Ray Garner explains how a patent led to plinking perfection for Webley & Scott with the Junior model air pistol
Johnstone and Fearn are names that are not exactly in the news these days. Swallowed whole by history, but in a way still with us, these two Birmingham men endure through Patent Number 219872.
Their cleverness ensured that today we have one of the most significant developments in the long history of airgun enterprise. The Webley Junior is one of a line of air pistols following Johnstone and Fearn’s patented design which placed the barrel over and parallel to the spring/air chamber, allowing a construct of remarkable compactness.
Setting the barrel pivot at the front end of the pistol delivers a cocking system by which the barrel is used to draw the piston forwards against spring pressure, to engage the trigger sear.
Firing the pistol therefore causes a backwards motion of the piston, which is felt as a quite unusual, but satisfying recoil. The barrel is secured at the breech end by a spring-loaded thumb latch, which has to be released prior to cocking.
Webley and Scott’s reputation for making high-quality firearms was well established by the time the company moved into airgun production in the 1920s. WHB Smith’s book Gas, Air and Spring Guns of the World describes the Junior as being “built as sturdily as any expensive firearm”. The fit and finish of this pistol is truly exceptional.
Muzzle velocity with Webley’s own No 1 Bore pellets is in the region of 300 feet per second. Perhaps surprisingly, the Junior’s barrel is smoothbored, and was made only in .177 calibre. Despite the absence of rifling, Webley’s Junior pistol is surprisingly accurate up to about 10 yards.
The survival rate for these excellent pistols is very high, and mint examples are not too difficult to find at quite reasonable prices.
Messrs Johnstone and Fearn would be very pleased indeed.
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