Webley & Scott – an old name returns to U.S. shotgun market

Closeup view of the Webley & Scott Series 3000 over/under shotgun

“Are you ready to fall in love?”

That’s not the usual question I hear when walking up to the firing line on a trap range. I was at the Lee Kay Center, a public shooting facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, and operated by the Utah Division of Wildlife. It’s an outstanding facility, with trap, skeet, archery, airgun, rifle and pistol ranges. I was there with other outdoor writers from around the country in connection with this year’s annual conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, held this year at Snowbird.

People were skiing at Snowbird on the 4th of July, just before our conference started, though summer was in full bloom at the time of our conference.

Getting back to the question, however, the object of expected affection was a new shotgun just coming to U.S. markets, an over/under shotgun with an old name, Webley & Scott.

Webley & Scott, in various corporate identities, has been around since the 1790s. W. C. Scott & Sons made guns and gun components that ended up in a variety of classic shotguns back in the Victorian era. Webley & Son was known for revolvers and other sidearms. Among their customers was George Armstrong Custer, and it’s believed that Custer was carrying a Webley revolver at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

The companies merged in 1897 and Webley & Scott produced several models of handguns for the British military through both World Wars, as well as for police forces. Webley & Scott also manufactured various air rifles and pistols after 1920 when the UK began to strictly control civilian firearms.

 Webley & Scott went through a number of corporate reorganizations and ownerships over the years, including the latest just a year ago, with the new management’s plan to bring the Webley & Scott name back to the American shotgunning market. Webley & Scott previously marketed a line of shotguns in the U.S. in the 1970s.

The new Webley & Scott guns are made in Turkey to W & S specifications. A lot of guns marketed in the U.S., incidentally, are made in Turkey. The main lines of guns are over/under double barrel shotguns in both 12 and 20-gauge actions. They come with interchangeable choke tubes and several configurations of barrel lengths and safety actions. The guns even come with a padded hard case. Even better, they come with a highly competitive price tag of around $1200 for the 900 series, or $2200 for the somewhat fancier 1200 series version.

They also had one 3000 series 20-gauge gun on hand, which I had only a chance to admire but not shoot. This model, which comes in both side-by-side and over/under configurations, is a sidelock gun, also available in 12-gauge, and comes with both fancy wood and metal work. The price tag is also a bit fancier at $6500, but as sidelocks go, it’s probably a bargain.

Do they shoot? Yes they do. I would have liked to have shot at a lot more clay pigeons than I did, but in my brief test they handled well and when I did my job, the gun did its job and the targets shattered. The guns weigh in at just over seven pounds and I’d sure like to see them whittle some weight off of that, though I concede they don’t weigh any more than most of their competition. The sidelock model is a slimmer 6.5 pounds.

I had a chance to chat with Derick Cole, president of the Webley & Scott U.S. branch. He said the only other people who have had a chance to give these guns a try were at a Pheasants Forever outing where everybody raved about them. We writers were just the second group to try them.

These guns are so new that they aren’t yet available at many retailers, though they’re busy talking to major sporting goods companies. At any rate, people interested in getting a good over/under shotgun without spending a ton of money might check them out now at www.webleyandscott.com.

Maybe I did fall in love.

The Art and Frustration of Shooting Flying

Flicka and our first grouse of 2010

Standing New Year’s Resolution No. 3: Go shoot some clay pigeons before the next upland bird hunting season rolls around.

Alas, that resolution, along with those resolutions to go on a diet and become a better human being, is one that gets forgotten on January 2.

Then, when September rolls around and those first grouse flush, I’m reminded about that neglected resolution. The birds are in the air and instead of picking out a bird and focusing on it, I’m poking my shotgun in the general direction of the grouse and shooting.

Shooting at flying grouse, or clay pigeons for that matter, is a lot like playing tennis. One of Butte’s tennis aficionados occasionally reiterates her Three Rules of Tennis. 1. Keep your eye on the ball. 2. Keep your eye on the ball. 3. Keep your eye on that danged ball!

Ignoring those rules of tennis generally translates into taking an ineffective poke at the ball or what tennis commentators refer to as an “unforced error.” Baseball coaches give similar advice to both batters and fielders, and football coaches give that advice to pass receivers. Keep your eye on the ball.

The same goes for shooting. Keep your eye on the bird.

Fortunately, there’s nothing like missing some shots to reinforce the need to keep your eye on the bird. Things do get better.

On those first walks for grouse at the beginning of the Labor Day weekend there was mostly frustration.

First of all, on the mountain where Flicka, my Labrador retriever, were searching for blue grouse, there was evidently poor reproduction. Last year, hunting the same mountain, there were five separate areas where it seemed I could reliably find blue grouse. This year, just one of those spots, a long sagebrush ridge, had a covey of grouse. In any event, when Flicka finally had a chance to go on point, when the birds flushed I poked my gun in their general direction when I fired and, predictably, nothing fell.

Later that day we took a walk up a brushy creek bottom in search of ruffed grouse. A grouse flushed and I had what should have been an easy straightaway shot. Again, I poked in the general direction and nothing fell. Flicka, bless her heart, went over in the optimistic hope that there would be something for her to retrieve, but her hopes were again dashed.

A few minutes later four ruffed grouse flushed and I swung on the birds, but when I pulled the trigger nothing happened. I had neglected to flip the safety to the ‘fire’ position. That’s a pretty basic error in gun handling.

The next morning we returned to that sagebrush ridge. Flicka, bless her heart, picked up the scent of the grouse and several grouse flushed from a brush patch. I missed what should have been an easy shot at the first bird to get up. I quickly reloaded and a couple more birds took off. This time I concentrated on the grouse and kept swinging on it, even after I missed the first shot. With the second shot from my over/under shotgun, the bird dropped. Flicka made the retrieve and I happily put the first bird of the season in the back of my vest.

A few minutes later I had a shot at another grouse and dropped it with my first shot.

The morning’s hunt ended with a vest pocket holding two blue grouse and a handful of fired shotgun hulls. It was one of those mornings where it felt like déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once famously said. When I got into my first bunches of birds last year I did a lot of shooting before we actually put some birds in the freezer.

I take comfort in knowing that things get better after getting those misses out of the system. That shotgun starts feeling like an old friend again and shooting at flying targets, whether feathers or clay, gets to be fun.

Nevertheless, I did shoot some clay pigeons this week. Better late than never.