Tim Finley brings a nearly dead Weihrauch HW77 back to life for his friend, with just a little TLC
The Weihrauch HW77 air rifle holds a very special place in my heart because it was my first real field-target rifle back in 1987. It was the FT rifle back then, spring-powered with a fixed barrel and superb trigger. This made it the most accurate rifle available at the time, bar none. For those who don’t know, there was no such thing as pre-charged pneumatic air rifles back then either.
Roll forward 30 years to March 2017, and I was asked to look at an air rifle because it wasn’t working. Even the make was unknown because it had been given to the owner by his brother-in-law, years before, and it had been languishing in a garage ever since. Steve, a very nice man and Scoutmaster, as it happens, wanted to use it on rats at his allotment; a fair idea, but my heart sank when I opened the bag that he put in front of me. I had never seen a sorrier-looking air rifle.
I opened the bag, butt first, and saw the Weihrauch name on the end of the butt pad, so I thought, ‘Wow! We’ve struck the jackpot’, but as I dragged it out, I could see that the back block was rusty red, and then the barrel and underlever came into view, pitted with more rust – gulp. I looked at the barrel and it was stamped with ‘Hull Cartridge’, so it was a genuine import, an HW77K model, and the barrel latch looked like a MK1 to me. It was in .22, so would have been perfect for rats.
I tried the under-lever and more alarm bells started ringing. I had been told that it didn’t work, but Steve was unsure why. The action stayed locked in place as I moved the lever; there was no resistance to the lever moving, and the cylinder stayed firmly in place. Oh dear, this was one broken and rusty gun, but with a new HW77 costing 360 quid these days I figured it was well worth trying to fix it for him, and so did he.
Once I’d got the poor thing home and stripped down, other things became apparent. One of the stock screws had been crossthreaded and it was a real sod to get undone. It was also bent, how the hell someone had managed to do that, I had no clue – and once I did get it out, there was no washer
“Never use sandpaper, no matter how fine it is, that will take off the rust and the original blued finish”
under the screw. The other one came out okay, though, as did the two holding on the trigger guard.
As I took the stock off, a bit of metal fell to the floor and it turned out to be the end of the cocking link rod – that’s why when the under-lever was moved, the cylinder stayed put. So, it was not as bad as I’d feared. The internals looked okay and well greased, no rust there, but the back block was chewed in places, as well as being rusty. First things first; I needed a new cocking link, stock screw and washer, but £26.47 and two days later I had the parts. Thank you T.W. Chambers and Co! I only ordered these parts and no others because they might be the only ones needed to breathe life back into this old HW77K.
The first job was stripping down and rubbing all the red rust patches off the metalwork with wire wool. Never use sandpaper, no matter how fine it is, that will take off the rust and the original blued finish, too.
Once the worst of the rust is off and the surfaces degreased, the bluing compound can be applied. I use either Abbey or Birchwood Casey, and I’ve had good results with either brand, but always use a mask and gloves because it’s nasty stuff.
Apply with a rag, leave for a few minutes and then wipe off with a wet rag. Repeat this process until you get the finish you want, or it’s clear that it is not going to get any better.
The end cap on the action was in a bad way, and someone had been at it with a hammer so I filed the dovetail back into shape and cleaned out the Rekord trigger because it was grinding and full of gunk and debris.
The pin holding in the cocking lever is held in place because the two ends have been deformed with a punch to keep the pin from falling out, but a correctly-sized, parallel pin punch and a bit of brute force sorted it out. I took the cocking lever off of the gun to do this. The pin then has to be tapped parallel on one end to refit, and then once in, has to be deformed back the same way at each end to stay in place. A hammer and centre punch does this okay.
After full reassembly of the action, the new front stock screw went in perfectly. This was not a full refurbishment job, though. The aim was to make the rifle work again, and to clean off the large amounts of surface rust, but over the chronograph, the rifle was doing 10 ft.lbs.
Steve needed a new gun bag because the other one was fur-lined and that had contributed to the rust; it also now stank of mould. I also explained to Steve the laws now regarding keeping airguns secure, and he took this on board. No more storing in the garage!
He was over the moon with the result and, to be fair, I got a kick out of doing it. I like tinkering with airguns, it’s one of their appeals for me, so fixing this one for someone else was a bonus. A very happy ending all round. I
Stripped down, using my spring compressor.
Left: Side view of the sorry-looking gun.
Above: The back block was fairly hideous, too.
Above: A happy Steve has promised to look after it from now on!
Above: All done. It’s by no means perfect but it’s a world away from where it was when Steve handed it over.
Above: The right product, some steel wool, and plenty of elbow grease did the job.
Above: You could say that the rust on the barrel was ‘fairly severe’.
Above: The end of the cocking arm had snapped off.
Above: How on earth do you do this to a stock screw?