by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

HW 85
Weihrauch HW 85.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • A word on straight razors
  • History
  • Weihrauch model numbers
  • Enter the R10/HW 85
  • Son of R1
  • Thin spring tube
  • Trigger
  • Description
  • Stock
  • Sights
  • Summary

A word on straight razors

Before we start I have a word on straight razor sharpening. I made a major discovery yesterday morning. It has to do with sharpness, the shape of the blade, how the blade is ground and its applicability to the task at hand. Very similar to airguns and power! It will be in my next report, which will be in a few weeks.

Now, let’s look at the Beeman R10/HW 85.

History

The FWB 124 started the velocity wars in the very early 1970s. But Dr. Beeman invented the rifle he called the R1, that was also produced as the Weihrauch HW 80. That air rifle really broke things open. It came out in 1981. Inside of 18 months Beeman had gotten the muzzle velocity of the .177 R1 from 940 f.p.s. to 1,000 f.p.s. and the race was on! Before we continue, let’s see how they did it.

The R1 was designed on a computer. It wasn’t a CAD-CAM program, because nothing like that existed for spring guns in those days. But it was a modeling program that allowed the modification of certain design parameters like piston size, length of stroke, mainspring strength and so on. With this software it was possible to make changes to these variables and see the results without building anything. Such programs have existed for decades in other disciplines like aerospace, but this was the first time one was used to design an airgun.

They started with the HW 35 as a baseline and modified its parameters until they had what they wanted. Then they gave the specs to Weihrauch to make. Beeman got the rights to North American distribution and Weihrauch took the rest of the world.

Weihrauch model numbers

Weihrauch numbers their spring guns by the length of the piston stroke in millimeters. So the HW 35 has a 35mm stroke and the HW 80 (what Weihrauch calls their version of the R1) stroke is 80 mm. The piston bores are similar. That additional stroke took the rifle from 9.5-11.5 foot-pounds to about 20 foot-pounds. So, yes, it mattered. It mattered a lot!

As it turned out, Beeman probably sold as many R1s in the U.S. as Weihrauch sold HW 80s to the rest of the world. Both models are still being made and sold. But because in most other countries, airgun power is limited by law, it’s harder to sell a powerful airgun. However, velocity does sell everywhere in the world, and by hitting 1,000 f.p.s., Beeman had kicked the anthill!

Enter the R10/HW 85

Beeman enjoyed huge sales for the R1, but when shooters actually held the rifle they were surprised by how large and heavy it is. Of course that meant tremendous potential for power upgrades, and the R1 became the first production air rifle to top 1,200 f.p.s. in the hands of the very capable tuner, Ivan Hancock. But Robert Beeman wanted a smaller, lighter gun that delivered the same power. In 1986 he got his wish fulfilled with the new Beeman R10. Like before, he forged a deal with Weihrauch that gave them the rest of the world to sell what was a very similar rifle — the HW 85. Weihrauch was surprised to discover that British and European shooters also preferred the additional power and the ability to mount a scope — even though they had to jump through certain legal hoops to own the rifle they wanted.

Son of R1

The R10 was a full pound or more lighter than the R1, and the dimensions were smaller in every area. Yet when it first came to market, Beeman advertised it as generating 1020 f.p.s. in .177 when Beeman Laser pellets were used. In the 1989 catalog they called it the “Son of the Beeman R1.” Besides being lighter it was a little easier to cock.

Beeman catalog
This is the first announcement of the R10 in the 1986 Beeman catalog.

The HW 85 came out at the same time, and was available in all other markets. I have to assume that it was equally powerful, because, as long as you are going build an airgun that puts you in the realm where the law gets involved, why hold back anything? Besides, it’s cheaper to make just one gun with different stocks for each model.

Thin spring tube

One thing isn’t obvious when you look at this rifle and that is how thin the spring tube is. But a careful observer will notice that there is a separate scope rail attached to the rear of the tube, where the R1 has the 11mm dovetail scope grooves cut directly into the spring tube.

scope rail
The spring tube is so thin that the scope rail had to be attached separately with screws.

What you can’t see is the threaded end cap. Like the R1 the R10 has a threaded end cap, so the rifle disassembled in exactly the same way. This cap must have caused production problems because of the thin tube. How many tubes were ruined when the threading machine broke through? I don’t know, but I do know that when the R10 went away in 1995, the R9 that followed it used an end cap held in by 4 tabs.

Trigger

Like most top-end Weihrauch rifles the R10/HW 85 has the Rekord trigger. This trigger that is now legendary was an important feature of Weihrauch spring guns. That means the Rekord automatic safety is also present. When the rifle is cocked the spring-loaded safety pin pops out on the left side of the end cap, putting the rifle on safe.

The rifle I am examining is the one I bought from reader David Enoch at the 2017 Texas airgun show. The trigger and safety are both gold-plated because David’s brother, Bryan, tuned this rifle. In fact, it is that tune that I really bought. I can’t wait to start testing it!

Description

The HW 85 I am examining for you is a breakbarrel single shot pellet rifle in .22 caliber. This one is 45-3/4-inches long overall, with a 19-5/8-inch barrel. The stock ends behind the pivot bolt, where the R10 stock went to the end of the base block — another two inches farther. That is the most significant difference between the two models. The rifle weighs 8 pounds on the nose. The weight will vary a little, based on the weight of the wood stock, and this one is on the heavy side. The advertised weight of an R10 is 7.9 lbs.

HW 85 stock end
Weihrauch rifle stocks usually end at the pivot bolt, rather than extending to the end of the base block.

Stock

This wood stock has no checkering, where an R10 would have a checkered pistol grip. It has a Monte Carlo raised comb but no raised cheekpiece that the R10 would have. The wood is beech and finished to a medium dark brown. The butt pad is soft rubber that’s grippy for both your shoulder and when you stand it on its butt.

Sights

Like the R10, the 85 came with an adjustable rear sight and a globe front sight that accepts inserts. The rifle came to me with a squared post up front, but having owned many Weihrauchs over the past 25 years, I have the rest of the inserts.

Summary

That’s the rifle so far. If you are a reader who has been with me for any time you know this is a very special airgun. I bought it for the incredible tune. I can’t wait to test it for you — and me!