This good-looking airgun is classic Webley & Scott — so if you see one, snap it up, urges Bruce Potts
Webley & Scott was one of our oldest gunmakers but sadly it ceased manufacturing in Britain in 2005 and all its airguns are now made in Turkey. It is a shame because the penultimate years bore some classic air rifles. This was largely influenced by the merger of Venom Arms custom shop that worked out of the old Webley factory at Rubery in Birmingham.
Venom Arms was the premier airgun customiser of the day and the late-series Webley rifles all had the Venom magic applied. This involved improved spring systems with smoother and more consistent propulsion but, best of all, styling and superb finish.
The Stingray model’s heritage is with the old Vulcan model, which was, in turn, an upgraded Hawk MK3 air rifle. The last model Stingray was the Express LE (limited edition) of which only 200 were made. It featured a Venom slimline sound moderator, superbly blued metalwork, figured walnut stock and special vented recoil pad. The trouble was, two years later, it was all gone. Turkish Webleys are just not the same.
Birmingham-made Webley & Scott airguns today are highly collectible and command good prices. Models such as the Longbow and Tomahawk as well as the Stingray and Xocet models are all sought- after due to the quality compared to Turkish models.
The Stingray Express LE is such a classic sporting air rifle because, as soon as you pick it up, it handles superbly and shoots even better. Hold it in your hands and all the curves and details are spot on. It is one of those rifles that looks right and is perfectly proportioned. Venom is to credit here as this carbine-sized rifle makes a superb classic hunting air rifle.
The barrel is short at 11.25in and fitted with the superbly quiet slimline moderator — Venom’s V-Tech design — and the barrel is un-choked. It has a 12-land rifled bore but was only available in .22 calibre, which is a shame as a .177 version would be good. As with the action, it has a highly polished and blued steel finish.
The internals of the action have been perfectly matched to provide a smooth full-powered spring- propulsion unit that cocks easily yet has no spring noise on firing. The LE is also consistent and this translates into excellent accuracy; this model shot AA Field pellets at 11.2 ft/lb energy and put three pellets all touching at 30 yards.
The trigger is typically Webley, though, a bit vague but adjustable for first and second stage pull. Once it is mastered, the accuracy is good but the safety catch is non-automatic, which I like but is a bit stiff and noisy to use.
Best of all though is the stock. It really is superb, in design, fit and finish. It perfectly matches the stature of the little Stingray’s form and flows effortlessly with classic lines. The fore-end has a good scalloped finger groove for grip and the pistol grip has a nice long rake for firm and steady hold in the aim. There is also hand-cut chequering. The LE has a distinct brown rectangular ventilated recoil pad and black spacer. The overall stock design is cleverly made to be ambidextrous, with no cast but having twin cheekpieces to each side for symmetry and use for right- or left-handed shooters.
Webley also used a better grade of walnut for this series and this one had nicely figured and coloured walnut all finished with a classic matt oil finish.
I picked this rifle up at F. A. Anderson in East Grinstead, West Sussex, but it’s not going back. If you see one, buy it because it’s a classic Webley that shoots as good as it looks.
What to look for when buying a second-hand Webley Stingray Express LE
Barrels: As the safety catch is not automatic, if the trigger is pulled when the barrel is cocked it can fly up and bend the barrel up, so check for this.
Action: Check that the breech seal is not damaged and the safety functions correctly.
Features: Figured walnut stock and slimline moderator.
Price: Second-hand £200-plus, dependent on condition.