The all-time clas­sic

The ed­i­tor fi­nally lives out a boy­hood dream

Air Gunner - - Con­tents -

More years ago than I care to re­mem­ber, I worked in a gun shop on Satur­days and han­dled ev­ery new air­gun that ar­rived with deep in­ter­est and all too of­ten, de­sire. At that time I was shoot­ing a We­b­ley Vul­can MK1, which was pow­er­ful but not too so­phis­ti­cated. One day, I ar­rived for work to find the fa­bled Weihrauch HW35 Ex­port on the gun rack and im­me­di­ately ran for the keys so that I could un­lock it. There, in my hands, was what I felt was the finest air­gun ever made and I was in awe. The weight of all that high-qual­ity steel felt re­as­sur­ing, and the smartly fin­ished wal­nut stock was head and shoul­ders above any­thing I’d seen be­fore. In my eyes, the Ger­mans had stolen a march on mak­ing air­guns feel like high-qual­ity firearms. Work­ing in a gun shop, I reg­u­larly han­dled top-qual­ity shot­guns and deer-stalk­ing ri­fles, so I knew all too well what could be done to make a gun feel spe­cial, if you could af­ford it.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

There was just one prob­lem – I couldn’t af­ford it. My mea­gre funds were al­ready stretched to the limit run­ning my En­duro mo­tor­bike in the off-road com­pe­ti­tions I was en­ter­ing. There was sim­ply no cash for a new air­gun.

As the years passed by, I was tempted by the HW35’s big brother, the HW80 and even­tu­ally bought one, imag­in­ing it su­pe­rior to the 35 by dint of be­ing even big­ger and heav­ier. I was wrong. The 80 was de­signed for the ex­port mar­kets where no power limit ex­isted, and when turned down to our 12 ft.lbs. needs, was too much gun. It was un­nec­es­sar­ily big and heavy, mak­ing it a poor choice for long trips afield. The ground-break­ing HW77 soon fol­lowed, along with my first foray into com­pe­ti­tion shoot­ing, be­fore I jumped aboard the good ship PCP and never looked back. How­ever, in re­cent years, some­where in the back of my mind was the yearn­ing to own an HW35E, my first true love. It had been my dream ri­fle and I felt that my gun cabi­net needed a springer of some kind, so that was the ob­vi­ous choice.

SPE­CIAL OR­DER ONLY

I con­tacted Hull Car­tridge, Weihrauch’s loyal

im­porter for 40 years, and asked if I could buy one. There was good news and bad. The good news was that they can still be or­dered. The bad news was that you can no longer have the 22” Ex­port length bar­rel. I was heart­bro­ken. When we saw the longer bar­rels all those years ago, we sim­ply ‘ knew’ that big­ger must have been bet­ter. Of course, we now know that it served no ben­e­fi­cial pur­pose at all, but I wanted one all the same. The long bar­rel made the Ex­port ver­sion stand out from the crowd, but hey ho, I could only have what was on of­fer.

Ev­ery­thing else looked just right. The stock on my gun is a nice dark wal­nut with fine che­quer­ing on the pis­tol grip, fin­ished with a white line spacer and a stepped black cap. The fore end has the trade­mark deep fin­ger grooves and the trig­ger guard is the clas­sic cast-metal unit that we all thought was so cool 35 years ago. Be­cause it uses an ar­tic­u­lated cock­ing link­age, the cut- out in the fore end is very short, mak­ing the stock feel strong and sta­ble. This lay­out also means that there are no screw heads vis­i­ble from the sides, adding to the clean looks.

BAR­REL LATCH

Per­haps the most rev­o­lu­tion­ary fea­ture of the HW35 was the slid­ing bar­rel latch. Again, we ‘ knew’ that this would make the ri­fle more ac­cu­rate. The solid me­chan­i­cal lock-up sim­ply had to en­sure per­fect align­ment of the bar­rel to the cylin­der, where the scope was fit­ted, so it made com­plete sense to us. The aura of this class-

“The bad news was that you can no longer have the 22” Ex­port length bar­rel. I was heart­bro­ken”

lead­ing brand’s engi­neer­ing ex­per­tise sim­ply blew our minds, and this in­no­va­tive fea­ture fu­elled our de­sire even more to own one.

In a neat piece of er­gonomic de­sign, the bar­rel latch dis­en­gages quite nat­u­rally as you slide your hand along the fore end, ready to pull the bar­rel down. With the latch re­leased there’s no need to bump the bar­rel down to start the cock­ing process. It quite nat­u­rally drops a few de­grees be­fore en­gag­ing the spring. With the breech open you’ll see that the bar­rel is fit­ted with a lock­ing nut, as are all mod­ern Weihrauchs. This mo­du­lar sys­tem is su­pe­rior to the old press-fit sys­tem in keep­ing the bore true.

In the name of pu­rity I in­tend to use the open sights, keep­ing the lines un­sul­lied by some vul­gar, bulky op­tic. Of course, fit­ting a mod­ern scope would re­veal the ri­fle’s true po­ten­tial, but as I only plan to use the ri­fle for plea­sure, ul­ti­mate ac­cu­racy is of no con­cern. I think the ones fit­ted are a more mod­ern ver­sion of the clas­sic sights and no doubt bet­ter for the im­prove­ments, but they keep much of the char­ac­ter of the orig­i­nals, which pleases me. The rear sight has a plate that can be ro­tated to dis­play four dif­fer­ent notches, whilst the hooded fore sight has in­ter­change­able el­e­ments as well. These are most cer­tainly su­pe­rior sights and can be set to suit al­most any taste.

RIGHT HEIGHT

The comb of the stock is set at the cor­rect height for open sights and the ri­fle comes very nat­u­rally to the aim this way. I find it odd and a lit­tle sad, in all the time this ri­fle has ex­isted, that very few man­u­fac­tur­ers have cor­rected the height of their stocks to suit the near uni­ver­sal up­take of scopes. Most, if not all, stocks are still de­signed for open sights

when nearly no­body uses them. Strange …

For the sake of au­then­tic­ity I or­dered a .22. I haven’t shot .22 much at 12 ft.lbs for some 20 years, but again, I in­tend to use it as a ‘su­per plinker’ so the .177’s bal­lis­tic ad­van­tages mean noth­ing, and as a young man I only ever shot the big­ger cal­i­bre. It was much more pow­er­ful- er, you know!

In­side, things have moved on a great deal be­cause Weihrauch have in­stalled all the lat­est up­grades that have moved their spring/pis­ton ri­fles for­ward so much in re­cent years. An im­proved spring sup­ported by ef­fi­cient guides de­liv­ers a smooth cock­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and a well- con­trolled and quiet fir­ing cy­cle. This is head and shoul­ders above the ri­fles we de­sired so des­per­ately in the ‘70s straight from the box, with lit­tle ben­e­fit to be had from tun­ing these days.

FOR THE REKORD

The other de­sign item that blew us away was the now leg­endary Rekord trig­ger. This was such a huge step-up over any other trig­ger avail­able, at that time, that we were barely able to be­lieve its per­for­mance. It’s a mul­ti­lever sys­tem, so it was able to be del­i­cately ad­justed to suit your taste, whilst de­liv­er­ing full sear over­lap to en­sure com­plete safety in op­er­a­tion. To this day, few trig­gers have bet­tered its per­for­mance – quite an

in­cred­i­ble en­dorse­ment, in my opin­ion. Like most of the Weihrauch ri­fles of the day, the reach to the trig­ger blade was rather long and I still find it that way to­day. There are com­pa­nies that of­fer set-back blades for a more com­fort­able reach, but I won’t be fit­ting one to my 35; straight from the box is how this one will stay.

The safety is a cross-bolt sys­tem that pops out au­to­mat­i­cally as the ac­tion is cocked, and is in a good place to be dis­en­gaged just be­fore fir­ing. Once dis­en­gaged, it can only be re­set by cock­ing the ac­tion again. When dis­en­gaged, a small red pin pro­trudes from the right side of the ac­tion, warn­ing you that the ri­fle is ready to fire. Just as I re­mem­bered, it makes a dis­tinct metal­lic click as it’s dis­en­gaged, and more than one rab­bit had its life saved by this noise in my Weihrauch hunt­ing ca­reer.

With all this nostal­gia cours­ing though my veins, I needed to get down to some proper test­ing to see if the ri­fle could live up to my dreams. A few min­utes over the chrono­graph with my stan­dard test pel­let, the Air Arms Di­ablo Field (16 grains) showed a suit­ably con­sis­tent 570 fps for a healthy muz­zle en­ergy of 11.54 ft.lbs., just as I’d like it to have been set.

OPEN SIGHTS, AT YOUR AGE?

Next, I came to my big­gest chal­lenge – to shoot with open sights. At my age, it’s no big sur­prise that my eye­sight isn’t what it was, but my short-sight­ed­ness is now be­ing matched with my close vi­sion wors­en­ing

“with the engi­neer­ing im­prove­ments that Weihrauch has added to the build, it’s an even bet­ter gun than the one I first saw”

too. I have the worst of both worlds, as my op­ti­cian en­thu­si­as­ti­cally in­forms me. Thanks for the good news!

Any­way, I found some pis­tol cards from my good friends at Tar­get Air, with a big bold bull that al­lowed me to see it clearly, and shot a few groups at 20 yards. To my amaze­ment and de­light I had some quite re­spectable groups. I was hon­estly shocked. I tried with my glasses, and with­out, and was un­able to tell which was best. To lighten the pres­sure on my­self, I gath­ered some small wind­fall ap­ples and stood to plink them off hand, again at 20 yards. Watch­ing them ex­plode and the bits go fly­ing, took me right back to the be­gin­ning of my shoot­ing ca­reer. There’s a word for this type of shoot­ing, if only I could re­mem­ber it. Oh yes, I’ve got it … FUN!

I was just rev­el­ling in the sim­ple plea­sure of a break-bar­rel springer, with open sights, blat­ting lit­tle ap­ples for the sim­ple plea­sure of shoot­ing. What could be bet­ter? Then it oc­curred to me that this was very use­ful off­hand shoot­ing, some­thing I prac­tise far less than I should. I avoid tak­ing stand­ing shots whilst hunt­ing as best I can, but some­times there’s no other op­tion if you want to bring home the ba­con, so it’s a skill that ev­ery hunter should work on hard.

IM­PROVE­MENTS?

Of course, be­ing a tech­ni­cal type, I was al­ready think­ing about work­ing on the open sights to make them eas­ier to shoot. The front sight ac­cepts a range of in­ter­change­able el­e­ments so I’m try­ing the dif­fer­ent per­mu­ta­tions. Then, I thought about adding some colour to them, such as white or flu­o­res­cent or­ange to make them eas­ier to see. You see, as much as I’d like to keep the HW35 stock, hit­ting the tar­get is too im­por­tant to over­look.

They say that you should never meet your he­roes, but I’m say­ing that in this case they’re wrong. This is ev­ery bit the ri­fle I lusted af­ter and with the engi­neer­ing im­prove­ments that Weihrauch has added to the build, it’s an even bet­ter gun than the one I first saw. It’s also very in­ex­pen­sive for such a fine ri­fle, in my view. My gun will not see a scope, will not be tuned and will not have any ac­ces­sory added. It’s a truly su­perb ri­fle just as its mak­ers en­vis­aged it, and some clas­sics need to be re­spected for what they are. On a per­sonal note, I want to say thank you to Weihrauch for keep­ing this beau­ti­ful ri­fle in your cat­a­logue. I may not be not the wildly overly en­thu­si­as­tic young man I was 35 years ago, but your ri­fle hasn’t aged one day and my love for this gun burns just as brightly as it ever did.

The comb is at the per­fect height for the open sights

This is still a very hand­some gun in my eyes

This isn’t the orig­i­nal rear sight but an im­proved, more mod­ern ver­sion The bar­rels are now fit­ted into the breech block with a lock­ing nut

This bar­rel-lock­ing sys­tem was ground break­ing when I first saw it

An ar­tic­u­lated cock­ing link­age keeps the fore end slot short

The Rekord trig­ger is ev­ery bit as good to­day as it ever was I’m try­ing out the var­i­ous sight el­e­ments to see which suit

Blat­ting wind­fall ap­ples is what fun is all about

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