Self-Loading, Mark I N. Stuff is out there, but be prepared to pay.

Not at all a common find, these pistols were used as a substitute standard in the Royal Navy during the Great War, as well as being fielded in small numbers by the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Horse Artillery. Standing around with my gunsmith and a gentleman from one of the more active firearms importers, with probably sixty years in the gun biz between the three of us, not one of us could recollect having seen one in the steel before.

I had to have it.

Unusually heavy, yet with an awkward grip angle, the pistol points like you're holding a t-square and may be the homeliest non-Japanese handgun I've ever seen. Oddly for a gun so rare, repro grips are available, and Triple-K has catalogued magazines. Cartridge cases can be made by trimming .45 Colt brass to length, turning the rim down somewhat (the .455 Webley Automatic is a semi-rimmed cartridge) and machining an extractor groove. The barrel locks up very much like a SIG: a squared shoulder atop the chamber mating into the ejection port atop the slide. Everything is intricately machined from big chunks of steel and fitted together to a fare-thee-well.

Other odd features abound: The pistol has dual ejectors, as well as two different methods of disconnecting (should one fail, the gun won't run away.) The recoil spring is a massive v-spring under the right-hand grip panel ("If the recoil spring breaks, you don't know me," said my gunsmith.) The slide stop is activated not by the magazine follower, but by the absence of a cartridge in the feedway. You don't need an empty magazine in the gun for the slide to lock back, it knows when it's empty. (I think that's a little presumptuous of it, but that's just me...) The drift-adjustable rear sight has little micrometer hashmarks to help line things up. All in all, a piece satisfying both in its historical provenance and in its mechanical quirkiness; I couldn't be happier to add one to the museum.


Anonymous said...


BobG said...

Very interesting piece; a friend of mine used to have an old British pistol made by Enfield, never got to examine it much. My experience with British mechanisms is that usually they are designed strange; most of the machinery I used to have to work on seemed like it was designed in a basement by someone with no mechanical aptitude or education. Things seemed to be more complicated where they didn't need it, and too simple in places that needed a little more. There are exceptions, of course, but most things were badly designed.

Anonymous said...

Since I happen to LIKE the looks of this gizmo and need photos of it to go with the Webley revolver page, this find makes our get-together than much more urgent.

Anonymous said...

I'm siding with BobG on this one; after a couple of decades spinning wrenches on Brit bikes (and the occasional car), I'm convinced what passes for engineering on the Scepter'd Isle is a genetic predisposition to designing anything with moving parts in the most difficult, obscure and non-intuitive way possible. They're ahead of even the Italians in that respect.

I recognize that there's a certain amount of pride in Building Your Own, but I'd bet they could have bought a set of 1911 plans fairly cheaply.

Anyway, congrats, Tam. What are you going to do with it?

Anonymous said...

WOW! That may be the coolest thing I've ever seen. I've always loved Webley wheel guns.

It looks like a pistol designed by a commitee consisting of Gaston Glock, Georg Luger and John Browning. While drunk.

I want one for EDC!


theirritablearchitect said...


I have noticed this phenomenon with British "engineering".

It seems that everything is either Rube Goldberg-ed or too flimsy when it was obvious to the average fourth grader that it should have been built hell for stout. Weird.

I do appreciate British horsepower though, they know there is no replacement for displacement.

Tam made me laugh with that non-Jap homely comment. Couldn't agree more.

Adam said...

Amazingly, this gun looks and feels great. Well balanced (although it does feel like a T-Square)and in great condition, despite being over 94 years old. I just hope she'll let me shoot it when the ammo comes! :D

Anonymous said...

Wow. Nice find. That's the first time I've seen one outside of reference books. Congratulations.

Anonymous said...

You will give a range report when you shoot it, right?

Can I ask how much it was?

Anonymous said...

Following links, I found this:

The last Webley & Scott Mark 1 to reach the market sold for more than £1,000.

phlegmfatale said...

wow - a new look for a new century - it must have looked so incredibly modern and hot in the 19 teens, mustn't it? Neat!