Webley vs. Webley – The Final Showdown
By Dennis Adler
The Webley MK VI has become one of the most controversial CO2 military models of the year, and as we begin to close out 2017 the big three MK VI models are all now available, the original Service Model with smoothbore BB barrel and matte military finish, the silver nickel finish Exhibition Model with rifled barrel and pellet-loading cartridges, and the weathered Battlefield Finish Model with rifled barrel. All three exhibit different characteristics aside from their distinctive finishes and this is what has created the controversy over the last couple of months since the rifled barrel Exhibition Model was introduced. The accuracy with the rifled barrel Exhibition Model at 21 feet was barely equal to the smoothbore BB Service Model and at 10 meters (which is beyond the smoothbore BB model’s optimum accuracy); the rifled barrel Webley came up short against other pellet-firing revolvers, especially fired single action, which is most unusual. This raised several significant questions about the newest Webley MK VI model.
The same but different
That is a top shelf oxymoron, but appropriate when discussing the differences between these three Webley & Scott CO2 models which are essentially all the same gun based on Webley & Scott’s original c.1915 Webley MK VI design. So how can going from smoothbore barrels and .177 caliber BBs to rifled barrels and 4.5mm pellets change the gun’s overall handling and accuracy? The obvious answer, except for a rifled barrel and 4.5mm pellets having high velocity and increased accuracy, is that it shouldn’t. But as Holmes would say, “the game is afoot!”
Over more than half a century, Great Britain’s acclaimed Webley MK VI revolvers have never lost their international standing as one of the greatest handguns of all time, nor have they lost their appeal to military arms collectors. One reason the Webley has never faded from memory, as many handguns from the early to mid 20th century have, is their distinctive design, remarkable durability, abundant supply, and having been readily attainable at a time when some of the greatest epic war films were made. The Webley was prominently featured in 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence. It was famously carried by Richard Burton in The Longest Day, and by Robert De Niro, playing a young Vito Corleone in the Godfather Part II flashback scenes in 1920’s New York City. Corleone uses a MK VI to kill mafia boss Don Fanucci. After breaking a light bulb in the hallway to Fanucci’s apartment and hiding himself in the shadows, Vito emerges with the Webley wrapped in a towel to silence the gun’s sound and shoots Fanucci almost point blank. He then takes the gun to the apartment building’s roof, breaks it apart and disposes of the individual parts. No second take for that MK VI. And lest we forget the Webley WG (Army Model with bird’s head grip) used by Harrison Ford in two Indiana Jones adventures, The Last Crusade and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. There have been so many films past and present where the Webley makes an appearance, that when Webley & Scott introduced the first .177 caliber version in 2015 it immediately soared to the top of every airgun collector’s want list.
Copied in superb detail from the original 1915 model blueprints, the CO2 versions are literally as close to an original MK VI as you can get without firing .455 caliber cartridges. After the debut of the smoothbore .177 caliber BB cartridge-loading topbreak model in the U.S., consumers began hearing about other MK VI models sold in Europe but not exported. These included a rifled barrel 4.5mm pellet cartridge-loading model in both nickel silver finish and in a worn battlefield finish. After more than a year these two have finally arrived on our shores, first the Exhibition Model in nickel silver, a rare finish for an original MK VI, and within the last month the greatly anticipated rifled barrel model with the weathered battlefield finish, truly the most authentic looking of the trio. Now with all three in hand, and after a somewhat less than remarkable field test of the Nickel silver version last month, all three square off in one final test to prove their mettle on the 10 meter firing line.
Webley vs. Webley vs. Webley!
Rather than quoting previous test figures, I am going to start with a fresh page and test each of the three pistols over again beginning with trigger design and the single action, double action trigger pull weights.
Going back to the original 2015 smoothbore model, the Webley & Scott MK VI has an average double action trigger pull of 6 pounds, 13.0 ounces on this test gun. Single action, the MK VI smoothbore delivers a trigger pull of 4 pounds, 15.5 ounces. Trigger take up is 0.5 inches and trigger pull is smooth with light stacking as you pull through. The hammer stages easily and consistently when fired double action to provide a better aimed double action shot. It is about as good as a double action trigger can feel; actually, too good compared to most centerfire double action revolvers and has only a fraction of the resistance of a .455 caliber MK VI trigger.
The new Exhibition Model with rifled barrel tests differently than the smoothbore. While double action pull averages a heavier 8 pounds, 4.0 ounces, single action pull is a lighter 4 pounds, 6.0 ounces, 11.4 ounces less than the smoothbore. Fired double action the trigger stages the hammer about the same as the smoothbore; single action has a little more creep but less resistance. Stacking fired double action varies from smooth to moderately heavy, with four out of six chambers running more smoothly. Shooting consistently with this test gun has proven more challenging for this reason. I found the same basic issues with a second Exhibition Model, so it is not an anomaly; the trigger pull appears to be somewhat different on the smoothbore and the rifled barrel guns.
There is also the question of accuracy. The rifled barrel model is not as consistently accurate as the smoothbore BB model, particularly when fired single action. This is still difficult to explain. The tolerances on the MK VI are exceptionally tight between the forcing cone, front of the cylinder and the back of the cartridges to the recoil shield. The nickel silver finish could be enough to make the fit even tighter. If this is so, the same issues will not occur with the weathered Battlefield Finish MK VI.
This is the most realistic-looking of the three Webley models, at least from the left side. On the right there is the telltale manual safety which ruins the gun’s otherwise pristinely historic lines. Double action trigger pull on this gun averaged a hefty 10 pounds, 12.0 ounces, a more realistic double action pull for a Webley revolver but quite a bit heavier than either of the other models. Once again we have a different trigger pull average than either the smoothbore Service Model or rifled barrel Exhibition Model. Fired single action the Battlefield Finish MK VI averages 4 pounds, 8.3 ounces, right in the middle between the smoothbore Service Model and rifled barrel Exhibition Model. The final arbiter of accuracy will be the question of whether it is easier to sight the Battlefield Finish model’s slightly distressed matte gunmetal front blade in the rear stirrup latch notch compared to the harder to see nickel silver front sight on the Exhibition Model, and how well the Battlefield model fires single action. We’ll find out in the next Airgun Experience.