Mike Morton tests the pellet-firing Webley Mark VI Service Revolver Exhibition Finish – it’s more bling than battlefield, but still shoots straight!
One of the finest handguns ever carried by British and Commonwealth forces was the Webley Service Revolver, which was in use from 1887 to 1963. Webley produces several airguns based on this famous pistol, and has sensibly focused on the most well-known variant, the Mark VI.
Webley’s Mark VI handguns come in either BB-firing or pellet-firing format. The one on test here shoots .177 pellets, and has a rifled barrel. These guns are available in different finishes too.
There’s a Black Finish, for that straight out of the factory look, and a Battlefield Finish, with a worn and distressed appearance to simulate heavy use in the field.
Then there’s the Exhibition Finish, the subject of this review, which is nickel-plated and looks like polished steel. The overall metal finish is complemented by a black hammer, trigger and barrel catch. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s a very handsome finish on an equally handsome gun.
Gun supplied by: Highland Outdoors (www.highlandoutdoors.co.uk)
Model: Mark VI (.177 pellet-firing version)
£248.99 Exhibition Finish
£239.99 Battlefield Finish
£229.99 Black Finish
Action: Single or double
Capacity: Six rounds
Sights: Fixed front and rear
Barrel length: Six inches
Powerplant: 12g CO2 capsule
Shots per capsule: Approximately 30
Features: Loads, cycles, fires and ejects as the original
Fit and finish are excellent, and this gun is a great facsimile of the original, right down to the authentic-looking (but non-functioning) screws that have been added to the pistol grips.
Webley is rightfully proud of the fact that this gun has been based on the original blueprints, and functions much the same as the First World War example as well. The markings are similarly authentic, including the stamps for the now-obsolete .455 calibre and the 1915 patent.
The original Mark VI saw extensive service in the First World War, and although it should have been replaced by the Enfield No 2 in the Second World War, it saw action in that conflict as well.
The only obvious external changes that have been made to the CO2 variant are the inclusion of .177 pellet markings and the addition of a small sliding safety catch on the right-hand side of the frame, which blocks the trigger and hammer when applied.
As with many other CO2 pistols, the capsule is in a well that’s hidden by the left-hand pistol grip, which easily pops off. The capsule is seated with a piercing screw that’s activated by twisting the lanyard swivel at the bottom of the grip, meaning there are no separate tools to lose.
Just like the original, this is a top-break revolver. Activating the barrel catch, which doubles up as the fixed rear sight, breaks the barrel and cylinder, letting them both swing down while simultaneously operating the extractor, which ejects the six ‘spent’ cartridge cases.
This is quite different to the more typical system in which the cylinder swings out to the left, but is equally effective.
The original Mark VI revolver was chambered in .455 Webley Mk II – a rimmed cartridge firing a .45 bullet at the relatively low velocity of 650 feet per second. This meant the gun was fairly mild in the hand, but still offered a decent amount of stopping power.
This incarnation of the Mark VI shoots regular .177 pellets, which are pushed into the rear of the six fake .455 cartridges that are supplied with the gun.
If you activate the barrel catch with a bit too much welly, the cases will fly out of the cylinder, after which they can be gathered up and reloaded. But it’s easier and quicker (if arguably less fun!) to break the revolver gently and load the pellets into the cartridges in situ.
Included in the package is a reproduction of a Small Arms Training manual dated 1937 concerning the use of the Mark VI for “all officers and such other ranks as are armed with it”.
The booklet points out that “the correct handling of the pistol in war calls for cunning, initiative, determination and a knowledge of the characteristics of the weapon”.
Not only is this manual an interesting insight into the way the weapon was meant to be used, but it’s also a fun basis for a series of shooting tests with the pellet-firing variant!
The booklet goes on to explain how the pistol should be used at close range when suddenly confronted by an opponent, firing instantly “by sense of direction” as the pistol is “unsuitable for firing by deliberate aim”.
In other words, it’s a case of the gun being shot quickly and instinctively just by being pointed at the enemy. The manual points out that although sights are included, they are only intended to be used for practice or when firing from inside a vehicle.
In order to be certified proficient with the Mark VI, the 1937 soldier had to pass two elementary shooting tests, which were rudimentary, to say the least. The shooter was expected to use the sights at just four yards to hit a target the size of a man’s face, with the gun shot in single-action mode from the kneeling position.
In double-action mode, he was expected to discharge all six shots within six seconds. After training, the efficient shooter was expected to be able to place a shot within a rectangle measuring 16” by 12” at 10 yards in one second. No time to aim!
I’m pleased to report that the pellet-firing Mark VI far exceeded the standards and expectations of these tests. Having reached the War Office standard, it was time for some more modern accuracy testing.
When shooting the revolver rested, and in single-action mode, I was able to reliably shoot six-shot groups measuring 4cm centre-to-centre at both six yards and 10 yards. The Mark VI was fairly quiet while doing so, which isn’t always the case with CO2-powered handguns, so that was a welcome bonus.
I found the trigger especially nice to use. With the hammer at full cock in single-action mode, there was a modest amount of creep before breaking at a mild 3lb 12oz.
This rose to a hefty 8lb 11oz when shot double-action, but it’s worth remembering the role of the original gun on which this revolver is based – last-ditch personal defence.
If you’re in that situation, adrenaline will more than make up for a heavy trigger. Out on the garden range, however, we’re likely to encounter targets not quite so dangerous, although a fizzy drink can that’s been shaken for a full five minutes before being shot does make for a worthy adversary.
As nice to shoot at the Mark VI is, it’s not blessed with a particularly high shot count. Some CO2 guns will sound different as the pressure inside the capsule falls too low, giving you an audible warning that you’re running out of gas.
The Mark VI doesn’t do this, with the only real indication being your shots starting to go markedly wild as you run low on CO2. Maximum shot count for the test pistol was 30 rounds before accuracy suffered.
As with any gun that you use, it’s important to learn its limits and not to go beyond them.
I thoroughly enjoyed the few weeks I spent with this handgun, and so did my teenage son. It was good to do some bonding by talking about the original version and the history that accompanies it, then shooting the CO2 variant together. Webley has done us proud across the generations.
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