Jimmie Dee’s Airguns shares a little piece of history with us.
The Tell II.
At a mere 5 1/4 inches / 13.5cm long, the photographs of this very small spring powered air pistol do not give its size the justice it deserves.
It was manufactured by Venuswaffenwerke (Venus Weapon Works) of Zella St. Blasii (now Zella-Mehlis), Germany between 1927 and 1936 (pre-WWII). Zella-Mehlis was a town renowned for its gunsmith heritage where practically everyone worked on guns or their components either in small home workshops or larger factories. Many famous gun factories could be found in Zella-Mehlis such as Walther, J.G. Anschutz and Schützen Rifles. At the end of WWII, the Russian occupiers blew up the Walther and other factories that produced guns for the war. All that is left today is the Schilling Company which dates back three generations along with the Ziegenhahn Company which moved to Zella-Mehlis from Suhl after the German re-unification.
Back to the pistol… the design is concentric in that the barrel is contained within the piston and mainspring rather than being separate from the air chamber, i.e. above or in front of the piston chamber as found on Webley and Scott or Haenels. This allows for a more compact and streamlined pistol and has been the basis of the British pistols the Acvoke (1946-1956) of Accles & Shelvoke and the Thunderbolt Junior (1947-1949). The Acvoke being an almost identical but larger version of the Tell II. Other pistols have also copied the concentric design but have not been a fully identical copy of the Tell II as have the Acvoke and Thunderbolt Junior.
The barrel is smooth bored and fires .177 pellets. The sights are fixed and comprise of a ball foresight and a notch rear sight. The grips are wood and chequered.
The top of the piston chamber is marked “D.R.G.M. Tell II D.R.P”. Either side of the “Tell II” is the factory logo stamp comprising the letters W, W and V for Venuswaffenwerke. “D.R.G.M.” stands for Deutsches Reichsgebrauchsmuster, meaning that the design or function of an item was officially registered inside all of the German states whilst “D.R.P.” stands for Deutsches Reichspatent.
Some pistols were stamped “Made in Germany” on the back of the cocking lever whilst others are known to have either “M.A.C.” or “H.C.B.” I am unaware of the meaning of either.
Cocking is achieved by swinging the cocking lever down which is neatly tucked away in the grip. This lever serves two purposes. First: it locks the piston chamber tightly to the grip which also acts as the breech seal. Second: the lever acts as an extension of the grip in order to aid compression of the mainspring. Once cocked, a pellet can be placed into the breech of the barrel. The pistol is then closed and locked by returning the cocking aid lever back into the grip. What might be a small leather disc is fixed to the back plate in order to help provide a good seal.
All that’s left is to aim, squeeze and fire! Of the two Tell II pistols in my collection, both have remarkably smooth triggers. As you can imagine, due to it’s size, it is very low powered.
Disassembly is very simple. The barrel end cap is a bayonet fit. Push the cap in and turn anticlockwise. The barrel and spring can then be removed. In order to remove the piston, the cocking dog hinge pin must be removed with a parallel pin punch. The cocking dog can then be removed by sliding it out near the trigger. Once out, the piston can be removed. The piston seal is leather. The trigger and trigger return spring is also held in place by a pin. The grips are held in place by a bolt. The bolt, which has a smooth shaft, also acts as the pivot pin for the cocking lever. Once removed the lever can be slid out from the rear of the grip.
Originally, only one of the two Tells was complete. The other, which has no bluing left, was missing the cocking lever. It also did not have its original wooden grips but a set that had been fashioned by a previous owner. The grips are quite well made however the grip screw was far from authentic being a countersunk brass screw which had been painted black. On the other hand, whilst not authentic, the triangular nut works reasonably well.
I had a replacement cocking lever made using the one from the other pistol and at the same time a new grip screw was also fashioned. The machinist added a brass thread to the screw so that it matched the brass triangular nut when assembled. I have found that a Webley Junior mainspring is a good fit should the mainspring need to be replaced.
On a final note. There is reported to be an authenticated account of a Tell II found in the captain’s drawer of a captured WWII German submarine. Can you imagine the captain passing the time taking pot shots in his cabin with one of these pistols during long patrols of the Atlantic ocean?