Webley & Scott Empire Rifle: New Gun Review

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The new Webley & Scott Empire Rifle is a modern classic.

Read more at Webley & Scott: http://legacysports.com/empire-rifle

Buy one on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=webley%20%26%20Scott

Webley & Scott is launching a new, traditionally-styled hunting rifle with classic highlights including a checkered walnut stock, jeweled and knurled bolt and an optional scope at a nice and affordable price point. Made by Howa, the new Empire Rifle is a solid buy for hunters looking for a gun with a little more class than your average entry-level bolt gun, and it’s available now chambered for popular hunting rifle cartridges.

The Empire Rifle: Everything Old is New Again

That goes double for the blued steel, wood stocked hunting rifle. I recently brought my Mauser M12 chambered for .308 Winchester to the range. With a plethora of black guns on display, the wood-stocked Mauser was the one getting the attention. There’s just something appealing about the traditional combination of wood and steel. I get the same reaction shooting the Webley & Scott Empire Rifle.

My Mauser is my favorite hunting rifle. It’s a great featured gun with a $1,799 suggested retail price, and the first time I shot it, it felt like an old friend. It fit like a favorite pair of jeans — comfortable and familiar. But at half the price, the Empire Rifle has that same feel. It’s an accurate and easy-to-shoot rifle that ranks well above its price point.

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The Empire Rifle, top, with a much more expensive Mauser, bottom.

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The Webley & Scott has simple and functional checkering on the grip and forend.

It may have a traditional look, but the materials and manufacture are strictly modern. The barrel and action are made for Webley & Scott by Howa, which is a good thing. With their hammer-forged barrels, Howa rifles has an established reputation for accuracy right out of the box, and the action is paired with an Italian walnut stock by Minelli.

While the inletting is precise, the checkering isn’t cut very deeply, although it’s enough to provide a positive grip. It’s clear that they found ways to lower the price point without sacrificing the elements that underwrite its performance. They’ve also added a well-fitted rosewood forend and pistol grip cap to dress up the stock, giving it a nice, classic look. The action is pillar-bedded to the stock and the barrel is free-floating for consistent accuracy from shot to shot.

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The bolt is jeweled with a knurled bolt handle.

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And the engravings are clear and well-defined.

Ammunition is fed from a steel 5-round detachable magazine with plastic follower. The rifle can be loaded through the action to top off the magazine or fire single shots. My rifle is chambered for .270 Winchester.

Howa has an excellent double action trigger assembly they call the HACT, for Howa Acuator Controlled Trigger. They also use this trigger with the Howa 1500 and Weatherby Vanguard. It’s a two-stage trigger with an light take-up and a 3-pound break. It’s a nice trigger with no creep and a clean break, just what you want for best accuracy. The only change I’d make would be to add a stop screw to the trigger guard to minimize overtravel. An easy do-it-yourself mod and by no means essential.

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The pistol grip cap is engraved rosewood.

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To match the rosewood forend tip.

Specifications:

  • Caliber: .243, .270 and .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, 7mm-08 Remington
  • Capacity: 5-round detachable steel box magazine
  • Barrel length: 22 inches, 1-in-10 twist
  • Length overall: 42.25 inches
  • Weight: 7.8 pounds, 9 pounds with scope and rings
  • Optional scope: Nikko Stirling 3-9x40mm Mil-dot reticle
  • MSRP: base rifle, $956; $1,087 with scope

At the Range

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The rifle achieved sub-MOA accuracy with 3-shot groups.

The Webley & Scott Empire Rifle is comfortable to shoot. The thick rubber buttpad does a good job of absorbing the recoil. The excellent trigger makes it easy to place. While I shot mostly from a Caldwell Lead Sled to minimize shooter error and to spare my shoulder, it would be easy to make shots offhand on game animals. In a hunting situation, you wouldn’t notice the recoil at all.

With long cartridges like .270 Win., if you don’t consciously bring the bolt completely to the rear, it’s easy to short-stroke the bolt and if you don’t consciously cycle the bolt completely to the rear. Hopefully, you’ll never need a second shot, but if you do, you don’t want to hear a click as that big buck vanishes into the trees.

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Though some 5-shot groups wandered.

I like the three-position thumb safety. It’s easy to access with the rifle shouldered although not completely silent. The full forward position is the fire position. The middle position is safe but allows manipulation of the bolt to unload the chamber with the safety on. The rearmost safe position locks the bolt handle, convenient when moving with a round chambered.

In testing there were three equipment variables in play: the rifle, the scope, and the ammo.The rifle performed flawlessly chambering single rounds manually inserted from the top of the action as well as from the magazine.

My rifle’s Nikko Stirling Panamax scope was easy to sight-in with positive 1/4-MOA click-adjustable turrets and a smooth variable-power adjustment ring.

I used two brands of common hunting ammunition throughout testing, both 130-grain loads; Remington Core-Lokt and Federal Premium Fusion.

Demonstrated Accuracy

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The rifle is offered with an optional inexpensive, but effective scope.

Webley & Scott recommends a 20-round break-in procedure where you let the barrel cool and clean it between each shot for the first ten rounds, then again every between every other shot for the next ten rounds. I continued to break in the rifle for the first 40 rounds before any accuracy testing.

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The Panamax scope is click-asjustable in 1/4-MOA increments.

With targets set 100 yards away, I first shot 2- to 3-inch 5-shot groups with the Remington ammo. Federal Fusion performed a little better overall and I was able to get sub-MOA 3-shot groups with both brands. I believe that with premium ammo, you could get even smaller, more consistent groups. Sub-MOA rifles are the norm these days thanks to better materials and machining and the Webley & Scott Empire Rifle definitely holds its own with today’s competition.

The Nikko Stirling Panamax is not an expensive scope, with a street price of around $125, but, it performed well. It was also a good match for a hunting rifle as 3-9x is a good all-around power range. For those on a limited budget, buying the package gives you the scope, base, and rings for about the added price of the scope alone, so it’s a good deal.

Closing Thoughts on the Webley & Scott

So would I trade my Mauser for a Webley & Scott? No. The Mauser simply has some features I prefer, such as the bolt body the same diameter as the lugs which makes for a very smooth action. Besides, it’s already paid for.

Do I think the Webley & Scott Empire Rifle is a solid product? Yes. You get many of the features of rifles that cost twice as much in a good-looking, fine-shooting package. In addition, these rifles have an excellent reputation with proven long-term performance.

If you like the traditional look of hardwood and blued steel, you owe it to yourself to take a closer look. It’s an elegant gun and an excellent value. The Webley & Scott Empire rifle is currently available and shipping to distributors. If your local shop doesn’t have any in stock you can have them order one directly from Legacy Imports in all five calibers.

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For a moderately-priced hunting rifle, the Empire has polish.

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It shoulders and handles like much more expensive guns.

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The combo models come with all the scope mounting hardware.

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A Howa by any other name.

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • DEBO February 11, 2016, 1:17 pm

    If you’re coming out with a “New” gun, Don’t come out with a gun that is not even as good as the average gun out there!! There are so many guns out there that are so much better than this gun… We need to get rid of the 100 yard accuracy tests and start using 500 and 1000 yards as the standard MOA tests!!! We need guns that are Sub MOA at 1000 Yards with “Factory-Hunting” Ammo that sells for under $1000.00!!! And we need someone to compete against Burris Elem-3 and take it to the “Next-Level” for Scopes to reach out to “OVER” 1500M on 3D targets and include wind, bullet drop, and range all included in the scope!! We shouldn’t have to carry 30 LBs of gear and if you drop one like your range finder, or forget one like your wind meter in the truck and you come across a Monster Elk that you will never get a chance to shoot again and he’s like 450 yards out you may loose it even if you have all the gear with you!! As it takes a long time to fumble around with digging each piece of equipment out and find the wind speed, then put that away then dig out the range finder, range it, then put that away then dig out the B/C to get the bullet drop, then get down into a position to shoot and then adjust the scope, and hope the elk hasn’t died from old age by then or moved into the next county!!! I want a scope that all I have to do is see the Elk, get in the position to shoot, push a button on the scope and a dot pops up in the scope where to put it! Then just put the dot in the vitals and pull the trigger!!! Then go get my Trophy Elk!! And sell the combo Scope and Rifle for under $2000.00!! THAT’S WHAT TONS OF US ARE WAITING FOR!! We need it in 300WM and come with a 2.5lb or less trigger thats adj, and comes standard with the “Best” Muzzle “Brake” and shocks and gel in the Butt to reduce the Recoil way down so we can shoot it without dislocating our Shoulders!!! We want to shoot “Weekly” not once a year!! We want to practice at 1000yards so if we get a chance to get something in 400-500 Yard Range it will be a easy shot… All I care about is filling the freezer, and have fun doing it!!! So if you’re making guns or Scopes This is what we want!!!!! Please make both in “CAMO”!! I don’t care if you want to have a fancy wood model but I only care about hunting and want “Dull” Camo (Like Mossy Oak) so the Deer and Elk won’t see a mile away like shinny Wood and shinny barrels or shinny Scopes would do!! So I hope someone from W/S reads this and sends it to the the people that can make what we need ASAP!!!

  • frhunter13 February 10, 2016, 1:43 pm

    Booring. Yawn. How about some bullpup bolt action hunting rifles please?

  • matt fosdick February 9, 2016, 6:28 pm

    I have always questioned the quality of the Howa barrels,they insist on a break in procedure that seems ridiculous . Shoot (1) shot,clean barrel,shoot another shot ,clean the barrel,repeat ,20 times,now shoot (2) shots,clean the barrel>>>>>>> you get the point. What kind of mild Chinese steel are they using. For 1K you could do much better in my humble opinion .

    • Waynejessie August 9, 2017, 5:08 pm

      Obviously if you question Howa’s barrel quality you have not owned one. I do and can verify that they’ll shoot with guns costing much more. Their barrel break in procedures are quite similar to many custom barrel makers. I broke my Howa 243 varmit in per instructions and it shots great with little fouling or walking. They are great quality guns for the money

  • Clinton Greywolf February 8, 2016, 6:19 pm

    Webley & Scott, PO Box 10431, Lutterwoth, LE17 9ES
    Please note the address I got from your link to their website. You didn’t mention this in the article. I owned a British BSA once, it was pretty, but it came with excessive headspace and I returned the junk rifle to the seller.
    Considering the lousy groups this one turned in and the obvious attitude of the Brits toward guns (can you even buy and own one in Great Britain?), why in the world would one review it, much less own it? Same goes for that Mauser you mentioned. BUY AMERICAN !!!

    • Matt February 8, 2016, 8:18 pm

      Where do you think the gun is made. Did you read the article?

  • Dave McThorn February 8, 2016, 4:22 pm

    Can’t we all just get along? I am seeing this more and more in the last few years, people wanting to jump right in to criticize, bad mouth, or put down some one else! Wouldn’t the world be a little bit better place to make your home at, if people could just worry how they spelled or how they used their grammar? Mr. James got his point across to me just fine! And hopefully I am also? I admit it I am no English professor but I can usually stumble though writing my point. Make this place “WE” call home a bit easier to live on and every one just worry about themselves and SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!!

  • Al Zermeno February 8, 2016, 2:31 pm

    So this is a Weatherby Vanguard with a jeweled bolt, and slightly nicer wood stock?

  • Al Zermeno February 8, 2016, 2:29 pm

    So this is a renamed Weatherby Vanguard with the wood stock, offered in the same caliber offerings?

  • Powder Burns February 8, 2016, 12:53 pm

    $1000.00 for a Rifle that can’t hold it’s zero? It’s not available in left hand, has that stupid cheek piece that makes it impossible to shoot left hand, and has plastic parts? Seriously? I think I’ll buy a Savage, a Wetherby, or even a Remington instead. Howa has some work to do.

    • Waynejessie August 9, 2017, 5:13 pm

      First, you have no clue what caused the group to open up. I’d bet money it wasn’t the barrel but the cheap POS Chinese scopes they put on these guns. They have a history of not holding zero. I’ve got a Howa 1500 heavy barrel varmit in 243 that I’d put up against any bone stock a Savage or Remington.

  • Mr James February 7, 2016, 11:11 pm

    I see here a classic 21 century long arm which in any long-term familyized relationship will outlast every other trendy gota have faddy, devised to attract the bugs to a flower. These long arms matain the best principles of owning and passing down concept, proud ownership, duty to and for all and a basic call for arms present in any civilized society. These arms will always prove itself a complete and sain personality. I’ll take 1 in every caliber. And just to say ,many other arm makers do the same design, build and persona.

    • Scott February 8, 2016, 8:07 am

      Mr. James I agree with you one-hundred percent, but please brush up on your writing skills, such as spelling and grammar.

      • Steve February 8, 2016, 10:56 am

        Is it really necessary to criticize Mr. James’ syntax? For a variety of reasons, he may be incapable of improving his writing skills and might well be self conscious enough as it is. You and I both understood his sentiment which is all that is required for a post to a firearms related article. I too abhor poor grammar, but one of the responsibilities of intelligence is exercising restraint in criticizing those less fortunate in that area. All of that aside, I too like the rifle though the size of the five shot groups trouble me. Unless the barrel is much thinner than it appears, barrel heating shouldn’t be an issue and I would want to know why the groups open up so much.

        • Mark Smith February 8, 2016, 1:57 pm

          Scott did not walk up and viciously berate some random Down’s Syndrome patient on the street. Scott responded to an affected and barely comprehensible internet post. If someone like Mr. James has internet access, he also has access to several free online dictionaries and probably also has grammar and spelling checkers available. Steve and Jay, instead of affirming the self-esteem and affectations of the incompetent and ignorant, I suggest motivating them to do better.

          Mr. James, please use the resources at hand so that you may communicate understandably.

      • Jay Cole February 8, 2016, 12:09 pm

        Scott – This is a FREE blog where gun guys come and post articles for little or no pay so the rest of us can get thumbnail sketches on some neat weapons & stuff. Stay relevant or buzz off! Btw, you sure like commas and dependent clauses… Please brush up on that.

      • AlvinKYTN February 8, 2016, 9:27 pm

        Get off the comment section you self righteous grammar NUT!

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