by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- The Webley Premier
- Webley Junior
- Premier Mark II changes to Hurricane
- Webley Premier Mark III
- Quick fix?
- The Hurricane
- Webley Tempest
- There is more…
- Back to the Hurricane
- What to expect
Today I begin a report that I thought I had already written. But when I looked in the archive I find that I have never reported on this pistol in the traditional way. I have included it in other reports and I have referred to it many times but I have never done a full report on the Webley Hurricane.
Because of my oversight I have decided to spend additional time covering part of the history of Webley air pistols and the things that lead up to the Hurricane. This will be from my perspective, because there are probably several different stories about how the Hurricane came to be.
The Webley Premier
In 1964 Webley replaced the Mark I and Senior pistols with the new Premier. It was an all-steel pistol that had the same build quality as the models it replaced. The bluing was up to Webley standards, which is to say very good. In all respects that first Premier was a high quality air pistol. But changes were coming. This was a time when costs were being examined carefully, to see where savings could be found — and what the market would tolerate along those lines.
The Premier replaced two pistols with one, which was a savings of many small parts. It also streamlined the Webley pistol line, because when you sell just one thing instead of two, specialized associated items like boxes and manuals are reduced, not to mention many small parts. For instance you no longer need two sets of grips — just the set that fits the new pistol.
From the first Beeman catalog that was published in 1974, the Webley Premier was all-steel and blued.
Webley also had a Junior pistol in their lineup at this same time, and over the next 12 years they made subtle changes in the construction of that pistol. The most dramatic change was when they switched from a steel frame to one made from aluminum — or aluminium as the UK calls it. It was just as good a material as steel from a performance standpoint, but enthusiasts noticed the change right away. The black epoxy resin paint that replaced the blued steel certainly did nothing to hide the change!
When I came on board as a semi-serious airgunner in 1976 these changes were starting to invade the marketplace, so I had a front-row seat for all that transpired. Ironically, I was living in Erlangen, Germany, at the time. Erlangen was the home of BSF airguns, a fact I didn’t discover until about 15-20 years after returning to the US and leaving the Army! Yes, there I was in my quarters in Erlangen, pouring over the first edition of Airgun Digest and lamenting a situation that was out of my control (living in Germany, where Beeman airguns were not available), all the while I was stumbling past the plant that produced some of the finest airguns I never heard of! I’m in the middle of the strawberry patch, complaining that they aren’t cherries! Today’s report is my penance for that.
The Webley Junior Mark II and the Premier Mark II
I returned to the US in 1977 and promptly visited the Beeman company in Santa Rosa. I picked up their catalog and also an FWB 124 that was the hottest pellet rifle in existence, according to Robert Beeman. Years later when I started writing about airguns and began learning about them I discovered that the HW35, The Diana 45 and the BSF S55/60/70 were all in contention for the title of baddest pellet rifle in the world. In truth the HW35 was hamstrung by a short piston stroke and only merited an honorable mention. The BSF S55/60/70 was hotter and gave the FWB 124 a run for the money. And, hands down, the Diana 45 was the power champion when it was tuned correctly. Nevertheless, the 124 cocked the easiest and was probably the most accurate, so it took top honors — both then and today.
But, what does any of that have to do with Webley pistols? A lot, as it turns out. Because that was the environment at the time. Who was the fastest, the most powerful, the champ? To be cheapening a design at this time in airgun history was disaster because the whole (airgun) world was watching. But that is what Webley did with the Junior pistol. In 1973 they made it the Junior Mark II with an aluminum body instead of steel. It functioned very well, but building it that way flew in the face of tradition! Following that, in 1975 they dropped the all-steel Premier and brought out the Premier Mark II — an aluminum body cast around a steel compression tube and finished with black epoxy paint!
The Premier Mark II had an aluminum body that was cast around a steel liner for the compression tube. See the two different diameters of the body? So did the airgunning world.
Design changes usually take time to reach the market. Often the older models have to be flushed out of the system before the changes are fully felt. It can take years to transition, and it was during this same time that I returned to the US as a budding airgunner.
Premier Mark II changes to Hurricane
In 1977, just two years after it was launched, the Premier Mark II was discontinued and was replaced by the Webley Hurricane. Now, that is our subject airgun today, but the history lesson is not over yet.
Webley Premier Mark III
What you may not know is in 1974 Webley built a prototype pistol that had a white nylon body. They called it the Premier Mark III, but wise heads at Webley figured that if the public didn’t like the aluminum Mark II they would hate one made out of plastic. Duh! They then changed the name to Superpremier, but like Coke discovered several years later, the name alone won’t save a faulty idea. Yes — Webley was considering making a plastic air pistol! They retained the shape of the plastic pistol, but made the new air pistol out of aluminum and called it the Hurricane.
The first announcement of the Webley Hurricane in the Beeman catalog. Notice there are not two diameters of the body?
The speed with which the Hurricane replaced the Premier Mark II suggests the Premier Mark II had not met with a warm reception. I was there to watch and that is exactly what happened. The two-diameter tube was a big point of contention, so the Hurricane had a plastic sleeve over the smaller part of the tube to smooth out the look.
The Hurricane was still painted with black epoxy, but its grip is quite different and the back of the frame comes back much farther, hanging over the grip. The rear sight comes way back to the end of the overhang, giving the pistol a longer sight radius. Webley also included a plastic adaptor to fit a scope to the pistol in place of the rear sight — not that I ever would! If you look you will see that the Premier Mark II has the suggestion of the sculpted grip shape, but the shape of the Hurricane grip is exaggerated. And the Hurricane grip has a thumbrest on the left side
The Hurricane front sight is hooded and, if you remove the hood, the sight blade you’ll find underneath is taller than that of the sight on the Premier or Premier Mark II. The rear sight is also larger and more refined. It adjusts in both directions with precision clicks, where the sights on the Premier and Premier Mark II move more crudely by loosening the screws and sliding the sight pieces.
The Hurricane rear sight has precise click adjustments and a crisp notch.
So, the Hurricane is more than a simple re-skin of the Premier Mark II. It is a completely different and more sophisticated air pistol. And what I am about to tell you will probably come as a surprise to many of you because it sure did to me!
In 1979, two years after the Hurricane came to market, Webley brought out the Tempest — a pistol I have always thought came before the Hurricane. When you look at it you will see the lines of the Premier Mark II, with some of the Hurricane advancements like the grips and the plastic body shroud thrown in.
See how the Tempest carries forward the lines of the Premier Mark II while incorporating some of the features of the Hurricane?
The Tempest rear sight reverts back to the screw and sliding parts, rather than the more advanced adjustments of the Hurricane. And the front sight blade shrinks back down to Premier Mark II height. So the Tempest is a different airgun than the Hurricane. Webley made the separation between the two models obvious.
There is more…
Yet the story does not end with the Tempest. Remember the Junior Mark II mentioned earlier? Webley stopped producing them in 1977. What took their place for a time was a pistol that Webley called the Typhoon. It was made from 1977 to 1982 and was a lower-powered version of the Hurricane, and yes, there were those at Webley who wanted to call it the Superjunior. Can’t get rid of employees for poor taste, alone, I guess.
So, that’s some of what went on while the Hurricane was gestating at Webley. For many of my facts I credit the book, The Encyclopedia of Spring Air Pistols, by John Griffiths, copyright 2008 by Ashlea Publications.
Back to the Hurricane
The Webley Hurricane is a single shot breakbarrel spring piston air pistol that cocks via an overlever principal that uses the barrel as the cocking lever. The cocking sequence is the same as for all other Webley spring-piston pistols as well as several of their vintage rifles.
Cocking the Hurricane requires unique positioning of the hands.
The cocking sequence has to be learned. Once you learn it you will be able to cock all Webley spring-piston air pistols, regardless of the model or date of manufacture. Because of the way the pistol cocks, the piston comes back at your firing hand when the gun fires. It sounds like it would give the impression of recoil, but it truth the pistol just pulses in the hand without any flip of the barrel.
The trigger is not adjustable. It is single stage and mine is very crisp and reasonably light. I will measure it for you in Part 2.
To most airgunners a Hurricane looks large, unless they have a BSF S20 or a BSA Scorpion in their collection. It certainly looms large over most other air pistols. It’s 10-3/8-inches long when the scope mount is not attached, 5-7/8-inches high and weighs 2 lbs. 3 oz. The rifled barrel is about 7 inches long. The Beeman catalog says it’s 8 inches, but that counts the muzzle protector that is not rifled. I only measured the tube with the twisty scratches.
I’ll measure the cocking effort for you in Part 2, but for now let’s just say it isn’t easy. You need to learn the special way to hold your hands to get the most leverage when cocking, and I have known people who simply refused to do it that way. They keep waiting for someone to show them the secret way. Well, first you get a mushroom and bury it by an old rotten log in the moonlight…
What to expect
The Hurricane is one of those airguns around which legends have formed. It is powerful, but perhaps not as powerful as you might imagine. It’s going to shoot lighter pellets in the 450-475 f.p.s. region — just a little less than a Beeman P1.
The Hurricane’s piston travels back toward the shooter when the gun fires. You might expect that to cause a realistic recoil sensation, but it actually doesn’t. The pistol just pulses each time it is fired. You know it has fired but there is no movement in your hand.
The very nice sights give the impression of accuracy, but don’t be fooled. The Hurricane is a plinker — not a target pistol. You’re doing okay if you’re putting a group of 10 under an inch from ten meters.
That’s a start of the report I have waited 15 years (as of this past March 5th) to write. This time I will cover all the bases with the Hurricane so we will know how it does. Stay tuned!