An over/under priced at $1,199 is leading the charge of fabled gunmaker Webley & Scott’s return to the U.S.
By Irwin Greenstein, Shotgun Life
And after shooting 100 rounds of sporting clays with that new, affordable WS 900 K Sporter, Safari Club’s Nelson Freeman gave it an emphatic thumbs up – suggesting that Webley & Scott may very well succeed with its smartly priced shotguns for wing and clays enthusiasts.
If Webley & Scott sounds familiar, the company has had about 220 years to become a household name. In the UK, where Webley & Scott was founded during the late 18th century, the firearms maker established a reputation for sturdy long guns, air guns and sidearms.
The reputation of Webley & Scott rested largely on handguns for civilians, military and police. The firm also produced popular air guns in a country where the sport is widespread.
Webley & Scott’s fortunes surged and ebbed until 2005 when the Birmingham factory closed for good in the UK. The company was subsequently acquired by the British firm, Airgunsport, which relocated Webley & Scott’s manufacturing to Turkey. The company subsequently changed hands again in 2008.
Come 2010, a group of private investors decided to purchase Webley & Scott – their mission to emphasize the American market. Now in 2012, after a 30-year absence from the U.S., management is conducting a focused sales and marketing push here with a new subsidiary called Webley & Scott USA.
Derick Cole, President, is getting a jump start on building a dealer network for the new boxlock and sidelock shotguns that will later be complemented by pump guns, side-by-sides, inertia-driven semi-autos and centerfire rifles. Current shotgun dealers include Turner’s Outdoorsman, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Cheaper Than Dirt!, Academy Sports + Outdoors, and City Arms. Airguns and knives, meanwhile, will be sold via the Webley & Scott online store as well as dealers.
The entry-priced WS 900 K Sporter shot by Mr. Freeman is accompanied by two other models for the U.S. market: the mid-priced boxlock 2000 Premium Game Gun and a full seven-pin sidelock upland over/under designated the WS 3000.
Having Joined Webley & Scott in March 2011, Mr. Cole expects the Webley & Scott WS 900 K to become the market-share leader, with supply coming from its Turkish manufacturing partner. Webley & Scott has an exclusive manufacturing agreement with the factory, enabling tight quality control and design advancements as evidenced by frequent collaborative visits to the facility in Turkey by Webley & Scott Master Gunsmith, Paul Garrity, who is a 35-year veteran of the company, Mr. Cole explained.
For starters, the WS 900 K is available in both 12- and 20-gauge models, both proofed for steel shot. Barrel lengths for the 20 gauge include 26 inches and 28 inches. Twelve-gauge barrel choices are 28 inches and 30 inches. The 12 gauge weighs about 7¼ pounds, or about ¼ pound more than the 20 gauge depending on the barrels. Otherwise, the guns share attributes such as 3-inch chambers, blued receivers with “Webley & Scott” in gold lettering, five interchangeable chokes, automatic ejectors, vented ribs, fiber-optic front sight, single selective trigger, manual safety and hand-oiled Turkish walnut. A surprise at this price point is that the WS 900 K comes with a leather-clad presentation case and mechanical triggers.
The mid-line WS 2000 K is a 12-gauge sporter with 28-inch barrels and 3-inch chambers that can accommodate steel shot. Aside from the genuine bone charcoal color hardening, it comes standard with the same features as the WS 900 K including the case and mechanical trigger. It sells for $2,499.
Webley & Scott’s WS 3000 is the premium seven-pin sidelock over/under. Available in 12 and 20 gauge, at about 6 pounds, 7 ounces it’s equipped for upland hunting with 28-inch barrels topped by a 10mm vented rib and fluorescent muzzle bead. The chambers are 3 inches and proofed for steel shot. Like the WS 2000 K, the receiver of the WS 3000 also has genuine bone charcoal color hardening, but this time there are detachable sideplates that allow access to the action. It also has the mechanical triggers and hand-oiled Turkish walnut. The shotgun’s five interchangeable chokes are of the thin-walled variety. Traditionalists may be disappointed at the lack of double triggers, although the shotgun is finished with a handsome wood butt plate. The WS 3000 costs $5,999.
It was the WS 900 K Sporter that was particularly intriguing for Mr. Freeman by virtue of its $1,199 price.
Mr. Freeman is the Deputy Director of Government Affairs at Safari Club International and certainly knows his way around long guns. He is an avid upland hunter with a penchant for double-trigger shotguns. When we asked him to evaluate the WS 900 K Sporter, he was curious to learn more about the build quality and shooting dynamics of a value-oriented shotgun with the storied name of Webley & Scott.
He put the gun through its paces at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Maryland, where he shot 100 rounds of sporting clays. He opted for a Modified choke in top barrel and Improved Cylinder in the bottom of the 28-inch barrel on a course that would be rated moderately difficult.
As we climbed into the sporting-clays cart, Mr. Freeman noticed that the “wood-to-metal fit was very good” on the WS 900 K Sporter.
“For short barrels, the gun really swung smoothly.”
“The trigger was quite crisp, even with gloves on.”
“It was the right weight for a pheasant gun. It would be a great all-day pheasant gun.”
“It didn’t shoot like a Turkish gun. They can feel a little clunky and square. This one was anything but.”
“There were no mechanical issues with the gun.”
“It had excellent quality control.”
“The ejectors felt exceedingly crisp.”
“I was expecting it to be a $1,600 gun with a $1,200 price tag, but it turned out be closer to an $1,800 gun with a $1,200 price tag.”
Would he make any changes to it?
He said that at 6 foot, 3 inches tall, the 14¾ inch length of pull was a bit short for him and that he would add a thicker recoil pad to lengthen the stock.
Otherwise, Mr. Freeman concluded that Webley & Scott’s WS 900 K Sporter “does everything it needs to.”
Irwin Greenstein is the Publisher of Shotgun Life. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.