Posts Tagged ‘HW 55 Custom Match’
by B.B. Pelletier
The FWB 300S is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.
Some more history
The first part of this report was certainly met with a lot of enthusiasm, so I think I’ll add some more history today. In the comments to Part 1, we had a discussion of the sport called Running Target. Some called it Running Boar, which it was for several decades, and long before that it was called Running Stag.
The sport originated in Germany, I believe, though it was probably popular in Austria and perhaps even in Switzerland. It existed at least as far back as the mid-19th century and was shot outdoors at a target pulled on tracks by human power. The original target was a male chamois made of wood with a target where the heart of the animal would be. But that target evolved into a male red deer, called a stag. The stag was exposed to the shooter for a specific number of seconds.
In time, the stag was replaced by a running boar, because the stag was thought to be a noble animal and the boar wasn’t so highly regarded…though in England they did have a similar sport called Running Deer.
As the match evolved, it picked up rules. There was a slow presentation of the target (5 seconds) and a fast presentation (2.5 seconds), and the shooter was supposed to shoot one shot on each pass. The target was engaged in both directions during the match. It wasn’t long before the wooden animals were switched for paper targets that were both cheaper and easier to score.
The Running Boar target was double-ended so it could be used in both directions on the same track.
The aim point was usually the animal’s nose, but that was the choice of each shooter.
Over the years, the rifles they used changed from muzzleloaders to centerfires, and eventually to rimfires and airguns, because of the increased opportunities for range safety. Today, both rimfires and airguns are still being used at the World Cup level.
The guns have traditionally used sights that account for the movement of the target and allow the correct amount of lead. When scopes came into the event, they were specialized with reticles that allowed for the lead to be dialed in. Anyone who owns an FWB 300S Running Target rifle with the correct scope has something to prize.
Gary Anderson brought a running target range to the Roanoke Airgun Expo back in the late 1990s, giving many airgunners the opportunity to closely examine the target setup. By the 1970s, the sport had become Running Target — to assuage those who felt shooting at boars was not politically correct. The sport was part of the 1992 Olympics, but was dropped after the 2004 games. It’s a sport that goes in and out of fashion as the years pass; but it’s still a World Cup event, so we may see more of it in time.
When the change was made to Running Target, the target was changed to a target with one central aim point and two bulls — one for each direction.
Velocity of the FWB 300S
Today is the day we check the velocity of this FWB 300S, so let’s get to it. When it was new, the 300S was advertised with a velocity of 640 f.p.s., though the pellet they was used to get that number was never specified. I will use a range of pellets I believe are appropriate to the power level of a spring gun like this. And, in a departure for me, one of the pellets I test will be domed.
Air Arms Falcon
I tested the Air Arms Falcon pellet even though it’s a domed pellet that’s not appropriate for target shooting, because many readers use these rifles with scopes for plinking and other pursuits. So, I’ll also shoot this pellet for accuracy — just to see what it can do.
This was the first pellet I tested, and I’m so glad I own a chronograph, because I learned something valuable about the 300S in this test. This rifle needs to warm up before it’ll shoot with stable velocity. Think of an older car from the 1950s that had to be warmed up for a minute or so and then driven slowly for the first mile to allow the parts to expand and start sealing as they should. Heck — most car engines from that era developed leaks pretty quickly, and you did whatever was necessary to keep them from wearing faster than they should. Well, this FWB 300S needs the same kind of warmup. Let me show you the first 9 shots.
So, if you shoot a 300S — or any of its derivatives — for score, maybe you better shoot about 10 shots just to warm the action before expecting the rifle to do its best.
After shot 9, the rifle became very stable and averaged 658 f.p.s. with the Falcon pellet. The low was 655, and the high was 671 f.p.s. At that speed, this pellet generates 7.05 foot-pounds. That’s pretty brisk for a 300S; but Mac, who traded the rifle to me, said it had just been sealed and overhauled by Randy Bimrose, so it’s performing at its best.
A couple observations
Before I move to the next pellet, I’d like to make a few observations. First, I said in Part 1 that the 300S action doesn’t need to be levered forward at the end of the cocking strike like the action of an RWS Diana model 54 Air King, but that was incorrect. It does have to be levered forward into lockup in just the same way, but the 300S action is so smooth that I didn’t notice it until now. With a Diana 54, you always notice it.
I mention this because, like the Diana 54, the 300S uses the sledge-type anti-recoil system; and even though it’s a gentle rifle, it has to operate in the same way as the more powerful Diana. Moving the action forward into lockup prepares the action to release when the gun fires and to move on the steel rails in the stock just a fraction of an inch, canceling the feel of recoil.
The second thing I noticed this time is that I can feel the cocking link bump over the mainspring coils as the cocking lever moves back to the stored position. I sometimes feel that same roughness in other spring rifles, where the tolerances are tight, and I thought I’d mention that this one does the same thing.
RWS R-10 Pistol pellets
Next, I tried the RWS R-10 Pistol pellet, which weigh 7 grains, even. I tried them because of their weight — not because I think they’ll be the most accurate pellet. I just want to show the rifle’s velocity with a reasonable range of pellet weights.
This pellet averaged 658 f.p.s. with a low of 640 and a high of 664 f.p.s. The low shot was the only one that went slower than 656 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 6.73 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets
The final pellet I tested was the 8.18-grain H&N Finale Match Rifle pellet. It averaged 609 f.p.s. and ranged from 597 to 616 f.p.s. The average velocity generated a muzzle energy of 6.74 foot-pounds
There you have it. This 300S is extremely healthy and ready to go target shooting in the next report! It’s still a joy to shoot and is a rifle that you should continue to covet if you’re so inclined.
One additional thing. There has been some talk of how accurate these rifles are at longer range. If you want, I’ll schedule a special fourth report in which I shoot this rifle outdoors at 50 yards. I’ll have to wait for a calm day, of course, but wouldn’t it be fun to see how this rifle shoots at that range?
by B.B. Pelletier
The FWB 300s is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.
I’ve danced around writing this report for the better part of a year, and some of you have asked me when I was going to get around to it. Well, today is the day we’ll begin looking at Feinwerkbau’s fabulous 300S — considered by many airgunners to be the gold standard of vintage 10-meter target air rifles.
Today’s blog is an important resource for those who are interested in fine vintage 10-meter target rifles, because I’m going to give you the links to all the other reports I’ve done.
There are plenty of vintage 10-meter rifles that I haven’t tested for you yet. The Diana 75, the Anschutz 380, the Walther LGR, the Anschutz 250 and the Gamo 126 all come to mind; but if you want to split hairs, there are numerous similar models like the Walther LG55 and the Diana 65 that also belong to a very long list of classic oldies. But the guns we’ve looked at thus far are a fair representation of the classic era of target air rifles. Today, we’ll look at the rifle many consider to be the pinnacle of achievement during that period.
You probably know the history, but if you don’t — first there was the FWB 110, a sidelever target rifle that recoiled! Yes, it recoiled. What’s more, Feinwertkbau didn’t make too many of them. The 110 is considered to be a very desirable airgun collectible today, and many advanced airgunners, including me, have never even seen one. According to the Blue Book of Airguns, fewer than 200 were made from 1962-1964.
The FWB 150 followed the 110 and introduced Feinwerkbau’s anti-recoil system. I reviewed the FWB 150 for you last June. I found it to be easy to shoot and compellingly accurate, but it wasn’t everything it could be. That honor awaited the 300S that I’m reviewing for you today.
The FWB 150 is the predecessor of the 300S. It shares a more sporterized stock profile with the interim FWB 300.
A footnote deserves to be inserted here, as the first edition of the Beeman catalog, a collectible in its own right, also mentioned an FWB 200 model, existing at the same time as the 300. A short line in the Blue Book says the model 200 was similar to the model 300 but lacked the recoil-compensation system. Until I researched today’s report, the model 200 was unknown to me and I’ve certainly never seen one. Is it as rare as the model 110? Has anyone ever seen one? These are the curious things that pop up as we research this fascinating hobby, and they’re what keeps the collector in me in a permanent state of anticipation.
The model 300 was much like the 150, in that it has a single coiled, steel mainspring and a thinner, more sporterized stock, yet it was definitely labeled a 300, rather than the 150. You don’t see as many straight 300 rifles as you do 150 rifles these days. Perhaps that’s because when the 300S came out it overshadowed the 300 and drove it from the marketplace in fairly short order. The 300S was a very different gun.
If you’re like me, you never paid much attention to the difference between a 300 and the 300S. What’s in a letter designation, after all? A lot of things, as it turns out.
Let’s start with the mainspring. The 300S has two coiled steel springs that are wound in opposite directions. It’s said they cancel the slight amount of torque at firing, though I cannot say that I’ve ever noticed any torque in my 150. The RWS Diana 48 sidelever does have noticeable torque upon firing, and you’ll feel a definite rocking to the right after the trigger is pulled. Since the sidelever already unbalances that rifle, the feeling is magnified; but the 150 doesn’t have the same feeling. At least — my rifle, which was recently tuned by Randy Bimrose, doesn’t.
The 300S stock is shorter than the stock on the 300/150. It also has a more vertical pistol grip to enhance the offhand hold. A slight flare at the bottom might go unnoticed in the catalog photos; but when you hold the rifle, the pistol grip grabs you right back.
So, how does this rifle block the recoil? Well, for starters, it actually doesn’t! All the FWB spring-piston target rifles do recoil; but in the 150 models and the 300-series there’s a special system in the stock that isolates the shooter from the movement. A set of steel rails set into the stock allows the action to move while the stock remains still. The shooter doesn’t feel any recoil and only the slightest vibration in some guns. But you do notice the movement of the action, because of the eyepiece that’s close to your sighting eye. The movement is very short — on the order of a quarter-inch or so — but if you’re close to the rear sight you’ll notice it. A rubber eyecup helps take up the shock and prevent your eye from banging into the rear sight disk, and I find it necessary to use this accessory with this model rifle.
This system is called the sledge system, after the name for a dry-land type of sled whose runners make it easy to drag heavy loads. It’s completely different from the Giss anti-recoil system, in which a counterweighted piston actually has no discernible recoil.
This mechanism is very refined compared to a similar system found on the RWS Diana model 54 Air King. Of course, that magnum spring-piston rifle has to deal with three times the power in a rifle of similar weight, so it’s actually doing quite a good job of canceling the recoil. Still, when the 300S lever is retracted, there’s no “levering” of the action required at the end of the cocking stroke like you have with the Diana 54. The ratcheting anti-beartrap safety that prevents the sliding compression chamber from smashing your thumb during loading does not need a separate button to release the cocking lever after you’ve loaded. The only extra step the 300S does have is a small locking latch on the sidelever that unlocks the lever at the start of the cocking stroke. The 150 and 300 cocking levers both have an end section that pivots outward to unlock the cocking lever and achieve the same thing.
Press down on the cocking lever latch to release the lever for cocking and loading.
The sidelever on a 300S is also much shorter than the one on the 150, yet the cocking effort remains as light. Obviously, some geometry was changed when the model was updated.
My 300S is a Daisy gun. While many were imported and sold by Beeman, many more came into the U.S. through Daisy when the company was trying to establish itself as a target gun company. The FWB name trumped the Daisy name, however, and a Daisy FWB is exactly the same as one from Beeman or one imported directly from Europe.
This 300S came from Daisy.
No piston seal
Another odd but not unique feature of these rifles is the lack of a conventional piston seal. Instead of a traditional seal, they use a metal ring much like those found on an automobile engine’s piston. These rings will last for millions of cycles, as some club guns have demonstrated, though other parts like the breech seal will eventually have to be replaced. And the coiled steel mainspring set needs occasional replacement, as well.
Many Webley pistols and a couple of the older Webley rifles have the same design, so piston rings are not unique in the airgun world. They are, however, features that are found only on guns of quality.
When the 150/300 was new, American airgunners were not used to light target triggers as a rule. They were accustomed to a 3-lb. pull being considered light. So, when they encountered the FWB trigger that releases at ounces rather than pounds, they were astounded. In fact, if they’d been accustomed to shooting the older target rifles from the 19th century, like Ballards, Maynards and Winchesters, all of which had fine double-set triggers, they would have been less impressed.
The 300S trigger has a nominal pull weight ranging from 3.5 oz. to 17.7 oz. (an optional trigger spring boosts that range from 10.6 oz. to 52.8 oz.). In target rifle terms, even the lighter range is not very light, though I find it just right for me. The trigger on my rifle releases at a satisfying 4.4 oz. It’s a two-stage pull with stage two being very definite. With practice, you can get on target and “think” the trigger off as the sight picture becomes perfect.
The 300S trigger also adjusts for position, cant and first-stage travel — all things that the 150 trigger does not do. Although the 150 trigger is just as light and crisp as the one on the 300S, you can’t reposition it. It’s also curved like a sporting trigger instead of straight like the target trigger found on the 300S.
The trigger of a target air rifle has no lower limit, the way a target air pistol does. In the ISSF rules for air pistols, a match pistol trigger must break at more than 500 grams (17.64 oz.). This is done in the interest of safety, as the muzzle of a pistol is too easy to move while on a firing line. But a rifle like the 300S is more obvious and easier to control, so there’s no lower limit. Some target air rifles today are releasing at less than 50 grams (1.76 oz.) of force.
The stocks of the vintage target air rifles show a fairly broad latitude of design, but they stop short in a few important areas. Tyrolean stocks are not permitted in World Cup and Olympic matches, nor are butt hooks. Today’s rifles are studies in ergonomics applied against these rules. Today, a 300S looks fairly normal to eyes that are accustomed to wild aluminum stocks with numerous adjustments; but when it was new, it seemed to push the envelope of possibility. I suppose it’s equivalent to how the finned cars of the late 1950s appeared when they were new compared to how we see them today.
Another drastic measure was taken at the World Cup level in the realm of target sights. For a brief time, the tube-type rear aperture sight was used, but complaints that it gave an unfair advantage caused a ruling that it was no longer permitted. This is very odd, since tube-type sights have been in use since at least 1776 and were in widespread use in target matches throughout the 19th century. But the ruling was made, and today’s rear sights cannot use tubes to enhance the sharpness of the sight picture.
FWB target rear sights looked as exotic as a Rolex watch when they were new in the 1970s. Today, they seem almost simple, but they still do the job. The click detents are nowhere close to the thousandth-inch measurements of the Vernier scale peep sights I showed you recently; but since you’re shooting 10 meters instead of 1,000 yards, they’re more than adequate for the job.
Unfortunately, these rifles were also sold without sights for a slightly reduced price, and many buyers mounted short scopes on their 11mm sight dovetails. While they may have been pleased with the gun that way, they created a shortage of sights for the future that is difficult to resolve. Until five years ago, you either had to install a hoplessly crude rear sight made either in Spain or China and live with the problems of adjustment backlash, or you had to pony up almost as much money as you paid for the entire rifle just to buy a set of precision sights.
AirForce corrected that lack for you with their adaptive rear target sight that fits most 10-meter guns. For about a third of what a German rear sight costs, you get a unit that’s the equivalent of the vintage FWB rear sight; and as a bonus, it looks at home on any rifle. An additional feature that never seems to get mentioned is this sight can be removed from its base and installed in a standard one-inch scope ring — multiplying the possible applications greatly.
The front sight looks more conventional and is of the globe design with replaceable inserts. On the 300S, it’s part of a larger aluminum barrel sleeve that makes it proprietary. When the globe on an Anschütz or Weihrauch target rifle slides onto a dovetail, this globe actually fits only the 300S barrel.
The front sight on this HW55 attaches to two dovetails of standard width. All Weihrauch rifles that have dovetails can use this sight.
The FWB 300S front sight globe is integral with an aluminum sleeve that fits over the barrel. It’s either this or nothing!
The front sight is pinned to the barrel through the sight base. On some versions of the 300S, like the Universal and the later Match, this pin is at the bottom of the barrel. On my rifle it’s located at the top.
You may have also noticed that the 300S has a blued barrel sleeve that’s slenderer than the one on the 150. Only toward the end of the barrel does it swell a bit. That’s because the 300S barrel is longer than the one on the 150, so there has to be less sleeve material to balance the weight correctly.
But the real test of this airgun comes with shooting. I’ve already shot this rifle several times, so I know what’s in store. You should feel eager expectation for the next two installments, because this rifle wants to shoot!
by B.B. Pelletier
Is this Custom Match the best HW 55 ever made? Read the report to find out.
In the last report, I tuned the rifle and got rid of the objectionable firing cycle. It’s always a great pleasure to return to a classic air rifle like this one after testing so many modern airguns, because these oldies are so reserved and well-behaved. I know it’s not going to kick, roar and fight me at every turn. It may only be suited to shoot 10-meter target, but sometimes — and by that I really mean often — that’s exactly what I need.
I had to remove the sights during the tuneup, so the rifle needed to be sighted-in again. It wasn’t that far off, but the indices are so dark on a 55 rear sight and my eyes are so bad that I had to play around until I discovered which way to adjust the sight to go right. In this respect, a modern 10-meter rifle has it all over a vintage one.
The first pellet I tried was the H&N Finale Match Rifle pellet. I haven’t had a lot of recent success with this pellet in target rifles, but in the past this was one of two to contend with — the RWS R-10 Match Pistol pellet being the other. This time was different, though. Although the first group wasn’t what I wanted, it showed enough promise that I shot a second and a third. By the third group, I could tell this pellet likes this rifle.
Next, I tried the RWS R-10 Match Pistol pellet, and I gave it the same number of chances, but it never showed me anything. That was a surprise, because I think this pellet is one of the more accurate pellets in several of my other 10-meter rifles.
Following the R-10, I tried the RWS Hobby pellet, because in my HW 55 SF — the 55 that has no barrel lock — Hobbys do surprisingly well. Again, there was no joy this time. I’m showing the group to contrast with the others in this report.
At this point, I was satisfied that this rifle is accurate, though it won’t give an FWB 300S any competition. But why stop there?
I next mistakenly loaded some obsolete and nondescript European diabolos that I mistook for JSB S-100 competition pellets. Boy! If you ever wanted to see a comparison between good pellets and cheap ones in a good gun, this was it! How about a three-quarter-inch five-shot group?
Back to serious ammo. The next pellet I tried was the H&N Match Pistol. This is not a Finale Match pellet, and I find that these sometimes vary in weight a lot more than Finales tend to, but there can be surprises. Not this time, though. The best group looked like Hobbys. Oh, well!
After that, I tried H&N Match Rifle pellets. They’re the same as Match Pistol, only heavier. But for some reason that nobody understands but everybody believes, they shot great! These are the pellets for this rifle — until I find something better.
The rifle is shooting fine with the new tune. I could live with less power, but what I have isn’t bad. The trigger is a joy, because it breaks at just 7 oz., and that’s as light as I need it to be. Shooting from a bench in the rested position doesn’t give you the full feeling of the rifle. All it shows is the potential for accuracy, and this one’s got it.
by B.B. Pelletier
Is this Custom Match the best HW 55 ever made? Read the report to find out.
This is a special Part 3 for the HW 55 Custom Match target rifle. It will be a retest of velocity, following a strip-down and lubrication with black tar to get rid of some uncomfortable vibration when the gun fires. When I tested it for velocity in Part 2, I discovered the rifle was shooting way too fast for an HW 55. Probably the Beeman Company replaced the mainspring when it went back to them for an overhaul. At any rate, when RWS Hobby pellets average 694 f.p.s., as they did for this rifle, you know something is wrong. I’ll try to remove as much of the harshness as I can with this tune, and I really don’t care how much velocity is lost.
A word about the Part 2 report is needed here. I combined it with Part 2 of the report on Mac’s Diana model 60 target rifle because I don’t want to crowd the blog with too many reports about vintage air rifles. Since the velocity report goes pretty quick, I just put the two of them together. But, today, the 55 CM gets its own report, because as well as testing velocity I’ll be disassembling the rifle and applying a tune. There will be some observations for that, as well as the velocity results afterward, so this work rates a report of its own. Of course, there will still be a Part 4 accuracy test to come.
There were no real surprises when disassembling the rifle, except to find a very canted mainspring. That was where the vibration came from — of that there can be no doubt. I rooted around in my collection of replacement mainsprings and found one that Jim Maccari made for a TX 200! Talk about inappropriate for an HW 55 — but the dimensions of this spring were so great that I had to try it.
I discovered that the trigger was still coated with a drying, tacky layer of factory “tractor grease.” I kidded Hans Weichrauch, Jr., about this years ago and he had no comeback. From his perspective, the grease is always fresh and new. I removed everything I could from the trigger but expected no change in performance. This was more of a conservation step than a restorative one.
The new spring was very liberally buttered with black tar, and the rifle was assembled once more. However, when I cocked it the first time, I knew that wasn’t the solution. The cocking effort started out light but quickly stacked until I was pulling back around 30 lbs. of effort. That’s way too much for a 55 target rifle.
On the plus side, I probably added at least another 50-75 f.p.s. to the velocity. But, with a target rifle, who needs velocity?
So, once more, the action came apart. This time I used a spring that had very similar dimensions to the one that came from the gun — only this one is straight. It got buttered with tar, too and then everything went back together.
How does the rifle feel?
The rifle now requires 26 lbs. of force to cock, compared to the 20 lbs. before — so that part isn’t good. The firing cycle, however, feels lighter and much quicker. Gone is the objectionable vibration that came from the canted mainspring. This rifle will now be easier to shoot accurately.
The first pellet tested was the RWS Hobby that was such a speed demon with the old tune. Back then, the rifle averaged a blistering 694 f.p.s. with this pellet. That’s way too fast and does nothing for the potential accuracy. The extreme spread was 17 foot-seconds with that pellet and tune.
With the new tune, Hobbys average 603 f.p.s., ranging from 602 to 610 f.p.s. for an 8 foot-second spread. That’s more like what I wanted, and maybe even on the low side of what I was looking for. But with that tight spread, I know the rifle is doing well with this tune.
Next, I tried H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. The old tune gave an average 632 f.p.s. velocity with a 14 foot-second spread.
The new tune gives an average of 573 f.p.s. with a 12 foot-second spread that runs from 567 to 579 f.p.s. The spread is pretty close to what we had before, but the velocity is now down where I expect it to be.
The last pellet I tested was the RWS R-10 Match Pistol pellet. With the old tune, the pellet averaged 632 f.p.s. with an 18 foot-second spread that went from 619 to 637 f.p.s.
The new tune sends this pellet downrange at an average 565 f.p.s. with the total velocity spread that runs from 560 to 567. Only 7 f.p.s. separates the slowest shot from the fastest.
The rifle now seems much more calm and settled when it fires. I can’t be sure until I shoot for the record, but I think I’ve tamed the beast.
Am I satisfied with this tune? Yes, except for the extra cocking effort. An HW 55 should cock at around 15 lbs. of force, and this one takes 26 lbs. That’s heavy, even though it doesn’t set off any alarms. I would still like to get it back under 20 lbs., but I’m not going to hold up the show just for that.
Accuracy testing is next, and then we’ll have complete tests for five popular 10-meter spring-piston target rifles: the HW 55 SF, FWB 150, Diana model 60, Walther LGV Olympia and this HW 55 CM. Guns I haven’t yet tested (that I own and have access to) are the FWB 300S and the Haenel 311.
by B.B. Pelletier
Photos and test results for the Diana 60 by Earl “Mac” McDonald
The Diana model 60, which is a Hy-Score model 810 in this case, is a breakbarrel target rifle from the 1960s and ’70s.
That’s right, sports fans, today you’re getting a twofer. For the benefit of our readers outside the U.S., a twofer is slang that means “two for the price of one.” I decided to report on both Mac’s Diana 60 velocity test and my HW 55 Custom Match velocity test for reasons I will explain in each part. Grab a large cup of coffee and an extra Danish and sit back!
The Diana model 60 target rifle
We’ll look at Mac’s rifle first. Today, I’ll reveal the one thing that’s been troubling Mac about his rifle, so it doesn’t take a detective to know that it has to do with velocity.
The cocking effort of his breakbarrel rifle is 28 lbs., which seems high to me. Mac says it doesn’t feel that high because, for some reason, it gets lighter toward the end of the cocking stroke. He also cautions us to beware of the rack-and-pinion noises that these guns have when they’re cocked. To all that I have to say this.
There shouldn’t be any noises when this rifle is cocked. I’ve owned several Giss-system rifles and pistols and shot a lot more, and none of them made any extra noise when they were cocked. That’s clue No. 1. And, I’ll explain how the Giss system works next.
Clue No. 2 is the lighter cocking effort toward the end of the stroke. That’s atypical for a breakbarrel, but Diana has the reputation for breaking mainsprings. When they do, they get smoother. They don’t make any noise, nor do they bind during the cocking stroke. I’ve certainly seen a half-dozen Diana rifles with broken mainsprings and they all acted this way.
How the Giss contra-recoil system works
The Giss contra-recoil system consists of two pistons connected to each other. The real one goes forward when the gun is fired, and a dummy travels to the rear at the same time. The real piston is the only one that has a piston seal, and it’s the one that compresses all the air for the shot. The dummy piston has no seal and is just there to provide an equal and opposite reaction to the real piston. When the real piston slams to a stop, the dummy piston does too at the same instant. The EFFECT of this is that the impulse of each piston cancels the other. The first time an airgunner experiences it he’s usually blown away because, when the gun is timed right, absolutely no firing pulse can be felt.
Of course, timing is the principal concern in a gun that uses the Giss system. That’s why I never recommend a person try to repair his own gun. Sometimes, a mechanical genius like Nick Carter who writes Another Airgun Blog will be able to dive right inside a Giss gun and find no obstacle he cannot understand and overcome, but the average person will just create a basket case.
Looking straight down on the top of the model 60 action, we can see the two telltale caps that cover the gears connecting the two pistons to each other. All Giss-system guns have these caps.
This simple graphic shows how the two pistons oppose each other.
I’ll tell you right now that Mac experienced lower velocity than he expected from this rifle. An Air Rifle Headquarters catalog (the original company) from 1973 gives the velocity of the model 60 as 546 f.p.s., without specifying what pellet was used. That would probably translate to about 550-570 f.p.s. with the pistol-weight target pellets we use today. Mac wasn’t getting that.
He asked me what I thought about putting a drop of silicone chamber oil through the air transfer port to lubricate the piston. We know that these older target spring guns came with seals that dry-rotted over the years, and chamber oil will speed up their demise, but I figured he had to find out somehow, so he did it. But it didn’t cause the seal to destroy itself. It simply boosted the velocity about 12 f.p.s. with no change in how tight the velocity spread was.
The first pellet he tried was the H&N Finale Match Rifle pellet that weighs 8.18 grains. They averaged 457 f.p.s., with a 22 foot-second spread from 445 to 467 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 3.79 foot-pounds.
Next, he went with a domed pellet. JSB Exact Diabolos are domed pellets that would not normally be fired in a target rifle unless the target was something other than paper. But Mac also uses his target rifles for mini sniping, so he tested this 8.4-grain pellet anyway. It averaged 474 f.p.s., with a 16 foot-second spread from 465 to 481 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 4.19 foot-pounds.
The final pellet Mac tried was the old standard RWS Meisterkugeln pistol-weight wadcutter. Today, they only weigh 7 grains, but Mac had some older ones that weighed 7.7 grains. They were a very loose fit in the breech and averaged 458 f.p.s., with a whopping 37 f.p.s spread from 442 to 479 f.p.s. The average energy generated was 3.59 foot-pounds.
Both Mac and I think the rifle isn’t performing up to spec. Mac found some stated velocity figures of 460 f.p.s. in print somewhere, but he thinks it’s a transposition of 640 f.p.s., which is where a few of the 1960s and ’70s-era target rifles were.
I now believe the rifle has a broken mainspring. Mac thinks it’s just a tired one. Either way, the thought that his gun isn’t performing up to snuff is getting under his skin, so I advised him to have it repaired by either Pyramyd Air or Umarex USA so he’ll know for sure.
Nevertheless, the rifle still shoots as it should and there will be a part 3 coming soon. Let’s go to Part 2 of the other target rifle on today’s menu.
The HW 55 CM target rifle
Is this Custom Match the best HW 55 ever made? Read the report to find out.
I’m putting this additional report here for a couple reasons. First, I didn’t want to go too long without reporting on it. More importantly, I thought I might have to do an extra report on this rifle. As luck would have it, that’s how it turned out. While this is Part 2 and a velocity test, the next part will also be about velocity.
Remember that the HW 55 CM was the rifle that I felt had a harsh firing cycle back in Part 1. After I tightened the stock screws, some of the harshness went away. Even after that, the rifle was still feeling harsher than I felt it should for what it is.
Several of you readers thought that when the gun went back to Beeman for a rebuild, they probably installed the upgraded HW 50 sporter mainspring that would have boosted the power. The only way to find that out is with a chronograph, so that’s what I did. According to Air Rifle Headquarters catalog data, once again, a regular HW 55 should shoot H&N pellets at 650 f.p.s. Unfortunately, they don’t give a lot more data about the specific pellets they used for the test.
The rifle does still shoot a little harsh. When you’re peering through a peep sight, the smallest recoil becomes instantly noticeable. In this rifle, it’s unpleasant. The peep comes straight back and bumps into my skull when I fire. My Ballard rifle does the same thing, only its peep is on a tang sight that collapses forward when it contacts my eye. The HW 55 sight, in contrast, remains rigid and allows me to absorb all the impulse of each shot. Well, I’ll be danged if I’m going to put up with that!
The plan is to quiet the shot cycle with black tar, if possible. If the gun has extra velocity it doesn’t need, I’ll be only too happy to do that.
The cocking effort is just 20 lbs. on the nose, and the ARH catalog says to expect a weight of just 15 lbs. There’s another small deviation from what would be expected. Even the HW 50 mainspring isn’t that powerful, and the long almost-18.5-inch barrel may be providing the extra leverage to reduce the force.
The first pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby, that standard candle of high-velocity lead pellets. At just 7 grains, it’s not only light, but often it turns in surprisingly good results downrange. Hobbys averaged 694 f.p.s., with a 17 foot-second spread that went from 684 to 701 f.p.s. The muzzle energy is 7.49 foot-pounds. I would love to say that this speed wasn’t expected, but it wasn’t far enough out of line to be definitive.
Next, I tried H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. They weigh 7.56 grains. They averaged 632 f.p.s., with a 14 foot-second spread from 625 to 639 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 6.71 foot-pounds. That seems right on the money for a stock mainspring.
The final pellet I tried was the RWS R-10 Match Pistol pellet. Although they’re just as light as the Hobbys, they go the same speed as the heavier H&N Match Pistol pellets. That would indicate a bore-fit issue.They averaged 632 f.p.s., with an 18 foot-second spread from 619 to 637 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 6.21 foot-pounds.
I can’t tell for certain that the mainspring has been upgraded, but I do know that the rifle has way more velocity than I need. The next step is to lube the spring with black tar to see what EFFECT, if any, that has on the shot cycle. While Mac wants more velocity, I’m looking to get rid of some for the sake of smoothness.
I’ll break these two reports into separate reports for their respective accuracy tests. But before I do the accuracy test with the HW 55 CM, I’ll lube the spring and retest the velocity results, giving this rifle one extra report.
by B.B. Pelletier
Is this Custom Match the best HW 55 ever made? Read the report to find out.
Today, we’ll begin a look at a variant of the HW 55 that was not produced in great numbers. It was supposed to be the high-water mark of the HW 55, and it came into being just after the end of the era when recoilling spring-piston target rifles had dominated the world stage. Shooters were moving en mass to the newer recoilless designs like the Diana 60-series, the FWB sidelevers and even the single-stroke Walther LGR.
An HW 55 won the gold medal at the European Championship in 1969. When the Custom Match hit the market in the 1970s, it came just after the summit of success. Little did they know at that time that there would be no more major championships for recoiling air rifles of any make. It was similar to the last gasp of the Offenhauser front-engine Indy cars when Ford got into Indy racing in 1963.
Like the proverbial tale of the last buggy-whip maker that made the finest buggy whips ever created, the HW 55 CM was the finest spring-piston 10-meter target air rifle Weihrauch ever produced. In this report, I hope to show you a few of the innovations they built into the gun to make it all that it was.
What about the Tyrolean?
Before we continue, you might be wondering what ever became of the HW 55 Tyrolean model and why I don’t refer to it as the finest target rifle Weihrauch ever made. The Tyrolean is, without question, the most beautiful air rifle ever made by Weihrauch, and it’s so perfect for offhand shooting that a different style would scarcely be needed, but a change in the rules outlawed the Tyrolean stock for international competition. Not only Weihrauch, but also Feinwerkbau, Walther and perhaps others already had Tyrolean models in production when the rules changed. Weihrauch continued making the model because of demand from private shooters everywhere. But its days of competitive shooting were over. I reported on the Tyrolean extensively back in 2008, and you can read that report here.
Today’s report is about the gun that was supposed to restore the HW name to competition — the Custom Match. Collector Mike Driskill has written that the CM was first offered in 1974. My own information on the subject is very sketchy, but the earliest date I can prove that it was available was in 1979. I trust Mike to have the data to back up his date, so let’s accept that as the starting point for this model. As far as the end date, it’s anyone’s guess. The HW 55 line simply petered out in the 1990s, mostly because worldwide sales had dropped off so much.
This much I do know — the CM model wasn’t made in great numbers. It was the most expensive of all the 55-series guns when it was being sold, selling for about $50 more than the Tyrolean, which was already $110 higher than the beech-stocked SM. Air Rifle Headquarters (the original one) sold the Tyrolean for $389.50 and the CM for $438.50 in 1979. At that price, the model was quite exclusive, though the Anschutz and Walther target models were hundreds of dollars more. But this was an outdated recoiling spring-piston rifle and the others were all the more desirable recoilless models.
The HW 55 CM appears to be a large air rifle of approximately the same size as the FWB 300S, but that appearance is deceiving. Inside the deep forearm of the stock is a large hollow chamber for lead weights, and that void lowers the weight of the rifle to one ounce under nine pounds. That’s considerably lighter than the similarly sized FWB 300S that weighs 10 lbs., 12 oz. For shooters of average strength, the CM is a wonderful offhand shooter that happens to have a nice target stock.
An optional barrel weight in the form of a steel jacket was also available to add even more weight to the rifle. So, although it’s basically light, the CM can quickly gain several pounds when called upon.
A large cavity in the forearm is for adding lead weights.
The HW 55 CM (bottom) looks as large as the FWB 300S. It’s almost two pounds lighter, though, due to a hollow forearm.
The stock is made of straight-grained walnut, and the well-shaped almost-vertical pistol grip is deeply stippled for a good handhold. As far as I know, the CM does not have the same reputation for breaking at the pistol grip as the FWB 150/300 and the Anschutz 250, which are all very prone to breakage. There’s an accessory rail inlet into the bottom of the forearm, to the delight of serious target shooters.
The HW 55 CM is a breakbarrel like all the 55-series guns. And, all of them except the extremely rare SF model have a positive barrel lock located on the left side of the action at the breech. The barrel will not open until this latch is rotated forward, but when the barrel is closed there’s enough residual force in the tiny spring-loaded detent to hold the barrel shut without latching it. Not that you would want to do that, of course.
When the barrel locking lever is back like this, the barrel is positively locked closed.
Rotate the barrel locking lever forward to unlock the breech. This is how far the barrel will open before encountering spring tension.
The trigger deserves special mention. Not only is it a Rekord trigger, but it’s a target version of that famous trigger. Several years ago, I asked Hans Weihrauch, Jr. why other Rekords were not as sensitive as this one. He told me they put a special light trigger return spring in this model, plus you can see in the photo that the pull adjustment screw that’s a plain aluminum screw on other Rekords is actually a thumbscrew on this rifle. Inside the thumbscrew, there’s a locking screw that must be loosened before the trigger can be adjusted. After that, you adjust the pull with the thumbscrew; and when you get it where you like it, tighten the locking screw to lock it in place.
The trigger-pull adjustment is a thumbscrew located behind the trigger blade. The locking screw is visible inside. This adjustment is found on the special target version of the Rekord trigger.
I don’t have a trigger-pull gauge light enough to measure this trigger, but I would estimate that it releases with around 4 oz. of pressure. While that is considerably heavier than the triggers on my FWB 150 and 300S, it’s in line with the trigger on my Walther LGV Olympia — another recoiling spring-piston target rifle from approximately the same timeframe. As an offhand trigger, it’s fine because you don’t want something so light that you set it off before you’re ready. It also stops at the point of release, and that could be because of the trigger blade hitting the adjustment thumbscrew; but my HW 55 SF, which has the identical target trigger, has greater clearance between the trigger blade and the adjustment thumbscrew and stops before contacting the screw. There doesn’t seem to be a way to adjust this overtravel; or if there is, I haven’t found it yet.
All HW 55 rifles came with target aperture rear sights and globe front sights that had a set of inserts. My gun came to me with one front aperture insert. The rear peep is very small, and I might exchange it with the one I used on my FWB 150 for the accuracy test. Weihrauch peep sights changed many times over the approximately 40 years they were in production, and the one on my rifle appears to be one of the last versions made.
The front sight is a standard Weihrauch globe with replaceable inserts.
The rear sight on the Custom Match is one of the later HW 55 aperture sight designs.
To be perfectly honest, the firing behavior of my CM is harsh and not at all in keeping with the rest of the rifle. I will test the rifle for velocity in the next report, but I think I’ll also lubricate the mainspring or perhaps replace it if necessary to smooth out the firing cycle.
Any HW 55 is a desirable air rifle, but the Custom Match is special even within the category of HW 55s. I hope to show you as much of this rifle as you wish to see; and even if you never see one in person, you’ll know they’re out there and what they look like.
by B.B. Pelletier
The airgun show continued on Saturday, and a firearms show opened in the same civic center complex. Paying admission to the firearms show also got you into the airgun show, so we saw several of those buyers walking in our aisles. It’s odd to see a guy carrying a firearm at an airgun show, but that’s what happens when two shows are run at the same time.
On this day, I got a first-time attendee’s appraisal of the show, which is always interesting. He said he came to the show with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I guess that about sums it up for most of us. If you came to buy just a Beeman R11 and didn’t find one, you might think the show was a bust despite being in the presence of some of the rarest, most collectible airguns ever assembled. If they didn’t have what you wanted, for you the show was bad.
But arrive without a preconceived notion of what you might find, and a show like this can bowl you over! For example, I’ve been wanting a Sheridan Supergrade multi-pump pneumatic to replace the one I had to sell years ago when The Airgun Letter went out of publication. Money was tight, so a number of firearms and airguns were sold. That was back in the days when a Supergrade in nice condition would bring $600. Only two years ago, the same gun might have brought $1,500-2,000. But at this show, I sat just 10 feet from a beauty that was listed at $1,300 — a very good price for a nice Supergrade. I’d just enough to buy it at one point, but it would have tapped me out completely, so I had to let it pass. That is the agonizing that Lloyd wrote about yesterday.
This very late model Sheridan Model A (called the Supergrade) was only a few feet away. The price was as nice as the gun!
A Sheridan Supergrade doesn’t shoot any harder or more accurately than a Blue Streak, but it does it with style.
I told you yesterday that reader and guest blogger Paul had found a special air rifle at the show. What he found was a boxed Walther Lever Action rifle, the one that looks like a Winchester 1894, that impressed him very much. In person, the Walther is quite stunning, with only wood and metal touching your hands. I could tell by his smile that this rifle made his day.
But, as he was telling Mac and me goodbye, he kept eyeing a Beeman C1 of Mac’s on the table. I think he expected his wife, who was with him, to talk him out of it, but when he returned to the table a short time later, he mumbled something about her being an enabler. In other words, Paul’s wife is a lot like my Edith! Long story short, he went away with another fine air rifle.
Remember me telling you yesterday about the Falke 90 rifle and how it may have been the gun from which the Hakim was copied? Well, I wanted to show Mac why I thought that, so I glanced around for a Hakim to use in demonstration. And there, in a rack close by, was the finest Hakim I’ve even seen — short of one that Larry Hannusch completely refinished! Its owner/seller said he had hand-picked it from a Navy Arms pile back when they were first imported to this country back in the 1980s. There was at least one other Hakim at the show, and it wasn’t too bad, but this one was exceptional.
More fine vintage stuff
Over at Davis Schwesinger’s table, I spotted not one but two rare Winsel bulk-fill CO2 pistols. I recently used one of these as an example of a rare airgun, so seeing two of them in one place is similar to seeing two Stradivarii at a fiddlefest.
The Winsel was a bulk-filled CO2 pistol that required the owner to mail in the reservoir for refills. The gun on the left is missing its reservoir.
Nearby was a beautiful Warrior air pistol. These are quite rare and very beautiful examples of a quality-made handgun. The bluing and heft of the gun is very firearm-like.
The Warrior is a heavy, all-steel sidelever air pistol that’s worth a used car.
But, perhaps, the best thing I saw on Dave Schwesinger’s table was a collection of old Beeman catalogs. Among them was a super-rare first catalog with a San Anselmo address. If you’ve followed my report on the history of Air Rifle Headquarters and Beeman you know that San Anselmo was the Beemans’ home, and they used a P.O. box for the business. Inside this catalog was a price sheet that reveals all the retail and dealer pricing for cataloged items in the first catalog. So, now I know how much my San Anselmo FWB 124 sold for in 1973. I’ll be covering that in another report very soon, as I have a little surprise for you coming in the 124 series.
So, I’m looking at this catalog that was valued at $500 about five years ago — and who knows what today — and Dave tells me, “They told me I should get $425 for that catalog, but if someone gave me $200 for it, I’d foxtrot around this hall.” So I gave him $200.
Davis Schwesinger dances with his wife, Luba, to honor our deal.
I know that seems like a lot for just a paper catalog, but this is the very hard-to-get first edition, and I’ll be using it for the rest of my life. And that, more than anything, is why I felt I could not spend all of my money to buy that nice Sheridan Supergrade. Because you never know when something pivotal, like this catalog, will pop up.
Rarest of all Beeman catalogs, the first edition was mailed from San Anselmo.
Elsewhere in the hall, I encountered still more fabulous deals on collectible vintage guns. One that really tickled me was a Crosman 150 pistol kit. The 150PK consists of a pistol in a metal case that doubles as a pellet backstop. In years past, these were always going for $150 when in good condition, but I found one at this show for only $100. And the pistol was a beauty!
Of course, there are always the bizarre guns, and this show had plenty of them. I saw things that nobody could guess what they were or how they worked. But collector Larry Behling probably sums up this category best with his bazooka.
No, it’s not a target gun. Collector and author Larry Behling holds his new acquisition, an air bazooka.
Vintage target rifles
Usually, there’s a theme to an airgun show, but I couldn’t see one this year beyond the memorial to Fred Liady. However, if I were forced to pick a theme, it would have to be vintage target airguns. I saw more of them than I think I’ve seen in many years. On my table, alone, Mac had two FWB 300s, an FWB 150 and an NIB RWS Diana 75. I’ve already mentioned some of the other great ones, such as the NIB HW 55.
Ten-meter target rifles were all over this show. Mac had four on his table, alone.
I managed to snag an HW 55 Custom Match that I’ll be showing you in the days to come. That’s a pretty nice version of the HW 55 that’s fairly scarce, considering the rifle’s long production history.
As Saturday grew old, people were asking whether the show would run again next year. Dee Liady told me right at the end of the show that her brother and Davis Schwesinger are planning to hold the show again. So, apparently there will be a 21st year gathering at Roanoke. I hope that many of you will be able to factor this into next year’s plans and join us in this beautiful southern Virginia city for the world’s largest and oldest continuous airgun show.