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Joined: Feb 2008
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Sidelock
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Do any of you folks know of a reference for P. Webley & Son serial numbers? I have my GG grandfather's 12 bore which I'm thinking is of early 1870s vintage, but I'd like to be able to pin it down and know it's right. Thanks

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There is nothing as far as I know. I may be able to narrow the date of manufacture if you can give me the exact wording of the engraving on the top rib and also the proof marks on the barrel and action; a clear photograph is usually best, and also if there are any references to Patents. I'll help as best I can. Lagopus.....

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Gallyon's now has the Webley & Scott records and I asked Richard about this; those that are extant begin in the early 20th Century.

As Lagopus said, P. Webley's appear to be lost. I would love to know otherwise ...

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The gun in question is a single-bite, underlever snap-action and serial numbered 6184. The rib is engraved, "P. Webley & Son, St. James, London," but it is so faint that photos are not possible. The locks employ Stanton's 1867 #367 patent. The proof marks are Birmingham. The forearm is retained with a key. My guess as to the early 1870s for a date of manufacture is made primarily on the basis of the action and the forearm.

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I have had a good look through all my reference works and the best information seems to come from Boothroyds directory, I quote: 'In october 1897 P Webley merged with W & C Scott and Son......'

'Prior to the merger Webley guns were sold bearing no name, but the best quality guns were signed P Webley & Son, St. James, London. After the opening of the Shafsbury Avenue showroom in 1893, the best Webley guns will be found bearing this address'.

So we have established that it is 'best quality' ands pre 1893.

Could the 'key' type forend fastener be F.Baker's patent 1735 of 1878? And is the single bite snap action underlever the Purdey 'thumbhole' type?

Any photos would greatly help.

One of the best sources of information is http://www.internetgunclub.com but they charge a registration fee to enquire. If there is someone on the board who is a member maybe they would like to help on this one. Lagopus.....

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Ithaca:

The British proof marks in use in the early 1870s differ from those in use 1875-1887, which in turn differ from those of 1887-1904. It's usually a simple matter to date a British gun to one of those periods by the proof marks, but "The proof marks are Birmingham" is of no help. We need to know what marks are present, preferably photographs.


"Serious rifles have two barrels, everything else just burns gunpowder."
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British patent protection is 14 years. A gun with a 1867 patent mark would not need to be marked after 1881. Sometime between 1867 and 1881. That puts your guess square in the middle of the 1870s.
I think the key forend is actually what is known as a wedge forend. It was a hold over from muzzle loader design until other methods were invented.
A popular improvement for forend latching was the Deeley and Edge latch. Just pull down the latch on an early gun and look on the edge of the latch to see the marks.

Basic dating of English guns (and guns from the continent) follows 4 paths:
1. Published serial numbers or original records.
2. Name/Address, makers moved and merged alot. The address/name can put you in a date range.
3. Patent use marks. They put you within a 14 year range of manufacture.
4. Proof markings, rules of proof changed over the years. The date range is really varied. Most US owners dating an old gun are concerned with pre-1898 to determine antique. The British are concerned with pre-1896.

Posted photos help us ID guns. If you can post the watertable photos it would be the biggest help.

Joe

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Yeah, guys, I need to get myself photo-compiant. No doubt.

Joe - You and I probably have the same thought line regarding the key/wedge. To my mind, most of the makers were dabbling with something more sophisticated by about 1875, thus my early-1870s surmise.

400 - from the list of proof marks in the Blue Book, the gun dates from 1868, but it is indicated that that mark was used into the twentieth century (no help). Is there a more comprehensive list of marks available?

Lagopus - My understanding is that the Purdy Thumbhole was a double bite and this is just a single. From what I have read, the single bites were among the gunmakers' first venture into the locking of a breaktop gun, and the genre is a wide ranging hodge-podge of everything from good to trivial. The Webley's is a straight forward design, and fairly elegant - just a bite away from Purdy's double. Crudington & Baker don't describe or illustrate anything close to it.

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Originally Posted By: Ithaca5E
400 - from the list of proof marks in the Blue Book, the gun dates from 1868, but it is indicated that that mark was used into the twentieth century (no help). Is there a more comprehensive list of marks available?


Ithaca:

When you say "that mark was used into the twentieth century (no help)", it's clear that you're not understanding the marks. British proof is never just one mark. There are multiple marks, and they're used as a SYSTEM. The marks used 1868 to 1875 differ from those used 1875-1887, and so forth. Each system of marks introduced with each new revision of the rules of proof - 1868, 1875, 1887, 1896, 1904, etc. - is unique. We need a description of each mark present, and the order they're in. That's why photos would be best. Yes, some INDIVIDUAL marks in the system of marks continued in use through multiple revisions. For example, Birmingham's Definitive proof mark (crossed sceptres with a crown in the upper angle and the letters "B P C" in the other three angles) and inspector's "View" mark (crossed sceptres with a crown in the upper angle and a "V" in the lower angle) were in use from 1813 to 1904. It's the OTHER marks that accompany the Definitive proof and view marks in the system of marks that changed and make the system of marks for each revision unique.

I've never paid any attention to the blue book so have no idea if it's coverage of British proof is reliable or not. I would bet not. Most of the reference works that contain coverage of British proof are poor, and many contain multiple errors. The most accurate coverage for British shotgun proof marks I've found is in Part IV of Nigel Brown's "British Gunmakers - Volume II".


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BTW. Joe in Charlotte misspoke above. It isn't the water table that will bear most of the marks. What we need most is the barrel flats (these early guns are often marked on the bottom of barrels forward of the flats instead of on the flats). If the gun has been through proof only once, the only marks on the water table will be a view mark on each side. Both action and barrels must be marked under British law. Until 1955, the only marks impressed on the action were the view marks, which mark was eliminated by the 1954 rules. Since the only mark previously impressed on the water table was eliminated and the law requires marking the action, another mark had to be moved from the barrels to the action. The Definitive proof mark was moved from the barrels to the table 2/1/55. The majority of the marks are on the barrels.


"Serious rifles have two barrels, everything else just burns gunpowder."

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