Webley Mark 3 Tar­get Ri­fle

Air Gunner - - Contents - by John Milewski

John Milewski con­tin­ues the Webley theme with a close look at the Mk 3

Sadly, John Atkins is still re­cov­er­ing from ill­ness, but the good news is that he is hop­ing to have the sec­ond part of his Webley Mark 1 air pis­tol study ready in time for next month’s is­sue. In the mean­time, I am con­tin­u­ing the Webley theme that John started, by ex­am­in­ing early aper­ture-sighted Webley Mark 3 air ri­fles. This is a bit of a pre­quel to last month’s Su­pertar­get study and demon­strates that Webley of­fered matchqual­ity sights for the Mark 3 way be­fore the Su­pertar­get was in­tro­duced in 1963/64.

Very sim­i­lar ri­fles, with the ex­cep­tion of the Su­pertar­get’s heav­ier bar­rel, had al­ready seen club use for over 10 years. Ini­tially, there was no men­tion of aper­ture sights in 1946 and 1947, but a Septem­ber 1949 Webley price list makes a brief ref­er­ence to an aper­ture sight, which could be fit­ted at ex­tra cost. There is no il­lus­tra­tion of the sight in this, or the Septem­ber 1950 cat­a­logue, but by June 1951, Webley had added an im­age of the Parker Hale 16M sight to page 6 of their ‘Un­ri­valled Ac­cu­racy’ cat­a­logue. Webley sug­gested that the sight was best ordered with a new ri­fle be­cause it was nec­es­sary to drill and tap the ri­fle’s trig­ger block to ac­cept the sight, but could also sup­ply it sep­a­rately upon re­quest.

The PH16M Aper­ture Sight

The Parker Hale 16 se­ries of Spor­tar­get aper­ture sights were in­tended to fit a wide va­ri­ety of firearms, and the Webley Mark 3 air ri­fle. A let­ter code was added to the end of the des­ig­na­tion and marked on the sight to iden­tify the type of ri­fle a par­tic­u­lar sight was in­tended to fit. For ex­am­ple, a PH16B was in­tended for bolt-ac­tion ri­fles with a high sight line, whilst the PH16M was made for the Webley Mark 3. Ob­tain­ing the in­cor­rectly coded sight for your ri­fle is likely to re­sult in an item that does not fit, as I re­alised when I placed a vari­ant against the body of a Mark 3 and saw there was never go­ing to be enough lateral ad­just­ment when fit­ted.

The PH16M was in­cluded in Parker Hale’s own cat­a­logues as well as Webley’s and came with a sin­gle-hole eye­piece as stan­dard. The sin­gle-hole eye­piece was avail­able in a choice of aper­ture sizes and its slim pro­file was handy in the field dur­ing the days when scopes were not a stan­dard op­tion for air ri­fles. Us­ing a large, sin­gle-hole aper­ture al­lowed more light to en­ter the eye and pro­vided greater pe­riph­eral vi­sion in use. A more ver­sa­tile six-hole eye­piece was of­fered as an op­tional ex­tra. This eye­piece al­lowed the ri­fle’s owner to se­lect the most ap­pro­pri­ate size of aper­ture for the pre­vail­ing con­di­tions with­out hav­ing to carry and po­ten­tially lose a se­lec­tion of sin­gle-hole eye­pieces.

Sev­eral types of six-hole eye­piece were avail­able from Parker Hale, the ‘midget’ type be­ing the most com­monly en­coun­tered on

the Mark 3. It was a sim­ple mat­ter to un­screw the sin­gle-hole eye­piece and re­place it with a six-hole ver­sion be­cause they all used the same thread. A six-hole eye­piece al­lowed a shooter to se­lect the most suit­able aper­ture size for the con­di­tions with­out loss of zero. A small hole was rec­om­mended in bright con­di­tions, whilst larger holes al­lowed more light to en­ter the eye through the aper­ture in darker sit­u­a­tions, such as a gloomy range.

The PH16M al­lowed half-minute click ad­just­ments both ver­ti­cally and lat­er­ally by us­ing the sight’s pos­i­tive knurled wheels. Parker Hale claimed the sight was equally suit­able for sport­ing and tar­get use, which it most cer­tainly was. By look­ing through, rather than at an aper­ture, it fo­cuses the eye rather like a cam­era, in that the im­age is much clearer than when us­ing open sights. It is also eas­ier to line up the fore­sight with the tar­get when us­ing the aper­ture like a win­dow. Good light is es­sen­tial, though, and when the light was too poor for the aper­ture, the PH16 se­ries were ca­pa­ble of be­ing moved 90 de­grees to the rear and left, in or­der for the ri­fle’s stan­dard open sight to be used. The PH16 clicked into place solidly and could be moved back with­out loss of zero in an in­stant.

Choice of fore­sight

As well as aper­ture sights, Parker Hale of­fered a range of in­ter­change­able el­e­ment fore­sights and these too have been en­coun­tered on early Webley Mark 3 air ri­fles from the 1950s. FS pre­fixed sights were made for a va­ri­ety of ri­fles and coded like aper­ture sights. Webley even­tu­ally set­tled on the FS22A for the Su­pertar­get be­cause it was a per­fect match for the PH17B, but FS21 and FS22B sights have also been en­coun­tered on ear­lier Mark 3 air ri­fles. The FS21 was in­tended for BSA Mar­tini tar­get ri­fles fit­ted with fore­sight blocks, and the FS22B was made for Gov­ern­ment Is­sue No8 train­ing ri­fles.

The PH17B Aper­ture Sight

The March 1953 Parker Hale Gen­eral cat­a­logue did not in­clude the PH17, but a line draw­ing was in­cluded in the sec­ond 1954 edi­tion, which de­scribed the sight as The PH17 Sport­ing Aper­ture sight for .22 cal­i­bre sport­ing and light tar­get ri­fles. The Mark 3 was not men­tioned by name, but the sight was de­scribed as suit­able for pre­ci­sion air ri­fles used for com­pe­ti­tion shoot­ing. By June 1958, Parker Hale were de­scrib­ing the PH17B as com­ing with a tang an­gled to

suit the Mark 3 air ri­fle, and when the Su­pertar­get was made from 1963/64, the PH17B was the stan­dard sight cho­sen for the ri­fle.

Parker Hale pointed out the ac­claim that the sight had re­ceived when used on the

Mark 3 and other ri­fles. This

en­cour­aged them to in­crease the range of ri­fles to which the PH17 could be fit­ted. They an­tic­i­pated that this spe­cially adapted ver­sion would be avail­able by Novem­ber/De­cem­ber 1962, which neatly confirms the sight be­ing used on the Mark 3 prior to this date. A PH17 has been seen on a BSA Air­sporter Mk 2 dat­ing from the early 1960s, whilst a PH17B has been en­coun­tered on a Webley Mark 3 from C.1952, although it was prob­a­bly retro­fit­ted to the lat­ter at a pre­vi­ous owner’s re­quest. This was a ser­vice that Webley of­fered be­cause although sights could be fit­ted by skilled own­ers, the fac­tory en­sured the job was done neatly, some­times cut­ting into the stock wood in a pro­fes­sional man­ner.

Rather than the half-minute clicks of the PH16 se­ries, the PH17 pro­vided quar­ter­minute clicks. This ter­mi­nol­ogy means the sight al­lowed four clicks for each minute of an­gle and Webley ex­plained in their in­struc­tion hand­books that this re­lated to a change in the pel­let’s im­pact of one tenth of an inch at 20 yards. Au­di­ble clicks, which could also be felt, were pop­u­lar with small-bore shoot­ers as they did not re­quire the shooter to look at their sights whilst ad­just­ing them – as long as they knew how many clicks to move the sight. Field tar­get shoot­ers used a sim­i­lar prin­ci­ple on their scopes un­til large tur­rets al­lowed for dis­tances to be marked on their bod­ies. A quick-re­lease mech­a­nism en­abled the sight’s slide to be in­stantly re­moved or re­placed and a threaded eye­piece holder held a ‘midget’ six-hole eye­piece as stan­dard. The Vernier scale on the slide al­lowed very pre­cise ad­just­ments to be made and a record kept, but I found it eas­ier to re­tain a record of the num­ber of clicks be­tween ad­just­ments.

One par­tic­u­lar ‘3rd Se­ries’ Webley Mark 3 from around 1952, once owned by a match shooter, was fit­ted with a PH17B and FS22B com­bi­na­tion. The rear­sight had been re­moved

FIG­URE 4 FIG­URE 3 Fig­ure 1: An early Mark 3 (SN 15836) fit­ted with the more com­mon PH16M aper­ture sight, en­abling both field and tar­get use Fig­ure 2: Some match shoot­ers, par­tic­u­larly from the Chan­nel Is­lands favoured the use of a sling as ev­i­denced by...

FIG­URE 5 FIG­URE 6 Fig­ure 5: PH16M swung to the side to al­low use of the open sights. Note PH60 ‘ tubu­lar’ six-hole eye­piece Fig­ure 6: The PH17B came with a ‘midget’ eye­piece, which of­fered a choice of six aper­ture sizes





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