by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

The history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Haenel history
  • Haenel 100
  • Not a BB pistol?
  • Odd way of cocking
  • Nickel finish
  • Crude sights
  • Shot tube
  • Functioning
  • The future

Haenel history

Of the many European airgun manufacturers, only a few like Walther, Feinwerkbau and Diana are well-known to American airgunners. Other makers like Falke of Germany and Peiper of Belgium produced airguns in quantity, but they escaped our notice. The greatest of these makers was perhaps the Haenel company that was founded by Carl Gottleib Haenel in 1840. By the 1930s, Haenel was producing many models of air rifles that would become collector favorites a half-century later in the U.S. I have reviewed a few of these rifles for you already. There was the Haenel 310 bolt action target rifle that shoots 4.4mm lead balls. That one came into the U.S. after the Wall fell in 1989. The East German Stasi used them as youth trainers and when the Germans took over they sold them as surplus.

Then there was the Haenel 303-8 Super that was a breakbarrel made into a target rifle. I found it to be reasonably accurate and fun to shoot. It reminded me a lot of the Haenel 311 bolt action target rifle that I also reviewed for you. That one is a very accurate and capable target rifle, though not quite in the world class category.

I also took a quick look at Haenel’s model iii-284 breakbarrel rifle. That one was a pre-war model that was in the Diana 27 class for power. I also looked at the Haenel model 1 — another older breakbarrel with some curious features not found on other airguns on similar price.

I have covered Haenel air rifles pretty well over the years. The one model I would like to test someday is a Haenel model 312 target rifle. This sidelever spring gun is even more of a target rifle than the 311. I have seen them at airgun shows but I never had the money when I saw one. Another Haenel I have owned 2 of and never reported is the model 28 pistol — the one people think was a trainer for the Luger. I sold my last one about a year ago, but when I get another one I plan to report on it for you.

Haenel 100

Today, though my report is on the Haenel 100 — a very odd BB pistol whose major claim to fame in my book is the fact that one was found in the quarters of a German submarine captain when his boat was captured in WW II. He was apparently shooting targets with it in those cramped quarters!

Haenel BB pistol
The Haenel 100 BB pistol is a pre-war 50-shot repeater.

Not a BB pistol?

The model 100 was made from 1932-1940, according to the Blue Book of Airguns. And I am so glad I looked it up, because I always through this was a true BB pistol. It turns out the model 100 and the models 50 and 51, which are simpler versions of the gun, all use 4.4mm lead balls instead of smaller steel BBs. Fortunately I laid in a big supply of that shot when I acquired my 310 rifle years ago. I buy more whenever I see it for sale at airgun shows.

I guess it isn’t really correct to call the 100 a BB pistol, since it really isn’t made to shoot conventional steel BBs. I will continue to refer to it that way, though, because that’s how most people will know it.

Odd way of cocking

The pistol cocks in an odd way. Actually all Haenel air pistols cock in odd ways. This one has a ring under the bottom of the grip. You grab the one-piece wooden grip in one hand and pull the ring away from it with the other hand. The ring is on the end of a weird lever system that retracts the cocking piece. That compresses the mainspring. You have to see it to believe it!

Haenel BB pistol cocked 1
Pull the ring back from the grip and this happens.

Haenel BB pistol cocked 2
Return the ring and the cocking piece stays back until the gun is fired.

The models 50 and 51 have a cocking piece at the back, but no lever is connected. You just pull the cocking piece back to cock the gun. But the 100’s spring is much stronger and this would be difficult to do.

Nickel finish

The 100 came with either a blued or a nickeled finish. I have never seen a blued gun, though I have only seen 20 or less model 100s in total. They are not that common in this country. I’m guessing the blued gun may be even harder to find than the nickeled one.

My gun retains about 87 percent of the bright nickel. The plating has flaked off in a couple places and rust has started, so I wiped the gun with Ballistol to stabilize the rust. The beechwood grip is a single piece that has metal Haenel eschtchons on both sides. It is held to the frame by two steel pins and the wood has cracked around the rear pin. Looking at how it’s made, I suspect this crack is common to this model.

Haenel BB pistol grip
The one-piece wood grip is pinned to the frame. The crack around the rear pin is on both sides of the grip and seems to be there because the wood grain is straight and weak at that point.

Crude sights

The sights are very crude and are probably silver-soldered to the spring tube. No adjustment is possible and they aren’t easy to see. I can appreciate why the submarine captain shot at such close range! I will, too.

Haenel BB pistol sights
The sights are very crude and not adjustable. They are attached to the barrel jacket.

Shot tube

The gun has a conventional shot tube that feeds by gravity. It resembles a Daisy shot tube, except the length is shorter. When the tube is rotated it opens a hole on top of the barrel jacket where lead balls can be loaded one at a time. The idea of a speedloader was still a half-century away when this gun was new… The gun is rated to hold 50 balls. I never tested that and I don’t plan to.

Haenel BB pistol shot tube
The shot tube looks like one from a Daisy, just shorter.

Haenel BB pistol top
BBs feed through the hole on the left. The shot tube rotates out of the way, opening the hole.

This is an older airgun that has some quirks. The first quirk is it’s very hard to cock. I oiled the mechanism and the cocking hinge points, but it still takes a strong adult to cock it. I oiled the plunger (piston) seal because it is undoubtedly leather. I stood the pistol on its butt to let the oil soak into the leather for a day before any shooting was attempted. Who knows how long it’s been since the seal was oiled last?

A second quirk is the trigger doesn’t always set itself when the gun is cocked. Probably a spring is broken or missing, but the gun is too nice to mess with. I know how to set the trigger every time, so I just do it.

Finally the pistol doesn’t always feed a ball. I grew up with that problem in Daisy BB guns that use gravity feed, so I’m used to it. There is a way of holding the pistol when it is cocked so it will feed more reliably, and that’s just part of getting used to the gun.

Functioning

The gun has a very heavy trigger pull that I don’t have the right instrument to measure. I’ll guess it’s around 15-18 lbs., or so. I’m not going to take it apart, but if I did I would find a direct-acting sear that has very little opportunity for improvement. That’s how all similar guns of the same period were made.

It recoils when it fires. And the lead ball smacks the cardboard target backstop with the authority of a ball traveling 200-250 f.p.s. That’s what I would expect from a BB pistol of this age and make. We will find out next time for certain because I plan to test the gun for you — both for velocity and accuracy.

The future

So far I have only done one other test report about a specific airgun in this history section. That was on the Parris Kadet 500 BB gun. Now I think it’s time to expand on that. With a few of the basics out of the way, we can focus on a specific model, now and then. The test I do won’t be as long or detailed as a test report for a new airgun, but it will cover velocity and accuracy if I am able. I won’t run Part 2 next — I’ll give you a breather for those who aren’t as interested in this gun. But for everybody — including me — we’re going to find out how these things shoot!