No other airgun seems as ineffably British as the Webley Tempest. In part, this is because the Tempest has perhaps the longest history of any British gun- perhaps any airgun; it’s a direct descendant from the 1924 Webley Mark I, and functionally, it’s not all that different. Having been around longer than any of its competitors, the Tempest has traditionally been the first serious air pistol for most British shooters- the one you moved up to from the GAT.
Paradoxically enough, given its popularity, the Tempest is not a particularly accurate gun, or a particularly pleasant gun to shoot. Trigger pull is extremely high- higher than any air or powder arm I’ve ever owned; only by adding a wide trigger shoe could I make it even reasonably easy to shoot.(Newer Tempests have a factory-supplied wider trigger.) Accuracy is low, with 1-1/2″ to 2″ groups at 10 meters being common. Cocking is difficult, given the peculiar folded air path design, and getting the barrel to lock up the same way every shot is problematic.
So why is it that the gun still sells well today, even with so many more accurate, cheaper guns around? And more curiously, why is it that I- someone who repeats Warren Page’s contention that “the only interesting guns are accurate guns” like a mantra- why is it that I continue to keep this pistol, while having bought and sold scores of better air pistols over the past few decades?
I could say, like some, that its inaccuracy, clumsiness, and reverse recoil make it a good firerarms trainer for basement practice. Of course, as I haven’t done any firearm pistol shooting in ages, that would be a bit or a stretch. Or I might argue, as others do, that it’s a good gun to introduce new shooters to the sport, which would be an even bigger lie. It’s a dreadful gun for that.
The real attraction of the Tempest is precisely that it is such a difficult, fussy, and eccentric gun- in other words, and quintissentially English gun, brought to you by the makers of the Webley-Fosberry Automatic Revolver, and, for that matter, the same nation that gave us Monty Python, Cricket, and great eccentrics like Lord Rokeby, who endevored to spend his entire life floating in water. Every time I pick up my Tempest, I am reminded of Great Britain, and all her eccentricities, and her many charms. Long may she prosper.