Back in Nam in 1970, one of my hooch mates was talking about getting a Harley Davidson motorcycle when he got out.  He was going to travel around the country, and the biggest draw for him was that the bike was simple enough that you could "wrench 'em yourself". 

I don't know if he ever did it, but I was thinking about that guy when fixing a broken hammer on my Mk VI Webley.  Those pistols are simple enough that the only tools you really need is a bunch of screwdrivers and a needle nose pliers.  Granted, a spring vise would come in handy, but without one, and range day coming up, you can proceed successfully.  It does take a certain mechanical aptitude, but most men have that anyway. 

break down of Webley pistol

The screwdrivers can be a problem as they are guaranteed not to fit Webley screws.  Some have slots that are extremely small, and also extremely wide.  My solution was to gather up a large group of old screwdrivers, and with the help of a bench grinder, grind a screwdriver for each screw, a true custom fit.  It doesn't impress your fellow shooters to have a lot of rounded screw heads while trying to show off your work.

 

Mk IV Boer War Model

Mk IV Boer War Model from Adam's Guns


The pistol is simple enough and robust enough to fit the bill of "wrenching it yourself".  The problem is parts.  Up until about 5 years ago parts weren't that bad to get.  Now they've completely dried up.  The things you really need are the wear items of the Webley, like hammers, hands and extractors.  Some springs come in handy, too.  In a pinch, parts from Mk V's and some Mk IV's will interchange with a Mk VI, but they are gone too. 

A few years ago a guy from South Africa was parting out a huge supply of Webley pistols on Ebay, before the gun ban.  You couldn't get receivers but you could get everything else.  I should have bought 'em all and cornered the market.  Or at least kept my guns running forever.

The only other gun I like to shoot as much as this old .45 caliber S&W, is the Mk. VI Webley .455.  These guns have a lot going for them, and it is a shame to see them passed over in their respective militaries for lesser arms.  

This Smith is a version of the 1917 hand ejector model built for WW1, and was part of a shipment of 25,000 guns sold to the Brazilian Government in 1938.  It was re-imported in 1990 and was popular on the used gun market, and was cheap at the time.  Getting one now is another matter.  This gun has been parkerized, and I'm not sure if they were originally, I suspect they were all blued.  It needs to use moon clips on the bullets in order to extract them, as auto pistol ammunition has no rim to grab onto, but they make for dandy speedloaders, although a lot of reloads in your pocket makes quite a bulge.

Smith & Wesson .45 

There isn't much difference between this gun and a Mk VI.  They both shoot a fat manstopping bullet.  Both companies have been making revolvers for roughly the same amount of time, although I think Webley was first by 5 years.  American revolver companies took to the swing out cylinders, where Webley tried them out, didn't like them, and the rest was history.  They say a break top revolver is weaker than a solid frame gun, and that is true, however, Webleys have been responsible for the deaths of numerous big game animals in India and Africa, so I imagine their revolver is strong enough.

I've been using some cheap cast bullets from a local guy, and they leave a lot of lead in the barrel.  Very disturbing.  The bullets are the right size, and I've tried slowing them done a bit, and now they're running about 650 feet per sec, around Webley velocity and it's getting better.  I like Webley's hollow base bullet a lot more than these flat base bullets and I think they would do better.  All in all, shooting this revolver made for an enjoyable afternoon.