by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
“A poor man’s PCP!” That’s what “they” said about the Hämmerli 850 AirMagnum CO2 repeater. It has many of the features shooters were looking for — repeatability, accuracy and a huge number of shots from the 88-gram CO2 cartridge it used. So they called it a poor man’s PCP; and before long, someone converted one from CO2 to air. They liked it that way, and a boutique industry was born.
But Walther, who makes the Hämmerli 850, was paying attention. If people wanted the rifle to use compressed air, they could build the gun that way from the start. The result — today’s test report on the Walther 1250 Dominator.
The 1250 Dominator is a bolt-action, 8-shot precharged pneumatic (PCP) repeater. It comes in either .177 or .22 caliber, and I’m testing a .177. The rifle uses a rotary clip to hold the pellets. To remove or install the clip, the bolt is cocked, then the clip retainer is pushed back, and a clip can be installed or removed from the left side of the receiver, only. The owner’s manual calls the clip both a magazine and a drum, interchangeably; but because there’s no spring-assist, it’s just a clip to hold the pellets. One notable feature that differs from almost all other rifles having rotary clips is that the top of this clip lies below the plane of the receiver, allowing one-piece scope rings to be used.
I am testing rifle serial number GO39547. It is all black, with matte metal finish and a dark synthetic stock. The stock is hollow, but feels substantial. The butt is padded with a soft rubber pad that prevents the rifle from slipping.
This rifle operates on compressed air, only. Though it’s based on a CO2 rifle, it cannot use CO2 cartridges, nor does it operate on a bulk charge of CO2. The fill level for air is 300 bar (4,350 psi). Those with carbon fiber tanks or special hand pumps will be able to fill the rifle to capacity; but even if you can’t fill to that level, you can still use the rifle. You’ll just get fewer shots, but they’ll still be high-velocity. Does that model number 1250 tell you anything? Walther rates the rifle to 1,250 f.p.s., and we’ll soon see how this one preforms.
The rifle weighs 8.0 lbs. It feels muzzle-heavy when held with the off hand back by the triggerguard. The balance is very conducive to good shooting, and I think it’s going to help a lot.
The trigger is two-stage, and the length of the first stage is adjustable via a screw in front of the trigger blade. The trigger blade is wide plastic with a smooth face. It’s possible to uncock the rifle, but you have to catch the hammer with the bolt as it falls. The automatic safety must be pushed off, and the bolt cannot be all the way back or you can’t get the safety off, so there has to be a little standoff distance. That’s why the bolt has to catch the hammer as it falls.
You might wonder why you would want to uncock the gun, and there are several reasons. One is to test the trigger without discharging the gun. Another is when you wish to remove the clip without firing the rifle. But be careful; because, when you cock the rifle with a loaded clip installed, pushing the bolt forward will push a pellet into the breech! Do that more than one time, and you will double-load the rifle. So, that’s a third reason for wanting to uncock the gun — to remove the loaded clip after inadvertently loading one pellet, so only one pellet is in the barrel — the one the bolt just fed in.
The sights are open front and rear with fiberoptic inserts. Because this is a PCP, I won’t try the open sights in my testing; but if I did, I would light the target to defeat the fiberoptics because they’ll detract from a precise sight picture. The rear sight adjusts for elevation by sliding it up and down an inclined plane. The front sight adjusts for windage by drifting the sight sideways in its dovetail. Remember to move the front sight in the opposite direction than you want the strike of the round to move.
Of course, most owners will mount a scope on this rifle, which is what I plan to do. The 11mm dovetail rail is just over 6 inches long, which is big enough to handle any large scope on the market.
This is an outdoor air rifle, to be sure. Nothing is held back when it fires. It presents no problem for a person outdoors in a rural place, but you’ll need a large backyard if you don’t want to disturb your neighbors. It isn’t as loud as a .22 short cartridge, but it’ll seem very loud in this day of silenced PCPs.
The barrel is solid and free-floated from the receiver all the way out. That is important for accuracy because the removable reservoir underneath the barrel flexes as the pressure drops during firing.
Not for field target!
There is a rumor floating around that the 1250 Dominator is a good rifle for the sport of field target. Not so! In fact, it would not be legal to use such a powerful air rifle in a field target match. The confusion probably stems from the fact that years ago there was another Walther Dominator that was purpose-built as a field target rifle. That one was a converted Walther 10-meter target rifle whose power was increased to make it competitive. This one would have to be seriously detuned to be used. This is a hunting rifle — pure and simple.
Filling the reservoir
The reservoir is removed from the rifle for filling. And I’m so glad I got to test this gun because I twice discharged the whole fill before remembering how this type of valve works. The manual gives the correct instructions…but whoever reads the manual — until they lose two entire fills?
The trick is to shut off the tank and then unscrew the reservoir without bleeding it. Don’t use the tank’s bleed valve with the tank turned off because the reservoir inlet valve is held open mechanically when the reservoir is screwed in all the way to the fill adapter.
Speaking of the fill adapter, it’s a 300-bar DIN adapter, so you have to have something to screw it into. I was able to screw it directly into my carbon fiber tank valve, but you may not have a 300-bar DIN connection. If you don’t, buy one from Pyramyd Air. The Air Venturi Female DIN Adapter allows you to connect a female Foster quick-disconnect adapter, which many hand pumps come with these days, to the Walther 1250 Dominator fill adapter.
Well, that’s about it for the overview. It’s an interesting PCP; but to hold its own, it’s up against some tough competition. It will all come down to two things — the trigger and, of course, accuracy. And that’s what we’ll evaluate in the tests to come.