Webley & Scott Empire bolt-action rifle
- By Pete Moore
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 26/01/2017
It’s all about bringing back iconic names from the past these days but in a more efficient format. Look at the re-birth of the Mini, Volkswagen Beetle and Fiat 500. Visually well, just about but internally no! The same could be said for that old British institution Webley & Scott who started off as a serious firearms, shotguns and airgun manufacturer. They ended up just making airguns then finally went under. However over the last few years the name was picked up by Highland Outdoors the UK subsidiary of Legacy Sports and relaunched as a brand. Airguns, firearms and shotguns came back bearing the proud name. No longer made in the UK it mattered not, guns of whatever flavour worked and were cost effective.
I think it was three or four years ago at IWA I was on the Highland stand and was shown a prototype bolt-action centrefire. Not I hasten to add a Howa as they are also handled by them in the UK, but a more traditional bolt-gun from Webley & Scott, which was a surprise. Though I kept my eye on it not a lot happened when I got a call from them asking if I’d like to look at the new Empire rifle?
There’s not a lot of technical information on their website but a mission statement: “After an absence of 100 years from rifle-making, Webley & Scott have great pleasure in announcing the new Webley & Scott Empire centrefire rifle. Produced using the latest technology, the Empire shares all the traditional qualities of those now prized rifles from 100 years ago: Accuracy - provided by the Sub-MOA hammer forged barrel.
Reliability - provided by the proven action, designed in short and long action. Speed to target - the traditional, heritage design means that you are already familiar with the rifle.” To be frank I have never shot a 100-year old rifle that could hold a candle to something modern; Howa’s 1500 being a good example of a top quality and well priced product! So let’s start there as the Empire is made in Japan and I’d bet it’s manufactured by Howa! As taking it apart shows a very familiar build, though it has more than a hint of a Weatherby Vanguard about it too (also made by Howa)!
The vibe is sort of 1960/70s retro; Winchester Model 70/Remington 700 in a classic wood/sporter style and it looks nice. The stock is walnut and of Grade 1 quality; a little bland with its light colouration but consistent, well-finished and fitted. Not sure where it’s made but it has that Minelli of Italy feel about it! The action inlet is precise and finished with varnish as is the forend channel, the exterior is oil-finished and the action bolts are pillar bedded. Though I would have thought at the money it would have been synthetically bedded too! The build is full with a decent length of pull and a well angled and handfilling pistol grip. The butt shows a straight comb and cheek piece with a thick rubber recoil pad. Chequering is machine-cut and quite shallow but offers a decent grip, QD sling studs are fitted and the forend tip and grip cap are attractive in contrasting rosewood. Like I said retro touches!
Action-wise there’s no mistaking that trigger mech with its 3-position safety on the rear/right - FIRE, SAFE (bolt operation) SAFE (bolt locked), equally the large and angled recoil lug! The faceted receiver sides and bolt shroud give a pleasing look and the bolt body is engine-turned. The metal work is well blued and nicely struck off before the process is applied. Feed is from a steel, 5-round, detachable box magazine with the release catch at the front. The bottom metal by contrast is aluminium and though matching the steel in colour does not look quite the full shilling. Though the trigger guard is well shaped and large enough for a gloved finger.
My tester came in 30-06 with a rather short 21” barrel (measured from the gas escape)! W&S say 22” and investigation shows both short and long action calibre options with the latter also offering a 24” tube as follows: SHORT – 223/22-250 Rem, 243/308 Win and 7mm-08 Rem, LONG 6.5x55, 25-06 Rem, 270 Win, 300/338 Win Mag. Why you would bother offerings these in a 22” tube is beyond me! The sporter/mid-weight barrel is hammer-forged and threaded ½ x 20 UNF with a matching muzzle collar! Length and weight are 42/44” and 7lbs 7/14oz depending on action length.
To be honest I was not that enamoured of the Empire when I first got it, sound and well built but you know! However, subsequent use and handling have warmed me considerably to the design. I’m not a wood gun fan but that stock is solid and well proportioned and the 1500 action is a proven and familiar one!
Along with the Empire, Highland sent me a set of Nikko Stirling 30mm rings and Leupold Remy 700 bases along with a Nikko Stirling Diamond 3-12x42i scope and a Sonic 45 reflex moderator. I added some Winchester 150-grain Ballistic Silver Tip (BST) ammo.
No real dramas as the build spec was a familiar and good one. The generous stock and recoil pad dimensions made shooting easy and with the moddy up front adding extra weight and control too. The BST was shooting .75” at 100m; so more than good enough! The action ran smoothly and fed easily, so no real complaints. My only caveat is about the shorter barrels in long action calibres as velocity is reduced; for example the BSTs were averaging 2700 fps/2460 ft/lbs. Certainly not insignificant figures but very much in 308 Win class! That extra 2” would up that to around 2900 fps/2800 ft/lbs, which is to be preferred otherwise why bother?
However, overall a rather nice rifle with the attraction of a slight retro feel and look, which will appeal to some.
CONTACT: Highland Outdoors, 0845 099 0252 www.highlandoutdoors.co.uk