by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
Haenel 311 target rifle.
This report covers:
Not the Hurricane today
Haenel target rifles
Different way to oil the piston seal
Not the Hurricane today
I was going to do a Part 2 velocity test with the Webley Hurricane today but this is Friday and I wanted to give you guys something to talk about over the weekend. Velocity tests of airguns I have tested before aren’t usually that exciting, so I looked for a different topic for today.
I don’t know if this has ever happened to you but I have forgotten something. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true. I have forgotten that my Haenel 311 bolt-action target rifle from East Germany shot the smallest 5-shot group I ever shot at 10 meters. Let me show you.
Thinking that group was a fluke, I shot a second 5-shot group of Gamo Match. This time the group measured 0.163-inches between centers and was probably closer to representative of what the rifle can do. And even that one is a very good group.
Here is what is driving this series of tests. In Part 2 of the report on peep sights this week I said, “The Haenel 311 rifle that this sight is mounted on is a taploader that works via a bolt action. As far as accuracy at 10 meters goes it is a junior class target rifle at its best, and probably not even that.”
Then I got curious and looked at the test I did on the 311 in 2011. Lo and behold — those targets above materialized and I realized I owed the Haenel 311 an apology! What’s even stranger is the pellet that was used in that test — the Gamo Match that several of you have asked me to try! So I think it’s time to take another good look at this East German target rifle.
Haenel target rifles
Haenel made several target air rifles. Some are so rare that you only read about them and never see one up close. But of the common ones the 310 is a bolt action round ball shooter that’s rifled. It’s a repeater that feeds from a tiny spring-loaded magazine that’s housed on the bottom of the stock. They came into the U.S. in boatloads after the Berlin wall came down and I snagged several at about $60 each. They are way higher now.
The Haenel 310 is a rifled ball-shooter. The triangular projection ahead of the triggerguard is the anchor point for the bolt that serves as the cocking lever.
An important step up from the 310 are the 311 and 312 target rifles. The 312 is the better of the two. It’s a sidelever that has a sliding compression chamber to expose the breech. Its rear sight is larger and beefier than the one on my 311, but that could be due to the time when the specific guns were made. Or it could be a difference that always was there. I don’t know. The 312 was always more money than the 311 and today I think it brings about $350 if it has the sights and works.
The 311 is the oddball that I’m covering today. They originally cost about $75-80 when they were coming in but today they are much higher. However they are more common than the 312 and don’t quite command the same price.
The rifle began production in 1964, which was at the height of the Cold War. Production ended in the early 1990s.
The 311 is a 10-meter target rifle, but it is so different from any other 10-meter rifle that it’s very difficult to categorize. The cocking effort is very difficult — owing to the short cocking lever — so this is not a three-position rifle in anyone’s book. It’s meant for offhand shooting, alone. Even then, the shooter must take care where he points the muzzle while he struggles with the cocking lever. It takes 33 lbs. of force to cock my 311, and applying it through the 3-inch bolt handle isn’t easy. In the offhand position, I would shoulder the rifle and simply pull the handle back, using my shoulder to hold the rifle in place. It sounds easy, but after a couple shots you start feeling the strain. I will test the effort again in Part 2 but I doubt it has changed over the years.
The 311’s articulated bolt rotates up and forms the top half of a longer cocking lever. You can see how it works in the picture. You rock the bolt back to cock the rifle and, typical of these bolts, the effort to cock is not light.
Swing the bolt up like this and pull back to cock the rifle. It is a rocking motion, with the anchor underneath the stock, as mentioned.
The 311 is a taploader, which is what drove me to make my comment about accuracy. And in truth with most pellets I don’t get accuracy that’s any better than a Daisy 853 would give. That’s a 5-shot group of around a quarter-inch between centers at 10 meters. But the Gamo Match performance makes me want to test the rifle with other pellets that are new to the market — and there are a bunch of them.
Rotate the tap lever forward and the top opens to accept one pellet, loaded nose-first.
Different way to oil the piston seal
With a loading tap there are a couple of ways to oil the piston seal. One is to open the tap, drop 5 or so drops of oil in, close the tap and stand the rifle on its butt for several hours to let the oil drain back and saturate the piston seal. I believe the piston seal is leather because Haenel used leather seals on similar rifles like the 303-8 Super breakbarrel target rifle that I reported on in 2009.
A second good way to oil the piston seal is to stand the rifle on its butt and pour the oil down from the muzzle. Use an extra drop or two because the barrel will retain some if you oil this way.
You can use silicone chamber oil if you wish. I use Crosman Pellgunoil, which is 20-weight motor oil with an o-ring preservative. The muzzle velocity is so low that you don’t need to use silicone chamber oil if you don’t want to.
The rifle is larger than a youth target rifle. It’s 43-3/4-inches long with a barrel that’s 16-1/2- inches. The pull measures 13-7/8-inches, which is very long for a target rifle. My rifle weighs exactly 8 pounds. The stock is plain hardwood that looks like beech. The pistol grip is checkered with coarse hand-cut diamonds. The forearm is rectangular and tall, with finger grooves on each side. In all the 311 is closer to a vintage adult target rifle of the 1960s than it is to a youth target rifle.
You have already seen the 311’s rear peep sight. Here it is again.
The Haenel peep sight is as nice as any top-grade peep. It just looks odd in a swept-back way.
The front sight is somewhat conventional, but constructed in a different and unique way. Like the AirForce front sight the Haenel stands on a tall pillar. Unlike the AirForce sight the Haenel does not adjust for height.
The 311 front sight stands tall on a pillar, but does not adjust for height. It does accept interchangeable inserts that measure a non-standard 15mm in diameter.
I have one more sight that very few Haenel 311 owners know about. It’s an intermediate rear sporting sight. Many European gallery rifles and Zimmerstutzens had intermediate sporting sights like this that were used for certain sports where the peep sight was not allowed. All 311s have a raised dovetail base just behind the loading tap for this sight but very few people have ever seen the sight itself. I received it with my rifle when I purchased it and considered myself very fortunate. I have never seen another.
Here is something you don’t see every day — Haenel’s sporting rear sight. It clamps to a raised dovetail base just behind the loading tap. Only one rear sight may be used at one time, as they get in each other’s way.
The trigger is one place where the Haenel pedigree shines through. It’s a multi-lever unit that breaks cleanly and lightly if not crisply.
Here’s a warning to all you would-be tuners. Many years ago I wanted to quiet the vibration of my 311 action, so I started what I thought would be a simple disassembly. When I got inside the trigger, however, the job proved to be anything but simple. I the assembled the gun with the automatic safety out of whack and have lived with it ever since. When I cock the rifle I have to pull the safety back to set it, then push it forward to make the rifle ready to fire. The 311 is not the rifle to take apart unless you have a lot of patience and perhaps a spare rifle to look at when it’s time to put it back together.
This should be an interesting look at a target rifle few airgunners have ever seen. And we begin with a pellet that should prove accurate. I think we are in for a lot of fun.