Webley's no-nonsense air rifle proves that big doesn't always mean awkward, as Bruce Potts discovers
Webley & Scott is a long-established, gun manufacturer, but one airgun stands out from the others produced by the company, and that is the Osprey.
Following the theme of naming their guns after birds of prey with their longstanding break-barrel Hawk models, the Osprey was a full-sized side-lever rifle designed with the serious hunter in mind. It proved so successful as a sporter model that Webley introduced a Super Target model for 10m shooters and the Bell-Target fraternity.
Though not a recoilless system as with most other side-lever target models, the Osprey is an accurate spring-piston fixed-barrel hunting rifle.
Introduced in 1975, the Osprey was intended to follow the under-lever Mk 3 rifles and continue Webley’s line of quality sporting airguns. It’s big, and unashamedly so. It looks and feels more like a centrefire rifle, and weighs in at 7¾lb with an overall length of 43.5in. Despite this, it does not feel at all awkward, but handles well and feels well-balanced in the shoulder.
The barrel is 18.5in long, fixed into the receiver, and is instantly noticeable by its over-sized diameter. With a straight taper of 0.755in, it is substantial, and enjoys the benefits of stabilising the aim and minimising any barrel vibrations to obtain better accuracy.
The muzzle has a hooded open sight fitted with a single blade, and is complemented by a fully adjustable rearsight that is fixed to the receiver in front of the loading tap.
As with the receiver, the barrel has the good, deep-blued finish for which Webley is known. The receiver is long and houses an equally long spring that hardly becomes compressed under tension, therefore lasting a long time, and maintaining good, consistent velocities over an extended period.
Being of a side-lever design, in order to load a pellet you have to open a tap with the large plastic lever upwards so that an orifice is visible. A pellet is dropped in head-down so the skirt section seals against the sides. Close the tap again and the pellet aligns between the piston and barrel. The piston has a grooved head for two separate piston rings that need to be seated with the opening 180° opposed to each other to form a seal, as is found with a car piston and cylinder arrangement.
As stated, the spring is long, meaning the Osprey hardly has to work at all to deliver its 650fps in .177 and 550fps in .22 velocity. There is no spring guide, and there is some spring compression noise and twang on firing.
The side-lever itself is located to the right side and is slender with a small button on the top. When the button is depressed, the side-lever swings out and ratchets down until the trigger is engaged. The ratchet is there to prevent the fingers from getting trapped during cocking.
The trigger is adjustable down to 3lb via an Allen key from the top rear of the air receiver, and is single stage. The safety catch is manual, so the shooter can choose whether or not to use it.
Stock-wise, the standard model has a full stock design and, being a side-lever design, has no cut-out underneath, as is found in a break-barrel design. Thus it feels very solid, and the beech wood is stained dark to mimic walnut with no chequering. A deluxe version was available in walnut and featured some snazzy chequering, but these are now rare.
Though perhaps too long or heavy for some, this solid, accurate, no-nonsense air rifle is still fun to shoot today and does not cost silly money.