Firing pellets from a British Legend
Before venturing off into uncharted waters with the Umarex Beretta APX this coming weekend, I’m going to answer one more curiosity about mixing pellet-firing cartridges with smoothbore barreled revolvers, and the obvious choice is the Webley MK VI. As fate, or the odds of manufacturing convenience would have it, when the Bear River Schofield was developed, the BB firing cartridge chosen for the gun is the same one used in the British Webley MK VI CO2 revolver, only the rims are stamped Bear River .44 instead of Webley .455. In fact, when you purchase extra cartridges for the Schofield you get them with a Webley speed loader, which unfortunately doesn’t align with the Schofield’s cylinder.
The historic MK VI
Webley & Scott has a long history manufacturing air pistols and air rifles dating back to the early 20th century. In recreating their legendary 1915 MK VI, Webley & Scott actually followed the original .455 caliber blueprints and specifications to exacting detail to build what is one of the top five most authentic CO2 model air pistols in the world. The original .455 caliber Webley MK VI Self-Extracting Revolver became one of the most distinguished of all British handguns and was carried by British troops throughout two world wars, and the guns are still in use today in some parts of the world. Most, however, are now relegated to the shelves and vaults of military arms collectors.
The Webley & Scott manufactured CO2 model bears all of the original markings and shares the same operating features, only instead of firing the British .455 cartridge (or .45 ACP rounds in moon clips, which many Webleys were modified to shoot after WWII), this MK VI sends .177 caliber steel BBs downrange.
The Webley is fundamentally a late 19th century handgun beginning with the MK I, adopted by the British military in 1887. The MK I design evolved over a period of nearly 30 years culminating with the MK VI variation produced from 1915 to 1923 and kept in service until 1947 giving the Webley topbreak pistol a 60-year span as Great Britain’s primary large caliber military sidearm! The distinctive topbreak design and cartridge ejection system developed in the late 1880s was similar to the 1872 S&W Model No. 3 American topbreak revolver and 1875 Schofield, and this is perhaps one reason why the Schofield air pistol uses the same front-loading BB cartridges as the Webley MK VI; they were already the correct size to work in a topbreak pistol. That, however, is about all the Schofield and Webley MK VI have in common.
A Webley has a very distinctive look, the MK VI featuring a square-butt grip with lanyard ring (which also functions to cleverly disguise the CO2 seating screw). Military MK VI models had a dull finish (like the airgun) that was less reflective than the blued finish used on some Webley & Scott military sidearms and commercially-produced models for the civilian and law enforcement use.
Among characteristic features of the Webley design is the flat-sided barrel, large hammer spur, copious triggerguard and large crescent-shaped single action, double action trigger. It was a man-sized handgun overbuilt to endure, and while some might consider its appearance less than attractive, it’s still a matter of opinion more than a century later. A Webley is unmistakable, especially with the gun’s massive “stirrup latch” used to release the barrel for loading and unloading. The large release lever on the left side of the frame is pushed down to pivot and unlatch a locking bar over the back of the topstrap, thus freeing the barrel assembly to be tilted downward just like the old S&W topbreak revolvers. Opening the Webley activates an automatic ejector (working off an external cam lever on the left side of the frame) that drives the cylinder pin and extractor upward and simultaneously expels all six spent shell cases. For the airgun this mechanism falls short of ejecting the re-loadable shells, just like the Schofield CO2 model.
Weighing in at 37 ounces, measuring an exact 11.25 inches in length and 5.75 inches in height, the MK VI air pistol is as close to the original Webley revolver as possible. Now by using the new Bear River Schofield rear-loading pellet cartridges you can up the Webley’s game and make it into a real high-velocity target pistol; something for which the gun’s sturdy design is already well suited. And not only do the new Schofield pellet shells fit perfectly in the MK VI cylinder, they also load and release from the Webley speed loader!
Range testing with pellets
Double action trigger pull on an original Webley MK VI was in excess of 12 pounds, and single action trigger pull averaged 10 pounds 10.5 ounces, not a gun for those lacking confidence to pull the trigger. Webley built a military pistol and as such they were not prone to accidental discharges. The Webley MK VI Service Revolver in .177 caliber is a bit more trigger friendly with a double action pull averaging 7 pounds, 10.5 ounces, and a single action pull of 5 pounds, 5 ounces, making this a more suitable target shooting air pistol than its legendary .455 caliber antecedent.
In my original test of the Webley MK VI (Airgun Experience No. 37) the Webley was fired in a series of three six round sets, with a best six round group clustered into 0.625 inches at a range of 21 feet, and all 18 rounds inside the 10 and X (with a couple cutting the edge) measuring 1.75 inches center-to-center. To update that test I re-shot it with Umarex .177 caliber steel BBs chronographing the first six shots, which delivered an average velocity of 405 fps, with a duplicate high of 413 fps and the balance repeating at 405 fps. Knowing that lead pellets will deliver slower velocities I went straight to the lighter weight Sig Sauer cast alloy pellets which delivered an impressive average velocity of 495 fps, a high of 506 fps and a low of 489 fps from the 5.5 inch (internal length) Webley MK VI smoothbore barrel. The gun has a correct 6-inch external barrel length with a .455 caliber muzzle; the smoothbore barrel is recessed ½ inch.
Shooting from 21 feet with the Schofield rear-loading pellet shells, the Webley MK VI slammed the first six rounds into the target with a spread of only 0.593 inches with five shots in one ragged hole and the sixth dead center in the bottom of the X. And remember, this is a smoothbore barrel. I fired two more 6-round sets for a total spread measuring 1.437 inches with multiple overlapping hits all in the X ring. The Schofield’s rear-loading pellet cartridges are exactly what the Webley needed. The MK VI, already a great airgun, just became greater!
A word about safety
Double Action/ Single Action airguns provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts. Most airguns, in general, look like cartrrige guns, historic models like the Webley MK VI even more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an airgun from a cartridge gun. Never brandish an airgun in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat an airgun as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.