Fake or Authentic?

Recently [this article was first published on November 23rd, 2016] on the airgunbbs.com, a group of keen collectors were discussing a 1924 “double spring clip” Webley and Scott Mark I 1st series air pistol that had appeared at an auction. The discussion centred around whether the pistol in the auction was authentic.

There is no doubt that these are rare pistols being some of the first produced by Webley and Scott. However, there is a single clip variant which is far rarer.

In the discussion, it was suggested that the pistol was missing a pair of thin metal protrusions that would reach out along the top of the spring clips. It was also noted that the pistol did not have what are considered to be the correct spring clips that hold the barrel in place. Also, the serial number, 1530, was incorrect. It was also noted that the pistol had a rear compression tube cap locking screw which was suggested to be only found on the next model, the 2nd series.

I was keeping Jimmie Dee’s Webley collection under wraps for some later articles. However, I will give a preview of two double spring clip pistols to help clarify the discussion and the authenticity of the pistol in question.

Serial number – over-stamped?

It was suggested that the serial number had been “over stamped”. There are some signs of this in the photographs. Perhaps it had been returned to the factory for repair or rework and then restamped. But why restamp it? What purpose would this serve? Certainly, only about 700 1st series Mark I pistols had been produced and 1530 does sound suspicious.

The clips on the pistol have probably been replaced as they do not have the dimples that are seen on all known examples of the spring clip Webley.

The auction pistol. Note no dimples on the clips that hold the barrel in place.

The retaining screw was indeed present on some spring clip pistols but it was probably introduced near the end of the production of the first series. This screw can just be seen in Gordon Bruce’s Webley Air Pistols book. I can also confirm this as my later spring clip, serial 656, also has this retaining screw. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photograph of this. Yeah I know, sloppy.

Early spring clip variant. Note the corners of the breech show signs of broken metal where the protrusion would have been.

As for the protrusions, my earlier spring clip Webley, serial 281, shows the telltale signs that they were present but were subsequently snapped off. As these were delicate parts, it is possible that one might have been snapped off during manufacture. Rather than waste the whole pistol, it is conceivable that the other could have been removed in a similar manner in order to make a sale. But why not clean up the metalwork? Perhaps they snapped off easily in use. Either way, it is not unusual to find evidence that they were broken off at some stage.

Later variant spring clip – clean, flush and square breech block. No signs that this pistol was manufactured with protrusions.

Interestingly, the later spring clip variant in the collection shows no sign that the protrusions were ever part of the pistol. The top of the breech is machined perfectly. Some indication of rounding of the corners is evident and this is maybe due to wear and tear. Certainly, there are no signs of fracture as there is on the earlier pistol. Also, there is no step or lip to indicate that the metalwork was tidied up. It is my opinion that Webley realised that the protrusions were flawed and unnecessary. Or perhaps they decided it was just cheaper to make the pistol without them.

Finally, have you noticed that there is a second rear sight on the earlier variant? Just in front of the adjustable rear sight is a large V cut into the breech block. I have not seen this in any other examples. Perhaps the original rear sight made the pistol shoot too low and Webley added the additional higher rear sight to compensate.

Early (left) and later (right) double spring clip rear sights.

To answer the question of authenticity, I would say authentic. The only cause for concern would be the serial number. But why go to all the trouble of producing a fake and then add a serial number that is bound to ring alarm bells? I’ll leave you with that thought.

Until next time, happy shooting!

Jimmie Dee

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