John Milewski profiles the fascinating Erma/Webley Ranger
We are used to seeing CO2-powered firearm clones today, some of which are very realistic, but how many spring guns do you know of that resemble a cartridge arm as closely as a CO2 arm? One that immediately comes to mind is the 1980s Erma ELG 10, better known as the Webley Ranger in the UK. This air rifle was based on Erma’s .22 rimfire copy of the Winchester lever-action rifle that is so familiar to cowboy fans today. The Ranger was an expensive item when it was imported by Webley during the 1980s, and sold for £132 at a time when a top-ofthe-range Webley Vulcan Deluxe sold for £75. To be fair, it was intended as a collector’s item from the start and good examples have retained their value over the years, selling for over £400 today.
Two principle variants can be found. One stamped ‘WEBLEY RANGER’ and the other only with Erma’s details. To Webley purists, the presence of the Webley stamp makes this version more desirable, but if you want an example to display or use and are lucky enough to be offered a choice of the two, my advice is to go for the one in better condition, everything else being equal. The rifle itself is a very realistic copy of the Winchester and, at a glance, it is hard to believe that this is actually a springer. The stock is a two-piece affair, just as on the original, and consists of a walnut butt along with a walnut fore end and handguard. The slab-sided breech block contains the hidden working parts, and due to the necessity of keeping the piston and mainspring out of sight, power is limited. The makers have done a commendable job of hiding the powerplant and externally, this air rifle looks like a cartridge arm in every respect.
To cock the Ranger, you use the lever, just as you would on the original, but using a slightly
different technique to the one that John Wayne may have used. As the lever is used to cock the mainspring, it takes considerably more effort than the Winchester’s, which only travelled far enough to unlock the action, eject an empty case if a round had already been fired, and load another. The Ranger’s must travel in a far wider arc and a somewhat ungainly cocking method has to be used out of necessity, which involves bracing the rifle and arcing the lever down and forward. An anti-bear trap ratchet stops the lever from trapping your hand if the sear fails, and can be heard as the lever is used to cock the rifle. The lever is not the most comfortable cocking lever to use, but it helps to look the part so any discomfort here is acceptable. A long shooting session can become uncomfortable, but a few occasional shots with the Ranger will not hurt you.
Once fully cocked, the breech cover, which resembles an ejection port, retracts and exposes the barrel for loading, in a similar manner to an HW77. Keep a tight hold of the underlever and load a pellet directly into the barrel before bringing the underlever back through its arc and into its resting place under the wrist of the butt. The Ranger comes in .177 only and, on test, shot Accupells at around 400 FPS. I tried a number of other pellets, but Accupells were the most accurate.
The rearsight is in character with the rest of the rifle and although basic, works well enough and offers a clear enough sight picture. Elevation adjustments are possible but I found no adjustments were necessary when using Accupells because the rifle consistently shot where it was pointed. With a relatively lowpowered arm such as this, target type and distance ought to be kept realistic to avoid disappointment and I enjoyed myself by simply bouncing an empty baked bean tin around the range, starting from six yards and still being able to land the odd hit at 20. By all means, use paper targets to zero the rifle initially, but if you then switch to reactive targets such as that bouncing tin, you will get a lot out of using this rifle.
When the shooting session is over or if you get a pellet jammed in the barrel, the Ranger comes with its own clearing rod. This is housed in the dummy magazine located directly under the barrel and accessed by unscrewing the plug under the muzzle. As to post-shoot maintenance, a quick wipe over with a silicone or wax cloth will keep a nice sheen on the walnut woodwork and the same cloth will keep the metal/alloy parts in pristine condition.
The Webley Ranger is a classic 1980s air rifle that makes for a usable arm and is collectable. It displays well and shoots well, resulting in a replica that works. As such, it can be described as somewhat unique and that may well go some way to explaining its popularity with collectors from the moment it was first launched on to the market.
Just like the lever-action rifle that the Ranger is modelled on, its balance is excellent and, in use, the rifle proved to be accurate, too.
The clean lines of the stock can be seen here. The Walnut polishes up well for display.
The dummy magazine under the barrel cleverly houses a clearing rod.
Wood to metal fit of the butt and fore end shown here is very good all round. Note the Webley Ranger stamp. The Webley Ranger resembles a Winchester more than an airgun. The rearsight might be basic, but it is made in the Winchester style and is
Cocking the Ranger might be uncomfortable, but worth putting up with, in view of the rifle’s clean lines.
The serial number can be seen when the lever is moved out of the way. ‘F’ in pentagon denotes German power limit, which is lower than the UK. The Webley Ranger resembles a Winchester more than an airgun.