The HW 97 & HW77: A full report
by B.B. Pelletier
A lot of our readers were just not satisfied with the report I did on the HW97 & HW77 on February 7. That report lacked velocity numbers and accuracy figures. It was more a report of my feelings about the guns, rather than a meat-and-potatoes look at them. So, today, I'll make up for that transgression.
The two guns are VERY similar!
The HW77 came first, back in 1982. It was originally supposed to have the same power as the Beeman R1, but the weight of the underlever gun rose to over 11 lbs. before the Beemans decided to scale it back. The underlever adds a lot of weight, plus the sliding compression chamber means the piston has to be a smaller diameter to fit inside, so there is no easy way to get R1 power from either a 77 or a 97.
What's a sliding compression chamber?
In traditional spring air rifles, the piston rides directly inside the compression tube - the same tube that houses the mainspring. However, in order to gain access to the rear of the barrel for loading, Weihrauch put the piston inside a sliding compression tube that moves back with the piston when it's cocked. In fact, when the gun is cocked, the cocking lever acts directly on the sliding chamber by pushing it back. The piston is inside and has to go along with the chamber. When the sear catches the piston, the sliding chamber is free to return to the front after a pellet has been loaded.
Because the sliding chamber has to fit inside the outer tube of the gun, it has to be smaller, and the piston that fits inside is smaller still. A gun with a sliding compression chamber is giving away piston diameter. Piston diameter and the length of the piston's travel (the stroke) determine how much air is compressed. Any airgun with a sliding compression chamber is at a disadvantage when it comes to power generation. Modern technology has improved the situation, somewhat, but because it has also been applied to breakbarrels, they have maintained the power lead.
The HW77 is the earlier rifle, and you'll notice the stated velocity figures are slightly higher than those of the HW97. In reality, this rifle in factory trim can generate as much as a full foot-pound more than the 97. Remember, the 77 started out as a scaled-down magnum rifle like the R1. In a well broken-in rifle, you should see Crosman 7.9-grain Premiers going well above 900 f.p.s., with some guns reaching 920 f.p.s. My tuned 77 pushed them to 945, or so, but that was with an aftermarket spring. The HW77 and the Beeman HW77 Mark II carbine also come with open sights that can be taken off for scope mounting, but they're fine sights in their own right. No fiberoptics here! Though the stated weight for the carbine is below 9 lbs., it can go over depending on the density of the wood in the stock.
Accuracy with the 77 is the equal of the TX200 - one-inch and slightly better for five shots at 50 yards on a perfect day with an experienced shooter. The 77 is very insensitive to hold - about like a CF-X. You can get away with holding onto the stock, but you had better have good follow-through! The two-stage Rekord trigger can be safely set to around 1.5 lbs.- 2 lbs. with a glass-crisp lettoff. The best pellet in the .177 caliber 77 might be the Crosman 7.9-grain Premier, the 8.6-grain H&N Field & Target Trophy or the 8.4-grain JSB Exact. I would stay away from heavy pellets in this rifle, because I have never found them to be as accurate as the three I've listed for you.
You can also get the Weihrauch HW77 rifle (a non-Beeman gun, but the identical model in a rifle stock) in .22 caliber, which this gun can certainly handle. I have no experience with this caliber in this rifle, so I'll move on.
The HW97K was developed as a low-power, smooth-shooting spring rifle. It initially hit the market as a 12 foot-pound gun. Even Beeman sold it that way in the beginning. Eventually, it was tweaked up in power to today's level in the Beeman HW97 Mark III, which is close to the 77 but not exactly as high. Weihrauch had to add stroke to the piston to get the power up - something they did not have to do with the 77. That said, the power figures are stated exactly the same as the 77 on some websites and very close on others. In my experience, however, a well broken-in 97 is going to shoot a 7.9-grain Crosman Premier at 885 to 910 f.p.s. - just a trifle slower than a 77. Individual guns may perform differently, and it's certainly possible for an exceptional 97 to out-perform an average 77.
The 97 has the same Rekord trigger as the 77, and it works just as well. None of the 97s come with sights, so a scope is mandatory. The stock is fuller (higher cheekpiece) than the 77's stock, and I think it feels better when using a scope than a 77 with a scope. The 97 also comes in .22 - a caliber it is certainly suited for. Beeman also offers the rifle in .20 caliber - something that the 77 does not offer. Generally speaking, the 97 is a trifle heavier than the 77, but there are so many models to choose from that wood density will even that out a lot.
Sensitive to hold!
As for accuracy, the 97 is the equal of the 77 and TX200, but unlike both of those rifles, this one is very sensitive to how it is held. I found it likes to lay on the flat of my open palm placed out near the end of the stock. It took quite a while to learn how to hold my 97. Once I found what it liked, it shot well. Use the same pellets as I recommended for the HW77.
Common to both rifles
When the rifle is cocked, the safety automatically pops out on the left side of the receiver. A Weihrauch or TX shooter soon becomes so familiar with taking the rifle off safety that it is part of the cocking effort. If you want to reapply the safety on either rifle you must fully retract the cocking lever a second time. Neither rifle has a true anti-beartrap mechanism, so both rely on the trigger (to hold back the sliding compression chamber while loading). I wouldn't trust it, because it's not as positive as the ratchet safety on the TX or the Diana RWS sidelevers. When you cock the rifle, HOLD ON TO THE COCKING HANDLE WHILE YOU LOAD! If the sear were to slip, you must be able to restrain the sliding compression chamber from slicing off your digits. Both rifles have more room to load the pellet than the TX200.
That's my report. I've owned several HW77s and one 97, plus I've shot may others over the years. Either rifle is a great spring air rifle that you can be very proud to own.