How to get the most out of the latest DA/SA pellet-firing model
Sometimes a new airgun brings a surprise or two, the latest Webley MK VI model with rifled barrel brought only one, it shoots less accurately than its BB firing smoothbore predecessor. I am still at a loss to explain why except that the trigger system seems to operate a little differently, perhaps not by design, but in effect. Like the original Webley MK Series topbreak revolvers, the big advantage in the Webley design, aside from faster reloading, was its double action trigger. In the early 20th century (and as far back as 1880 when the MK I was introduced) double action revolvers were viewed by many with a skeptical eye. Even the first American made double action top break production revolver, the Starr Arms .36 and .44 caliber Model 1858, was met with so much skepticism by U.S. soldiers during the Civil War that in 1862 the Ordnance Department requested that Starr redesign the gun as a single action.
The Single Action Starr Model of 1863 was a much more successful revolver, and along with the double action guns already in use, the Starr became the third most issued model carried by Union troops (after Colt and Remington). The earlier 1858 Starr double action models were also used by Confederate soldiers. It was a difficult gun to handle because it could not be thumb cocked for a single action shot in what we would deem a traditional way. It was effectively a double action only revolver unless one knew how to handle the trigger and pre-cock the hammer, the earliest form of two-staging the trigger or staging the hammer. Bottom line, early double action revolvers were not very popular in the U.S., whereas in Europe they were already in common use and Webley was among the leading manufacturers.
The idea of a double action, single action wheelgun is to draw and fire it without cocking the hammer. Against a practiced shooter with a Single Action Colt, I’d not have put my money on the guy with a double action revolver in a shootout (unless it was J. Henry FitzGerald or Ed McGivern in the 1920s and ’30s). But here we are with this latest Webley MK VI CO2 model, which has shown a definite penchant for being shot double action if you want the best accuracy this gun can offer.
Double Action Shooting Techniques
There is no question that trigger pull can make or break shooting accuracy and shooting a double action revolver (or semi-auto) double action requires a different application of the trigger finger and with some guns, even your grip. Shooting single action one uses the first joint (pad) of the trigger finger to discharge the weapon. Shooting double action demands more than the tip of your finger can generally accomplish without pulling the gun off target. As I have explained in the past, when shooting single action most of the work has been done; the hammer or striker cocked on a semi-auto, the hammer cocked and the cylinder rotated into battery on a revolver. All that remains is a good sight picture, proper grip, and a light touch from the trigger finger to shoot. This is the ideal scenario for firing a single action revolver. For a double action, this begins to change dramatically the moment your finger engages the trigger.
Shooting double action requires the trigger finger to accomplish a much greater task. Pulling the trigger must cock the hammer or striker and on revolvers rotate the cylinder before the gun can be fired. Outside of finely tuned competition DA pistols, the average double action trigger pull is going to be from 10 pounds to 13 pounds, and even the lighter double action system on most air pistols is still much heavier than any single action trigger. The double action pull on the rifled barrel MK VI averages 9 pounds, 7 ounces. This is fairly light for a double action revolver but pulling the trigger still has to rotate the cylinder clockwise into battery and cock the hammer as you continue to pull through. In a single continuous stroke the gun will fire. Aiming while pulling through is not as stable as a single action shot, but it is good enough to hit your target at close to medium distances. With the airgun, however, we are trying for greater accuracy, putting it into the role of a target pistol, which is what every air pistol becomes when shooting for accuracy, whether it is designed as one or not. The Webley MK VI isn’t. This is not to say you cannot get superb accuracy at 10 meters with a rifled barrel revolver, even the Webley, but if punching bullseyes is what you want from this latest MK VI, you need to fine tune your double action trigger pull, because this gun, unlike the BB model, is more accurate fired double action!
A reliable double action trigger pull should be done using the middle joint of the trigger finger, with the finger tip protruding just beyond the trigger shoe. This does not mean the exact middle of the second joint, but rather just past the fold of the pad. You’re not wrapping your finger around the trigger, just using more if it. The ease with which this first step is accomplished has a lot to do with the size of your hand, length of your fingers and the size of the grips. The MK VI is a pretty hefty gun, and has a deep triggerguard that allows the middle finger to rest firmly against the back of the triggerguard and front of the frame for a very solid hold. What you want to avoid is over tightening your grip on gun as you do this. Your grip, whether single or two-handed, needs to remain consistent. For accuracy, I favor a two-handed hold with any handgun in any caliber, except where a two-handed hold is not permitted in some types of competition, or if you are set on shooting in a classic one-handed target shooting stance. For our purposes here with the MK VI as a 10 meter target pistol, the two-handed hold is recommended.
I make repeated note of using the Weaver Stance, which is one of the most effective for accuracy. Using the Weaver Stance the gun is drawn with the strong hand, joined by the support hand as the gun is brought up and pushed forward to eye level. The fingers of the support hand cover the strong hand grip (the support hand thumb under the strong hand thumb) while the strong side arm is pushed forward and the support side arm pulled back to provide balanced support. I bend the support arm slightly. Foot position is also important and the off side foot should be forward and angled toward the target. I was originally taught to use the Strong Isosceles stance with both arms locked straight forward and the support side foot forward. This also is very effective for accuracy but I personally find the Weaver stance a bit more comfortable especially with airguns which offer no or little felt recoil.
Trigger travel varies from one make of handgun to another depending upon the trigger design. For the Webley MK VI the full length of travel fired double action is 0.75 inches, which is average (some guns have more than an inch of travel to discharge double action). As you pull through the Webley’s trigger the cylinder rotates in the first 0.5 inches of trigger travel and it is at this point the hammer is also partially back. The hard part with the rifled barrel Webley is to consistently get the cylinder into battery and the hammer locked most of the way back without pulling it completely through and firing; the downside of the gun’s lighter trigger pull. On the BB model the hammer stages cleanly just about every time, on the rifled barrel pellet model it is a little less defined.
Once you have managed to control the trigger and stage the hammer, finalize your sight picture before pulling the trigger straight back into your hand. You are still aiming the gun from the moment you put the front sight on target, but with the slower shooting time you have a moment to reconfirm your sight picture before pulling the trigger the rest of the way. This will get you more shots in the bullseye. Be well advised that this is not the way to shoot a double action revolver in a real world shooting situation, as staging the hammer can easily result in an accidental discharge. It is simply too risky. You are either going to shoot or not. There are no half measures in a real shooting situation; a clean, deliberate pull through of the trigger is required. For backyard or indoor target shooting, however, you have the option to take advantage of staging the hammer and getting a more accurate shot. This is not a defensive shooting technique, just one that works for plinking and punching holes in paper targets. And that is what the rifled barrel MK VI is meant to do. You just have to do it double action.