Posts Tagged ‘Walther Olympia’

Testing 4 vintage 10-meter air rifles

by B.B. Pelletier

Well it’s Friday again, and it’s time to have some fun. When I tested the TF 79 competition air rifle, I mentioned that I also shot several vintage 10-meter rifles the same day, just to make sure I was still able to shoot a good group. Well, we heard from a lot of readers who apparently like these oldsters just as much as I do, so I thought I would take today and report on how they all did.

I’ve owned most of the better-known classic 10-meter target air rifles over the years, but I didn’t hold onto them because I was always chasing some other dream. Long-range accuracy or big-bore prowess were always competing with these quiet target rifles, and there’s only a finite amount of money to go around. So, over the years I’ve both shot and given up some real vintage beauties.

A couple years ago, I decided that I had to always have at least one vintage 10-meter target rifle on hand at all times for when those assignments — like testing target pellets — came along. At the Little Rock airgun expo, I searched for an HW55 — a rifle that I knew from experience would be right for the job. Well, there was one in my price range. What I didn’t know at the time was that it was a very rare version of the HW55 that not too many collectors have ever seen. It was the HW55 SF, the only HW55 ever made without the positive barrel latch on the left side of the action. In reality, it’s just an HW50 with a target sight, but Weihrauch had marked the barrel as an HW55, and I was able to find a listing for the model in a vintage catalog from Air Rifle Headquarters. Technically, it’s a 55, even without the barrel latch, because the manufacturer says it is.

I’ve owned most of the better-known classic 10-meter target air rifles over the years

That rifle sparked a renewed interest in vintage 10-meter target rifles; and over the course of the next two years, another four guns have come into my possession. They are, in order of acquisition, a Walther LGV Olympia, an HW55 Custom Match, an FWB 300S and, most recently, an FWB 150. The 150 is off to the airgunsmith getting overhauled right now, but the other three are on hand and are part of today’s testing.

From the comments I received, I knew that I would not only have to report on how these guns shoot, but also on their particular weaknesses, because many of you seem to want to acquire one for yourselves. Today’s report is not meant to be a detailed report on each of the rifles. There is no time for that here. I’ve already reported on the HW55 SF and the Walther LGV Olympia in separate reports that you can read, so there are only the FWB 300, HW55 CM and the FWB 150 yet to get their own three-part evaluations at some time in the future.

I’ll shoot four of the five target rifles for you to compare their accuracy against what you’ve seen from the TF79, not to mention the Crosman Challenger PCP and the AirForce Edge. Be sure to read the reports on the Crosman Challenger PCP and the AirForce Edge, too. And, also, please know that Crosman made another target rifle called the Crosman Challenger 2000 that was a CO2 rifle with a Benjamin 397 barrel. That rifle was never as accurate as the Challenger PCP, but you can easily get confused by the similar-sounding names.

The HW55 SF
As I mentioned, this was the airgun that kicked off my renewed interest in vintage 10-meter target rifles. As you can see in the picture, it’s just a simple breakbarrel that happens to have a target sight. In its day, which was around 1968, Weihrauch was making the finest breakbarrel rifles they ever produced, so there’s a lot to this rifle that you won’t see in an airgun made today.

The HW55 SF was an unexpected find. It was supposed to be a work-a-day test-bed rifle. Instead, it rekindled old interests.

Also, because this is a model 55 in the eyes of the manufacturer, they installed the special target version of the Rekord trigger. While the standard Rekord trigger is something to behold, the target version has a much lighter trigger return spring and can be set to release safely at just ounces of breaking pressure. So there’s not much difference in feel or performance between this trigger and the one found on the FWB 300.

Nearly all HW55 rifles have this locking lever for the barrel on the left side of the gun. It’s the most easily recognized feature of this model.

Only the rare HW55 SF is without a barrel-locking lever. The baseblock is marked “HW55.”

Five Hobbys made this incredibly tight target with the HW55 SF.

Five H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets made this somewhat mediocre target.

So, the old 55 likes inexpensive RWS Hobby pellets, too. What a plus! Sometimes, that’s exactly how it goes. I also shot RWS R10 Heavy pellets, but they weren’t as accurate as the H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets. The rifle is a bit buzzy when it fires, which I don’t like. But the accuracy is almost too good to do anything to the powerplant except use it as it is.

The two weaknesses an old HW55 can have are a bent mainspring and worn seals. The early seals were leather and can be handmade by the owner, but later guns used the synthetic HW50 seals that seem to last a long time. If the breech seal is synthetic, there’s a good chance the piston seal will be, too.

Walther LGV Olympia
The next rifle I tested was the Walther LGV Olympia. This old classic was one I bought from collector Tom Strayhorn, at what I thought was a super price. Tom sold it so low because of some finish loss on the forearm, but color me purple if that matters one iota! I’m a shooter. While I like a good-looking air rifle, if it shoots well it can look like a dog. Besides, I don’t think this one looks that bad! Finally, there’s a real advantage to my low standards!

Isn’t the Walther LGV Olympia a gorgeous air rifle?

The LGV has a beautiful firing behavior. It’s smooth and free from vibration. I like the way the heavy rifle cocks, as well. It’s so smooth that it’s like watching a bank vault door operate. The trigger is the equal of the HW55 target trigger.

A sort of mediocre group of RWS R10 Match Heavy pellets from the LGV.

This target was shot back in January of this year. It’s the same R10 Heavy pellet and the same rifle. I just did better that day.

The Walther LGV series guns have two flaws. First, they tend to crack their stocks at the pistol grip where the wood grain is aligned wrong for strength. Second, all of them were made with seals that crumble in time, but the replacement seals of today seem to last forever. So, check on the grip and seals before buying. Most airgunsmiths can work on an LGV because it isn’t too intricate.

HW55 Custom Match
This is a rifle that deserves a complete three-part report of its own. Although I’ve owned it for several months, I haven’t shot it that much. I know I got some good groups from it in the past, but to tell the truth, it was the ugly stepsister in this test. The firing behavior is harsh and jarring — not at all what I expect from an HW55. It feels like the rifle was tuned by someone who only wanted power. I think I need to open it up and calm it down.

The HW55 CM represents the finest technological advance of the entire series of rifles.

I have so much to say about the HW55 CM because it represents Weihrauch’s high-water mark with the 55-series rifles. Even rarer than the Tyroleans that everyone covets, the CM was around for only a very few years at the end of the half-century-long production run of the HW55. It was the finest “buggy whip” they ever made, though my rifle needed some fixin’ to get to that point.

An embarrassing target! These H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets should have grouped in less than half this space. I really need to tune this rifle to reduce the harsh firing cycle. I also shot the gun with the R10 pellets but won’t show it because it’s even worse than this one.

Compared to the other rifles, the 55 CM feels thin and spindly. It has the thinnest barrel of all; in this crowd of heavyweights, it’s a definite pipsqueak. The lower-grade 55 SF feels so much more substantial. Of course, that’s not how it’s supposed to be, and I think the harsh firing behavior is causing me to project bad feelings on the rifle. I really need to calm it down. When I do a separate report, I’ll tune the rifle and hopefully get it shooting like it should. If I can’t, this one will have to hit the road.

The 55 CM has the same flaws as the other 55 rifles. Mine has a leather breech seal, so I assume the piston seal is also leather.

FWB 300S
The last vintage rifle is the one all the others are always compared to — the venerable FWB 300S sidelever target rifle. It features a sledge anti-recoil system in which the powerplant slides a fraction of an inch on steel rails in the stock when the gun fires. The shooter senses only the slight rearward movement of the rear sight, but absolutely no recoil.

Feinwerkbau’s 300S is the standard against which all vintage target rifles are compared.

This is another rifle that will get a separate three-part report sometime in the future. I got it from Mac at the Roanoke airgun show last fall. Bought it for cash right off the table after looking at it for one whole day.

Five R10 Match heavy pellets gave this somewhat open, yet well-centered group from the FWB 300S.

This group of 5 H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets shows the fine pedigree of the 300S.

This rifle shoots good groups in spite of the person on the trigger. You almost can’t make it do otherwise. Together with the LGV Olympia, it’s the easiest 10-meter spring rifle to cock. I can’t wait to see what the FWB 150 feels like because this one has prepared me for a winner!

The FWB 300S is real prone to break at the wrist. And the seals will wear out. In this case, the No. 1 repair station in the U.S. is Randy Bimrose. I wouldn’t use anyone else.

The bottom line
I had a wonderful time shooting these four veteran target rifles. Each has its own personality and feel, but they all were at one time the best air rifles in the world.

It’s very relaxing shooting these old guns, because I don’t have to work hard to get good results. The lower velocity comes with reduced recoil and lower noise that makes the whole experience one worth repeating many times.

If I were to pick winners at this point, the FWB 300S would be the overall leader, followed by the LGV Olympia as the best breakbarrel.

The Walther LGV Olympia – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

The Walther LGV Olympia is a beautiful breakbarrel spring-piston target rifle from the 1960s.

Wow! It’s been two-and-a-half months since I did the last report on this rifle. A lot has happened since then, plus I had to wait until I was strong enough to lift the heavy rifle. Cocking it was easy, because the barrel breaks with just 15 lbs. of effort, but I was under a 10-lb. weight restriction after my last operation. I didn’t want to break apart in the middle, so I waited!

We learned in part 2 that this particular rifle is on the zippy side for an LGV following a recent tuneup (sorry, twotalon). It still has just a hint of twang when it fires, though compared to most breakbarrels it seems extra smooth.

The stippled pistol grip fits my hands very well. It’s a pleasure to grasp when shooting. However, being a rifle made primarily for offhand work, the Olympia doesn’t fit especially well when you shoot it off a bench. The trigger is a Goldilocks baby bear special, in that it feels just right. Though it releases at 12 oz., it feels like less to me. Not too light, not too heavy.

Remember how I gushed over the rifle in part 1? Well, gush, gush, gush all over again. One of the drawbacks of being an airgun writer is I often don’t have any time to play with the real beauties. Awww. Poor me! But, this rifle is so sweet that it really deserves to be shot way more than I have time for. [Let the offers to relieve me of this terrible burden commence.]

In Part 1, I mentioned that this was my steadiest target rifle, which it was at the time. But, as I also mentioned, Mac did bring an HW55 CM to show me when he came out to Texas in November, and I managed to get it away from him. So, that’ll be another vintage 10-meter rifle I cover some time in the future. Because of it, I now cannot say the LGV is the steadiest in my closet. But it is steady.

I also shot the TF79 Competition rifle at 10 meters on the same day as the LGV. While the TF79 remains on target through the shot, the LGV does not. It moves just enough that you lose the target in the front aperture every time the shot is fired.

The test
Because the Olympia is a 10-meter rifle, I tested it as such. I shot 5 pellets at each 10-meter rifle target, and with one exception I will tell you about in a moment, I shot only wadcutters. The rifle was rested using the artillery hold. I initially sighted-in the rifle with RWS Hobby pellets. Once the shots were landing in the 10-ring I didn’t adjust the sights again. So, the Hobbys are sighted-in and all the other pellets land close, but no attempt was made to get the highest score for any of them. We’re just looking at the size and shape of each group.

Speaking of the sights, I should mention that each click of the adjustment knobs in either plane (up/down or left/right) moves the strike of the pellet very little. I guess that’s what you need for the best precision in a target rifle; but when you have to move 40 clicks to move the pellet a half-inch on target, it seems excessive. And, the clicks are extremely well-defined. There’s no mistaking when the sight has moved.

RWS Hobbys
Let’s see what this beauty can do! The first target, which was fired right after sight-in, was shot with RWS Hobby pellets. While Hobbys are not premium target pellets by anyone’s definition, they often deliver startling performance, especially at lower velocities.

RWS Hobby pellets were used to sight-in the rifle. They produced this 5-shot group at 10 meters. It measures 0.218 inches between centers. Not bad!

H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets
Next, I tried H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. These would be more appropriate for air pistols because of their lighter weight of just 7.56 grains. As you can see very clearly, they didn’t group as well as Hobbys. And make no mistake, there were no called fliers. Every shot was calculated to be the best I could make it. These pellets have a head size of 4.50mm.

H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets are not right for the Walther LGV — at least not this one. The group measures 0.315 inches between centers.

RWS R10 Match heavies
Then, I tried the pellet that might be considered the best overall for this rifle. It’s certainly one of the two pellets I would spend more time testing. The RWS R10 Match heavy pellet weighs 8.2 grains and is meant for use in target air rifles. This pellet has a head size of 4.50mm.

The RWS R10 Match heavy pellet turned in the best group of the test. Five pellets went into this group that measures 0.143 inches between centers.

RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets
After the R10 Match heavies, I tried the R10 Match Pistol pellet that weighs only 7 grains. The difference between it and the heavy R10 was like night and day. The head size is not indicated on the tin.

The lightweight R10 Match Pistol pellet produced a group measuring 0.281 inches between centers. It was close to the worst performance of the test and is also a very good illustration of just how much performance can vary with different pellets in the same gun. Compare this group to the one made by the R10 heavies.

Vogel pellets
Next, I tried some of Scott Pilkington’s Vogel Match pellets. Scott, who is America’s airgun technician for the U.S. Olympic team, makes these pellets right here in this country. Vogel is a well-recognized, world-class pellet that was made in Germany before Scott took over the reins. These pellets weigh 8.18 grains and have a head size of 4.50mm.

Vogel pellets produced this 5-shot group that measures 0.164 inches between centers. It was the second-best pellet I tested and certainly deserves more testing in this rifle.

Gamo Glow Fire pellets
Finally, I tested a pellet that really doesn’t belong in this report, but it’s one I’ve had on my desk for the past 10 months, awaiting the right moment. One of our readers touted the new Gamo Glow Fire pellets in a comment in early 2010, and his enthusiasm drove me to acquire a tin for testing. My thought was always to test them separately, but my illness intervened, and I reckoned that if I don’t work them in somehow I’ll never test them at all. So, I’ll include them in several accuracy tests in the future to make a comparison on the fly.

The Glow Fire pellet has a luminous, pointed synthetic tip that glows in the dark. I suppose under the right lighting conditions they look like tracers, but I didn’t test for that. At just 10 meters, though, there isn’t enough time to acquire the pellet in flight before it smashes into the pellet trap. But the blog reader who mentioned them was impressed with their accuracy, not their appearance in flight, so I added them to this test knowing that we already had a very accurate rifle to shoot them.

Lo and behold, the Gamo Glow Fire pellets went into this group measuring 0.225 inches at 10 meters! That’s very good performance for a non-target pellet.

I can’t say the Glow Fires are not premium pellets, because Gamo sells just 150 of them for $11. So, from the standpoint of cost, they’re certainly among the costliest pellets around. At that price, 500 would cost you $36.67, which is beyond even the price for the finest R10s in the individual package. From a production view, they’re not as uniform and regular as most of these target pellets.

Of course, 10 meters is not the range at which to determine a pellet’s accuracy for anything other than target pellets. So, I’ll try to test the Glow Fires at longer range next time.

The last word
This has certainly been an interesting journey with the LGV Olympia. As I mentioned in Part 1, I owned one of these a long time ago, but I let it get away. I don’t think I’ll make that same mistake with this one. It’s a delightful shooter, and every time I pick it up a smile breaks out. I think I’m at that age where quality matters more than anything else, and this is one high-quality air rifle!

The Walther LGV Olympia – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The Walther LGV Olympia is a beautiful breakbarrel spring-piston target rifle from the 1960s.

Today, we’ll look at the velocity of my Walther LGV Olympia target rifle. I told you in Part 1 how serendipity brought me to this rifle and what a find it was. Of course, this one has been tuned, just like they all have by now. Walther was one of those companies that used an improper formulation for its piston seals in the 1960s and ’70s; and as a result, all the original seals have dry-rotted. At the very least, all the guns should have been resealed.

This particular rifle was resealed and was supposed to be shooting on the hot side. Back when it was a new rifle, 650 f.p.s. was considered the right velocity for a 10-meter rifle. Today, it’s more like 550-590 f.p.s. So, this vintage target rifle is faster than a lot of today’s world-class target rifles.

Another legendary feature of the LGV was the low cocking effort. My first LGV cocked with less than 12 lbs. of force. This one requires 15 lbs., which puts it 3 lbs. under an Air Venturi Bronco! If it didn’t weight so much, it would be the ideal kid’s gun. But it does weigh a lot, and so it’s better suited to full-grown adults who are physically able and also know how to apply the proper offhand technique.

The trigger on my Olympia is adjusted as a two-stage trigger, and stage two breaks at 12 oz. I suppose I could adjust it even lighter, but I hardly see the need. There’s no overtravel adjustment — after the break, the trigger blade continues to move.

The trigger adjusts for pull weight and length of stages.

JSB S100 pellets
Okay, time to test velocity. The first pellets I tried were JSB S100 target pellets. These have a 4.52mm head and average 591 f.p.s. in this rifle. The spread went from 576 to 599, which is pretty large for a rifle of this quality. At 10 meters, though, that much variation would probably not show up on the target. The average muzzle energy for this nominal 8.2-grain pellet is 6.36 foot-pounds. I was surprised to find that the pellets in this tin of “hand-sorted” pellets actually weighed between 8.0 and 8.4 grains. They’re supposed to be hand-sorted by weight, so I’d like to know how that happened!

RWS Hobby pellets
The next pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby. At seven grains even, they’re often the fastest lead pellets I can try. In this rifle, they averaged 640 f.p.s. with a spread from 633 to a high of 644 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy is 6.37 foot-pounds.

RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets
The next pellets I tried were RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets that also weigh 7 grains even. They averaged 662 f.p.s. in this rifle and seemed to fit the breech the best of all pellets I tried. The spread went from 654 to 664 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 6.81 foot-pounds. I couldn’t find a head size on the tin, which is most unusual for top-grade target pellets.

H&N Rifle Match pellets
The last pellet I tested was the H&N Match Rifle pellet in head size 4.50mm. At a stable, consistent weight of 8.2 grains, these pellets averaged 593 f.p.s. in this rifle. The spread went from 585 to 602 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 6.4 foot-pounds.

Firing behavior
The LGV was one of the last target air rifles to use mass to counteract recoil. As I mentioned in Part 1, the barrel has a very heavy steel sleeve around it and there’s also a lead weight in the forearm, so the overall balance is decidedly muzzle-heavy. Consequently, you feel almost no recoil when the gun fires. This particular rifle also fires very smoothly, with almost no vibration. Cocking was equally smooth until halfway through the test, when the rifle developed a scraping feel while being cocked. I found that if I worked the barrel back and forth after the piston was cocked, the scraping could still be felt, so the problem lies in the cocking linkage, not powerplant itself. I guess I’ll have to strip it down and attend to whatever is apparently dry in the cocking linkage.

Looking straight up at the cocking linkage, we see that the LGV Olympia has a two-piece articulated cocking link. That’s why the cocking slot can be so small, and that, in turn, reduces the amount of powerplant vibration.

I get the feeling that this rifle wants to plunk them all into the same hole. We’ll find out when we get to part three.

The Walther LGV Olympia – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The Walther LGV Olympia is a beautiful breakbarrel spring-piston target rifle from the 1960s.

Well, the Roanoke Airgun Expo starts today, so while you read this, Mac and I will be buying, selling and looking at airguns. I will take pictures to show you, of course.

So, there I was, on the morning of October 5, reading my October 4 blog, “A safe strategy for no-loss — mostly gain — airgun collecting — Part 1,” when I came to the embedded link to the Yellow forum classified ads. Since I always check the embedded links in blogs, I clicked through and immediately came upon an ad for a Walther LGV Olympia target rifle in great condition for $425. What? Are they going to be selling Harleys in crates left over from World War II next?

And, then, I noticed that the seller was none other than Tom Strayhorn, one of America’s most well-known collector of Walthers. I knew Tom was a straight shooter, so this ad was apparently no scam despite the 1990s price. Ironically, this ad came to me right as I was lecturing to all of you that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes along every few months if you look for it.

So, I bought the gun. What else could I do? I had just told you not to miss out on really good prices when they come along, and here was one that just landed square in my lap. Talk about serendipity!

Walther LGV
During the 1960s, spring-piston target air rifles reached their high water mark. There was the Anschutz model 250, the FWB model 300, the Weihrauch HW 55 and, in 1963, the Walther LGV joined the fun. The LGV was the last in a long line of target breakbarrel rifles from Walther that started in the 1950s with the LG 51. Its immediate predecessor, the LG 55, is well-known as a fine European club gun, and the LGV took that one step farther. Although it’s a recoiling spring-piston rifle, the LGV is so smooth and heavy as to be almost recoilless. It was produced until 1972.

There are several different versions of LGVs, and mine is the first model called the Olympia that has rounded corners on the wood. I owned another Olympia LGV years ago that had a matte finish on all the barrel jacket to cut the reflection, but this current one is probably an older model that has all deeply polished metal finished in a deep black oxide. The polish is fully the equal of a Whiscombe or a Colt Python with the royal blue finish.

The forearm contains a lead weight to make the rifle decidedly muzzle-heavy, as target rifles are supposed to be. The rifle weighs 10.5 lbs., or just about one pound more than a 1903 Springfield rifle. It’s very muzzle-heavy, not only from the lead weight in the stock by also from the thick steel jacket that surrounds the barrel.

The heavy steel barrel jacket is held on by a special nut at the muzzle.

Casual observers will spot the barrel latch immediately. Like Weihrauch’s HW 55 target rifle, Walther provided the LGV with a special latch to positively lock the heavy barrel closed. The LGV was the only breakbarrel Walther did this for. The LG 55, which is quite similar in size and power, does not have a barrel latch.

Barrel latch locks the breech like a bank vault.

To compliment the latch, the baseblock has two hardened steel pins, one on each side of the block, that eliminate any possibility of sideways wobble in the barrel. In combination with the barrel latch, they make a vault-like rigid joint when the barrel comes to the closed position. Like the doors on a Mercedes, the barrel closes with the quietest of clicks that mask the ultra-rigid lockup.

Hardened steel bearing pins on either side of the baseblock ensure zero sideways barrel play.

Cocking effort on the LGV Olympia is legendary. It’s one of the few adult models to cock at less than 12 lbs. effort. This rifle has been tuned prior to my receiving it, so it may cock a little harder, but it’s still on the silly side of trivial. I will record it for you when I test the velocity in Part 2.

You’ll notice that the grip is heavily stippled to grab your hand during a match. These rifles were shot from the offhand position only, so all the design features stress that position over all others.

LGV grip is roughly stippled for better purchase.

The curved buttpad is rubber and adjusts both up and down. The trigger is a fine target trigger, although it is of 1960s technology and not the current day. It’s two-stage and breaks at 11 oz. And, of course, it’s adjustable.

The stock is figured walnut (I think) with a reddish-brown finish. It’s very full and robust, yet the forearm has no checkering, stippling or even finger grooves. It seems almost informal compared to the other contemporary target rifles. The Olympia was not intended to shoot in world cup competition. That honor was reserved for the LGV Spezial and the UIT models.

The front and rear sights are target-grade and identical to those found on the LG 55. In the front, a globe accepts standard inserts; in the rear, Walther’s own proprietary aperture target sight prevails. The rear sight rail allows for some adjustment of eye relief, though the rear sight has to lock down in one of the half-round cross slots on top of the receiver.

The LGV uses the same rear aperture sight as the LG 55.

I’m not a target rifle shooter, but I must say that this rifle holds steadier than any other rifle in my collection. Mac is supposed to bring a Weihrauch HW 55 CM for me to see, so I’ll get a chance to compare that to this gun. But of all my target rifles, this one is the steadiest.

In Part 2, I’ll chrono the rifle for you and measure the cocking effort.

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