Different animals

The striking walnut-stocked Stringray (shouldered) takes on a Spanish Dragon this month

The striking walnut-stocked Stringray (shouldered) takes on a Spanish Dragon this month

I’ve got two Euro break-barrel designs going head-to-head this time.

While one hails from Spain and the other Turkey, they both come to UK gun shops via the same importer – Highland Outdoors.

Norica is a long-established Spanish brand, yet their product line-up, as you would expect, has changed over the years.

The Dragon Carbine actually comes supplied as a package deal, with a Nikko Stirling Mountmaster 3-9×40 scope and mounts included in the asking price, so it appears to have stolen a march on its rival from the off.

However, that rival is none other than the Webley Stingray II – so it can never be a foregone conclusion! With an ‘old school’ look and a spec list as long as your arm on the Webley, this is set to be a hard-fought contest…

Cocking is aided by a sturdy silencer but the Norica feels twangy

Cocking is aided by a sturdy silencer but the Norica feels twangy

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

My first rifle was a Webley Vulcan (just after its introduction in 1979), and seeing this latest Webley is a real blast from the past as its profile and dimensions are extremely similar to the walnut-stocked, export ‘SE’ version of that British landmark rifle.

From the striking woodwork, to the high level of detail, it’s clearly an extremely well presented break-barrel.

By contrast, the Norica’s Dragon Carbine looks a little run-of-the-mill – though the well-defined grip and cheekpiece of its moulded synthetic stock, certainly help give this model a certain character.

With a substantial silencer and the scope and mounts all in from the start, it’s a very complete package to boot – ready for action almost straight out of the box.

Webley Stingray 8/10

Norica Dragon Carbine 7/10

The Webley handles nicely and delivers a smooth-as-silk firing cycle

The Webley handles nicely and delivers a smooth-as-silk firing cycle

TAKING STOCK

The Stingray oozes style with its walnut stock

The Stingray oozes style with its walnut stock

The Stingray’s walnut ambidextrous sporter stock is a real delight. The beautiful graining of the timber used for my test model is way above average, though there’s the odd scuff mark where the pre-finishing process hasn’t quite been A1.

The subtle, semi-matt varnish and laser-cut panels of chequering on both the grip and forend contrast nicely, and with a reddish brown butt pad and spacer thrown in, the overall impression is of one very stylish sporter indeed.

The Dragon's synthetic stock is secure...

The Dragon’s synthetic stock is secure…

Norica’s black synthetics also sport an ambi design, and while the configuration of a tapered forestock and slimmed-down pistol grip is also quite stylish, it does feel a bit, well, ‘cheap’.

The sides at the end of the forend are ultra slim and, thus, rather pliable, and a bit sharp-sided to be honest – though the Dragon’s butt pad has more give than the Stingray’s, and the raised-dot panels on the forend and pistol grip do secure your palms.

Webley Stingray 7/10

Norica Dragon Carbine 6/10

...and it boasts an arrestor plate

…and it boasts an arrestor plate

OVERALL BUILD

When Webley’s production moved to Turkey back in 2007, I felt initial models suffered in terms of quality.

But I’m pleased to report that the Stingray II on test here is in a different league – and a welcome return to form for this famous old brand.

Attention to detail is everywhere; from the subtle O-ring beneath the knurled cap at the muzzle to the chunky, single-piece, vibration-free cocking linkage.

There’s been some serious thought applied at the planning stage. The action feels solid and well put together – though some slightly dull blueing (especially on the barrel) lets the side down a tad.

Overall, though, the Stingray impresses – and is tough competition for many a break-barrel.

Even so, the Norica’s all-in package deal and build quality is par for the course, with machining around the breech (where it matters most) well up to spec.

The synthetics are a basic no-frills moulding, and that plastic end cap is crude – but overall, the quality of machining and blueing are perfectly acceptable.

And you get a silencer at the business end!

Webley Stingray 8/10

Norica Dragon Carbine 6/10

SCOPING UP

The fully adjustable open sights on the Webley model are ideal for novices, and its muzzle is threaded for a silencer

The fully adjustable open sights on the Webley model are ideal for novices, and its muzzle is threaded for a silencer

Many shooters fit scopes these days, but beginners and novices – probably the target audience for these guns – are well advised to try their hand with open sights first.

The Webley comes fitted with adjustable fibre-optic Tru-Glo irons which work a treat. Or you could fit a scope onto the extensive dovetails.

The Dragon Carbine comes without open sights since it is geared towards scope use from the off (a telly being supplied) – and I’ll give it points for also incorporating a small arrestor plate at the rear of the rails.

Not only a nice touch, but invaluable to stop the mounts ‘creeping’ under recoil.

As well as a 3.9x40 scope, the Dragon Carbine  also comes with a silencer as standard

As well as a 3.9×40 scope, the Dragon Carbine
also comes with a silencer as standard

A word on the Norica’s scope. This combo apparently comes to gun shops with the very reliable Nikko Stirling 3-9×40 Mountmaster model fitted – but, unfortunately, I was supplied a different optic with the test rifle (an AGS 3-9×40).

Webley Stingray 8/10

Norica Dragon Carbine 8/10

COCKING CYCLE

Despite a somewhat stiff lock-up, the Stingray is reasonably straightforward to cock

Despite a somewhat stiff lock-up, the Stingray is reasonably straightforward to cock

Enjoying any break-barrel springer depends on a few factors, none more relevant than the strength needed to cock the action.

Just how much effort you have to put in, and the level of smoothness, can make or break a potential user’s decision to purchase.

Cocking the test Stingray II, I had to jolt the breech over my knee to initially free the barrel from its very solid lock-up (courtesy of a sprung plunger) – whereupon the subsequent cocking stroke to cock the Powr-Lok mainspring was reasonable, and fairly smooth.

The ball-détente design makes for  easier breech opening on the Norica

The ball-détente design makes for
easier breech opening on the Norica

Breaking the barrel on the Norica was much easier thanks to its ball-détente design, especially given the added leverage of the oversize silencer – but while its cocking effort was near identical to the Webley’s, the Dragon’s stroke was rougher and noisier.

I think it’s probably the result of a shorter internal spring guide, and internals that lacked the snug fit of the well-engineered Webley.

Webley Stingray 8/10

Norica Dragon Carbine 7/10

HANDLING

Shoulder either of these models, and they both feel surprisingly good, given their fairly conventional, slightly bland configurations.

The solid walnut of the Webley, with its shapely forend, grip and that ergonomically pleasing Quattro trigger, all contribute to a good feel at the shoulder.

The Dragon Carbine sits well, too. That super-slimline pistol grip feels particularly good, yet I don’t warm to the sharp edges of the inside lip of the forend sides against your leading hand.

Otherwise, if the terrific looks of the Webley are discounted for a moment, there’s little to pick between the sheer balance and handling of these two.

Webley Stingray 8/10

Norica Dragon Carbine 7/10

201_Webley Stingray II_46562

RECOIL AND RESONANCE

Firing the Stingray reveals an action that has been fitted with recoil-calming measures, namely a long spring guide and cushioned piston head.

My test model displayed a remarkably slick firing cycle, with nigh-on no spring twang and resonance. Recoil was very mild and with just a slight metallic ‘ring’.

By contrast, the Dragon Carbine’s action was very ‘twangy’. To be fair, though, ‘felt’ recoil was fairly mild. Against many other rivals, there’d be little in it.

That sizeable silencer obviously doubles as a cocking aid, though as far as noise suppression is concerned, it’s largely academic on a springer.

‘Twang’ and vibration from the mainspring are what make the loudest noise – and it must be said that good lubrication around the mainspring would probably prove advantageous with this Norica!

Webley Stingray 8/10

Norica Dragon Carbine 6/10

TRIGGER AND SAFETY

The Stingray’s Quattro trigger is superb

The Stingray’s Quattro trigger is superb

The truly appalling triggers that Webley used to specialise in are, I’m glad to say, consigned to history!

This modern Stingray features the Quattro trigger design which, with its set-back, flat-surfaced blade and two-stage, adjustable mechanism, is a world apart from my old Vulcan’s.

I managed to tweak it to trip after a very short first stage and a crisp release. For a reasonably priced springer at the lower end of the market, this is a damn good trigger.

An automatic, resettable safety catch is also part of the design, and it’s the old Webley Omega spec, if I’m not mistaken.

Safe and sound, the Dragon’s trigger is stiff but assured

Safe and sound, the Dragon’s trigger is stiff but assured

The Dragon Carbine’s unit is a very simple – and fairly crude – affair, being weighty with some creep.

The blade, like so many guns in this bracket, offers too thin a point of contact, and the pull is quite stiff. However, its auto safety ‘tab’ is perfectly placed, just in front of the blade, and this trigger still betters that old Vulcan of mine by some margin (so who’d complain!).

Although both safeties can be reset, neither rifle can be decocked.

Webley Stingray 7/10

Norica Dragon Carbine 5/10

ACCURACY AND PERFORMANCE

Unsurprisingly, the Webley’s technical advantage in so many areas was always likely to pay off downrange, as my results bore out.

The trigger alone can contribute to any end result, and 10mm clusters at 25 yards with AADFs (20mm groups with some old Webley Harriers) proved the point nicely.

Despite the Webley’s obviously better pull, though, once I got ‘into’ the Norica’s rather sluggish trigger, the Dragon posted perfectly acceptable, 25mm groups with a variety of pellets.

For this price bracket, you can’t ask for better than that.

Webley Stingray 8/10

Norica Dragon Carbine 7/10

VALUE FOR MONEY

With the Dragon Carbine coming complete with a Nikko Stirling 3-9×40 Mountmaster scope for the all-in price of just £219.99, it’s hard to be too judgemental. It’s a simple workhorse that does what it says on the tin.

The Webley just feels so well finished and smooth in operation that I reckon it still has the edge in the value stakes – even minus a scope and mounts.

The sheer quality of that lovely woodwork, super slick action and thoroughbred design throughout gives the Stingray a reassuringly serious feel about it.

Shooters on a tight budget may disagree, of course – they’d probably plump for the Norica’s impressive combo deal!

Webley Stingray 9/10

Norica Dragon Carbine 8/10

The Dragon Carbine posted perfectly acceptable groups

The Dragon Carbine posted perfectly acceptable groups

FINAL VERDICT

Webley Stingray 79/100

Norica Dragon Carbine 67/100

As I’ve so often said with these dual tests, the results can sometimes seem unfair, as a pairing may be deemed unfairly stacked one way, yet it still serves to illustrate respective strengths and weaknesses of design and performance.

Against many other spring-piston break-barrel airguns, Norica’s Dragon Carbine would have fared much better, and it’s undoubtedly a solid option either as a starter pack or for close-range vermin control. For the asking price, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.

Yet for the same money, Webley’s latest Stingray II proves far too formidable an opponent.

Actually, it would leave most other sub-£250 springers in the shade; it’s an out-and-out winner that will no doubt impress any new owner in 2014 as much as Webley’s old Vulcan did this writer some 30-odd years ago!

Mark Camoccio

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Air Rifles, Springer, Tests
2 comments on “Different animals
  1. Garry says:

    Hi, new here so just one point, Quote, cocking effort was near identical to the Webley’s.

    Or I often read one has a slightly less cocking effort than another test rifle, this doesn’t give an idea to just how easy or difficult it is.

    Would it not be possible to give cocking effort in some form of measurement, pounds etc.

  2. Dario says:

    The reason why we’ve rtjeceed the .270-ish rounds time and time again (despite hundreds of goats, then pigs, being shot with varying calibers to test the terminal efficacy of .270-ish rounds vs. .30’s and .45 caliber rifle rounds) is that the Rubber Desk Johnnies in the acquisition part of Ordinance listened to “gravel belly” senior officers in the early part of the 20th century when choosing calibers.Everyone thought that “real soldiers” better be packing at least a .30 cal round. Didn’t matter that there might be something better in something smaller diameter, .30 was the smallest “real men” should be carrying.So we passed up a great opportunity to get into the 6.5 to 7mm caliber area, whereas many European nations found what long distance shooters today have discovered: the 6.5 to 7mm region has a lot of efficacy in high Bc bullets with terrific sectional density at much lighter weights than similar .30 cal projectiles. Look at the specs on 6.5mm bullets now – you can find ultra-slippery bullets in the 130 to 145gr area, whereas you need to be launching pills in the 190 to 220 weight range in .308 to achieve the same Bc’s.Well, the recoil from 175+ grain bullets in .30 start getting hefty if you’re shooting hundreds of rounds, day after day, and they’re too much for our modern military to carry. So we go to the other extreme of sillyness, a varmint round.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

Follow Us!