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- Last updated: 27/01/2017
I’ve always been a self-confessed airgun nut. Ever since that first rifle all those years ago, I’ve been hooked. Forget any notion of airguns being an introduction to other types of shooting too. It’s ONLY airguns that do it for me… and there’s a reason; self-contained power.
My first serious gun was a Webley Vulcan, a fine example of a traditional spring piston design. As the trigger was pulled, the mainspring rapidly expanded, so the air forward of the piston became compressed in a few milliseconds - sending the pellet on its way to the target. Stripping that rifle in a splendidly amateur fashion, with quite the most inappropriate tools, encouraged my sense of wonderment at how the mechanism went about its business; and many years down the line, my sense of satisfaction and enjoyment derived from shooting a plethora of ‘self-contained’ airguns, has yet to diminish.
Admittedly pre-charged pneumatics (PCPs) have largely taken us away from the ‘self.contained’ spring/piston brief, yet every now and then, something different arrives on the market, to remind us just what is possible in terms of design.
My test rifle here is the brand new Webley Rebel, and if it looks strangely familiar, that’s because it’s based loosely around the Sharp Innova - a classic Japanese airgun from the ‘80’s.
The Rebel is basically a single shot, variable power, pump-up design, aimed at the entry level market. What makes it stand out from the crowd, is the fact that there’s no spring or piston on board, the action is recoilless, and everything is self-contained. On paper at least, this concept is highly attractive, and since the rifle’s pump system generates the power, this means that no external diver’s bottle or separate pump is required.
First impressions are highly favourable, with the black polymer stock catching the eye. Configuration and proportions are excellent, and although the stock is not truly ambidextrous, the cheek piece definition is so subtle as to be irrelevant with regards to left-handers. White line spacers set off both the pistol grip and rubber butt pad nicely, whilst the extended, angular fore-end is both comfortable and stylish. The solid polymer/ composite stock manages to feel grippy and pleasant to the touch too - so we’re off to a good start.
A further nice touch comes with the fact that the Rebel comes pre fitted with a highly usable set of open sights; and these are of the high-viz fibre optic variety. The integral fore sight sports a red dot, and is all part of the plastic moulding holding barrel to cylinder, whilst the fully adjustable sprung leaf rearsight offers two green filaments, effectively creating the ‘notch’. fitting a scope requires careful removal of the rear sight - achieved by fully unscrewing and removing the top wheel. This gives access to a tiny screw beneath, which necessitates the use of an equally tiny screwdriver. I used one from a spectacle repair kit, which worked just fine. Once slackened, the unit slides straight off the rails.
With this rifle pumped and primed, loading a pellet is achieved by pressing the bolt release catch on the right hand side of the plastic breech block. The bolt then flies backwards to expose the loading channel, where a pellet can be gently rolled in from the right hand side. It has to be said that the channel is a little small and fiddly, yet in use, it all does the job.
With the multi pump design demanding a full investigation, I turned first to the chronograph, to see just what energy levels were on offer here, and what level of input was required.
The trigger incidentally, is a pseudo two-stage affair, and given the lack of heavy loading from the pneumatic mechanism, the final let off is relatively light, albeit fairly creepy. The irritating shape of the plastic blade itself though, felt a little rough on the finger from the test model, since the mould line runs down the centre.
Back to the power/pump ratio results, and with this type of airgun, it’s always worth considering that if too few pumps are used, then the resultant low power may not be sufficient to even drive the pellet up the barrel. In the absence of any confirmed guidance here from the instruction leaflet, I decided that four pumps was to be the minimum, and eight was to be the maximum as specified (a tamper proof power limiter kicks in after this).
Pumping the Rebel is as usual with this type of gun, largely a matter of technique, and a positive consistent approach certainly renders the task much easier. The pumping procedure is as follows: first pull down the hinged fore-end, which doubles as the pumping lever; pull it down and back, to the end of its stroke. It’s important to appreciate that the cocking stroke should be the full arc every time, since this will then allow the same amount of air to be drawn into the compression chamber each time. Each return stroke compresses the air within, building a usable velocity over several pumps. Another important point to bear in mind here is that the supporting hand needs to be positioned so that it isn’t in the way of that returning pump handle.
The pumping in general is fairly reasonable, although perhaps too much for some younger shots, who maybe better off with a conventional springer. The clatter as the pump handle slaps back against the action is something that could be minimized, with the addition of small pads or cushioning material applied at the manufacturing stage. Other than this, the overall feel of the action was fine.
I found that a faster stroke used momentum to lessen the effort required, and to be honest, didn’t notice much greater effort needed for the first four pumps. Pumps five through to eight require fractionally more effort, but with energy levels proving fairly similar, throughout this band, I would be tempted to stick at four in any case.
The manufacturers claim that with the maximum number of 8 pumps, the Rebel should generate around 10ft/lbs of energy. On test, using the Webley Accupell pellets provided, in .177 calibre, energy came in a little shy of this figure, being nearer 8ft/lbs. Bearing in mind the ultra low price, and it’s clear that the Rebel is an entry level rifle, so we just can’t expect too much. Other examples may well perform slightly differently too.
For The Crack
Since the Rebel is to all intents and purposes a pneumatic, it should come as no surprise that a fair old crack is generated at the muzzle, as the escaping air rapidly expands. Some owners will love this, but if you prefer quieter shooting sessions, a half inch thread is provided at the Rebel’s muzzle, so I spun a Daystate Airstream sound moderator into place. Balance still felt good, and with only a few ounces of weight added, the Rebel’s 5lbs mass was hardly spoilt.
With the Airstream silencer in place the Rebel’s significant report was reduced to a real whisper; instantly making the shooting experience a civilized one. Indeed the difference at the muzzle between silencer on/ off was dramatic. (Velocity and accuracy tests were unaffected by the silencer incidentally). The totally non-recoiling action on firing is of course another benefit of most pneumatic systems, and the Rebel is impressive in this respect.
Regarding accuracy, despite using top end pellets like JSB, the Rebel seemed to prefer Webley’s own Accupells. The best group achieved was 1 inch at 30yds, but spreads of around 1.5inches were more representative. This is really good considering the price of the rifle.
Overall then, I’m certainly pleased to see investment in the pump-up concept, but I can’t help being a little disappointed that a full power model wasn’t on the cards (although the more ballistic efficient .22 calibre version may do just that).
That said, the Rebel is an ultra-lightweight rifle, with a particularly comfortable stock, and has much to recommend it. It handles well and offers the recoilless shooting experience at a bargain price.
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