by B.B. Pelletier
A couple of announcements….
First, the new podcast is up.
Second, some of you have noticed that the list of Weihrauch spring rifles is dwindling and are not being replaced. Pyramyd AIR has experienced extreme difficulty getting these air rifles in a timely manner and has decided not to reorder after they sell out of what’s in stock. The last shipment took longer than 6 months to come in and they are tired of disappointing customers. Of course, you can still get some Weihrauch models under the Beeman name, but you’ll pay extra. If and when Pyramyd AIR can reach an accord with Weihrauch over the timely fulfillment of their spring gun orders, they’ll resume stocking them. The rifles are still great, but the shipping time is unrealistic.
Okay, continuing with our round of surprises, today we start looking at the .25-caliber Webley Patriot with a gas spring. Patriots with gas springs were available back in the 1990s, but the gas springs have not been available in recent years. They are again! Remember, the Beeman Kodiak is exactly the same rifle as the Patriot, so whatever I say here also applies to them.
Power stays constant
I didn’t make the swap of powerplants in this rifle, so there’s nothing to compare the gas spring to, but traditionally the power remains the same. What changes, of course, are the firing characteristics. There’s still a forward jolt, but it’s less than with the steel mainspring. Vibration is greatly reduced, and velocity is very consistent with the right pellets.
With all spring rifles, a loose hold is mandatory for best accuracy. With powerhouses such as the Patriot, a loose hold also protects the shooter. What do I mean by “protect”? Well, a Patriot can give a shooter a headache if the hold is too tight. With the gas spring, the vibration that causes the ill feelings is greatly reduced. The recoil is also less, but in this rifle there is still a fair amount of forward kick. You definitely want to use a scope with proven ruggedness.
Let’s be honest, a Webley Patriot is not a rifle you cock with one arm many times – even a standard one. I love to watch real he-men try to shoot a string of just 10 shots. By shot 5, they’ll be using both arms! And, remember that a gas spring has resistance throughout the entire cocking stroke. That translates to a two-handed cocking effort every time. I measured the effort of the test rifle and found it to be just 45 pounds! I had guessed before measuring that it was 60! A steel-spring Patriot cocks with 50 lbs. of effort, so the gas spring is clearly less, though, again, I must say that I don’t think you’ll believe it when you cock the rifle.
Velocity and power
This is what you really want to know. I tried four pellets – Diana Magnums, Beeman Ram Jets, Beeman Silver Stings and Beeman Kodiaks, with Kodiaks being the traditional best pellet for this rifle.
I discovered something about loading the Kodiaks that made a world of difference. Don’t push them into the bore. Let the back of the pellet skirt sit flush with or just above the level of the breech, and you’ll gain an extra two foot-pounds of energy. The Kodiak fits the breech like it was made for it, so this technique isn’t difficult to learn. Just load the pellet normally and don’t push it in hard. Beeman Kodiaks averaged 649 f.p.s., which is exactly 29 foot-pounds. They ranged from a low of 646 to a high of 651, for an unbelievably tight spread of just 5 f.p.s. Deep-seating drops the velocity to 610-630.
This is a 20-grain domed pellet that works great in Whiscombes, but I haven’t had good luck with it in a Patriot. Some folks love it, though, which is why I tested it. They are too small for the breech of the rifle I’m testing, and the numbers show that all too clearly. If they’re pushed in too far or if the particular pellet is too small at the skirt, the velocity plunges to about 700 f.p.s. When I flared the skirts a little with the fat end of a Bic ballpoint pen, the velocity ranged over 800 f.p.s. Velocity for untreated pellets averaged 731 f.p.s and ranged from a low of 686 f.p.s. to a high of 766. I cannot recommend these pellets for this Turkish-made Patriot.
Beeman Ram Jet
This semi-wadcutter has a domed top inside the flat top and weighs about 24.5 grains – heavier than what is listed on the Pyramyd AIR website. Perhaps the older batch I have is slightly heavier. The pellets fall into the breech, then hang up tight on the skirt. They average 740 f.p.s. with a tight spread from 737 to 743 – just 6 f.p.s. That’s a muzzle energy of 29.8 foot-pounds. A potentially good pellet!
Beeman Silver Sting
The Silver Sting is a 25.1-grain pointed pellet that gets very little press, but in .25 caliber I use the H&N-made Beemans almost exclusively. This one has good resistance in the Patriot’s breech and averaged 725 f.p.s., with an 18 foot-second spread from 715 to 733. Though that was the greatest spread of all the good pellets (I’m not going to try the Diana Mags any farther), it’s still very tight for a spring air rifle. The average muzzle energy is 29.3 foot-pounds.
What’s the big deal about pellet fit?
You may have noticed that I seem to pay more attention to pellet fit these days. That’s because I’m currently testing some real magnum spring rifles. All spring rifles are violent with their pellets, often blowing the skirts out against the barrel walls, so pellet fit is important. I think the little experiment with the Diana Mags proves that. These magnums are the absolute worst in this respect, so you want tough pellets that fit the guns well and offer some resistance to the powerful hammer-blast of air.
Is the gas spring worth the trouble in a Patriot?
You bet it is! Just to reduce that terrible recoil and vibration is worth the trouble and/or cost you will go through to get one in a gun. You can also leave the rifle cocked for hours, so hunting becomes a joy again. And, the Patriot is a pure hunting rifle! Nobody will ever mistake it for a plinker after cocking it once. Also, there is zero torque from the mainspring, something that really plagues some powerful spring rifles.
Pyramyd AIR has no new Patriots to sell at this time, so until they arrive in January, they’ll be retrofitting your Patriot/Beeman Kodiak rifles. Any caliber can be converted.