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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.