DE­CI­SIONS, DE­CI­SIONS!

Gary Chilling­worth puts two clas­sic springers head to head

Air Gunner - - CONTENTS -

Break-bar­rels or undler­levers? Gary Chilling­worth of­fers his ex­pert opin­ion

Firstly, let me apol­o­gise. Yes, this is an­other ar­ti­cle about springers, but be­fore you start rolling your eyes and flick­ing to the next page, I can as­sure you that this is one that you are go­ing to want to read. There are many com­pa­nies that pro­duce boingers; Air Arms, BSA, Gamo, Weihrauch and Walther to name but a few, and within these com­pa­nies’ cat­a­logues, their spring ri­fles fall into two main groups – break-bar­rels and un­der­levers. In this piece I am go­ing to go through the pros and cons of both, and hope to an­swer a few ques­tions, plus give some tips and tricks to help you along the way.

First of all, what is the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two? Well, to be hon­est, not a huge amount. They both have a spring, a com­pres­sion tube, a pis­ton, and they’re all lu­bri­cated with grease and use wash­ers to ad­just the power. There is one fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence be­tween them, though – the un­der­lever ri­fles, like the Weihrauch HW97 and Air Arms TX200 se­ries, have a bar­rel fixed in line with the com­pres­sion tube and use a lever that is slung below it to com­press the spring that gives the ri­fle its power. The break- bar­rel uses the ri­fle’s bar­rel it­self as the lever, which ro­tates to about 90° in a down­ward di­rec­tion to com­press its spring. In the past, some shoot­ers have veered to­ward the un­der­lever be­cause they be­lieved that mov­ing the bar­rel on a springer could neg­a­tively af­fect ac­cu­racy, and to be hon­est, this is what I re­ally want to look at – can a break- bar­rel be as ac­cu­rate as an un­der­lever?

HIGH QUAL­ITY KIT

The ri­fles that I’m go­ing to look at are the Weihrauch HW98 and the Air

Arms TX200HC. There was also an op­tion of the very good Walther LGV Com­pe­ti­tion Ul­tra, but to be hon­est with you, I own a TX, I’ve al­ways wanted a HW98 and this ar­ti­cle was a good rea­son to nip down to the Air­gun Cen­tre in Rayleigh and hit the credit card. These ri­fles are at the pre­mium end of the scale, cost­ing around the £ 400 mark. Ri­fles from the likes of BSA and Gamo are still great guns, but are in a dif­fer­ent price bracket, so I thought it only fair to judge like with like.

Luck­ily, the ri­fles I’m us­ing are brand new, out of the box, and so have not been tuned or messed about with; they are run­ning fac­tory lu­bri­ca­tion, full- weight springs and pis­tons, are con­sis­tent over the chrono­graph and set to 11.6 ft.lbs. I cleaned the bar­rels and put 150 pel­lets put through each to lead them up and they were tested us­ing Hawke Varmint scopes.

The first thing that you no­tice when you pick up the TX200HC is how much more front- heavy it is – the HW98 is bal­anced more towards the mid­dle, and hold­ing it in the stand­ing po­si­tion is very easy. How­ever, when you bring the ri­fles to the shoul­der, the TX seems more sta­ble if I am shoot­ing to­ward the ground, but when I am stand­ing or kneel­ing and try­ing to shoot an el­e­vated tar­get, the HW98 seems more com­fort­able. More im­por­tantly to me, though, is how the ri­fle per­forms in the prone shots be­cause this is where these springers will spend most of their time in my HFT com­pe­ti­tion world. I started off at 20 yards, and af­ter learn­ing the trig­gers and di­alling my­self into the guns, they were both shoot­ing a ragged, sin­gle- hole group. Push­ing out to 30 yards, the TX was still shoot­ing a ragged, one- hole group, but the HW98 had started to throw a few pel­lets slightly high. At 40 yards the TX was still group­ing well, but the 98’s group had ex­panded slightly to about 20mm for 10 shots.

WHY WAS THAT?

I couldn’t un­der­stand why this was, but af­ter a few phone calls and a bit of re­search, I dis­cov­ered it was down to hold and weight dis­tri­bu­tion. The HW98 does not have the weight of

a lever slung un­der­neath the bar­rel to hold it down, so the front end can be a bit more jumpy. If you push your cheek tightly into the comb at the back, as I do, this pres­sure tries to pivot the front end up, so with­out the added weight of the lever, the ri­fle can jump. The way to com­bat this is ei­ther to have a neu­tral hold, with a slightly stronger grip in the front, or to add some weight to the muz­zle. This can be done by adding a weighty si­lencer or a slip- over, brass air strip­per. To test the the­ory, I placed some mag­nets on the bar­rel and added some large span­ners to the un­der­side, which seemed to work very well. The groups tight­ened up un­til they were equiv­a­lent to the TX.

The thing that helped most to im­prove ac­cu­racy, though, was to ad­just the trig­gers. When a ri­fle leaves the fac­tory, the trig­gers are set to be nice and safe, so have a fairly strong/heavy pull. This is for safety be­cause not ev­ery­one wants or needs a light trig­ger. I’ve found that if you lighten the trig­ger and have a first stage with a few mil­lime­tres of travel – first stage is the dis­tance you pull the trig­ger be­fore you reach the sec­ond stage – and a nice light break – the break is the sec­ond stage when the trig­ger re­leases and fires the gun – my ac­cu­racy im­proves. How­ever, please don’t go too light or your gun will be un­safe. If I have to put more and more pres­sure on the trig­ger blade, it causes me to twist and turn and not con­cen­trate on hold or tar­get sight­ing. To shoot at my best, the trig­ger should feel in­stinc­tive and nat­u­ral. Both the Weihrauch and Air Arms trig­gers are easy to ad­just and come with full in­struc­tions. Just make changes in 1/8th of a turn at a time un­til you find a set­ting that works for you. To get the very best from them you can strip and pol­ish the trig­ger’s com­po­nents and Air Gun­ner’s Neil Price has done some great ar­ti­cles on how to do it – that’s where I learned – and there are also some great videos on YouTube.

MYTH BUSTED

So, where does this leave us? Well, I think side by side the TX200HC might have the slight edge on ac­cu­racy over the HW98 in stan­dard guise, but if you add a si­lencer to the HW98 this ad­van­tage is negated. The 98 comes with an ad­justable height cheek piece as stan­dard, which for me is worth its weight in gold. Both have great build qual­ity and with a bit of work can be made to shoot al­most as well as a sim­i­larly priced pre- charged pneu­matic. The TX is eas­ier to work on be­cause it strips down with just the re­moval of five bolts, but the HW98 is in my opin­ion a stunning look­ing ri­fle.

The TX is eas­ier to cock than the 98 from the prone po­si­tion, when break­ing the bar­rel is more awk­ward than the un­der­lever, but to be hon­est, there’s not a huge amount in it. The prob­lem I’m hav­ing is – I like them both. I bought them with my own money, so they’re not just test guns loaned to me free of charge. Some­times we journos can be ac­cused of writ­ing only pos­i­tive re­views, but I wouldn’t spend my own money on rub­bish. If you buy a TX200 se­ries ri­fle or an HW98 it will last you for years. It could com­pete at the high­est level and be a joy to play with. It’s like com­par­ing Jaguar and BMW – both are great, both will do ev­ery­thing you want and more, it just comes down to which one you want to hold in your hands. So there you have it; you can of­fi­cially con­sider the myth of break- bar­rels be­ing less ac­cu­rate as well and truly busted.

“The thing that helped most to im­prove ac­cu­racy, though, was to ad­just the trig­gers”

LEFT: The TX and 98 makes an at­trac­tive pair of ri­fles and I’m happy to own them

BELOW: Bis­ley shooter, Chris Pooley, is a big fan of the HW98 and shoots it with stunning ac­cu­racy

ABOVE: Walther LGVs are very pop­u­lar with HFT shoot­ers and hunters

LEFT: The Weihrauch Rekord trig­ger unit is highly ad­justable

BELOW: I wouldn’t shoot in com­pe­ti­tion with span­ners at­tached, but it helped to prove a the­ory

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