by B.B. Pelletier

The Webley Hurricane is a large spring-piston air pistol.

A blog reader requested this report several weeks ago, but I can’t remember who it was. I think he asked for a report on the Tempest; but since the Hurricane is very similar and I have one, that’s what I picked.

I remember very clearly when Webley first brought out the Tempest air pistol. It was 1979, and I was back in the United States, following a 4-year tour with the Army in Germany. I’d just gotten to the point of accepting the Webley Premier Mark II that everyone could see was the beginning of Webley cheapening their pistol designs with (shudder) aluminum. And then they brought out the mostly aluminum Tempest, which had a plastic cover over the front half of the spring cylinder and was finished with PAINT! Well, that certainly got my mind off the Premier Mark II.

I probably vowed never to own one of these plastic airguns, but time passes, airgun newsletters start up and before you know it I’m looking at airguns I wouldn’t have thought of touching without a tetanus shot! I actually owned a Tempest, plus I bought a Hurricane that I still have. As if to poke a finger into my eye, these air pistols not only commit all the sins just mentioned — they also have safeties! A safety on a handgun, for gosh sakes! Well Agatha Christie was exonerated in the end, I guess, because here are two handguns that really do have safety catches. They aren’t the revolvers she wrote about, but I guess that’s still in the works.

All kidding aside (and I’m really not kidding), the Webley Tempest and Hurricane are both wonderful air pistols. Looking back at them from a 21st century perspective, they’re both built better than most of the air pistols available in their price bracket today. These are spring-piston guns that use their barrels to cock their coiled steel mainsprings. The piston then comes back toward the shooter when the gun fires, giving the sensation of a recoiling firearm. And therein lies the problem that drives today’s report.

Because they recoil, these pistols bounce in your hand when they’re fired. Because the spring cylinder is located above the top of your grip, they make the pistol bounce noticeably when they fire. So much so, it seems, that some shooters worry about them — that perhaps their recoil will somehow throw the shot wild.

The fact of the matter is that if you hold the pistol correctly, it won’t throw its shot wild; but if you attempt to control the recoil, you’re in for some trouble.

Let me illustrate. Under the heading of pistols that bounce when fired, the M1911A1 Colt semiautomatic jumps to the head of the list. Not because it’s a hard-recoilling handgun, but because the force of the recoil, which is centered on the breechblock, is located high above the top of the gripping hand. When you fire the gun, the slide comes back above your hand and rocks your grip most noticeably. To those unfamiliar with shooting a 1911, the gun seems to have a very harsh recoil — but that’s only because they do not know how to hold it!

All you have to do is hook the thumb of your shooting hand over the safety switch, and you’ll cancel about 80 percent of this bounce. And when you do, you’ll realize that the pistol no longer kicks very hard. In fact, it’s one of the softest-recoilling pistols around. It’s like an M1 Garand or an M14 that both sound like the end of the world when they fire, but which actually have far less felt recoil than a 1903 Springfield shooting the same cartridge (as the Garand). Oh, the recoil is still there, but it’s masked by its long duration, in effect lessening the sensation of recoil.

On the Tempest and Hurricane, there’s nothing to hook your thumb over, so you do have to tolerate the bouncing recoil at its fullest. It’s not that bad; but if you aren’t expecting it, you’ll definitely notice it. What I’m saying you should do is just tolerate it without trying to control or lessen it in any way. What you’re doing is the pistol version of the artillery hold, and it works for both firearms and air pistols, alike.

I actually shot the pistol on two different days, with day one being used to discover the best pellet. Although I tried only 4 pellets the first day, RWS Hobbys stood out as the best. The next day, when I was interested in the best hold for the gun, that’s what I shot.

One hand or two?
You can do this either way — with a one-hand hold or with two. But since this is a report on how best to hold the Hurricane, I tried it several different ways and got dramatic results. They illustrate what I’ll be saying. All shooting was 10 shots at 10 meters with RWS Hobbys unless otherwise noted.

Don’t use a bag rest directly!
Do not rest a Tempest or Hurricane on a sandbag. When I did, the gun shot 4 inches high at 10 meters. And the shots were so scattered that I stopped shooting after just 4 shots for fear of missing the backstop.

Resting the pistol directly on a sandbag sends the pellets much higher than the aim point. I stopped after 4 shots because the pellets were going wild.

Next, I tried using a two-hand hold with the hands rested directly on the sandbag. It was better than resting the gun directly on the bag, and the point of impact shifted lower, as well. Though this group was tighter than the first one, it still wasn’t what I’d hoped for.

Resting my hands directly on the sandbag brought down the point of impact and tightened the group — but not enough.

Hands off the bag
Back when I was competing with air pistol, the only way I shot pistols was with one hand. A lot has changed since that time, though, and now I do better using a two-hand hold. However, I wanted to see how the gun shot in just one hand, so I held it that way and rested my arm on the sandbag. In other words, the hand was well in front of the bag and not subject to vibrations from the shot.

Here the pistol is held in one hand, and my arm was resting on the bag.

Two-hand hold is the best
The final hold I tried was the one that had done well the day before. I held the pistol in two hands that were forward of the sandbag. Both arms were rested on the bag.

No doubt — this is the best hold for the Webley Hurricane. Pistol is held in two hands with both arms resting on the sandbag. Notice, though, that this is a very vertical group. I had the same results the day before.

There’s no doubt that the two-hand hold with both arms resting on the bag is the best hold for this pistol. But the verticality tells me there might be even more to learn about holding a Hurricane.

One thing I found quite interesting about this test was to compare the results to those obtained with the Browning Buck Mark URX just the other day. The Buck Mark gave a much rounder group and was also tighter.

Update on the Winchester Target Cube
As you know, I’m testing the Winchester Airgun Target Cube with as many airguns as possible so I can give you a report about it in a few weeks. The cube now has about 300 shots from guns in both .177 and .22 caliber and ranging from 300 to 700 f.p.s. It has started to leave a residue of small styrofoam particles on the table after every test.

The Winchester Airgun Target Cube left this styrofoam residue on the table from this shooting session.

Pellet comparison
Rather than bore you with more targets from the other pellets I tested, I’ll show you just one target that was shot using Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets. I used the best hold and shot at the same 10 meters for this target. As you will see, it’s pretty poor by comparison.

Ten Premier Lites made a much larger group than the RWS Hobbys when the best hold was used.

Bottom line
The Webley Hurricane and Tempest are both recoiling spring-piston air pistols that are reasonably accurate, but they’re not target pistols. They’re both well built by today’s standards and will give generations of good service.