Back to the ‘80s
Tim Finley takes us back to the days when springers were the hottest
Tim Finley goes back a few decades in time with a Webley Vulcan, Tasco scope and all
I began working as an apprentice blacksmith for British Rail in October 1982, earning £31 a week, and one of my first purchases, in early 1983, was a break-barrelled spring rifle, the Webley Vulcan in .22. I bought it because it was at the top end in terms of power levels back then, deemed more powerful than the equivalent BSAs. I had been a BSA man (or boy) until then and owned a BSA Super Meteor only capable of 10 ft.lbs. on a good day with a following wind, so the promise of a British-made gun near the 12 ft.lbs. legal limit was tempting indeed. I was ‘going Webley’ because I’d already bought a Tempest with my first couple of wage packets – you might know the story of that from my article last year. The Webley Vulcan was launched in 1979 as the MKI, of course, and it came in a golden era of spring rifles before the rise to dominance of pre-charged pneumatics.
EMERGING FT SCENE
The MKII Vulcan was launched in 1981 to coincide with the rise of field-shooting competitions. It had a better stock, with white spacers under the black grip cap and butt pad, and a thicker, 16mm barrel and bigger front sight. I bought my Vulcan MKII in February of 1983, when Feinwerkbau Sport MKIIs and Original 45s dominated the fledgling outdoor target-shooting scene – it wasn’t even called ‘field target’ back then – and the new Weihrauch HW80 was beginning to be seen more and more.
In the February issue of Airgun World that year, there was a Webley advert on page ten and the recommended retail price of the Vulcan was £73.50. I went to my local gun shop in Doncaster and bought the a .22 MKII Vulcan, with a fur-lined bag and a Viking 4 x 32 non-parallax scope with two-piece scope mounts for, if I remember rightly, 85 quid in cold hard cash – you could get some good deals from gun shops back then.
I loved that gun and when my interest was piqued in what was by then called ‘FT’ in 1987, I realised from reading Airgun World that I needed a .177, so I bought a .177 barrel, put that on, and joined Don Valley Field
“I went to my local gun shop in Doncaster and bought the a .22 MKII Vulcan”
Target Club. I scored seven out of 20 on my first-ever proper FT course on knock-down metal targets. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I loved it, and the rest is history. I fitted an adjustable butt pad, brass rigger shoe, Venom muzzle brake and a barrel lock on the now .177 Vulcan to improve the accuracy, but I knew the Vulcan was not an FT rifle I could win with, so I then bought my first HW77 and Tasco 4x32 AG scope. I gifted the Vulcan to my best mate, to whom I had already given my Webley Tempest. Roll forward to 2018 and he still has it, but I’d already prised the Tempest out of his hands, so didn’t want to take the Vulcan off him, too, but getting the Tempest back made me determined to get a Webley Vulcan back in my hands.
BACK IN TIME
After a quick look on Guntrader, I had a Webley Vulcan in my sights. From the pictures and serial number, it looked like a MKIII. This last Vulcan mark was launched in 1985 with a better trigger than the MKI/MKIIs. The later ones had a two-stage trigger, and they were needed because the trigger was ‘basic’ to say the least on the MKI/IIs. It came with a
“When the gun arrived, I was over the moon. It was in good nick”
moderator and a BSA 4 x 32 scope; the stock looked clean, not drilled for sling swivels, and it turned out to be an early MKIII and it still had white spacers on the grip and butt. Also, it was a very fair price – all-in at £160 – so I talked to Antony, at Shooting Supplies of Bromsgrove, where the gun was available. What a great guy to deal with, and looking at their website, it’s a proper gun shop, too.
When the gun arrived, I was over the moon. It was in good nick, and the moderator turned out to be a Pro System steel one made for Webley. It’s a very clever push-on system, and this meant that the end of the barrel was standard so I could fit a new front sight to put it back to factory spec. John Knibbs is always my first stop for airgun parts, and £35.50 had a new front sight and steel hood winging their way to deepest Yorkshire.
I was left with the clean-up process, and the issue of putting on the scope. It was an early MKIII with the wider trigger blade, but not the two-stage trigger, and I wanted a period scope to go on it because the BSA was not really the correct scope. In fact, I struck very lucky because my mate, Dave Wylde from Valkyrie Rifles, had given me a Tasco scope from the 1980s that he’d acquired and it had the classic ‘TV screen’ sight picture that was popular back then. It also happened to be on page two of the Airgun World February 1983 issue. A full-page Tasco advert had the same 4 x 40 WA 648FM scope. From another advert on page three, I noticed that it cost £45.50 in 1983, so it was a top-end optic back then – this was way back when Tasco scopes were made in Japan.
Once the Vulcan was all put together, I was transported back to 1983 and got to shooting it. Power levels were at 10.8 ft.lbs. with ten shots not varying by six fps, not bad at all – the trigger weight was 1.4kg and predictable, too. It’s true that guns back then were not as refined as the modern era of springers, but surely that’s the point. All I need now is a BSA MKII from 1966. Anyone have one for sale? I
POINTS OF INTEREST
Airguns can take you back in time to your early days of shooting. When you shoot them, the happy memories come flooding back – priceless!
Shooting our modern airgun heritage. Older guns can do this!
As delivered from the shop, with steel moderator and BSA 4 x 32 scope.
My 1987 competition Vulcan. I loved that rifle.
Scoped in period Tasco and ready to transport me back to the 1980s!
Webley made sure the model name stood out by picking it out in gold. Engraving it between the sight fixing grooves meant it all but vanished once a scope was fitted, though.
Trigger performance was never a strong point on those early Vulcans but this one was usuable, if not refined.
I managed to fit the correct foresight.