You’ll be lucky to find one of these quality rifles — owners won’t want to sell them, says Bruce Potts
To me, Weihrauch are the epitome of classic quality air rifle manufacture and the standard that most other airguns are judged by. All Weihrauch air rifles are made the old-fashioned way with well-engineered metal parts and good-quality stocks that are designed to last a lifetime.
Over-engineered in some respects — like the HW 35 and HW 80, which are full-powered hunting firearms — their smaller brother, the HW 55, is the reverse. It is trim, perfectly balanced and available in three versions to suit any shooter. But these are target-based rifles, not for hunting, as they come complete with aperture sights and a mainspring that gives a power level of between 6ft/lb to 7ft/lb energy. Its sibling, the HW 50, is similar but fitted with a 12ft/lb spring for hunting.
The other major difference — and what makes the HW 55 stand out — is the semi-recoilless design and unique barrel-locking mechanism. First developed in the mid-1950s, the SM version has a beech stock and grooved fore-end; the MM version a walnut stock and chequering; and the Tyrolean (hence the “T”), as seen here and the most rare, has a superb Tyrolean-styled stock of select walnut.
I have to start with the striking stock. I have been after a HW 55T for a long time and by chance I had a call from Paul at William Evans gunmaker at Bisley telling me that a collection had become available and a HW 55T was waiting for me!
The Tyrolean stock was designed for open or aperture sight use, so that the shooter’s cheek rests in exactly the same position every time and thus aids in a consistent, accurate shot. The high curved rubber recoil pad sits on the shoulder and the HW 55 is so well balanced that you do not notice the weight at all. Both the pistol grip and fore-end are handchequered on the special select walnut stocks.
The metal work is similarly well appointed, with Weihrauch’s typical high-quality bluing throughout; every part fits perfectly and has that feeling of a well-crafted rifle. Early models were fitted with rearsights as well as aperture sights (later models only had apertures fitted), but both have a dove-tailed receiver for scope use if desired. These sights are superbly made, eking every last drop of accuracy from the HW 55.
Weihrauch on test
Unique to the HW 55 is the barrel-locking mechanism. It has a foolproof detent system but with the addition of a barrel tensioning wedge. To operate this, there is a lever to the left of the front edge of the air chamber. When you push this forward, it slackens an adjustable hinge that allows a light tap on the barrel to disengage the detent lock. The HW 55 can then be cocked. A pellet is inserted in the barrel and, when the barrel is closed, the lever is returned backwards, which ensures a uniform barrel-to-air-chamber position, making this one of the most accurate break-barrel designs developed.
The HW 55’s internals are perfectly matched to the air chamber’s dimensions to deliver sufficient velocity for target shooting. This means it has a virtually recoilless mechanism with no vibrations on firing. A spring can be fitted from the HW 50 model to boost power if you desire.
It is astonishing how accurate, quiet and recoilless this HW 55T is. Weihrauch developed the fitting cycle so that the pellet leaves the barrel before any small recoil can adversely affect the pellet’s flight. The Tyrolean is rare and the SM and MM models are also hard to find. I am not surprised; owners probably won’t sell them.
What to look or when buying a secondhand Weihrauch
Barrel: Check the barrel-locking mechanism — the side-lever is tight — as this part is no longer available and is vital to align the barrel correctly.
Action: Semi-recoilless spring operation with superb adjustable Rekord trigger unit.
Features: Aperture sights, semi recoilless and Tyrolean walnut stock.
Prices: second-hand, £500-plus for Tyrolean model, £300 to £500 for SM or MM models.