70 years after Independence, England’s Webley and Scott to make guns in India for civilians
Founded in 1790, W&S armed allied forces in the two World Wars and produced weapons for at least 15 countries. India’s police force, too, used the iconic W&S .38 caliber revolver as a standard sidearm till the early 1990s.Updated: Mar 07, 2020 17:31 IST
- Webley and Scott is entering Indian civilian firearms market
- British firearm maker will make a range of firearms in a joint venture with a UP firm
- Move likely to transform the dynamics of local gun manufacturing and sales
Famed British firearms maker Webley and Scott (W&S) will soon be arming citizens of India, marking a radical shift in the production and sale of firearms for civilians in the country.
Founded in 1790, W&S armed allied forces in the two World Wars and produced weapons for at least 15 countries. India’s police force, too, used the iconic W&S .38 caliber revolver as a standard sidearm till the early 1990s.
The company is now all set to become the first foreign company to set up a plant in India for the civilian market under Centre’s Make in India initiative. Experts see this as a game-changer.
W&S entered into a joint venture with Sial Manufacturer Pvt Ltd--an Uttar Pradesh firm—to come up with a plant in the Sandila industrial area near Lucknow for the new entity named Webley and Scott India.
“My colleagues visited the site last week and its development is certainly underway,” Laura Judd, a senior executive of W&S told HT in an email on March 2.
“The website and Facebook pages (of the Indian project) have been created by us here in the UK,” Judd added.
“We will soon launch the classic W&S Mark IV revolver in .32 caliber in two variations. This will be followed later in the year by a .32 caliber pistol with polymer frame and steel slide. The pistol will have a 13-shot capacity. Next in line are a 12 bore pump-action shotgun, a .45 caliber pistol and air rifles,” said Maninder Sial, the British company’s Indian partner.
Webley’s John Bright is the joint director for Webley and Scott India. The company said it applied for a licence for production in 2017 and got it in 2019.
“The .45 pistol may take time as the ammunition is not made in India and we have to seek permission for importing it. Initially, we will have to depend on Indian ordnance factories for proof test of the weapons. We will come up with proof testing facilities of our own soon,” said Sial.
Since the Indira Gandhi government banned import of firearms for civilians in the early 80s, second-hand guns sell in the retail market at sky-high prices because of a huge mismatch in demand and supply. This trade will be hit, say experts.
Also, the Ordnance Factory Board, which makes .32 caliber handguns for civilians (which includes a revolver that resembles the W&S) will face competition.
“The revolver will be priced at about Rs 1 lakh while the pistol will retail for about Rs 2 lakh. The goods and services tax (GST) will be added to this,” said Sial.
D K Mahapatra, general manager of Rifle Factory Ishapore (RFI) of the Indian Ordnance Factory Board, where the .32 pistol is made, said, “Indian customers are very price sensitive. At the same time, they are a bit fascinated by foreign brands. They are willing to acquire a foreign weapon even at a premium. Definitely, there will be competition with the entry of Webley and Scott, UK,” he said.
Mahapatra said the Ordnance Development Centre (R&D wing) of RFI is fully geared up to take up the challenge.
“We have modified our .32 pistol recently based on customer feedback and this has resulted in creating a huge demand for this weapon. RFI is taking action to counter the challenge,” said Mahapatra.
Interestingly, a well-known name in the sports weapons market in India, Syndicate Innovations International Ltd. is also in the process of setting up a plant in Uttar Pradesh to make shotgun barrels and parts using German technology, primarily for export to Turkey and Spain.
“I already have stakes in the German company Kiehberg and have a facility at Ghaziabad. In the future, we will make pump-action shotguns for export as well as local sale. One impediment is the time government departments take to clear files. Also, the recent firearms law which says no Indian can own more than two firearms will affect sales,” said Ashok Rai, owner of Syndicate Innovations.
Arms dealers feel that the entry of foreign manufacturers such as W&S may hit the sales of second-hand foreign-made firearms.
“Indian customers look for new technology. If the prices are right and the production is steady then the local market will be affected,” said Ravi Ahuja, general secretary of All India Arms Dealers Welfare Council.