An indoor kind of Webley manstopper

   01.22.18

An indoor kind of Webley manstopper

A .455 Webley revolver loaded with expanding “manstopper” bullets is the required attribute of every Colonial adventure. They are accurate, quick and easy to load, balance well, and possess reasonable stopping power. While excellent for the task of clearing trenches or contested jungles of all opposition, Webley revolvers sadly originated in the currently very anti-gun formerly great Britain. So there’s neither continued production of them nor great availability of ammunition. At this time, Fiocchi is the sole remaining occasional manufacturer of .455 Webley. Quite a few guns were converted for 45ACP or 45 Auto Rim (both should be used with reduced loads), but even they are getting scarce and expensive.

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These magnificent samples of guncraft now command serious prices, even the crude .38 Enfield knock-off at the top. What’s a guy who just wants to play with them every so often to do? The same as the actual British subjects do, though for different reasons. The unfortunates across the pond can’t legally own most handguns anymore, so they get air gun replicas. In the US, the air guns are bought more for the reasons of range accessibility and price.

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This very real looking .177 Webley mkVI BB gun costs 3 to 5 times less than the real thing. It also costs pennies instead of dollars to fire. An adequate backstop can be made of a large cardboard box with a couple of pieces of fabric or half-dozen layers of paper inside to prevent ricochets. Or, as an alternative, frangible BBs may be used once they become available. Minimal report permits practice without hearing protection, and neighbors aren’t likely to complain either. The historic booklet on pistol marksmanship comes with this air gun, along with the conventional instruction manual.

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The main appeal of the Webley action, besides the practical, is its uniqueness. The BB gun (and the pellet pistol version as well) follow the manual of arms almost exactly. The sole difference from the real revolver is the small sliding manual safety on the right side of the frame. The weight, the balance, the trigger pull and the simultaneous ejection are exact matches for the original. The lever for opening the action is sprung slightly lighter, which adds to the speed and the comfort of operating the revolver. The lanyard ring serves a double duty as the powerlet piercing screw grip.

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Each gun comes with six dummy shells. To load, trap a BB between a hard surface and the opening of the “hollow point” and press down. This can also be done with fingertips. Additional dummy shells are available. Besides authenticity, these shells greatly simplify loading with gloved hands.

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Every bit of craftsmanship on this air gun is excellent. It looks and feels like the real thing even at close examination. The proof is in the use though. 420fps on a fresh powerlet gives reasonably flat trajectory out to 15 yards. Accuracy, despite the smooth bore and spherical projectiles, is good enough for consistent hits on a pop can out to ten yards. With the rifled pellet gun version, accurate range would be around fifteen yards, same as for the historic predecessor. Since none of the CO2 is wasted on reciprocating a slide, about 75 shots may be expected from a single powerlet before velocity drops off too much.

In Shooting to Live, a self defence manual written for the early 1940s for Shanghai Municipal Police by Fairbairn and Sykes, a great challenge to learning marksmanship was noted in the short supply of ammunition. While we’re better off on that, few of use get enough range time for proficiency. The shortage of pistol range facilities nearby, the competing time demands and the expense of the original .455 Webley (and 38S&W for the later Webley marks) all add up to fewer trigger pulls than desired for intuitive mastery. This is where the authentic air gun availability puts us ahead of the historic users of this weapon. And, admit it, this revolver is just plain fun to shoot!

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