Umarex 850 M2 Part 1
Latest evolution of a classic Hammerli air rifle
By Dennis Adler
Hammerli is one of the oldest armsmakers in the world, established in 1863 and renown for quality target rifles and target pistols beginning in the 19th century, as well as airguns (rifles and pistols beginning in the late 1950s) for target shooting and competition, including Olympic level .22 caliber rimfire and 10 meter airgun. In 2006 the historic Swiss Armsmaker became part of the Umarex group in Germany, and combined with Carl Walther, (which merged with Umarex in 1993), the Hammerli helped form the basis for the Umarex group we see today, and models built by Umarex in Germany that have the foundation of their designs in guns originally built in Switzerland by Hammerli. The new Umarex 850 M2 is an updated version of the original Hammerli 850 Air Magnum, one of the more powerful and successful CO2 air rifles capable of performance that is almost up to the standards of some .177 and .22 caliber precharged pneumatics. The 850 was an impressive Hammerli model (built by Umarex), and becomes more impressive in its new M2 form in 2020.
Before we get into the 850 M2, there’s a lot behind the origin of Hammerli airguns, their manufacturing in Switzerland, and marketing worldwide over the last six decades. In the world of firearms Swiss and German armsmakers are often intertwined by mergers and agreements, for example, at one time Sig Arms imported Hammerli models (rimfire rifles and pistols) to the U.S. market. In the 1950s, Hammerli and Walther produced semi-auto rimfire arms including .22 Short and LR Olympic target pistols. Hammeri’s CO2 target pistols, like the Master introduced in 1964 and winner of the 1965, 1966 and 1967 German National Championships, is regarded as one of the most impressive early competition CO2 air pistols. Even more intricate were the various importers and retailers for U.S. sales of Hammerli models over the years, which even included Pyramyd Air.
After the merger of Hammerli with Carl Walther and Umarex in 2006, manufacturing began transitioning from the Lenzburg, Switzerland, factory and former Sig factory in Schaffhausen, to the Umarex factory in Ulm, Germany. By 2008 Hammerli models were being manufactured in Germany by Umarex and the 850 Air Magnum while listed as a Hammerli model in 2007 was already being manufactured in Germany by Umarex. And thus we begin this look at the 850 M2 built in Germany, by reviewing the original Hammerli model.
Back in 2006 Tom Gaylord was one of the first reviewers to evaluate the Hammerli 850 Air Magnum, which at that time was marked RWS 850 Air Magnum (RWS being another part of the Umarex Group). Then as now, the 850 was powered by an 88 gram CO2 cylinder inserted into the forearm (by removing the front portion exposing the internal CO2 chamber). At that time there was no provision for using paired 12 gram CO2 cartridges, a feature that was added later as an option. The device was one of the first to use paired 12 gr. CO2 cartridges in a self-contained air chamber, similar to what we see today with guns like the Umarex Ruger 10/22 and Umarex Legends Cowboy Lever Action, and on CO2 BB magazines for models like the Umarex MP40 and WWII design M1A1 Thompson. The idea for the 850 Air Magnum was to have the paired 12 gr. as a smaller CO2 power option for shorter shooting sessions, rather than loading an 88 gr. cylinder, which would have to be shot out as any long term storage with an 88 gr., or even paired 12 gr. CO2, would not have been advisable. The 12 gr. option is still offered for the new 850 M2.
Among things that have remained the same between the gun Gaylord tested in 2006 and the new M2 model are the excellent adjustable fiber optic sights, a hooded red front (now windage adjustable) easily framed between the rear (barrel mounted) green fiber optics, the same 8-round rotary magazine (8 rounds in .177 or .22/5.5mm caliber), adjustable two-stage trigger, automatic safety, and the gun retains the same thick black rubber butt pad and all-weather synthetic Monte Carlo stock configuration. The cheekpiece remains symmetrical on both sides of the stock, and there is now an extended clip-on cheekpiece for the M2 that fits over the stock to allow some height adjustment and a firm cheek weld when a scope is mounted to the receiver’s integral 11mm dovetail rail.
The shape of the pistol grip remains completely symmetrical as before, making the gun ambidextrous, except for the bolt action, which is on the right side. And lastly, the same high quality 23.5 inch solid steel rifled barrel with a ½ inch x 20 threaded muzzle (to accommodate a suppressor introduced for the 850 Air Magnum in 2012) is used on the M2. The obvious external changes are the addition of rail mounts on the sides and bottom of the stock for mounting lights or laser sights, or mounting a bi-pod on the bottom for long range precision. There is also improved texturing on the pistol grip and forend for a more secure hold.
With an overall length of 42 inches (as tested) and a weight (without an 88 gr. CO2 canister) of 6 pounds, 11 ounces (on my scale), the weight to size ratio makes this a fairly lightweight rifle for shooting in the field with open sights or scoped.
In Part 2 we will begin exploring the handling, features, accessories and accuracy of this latest generation Hammerli 850 Air Magnum from Umarex.