The Webley’s Reprise

The Webley’s Reprise

The MK VI is back and in three distinct versions Part 1

By Dennis Adler

Hard to believe you could get 120 years of history into one photo but that is what you are looking at between the illustrations of the Webley MK III, IV, V and VI, and the new nickel plated, rifled barrel Webley MK VI CO2 model laying on top. It represents Webley history from 1897 to 2017.

In 1915 the British military adopted the most ruggedly built revolver in the world, the Webley & Scott MK VI as its standard issue sidearm, but this was not the first Webley to be carried into battle by British troops. Webley & Scott revolvers were first issued to Her Majesty’s soldiers as far back as 1887. The Webley’s topbreak design is, in fact, deeply rooted in the late 19th century beginning with  Over the next three decades Webley & Scott made improvements in the topbreak design through the MK II, III, IV, and V, with the MK VI being developed in the early 1910s.

Last year (in Europe) Webley & Scott added the Battlefield Finish, with a modestly antiqued (holster worn and battle aged) appearance representative of many original service models from the era. This also introduced the rifled barrel model designed for 4.5mm pellet-loading cartridges.

Webley & Scott MK VI models remained in production from 1915 to 1935 and were still carried by British forces two years after WWII! The smaller caliber Webley MK IV version, chambered in 38/200 caliber (.38 S&W and not to be confused with the 4-inch barrel length Mark IV Service Model chambered in .455 Webley), remained in use until 1963; thus you have a revolver design that in its various iterations and chamberings was used continuously for more than three-quarters of a century.

Although the new MK VI is known for having a 6-inch barrel, it was also produced with a 4-inch barrel, which begs the question; will Webley offer this version in a CO2 model as well?

Why a Webley Airgun?

The MK VI CO2 models are quite literally the culmination of a story that began when young Philip Webley married Caroline Davies, the daughter of British bullet mold manufacturer William Davies. Webley and his brother James had established Webley Brothers – Percussioners, Gun Lock & c. in 1835. Three years later management of Davies’ company was turned over to his son-in-law Philip and brother James, when they began the production of percussion sporting guns. In 1838 the Davies and Webley companies merged under the name P. Webley & Sons. Philip and Caroline Webley’s sons, Thomas and Henry, joined the family business in the 1860s, by which time P. Webley & Sons was manufacturing several types of percussion arms, including single and double action percussion revolvers, as well as early centerfire cartridge models. (Great Britain, France, Belgium, and Germany were well ahead of America in the manufacture of metallic cartridge loading firearms).

Before the advent of the Webley topbreak models, the most advanced Webley revolver was the metallic cartridge loading double action RIC introduced in 1867. This was a decade before Colt’s introduced its first cartridge loading double action revolver! It is believed that George Armstrong Custer, who owned a pair of Webley RIC models was carrying one of them at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

In 1867 Webley introduced its first double action model known as the RIC, so named for its adoption by the Royal Irish Constabulary. A full decade before Colt’s first double action models, the RIC became famous not only in Great Britain and Europe but in America. Among famous American military men who owned Webley RIC revolvers was Lt. Col. (and former Civil War General) George Armstrong Custer. It is believed he was carrying one of the RIC revolvers at the fateful Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Available in nine different calibers during its production run, Webley manufactured the RIC Models for a remarkable 72 years from 1867 up until 1939!

The fundamental shape and operation of the Webley topbreak models was established in 1880 with the development of the .455 Webley caliber MK I, which remained in production until 1894.

In 1878 another Webley model became a staple of the American West with the arrival of the small Webley British Bulldog revolver. Two years later the first Webley MK I topbreak was introduced, and by 1887 Webley revolvers had become Great Britain’s official sidearm. In order to expand financially and competitively, in 1897 Webley and world renowned British shotgun manufacturer W&C Scott & Sons merged to form Webley & Scott Revolver and Arms Company, Ltd. in Birmingham, England.

Minor changes came with the MK II built from 1894 to 1897.

The MK III continued the smaller hammer design from the MK II and introduced the improved extractor system that would be used on the MK IV, V and VI. The MK III was only manufactured from 1897 to1899 and replaced by the improved MK IV.

 

The MK IV with a new hammer spur design had a long production run from 1899 to 1914 and essentially set the design for the MK VI which would introduce a new grip design, longer barrel and new front sight design.

The MK V was a very shot-lived transitional model that overlapped the MK IV in 1913 and was discontinued two years later when the MK VI was introduced.

Throughout its history Webley & Scott manufactured some of the finest shotguns and handguns the world has ever known. Webley topbreak pistol designs evolved from the MK I (c.1880-1894) through the MK II (1894-1897) and MK III (1897-1899), highly successful MK IV (1899-1914), the short-lived MK V (1913-1915) and culminated in the improved 1915 Model MK VI (1915-1919 and Service Model 1922-1935). There is no doubt today why the Webley remains one of the most sought after British handguns for military arms collectors, and why Webley & Scott, with an equally distinguished history manufacturing airguns since the early 20th century, decided to reproduce the MK VI as a CO2 powered BB cartridge loading model in 2015, exactly 100 years after the .455 caliber model was adopted by the British Military.

The MK VI is by far the most successful and most recognized of all Webley topbreak models. The new nickel silver CO2 pellet model with rifled barrel is a handsome match to the original .455 caliber MK VI model above. The only truly noticeable difference in the guns is the slightly higher stirrup latch. Webley has cleverly used the lanyard loop and screw as the CO2 piercing screw to keep the lines authentic.

In 2016 Webley & Scott added the Battlefield Finish, with a modestly antiqued (holster worn and battle aged) appearance representative of many original Service Models from the era. In addition to its aged finish, the most important difference from the original 2015 black Parkerized-style BB cartridge Service Model, was the addition of a rifled barrel and 4.5mm pellet-loading cartridges. More recently Webley & Scott added a third variation, a pellet firing model with a high polish nickel silver finish. Neither the Battlefield Finish nor Nickel Exhibition pellet-firing models were exported to the U.S. until this month making these two new models the very latest in Webley & Scott’s long history as both a manufacturer of cartridge-firing arms and world class air pistols and rifles.

The rarest among original MK VI models is the nickel finish (top) which inspired the new nickel silver MK VI CO2 model now available from Pyramyd Air.

In Part 2 the MK VI gets ready for its first test.

15 thoughts on “The Webley’s Reprise

  1. nice history of the Webleys. Remembered Custer had one at Little Big Horn, didn’t realize it was a cartridge revolver dating back to the 1860s. Didn’t make much difference, but the Gatling guns he left behind would have. Would be nice to see the 4 inch barrel Mark VI, and maybe the round butt Mark IV. .


    • With only a barrel length change I’d like to think that Webley could make that available, of course, there has to be a customer demand for it. That would be much easier to add to the product line than a MK IV configuration.


      • Commonality of parts is key. They could start with the Mark VI 4 incher, much like the H&R Sportsman in 4 and 6 inch versions. The same for the Peacemaker and Schofield. The long barrel is more of a uniform , military revolver, the4 incher better for concealment and general carry


  2. unlike the Peaemaker tht requires a frame alteration for a short barrel, the Webley appears to require only cutting down the barrel and repositioning the front sight. would be a welcome addition ,and one easily packed around in the woods for plinking. One could do a lot worse for a self defense revolver than a modernized 4 inch Mark VI in 45 acp


  3. Wow ! What a very nice pictorial history of the Webley revolvers. Thank you very much. I am looking forward to the shooting test of this pistol. I never got around to ordering one of the bb firing models,so this pellet model could be a deal breaker. Does this pistol under test have adjustable rear sights ?
    Best wishes
    Harvey



    • Hi Lawman67,
      Thank you for the info on the Webley’s sights . I am tempted to ask you about your observed accuracy. but better wait and let Dennis clue us in .
      Thanks again
      Harvey


  4. looking at how many variations of one type of revolver , there should be consideration to more historical airgun replicas, like the Webley, Nagant, Mauser 712, Peacemakers , Schofields , Remingtons , P08. Collecting all of these would be the sport of Kings for real firearms , but as airguns, they are affordable ,and let shooters hold more history in their hands. For select fire it is a gift from heaven. I would never have been able to own an MP40 ,UZI or 712


  5. While the swingouf cylinder hand ejectors repla ed the top breaks , I can see the appeal of the topbreakaction . One handed opening and ejection of cases , ease of reloading , and yes they had speed loaders back then . With standard to moderate pressure loads the action is strong enough. One weakness in design is that certain holsters if snug can cause the lever tone pressed and open the action. Other than that , a pretty tough reliable firearm. Will the Webley- Fosberry becoming out next?


    • Don’t we wish! Actually I have had a couple of Schofields open on the draw, so I know what you mean about the right holster. I prefer holsters where the latch is above the throat. Of course, that would rule out every military flap holster but they are usually so wide the gun doesn’t drag and it is usually a reverse draw.


      • As a lefty could never find a canvas holster for the Webley , only stiff leather holster. Would think the softer canvas holsterwith flap would be less likely to accidentally open the action.


        • I bought the leather Webley holster with my revolver, but I haven’t yet had a chance to test the draw from the holster to see if the holster activates the top break lever.

          Did you buy the canvas holster that Pyramyd Air is selling? If so, have you tried it yet?


          • The large stirrup latch on the Webley is not likely to catch on anything and cause the gun to open accidentally. That can happen with the Schofield air pistol but not the Webley MK VI.


  6. Well, I stand corrected, because you can catch the top of the latch when holstering the MK VI air pistol. It has a slightly taller latch than the actual cartridge model and there is not enough spring resistance to prevent it from being knocked back if you bump the edge of the holster. So, you do need to be careful when holstering the MK VI. The Webley holster sold by Pyramyd Air has a pretty big opening and you can get it in without too much difficulty, just avoid pushing the gun forward as you holster it.


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