HW 55 Tyrolean – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier


HW 55T is an all-time classic air rifle.


The deeply cupped cheekpiece is the Tyrolean signature. It positions your eye for the sights.


The lever locks the breech after closing. All HW 55 rifles have it except the rare SF models. Push forward to unlock the breech and backwards after loading.

Let’s take a look at a classic air rifle that captures the heart of most collectors whenever they see it. We have reader Wayne of the Ashland Air Rifle Range to thank for this report, because he graciously sent his rifle to me for testing; in return, I offered to tune it up and to give the rest of you a look at the inner workings of a fine spring-piston powerplant. This report will be a long one for two good reasons. First, I’ll be testing the rifle both before and after the tuneup; and during the tuneup, I’ll show you the guts of the gun. Second, I’m hoping that the longer I drag this out the less attached Wayne will be to his rifle, giving me time to find the means to wrest it away from him. Please don’t tell him I said that!

History
When I researched the history of the HW 55SF I got at the Little Rock airgun show this year, I discovered some things about the 55-series gun that I didn’t know. Yes, they began making them in 1955, but no – the famous Rekord trigger was not a part of the earliest guns made. I stumbled onto the American Vintage Airgun Forum while doing that research and came in contact with most of the top collectors of vintage spring airguns. I learned, for example, that the earliest HW55 rifles were hand-assembled and fitted and that each builder stamped his mark on the guns he made. Those guns are more carefully fitted than the later guns that have no special builder attribution. I also learned that the Rekord trigger that I thought went clear back to the first post-war Weihrauch guns was introduced after the 55 target rifles were in production. The earliest 55 rifles have a much simpler trigger that collectors refer to as pre-Rekord.

At the time the HW 55 began production, the target-shooting airgun world was still several years away from the first recoilless spring-piston actions. The emphasis was on firing smoothness – not on recoil reduction. The HW 55 went head to head with Walther’s target rifles. Both companies made very smooth guns that, in their final years, were nearly recoilless. The culmination for HW was the 55 Custom Match, a heavy breakbarrel that won the world championship in 1969. The Walther LGV capped off their run of fabulous breakbarrels. As a former owner, I can vouch for the fact that there is next to no movement when an LGV goes off.

The HW 55 Tyrolean, however, was a throwback to a different sport that used a different rifle altogether. The sport was saloon shooting (called parlor shooting in this country), and the rifle was a zimmerstutzen–a 4mm cap-powered firearm that was probably the sire of all target air rifles.


The zimmerstutzen was the predecessor of the modern target air rifle. It’s 4mm and is nearly as accurate as a modern 10-meter rifle. The Tyrolean style was perfected with this rifle and with the larger 8.15x46R schutzen rifle.


4mm zimmerstutzen cartridge on the left, .22 long rifle on the right.


An official zimmerstutzen target is similar to a 10-meter rifle target and only slightly larger. This sport is shot at 15 meters.

In the indoor match that zimmers shoot, the target is 15 meters away and the rifles have a trademark ultra-high cheekrest to bring the shooting eye up to a very large and adjustable rear aperture sight. The front sight is a pinhead-sized bead atop a fine wire. I’m showing you the pictures because this stuff is too difficult to envision.


This zimmer rear aperture sight disk has 12 adjustable holes for different lighting conditions. It measures about 2″ across.


The front sight is a fine bead atop a thin post. For scale, the hole in the center of the muzzle is smaller than a .177 pellet!

As I examined Wayne’s rifle, I found ample evidence that it was tuned recently. It fires with a dead-calm thunk. The trigger is adjusted a might too heavy for me, and Wayne mentioned a grinding feeling when returning the barrel after cocking. I now know that it’s the cocking plate or shoe sliding over the compressed mainspring. It’s perfectly normal.

This is going to be a fun project. It will resemble the R1 tune I did during the 13-part spring-gun tune series, but there are some differences to show, as well. Sit back and grab your popcorn, boys and girls. We’re in for a treat!

47 thoughts on “HW 55 Tyrolean – Part 1

  1. I think it’s a pretty neat concept of the parlor guns. It’s easy to use for those who have a hard time using springers etc.. and quiet for those who don’t want to bother the neighbors.

    I use aguila super colibra and cci cb longs in my .22LR rifle. You have to be careful so no bullets get lodged in the barrel, especially when swithing back to more powerful rounds. So far after 1,000s of rounds I have had no problems.

    The cb longs are awsome for close targets and small game and tend to run about 34 ftlbs while the aguila perhaps 11ftlbs. I’ve used them with a target trap made for regular .22LR and it works out nicely. When hunting it keeps from spooking game and the need for a silencer.


  2. Great Good Morning B.B. & All,

    I'm so glad it arrived safe. I feel so blessed to have you do the tune and testing, whether I get it back or not.. Go ahead and adjust the trigger to your liking as well.. I've got a feeling there is a trade at hand.. You don't need that US FT any more do you? What number did you get from Tim? I'll trade for half of it, We can each keep it half the year.. or we could just cut it in half and I'll take the back half..

    I'm really glad to hear it's all normal. I didn't know this gun was such an important part of air gun history… by the end of the series the price will go up.. Your in a tough trading position B.B.
    I might get the whole US FT..

    I've got my popcorn,
    On with the show!

    Wayne,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range



  3. Al,

    Thanks, but I thought you’d say I was taking advantage of B.B.

    Here he is adding value to the gun he wants to trade for… How can I loose?

    B.B. is the nice guy, I’m a devil in bluejeans..

    Wayne,

    Ashland Air Rifle Range


  4. B.B. & Wayne,

    Thanks in advance for making this 32 ? part series possible.

    Took the opportunity last weekend to cradle, shoulder and shoot a Hw 55 Tyrolean. The gun is tailor made for a shooter. Beautiful design. Not surprising to learn the ancestors of this fine instrument were hand built. Surprisingly heavy for what you look at but when you realize it was a target gun it makes sense.

    Thanks B.B. This will be fun.

    kevin


  5. ajvenom,

    I found out about zimmerstutzens when I was a teenager in the late 1950s. They sold for under $100 back then, but I didn’t have anywhere near the money.

    When I finally could afford them the price had risen into the $500-800 range. I have owned two, including the one pictured.

    Many years ago I wrote a huge report on them for Airgun Revue 2. I met the principal American collector who supplied me with a treasure trove of catalogs from the turn of the 20th century, as well as numerous targets like the one shown.

    The HW55 T is so much like a zimmerstutzen that it must have been meant to copy them. I really appreciate this opportunity to explore a fine old air rifle like this one.

    B.B.



  6. Goodmorning B.B. Mechanical excellence coupled with beautifully worked wood, nicely polished and blued metal along with the mark of the assembler what more can one ask for. Too bad we, the readers of this blog, cann’t feel actual cocking and shooting of this rifle. I’m really looking fwd to this review. Wayne, how many shares in your LLC to rent this one for a while? HA HA. By the way folks, I had a “visit” from Tom Gaylord last night. My TalonSS arrived with an hour long instructional DVD by the master himself. Very well done. I have but two questions, was he actually running the pump while he was talking and how can I get my DVD autographed? Seriously B.B. thanks for your imput. Gun on low is very quiet, Van has a frame extender that will make it silent- I’ll let you know. Group size with JSB Diabolo Jumbo Match and power wheel on 5 is .27. I’m a happy camper. Thanks B.B. PS ajvenom even though it’s silent, I hope you’re not shooting your .22 where it’s illegal to shoot fire arms cause the police in my area don’t want to hear–it’s just a CB cap.




  7. Wayne,

    No, that was a joke. The real lyrics are, “Forever in blue jeans.” But people get it mixed up all the time.

    I thought you were doing that when you said “The devil in bluejeans,” because if you say it a certain way, it sounds the same.

    B.B.


  8. A firearms is a firearm, regardless of the power. The inventor of the Taser ran into problems when they came out with thier first designs. The same definition that could free up the parlor guns would probably meet the doom of the air guns.

    As for me, I do most of my shooting out on the farms or woods away from city limits. Sometimes I do some 10M shooting in my basement with my air guns as we’re not allowed to shoot outdoors with them anymore. This was due to vandels that have ruined it for the rest of us.


  9. B.B.

    You mentioned in the past that the cheek rest made the gun illegal to use in competition. Can you tell us that whole story..

    Wayne,
    AARR&R


  10. Wayne & BB,

    I have never seen such a horrible rifle: cheesy woodwork, bad metal, and unusable sights. Because I like you both, I'll give you a clean $100 bill for it. I have no idea what I can do with a chunk like that, but maybe I could scare squirrels away.

    Seriously, why don't they make rifles like that anymore? Its the kind of rifle that one could become attached to permanently.


  11. bg-farmer,

    I know what you mean, I tried using it for a boat anchor, but it just dragged on the bottom, so I tied so rocks to it, then it worked fine.

    But, maybe B.B. can figure out some use for it..

    Wayne,
    AARR&R


  12. B.B.

    Great photos. I believe that I have reinvented parlor shooting with my set-up, so I can identify. What kind of a cartridge is a cap, anyway? Is it powered just by the force of a primer? That rear sight makes my eyes hurt just to look at.

    On a different subject, what is the maximum range of a red dot sight? And is it true that you don’t need to line up your eye with it as carefully as a regular scope because the red dot somehow compensates for your head position?

    Matt61


  13. BB,

    Maybe you can help me find a set of clear plastic aperture inserts for the front sight of a Beeman R1. [I've got the metal set.]

    Bought an 18mm set that was intended for FWB/Anschutz sites, but they’re slightly (maybe 1-2mm) too large and won’t fit. Do you know of a set designed for the R1 front sight?

    Thanks for any help,


  14. Wayne,

    Not much to tell about the cheek rest. The international rules committee simply outlawed a Tyrolean cheek rest. Many of the makers had them besides Werihrauch. Diana, Walther and Feinwerkbau, to name three.

    There are other things that are disallowed. Aperture sights with tunnels are one of them. Walther and Anschütz, I believe, made those sights, but they gave such an advantage that they were not permitted to be used in competition.

    B.B.


  15. BG_Farmer,

    What a guy! You know, I feel certain Wayne won’t mind, so I’ll just ship the rifle to you when I’m finished. I guess you better send him the hundred though.

    I think you will enjoy tomorrow’s blog.

    B.B.


  16. Matt,

    When I say “cap,” I mean percussion cap – such as a cap-and-ball rifle would use. The zimmerstutzen came into being around 1840, when somebody figured out that a plain old percussion cap will propel a 4mm lead ball about 1,000 f.p.s.

    As time passed, a regular percussion cap turned into a cartridge that looks like a rimfire case. That’s what you see in the photo above. Some zimmer ammo is a complete cartridge like what I show there and some is a separate cap and ball. The zimmer shown above uses a separate cap and ball.

    Oh my gosh – do I need to write a blog about zimmerstutzens, as well?

    B.B.


  17. B.B.

    So, does a percussion cap work like a primer with a shock sensitive explosive? That sounds kind of advanced for the time period. Alternatively, would ignition be caused by generating a spark from a hammer strike?

    I thought you wrote a blog about zimmerstutzens, but since I am a parlor shooter more than anything else, I would be glad to hear more.

    That prominent cheek rest looks like it would either fit perfectly or be very distracting.

    Matt61


  18. B.B.

    Your so good at reading my mind..
    I could buy a great boat anchor for $100…

    If everyone could buy the rifle, then why would they rule it out.. It seems like the US FT would be ruled out then, with all it's added features. Or did they just do things different in those early days.. Now, there seems to be a race to make the newest, best design and have the best shooters shoot your rifle.. those rules seem to make it hard for the manufactures to want to make newly designed models..

    Wayne,
    AARR&R


  19. Brian,

    A Weihrauch globe sight like the one on your R1 will not quite accept a standard clear front aperture. The solution is to trim some off the edge of the disk.

    It still won’t fit the slot for the metal elements, but I can be inserted through the front of the sight when the locking ring is removed. The shoulder inside will hold it steady, but don’t put too much pressure on the locking ring or you will break the edges of the plastic.

    B.B.


  20. B.B.

    I’m curious what kind of damage is caused by dry firing a spring gun. More particularly, if a certain shooter who can’t seem to count to five in spite of his best efforts keeps dry-firing his IZH 61, what is the effect over time? Even if this only happens once every few hundred shots, this will mount up after several thousand. Will the spring piston fracture? Will it develop burrs which interfere with function similar to the way Sam described the results of dry-firing a firearm? What are the fixes for the damage? I’m wondering if I should lay in another IZH 61 for the future.

    Matt61


  21. Matt!!!

    Incredible!

    A primer works like a percussion cap – not the other way around.

    The primer in your cartridges got there by being a percussion cap first. Over the years it morphed into what it is today, but the Berdan primer is essentially still just a percussion cap.

    The range limit of a red dot sight is infinity.

    You got the cheek rest right, too. The one on the HW 55 is very generic and fits many people, which the one on my zimmer is custom-made and fits fewer folks. I have held zimmers that absolutely did not fit me, so it’s like buying clothes.

    I did write a report on zimmers, but it was a thin one. I didn’t tell you of the 40 different calibers or the 4 different ways the cartridges came. I also didn’t talk about American zimmers, which is a whole other subject.

    B.B.


  22. Wayne,

    Okay, lad, you just talked yourself into some homework.

    “If everybody could buy one then why did they rule it out…”

    NIH doesn’t just stand for the National Institutes of Health. The Not Invented Here syndrome lies at the core of most large, established institutions – such as the cycling federation that changed the rules to keep The Flying Scotsman from capturing the world pursuit championship.

    Your assignment is to watch this film – The Flying Scotsman – then restate your question. Any time a man can hand-build a bicycle using parts from a washing machine and win a world championship, the story is worth telling. It’s not about building a better bicycle – it’s about keeping those who do build one from doing it.

    B.B.



  23. Wayne & BB,

    I just got back from my afternoon "me time" (pulling rusty barbed-wire cross fencing out of the woods) and was delighted to find the deal done! I'm going to go ahead and send Wayne $100 plus as a sign of good faith I'll send BB something to cover shipping! Wayne can buy enough 5 gal. buckets and quickrete to moor a small ship, and I'll have something I can put in the arms of a scarecrow (it looks a little like a 12GA).

    Of course I'll enjoy tomorrow's blog, even if its Airsoft:).


  24. That is a lovely stock. What a nice looking piece of equipment.

    I haven’t seen the Flying Scotsman, but I have read the book. I bought it for my wife’s uncle, a tinkerer, thinkerer, inventor, cyclist and Lancashireman.

    I later bought myself a copy on his recommendation. Let me know if you would like to borrow it.



  25. Anyone that has a pellet weight

    I just picked up a pack of Gamo Rockets (were the most accurate in my shadow sport) and THEY HAVE CHANGED. They used to have a copper ball, now they have a steel one. The length has been shortend (now they fit in pellet rotary mags). The shape has changed to a 177 JSB predator (just with an awkward steel ball). The consistancy is almost as good as premiers now. If anyone has a pellet weight measure, could you buy some and weigh them? I haven’t gotten around to the range yet.
    Shadow Express dude




  26. I have a gamo shadowmatic and I would like to install a scope and different triger on the gun.
    First is a rekord trigger available for the gun. I would like to install a Leapers swat scope onthe rifle. Ineed to clear the magazine that is mounted on top of the rifle.
    I use the gamo to eliminate pest from my pecan grove and I would like to keep the magazine rather than load after every shot.
    Thanks
    Earl


  27. B.B.

    Hm, I’ll look more into percussion caps. What I remember is that they were made of a kind of metal to strike sparks with a hole in the center to transfer the spark to powder. Sure, bring on the zimmers. I’m curious how their power compared to airguns. They must have been part of a thriving subculture to produce all this technology.

    That surprises me about the red dot sight. Surely when your dot is too large you start to lose precision, and there must be a limit to how small and bright you can make it.

    Matt61


  28. Matt,

    Red dot at 1X (most of them?) does not suffer from parallax; at 2x (some) it probably does, but not enough to matter. You’re right about the size of the dot — usually they are sized by MOA’s, and they’re pretty huge. I suppose it would be possible to make one “just right” for a certain bullseye and range, but I don’t think they’re classed as non-optical sights, so there’s probably little interest in extreme precision. What they’re good for is getting close enough, such as when hunting or plinking. I tried a couple and hated them, although they would be a good choice (I think) on a handgun if someone can’t use regular sights.



  29. BG_Farmer,

    Yes, the one time I tried my (very cheap) red dot sight outside at the 25 yard range, it didn’t do that great. However, I believe that B.B. said that they were inspired by some sort of WWII anti-aircraft aiming system. That would be a significant range to shoot at. And there is some new technology coming out of Iraq that I am trying to investigate. Naturally, it all costs a fortune.

    Matt61


  30. Hi BB and all,

    I came across an old post about the mirror method in adjusting the optical center on scopes. I did it but could not see the two reticles mentioned.

    I set the magnification to its lowest setting (6x), parallax to lowest setting (marked 10 yards), place the objective bell flush on a mirror. I adjusted both the windage and elevation knobs in the hope that I see some movement in the crosshairs. I moved my sighting eye in and out, roundabout the eyepiece but still I see just one stationary crosshair.

    What did I do wrong?

    Please help.

    Dave



  31. I like the spin the scope on a shoe box with v notches method. If you want to keep it on the rifle etc.. try placing on a rest at a target and move the turrets through their range then mark or remember the end points then ajust towards the midpoints.


  32. ajvenom,

    yes i am getting results with v notch method. at least i understand how it is done.

    im just curious with the so-called mirror method. anonymous reader already suggested it does not work. so far it seems that way for me too.

    thanks.

    dave


  33. B.B.,
    The drop at the heel of the zimmerstutzen looks to be at least 6″, which, along with the artfully shaped cheek piece, would allow a relatively vertical and comfortable head position and nice eye alignment with the sights in an offhand standing position.
    But it seems that it would be awkward shooting from a bench, which it probably was never designed for.
    Am I on the right track on that?
    Thanks,
    Lloyd






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