Target Pistols and Target Shooters Part 1

Target Pistols and Target Shooters Part 1

Starting with the basics

By Dennis Adler

To start this series on target pistols and target shooting I dusted off an old friend, a Webley Hurricane that I have had for 17 years. When you spend days of every week working with the latest semi-autos (cartridge loading and CO2), the very basics seem to fade, maybe even the reason you got into shooting air guns in the first place, and pulling out the Webley reminds me that sometimes you need to go back to the beginning. The Hurricane, or a pneumatic single shot pistol like it, is a great place to start.

I think we all begin as target shooters, whether it is with a BB or pellet gun, a .22 caliber pistol or rifle, or even larger caliber guns; the idea is to aim and shoot to hit the target. I began as a target shooter in the 1970s and for the most part have never ventured far from that path over some 40 years. When I began testing and evaluating guns for a living in the late 1990s, it was almost always with stationary targets at predetermined distances. Even today it doesn’t matter if I am testing a .32 ACP pocket pistol or a .44 Magnum revolver, a 9mm target pistol like the Sig Sauer Max Michel, or a single action Colt Peacemaker, only the distances to the target change, the goal remains the same. Target pistols, however, are a more dedicated breed of gun best suited for that purpose alone due to their specific design, weight, balance, sights and efficiency of operation. And the best way to begin learning about target shooting, if you have never done it, is with an airgun.

With many CO2 pistols, semi-autos in particular, sights are a topic of discussion since, with few exceptions, they are not adjustable, not even drift adjustable. So you learn to compensate. With the Webley and other target pistols with fully adjustable target sights there are no compromises. You can fine tune your shooting skills and improve your shot-to-shot accuracy, so that when a fixed sight pistol comes into your hands shooting accurately becomes more instinctive.

My first target airgun was a .22 caliber (5.6mm) Webley & Scott Hurricane that I purchased 17 years ago. I still have it, and even occasionally shoot it. While no longer available you can find them on the secondary market; Webley models have a pretty long lifespan, so, for this short series of articles we are going back to the beginning with the Webley.

The Hurricane was available in 4.5mm and 5.6mm (.22) pellet firing versions, this is the latter. Notice the large integrated front sight which is pretty easy to center in the rear sight notch.

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Webley still manufactures the later Tempest model which is very similar to my old Hurricane but with a shorter 6.87 inch rifled barrel vs. a 7.25 inch for the Hurricane. The current buzz, however, surrounds the rifled barrel in the Webley MKVI pellet revolvers sold in Europe (which we hope will eventually come to the U.S. market). They are remarkably accurate, although not designed to be target pistols, the Tempest (and old Hurricane) are, and serve as ideal first guns to learn target shooting. They have excellent, easily adjustable sights for windage and elevation, and with .22 caliber, 14.3 gr. lead pellets send the shot downrange at around 330 fps.

It takes a strong hand to cock the Webley. I rest the gun over my leg and use my right hand to pull the barrel forward. You can do it just holding the gun but it takes more effort and arm strength.

What you learn most from shooting the Webley is patience; they are single stroke, single shot pneumatics with steel rifled barrels. The Webley models are slow to use, the pneumatic cocking mechanism (which is the steel barrel) takes a strong arm to work, and shooting these guns becomes a learned repetitious sequence. They have a plastic competition-type thumb rest grip (that is just for right handed shooters).

You only get one shot and then you have to reload. Kind of puts history in perspective, back to a time in the 1700s when almost all handguns were single shots. (The Webley is loaded with a .22 caliber Crosman Copperhead 14.3 gr. pointed lead pellet.

One “famous” feature of the Hurricane and Tempest is the use of a traditional Webley & Scott revolver-type stirrup release for the barrel mechanism, (the original design from the cartridge guns is also used on the MKVI CO2 revolvers), and a very bold (as only the British can) thumb safety. To begin this short trip down memory lane I am going to shoot a National 10 Meter Air Pistol Target using a two-handed hold and Weaver shooting stance. The black center (circumference of the target from the 7 ring to the bullseye) measures 2.75 inches.

There is a classic touch to the old Webley (and Tempest) with the famous stirrup latch originally used on the late 19th and 20th century Webley revolvers. In this case rather than breaking open the action, pushing it forward releases the barrel for cocking the action.
Big controls have been a Webley hallmark since the 19th century and in addition to the large stirrup barrel release there is a large and easy to operate thumb safety (shown raised in the SAFE position). The safety can only be set after the action has been charged. When the safety is lowered a red dot is exposed.

Downrange with a vintage Hurricane

I haven’t shot this air pistol in about five years, so I had to get comfortable with it (too used to CO2 powered guns) but after the first target it was all familiar once again. Trigger pull on the Hurricane averages 4 pounds, 10 ounces and it has a very short take up just under 0.125 inches with a crisp, clean break. And this is a 17 year-old pistol.

My best 5-shot groups were just outside the circumference of a dime, and measured 0.375 inches. The second best groups went a bit wider due to one shot in each opening it up to 0.75 inches, and I had one dead center bullseye, which unfortunately was part of another 5-shot group that covered 1.0 inches. All in all, I’m not disappointed with my results; certainly not 10 meter competition level shooting, but I’m just getting warmed up to an old shooting friend that may have aged better than me over the past 17 years!

After a couple of test targets I got the feel back for the old Webley and my groups started getting better. Like I have said many times before, I’m not a competition shooter, just a competent shooter and the Webley lets me fine tune my accuracy, one shot at a time.
I did a couple of targets firing one-handed and was reminded why I shoot two-handed most of the time. But the Webley still gave me sub 2-inch groups.
Shooting a total of 20 rounds on this National 10 Meter Pistol Target, my best 5-shot group measured 0.375 inches, just a little outside the diameter of a dime. I did shoot one dead center bullseye but it was part of my worst group which measured 1.0 inches on the diagonal through the center of the target. All said and done, I haven’t shot very many 0.375 inch groups with a CO2 semi-auto air pistol at 10 meters.

Final Thoughts on the Webley

The important experience beginning with an old design like the Webley (or other basic single shot pneumatic) is the fundamentals of target shooting with air pistols. However different from a revolver or semi-auto CO2 model, or a cartridge gun in operation, the learning curve with a gun like the Webley is short and you learn a lot in a brief period. And that allows you to step up to the next level, a 10 meter target pistol.

In Part 2 we kick it up to the 21st century with the latest Air Venturi V10 Match Pistol.

11 thoughts on “Target Pistols and Target Shooters Part 1”

  1. Leaving comment from my iPhone , still cannot sign on by computer. That Webley reminds me of my old. Crosman 600 , would be nice to see a semiauto co2 pistol again. Looks like the Webley is a pretty good substitute albeit a single shot. Nice shooting

    • Thanks, the gun makes it easier. Single shots are where I started with air pistols so this is really going back to basics for me, which is a very good thing to do from time to time. Modern technology clouds the memories of doing this the old fashioned way. Ten-meter pistol shooting hasn’t changed in theory, just in the style of the guns used today. The Webley Hurricane is old but even the latest Beeman and Air Venturi models are not that different. They may be more accurate, a little easier to handle, a lot more stylish, but they are still single shot, pneumatic air pistols.

  2. Hi Dennis and the group.
    Very happy to see this blog. Excellent shooting with the old Webley. I have the more modern Tempest made in Turkey. I also bought the Webley Alecto . Both pistols are fun shooters, but a bit time consuming.For the more frugal shooters out there, I would suggest the Beeman P17 which is a very accurate pistol for low bucks. For me, even more fun is the Browning Buck Mark. Outside of the heavy trigger pull, is a blast to shoot. Very easy to cock and accuracy is at least minute of a pop can with no C02 to buy.
    Best Regards

    • True. I would be on my fourth CO2 cartridge by now if this were a CO2 revolver of semi-auto, but the time consuming side of a single shot is also part of the learning curve. I think you begin to take more time before shooting because you know there isn’t a next trigger pull until you reload. Although I have rarely hunted, I know from others that black powder shooters hunting with single shot flintlocks and percussion lock rifles feel more fulfilled when they bring down game the same way our ancestors did 200 years ago. For target shooters there is a similar satisfaction with accuracy.

  3. Back in action. While there are a lot of realistic blowback bb pistols the repeating co2 target pistol has largely been ignored. Would think technology available today would make one possible. Another area would be co2 target revolvers like the old S&W K frame model 14 ,and the large N frame 25-2, they are accurate and faster than a single shot break barrel

    • I think the closest thing would be a rifled barrel, pellet firing version of the Umarex S&W Model 327 TRR8. It has excellent fiber optic sights and it wouldn’t be much of a leap to take that gun from a smoothbore BB to a rifled barrel pellet model. Umarex has done it with the Colt Peacemakers and that would up the game for revolver target shooting with 4.5mm lead wadcutters. Currently the next best thing wearing an S&W brand is the Smith & Wesson 686, 6-inch Revolver, which has adjustable rear sights but does not use pellet loading shells, rather a 10-shot rotary pellet magazine. It is a very nice gun just the same.

  4. Nothing wrong with the old pistols . They are usually just better made, and nothing wrong with that. Only problem on a lot of older Target pistols is they are not left hand friendly

  5. I am looking forward to the test of the V10 . The style of the pistol is intriguing to me . I also like the looks of the Cometa Indians . The Webley Tempest and Hurricane are like a time warp for me. Think of Sherlock Holmes in the 19th century . The build quality is great with a lot of real steel. I tend to stray from the original subject of ten meter target shooting. I will never be a target shooter, but I certainly can appreciate the workmanship and physics of these pistols.
    Thank you

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