WINCHESTERTYPE WIN­NER

John Milewski pro­files the fas­ci­nat­ing Erma/We­b­ley Ranger

Airgun World - - New Ground - First Success -

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.

RE­AL­IS­TIC

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.

COCK­ING LEVER

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.

CON­SIS­TENT

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.

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