Webley Junior - Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
Announcement: Just a reminder that Airgun Arena is holding a shooting contest. There are rifle and pistol categories. Rifle categories are: spring, sporter (PCP/CO2) and target. Pistols categories are: sporter, custom and target. The contest started on April 15 and ends on May 15, 2010. Pyramyd Air is supplying prizes, and there's still time to enter.
Update on Tom/B.B.: I visited with Tom for 3 hours Thursday afternoon. He said he felt fantastic and was quite animated! He's improving day by day. I'll be spending quite a bit of time with him this weekend.
Today's blog comes from Airgun Revue #6, which was published in 2000.
I like Webley pistols, make no mistake about it! Although I haven't owned all models and variations, there have been a number of Seniors, Mark IIs and Premiers in my possession over the years. Except for the Junior. I'm not a real collector, but the solid feel of the gun keeps me coming back for more.
For some reason, the Junior has eluded my grasp. Like the Diana 35, the Junior is an air pistol I've admired from afar, never quite being able to reconcile the cost of a smoothbore when so many accurate rifled models are around. The Junior has its grips held on by a single screw. Its end cap (at the muzzle end of the gun) has but a single cross-screw instead of separate cross-screw and spreader screw. The cocking link has a single pivot instead of two, and the trigger has only 2 pins where the big guns have 3 to 5. In other words, it's the cheap member of the Webley family, and cheap is not why I got into airgunning. I'm here for the blued steel, the fine wood and the perceptible substance of quality-crafted airguns. With all its cost-cutting features, the Junior just doesn't sound like any of those things. But it is.
In 1999, I received an email request out of the blue from collector Eric Hall. He asked for information about a Webley Junior. To answer the query, I consulted my library copy of Hiller's third edition of Air Pistols book that has been read so much that the pages were starting to fall out. An answer was created in the form of 20 questions about the gun. After a day, the response came back, and I learned that the Eric had a fairly valuable Webley Junior, or at least a Junior as valuable as it can get.
Eric and I emailed back and forth for another week when I asked him to send me his gun so I could write about it. He didn't hesitate. Before you know it, I had this great-looking Junior in my hands.
The gun is the second iteration of the pre-WWII Junior to come from Webley. The first one had wooden grips with tighter ribbing than the ones on our sample gun, plus the rear sight was adjustable on many examples. Ours has the ribbed (for strength) steel grips that pretty much define the pre-war Junior. They're blued but are also the first metal part to rust and turn plum-colored, which these are doing. A single screw on the right grip passes through the frame and grabs a threaded escutcheon on the left grip.
The grip frame is straighter than those on post-war Juniors. It looks quite similar to the frame of the so-called straight grip Senior, a Webley that was also in its initial design iteration the same time as this one.
Actually, the grips of later Juniors never did become as slanted as those of later Seniors, but the bottom of the lower grip frame did become wider and more rounded after the war, which gave the visual impression of a greater rake. The early gun has a more rectangular grip frame by comparison.
The frame is blued steel also, but on this gun the color is actually reddish brown. I understand that happens when the bluing salts are too hot. You see it on custom Mauser rifles from time to time. The frame is fashioned into two steel loops that encircle the steel spring tube/compression reservoir. The loop in the back is enclosed at the end, leaving no access hole at the front of the compression chamber, as is found on the Seniors. Hence, there isn't a Not to be removed warning around a screw slot that's always buggered by some anonymous airgunner's clumsy attempts to learn why. The back of the Junior is as clean as the deck of an aircraft carrier--from the bottom of the grip frame to the top of the sights.
A spring-loaded thumb latch holds the barrel closed and tight against the breech gasket. It's not as convenient for right-handers as the lever found on the left side of the larger pistols, and I'm sure the lefties feel a sense of revenge.
Cocking isn't easier than a Senior, even though the Junior has a weaker mainspring. That's probably because the cocking linkage is less articulated, which reduces the overall mechanical advantage.
As with all vintage Webley pistols, the Junior is a barrel-cocker. After releasing the rear (breech) of the barrel, you lift it up and forward while the cocking link pulls the piston straight back, compressing the mainspring as it goes. But back and front are reversed on a Webley. Back, when referring to the piston, means toward the muzzle of the gun, while forward means toward the shooter. Webley uses a compact folded cocking mechanism that employes the barrel as a handle to cock the gun. It's one of the defining features of the brand and was even used on two models of rifles--the Mark I and the Mark II Service.
Although the Junior is known as the runt of the Webley litter, it's not a weakling! Even though everything on the gun is smaller, the Junior holds its own in the power department. I've seen published velocities in the 250-300 fps range, but our test gun, which had been left cocked for more than a week when I got it, was much stronger.
The piston seal is a no-tech plug of leather on the end of the steel piston. It should be kept oiled with a good grade of gun oil, which will not diesel because the compression is too low. If you ever have to replace the seal and can't find one from the factory, it should be easy enough to make one from sections of an old leather belt. They would have to be stacked because the seal is quite thick.
The mainspring nests inside the hollow piston, which fits tightly enough to guide it well. Gun oil on the coils is good here, too. One surprising aspect was the round wire section of the spring. All the bigger Webleys use flat-section wire to get more coils into a short space. The round section will last longer, but it won't have quite the power potential of the flat-section wire.
The mainspring is under a fair amount of pretension, too. About 2 full inches are compressed when the end cap is tightened.
The end cap, which is on the front of the gun, has a hollow spring guide attached to it. You can oil it when the gun is disassembled or just let the slung-off oil from the mainspring do the job over time, which is what I did.
Next time, we'll look at velocity and accuracy.