Phill Price ex­am­ines a We­b­ley Eclipse – a ver­sa­tile and re­li­able ri­fle with star qual­ity

Is this in­no­va­tive and com­pact ri­fle the ul­ti­mate rat­ter?

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Ilooked at the side of my com­post bin and my heart sank. ‘They’re back,’ I thought, and I knew I needed to make a plan. Rats come and go in my gar­den and seem to think that the very finest res­i­dence is my Dalek- shaped com­post bin. It’s not the first time I’ve had this prob­lem. Af­ter the last in­fes­ta­tion I put chicken wire un­der the bin, but th­ese lit­tle blighters had found small space to get through and were in res­i­dence right be­side my house. High ve­loc­ity lead would be my so­lu­tion, but I needed a com­pact ri­fle with mod­est power to de­liver it.

We­b­ley has a fam­ily of ri­fles all based on a com­mon ac­tion that in­cludes the Eclipse you see on test. The ac­tion block is clearly ver­sa­tile be­cause it can de­liver high, FACrated power, and the 5 ft.lbs.- plus that you see on of­fer here. This mod­est power de­liv­ery looked just right for my needs be­cause I’d be shoot­ing be­tween my house and our neigh­bour’s, so the dan­ger of a

dam­ag­ing ric­o­chet was clearly un­ac­cept­able.

The Eclipse is un­usual be­cause it comes in a hard shell case and needs its stock at­tached with a sturdy bolt be­fore it’s ready to shoot. It can be shot as a pis­tol, which ex­plains the re­stricted power, but you’d need to be a pro­fes­sional body builder to hold it up. The sys­tem makes much more sense as an ul­tra- car­bine, close- range spe­cial­ist rat­ting tool. The tac­ti­cal lay­out de­liv­ers much the same fea­tures as an as­sault ri­fle, in that it’s short and handy and

comes on aim in the blink of an eye, and in this role it makes sense to me.

If your pest con­trol work in­volves com­ing and go­ing from build­ings that are over­looked by Joe pub­lic, the carry case is very dis­creet and would at­tract no more at­ten­tion than a bat­tery drill box. It has a fair depth of pad­ding and some nice solid locks, so is a wel­come ad­di­tion to a ri­fle at this price.

AM­BIDEX­TROUS

Be­ing so short and neat, the Eclipse is eas­ily han­dled in and around sheds, barns, grains stores and sta­bles. It wears a tough syn­thetic stock that will ac­cept the in­evitable bashes and knocks this kind of work dishes out, with­out worry or too much degra­da­tion of its good looks. The M4- style stock is ad­justable for length of pull and of­fers an ad­justable height cheek piece. The lat­ter func­tion is worth its weight in gold, be­cause it dra­mat­i­cally re­duces par­al­lax er­ror, a hid­den source of misses that’s so dif­fi­cult to ex­plain. It seems hard to grasp, but par­al­lax er­ror gets big­ger as the ranges get shorter, so don’t un­der­es­ti­mate just how im­por­tant this fea­ture is.

Pis­tol grips are the norm for ri­fles like this, but this one stands out. It forms a bridge be­tween the typ­i­cal

as­sault ri­fle job and an er­gonomic

tar­get pis­tol one. As is stan­dard th­ese days, it’s am­bidex­trous, yet fea­tures enough cuts, grooves and notches to bog­gle the mind. How­ever, once held, all those shapes make sense as it fills the palm and ar­ranges your fin­gers. What the cut- outs to­wards the rear are for still re­mains a mys­tery, though. I found the reach to the trig­ger blade quite short, even for my medium- sized hand, so if you have big paws you should han­dle one of th­ese be­fore you buy.

The trig­ger unit it­self is a twostage ad­justable af­fair, set with a rather long se­cond stage that was quite in­dis­tinct at its let- off point. It broke at just over two pounds which is very nice for a pro­duc­tion gun like this. I’m sure a skilled gun­smith could re­lease its full po­ten­tial with a lit­tle time and pa­tience.

IN­NO­VA­TION

The air reser­voir sits in the con­ven­tional bar­rel- over- reser­voir lo­ca­tion and is filled with a brass probe through a port just be­hind the muz­zle. A ro­tary col­lar cov­ers this del­i­cate ori­fice and per­forms the ohso- im­por­tant job of keep­ing dust and dirt out of the ri­fle’s del­i­cate in­ter­nal mech­a­nism. I was pleased to see that the reser­voir pres­sure gauge is in the belly on the stock, just in front of the trig­ger guard rather than up near the muz­zle. This po­si­tion just feels safer than putting the muz­zle close to your face.

The max­i­mum fill pres­sure is 200bar and I’m told that we should ex­pect some 40 shots per fill from the pro­duc­tion guns. We should also ex­pect around 5.5ft.lbs. in both .177 and .22 calibres al­though my pro­to­type de­liv­ered less than that, but as the ac­tion is ca­pa­ble of huge power out­puts in its full- length ver­sions, I can’t see muz­zle en­ergy be­ing an is­sue.

Al­though the stock is am­bidex­trous, the side lever piv­ots on the left side of the ac­tion, which is a chal­lenge to the norm. The logic here was that for right- handed shoot­ers the ri­fle could be held on aim, with your trig­ger hand still on the pis­tol grip, whilst your left hand cy­cles the ac­tion, and there’s no doubt that this works. Time will tell how this is ac­cepted, but I ap­plaud We­b­ley for the in­no­va­tion.

VER­SA­TIL­ITY

The ac­tion block you see in the pic­tures of­fers a lit­tle con­fu­sion in terms of scope mount­ing. Al­though it looks like the mil­i­tary spec’ Pi­catinny stan­dard, the pro­to­type sup­plied to me was ac­tu­ally an 11mm air­gun stan­dard job with cross- cuts, whilst the pro­duc­tion guns will have the proper Pi­catinny rail. This means that you’d need the match­ing mounts and that your ex­ist­ing 11mm mounts will be re­dun­dant.

To en­sure ver­sa­til­ity, I fit­ted a Nikko Ster­ling 3- 9 x 40 scope with par­al­lax ad­just­ment that comes down to 10 yards, which is vi­tal for close- range rat­ting work. I’d have liked a smaller scope still, which I feel would have bet­ter suited the diminu­tive stature of the Eclipse. Bulky scopes have a top- heavy ef­fect on any gun, but on a light­weight their mass is more no­tice­able. That be­ing said, the Eclipse has enough mass to feel steady on aim, which for me is very im­por­tant. Air­gun hunt­ing is all about ac­cu­racy, no mat­ter the range, and pre­cise shot place­ment is aided by a sta­ble ri­fle.

NO CHANGE IN ZERO

Re­gard­less of any ri­fle’s con­fig­u­ra­tion, it must be ac­cu­rate or I have no in­ter­est in it and I’m pleased to re­port that this pro­to­type printed ½” groups at 25 yards with the We­b­ley Mos­quito pel­lets, plus the odd flyer that spoilt the group. This means that at 10 to 15 yards it will put a pel­let through a rat’s brain ev­ery time, as long as we do our part.

To get my­self used to the Eclipse’s un­usual con­fig­u­ra­tion, I gath­ered up some small wind­fall ap­ples and put them out at 15 yards. Com­ing up on aim and tak­ing the shot smartly, I be­gan to see the ben­e­fits of this lay­out. I’d fit­ted my standby Weihrauch si­lencer which is the in­dus­try stan­dard and which made the Eclipse very quiet in­deed. It also added a lit­tle muz­zle weight, which aided sta­bil­ity with­out slow­ing mount­ing down too much. In­ter­est­ingly, I found no change in zero with the si­lencer fit­ted or with­out.

I found that I was eas­ily able to ex­plode the 1” ap­ples al­most ev­ery time, even when shoot­ing re­ally fast. Now, I’d never shoot at a liv­ing crea­ture like that, but it proved the con­cept and was great fun in the process. I’ll be open and say that the tac­ti­cal look is not my cup of tea,

but as a hard- work­ing rat­ter I can see that it makes sense here. I also noted that the long se­cond- stage of the trig­ger was less no­tice­able in this sce­nario than when try­ing to shoot per­fect groups from the bench. It’s well ac­cepted that this type of stock doesn’t shoot well from the bench and bags, so per­haps that would ex­plain my ad­di­tional fo­cus on the trig­ger.

STAR QUAL­ITY

As ever, I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated an ad­justable height cheek piece be­cause it nat­u­rally aligns your eye with the scope and elim­i­nates any un­nec­es­sary ad­just­ments of your head po­si­tion while you’re try­ing to get onto a shot. I re­ally do be­lieve that they are the fu­ture all high­per­for­mance air­guns and are a def­i­nite aid to bet­ter per­for­mance.

I won­dered how the fir­ing cy­cle would be with such a mod­est power out­put and un­sur­pris­ingly, it was soft and al­most rub­bery. An ac­tion ca­pa­ble of such im­mense power run­ning at tick- over can be un­der al­most no stress at all, so it’s log­i­cal that it would be smooth and quiet, with the si­lencer on. With it off, I was sur­prised at just how noisy the Eclipse was, but I guess the 11¼” bar­rel was bound to bark. Later mod­els will have slightly longer bar­rels, but I don’t think they’ll af­fect per­for­mance one way or the other.

Per­haps you’re won­der­ing if I got my gar­den rat and I have to an­nounce that sadly, I did not. I waited with the Eclipse on a rest for a few hours a cou­ple of times, but I think their ab­sence might be ex­plained by my neigh­bour’s love of poi­son when it comes to rat vis­its. I don’t like the idea of in­tro­duc­ing poi­son to the coun­try­side, but what my neigh­bour does in his own gar­den is up to him. I did have com­plete con­fi­dence that the hugely un­usual Eclipse would have de­liv­ered the goods if I’d got my sights on Mr Rat. A sub 6ft.lbs. ri­fle isn’t for ev­ery­body and ev­ery hunt­ing sit­u­a­tion, but as a close- range rat­ter I think it has star qual­ity.

BELOW: It can be a pis­tol but it’s a bet­ter ri­fle

ABOVE: In con­fined spa­ces this ri­fle re­ally shines

MID­DLE: The stock is fixed with this bolt

TOP: With the stock re­moved it drops into the car­ry­ing case sup­plied

BOT­TOM: The pro­duc­tion guns will have a stan­dard Pi­catinny scope rail

TOP: Fit any 1/2” UNF threaded si­lencer you like MID­DLE: A press of the lever short­ens the stock ... BOT­TOM: ... or ex­tends it fully

BOT­TOM: This ri­fle is ‘ tac­ti­cal’ all the way

TOP: I ap­prove of the pres­sure gauge’s lo­ca­tion

MID­DLE: The 14- shot mag­a­zine was easy to load and worked fault­lessly

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