Charles Smith-Jones looks at the Wiehrauch HW66 rimfire, a beautifully made rifle of distinction
Any airgunner will recognise the name of Wiehrauch, a German company with a deserved reputation for producing a wide range of well-made and accurate air rifles and pistols. Catering for disciplines ranging from serious competition to fun plinking, it has been dominating the market for years.
The company’s fortunes have waxed and waned since its foundation in 1899. In the first part of the 19th century Wiehrauch produced a wide range of firearms including big-game rifles, double and triple-barrelled shotguns, as well as the first mass-produced .22LR rifle to be manufactured in Germany.
World War II brought the business to a halt and it was only some years afterwards when German companies were once again permitted to manufacture airguns that Wiehrauch restarted operations. It relocated from Soviet-controlled East Germany to Bavaria, where it was able to begin to rebuild its formidable reputation.
Even then, a ban on firearms manufacturing remained in force for some time and initially even rifled airgun barrels were not permitted until the 1950s.
Wiehrauch never really returned to the manufacture of shotguns and full-bore rifles but by the 1990s it was producing a limited range of rimfires, the HW60, HW660 and HW66. These were designed to appeal to a wide range of disciplines and the HW60 and 660 certainly featured heavy barrel and adjustable stock options, while the HW66 was more obviously configured towards the field user.
Wiehrauch HW66 rimfire rifle
The current version of the HW66 is known as the Production and was launched in 2010. In keeping with many manufacturers, Wiehrauch recognises the more widespread use of telescopic sights and no longer produces this rifle with the open sights found on some earlier models. Instead, a 11mm dovetail rail and screw holes for scope mounting are standard.
Although there have been other stock options in the other models, the Wiehrauch HW66 rimfire is available only with a walnut stock oiled to a matt finish, along with a deeply blued barrel and action. The basic stock design is a straightforward American sporting style, although a practical thumbhole version is also produced with a somewhat oversized hole and a large pistol grip, which enable a good grip even when wearing gloves.
Not everyone finds a thumbhole stock aesthetically pleasing but the overall effect is generally a classic feel and appearance, and this rifle is a pleasure to handle.
The receiver is milled from a single piece of steel and the bolt operation is smooth and precise. A red cocking indicator protrudes from the back of the bolt — easy to see in daytime and just as obvious to locate by touch alone when night shooting.
There is certainly nothing ‘plasticky’ about this rifle and even the magazines are robustly manufactured from steel. A five-shot capacity is standard, although an eight-shot alternative is readily available. A release catch sits just behind the magazine, which holds it securely while allowing quick access for removal.
Wiehrauch guns of all kinds have had a special reputation for the quality of their trigger units and the HW66 is no exception. The Rekord trigger was always considered to be ahead of its time and has been fitted to many of their airguns as well as conventional rifles. It is meticulously engineered and of match quality even in its basic form.
It is easily adjusted to meet user preference by a screw located just behind the trigger itself. Should you feel the urge, it is also relatively easy to disassemble for cleaning and maintenance, although this should not really be necessary.
The safety catch is a sliding lever behind the bolt handle, noiseless in use and well positioned for instinctive operation. A two-stage trigger is standard, although there is also a direct version, and a double-set trigger has also been offered as an optional extra.
Overall, this rifle is strongly built and you can expect the same superb engineering that all Wiehrauch’s products are renowned for. The HW66 shoots tight groups with a wide variety of ammunition and offers match levels of accuracy even in the field versions. Whether you are looking for a rimfire for rabbits or small vermin or something in a larger calibre for foxing, it is unlikely that you will be disappointed both in terms of looks and performance.
Wiehrauch HW66 rimfire – need to know
- Country of origin Germany
- In production Mid 1980s to present
- Action Bolt
- Stock options Walnut only
- Barrel length 14in–22.75in
- Magazine Detachable, 5 shot standard but extended capacities available. There is also a single-shot variant.
- Left-hand version No
- Weight (bare) 6lb 8oz (basic version)
- Available in calibres .17 Mach 2, .17 HMR, .22LR, .22 Win Mag, .22 Hornet and .222 Remington
- Cost new £633 (Production model)
- Cost used From around £400, depending on configuration
This rifle is strongly built and you can expect the same superb engineering that all Wiehrauch’s products are renowned for