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Weihrauch Barakuda EL54 ether-injection air rifle

by B.B. Pelletier

This post is for Jason, who was intrigued by the HW Barakuda EL 54 ether-injection spring rifle that was mentioned in the posting on Baracuda pellets It’s also for CF-X guy, who asked what the maximum velocity might be for a dieseling gun. Since the EL54 works by dieseling, I thought I would address it here.

The ether-injection system attaches the the right side of the receiver to turn an HW 35 into an EL54.

An early attempt at magnum power
The EL54 was an early attempt (1954-1981) at achieving magnum power in a spring-piston air rifle. It is an HW 35 with an ether injector attached on the right side of the compression chamber tube. A medical ether ampule was inserted into the device and crushed. Each time the rifle was cocked and loaded, a shot of ether was injected into the compression chamber, where the heat of compression ignited it, raising gas pressure in the compression chamber.

The device was hell on pellets, blowing out their heads and leaving the bodies trapped in the barrel, so round balls were the only recommended ammo. It also blew the leather seals out of the early guns. It was very difficult to get medical ether ampules in the U.S., so the system was never popular. Most of the guns seen today are in new or nearly new condition.

The claim was that the rifle could drive a 15-grain .22 caliber ball to 1,000 f.p.s., but the only publicized test, done by writer W.H.B. Smith in 1957, used a rifle with blown seals, so the results were disappointing. One-thousand feet per second with round balls was smokin’ in the 1950s, but an AirForce Condor would exceed it by at least 150 f.p.s. today.

Forced dieseling is NOT SAFE!
This is for CF-X guy and anyone else who wonders what can be done with a dieseling airgun. It’s all been done before, and the facts are well known. Dieseling destroys spring-piston airguns. They aren’t made to take the pounding of the repeated explosions. The EL54 lasted because people couldn’t get the ether ampules. Yes, there are ways around that, and they have been tried – and they destroy guns, too. Shooters have been injured when their guns blew apart or pieces flew off at high velocity. This is not a road to go down. If you do, a lot is known about what will happen, and none of it is pleasant.

A safe alternative
If you want to experiment with loads and velocities, try handloading firearm cartridges. You can do a lot of experimentation, and it’s all very safe – as long as you stay within the published guidelines.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

46 thoughts on “Weihrauch Barakuda EL54 ether-injection air rifle”

  1. BB,

    Thanks for telling me about this strange rifle! At the time the device was sold medical ether was available to the average German citizen? Odd. I think it is still an interesting, if impractical piece of airgunning history. I would imagine if it was fired with the ether it was a HARSH firing cycle! Thanks again.


  2. Ed,

    I have tried the Colibri ammo. At short range (20 yards or less) it’s okay, but beyond that the bullet starts acting like a big pellet. Very wind sensitive, compared to standard speed .22 LR ammo. However, it is fun to shoot.

    I like subsonic ammo best. For indoors, I shoot pellets almost exclusively, because the BB caps and CB caps cannot compete in accuracy.

  3. Ed,

    NOT the 60 grain subsonic! It’s completely unstable in a regular .22 barrel. It needs a faster rifling twist, like 1 turn in 10 inches, to stabilize.

    Try the regular subsonic, though I get the best results from Remington Subsonic hollowpoints.


  4. BB,

    Thanks for the post.great one!!!

    Now,I want to know how many FPS (doent have to be exact)can a dieseling gun can achive when a DETONATION occurs.I read on this post that when a gun detonates you get very high velocities.I wanted to know how high can it go.I am asking but im not going to make my cf-x diesel or anything.Im just curious.Can you give the answer in FPS?

    CF-X guy

  5. CF-X guy,

    A Beeman R1 may get 750 f.p.s. with .22 caliber Crosman Premiers and 950 or 1100 f.p.s. with a big detonation. They vary a lot.

    When testing the Benjamin Legacy, I was averaging in the low 900s with Premier 7.9-grain .177 pellets, but I had a detonation that went 1,223 f.p.s. and the one after that went 1,022.


  6. B.B. I hope you can without damaging or causing danger,because it will take my .22 cal 725 yo 800 fps Leagacy(on its way hasn’t arrived yet)to a 1000 fps gun.Of course you said it will be in the next post so I will not ask you if it is or not.

  7. Dear Mr. Pelletier. I hate to change the subject but I do need an answer and this is the only way to get through. 1 What is a QBC gun. My question on the Mauri M14 was about using the rifle for a primary weapon with an MP5K slung in the middle of my back as a back up. Did this in real life when hunting for armed escapees.I am admitadly a novice but I do love both the M14 and the MP5. The military reciever sight is an excellent sighting system

  8. Jed,


    This is why I hedged on the answer, because I was concerned someone might be thinking of doing this. The danger is very great. The gun can blow up and cause grave injury to you in the process.

    Please read today’s post and tomorrow’s before doing anything.


  9. 60 year old kid,

    I don’t know about QBC but CQB stands for close-quarter battle, as in room-to-room fighting. An M14 is too large for that work. An MP5 is more like what you need.

    The M14 is a field weapon.

    I hope that answers your question.


  10. BB,

    Ok I know that .22 is not un field target but all I want to know is why.You say that the .22 is just as accurate as a .177 airgun so thats why I ask.Im going to be buying the hw97k for its accuracy and I want the most accurate caliber.If both are the same than ill buy .22 but if .177 is better ill buy it in .177.I plan to shoot at max of 50 yards.wich caliber in the hw97k will be more accurate?

    CF-X guy

  11. CF-X guy,

    Wait for the FT answer. I will answer it thoroughly.

    And you just asked a different question (which is more accurate to 50 yards, a .177 or a .22?).

    Let me ask you a question which, I hope will illustrate why I cannot possible answer your second question. Which is faster, a Corvette or a Ferrari?


  12. BB,

    I read that .22 cal air rifles take more effort to shoot accurately than .177.Is that true?

    One other thing,did you know that in the Uk they call the .177 girly cal and the .22 manly cal?jajajaja

    CF-X guy

  13. Well it doesn’t seem that way,in fact I found that .22 rifles seem to be more accurate.Athough this isn’t necessarily true,it just seems that way in my oppinion.

  14. BB or anyone,

    Is there a website that people talk about lets say the hw97k but the full power model?

    The only place I read was a guy in BBS that was from the US chronoed his hw97k wich he got from pyramid air andd it sayed 17 foot pounds in .22

    CF-X guy

  15. I owned a Barakuda in the early 90’s. Alas, I sold it back to Beemans for $600. (a big mistake)However, no one has mentioned what real Barakuda owners know. You can use ether that comes in sparay cans used for automotive “starting fluid” The sparay also has a lub which prevents drying of the seals. I NEVER had a prob. with my gun, and i used the ether inj. sys. for YEARS!
    Also, as far as volosity, I KNOW my gun achieved over 1,000 fps and power! It would go thru 1/4 steel with sp pointed steel jacket pellets…

  16. More hypothesis and BS from TG who I can only guess has never shot a HW54EL for more than a few days. The poster above has it correct. Well controlled dieseling, using starting fluid and no “exploding” guns. You really need to own the gun and shoot it to see through the myth being perpetuated here.

    I understand TG not being able to promote the use of these antique/curio guns, but to mention the airforce condor (a company that employed him) as a gun that would eclipse the Barakuda is tantamount to shilling (at best).

  17. Disgruntled,

    Sorry, pal, but it’s YOU who has it wrong. The EL54 has been tested in modern times and is a 1,000 f.p.s. gun AT BEST. And that was with a round ball weighing 15.3 grains. Check your facts before you launch.

    The guns available to Smith in the 1950s had leather seals. The guns available in the 1980s had synthetic seals. Big difference in longevity there.

    And regardless of where Tom Gaylord has worked, the AirForce Condor will still get over 1,200 f.p.s. with a 14.3-grain Cros,man Premier, so the statement of an additional 150 f.p.s. with round balls stands.


  18. I have one of these guns.I had to surrender the ether syringe part when it became illegal in holland.I now live in the states.I still have some of the original ether little glass bottles that came with the gun
    I used to inject ether vapor with a medical syringe and needle with good succes.

    My leather piston seal is dry rotted.Who knows a place that could replace, this leather or make a new piece ???

  19. They show up at the airgun shows from time to time. There was one at Little Rock last year. I think the seller was asking $1,100.

    Little Rock will be Friday-Saturday May 2-3 this year.

    You can also advertise on the American Airguns free classified ads.


  20. It seems to me that if you were going to make an “airgun” that intentionally detonated, it would be best to just skip the spring and use some sort of fuel injector and a spark plug in a fixed fuel chamber, (not necessarily auto parts however). That way you could save a good deal of weight, complexity and cost and also avoid the hold sensitivity and scope eating problems of springers.

  21. Hi there! Have a question. I tried dieseling my airgun (brand-new Gamo Big Cat 1200)using a standard lead pellet, filling the skirt only halfway or less with RemOil, about 6 times, then remembered someone telling me why it wasn't a good idea (20/20 hindsight,yeah?). The gun popped pretty loudly when I filled the skirt 1/2 full, and I saw a little spark, and some decent vapor escape at the muzzle.after this, I fired several oil-free rounds to try and "clear" the chamber, of any unspent oil. My question is, do you think I've damaged the gun or any components? the shots fired after the oiled ones seemed normal as could be, and I didn't hear any new or "extra" noises. Thanks!

  22. KillianRed,

    Stop doing this immediately! You can blow up a spring gun this way.

    As for damage, you can assess that by how the gun shoots now. If it seems the same as before, it probably is.

    People have been injured by doing what you did. Their guns actually blew apart and they were cut by the shrapnel.


  23. I owned a Barakuda El54 from 1984 until 2004, so 20 years and fired I would say at least 2000 rounds through it the time I owned it without a problem at all.
    I used premium grade car starter fluid which is basically 60% ether with some added heptane and lubricants.
    I would regularly get right between 1350-1400FPS out of Kodiak .22 pellets which never messed up or blew the heads off.
    I bought it from Robert Beeman from his personal collection back in 84', Herman Weihrauch allegedly gifted it to him many years prior. I believe it was made in the 50s but even when I sold it in 2004 it looked almost brand new and I used the hell out of it.

  24. Also Beeman had reworked the seals in it one way or another, changed piston or what ever he did but the 20 years I owned it I never had problem one with it, just took very good care of it and sold it for $1,250.00 on the second day of running the ad.
    I had bought it for $600 in 1984.

  25. thanks for an interesting thread, i had heard of and tried this many years ago and didnt notice much difference, i was only ten though so maybe i did it wrong.

    my opinion is this, why bother, the theory of backpressure on the spring, heat caused damaging the seal and over pressuring of the chamber itself are all sound theories, add to that the possibilty of a skirt getting stuck in the barrel and you have almost certain damage in one way or another to the gun for just a few more powerful shots, not worth it in my opinion

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