by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- The HW35
- Barrel lock
- Weight and length
- Me and the HW35
I’m going to start this report by eating some crow. Or is it humble pie? I never remember. I want to say at the start of this report that reader Dom was right, and I was wrong about my new HW35 Luxus. Dom told me that his 35 had a Freimark (a capitol F inside a pentagram — the German symbol for airguns developing less than 7.5 joules) and he wondered if mine did, as well. If it did that might be why it shoots so smooth. I told him my gun didn’t have one.
Except it does. A great big one!
You see, I got 2 air rifles at the Malvern show — this HW35 and a BSF S54. When I looked at the gun for Dom I looked at the S54 instead of the 35.
It’s an easy mistake to make. I mean other than the fact that one rifle is a breakbarrel and the other is an underlever with a loading tap — and the 35 is well worn with use while the S54 looks new — and the 35 is both lighter and smaller than the S54 — they look identical!
Yes, kids, old BB was looking at the wrong gun when he answered Dom’s comment about the markings. Given the presence of the Freimark, it is entirely possible that what I have is indeed a German-spec airgun and simply a smooth shooter because it doesn’t generate that much power.
The only HW35 I have had much experience with was one from the Beeman company many years ago. It was a full-power (12 foot-pound) rifle, and it vibrated and thumped badly. I was expecting the same from this rifle; and when it didn’t do it, I assumed it had been tuned.
You might think that a 7.5-joule rifle (about 5.5 foot-pounds) that launches a 7-grain RWS Hobby pellet around 595 f.p.s. would have a much softer mainspring than a 12 foot-pound rifle, but, in fact, they aren’t that different. What the maker does, normally, is shorten the piston stroke so not as much air gets compressed. The springs remain stiff for all models.
We won’t know for sure until I run this rifle through the chronograph. If it shoots Hobbys at or below 595 f.p.s., it’s probably a German-spec airgun that may be in original condition. The automatic safety appears to have been disabled; but until I open up the gun, we won’t know that for sure, either. All I know for certain at this point is that this airgun is very smooth.
We talk about certain airguns like the Benjamin 392 being direct descendants of a long line of forbears. Before the 392, there was the 342 and before that was the 312, and so on. And, we marvel that an airgun can last so long. But what about the HW35? It dates back to 1951 and has never been out of production. It predates the famous Rekord trigger, and advanced collectors talk in hushed tones of awe when they discuss their pre-Rekord Weihrauch rifles.
The HW35 is so old that it was reported in Smith’s Standard Encyclopedia of Gas, Air and Spring Guns of the World, published in 1957. The Rekord trigger was available at that time, and Smith said there was no better unit in the world. He also said the 35 was a husky rifle with a powerful mainspring, and so it was at that time.
In the 1970s, the 12 ft-lb. 35 was one of 4 airgun models that were just at or starting to exceed the 800 f.p.s. “barrier” that was thought for so long to be the upper velocity limit. The other 3 were the FWB 124, BSF S55/60/70 (same gun, different stocks) and Diana 45. A few years later, the Beeman R1 came out and pushed a .177 pellet out at 940 f.p.s., and the velocity race was on. The HW35 never had what it took to compete, so it continued to be produced as a (now) medium-velocity breakbarrel springer that had a very nice trigger and a barrel lock.
Powerful breakbarrels used to have positive spring-loaded manual barrel locks. It was thought to be necessary to keep their breeches sealed when they fired. But what it also did was make those rifles that much easier to break open. No slapping of the muzzle was required. Just thumb the latch, and the barrel almost falls open on its own. The 35’s latch thumbpiece is on the left side of the baseblock, perfectly situated for a right-handed shooter. And, yes, there does seem to have been a left-hand version of the 35 that has the thumbpiece on the right, unless someone is just playing jokes by flipping pictures around.
The barrel lock thumbpiece is on the left of the gun. And there’s the German Freimark stamp on the baseblock. See that round cutout in the forearm? Watch what it does:
The barrel lock thumbpiece fits into the cutout when the barrel is cocked.
There are many models of the 35. The Standard is the most common, followed by the E model and the Luxus, which I have. I saw a 35 at Malvern that had a stock shaped like a Luxus stock (Bavarian comb and rounded pistol grip) but without the checkering on the pistol grip or the raised cheekpiece. I didn’t check closely, but I think the stock was beech rather than walnut. I don’t know what model that one is, but it seems to be fairly common as well.
I have the Luxus model. The stock is walnut with a hand-checkered pistol grip that’s rounded on the bottom. The forearm has a finger groove down either side, which is very European. The butt has a Bavarian shape, which means the comb slopes down toward the butt. The raised cheekpiece is also in the Bavarian style.
The Bavarian butt shape is distinctive. The comb slopes down at the rear, and the raised cheekpiece is angular.
The forearm feels thick when I hold the rifle to shoot; but looking at it objectively, it’s really thinner than it feels. I guess it’s so tall through the forearm that it adds to the mass of the wood, and the rifle just feels bigger than it is.
Speaking of that forearm, the cocking link is a 2-piece articulated lever, which allows the cocking slot to be very short. That, along with the thickness (tallness, not width) of the wood is where a lot of the vibration goes.
The cocking slot is short, which leaves more wood to deaden any vibrations. Notice the crack.
My rifle has a split that follows the grain of the wood. It runs from the cocking slot to the single stock screw hole located on the underside of the butt. That’s something I need to attend to. Thank goodness I am so skilled at woodworking! Can you imagine what a hack might do when making such a repair? [Editor’s note to new readers: BB is not a good woodworker. He’s known as a wood butcher!]
According to the serial number (in the 700,000s), my rifle was produced in 1979. It has 2 scope stop holes in the end cap rather than the more familiar 3 that are seen on later Weihrauch airguns. The safety is strange. Well, I’m not convinced it is a safety. It’s located where a Weihrauch safety would be, but there’s no corresponding hole on the other side of the end cap. Could it be that this 35 is like an older Beeman R7 and has no safety? I’ve seen R7s without safeties, but they did not have this pin stocking out.
Older Weihrauchs had 2 scope stop holes in the end cap. What appears to be the safety may not be.
The button at the rear of the end cap that looks like a safety may not be one.
The sights are vintage Weihrauch. A globe front has interchangeable inserts. None came with the rifle, but I’ve accumulated a few inserts over many years of owning different Weihrauchs.
These older Weihrauchs came with replaceable inserts for the front sight. This one didn’t have them, but I’ve saved a few over the years.
The rear sight is adjustable in both directions. Adjustable in 1979 means crisp click detents with numbers on the elevation wheel to tell you where the sights are set. There’s no corresponding marker for the windage, which seems strange given the overall quality of the gun.
Weight and length
According to a 1973 catalog from Air Rifle Headquarters, the 35 L weighs 8 lbs. and cocks with 33 lbs. of effort. I’ll measure the cocking effort in part 2, but I think it’s lower than 33 lbs. My rifle weighs 8 lbs. on the nose and is 44-1/2 inches long. The 20-inch barrel contributes a lot to that length. The pull measures 14-1/4 inches.
Me and the HW35
When I returned from Germany in 1977, I went up to the Beeman store in Santa Rosa California to buy a nice air rifle. It would be several years before I realized that I’d lived for 4 years in the same German city where the BSF airguns were made (Erlangen). I thought of the Beeman store in California as the world’s Mecca for airguns.
When I got to the store, I wanted an FWB 124 because of all the good things I’d read about it. But there was an HW 35E that also caught my eye. I had to consult the Beeman catalog on the spot before deciding, and it was velocity that tipped the decision. Those were the days before the velocity wars, and 800 f.p.s. seemed to be the absolute pinnacle that airguns would ever achieve. The HW 35 struggled to make 800, and not all of them could, while the 124 was going out the door at nearly 800 and rising up to 820 f.p.s. or so after a break-in. With tuning, they went even faster.
So, I walked away from the HW35 that day, but not without some regrets. Honestly, it looked like more airgun than the 124. The walnut stock made the 124’s beech stock look cheap. And the barrel latch was a unique touch that suggested quality. The sights and trigger were obviously both superior as well. I’ve sometimes wondered what direction my life would have taken if I’d made a different decision that day.
There’s no need to wonder any longer because in 2015, just a short 37 years later, I have my 35. And this one seems to be the right one. We shall see.
This is how far the barrel breaks open.