Webley Senior spring-piston air pistol: Part One

Webley Senior
My new/old Webley Senior slant grip pellet pistol.

This report covers:

  • Always watch
  • Buy it now
  • The condition
  • Better than shown
  • History
  • Cocking
  • Power
  • Bore size
  • People love them
  • Summary
  • Texas Airgun Show

Boy, do I have one for you today! This one is a weekender for sure!

Always watch

I have set up searches on eBay for certain airguns and they send me notifications when those items come up. One of them is for Webley pistols. Usually the pistols that come up are worn or rusted and the starting price is always too high. The seller sets the auction up for 14 days and then crazy people bid on them to the last moment. I wouldn’t touch those pistols with your arm — let alone mine! But every once in awhile a real bargain (or what looks like one) comes along. Such was the case several weeks ago when what looked like a nice clean .22 caliber post-World War II Webley Senior was listed.

Buy it now

Better yet, this pistol was listed with a Buy it Now price instead of an auction. In other words, the seller wants a specific amount of money for his treasure and that’s it — no auction. And the price was reasonable. It was more than $100 less than what the junky worn out Seniors start at, before the crazy people start bidding on them.

One more thing to check is the shipping price. I have seen $20 items listed with $100 shipping costs, when all they need is a postal envelope. This one was not like that. The shipping was very reasonable.

The condition

The next thing to do is to look at the condition. It’s usually given as a combination of a word description and pictures. Well the description said this pistol came from a grandfather’s estate and that he was a collector. There were other airguns shown including a like new in the box Crosman 38T that was listed for less than $100.

The pictures looked great, but one of them absolutely sold me. It probably wouldn’t mean much to most airgunners, but I have owned numerous Webley air pistols and I have probably seen a thousand of them. This is the first one I ever saw that did not have damage to the slot in the threaded breech cap at the rear of the pistol. Many of those end caps have a warning that says Do Not Remove, but that doesn’t stop Bubba from trying. This cap is perfect. It also doesn’t have the warning, which places the manufacturing date of the cap as shortly after WW II. (I thought the slot in the end cap was perfect until I saw this photo. I now see metal that’s been displaced.)

Webley Senior end cap
The photo that sold the gun. This is the only Webley pistol end cap I have seen with a screw slot that wasn’t buggered. However, in this enlargement I see slight metal displacement on one side of the slot. So even this one has been touched in an impure way.

The barrel knurling at the rear that’s used for a handhold was decreased to 2-inches long in September of 1949, and that’s the length of the knurling on my barrel. The area code 4 after the town name Birmingham was stopped in December of 1955, so without disassembly I know this pistol was made between September of 1949 and December of 1955. The plain end cap is from just after the war, but Webley made these up in batches and this one was applied years later. These guns have no serial numbers, just lot numbers, so that’s as close to the manufacturing date as I can get at this time.

Webley Senior Birmingham
The 4 after Birmingham denotes manufacture before the end of December, 1955.

Better than shown

When I unpacked the pistol I was pleased to see it was even better than the web pictures showed. Wow, I couldn’t wait to shoot it. This one is a .22 so I loaded a pellet and noted that it bounced off my duct seal pellet trap in my office. Oh, oh! It wasn’t very powerful. Maybe it needs a new piston seal.

But wait — these pistols don’t have conventional piston seals. They have a piston ring made from beryllium copper. This one has to either be broken or missing for the pistol to loose this much power. Okay, let’s check the breech seal.

Well, the breech seal looks good. It’s nice and sharp. In fact it’s a little too sharp. These breech seals are made of fiber and should look mushroomed and crumbly after they are used. This one is razor sharp. And deep! In fact, it’s a little too deep. In fact there is no seal in the breech, whatsoever! Well, that will certainly make the pistol shoot slow!

So I went online to T.W. Chambers and ordered a new breech seal. I have ordered many parts from them and they always satisfy me.

Webley Senior breech
Webley breech seals don’t look sharp and crisp like this And they aren’t that deep.

Find a Hawke Scope


I have the book Webley Air Pistols — their History and Development by Gordon Bruce. There is a large section on the Senior, from its inception in 1930 to the end in 1964. The earliest version was the so-called straight grip model that went from 1930 to 1935 The new model Senior is the one we call the slant grip and it started in 1935 and lasted to the end, with a pause for World War II.

This was my straight grip Webley Senior. Reader RidgeRunner owns it now.

Webley Senior breech seal
This is the breech seal of my former straight grip Senior. As you can see, there are no walls. The seal fills them.


To cock the pistol the barrel is lifted up and rotated forward. It’s a very odd way of cocking that any Beeman P1 owner will be familiar with. The way it cocks means that the piston comes back at the shooter when the pistol is fired. You might think that gives the sensation of recoil, but I don’t find that it does.

One unique feature of the Senior was how far forward the barrel rotates when the pistol is cocked. Bruce says that it rotates 180 degrees forward and he shows a picture of that in his book. My straight grip went to 180 degrees, but when I took my hand off the barrel it relaxed back to a little less. This huge movement was made possible by a special cocking link that the new model Senior also has. And of course it increases the piston stroke which translates to power.

Webley Senior cocked
The Webley Senior straight grip barrel rotates 180 degrees forward when cocked, but when you relax your hold it comes back to this.

Webley Senior new model cocked
The new model Webley pistol is cocked.


The Senior is not a powerful spring-piston air pistol. In .22 caliber I am expecting to shoot pellets somewhere in the 300 f.p.s. range. After I replaced the breech seal in my .22-caliber straight grip model it averaged 357 f.p.s. with RWS Hobbys. I would think that the new model I’m testing for you will be somewhere close to that, once I get it sealed.

If you want power you need to look at the later Webley Hurricane. Mine is .177 so a direct comparison is not possible, but Air Arms Falcon pellets averaged 466 f.p.s. That is closing in on the Beeman P1.

Bore size

This is something you have to experience to believe. Webley bores are on the large side — at least in .22 caliber. Most pellets fall in deeply. Only the oversized .22 caliber Eley Wasp seems to fit well. So, many years ago I bought what I hope is a lifetime supply because that pellet (the 5.56 mm Eley Wasp) is no longer made. I’ll show you when I test velocity, because I will test it both before and after the breech seal is installed.

People love them

There is something about Webley air pistols that people love. It’s the fact that they are made of steel and feel like firearms. When you hold one — especially a slant grip Senior that sits in your hand like a Luger, you know you have something. There’s no denying when you hold one in your hand that it’s the real deal.

Are they accurate? Not that much. I would love to see 10 shots in a one-inch group at 10 meters. Or even 5 shots. But it isn’t likely. We shall see.


Well, you get to look over my shoulder as I reseal this Senior and see where it takes me. It should be fun!

Texas Airgun Show

Don’t forget the Texas Airgun Show is coming up on Saturday, September 24. Come see me and my tables full of potlatch airguns!

42 thoughts on “Webley Senior spring-piston air pistol: Part One”

  1. BB,

    Maybe to help you illustrate how big the bore size is from other .22 pellets usually used you might want to use your .22 caliber Pelletgage. You have one don’t you?


  2. B.B.,
    I love my Webley Tempest as it is an heirloom from my Dad, but this Webley Senior you got is a real beauty!
    I’m looking forward to see how she turns out once she’s re-sealed. 🙂
    Blessings to you,

    • Dave,

      I so miss my Tempest. I picked it up for $60 at a yard sale. It was in real nice shape. Like a fool I sold it to a guy in Washington. I recently purchased a Junior that I am rebuilding.

  3. BB,

    LOL! You could not stand it! You had to have another Senior. Nice find. No, they are not accurate, but they sure are fun. I have seller’s remorse for letting my Tempest get away from me many years ago. Now if I can just get it working. 😉

    You can still find some of the old and new Wasp pellets in 5.6mm around. Look for Defiant pellets also. I have read they measure 5.6mm also.

      • B.B.,, last night I manually deep-seated almost all my various .22 pellets into the breach of the Daisy 230 breakbarrel and then pushed them through with a cleaning rod. Although not scientific, the pellets that seemed to me to take the most effort to get started were some very old RWS Superdomes and the Predator GTO Domes. Both showed the impression of the rifling on the heads and the skirts. Once seated, all the pellets were pretty easy to push down the bore. I hope this info is helpful. Have a blessed Sunday!

  4. Hmm, a lifetime supply of Eley Wasps? How do you keep them from oxidizing? I have a 30 year old stash of Crosman Copperhead pellets from when I was a boy roaming around with my Crosman 760. They all have a white powdery coating on them and some have all but disintegrated. I have them double ziplock bagged awaiting the time when I find someone local who needs the lead, so they can flux the lead oxide back to lead.

    • Roamin Greco,

      It takes moisture, oxygen, and perhaps a bit of electrostatic charge to cause elemental Lead (Pb) to oxidize. The easiest one to get rid of is the Oxygen by placing your pellets into an airtight container and purging it with dry Nitrogen. There are many sources of dry Nitrogen including disposable bottles that food and wine folks use for the same function. I store survival foods/grains in containers purged with dry Nitrogen from a gigantic 6,000psi cylinder. The storage container needs to not be gas permeable…as are your Ziplock bags.


      • Shootski, as always, thanks for the info. The double ziploc bags are more to contain that powdery coating so no one in my house breathes any of the particles. That reminds me: now that I have a new shed, they will be moved outside. These pellets look more like HN Excite Plinking pellets than they do the current crop of Crosman Premiers. These look like soft lead pellets encrusted with fine white powder. I will need to take a picture to show you. I’m not disputing what you are saying, I’m just not going to stake my health on it. No offense meant.

        These pellets were stored for the last 40 years or so in an oak dresser in a damp basement before I rediscovered them. The tannins in the oak are notorious for causing rust and oxidation, and the damp conditions probably did not help. So prudence suggests taking some precautions. I will assume for now the powder is lead oxide which is very toxic if inhaled, and I will store them out in the shed until I find someone locally who will take them off my hands. I don’t see myself getting into melting that lead anytime soon.

    • Roamin Greco,

      Also, IIRC: Crosman uses(ed) Tin (Sn) as the alloying metal for their Lead (Pb) pellets like the old Copperheads ( NO Copper [Cu]) used in those pellets; so the oxide you are seeing may be Tin Oxide.


      • skootski,

        Guess that explains why RWS and Beeman pellets that I’ve had since the early 80s are fairing very much better than Daisy and Crosman pellets from the same era. I had assumed a thin coating of some material was protecting the more expensive pellets of the day.


        • Half,

          I have tried to explain the very low probability that elemental Lead (Pb) will oxidize in normal storage conditions and given the typical colors of the Lead oxides I, II, III, & IV (red, pale orange, dark brown, and black) when heated it turns yellow. Tin (Sn) when oxidized is a white powder. Most of the oxidized pellets i have seen are Lead alloyed with Tin. My nearly pure (99.9%) Lead cast bullets have never oxidized. Even the Civil War bullets recovered after over a century in the field are not heavily oxidized.
          I will keep trying to get the message across every chance I get that elemental Lead (Pb) is not nearly as dangerous to adult humans as SOME with highly suspect motivations (California and a few others) would have us believe.


          • That’s very interesting, Shootski. My eldest child may end up to be a budding young chemist, so perhaps her chemistry teacher can figure out for certain what substances we are dealing with. In the meantime, since I have young kids, though, I’ll err on the side of caution.

  5. Cool looking gun, though. It looks like something out of a back alley of the Star Wars Outer Rim. Wouldn’t be surprised if some propmaster used it as a base for a blaster.

  6. BB

    Lately AA 16 grain dome pellets marked as being 5.54 mm have all been exceeding my Pelletgage limit of 5.54 mm. So they are actually 5.55 or more. You likely have these on hand because they are a favorite pellet for accuracy in several of my guns. But if they are older tins they may measure 5.54 mm as advertised. Also as Roamin writes, the Field Target Trophy offers large pellets and deserve a try.


  7. Imagine my surprise yesterday when I went to the post office and there was a large brown envelope waiting there for me. When I opened it up, it was chocked full of targets with little holes and a very detailed spreadsheet pertaining to my Diana 50. Roamin Greco had been very busy with that 50. He put a lot of pellets down range. He also used a very wide variety. I am going to enjoy going through all of that. It should make for a very interesting study.

    Thanks RG!

    • A thousand thanks to you, RR, for trusting me to dance with that beauty. Not only was it cool to be a part of her history, but I learned a LOT. Sorry it took me so long to get that to you. It got buried under a bunch of other papers from work. [Dopeslap] Shoulda’ had a V8!

        • If you can replace her piston seal, which I suspect has begun breaking down, and paricles of it are finding their way into the tap loader, and figure out a way to minimize the torque from her spring, she would be an outstanding shooter. Did I send you the written report I wrote when I sent her back to you?

  8. I can’t fit the those Gamo PBA (not Raptor) pellets into any of my .22 guns, and their Luxor Cu fit very tight too, so they might be an option, if expensive.

  9. BB,

    If you hunt around, you can find some tins of 5.6mm Wasps. You might also hunt around for some Dynamics. I need to do some more shooting, but right now the Service MK 2 seems to like the Crosman HP. Go figure.

    • Lucky you. I still have not found anything that will shoot Crosman pellets well (even the Premiers in the cardboard box). Or Daisy or Gamo pellets, for that matter.

  10. BB
    Looks like they did not have to stray much from this design to come up with the multi-pumps.
    Well Tom we both turn 75 this week and I went out and got myself a present. A bit more practical than a new Harley Davidson. A new compact Hyundai. Just kidding, it’s probably the craziest thing an old man could buy.
    A 270HP Turbo powered 2022 Hyundai Veloster ‘N’ M/T. A one year limited import that is race track ready with the push of a little paddle switch on the steering wheel. It has been called “Stupid Fast” .
    It has every standard safety and performance feature known to man included. 33 of them. One for each thousand in price. Only option I had to pay for was a cargo net. It has a never before seen third, passenger side, rear door with a hidden door handle, in addition to the rear hatch. Driver has one big door. They moved the center door post on the passenger side forward for the two doors on that side.
    Even has 19″ Alloy Wheels with Pirelli P Zero Summer Tires. Don’t know if they will help much if I go flying off a cliff some day when I exceed their traction. Think I better ask God to look after me when I drive it. Enjoy it while we can !

    • My late father-in-law, a car guy himself, used to say “age is mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” Good for you! Enjoy yourself while joy is still legal.

    • Bob M,

      Congratulations on the N M/T (Manual/Transmission;) ONLY WAY TO GO!
      It is a car on my short list if either my 2001 SAAB AERO and VIGGEN Convertible need to be replaced.
      I don’t know how much experience you have with truly HOT Turbo 4 bangers but take it from a guy with over forty years of HOT Turbo 4 bangers get the best synthetic oil in it pronto and watch the oils condition like a hawk. Let that Turbo cool before you shut down and that means go easy on the Go Pedal and RPMs for the last 1/2 mile of driving; your TURBO will love you for it. The P Zeros are great tire that I would run as a year round tire but i switch to 4 snows when the temperature drops below 45°F for my Potenza RE-71RS street/track semi-slicks.
      I love the BRAPPs and rumble when you lift off the Go Pedal!

      Have loads of FUN with the N M/T… keep shiny side up – dirty side down!


      • Shootski
        Thanks for the tips. Shiny side is not too obvious today after driving down my half mile of dirt road. Hard to believe I can kick up that much dust. They must have created a lot of static during the paint treatment process. Or the metallic black paint is just better at showing it. Did not go more than 5mph down it checking for ground clearance.

        My Pro Import Racer/ Mechanic friend says it has a GTI engine in it with a little more HP and that hump in the middle of the clutch peddle is a short travel engagement item for quicker shifts when racing. Live and learn. It caught me off guard, very touchy. No keys ! Proximity Fob and big start button as well.
        Overwhelming memory of “Gentlemen … Start Your Engines ! ” when I push it and hear that immediate snap crackle and pop from the exhaust.

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