by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• History of the rifle
• Where is this rifle made?
• Blow-off valve
• Feel of the rifle
• Some surprises
Today is a treat. If you’re new to airgunning and have fretted over all the wonderful vintage airguns you missed by coming into the hobby too late — today is for you. Because, today, there may still be a chance to get a fine “vintage” airgun. I know I’m a little to the party since this gun has been around a couple years, but I don’t want to let anymore time pass without a look.
History of the rifle
This report says we are looking at the Webley Rebel multi-pump pneumatic, and that’s the name on both the gun and the box. But there’s lot more to it than just that. This multi-pump looks (to me) like a Sharp Innova, which was designed and built in Japan in the 1970s, when Robert Beeman was in his heyday and I was still in the Army. The Innova is a classic multi-pump, and a kid sister to the larger, more expensive Sharp Ace. I’ve owned several of both models, including one UK-spec Ace that had a pressure-release valve on the reservoir to keep the shooter from exceeding 12 foot-pounds.
Japan apparently had some political difficulties making airguns in their country in the late ’90s. I found that odd, because they didn’t seem to have any difficulty making firearms, which they still do today. But airguns were small potatoes and, for whatever reason, the Sharp company moved to Indonesia. I also tested an Indonesian Innova for The Airgun Letter and found it was made with inferior seals that couldn’t stand up to the rifle’s ability to generate power. Because of this, the Indonesian Innova was far less powerful than the Japanese one, and U.S. sales sort of petered out.
Don’t get this gun confused with the Cannon — another Asian multi-pump that sort of takes after a vintage Benjamin. Sort of. This is an Innova (in my mind) and definitely has a style all its own.
Years later, I heard through the grapevine that the company making the Innova may have moved to China. But the rifle wasn’t being sold in the U.S., and I didn’t keep track of it.
Then, this Webley showed up. I spotted it as an Innova right away, but what was under the hood? Have the seal issues been corrected? The Innova was also very accurate, so I’m curious about that, as well. Pyramyd Air’s description says the velocity of the .177-caliber Webley Rebel I’m testing is 963 f.p.s. If that’s true, this gun is about where the Japanese Innova was — power-wise. If it’s really that powerful, and if it’s also accurate, this is an airgun to get. It would be like finding a Sheridan Supergrade for $130.
Where is this rifle made?
There’s no marking either on the rifle or the box that indicates the country of origin. We’re looking into that right now, but I think it’s safe to assume it’s being made in Asia since the included inspector’s sheet lists the inspector’s name in oriental characters.
That’s enough of the background, let’s now look at the rifle that’s before us. This Webley Rebel is a .177-caliber multi-pump pneumatic. The serial number of the rifle I’m testing is A2150067. The owner’s manual says it can be pumped up to 8 times per shot, and that pumping more will not increase velocity. That seems odd, because the rifle is equipped with a blow-off valve, rather than the more conventional striker-fired knock-open valve. The blow-off type of valve was invented by Crosman back in the 1950s to end the problems of valve lock. With striker-fired valves, it’s possible to pump so much air into the reservoir that the striker cannot force the valve to open at all. When that happens, the gun stops working.
The Crosman 130 pistol and 140 rifle had valves that were held shut by the trigger. Pulling the trigger allowed these valves to blow open (open violently, like champaign corks), and it was theoretically impossible to over-pump one of these airguns. I say “theoretically” because this kind of valve has a softer valve face, and too much air pressure will force or extrude it through the valve hole. So you can, in fact, over-pump one of these guns. I’m always fascinated by stories I hear from owners of these guns that they pump them up 20 times and they crack like a .22. Sure they do — right up to the moment when they don’t anymore.
Also, the triggers on guns with this kind of valve typically get harder to pull as the air pressure in the reservoir increases. More power equals a stiffer trigger. That will be something I’ll look at in this test, because I already see indications that this rifle may have solved that problem to a certain extent.
The Rebel is 35.50 inches long and weighs 5.50 lbs. The barrel is 20.75 inches long, which is a good length for a pneumatic. And the length of pull measures 13.50 inches, so it will fit most adults and older youths.
The stock and forearm, which serves as the pump handle, are black synthetic material. The pistol grip and the forearm have panels of raised dots on either side for better purchase. Edith and I debated about the butt plate. She calls it plastic, but I detect a coat of non-slippery rubber around the entire thing. It is shiny like plastic, though. (Note from Edith–I changed Pyramyd Air’s product specs to reflect that it’s plastic until I hear from Webley that it really is rubber. If it’s really rubber, then buyers will be pleasantly surprised when they get the gun. If it’s plastic and people expect rubber, that’s bad.)
The receiver is triangular-shaped and plastic. I recall that the Japanese Innova receiver was also plastic, but it has been a long time since I’ve seen one. There are 11mm grooves atop the flat-topped receiver for scope mounts.
The rifle comes with open sights. Both front and rear are, unfortunately, fiberopotic and just looking through them tells me there will be an aiming problem. The rear green dots overpower the rear notch, so I can’t tell where the front post is in relation to the notch. I’ll give them a try at 10 meters; but unless I’m bowled over by the results, I’ll also try the rifle with an optical sight — I’m thinking a dot sight.
The non-adjustable trigger is single-stage, but creepy. I’ve shot the rifle a few times…and, as I said, the trigger effort does increase as the pressure increases, but it doesn’t seem as bad as the triggers on the Japanese Innovas I remember. It seems very reasonable. Of course, I’ll measure it for you in the velocity test.
The safety is manual — hoo-ray! I love it when the designer lets the shooter be in full control of the gun.
To open the bolt for loading, a lever located at the right rear of the receiver is pushed down. The bolt springs backwards for loading. The pellet trough appears to be very short and will limit the length of pellets you can load, but it isn’t as short as it looks. After loading a pellet into the trough, push the bolt forward to lock it.
The pellet trough looks small at first, so I tried loading a large .177-caliber pellet. The H&N Baracuda Match domed pellet fits easily with plenty of room to spare. The trough is easy to load, even when a scope is mounted. There are no steps in the way to flip the pellets, so they roll right in.
The rifle can be pumped before the bolt is opened. Pumping actually cocks this type of action, so the bolt is only for loading. Once there’s a pump of air in the gun, it’s ready to fire.
Pumping effort increases with each pump stroke. You can really feel the pressure building up in the reservoir with each new stroke. But here’s something veteran multi-pump shooters will find interesting — not much pressurized air remains outside the reservoir, forcing the pump arm back open. That’s so common on most multi-pumps, but it doesn’t happen so much with this one. The pump head must be adjusted very well on the rifle I’m testing, because it seems to force all the compressed air into the reservoir. Nearly all the pressurized air goes into the rifle! That means you get more power for your pumping effort. I wish my tired old Sheridan Blue Streak did as well!
Feel of the rifle
The Rebel feels compact and just right in my hands. It’s certainly not too long, and the cross-section of the pistol grip and forearm are wide enough to fill your hands without being too large. The weight also feels right. I find myself hoping it will be a tackdriver.
The Indonesian version was stocked in wood and looked good; but when pumped and fired, everything was too vague. The power was off and you could tell that just by shooting it. And the trigger was mushy. Accuracy wasn’t where the Japanese Innova had been, either.
I didn’t expect this rifle to be as nice as it turned out to be. It feels great and looks great, too. Compared to what I remember about the Indonesian Innova, the Rebel feels sharp and crisp. And the trigger doesn’t get that heavy on full power. The sights aren’t especially helpful, but let me shoot the rifle before we close the book on them. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Sharp Innova has been reincarnated?