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Education / Training HW 55SF – Part 3 Shooting behavior and velocity

HW 55SF – Part 3 Shooting behavior and velocity

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Let’s look at how the HW 55 SF performs, in terms of firing behavior and power. I told you about the rifle in the first two reports, but I didn’t dwell on how it shoots. First, the 55 is delightfully easy to cock. An effort of only 20 lbs. cocks the gun, due in great part to the length of the 18.5″ barrel. Because this is the rare SF model, there’s no barrel latch to contend with, but the flip side of that is, of course, a stronger breech detent holding the barrel shut. Years of fooling with Beeman Crow Magnums and Webley Patriots makes me slap the muzzle of every breakbarrel now to open it, so this is not a problem.

Firing the gun
The feel of firing this rifle is STRANGE! You hear the sound of faint spring buzzing but you don’t really feel it! Though the rifle is only 8 lbs. (very light for a target rifle), the cocking slot in the bottom of the forearm is abbreviated because of the two-piece articulated cocking lever. Robert Law made a big deal of this in his catalog, and I’m finding that it’s really true. He said the more solid forearm attenuated most of the shooting vibrations, resulting in a smoother-feeling rifle, and I have to agree. I have owned or had other HW 55 rifles for testing, but I cannot ever remember this trait. Perhaps it’s due to the last tuneup it had.

How fast?
You’ve learned in this series that this HW 55 is made on an HW 50 spring tube and should perform like an HW 50. Except that the HW 50 we know today is not the same gun as the HW 50 of the 1960s, when this one was made. The current model is actually based on a different spring tube and is a more powerful airgun. The HW 50 of the 1960s had leather piston and breech seals, a smaller spring tube and was a 700 f.p.s. rifle in .177 caliber.

While good for sporting purposes, 700 f.p.s. is too fast for a target rifle. It doesn’t necessarily make the rifle less accurate; but if you don’t need the speed, why bother with the extra pounds of cocking effort? To make the 55SF, Weihrauch installed a weaker mainspring. This particular rifle has been tuned at least twice since it was built, so the original mainspring is probably no longer in the gun. I was concerned to see just how powerful it is, hoping that the last tuner hadn’t tried to hot-rod it.

I tried RWS Hobbys first and got an average of 631 f.p.s. The range was quite large – from 614 to 652, which leads me to believe RWS Hobbys are not right for this airgun.

I have H&N Match pellets, but only the light ones for pistols. This is one time where it matters. The average of 622 f.p.s. is a little too brisk, though the range was much tighter. Just 19 f.p.s separated the low of 614 f.p.s. from the high of 633. Much better performance, but still on the hot side.

RWS Meisterkugeln pellets dropped the average to a more sedate 543 f.p.s. The spread was from 536 to 554 or just 18 f.p.s. The tightest spread of the three pellets.

The rifle could stand to go a little faster, but 542 with a qualified rifle pellet like the Meisterkugeln isn’t bad. Today’s pneumatics would only be at 575 or so. In the mid-1960s, target airguns were in a bit of a velocity race that ended abruptly in the 1970s. Target rifles were pushing pellets out at 640-650 f.p.s., because the competitors had yet to be heard. When they were, velocities dropped back below 600 f.p.s., where they remain today.

What’s it like to own and shoot a vintage 10-meter rifle like this one? I have owned a few vintage airguns that were not unlike owning a Stanley Steamer. Once they get going, the statistics can be impressive but you wouldn’t want to rely on them all the time. This rifle is not like that. While no one would confuse it with a world-class target rifle, it’s still good enough for informal target shooting and the occasional grudge match. It has no funny quirks or surprising traits, in fact just the opposite. It’s easy to cock, has a trigger too light to measure and a firing behavior that endears itself to every new shooter. It quickly becomes a “go-to” rifle if you give it half a chance.

We have one more report coming on accuracy, unless there’s else something you want to know that I’ve overlooked.

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.

58 thoughts on “HW 55SF – Part 3 Shooting behavior and velocity”

  1. Mornin B.B.,
    Nice report. Is the HW55SF similar to the HW55S? I still am waiting for Pyramyd to get that shipment. Do you about how much these guns will cost?

  2. Morning Brody,

    Have you read the first two sections of this report? It explains how the SF differs from the S, which was a large part of this report.

    What guns are you referring to? I don’t know what shipment you mean.


  3. BB –
    I apologize if this is a repeat – I can’t find my old question via google or the blogger search. I have a few thousand shots on my 48 now and thing I should be oiling it now. The instructions are poor to say the least for a beginner. Do you have an old post that might show a picture of what it means to add a ‘drop of oil to the compression chamber port’? I have no idea what that is. I do know you said to not add too much oil – but I just need to know where to put it! Also – do I need to use the rws spring oil and compression lube, or is there another brand I might be able to use ok (that I might be able to pickup at bass pro..).



  4. Good report BB, I have an interest in this rifle’s counterpart, the old HW50S. Having no other spring gun, I don’t have anything to compare it to, but it is very accurate and exceptionally well made. Also, after years of using rough triggers, I find the Rekord trigger to be spooky. Something I’ll just have to get used to.

    As an aside, my Crosman 1077 came in the other day and I’ve put about 100 pellets through it. While not an expensive rifle, it is fun and with Gamo wadcutters, accurate.

    Al in CT

  5. Ozark,

    Here is what you do. First, your RWS Compression Lube sounds good – use it.

    Cock the gun and leave the lever in the open position. Now look at the sliding compression chamber. It’s that silver thing that moves backwards when the gun is cocked. If you look inside the loading port at the front of the sliding compression chamber you will see that it is shaped like a funnel, and there is a hole in the center. Drop ONE drop of compression chamber lube into that hole . Then load the rifle with a pellet and shoot it at least 10 times.

    That’s it.


  6. Brody,

    The HW 55 was discontinued several years ago. I haven’t head of any shipment of them.

    Perhaps you are confusing them with the HW 50S that was supposed to be on backorder? Pyramyd AIR stopped all HW shipments because of slow order-filling times. They will get their HW rifles from Beeman from now on.


  7. BB –
    Thanks for the compression chamber info – also, instructions say to lube the mainspring and it’s in a slot on the underside of the compression chamber. Is that in the bottom of that chamber where you load the pellet or on that compression chamber itself? If so, what’s the best way to access it?

  8. Brody,

    I talked to Josh Ungier, the pwner of PA. The 50s are still on order, but he has absolutely no idea when they will be in. The Weihrauch factory is behind in all its shipments at home and abroad.

    Apparently airgunning is taking off!


  9. Ozark,

    There is no good way to access the mainspring in a Diana sidelever rifle. Fortunately, the mainspring doesn’t need oiling very often. I’ve never seen one that needed it.

    In a week or two, though, I will have a brand new toy for your rifle!


  10. B.B.

    Is that a typo, when you say the rifle is only 8lbs? That seems heavy for that little gun, from the looks of the photo in part one, it looks like 5 or 6 lbs….and only shooting 600fps and all…8 lbs seems to heavy…


  11. B.B.,
    Yeah i think it is taking off. When i told my friend i shot two squirrels with mine, he said i may have to try one of those. As far as i know he never did though. We shoot blackbirds around his pond with his 760 pumpmaster.
    See ya,

  12. B.B.

    Wow, and that is light for a 10 meter target rifle? They don’t use a rest in 10 meter, Right?…Boy that seems hard to me…I’m trying to learn Field target and 8 lbs is hard enough to do siting and using my knee as a rest….Those guys and gals must be very strong to hold an 8 lb rifle and shoot accurately….Now I’m glad I didn’t buy that one for $650 that David Slade tuned…

    I’m sticking to Field Target..


  13. B.B.

    That is amazing to me…does the weight make it easier somehow? I can do better with the HW-30 or Discovery standing with no rest at 20 yrds, than say my HW77 or even TX200… both are terrible, but with my technique, which I didn’t study up on…I know poor student, bail me out here…the lighter the gun the better I do…I’m moving so much the accuracy of the gun is a mute point…

    I’ve got so much to learn


  14. B.B.

    I have always enjoyed your blog, and it was your original article on the IZH-46 that made me aware of the wonderful pistol. Now I have my own IZH-46M and it’s really fun to shoot. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    I have a question about the Gamo Compact vs. IZH-46 test. Did you put the Izzy in a vice (is that the right word) to do your groups? Or did you rest your hands on a table?

    I think you should use some better targets. I have been using Edelmann targets. Here is a picture of their air rifle target with 10 shots in the bull(http://www.targettalk.org/files/044258_622.jpg). (I have been using the AR target for AP practice because I have a 5m range instead of 10m.) As you can see, even with some of the holes touching, you can still clearly see where the pellets went. In comparison, it is hard to tell where the holes are on in your targets due to the tearing. Edelmanns are a little more expensive than the National Target I got. About 4 cents each for AR targets, and 9 cents for AP targets. But they are so much superior to the National Target brand, I find it works out financially because I can use one target for at least twice the number of shots before I have to change. So you may want to give it a try.


  15. Hey Wayne,
    Where do you find the money to buy all of these guns? I need to work at your place. lol. I find a heavier gun better, because it is so heavy, that the tiniest jumps and jolts in your hands arent strong enough to move the heavy gun. If you look at pictures of a 10M target shooter shooting in the staning position, you will see there elbows reated on there stomach. They use there entire body to support the gun. The only place i was ever taught technique was in Hunters ED. They just told us the different positions.
    See ya later,

  16. Nick,

    I rested the gun. I used to shoot that well occasionally, but I’m out of practice.

    I have some Edelmann targets, but they are too expensive to buy in the quantities I shoot. So I use National targets, which are used at the NRA National Matches.

    I go through thousands of targets each year.

    All it takes is a little faster pellet to cut a perfectly round hole in a National target. And one never shoots five pellets at a target in a match anyway.


  17. Hi B.B.I have about 4000 shots through my Gamo CFX.Do I need to lube it,and if so how do I put oil into the loading port as the rolling breech closes the port when the gun is cocked. Also All of those shots were Crosman cpls do think the barrel has lead in it. One of you”re posts said that guns thhat shoot in excess of 900 fps get dirty from the Crosmans ,but I really don”t think my CFX shoots that fast.

  18. CF-X,

    If your piston doesn’t squeak when cocked you don’t need oil. To oil a CF-X I drop two drops down the muzzle and stand the gun on its butt for several hours.

    As for cleaning the barrel, as long as your rifle is still accurate there’s no need to clean it.


  19. BB,
    How would you say the fit, finish and overall quality of your HW55SF compare to newer offerings from HW?

    Also, I hope that with HW not being able to produce enough air guns to meet the growing demand, that they don’t start cutting corners to up production.

    Al in CT

  20. That’s good to hear BB. I know there are a lot of complaints about firearm manufacturers who’s efforts to make an existing product more available, have cut corners. Post Winchester ’64 anyone?

    I’m very grateful to my wife for getting me that HW50S as an early father’s day gift.

    When you mention that older target rifles are capable of excellent accuracy, are they not as accurate as newer rifles? I mean if an air rifle from the 80’s can chew out the 10 ring all day and one from the present could do the same, what’s the real difference between them?

    AL in CT

  21. Hey B.B.,
    Would this be a good combo for an accurate informal target rig?
    Benjamin 397, Williams Peep Sight?
    I am trying to think of a good set up for under $200 that will be reall accurate. What about the IZH and a Peep?

  22. Al in CT,

    Barrel for barrel the old guns are probably equal to the modern ones. But the modern guns have ergonomics out the wazoo and features like anti-recoil mechanisms and better sights. They are just easier to shoot well.


  23. Wayne, 8Lbs is light for target rifles, at least. I suspect airguns are similar.

    The guys who shoot NRA Highpower often weight their rifles with lead ballast, so that they may weigh 15-16 pounds or more. They shoot open sights at 600 yards!


  24. B.B.

    what is your opinion on the Big Bore, (9mm, .45, .50) rifles from the orient?

    Are they useful for pests?

    Are they as accurate as the reviews make them out to be?


  25. Bill,

    Properly loaded with the right bullets, any of the rifle you mentioned can shoot an inch group or close to it at 50 yards. They have taken deer, and wild pigs, not to mention almost all smaller game animals.

    How accurate do the reviews make them out to be?


  26. BB P., I have the opt. to buy a Simmons Aetec 3.8x12x50 scope for ca $80,- sounds like a good deal, are these scopes airgun quality?
    thank you for every thing

  27. B.B.

    I’m a new shooter, and your blog has really helped me enjoy my new sport. I had never fired anything beyond a squirt gun before I got my Crosman 1377 (based mostly on your recommendation), and I didn’t dream I could have such a good time poking holes in paper. Thanks for the help!

    I have two questions:

    First, can you suggest good reactive targets for indoor use? Candies are too messy, and I’ve had ricochet problems with coins (with two kids under 3, I don’t dare lose lead). I was thinking of getting a packet of plastic army guys, but I thought I’d check with experienced folks first.

    Second, have you heard anything about this? http://www.actionairgun.com The idea of an internet airsoft competition sounds like a blast, but I’m not sure it’s worth spending $300 for, basically, an airsoft gun from a company I’ve never heard of. What do you think? Is it legit? Could it be worth it?


  28. I was glad to see your velocities are almost identical to mine. I have a San Rafael marked HW55MM with leather seals that has never been rebuilt. I was worried that it may be losing power but I am getting 620 FPS with hobbies and 595 with the 7.7 gr Chinese wadcutters. I dont want to touch this gun because it is shooting without a hint of spring noise and is almost as calm as my Anshutz 250 which doesnt move at all. However it does require several drops of oil with the beginning of each 500 rnd tin but it is a small price to pay for such a smooth shooting gun.
    I weighed mine tonight on a large postal scale and it is exactly 8 lbs as well.


  29. BB-
    Thanks for the tease about a toy for the 48! Just as I'm looking at that discovery rifle you worked on! I'm using my rifle for target at 25 & 50 yards, and it seems the discovery would be easier to shoot more accurately at these distances – does that seem about right? If so, do you have any suggestions for classifieds online for selling used airguns? Also – do you know of any legal issues we need to pay attention to (besides not selling to a minor)?


  30. Hi BB,

    the next Benjamin PCP (you mentioned earlier)- is it a repeater? Just seems like it would make sense. Crosman use to make some very nice .22 pellet repeaters in its day. My father’s old 600 is still one of the most fun pistols to shoot. I was wondering if you shot one of the FX semi-autos at the last manufacturers show you attended? I checked out FX’s website and they looked to be pretty amazing. Can you review them, or does PA no longer carrying the brand, limit you?

    On to the main topic, I have another hand-me-down, an early 70’s HW 55 standard, purchased from ARH. It hasn’t been fired in quite some time. It wasn’t working too well after a Beeman tune some 10 years ago, either. One to three shots would have about the normal velocity, the next would dribble out the barrel. This stinks of something seriously wrong. Since you were covering the gun, seemed the appropriate time to ask. It’s not in my immediate possession, but I anticipate getting it in a day or two and seriously checking it out. I’m not positive where all the manuals and diagrams are for it. Are any available in PdF form online? Also, if the shipments from HW are that slow, what’s the availability like for spare parts?

    Western PA

  31. Brody,

    My only experience with HW 50s is through the HW 55SF I now own that is built on the HW 50 spring tube.

    Yes they are accurate. There aren’t many spring guns today that can equal them. Perhaps a TX 200 or BAM B40 and a Whiscombe, but not much more.


  32. Devan,

    An indoor reactive target presents a big problem. Because it’s reactive, the pellet or BB bounces off the target as the target starts moving. That means lead particles or BBs all over the place.

    Here is one safe possibility for airsoft guns. Small balloons in front of a deep cardboard box with a thick cloth backstop inside to stop the BBs. The balloon pops and the BBs don’t bounce around.

    That internet site has a fatal flaw. Honesty. People with anonymity are not bound by moral law other than their own. I would avoid it.


  33. Western PA,

    Wow! A boatload of questions.

    I do believe the next Benjamin PCP will be a repeater. That’s what they were talking about. However there may also be a few variations on the Discovery that don’t qualify as the next new gun.

    FX has had numerous problems with their semiauto rifles. I think they are now sorted out, but who knows? The dealer for them is very small and the guns are very expensive, so I haven’t tried to get one for testing.

    All the parts for your HW 55 are available. It sounds like the piston seal is bad. That shouldn’t be a problem to replace.

    May I suggest sending the gun to a different repair station next time? Try this guy:


  34. Thanks BB for the classifieds info. Does the discovery sound like a logical next step up for accuracy for target shooting 25 / 50 yards? Any other contenders in the ballpark that might fit the bill also ($500 and under)?


  35. Ozark,

    To really stay under $500 for everything, the Discovery is the only game in town, other than used. While the rifle isn’t as refined as the European rifles, it shoots just as well and just as fast. And it has features like dual-fuel and 2,000 psi they can never have.


  36. BB-
    I saw some references in the comment section somewhere you made about a repeating version that might be coming out sometime. Do you know if that’s a year out or more?

  37. Sorry another question about scopes. Does it matter what king of scope you get for PCP’s, I know you want special ones for springers but thats because of the vibrations.


  38. JAVA – you can use any scope with a PCP because there is very little recoil (if any?). Springers recoil forward and backward so the optics have to be cushioned in both directions.

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