by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier


HW 55SF.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • A rare find
  • No barrel lock
  • The trigger
  • Look in the Blue Book?
  • What is the 55SF?
  • Description
  • All hype aside

A rare find

I was at the Little Rock Airgun Expo in 2008 with my buddy, Mac, and I had told him a couple airguns that were on my short list. One was an HW 55. There was a HW 55 Tyrolean at the show but the price was too much for me. Then Mac asked me what I thought of the other one. The other one???

Sure enough, there was a second HW 55 on a table nearby and the price was very reasonable. Very reasonable means I could afford it. I was excited until Mac wondered if having a 55 without the barrel lock mattered that much to me.

No barrel lock

No barrel lock? But that’s what sets the 55 apart from all other Weihrauch breakbarrels, except the 35. I thought all 55s had barrel locks — it was one of the ways to spot them in a crowd (or laying on a table at an airgun show).

HW 55 lock
The barrel lock (arrow) is a distinctive feature of the HW 55. But the 55SF doesn’t have one. Notice the stock is relieved for this lever. A stock without this relief will be found on original SF MF and TF models.

When I went back to examine the rifle I saw that it did not have a barrel lock, but the base block was also clearly marked HW 55S. What was this? Someone told me he thought Weihrauch had made a 55 without the barrel lock, but he wasn’t certain.

HW 55S breech
The SF breech is marked HW55S. That way Weihrauch could put it on any 55S model.

Is this an HW 50 by another name? In essence, that’s what a 55 is — a 50 with a barrel lock, target sights, better wood (sometimes) and a better hand-tuned version of the Rekord trigger.

The trigger

This rifle had a barrel that was marked HW 55S. Had someone just installed it on an HW50 action? If they did they also bothered to swap over the target sights, front and rear, and the special target version of the Rekord trigger. I was beginning to think this rifle could be a version of the HW 55 that I had never heard of. So I bought it. Even it it was a put-together, it had all the best parts that a 55 has — except for that lock.

Hans Weihrauch, Jr. told me the Rekord found on the 55 is special. That fat “screw” behind the trigger blade is the outer locking housing for the adjustment screw inside. The target trigger also has a much lighter return spring, and all the moving parts are smoothed and hand-fitted at the factory. If you modify your Rekord by installing a lighter trigger return spring, don’t overlook smoothing all the moving parts inside.

HW 55 Trigger
This target Rekord trigger should be found on all HW55s. The hand checkering in front of the triggerguard is more evidence that this is a 55 and not a 50.

Look in the Blue Book?

I had a Blue Book of Airguns at the show, and if I didn’t there were many copies available, but in 2008 the book didn’t acknowledge any of this information about the 55. The 12th edition does have a sentence acknowledging other 55 variations, but says nothing about them. It just gives Mike Driskill’s email address if you want more information.

What is the 55SF?

At least as early as 1959, Weihrauch was offering special models of HW 55 without the breech locking lever. They were called the SF, MF and TF. I got that from a 1959 Weihrauch catalog that was posted by Mike Driskill on the American Vintage Airguns forum.

Gaines Blackwell, another forum reader and avid HW 55 collector, posted photos of his TF for people to see – so it isn’t just a rumor. He knows of at least one other TF, so his isn’t one of a kind.
Gaines has owned a great many HW 55 guns, but the only F-series model he’s ever seen in person is the one he owns. He’s seen photos of 5 or 6 F-series guns. He says he’s seen and handled hundreds of HW 55 guns.

I corresponded with several other HW collectors who had heard of the F-series 55 guns but had never seen one. So, this rifle that I was “forced” to buy turned out to be rarer than an HW 55 Tyrolean, which until then I had thought was the rarest of all 55s.

Most HW 55s have the breech locking lever that must be flipped forward to unlock the barrel for cocking. The F-series doesn’t have that lever. It uses the spring tube from an HW 50, which is close to the same size as the 55, but has a conventional spring-loaded breech chisel detent. The standard HW 55 has a very small chisel detent, but it isn’t as wide nor does it have a spring that’s as strong as the model 50 detent because the rifle relies on the manual lever to lock the breech.

The lack of a breech lock is one clue to a rare F-series 55, but there’s one more important item to look for. The stock on the 55 F-series does not have the cutout on the left side that provides clearance for the locking lever. That, plus the hand checkering I showed is the clincher.

Back when they were new, the F-series 55s were just less expensive versions of the target rifles. But they apparently didn’t sell that well and are very rare today. There is nothing about them that’s better than the 55s with the lock — they’re just harder to find. I guess if you are a shooter you might want the conventional 55 over the F model, but if you collect, this is the one to find.

Description

The rifle is a conventional breakbarrel. It’s 43-3/4-inches long with an 18-3/8-inch barrel. The stock has a deep crescent rubber buttpad that’s fixed in place. There are finger grooves on either side of the forearm. The wood is plain beech without any figure, but the pistol grip is hand checkered on both sides and there is a small patch of checkering under the forearm in front of the triggerguard.

The rifle weighs 8 pounds on the nose. The forearm is blocky, giving the rifle the feel of greater size.

The front sight is a globe that accepts inserts. The rear sight is Weihrauch’s target aperture type. It’s adequate, though not as refined as the target sights from companies like Anschütz and Feinwerkbau.

The trigger is that special Rekord I have already mentioned. It’s two-stage, and stage two can be set at less than a pound, but it isn’t as light as, say, an FWB 300 trigger. The HW55 was designed at a time before World Cup and Olympic airgun competition came into being.

All hype aside

All hype aside, I’m a shooter — not a collector. And my 55SF is not a smooth-shooting target rifle. It buzzes when fired. When I first found out how rare it is I was thrilled that I had done so well, but in the long run the rifle doesn’t stand up to other 10-meter air rifles of the era. However, I have an idea. Instead of a traditional 3-part review of the rifle, I thought I would take this opportunity to tear into the powerplant and “smoothen” it up! I bet most readers would like a peek inside and this is a very straightforward airgun to work on. Maybe I can show you some pictures of the special Rekord trigger while we are at it.

Will it make the rifle more accurate? Probably not. But it will be more fun to shoot, and fun is what this hobby is all about, so I think I’m going to do it.