By Iain Harrison
When I was contacted by the producers for this episode, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive being called in as the expert. Sure, I own a couple of the guns in question and have fond memories of some of their siblings from the British martial arsenal, but expert, I ain’t. So what do you do when you need the inside scoop and historical background on a Webley revolver? Simple, you contact Phil Schreier at the National Firearms Museum, and pick his brains, long before you get anywhere near a plane bound for California.
Going into this episode, I knew that the competitors would probably not have touched any guns from that period, so I was keen that they’d get the full experience. So many of the Webleys that were imported to the U.S. wound up with the back of their cylinders shaved down to accept .45 ACP ammo in moon clips, but this in my humble opinion was a travesty, sort of like taking an original Colt SAA and chambering it for .45 GAP. So .455 Webley it had to be.
Of all the red team members who shot the Mk VI in practice, Chee was the guy who absolutely nailed it. He was competent at both single and double action manipulation and showed a quiet mental toughness that due to being benched in previous challenges, never came to the fore. Gabby on the other hand had real problems in shooting the revolver double action and decided ahead of time that she would take the time penalty involved in cocking the weapon between shots if she had to shoot it in competition. I was surprised that Terry’s only encounter with the gun was while watching Indiana Jones, but apparently his teammates didn’t hold that against him.
The blue team’s decision to sit out Gabby probably cost them the game. If they had known about the problems she encountered with the handgun, their choice may have been different.
To give you an idea of the type of stress that competition can induce, particularly when there’s 100k on the line, I personally shot all the targets you saw in the high speed footage. Because the timer was off and the only folks around were the crew, there was a lot less pressure involved and the task of sending rounds downrange was a pleasant afternoon diversion, rather than the deciding factor in a competition The problem most shooters had was over leading the target–the proper hold was about 1/3 of the jar but most rounds were sent way ahead. The red team communicated this early to their teammates, while the blues took much longer to figure it out.
With only four choices, the trip to the elimination took a lot less time than in previous episodes with Terry and Greg heading to face the Lee Enfield MkIII. I had the opportunity to introduce both of them to methods of manipulating a bolt gun that might have been foreign to anyone raised on a conventional rifle, which was very satisfying for someone whose great-grandfather was part of the British infantry who perished at the Somme. The men who fought and died in that horrific conflict knew a thing or two about ripping a bolt.
I really hoped that Terry would carry the torch in this competition, but I can’t detract from Greg’s performance. He won fair and square, perhaps gaining an advantage from his experience with his own 1903 Springfield. By far, the biggest hill to climb was weapon manipulation and getting used to the rifle’s point of aim. When I shot it, I noticed that rifle needed the shooter to cut the target in half with the front sight, rather than use a conventional 6 o’clock point of aim.
Next week brings two other Top Shot alumni appearing for the longest shot ever taken on the show. My friends Kelly Bachand and George Reinas get to shoot another British rifle from the modern era–the Accuracy International in .338 Lapua Magnum.