by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


Haenel’s 303-8 Super is a large breakbarrel target rifle from East Germany.

A funny thing happened during the chronographing test. I discovered the model number written on the gun! It took the diffuse light of my reflected overhead chronograph lighting to see it, but it’s there, ahead of the Haenel name at the rear of the spring cylinder. So, then I sprayed all the metal parts with Ballistol and started rubbing the rust off and discovered the caliber stamped into the barrel and the serial number stamped into the left side of the base block. My rifle is marked normally after all.


Under the right light, the other stampings on the gun became clear.

Then it hit me! While reading the history of the Rolliflex camera, I read an anecdote about an owner who thought his camera’s focus was defective, because all his pictures were out of focus. He sent the camera to Rollei for repairs but they found nothing wrong. They returned the camera with a note to the owner to visit his optometrist. Sure enough, he needed a new prescription. He was focusing the camera to adjust for his eyes, which made the images turn out blurry.

Apparently, I’ve reached the same stage, because when I put on a magnifying hood and examined the rifle carefully, all the markings were visible. So, I’m sorry if I misled you that the rifle had no markings. The model reads “303-Super,” so the 303-8 Super that a reader had suggested must be a later version of the same rifle. I’m going to leave the title alone, because a search on either title will find this report.

Someone suggested the front sight is mounted backwards. If I reverse it, it no longer sticks out in front of the muzzle, so that’s what I did. It does look more correct that way.


Front sight looks better turned around.

Speaking of sights, I failed to mention that the rear sight has six different diameters of apertures that allow the shooter to adjust for lighting conditions. Go with the smallest aperture that you can see with and keep both eyes open while sighting. If you don’t, the aperture will appear to close partially. I covered that in a report a few months ago.

Okay, let’s get to shooting. You’ll remember that the rifle had its piston seal oiled a week before, so it was still fresh and doing its job. The breech seal was also oiled at the same time.

RWS Basic
The first pellet tested was the RWS Basic. They fit the breech very loosely. They actually fell into the breech by about 1/16″ on average. From my experience, when pellets do that, they’re generally slower, though I tested the gun with tighter-fitting pellets and found that wasn’t the case. The Basics averaged 643 f.p.s., with a range from 632 to 656. That’s 6.43 foot-pounds, which is 8.72 joules. So, this rifle is not a 7.5-joule gun.

RWS Meisterkugeln
RWS Meisterkugeln pellets were next, and they surprised me with an average velocity of 657 f.p.s. Then I read the weight of these Meisters and discovered they weigh only 7 grains, like the Basics, so the higher velocity is no surprise. The spread was from 627 to 665 f.p.s., but the 627 was an anomaly. The next-slowest shot went 657 f.p.s., which was the average. And three of these pellets dropped into the breech 1/8″, while all the rest dropped in 1/16″.

Crosman Premier 7.9 grains
The last pellet I tested were Crosman Premier 7.9 grain pellets. They didn’t drop into the breech, but remained flush with the end of the barrel. They averaged 584 f.p.s., with a range from 575 to 592.

I did try a couple other pellets just to see if pure lead pellets that fit the breech tighter would be significantly faster, but none were. Eley Wasps that weigh 7.9 grains averaged about 580 f.p.s. and 7.6-grain Chinese blue label target pellets averaged about 615 f.p.s.

Before anyone asks me to modify this rifle to be more powerful, let me say that’s not one of my goals. I don’t need more power from a target rifle. What I need is accuracy, and we’ll see how much this one has in the next report.

Bottom line
It would seem from the power seen here that my rifle is in pretty good health. Though rust is over all the metal, underneath the gun seems to be in pretty good shape. What we have here is a rifle that’s the equivalent of the HW55 in general performance and even features. Of course, the accuracy test will show how close it comes in that all-important department.