Brand New Airguns in 2021
As a child, I’d heard of an aeroplane that could travel at a top speed of 2179 km/h, and the manufacturers claimed it to be 8 times faster than a bullet leaving a rifle. Unfortunately, the Concorde was decommissioned before I was old enough to spend my life savings on a ticket to experience these claims for myself. It was during this same period of time when I first witnessed an Audi advertisement on the television, and the narrator boasted “The Audi Quattro accelerates faster than Concorde”; I was intrigued yet too young to drive, and thought one day I’ll put that claim to the test. The advertisement closed with the phrase “Vorsprung Durch Technik” - as they say in Germany.
The 1982 Audi advertisement was co-written by Sir John Hegarty, who when in Germany visiting the Audi factory spotted a faded poster on the wall with the phrase “Vorsprung Durch Technik” and suggested the forgotten phrase should be used on the upcoming Audi Quattro advertisement. Who knew, the reinvigorated phrase would also relaunch the German automobile engineering revolution.
As a British born and bred child, we’d often claim to speak German and would use the phrase “Vorsprung Durch Technik” in the playground to describe any product we thought to be well engineered and that came out of Germany.
In my early teens, a young friend of mine introduced me to backyard airgun shooting. He wasn’t an avid shooter himself; he owned a spring-powered air rifle that was a 1970s hand-me-down his father had owned before him. I’d walk home with him after school and his house was first on our trip back so I’d accompany him to his garden where we’d shoot tin cans and toy soldiers with his unloved HW35. The rifle wasn’t fitted with a scope so the smaller green toy soldiers were harder to hit with the simple iron sights, but when we did manage to shoot them, we’d shout out “Vorsprung Durch Technik” and laugh joyfully.
During our GCSE year, I managed to save up enough pennies to purchase the rifle from him and it’s remained in my collection ever since.
A few days ago, I’d returned from a day out shooting, and it was time to wipe the gun down and put it back in the gun safe. After propping up the HW100, I picked up the trusty HW35 that had seen better days, the bluing had almost faded, the metal work had signs of pitting, the atrocious cocking aid stuck onto the end of the barrel looked worse for wear, and the iron sights were missing. Thoughts of restoring it came to me after thinking of how many times as a youngster I’d recklessly dry-fired her, and I promised myself I’d begin the restoration process very soon, she deserves it. Yes, I refer to the HW35 as the fairer sex, and I handled her long before becoming interested in anything other than air guns.
Yesterday, however, I returned to the gun safe and decided it had to be a springer day. Since being introduced to PCP rifles just over a decade ago, my spring powered rifles had slowly dwindled down to just two in my collection. I wanted to relive the young worry-free memories I had of yesteryear and I felt the only way to do this would be with a springer. Unfortunately, the HW35 that had given me so many fond memories wasn’t up to the task, having seen better days. So, I packed up the HW98, its bigger brother - a modern Evolution of the younger yet older in age HW35, I picked up a few cans and pinched a few of my toddler's green toy soldiers. I doubted he would miss them, as he’d regularly leave them lying around the house for me to step on.
Arriving in the woodland, I made my way to the fence that adjoined the wood to the farm I have permission to shoot on and placed the cans and toy soldiers randomly on the timber fence posts.
(I must stress a word of caution to our readers here: stepping onto someone's land without permission could be deemed as trespassing. Stepping onto someone's land with a firearm including a sub 12 ft/lb air rifle could be deemed as armed trespassing. If a projectile shot from a rifle/airgun you’re in possession of leaves the boundary of your own property or the property you have shooting rights on this can also be deemed as armed trespassing, as illustrated within the VCR act. Always ensure you’re on the right side of the law and enjoy the shooting sport in a safe and responsible manner.)
I then made my way back to a sheltered shooting spot I‘d picked out earlier under some tree cover and settled in. I found it was near impossible for me to shoot the HW98 in the prone position without having to get up to safely cock the rifle. Breaking the barrel was easy and cocking the rifle by pulling down on the barrel was almost effortless and smooth, the heavy shrouded barrel aids with cocking and the piston-driven action can be heard clicking and felt, locking into place. The safety button automatically engages and pops out at the rear left-hand side of the action. Perfectly positioned to be pushed in with your grip hand thumb when aiming.
Whilst aiming at a tin can to determine the scope’s point of zero, I took the first shot and it didn’t land where I’d intended it to go. If I’d been aiming at a rabbit, I would’ve shot the rabbit in the mouth, seriously injuring the live quarry. I always make a point to ensure the rifle and the accompanying telescopic sights are correctly aligned at the beginning of any shoot; this is one of my rules for good practice and handling of a firearm or air weapon. After a few more shots at the can and some windage and elevation adjustments on the scope, my Point Of Impact (POI) was exactly where I wanted it to be at the 30 yards I was shooting to.
I got up out of the prone position and sat up with my legs stretched out in front of me. I was able to cock the rifle comfortably with my left hand, whilst ensuring I didn’t release the barrel through the entire cocking cycle: another one of my rules. (Although the rifle is fitted with an anti-beartrap to prevent the barrel from closing when in the open broken position, I’ve heard stories and seen the traumatic results of an anti-beartrap failing or the trigger being accidentally pressed, allowing the barrel to quickly travel to the closed position under the heavy spring tension and thus catching the fingers or thumbs of the user in the action. Take it from me, it's not a pleasant sight).
I slowly lifted my right hand off the rifle and placed a pellet into the breach of the barrel. With the pellet correctly inserted in the breach, I brought up the barrel and felt it lock firmly into place, creating an airtight seal with the piston chamber.
I had opted to take a tin of RWS Superdomes Field Line .177, 8.3grain pellets with me. The Superdomes are a good, robust and all-round pellet and perform well in spring-powered rifles. I took out the toy soldiers with ease and then began obliterating the soda cans, muttering “Vorsprung Durch Technik” to myself every time I hit something. I was having so much fun, for the moment anyone watching would’ve thought I was just a big kid or someone who’d lost his marbles.
A short time later the sky had become cloudy and It had started to rain, so I sat back up against the fence under a tree waiting for the rain to stop, unfortunately, the weather only got worse. I decided to retrieve the empty cans and soldiers (another one of my rules to take away anything I brought with me) before I got drenched and then made my way into the wood where the rain wouldn't affect me as much. The dense woodland canopy provided me with ample coverage, unfortunately, with the shortened winter days and low light I knew I didn’t have long. I set up the remains of the cans and toy soldiers and then continued shooting. This time I’d also set up a 30mm diameter spinner to shoot at. After eliminating the soldiers and knocking the cans into the long grass, the spinner took a battering as the HW98’s consistency ensured every pellet smacked the target again and again.
It was that time of the day, and I imagined Harold Dennis ‘Dickie’ Bird waving me off the field. Umpire’s decision was Low Light and Rain Stop Play, time to pack up and head home. I’m sure the HW98 hit the spinner consistently well over 100 shots, and I easily made a century of unbroken shots, one after another.
When I got in later that afternoon, I took the rifle into the garden and decided to put some shots over the chronograph, just out of curiosity I wanted to know what the un-fettled HW98 was like on paper. The result is illustrated in the 40-shot string table and graph below. Pellet no. 35 may have been bad, deformed in some way, hence the inconsistent result. The flat power curve is a testament to the rifle’s consistency.
The HW98 has a quality manufactured action with no visible machining marks, reinforcing the German manufacturer’s emphasis on surface technology and their prided quality control. The mirror-blue finish is deep and consistent right along the rifle. When coupled with the standard stock the rifle breaks away from the traditional look of a springer predominantly used for backyard plinking or small game hunting, by lending itself to field target use, in particular, the springer class.
Breaking the rifle down into dominant sections, let’s start with the 16-inch match grade barrel. The barrel is shrouded, and the heavy yet robust shroud adds a comfortable forward weight to the rifle, aiding in reducing cocking effort and providing extra girth to latch onto, eliminating the need for a cocking aid. In fact, when I first purchased the HW98, I had to take a good look at the front and rear of the barrel before realising it was shrouded. The whole thing functions as one unit and having put close to 2500 pellets through this rifle, I’m convinced the shroud is attached firmly and not likely to come loose under normal operating conditions.
Behind the shroud is the breach block, which also marries up well with the shrouded barrel. Breaking the barrel and opening the breach reveals a perfectly secured breach seal around the barrel, with a compression spring-tensioned barrel latch, tucked in at the bottom. Cocking the rifle is almost effortless, being able to hear and feel the piston being drawn back and locking into place is an added bonus, and the faint resonating response you get when operating the rifle reassures me that Weihrauch has given the inside of the rifle just as much attention as the outside.
The seamless piston chamber is spoiled slightly with two perfectly cut grooves for mounting a scope with 11mm mounts, but my attention was quickly drawn away from this by the automatic safety button that pops out to the left when the rifle is cocked. Having mounted a scope on the rifle, I noticed this only improves the balance of the rifle and location of the well-placed centre of gravity is exactly where most shooters will place their forehand, owing to the Weihrauch Research and Development team; wow, they’ve really thought this one through.
Under the piston chamber is the coveted Rekord Trigger Unit, the trigger is also two-stage adjustable and having spent the best part of the past decade shooting PCP’s, I altered the trigger on my own rifle to have a very small first stage travel followed by low pressure crisp second stage break, as close to possible in mimicking an electronic trigger. This just goes to show how much adjustment is available in the trigger unit.
All the perfectly rounded blued metal sits into an eye-catching beech stock. The stock appears to have vents cut into both sides, but these are in fact grooves cut into the surface and then blackened to appear as vents, this gives the rifle its unique look and also provide finger places for gripping. The pistol grip surface is almost completely stippled and blackened, providing a complete cylindrical textured surface area to hold onto. The bottom section of the forend of the stock just slightly forward of the trigger guard is also nicely textured and blackened, providing ample holding and resting space when shooting the rifle. Don’t forget to employ the artillery hold.
Shooting the rifle, I was able to feel the gentle push forward and sharp yet short expected recoil back into my shoulder, allowing the rifle to do what it wants to do through the shooting cycle thus ensuring the pellet hits the mark every time. Having shot over 100 pellets with the HW98 during my last outing, my cocking arm or my right shoulder hadn’t felt the strain, again proving how comfortable, smooth and enjoyable the rifle is.
The stock is equipped with an ambidextrous adjustable cheek piece, this can be adjusted for height via the two allen key bolts situated just under the cheek piece on the right-hand side of the rifle. Positioning the cheek piece is easy and Weihrauch has been offering this adjustment in the HW98 long before it became the norm on most target rifles or PCPs, this just goes to show how far ahead of the game Weihrauch is.
To the rear of the rifle is the rubber adjustable butt pad; this can be adjusted by slackening off the screw in the centre of the pad and offers a number of vertical and horizontal positions to suit the shooter. Between the butt pad and the stock are the alloy positioning plates, which have now been replaced with black plastic as found on the newer model.
The stock is also cut out underneath for the cocking linkages. The cocking linkages are cleverly tucked away under the rifle and only slightly become visible when the barrel is broken, cocked and returned to its locked and loaded firing position.
Fast forward 25 years or more from my childhood and it's time for me to adopt a new slogan, Weihrauch have their own slogan and it may not be as catchy as the Audi one, but it fits; ‘Sportwaffen und Oberflächentechnik’ roughly translated in English to ‘Sports Weapons and Surface Technology’. Weihrauch has little or nothing to do to improve on their already world-class products, and I’d say if it isn't broke then don’t fix it. Weihrauch for me will always represent quality, power, precision and style, and in the words of my local RFD, “If you want a good springer, get a Weihrauch”.
To conclude, the Weihrauch HW98 puts the shooter in the forefront of the sport, offering a great all-round tool, perfect for hunting and consistently reliable for target shooting, and best of all you won't run out of air. I think I'll take the rifle out again tomorrow, and if you hear someone in woods laughing and shouting ‘Sportwaffen und Oberflächentechnik’ - it’s only me.
The events of the past few days remind me why the Weihrauch HW98 is a keeper and only reinforces my need to restore the HW35, so look out for the HW35 restoration project article.
Match grade accuracy, suitable for hunting, plinking and competition shooting.
Ambidextrous adjustable stock, complete with an adjustable butt pad and cheek rest.
Smooth coking action.
Automatic easy to reach safety.
Two stage adjustable trigger.
Simple break barrel action.
Easy to take apart and tune, with readily available aftermarket kits.
A short length of pull, uncomfortable for long arm shooters.
Marmite stock, either you love it or hate it.
The rifle is heavy and doesn't come with sling studs as standard.
Iron sights are not fitted as standard.
My top 10 spring powered break barrel airgun safety tips:
Always point the airgun in a safe direction (even if it's not loaded), by either pointing to the ground or in the direction of the target.
When breaking the barrel and pushing the barrel into the cocked position, never release the barrel during the loading cycle.
It is only safe to release a broken barrel when it has been returned into the safe locked and loaded position.
Never press the trigger whilst the barrel is in the open position. Pressing the trigger on a broken barrel whilst under spring tension is likely to cause injury to the user and damage to the rifle.
Always treat the airgun as loaded to avoid injury to yourself or anyone else.
Never point an airgun at any other person. NEVER POINT AN AIRGUN AT ANY OTHER PERSON.
Never dry fire a break barrel airgun (i.e. without a pellet loaded) this is a sure way to damage the internals of the rifle.
Children should always be supervised by a responsible adult around air rifles, this includes taking reasonable precautions in limiting access to air rifles to minors or anyone described as barred under the VCR act.
Assume the safety button or anti-beartrap is the last resort to safety, safe practice and handling is far safer.
Never leave an airgun unattended or loaded, and only load and cock the rifle moments before you intend to shoot, this will ensure you are not walking around with a cocked loaded weapon that could potentially go off at any time.
I hope you enjoyed my experience with the Weihrauch HW98, please come back to GUNSTAR.CO.UK for the future HW35 restoration and shooting article. As always shoot straight and shoot safe.