Webley Senior straight grip air pistol: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

A history of airguns

Webley Senior straight grip
Webley Senior straight grip air pistol.

This report covers:

  • Lubricated
  • Breech seal
  • Velocity — Eley Wasps
  • JSB Exact RS
  • RWS Hobby
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger pull
  • Evaluation so far

Several readers liked Part 1 of the report on the straight grip Webley Senior. What did they like about it? They liked that the gun was made of steel. They liked how quirky it is. And, much like me, they liked it just because it exists. Well, today we’ll start learning how good it shoots.

Lubricated

There is more to this gun than just its historical value and charm. I told you in Part 1 that I replaced the breech seal and lubricated the action after I bought it around 1978. I have oiled it over the years, but never fully lubricated it since the first time. Later in this series I’ll disassemble the gun for you and show you the insides, but for now know that the piston serves as the mainspring guide and the pistol is sealed by a metal ring, much like the piston of an internal combustion engine.

I want to check on the lube after 38 years! Yes, it’s been that long since I applied it. Finally I will have a concrete example with some age that let’s me show how long these modern lubricants can last. And, yes, I plan to show you, as well.

Breech seal

The breech seal is different than most spring gun breech seals and I will show you what it looks like when the seal for my Webley Mark II Service rifle finally arrives. I wanted to shoot that rifle for accuracy for you, but until the breech seal is replaced I think it’s pointless. We would only wonder what it would do with a good seal.

These breech seals are deeper (longer) than conventional seals, and they have a hollow brass tube running through their centers that serve as the air transfer port. They can be made of either leather or fiber, and as I remember, the one in this pistol is fiber. The gun is running at a very conservative power level, so the seal has been under no particular strain, other than the years it’s been in the gun.

Velocity — Eley Wasps

Let’s look at the velocity, shall we? First up is the pellet I think matches the gun’s own vintage age — an Eley Wasp. This is the 5.56mm pellet that’s oversized for most modern pellet guns. In this pistol, though, they stop level with the breech after being dropped in.

Wasps averaged 310 f.p.s. over 10 shots. The low was 301 and the high was 316, so the spread was 15 f.p.s. For a vintage .22-caliber spring-piston air pistol this is a very good velocity. I’ve seen vintage Dianas do less. Next I think I’ll try a lighter pellet that’s more modern.

JSB Exact RS

The .22-caliber JSB Exact RS dome weighs 13.43 grains, compared to the Wasp’s 14.5. It falls deep into the breech, so its smaller as well as lighter. I expected to see somewhat higher velocity. But it wasn’t there.

Ten RS pellets averaged just 306 f.p.s. The spread was tighter, only 10 f.p.s. separate the low at 301 from the high at 311 f.p.s. I don’t know what that suggests. Maybe they will be more accurate, but I get the feeling the Senior wants more to push against. Let’s try a lighter pellet that I know is larger than the RS.

RWS Hobby

At 11.9 grains the .22-caliber RWS Hobby is a little lighter than the RS, but the skirt is also larger. It falls into the breech only slightly deeper than the Wasp. And the velocity surprised me. The average was a whopping 357 f.p.s. and the spread was 24 f.p.s. — from 343 to 367 f.p.s. I have the feeling at out to 10 meters the Hobby may hold its own for accuracy.

Cocking effort

The way the Senior cocks, it is extremely difficult to measure the cocking effort. And the effort changes drastically when you hold the barrel differently. I use the thumb of my left hand as a fulcrum, opposite the pistol’s own fulcrum at the barrel pivot. I will estimate the effort is between 15 and 20 pounds to cock the gun, which is a close as I’m going to get. It’s not quite as difficult to cock as a Beeman P1, which cocks in exactly the same fashion, though with improved cocking geometry.

Trigger pull

I have never before measured the trigger pull of this pistol. I only know that I like it a lot. If you pull the trigger slowly and deliberately, the effort is 5 lbs. 5 oz. That’s heavier than I thought. Heavy, but oh, so smooth!

Evaluation so far

The test is turning out pretty much as I thought it would. The gun has a lot of power for its age and powerplant, plus the recoil is almost nonexistent. There is zero vibration, so I will have to look at the old lubrication carefully. I doubt it can be improved upon.

The trigger is as nice as I remembered, but heavier than I thought. The smoothness masks the pull nicely.

Will the gun be accurate? I don’t know. I know I’ve shot it at things in the past, but we are talking many decades since I shot it seriously. In that time new pellets have come to market and it will be interesting to see if they have had any affect.

28 thoughts on “Webley Senior straight grip air pistol: Part 2

  1. B.B.,

    The pellets seating at different levels was a bit confusing. You mention head sizes and then mention skirt sizes. Am I to assume that vintage .22’s had larger barrel ID’s? Also, does this have a non-rifled lead in chamber? I just looked at the 92FS and it’s rifling goes all the way to the breech end. Is the barrel even rifled?

    If it is rifled, I would think that a pellet with a large enough head size, so as to engage the riling, would be critical. As for skirts being too small, I have taken a pellet in a small pair of vice grips, clamped the skirt, and then used the head to re-expand/repair deformed skirts. That would probably only work on a thinner skirt though.

    Also, I thought that only pellet head size was controlled. I did not realize that skirt sizes were an option, at least not an advertised one, other than that some might have bigger skirts and some smaller, by design.

    Anyways, just some thoughts. Looking forwards to the tear down. 😉

    Chris


    • Chris,

      It’s the skirt, not the head, that’s causing the pellets to go in to different depths. And yes, skirts do vary widely. But seating the pellet takes care of that.

      Certain British vintage airguns do have larger-diameter barrels. Old Webleys and BSA,l

      B.B.


    • The bottom line is that early British guns are .22 calibre, there is no such thing as a .22 calibre air gun these days, they are all 5.5mm, it does rankle the pedant in me when the barrels are described as oversized, when the actuality is that all the modern barrels are UNDERSIZED!


      • Dom,

        Of course you are right. But it’s a matter of perspective. What we have today is what exists. Asking people to change what they call it is like asking Asian airsoft manufacturers to stop calling their 6mm plastic balls “BB bullets.”

        B.B.


        • It’s an anomaly that the firearm .22 has survived unmolested, I’m intrigued as to the true size of early US .22 airguns, are they the real deal or also 5.5mm?
          And the Hakim, an Anschutz built Airsporter, did they reduce the barrel or stick more slavishly to the given patterns?



          • Dom,

            The U.S. airguns went directly to 5.5mm and it drives American gun manufacturers nuts. They keep coming out with primer-fired pellet gun conversions for firearms and they keep slapping .22 rimfire barrel liners in them that are too large.

            The Hakim is 5.5mm, as well.

            B.B.


            • We very nearly had a source of 5.56 pellets about 2 years ago, Pellpax had tooled up for them, but, at the 11th hour sold up everything to H&N and shipped the lot out to Germany, whereupon that line was dropped
              You must get hold of some old stock Sussex Armoury Sabot pellets, I think the readers of this blog would be fascinated
              There’s quite a few partial tubs out there, certainly, you fired a couple and never finished the pack.
              A great one to bring up with Air Arms representatives too, as Sussex Armoury was a previous incarnation
              It surprises me the US went the metric route especially back then


  2. BB,

    I am waiting very patiently to hear more about this old girl. I do so enjoy these old airguns. The quality exhibited in them is incredible. How many of today’s airguns will still be usable 100 years from now? Not only are they usable, but they shoot as well as the modern ones.


  3. Thanks, B.B.; I’m really looking forward to seeing the accuracy of this old girl, but just looking at the picture of her makes me smile. I like my Beeman Tempest, because I inherited it from my Dad, but these old all-steel Webleys are just plain cool! =)


  4. BB
    I have been shooting pellet guns since the 50’s and it was always recommended by everyone, from the salesman at the local gun shop, magazines and books and more recently the internet that springer pellet weights must be 8gn +/- 1 to 1.5gn for .177 and 14gn +/- 1 to 1.5gn for .22. If pellets were not kept within this weight range we were always warned the guns would self destruct in a short time and void the warrantee.
    Is there any truth to this as I see super light and super heavy pellets being sold everywhere now. Is a .177 pellet that weighs less than a steel BB or as much as a .22 pellet going to do any damage to my guns or are they safe to shoot.
    In this review you say you will try a lighter pellet. Will it be within this weight range for a springer or will it be one of the lighter alloy pellets?


  5. I don’t think that the weight of a pellet matters in PCP, CO2, or multi pump guns. I was shooting the Winchester alloy pellets out of my Sportsman 900 from Wally World and getting phenomenal accuracy out to 20 yards until I tried a pellet that I’d already shot (it looked perfect) and got it stuck in the bore. (That’s why you don’t reuse pellets, boys and girls). I was only pumping the gun five times so I think some of these alloy pellets will work at lower velocities. I’ll get it out tonight with a range rod.


  6. BB
    It’s good to know that is an old wife’s tale. I may be straightening out a few people on that point!
    I have slowly been switching my .177 springers over to the 7gn wadcutter
    Miesterkugelns. They seem to shoot the best in all my springers
    but I always worried that I might eventually do damage with such a light pellet.


  7. Continued
    Same with my .22 springers. Switching over to Beeman Lasers, 12.4gn (no longer available) but H&N hollow point 12.4gn seem to shoot the same and are the same price.
    My springers are all side lever or underlever and well maintained and I want to keep them shooting well


  8. Continued
    Knowing that the light pellets won’t be doing any damage makes my life easier. Some of my guns are close to 25 years old with thousands of rounds down range and I don’t want to start doing repairs just because I used the wrong pellet.



  9. Redrafter,

    No limitations on replies that I know I of. Believe me, if there was, I am probably over my limit! 😉

    Are you typing from a phone? That may be it. From a desk top or lap top, you can write quite long comments.

    Under Lever?, Side Lever?,….. that “hints” of quality. What do you have,… if you don’t mind me asking?


  10. Chris
    Mostly Chinese guns in under lever or side lever. Out of the box they are not so good but after a good clean, lube and my own secret tune up they all become fine guns. My favorites are the .177 AK style B3 w/folding stock- great medium range side lever plinker, the .22 QB88, my gopher guns/bugbuster scope out to


  11. Continued
    My gopher gun w/bugbuster scope from the 90’s. Super accurate to 30+ yards, and just about my favorite yellow gun (not a racist remark- just that the stocks have the yellow finish) is the QB57 w/leapers 4xAO scope in .177. Not to brag but I have consistently taken out 6″ dia. metal targets with this takedown bullpup in excess of 60 yards.


  12. Continued
    So out of 12 springers I own about 10 are Chinese. I recently found a B3-1 at a surplus store in Vancouver BC for sale price of $59.95. Worked on it for a few evenings – had to cause it was just garbage out of the box – the last 6 inches of the cocking throw was hitting 50 pounds – now have it shooting 650 fps and quarter size groups at 10M. The cocking force is now a smooth 28 to 30 pouynds Mounted a Bug Buster/Bushnell knock off on it today – looks like a bug buster but has Bushnell trades on it and the glass is not the best. They are not the best scopes but they’re cheap and do work OK. Tomorrow I’ll sight it in and maybe do my secret tune (external) and by the end of the week after about 500 or 600 break in shots I’ll have the groups down to about dime size and it will be a smooth shooting gun.
    BTW I am using a 10 inch Android tablet and the touch sensitive typing sometimes just too touchy! from now on I’ll use Windows to post to this blog!!


  13. Redrafter,

    Sorry for not getting back quicker,… early bed, early rise,….this is actually a bit later than usual. Hey!,….. I see you got the posting figured out,….good!

    Quite the collection you have going there. I too enjoy messing with things and making them better than they were at the start. That is all part of the fun of airgunning. Cool too that you are pushing the limits on seeing what they can do at longer distances.


  14. Problems shooting new AirForce Condor SS .20 cal. The problem is the scope is 3 inches above the barrel. Sight it in and dime on but before or after the crossing angle quite steep. Started at 17 yds then to 25 yds less but still a problem. At 25 yds aim point it is still shooting several inches high at 50 yds. Suggestions as to a good sight in distance to keep this problem to a minimum. My prime shooting distance is 12 to 35 yds.


    • D Renz,

      Welcome to the blog.

      Your comments had to be approved by me before they would show up. From now on, they will show up after you post them.

      Now about your Condor.

      The 3 inches don’t mean very much. It’s not your problem.

      Your problem is you are trying to shoot too close to the rifle! A 12-yard zero will screw up everything else.

      Sight your rifle in at 20 yards. It will then be on for 20-30 (35?) yards, depending on the power setting.

      I have addressed this in numerous reports over the years, but it’s probably time to go back over the fundamentals again.,

      Watch for my report. I will do it soon.

      B.B.


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