Weihrauch HW60J .17HMR rifle.
Ever since I was a lad, the name Weihrauch has conjured up images of big, solid, Germanic air rifles that were not only powerful and accurate, but were built to last. In fact, my first air rifle was a Weihrauch HW35 bought from John Powell in Reigate, Surrey. Less familiar to most shooters are its rimfire models. Equally well appointed, the HW60J in .17HMR encompasses everything you would want from a rimfire Sporter. It is well made and harks back to traditional standards, albeit with a typically Continental styling to the stock. Nonetheless, for £650 you have a rimfire with the handling characteristics of a full-bore rifle and capability of vermin and long-range fox work.
A heavy barrel
What stands out immediately, apart from the stock styling, is the barrel profiling. Not only is the barrel 23in long, but it has a semi-heavy weight that starts at a diameter of 0.856in at the receiver end with a slow taper to 0.795in at the midway point and then 0.640in at the muzzle. This contributes to the overall weight of the Weihrauch, which I like, but a shorter 18in version is also available. The .17HMR came with open sights, which, though adjustable, are redundant these days on a sporting rimfire. A ‘clean’ barrel can be ordered as necessary, and the muzzle can be threaded on request, which to me is pretty mandatory on a sporting arm.
The action is a machined unit, 7.25in long, and has a rounded steel construction. There is a 1.98in ejection port cut to the right side for ejection of the spent cases and the receiver top is machine-grooved with dovetails of 11mm wide. There is 1.18in length of dovetail to the front of the ejector port and 4.2in for the rest of the receiver, allowing for adequate scope mounting as long as the objective lens clears the reasonably high rear sight. The action is also drilled and tapped for other scope bases and therefore increases the possibility to use Weaver-type rails and night- vision equipment if you so desire. As with the barrel, the finish is an even deep blacking, which sets off the rifle a treat.
A large bolt
The bolt is large with a length of 6.75in and a girth of 0.705in. It is highly polished for two-thirds of its length and the rear third is a blued cocking piece that houses the centrally placed red cocking indicator. The bolt handle is straight and short with a small knob end and an opposing locking lug that secures the breech at the rear. Extraction is by twin claws sited at nine and three o’clock on the bolt face and ejection caused by a protruding spur at the back of the magazine. The spur houses an aluminium block that flicks the case rim as the bolt is withdrawn. Operation is smooth and precise, and it has a quick lock time, as you’d expect from a Weihrauch.
Trigger, safety and magazine
Weihrauch airgun owners know how good the Rekord triggers on their air rifles are and this HW60J rimfire does not disappoint. Though the unit is adjustable by a screw accessed through the lower portion of the trigger-guard, there really is no need as the let off is already set perfectly. There is a smooth, precise first stage to the pull then a deliberate stop, followed by a crisp 1.75lb second stage with no creep or backlash. As triggers go on a rimfire or full-bore, this is one of the best. The trigger-blade is a good width with grooves running lengthways for better grip, and the finish is anodised gold.
The safety is a single-position rocker lever at the right rear of the action and in reach of your right hand. In the back position, the rifle is safe and a white dot is exposed; in the forward, it can be fired and a red dot is visible. Smooth, silent and conveniently placed, the knurled safety lever complements the trigger design.
Even the magazine is well made, being all metal in construction. A small catch release with grooves at the rear of the magazine housing is pushed up and held up to drop the magazine. There is no spring pressure, the magazine simply falls out or can be pulled out by the protruding metal base. It is a five-shot single stacked unit that functioned perfectly despite the high level of rounds I put through it during the field test.
If there was room for improvement it would be in the stock department. Though very popular in Germany, the swept back low hog’s back shape to the rifle is fine for open sights and running game, but is not ideal for scope use. That said, the stock is nicely proportioned, again on the large side, which suits me, with a dry oiled finished that is practical on a hunting arm. The long, slender fore-end free-floats from the barrel, which is good. It has a type of chequering known as skip-line to both sides and a small Schnabel tip to round things off.
The pistol grip is generous and, again, has skip-line chequered panels with a black-andwhite plastic cap. Twin sling-swivels that are fixed to the stock finish it off and the recoil pad is a thick brown rubber affair, giving maximum grip. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it handles well and is inletted closely to the stock and secured by two Allen screws. A heavy barrel design with ventilated stock is also available.
You hardly notice the Weihrauch’s size and weight under field conditions. The heft is reassuring and steadied my aim when tackling tricky longer shots on rabbits. The stock height is a bit low, but I tend to shoot with a more head-up stance, so it didn?t bother me. More important was the accuracy of the rifle, which was very good.
There are two weights for .17HMR shooters these days – 17 and 20 grains. The 17-grainers have V-Max bullets and the heavier 20 grains have a conventional hollowpoint design to give a more controlled expansion on larger vermin and they penetrate better.
I chose Hornady, Federal CCI and Remington ammunition to test for velocity and energy and then accuracy at 50 and 100 yards.
With a relatively long barrel of 23in, velocity figures were an impressive 2,676fps for an average of five shots with the Hornady 17-grain-Max loads. This generates just over 270ft/lb energy. Similarly the other 17-grain ammunition from Federal and Remington produced 2,660fps and 2,589fps respectively. The 20-grain load recorded less velocity, as expected, but it was still high from this Weihrauch’s barrel compared with some HMR rifles I have tested. The CCI Game Point shot a velocity of 2,387fps and 253ft/lb, giving enough clout for close foxes and better penetration than the V-Max load.
Accuracy from all ammunition was spot on across the board, which is unusual. Generally, a rifle dislikes one make or weight of bullet. Well, this Weihrauch shot all the brands very well, with the Hornady 17-grain V-Max producing an average of 0.42in groups at 50 yards measured with a micrometer and constituting an average of six five-shot groups. At 100 yards, groups were no more than 0.85in, with the odd flier ruining an otherwise tight group. It was either the wind or me. I blame the wind! Similarly the 20-grain CCI load produced 0.35in groups at 50 yards, which is superb, and close to the 1inmark at 100 yards, which is still very good.
For vermin I would use the Hornady 17 grains at 2,676fps and when zeroed at 100 yards, rather than the usual 50 yards, the bullet would only be a maximum of 0.2in high at 77 yards and 0.21in low at 150 yards.
A quality rifle
Dave Nickerson at the Hull Cartridge Company says the HW60J can be ordered with a clean barrel, that is without open sights, or you can have the existing barrel screw-cut. Or, better still, have the barrel shortened to 18in and then screw-cut. In any guise the quality of the Weihrauch shines, not only in the finish of all the parts, but in the way that action operates effortlessly. The trigger is the best I have tested on any HMR rifle.
I would go for the 18in screw-cut barrel for field use with a couple of spare magazines and, if the stock is too low, fit a Hunter’s cheekpiece to raise it a little. All in all, this is a full-sized rifle capable of excellent accuracy that will stand up to everyday use, and the £650 price is justified.