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Education / Training Haenel 312 10-meter target air rifle: Part 1

Haenel 312 10-meter target air rifle: Part 1

Haenel 312
Haenel 312.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Why fun?
  • eBay
  • The 312
  • Different breech
  • Markings
  • Condition
  • Rear sight
  • Front sight
  • Trigger
  • Adjustable buttpad
  • Running target model
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today we start looking at a Haenel 312 10-meter target rifle. It’s been a long time since I wrote an historical report, and this one should be especially fun.

Why fun?

The Haenel 312 has eluded me for about 25 years, which is about how long I have known of its existence. That deserves a little story. Back when I wrote The Airgun Letter, a pawn shop dealer from the east coast contacted me. He said that with the breakup of East Germany, people were over there scouring the former nation, looking for things they could sell. One of them had found a former East German youth marksmanship club and they had purchased all the club guns. As we chatted I asked what was for sale and he told me he had the Haenel 310, the Haenel 311 and the Haenel 312. The 310 was going for cheap and the 311 wasn’t much more, but we had limited funds in those days, so I bought a 311 to test for the newsletter. I did that because the 310 is a lead ball shooter and the 311 is a pellet rifle.

I told the dealer I would publicize his business, which I did. In thanks for that he also sent me a Haenel 310. I have reviewed both of these rifles for you in this blog. By the way, I mentioned his business not to get free stuff but to tell my readers that these airguns were available. If something like that happens today, you guys will hear it from me.

The 312 was a more serious target rifle than the other two and was priced beyond my means. As things turned out, very few of them were imported and the price for one kept going up just a little faster than I could afford. Plus, I didn’t see them very often. In 2019 one sold in the U.S. at auction for $650. I read on another forum that a guy bought one in 2011 for $200 which was a very good deal for him. Oh, well.

eBay

Fast-forward to 2021 and one came up on eBay. I paid more than the guy paid in 2011 but less than the 2019 auction. Since it is an airgun I have been wanting to test for so many years and I now could afford it, I thought it was the time to strike.

The 312

The Haenel 312 is a sidelever spring-piston target rifle that has a sliding compression chamber. It weighs 9.7 pounds, give or take, depending on the wood in the stock. I have seen some 312s that have what looks like walnut stocks, but all I have examined in person have been beech stocks like mine.

The rifle is 42-inches long overall, with a barrel length of 16-1/2-inches. The pull is just shy of 14-inches which is very long for a target rifle.

The caliber is obviously .177. I say obviously because .177 is the only caliber allowed in 10-meter target competition.

The 312 was made from 1967 to shortly after 1990, though in the final years it was redesignated as the Haenel model 600. East Germany reunified into Germany in 1990., so changes like that were happening all over the place.

Haenel 312 cocked
Yogi — this one’s for you. The black line out to the right side is 90 degrees from the line the rifle rests on, so the 312 sidelever swings out not quite 90 degrees.

See the sidelever in the picture above? There is a very quiet ratchet that holds the lever from closing until the rifle is fully cocked. At that time you can load a pellet and close the lever without doing anything else. This rifle cocks much harder than an FWB 300-series target rifle. I will measure the effort it takes for you when I test velocity.

There is no accessory rail on the bottom of the forearm. That means the 312 isn’t intended for world class competition, because slings, hand stops and shooting gloves are always used in the offhand position.

Different breech

Once the sliding compression chamber is back out of the way, a pellet can be loaded into the breech of the barrel. The space is tight and sausage fingers need not apply.

You don’t put the pellet directly into the barrel. It goes on a trough at the rear of the barrel, where it can then be slid forward into the breech. Once again, this is not a task for fat fingers, but don’t worry. The rifle takes care of everything, as long as you get the pellet on that trough.

Haenel 312 breech
Place the pellet on the trough where it then gets slid forward into the breech.

Think that’s weird? Look at the front of the sliding compression chamber that mates with the breech.

Haenel 312 compression chamber
The sliding compression chamber has an air tube that pushes the pellet from the trough into the breech. I’ve never seen this before. All other sliding chambers simply have an air transfer hole that lines up with the breech.

Hunting Guide

Markings

Let’s look at the markings on the 312. It is made in the GDR (German Democratic Republic) that in the German language is the  DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik). This is the country we used to call East Germany.

Haenel 312 marks 1
The Haenel trademark.

Haenel 312 marks 2
Model number and city of origin.

Condition

This rifle I’m testing is in about 90 percent condition overall. The metal is nearly as nice as the day it came from the factory, but the wood has some marks from handling. Now, when I say the metal is nice, I mean it’s nice for an East German finish. They didn’t spend the time to polish the metal the way some manufacturers like Air Arms do. It’s pleasant but almost matte.

The wood has handling marks here and there. The pistol grip is coarsely stippled and the right side behind the grip is scalloped for the heel of the hand, making this a right-hand rifle.

The flat underside of the forearm is checkered with large diamonds (about 16 per inch or so) that are hand cut. This gives the shooter a spot to rest his off hand. There is no checkering on the sides of the blocky forearm, so it’s a typical communist approach — only what you need and nothing fancy.

Rear sight

The rear sight is a full-sized adjustable target sight. It looks like anything that might be found on an FWB, Walther or Anschutz target rifle, except for the look of East German austerity. It is held on the base of the rifle by two large jam screws, which is one more than anyone else uses.

Haenel 312 rear sight
The Haenel 312 rear sight looks world class. Both adjustment knobs have definite detents to let you know what you’re doing. Note the two jam screws that hold the sight securely to the base!

Front sight

The front sight looks like it is mounted backwards but I don’t think it is. The way it’s mounted makes it easier to change sight elements, and it does accept interchangeable elements. A lot of the 312s I’ve seen online have their front sights mounted this way. I also note that the base of the front sight is clamped to the barrel that has been turned down to a smaller diameter. This makes correcting a lean of the sight to either side much easier.

Haenel 312 front sight
The front sight is clamped to a turned-down section of the barrel, making side-to-side adjustments easy.

Trigger

The straight-ish trigger is adjustable. There are two screws, one in front of the trigger blade and the other behind it. What they do I don’t yet know, but I do plan on finding out. The way the trigger is adjusted now it feels like a single-stage. I find that very Bubba-esqe, as I can’t tell where the trigger will break. For a target gun that is the kiss of death, unless you don’t wanna win!

Haenel 312 trigger
The Haenel 312 trigger has two adjustment screws. The one on the left is in front of the trigger blade and the one on the right is behind. There is a hole through the trigger guard to adjust the rear screw, but none for the one at the front, leading me to believe they want you to adjust the rear screw only.

The straight trigger blade also slides back and forth a little to fit trigger fingers of different lengths. It doesn’t rotate.

Adjustable buttpad

The hard rubber buttpad slides up and down to compensate for the shooter’s anatomy. A single slotted jam screw in the center of the pad is loosened for this. Carry a large Swiss Army knife (like your towel, never be without one) for this adjustment.

Haenel 312 butted
The 312’s buttpad adjusts up and down.

Running target model

There is also a Running Target (formerly Running Boar and before that Running Stag) version of the 312. The rear sight and front sight are different than what you see here. The front sight, for instance has two posts for leading the target, depending on which direction it is moving. I think both the front and rear sights are also a little taller on the Running Target model.

Haenel 312 Running Target front sight
The Running Target front sight. I borrowed this image from a vintage airgun site.

I would think the Running Target model is extremely rare almost everywhere. Running Target was not that popular in the airgun world because, well let’s face it — it’s difficult to hit a moving target!

Discussion

All the time I wanted one I figured the 312 was never intended for serious competition. Now that I have one to examine, I’m not so sure. What it looks like now is Haenel examined the FWB 300-series rifles and the Diana 75 and they tried to make a target rifle that could compete. They were a day late and a dollar short because those two rifles were the best of the best in their day, which Haenel missed by about 5 years. But did they miss everything else? Only testing will tell.

Summary

You now know as much as I do about the Haenel 312. Learning about this rifle is a journey we will take together.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

41 thoughts on “Haenel 312 10-meter target air rifle: Part 1”

  1. BB,

    One of these days some manufacturer with a wisecracking marketing department is going to make a Model 42 airgun that is the answer to everything!

    Siraniko

    • Yes and never be without your towel. Good stuff! This Haenel 312 looks like a sweet rifle to shoot even if they missed the bus to the shooting range by five years! As always, B.B., your exposition was a delight to read and I’m looking forward to learning more about this one.
      Will

  2. BB: I absolutely love these historical blogs, of course I also can’t get enough reading about my TX200 MKIII. You’re my nightly bed time story. Thank you. Tomorrow my wife has relieved my of around the house jobs to head out to the range for the first time in over a week. Hurray! Orv.

    • I have been working on my range some. I just covered the shooting bench and its seat with Trex. Yesterday I started hauling all of the flat concrete blocks there and piling them up to make me a level platform for the bench. I have a shooting lane through the woods that would give me about 150 yards. I have range markers at 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100 yards. I need to spend a whole lot more time out there with some of these gals.

      I also have a 10 and 25 yard plinking range of the back porch. Many a feral soda can has died out there.

  3. BB,

    On last Friday I recieved my “new” FWB300s. My gooosh! I’m delighted! It is 1976 made, condition almost as new. It was also re-sealed some time ago. I can’t believe the quality. And this accuracy… totally diferent world for me.
    I read all your blogs regarding the FWB300s and other historical, to be honest I’m very glad you are going this way – to check some vintage stuff once in a while. It is very interesting.
    I would NEVER believe that airgun made 46 years ago may be so amazing, better then everything I had so far!
    I will be happy to see the part 2 with some chrony and accuracy test.

    This FWB300s – it is actually changing my whole operational system right now. I was lucky and I bought a really nice piece from a private person. In Germany we have “egun.de” (ebay for our stuff). People there seems to be a quite different, usually very reliable.

    • Tomek,

      To me, the FWB300S was the pinnacle of the antique 10-meter air rifles. They are such a joy to shoot. I had two of them and let them get away. If another was to show up at RidgeRunner’s Home For Wayward Airguns, I would not let it slip away.

      • Ridge,

        After only 3 days with this FWB300s I can tell you one thing – I will not sell it.

        BTW guys, I’ve just checked the egun.de and found only one 312! “Buy now” for 630EUR! It seems to be something rare right now. I took mine FWB300s for 389EUR. It is a “normal” price for this modell in top conditions. There are also plenty of spare seal and spring for it. But the Haenel 312 is rare stuff.

        BB
        If it is yours please consider the fact it may be sell pretty expensive 🙂

    • Despite having bought a superb condition Diana 75 and received an unshootable and broken air rifle, this was the exception in my experience, and I therefore agree that egun is worth considering..

      I have found that many don’t mind posting abroad.
      Among those private sellers who compose their adverts with the “No international shipping” option, some can be asked to change their mind, ie they may simply have concerns about what is and is not legal in other countries.

      Finally, it may be worth investigating the re-mailing services, to see if there are any that include forwarding of airguns. 🙂

      • Definately you can always ask about the shipment. There is always a risk, of course.
        There are some special models which are general “risky to buy”. Diana75 is definately one of them. The complex anti-recoil system is the issue. Most users even don’t know when it’s broken…
        I always like to call the guy and talk to him a bit before I buy something like this FWB300s recently. Then you know a bit more about the whole story.

    • tomek,

      I know what you mean about the FWB 300S! I first saw the 300 in a Beeman catalog and it was over 30 years before money and opportunity brought one to me – yeah definitely a “keeper” 🙂

      I mounted a scope on mine and use it for sniping (plinking small targets) and light pesting as I have a FWB603 that I reserve for 10 meter target work. Thinking about making a sport-stock for the 300.

      Enjoy your 300 – as you know, they are awesome!

      Cheers!
      Hank

      • Hank,

        Glad to see that many are infected 🙂 I think something like 300 in a good condition cannot be topped other way as with a new model. Event the stock is just almost as a new one, after all these years.
        I saw already air separator which may replace the FWB300s front sight if using a scope. I guess I will buy it and sometimes use a medium size scope for this excellent piece of machinery.

        • tomek,

          I refinished the stock on mine and extended it to my length of pull
          (think it must have been a “youth stock”).

          The pin that holds the front sight on is tapered so take care when removing it. I tried to find information on which way the pin should be removed but was only confused by the contradictory instructions. Didn’t know that air-strippers were available and just made a decorative tube to fit in the end of the barrel to cover the sight base.

          Yes, the additional of a scope really benefits the accuracy of the FWB300. Mine is wearing a light 3-9×44 Hawke.

          Cheers!
          Hank

          • Hank,
            Exactly, this pin… I was thinking about it already. Do you know how it goes? It seems that I have some different set on my 300s, as both diopter and front sight are a bit green and especially the diopter is not the standard one. It is good, have also sunshader adapter.
            Please have a look on this couple 🙂 They are lovely, aren’t they!
            HW30s_FWB300s.jpg

        • tomek,

          As I said, the information I found was not clear as the different posts didn’t agree. Don’t remember which way worked for me as I had to test from both sides to find the way the pin would come out. It was tight and took more force than I preferred to use. If I had to do it again I would try (reasonable) heating and cooling the sight base a couple of times and an application of “release-fluid” to held “break” the joint as I think mine (after 33 years from manufacture) might have been “locked” together. Good luck!

          Nice stock on your FWB300S! Mine is different with stippling on the front as well as the grip and all the stippling was painted black.

          Hank

        • tomek

          Your FWB300S deserves the scope as it can reach out beyond 25 yards as BB and folks on this blog have proven. I alternate a scope and the aperture I got from Carel. At 25 yards I can sometimes do as well with either providing the light is good. Usually the scope wins.

          Enjoy!

          Deck

  4. BB,

    You have quite the collection of 10-meter air rifles. This one does have some rather unique features. That tube does give it a rather long transfer port, but at the 10-meter level, it is not really an issue.

    Adding this one and the Russian Baikal was quite the coup. Are you going to try for a Chinese FWB next?

  5. BB,

    I checked German Wikipedia and it says the 312 was used for matches below international level. Apparently the GDR team used 312 prototypes at the 1966 world championships but it seems like they didn’t pursue this any further.
    It’s understandable since at this point, the FWB150 already existed and the 312 was probably outdated even when it came out. This of course leads to the question what *did* they use after that? I know the Warsaw Pact was very keen on winning international championships so they must have used something competive. Perhaps the GDR just switched to what the Soviet team was using…

    I find it fairly hard to find detailed information or pictures from historic 10 meter competitions…

    Stephan

  6. BB

    It seems that my Walther LGV Olympia and LG55 have front sights that can be mounted forward or back and are both threaded from both ends. My FWB300S is also threaded at both ends but it has the somewhat weird pinned mount that begs to be left alone.. Maybe the Haenel 312 front sight is screwed in from the front just because.

    Love the oldie 10 meter reports.

    Deck

  7. BB,

    I am really interested in your series on the 312; I was lucky to get one myself a couple of years ago and it will be nice to see how they compare performance-wise. You mentioned that the 312 was renamed to the 600 in Haenel’s last few years. I have a Haenel catalog from 1992 or 1993 and it shows the 600 as available in both .177 and .22! The .22 cal version must be a rare bird indeed. The picture in the catalog is plainly a walnut stock, with a sporting rear sight just foreward of the loading cutout. The front sight is oriented the same way as on your gun so that must be the correct orientation Looking forward to the next report..

    Paul in Liberty County

  8. This is a 312 that’s a club gun at my club. I only ever fired one or two shots from it out of curiosity so I’m afraid I can’t comment on its performance. I may be wrong and it’s a while since I looked, but I seem to recall a dark blue cardboard box (that is, a brown cardboard tray and a lift-off blue lid) for the accessories lurking in the safe. I say accessories, but it would have been large enough to take the rearsight removed from the gun, not just a few foresight elements and the like.

    Iain

      • The allen keys probably aren’t related to this gun, the screwdriver could be (trigger adjustment) and the big L-shaped tool has a slotted screwdriver that fits the stock securing screws, and a tubular section with two protruding pips that (spoiler alert!) looks like it would fit the locknut on the adjustment – although I didn’t realise quite what it was for at the time.

  9. B.B.

    What a cool gun and rare find, congratulations!
    Thanks for the cocking lever angle measure, really easy to see what you are talking about.

    Now let us see if it can compete?

    -Y

  10. As a reader of the Airgun Letter back in the day, I also ended up with a couple Haenel 310’s, a 311, a 303 and a 303 Super. I missed out on the 312 back then. Missed again when one came up for auction a few years ago. Tried to buy one from Europe, but was unsuccessful. When that one came up on eBay a few months ago it caught me between funds and I missed that one, too! Rats!

    I’ve shot a FWB300 a couple times and it was impressive, but , in my not-so-humble=opinion, it didn’t surpass my Diana 75. The Diana is just remarkable…perfect trigger, dead-still shot cycle, amazing accuracy…and, it’s gorgeous! A friend is selling me his FWB300, so I’ll get a chance to shoot them side-by-side, but I can’t imagine ANY gun being better than my Diana 75! Equal, maybe, but better?

    Tom, I’m still stewing about your question from last week about what would be the one air gun to own if I gave up all the rest. My .177 Marksman 70? HW 30K? Haenel 311? Diana 75? FWB 124? Green Mountain-barreled .22 Marauder? And, that’s just the rifles. What about pistols? IZH 46? Diana 6? Diana 5 (my first pellet pistol)? Pardini Fiocchi P10? FWB 65? UGGGHHHHH!!!! I CAN’T DECIDE!!!!

    Motorman
    St. Louis, MO

  11. BB.

    You say, “… world class competition …slings, hand stops and shooting gloves are always used in the offhand position.”

    Is there a typo there? I thought that slings were never allowed in the offhand position. They sure didn’t let us use a sling offhand in ROTC four-position shooting.

    Interesting rifle; it will be fun to see how it shoots.

    Guy Carden

  12. In 2007 I still had my FFL. My Rep at Century called me and told me He had some really nice Suhl 150 .22 LR three position Olympic style rifles, Good Incomplete for 200.00, I bought two. Both were missing the rear sight and one was missing a bushing for one of the action screws. The 150 is basically an Anschutz 54 with a better(IMHO) trigger. I won many three position Smallbore matches with both and in 2012 shot a “Possible”, a perfect score with one. I have always been interested in the 312 ever since I learned of them as they share many features of the Suhl 150 . alas the 312 is like a gold Hen’s tooth.

    • singleshotcajun ,

      Like I said at the beginning — the 312 was always an air rifle I wanted, but could never quite afford. You and I are going to enjoy this series.

      BB

  13. Tom, will look forward to more on this one! The 312 is one of the more interesting rifles I owned in my younger days. Wish I’d hung on to it, but y’know back then I typically sold one toy to afford the next one.

    The copious amounts of brown grease and that bizarre loading area are the features I remember most clearly! As far as I could tell, the breech has no sort of resilient material anywhere….apparently any sealing comes from the Rube Goldberg-ish path that air must follow to find its way out? IIRC the trigger design borrowed heavily from the HW Rekord, and I believe the front sight takes Parker-Hale inserts (the odd front-threaded tunnel is correct). Also I seem to recall a claim that there are rubber blocks in the aft end somewhere to help absorb recoil, but never took it apart to find out.

    East German guns have a way of looking ruff on the outside but having amazing quality where it counts. The 311 is the most accurate tap-loader I’ve ever shot, and I suspect the 312 will hold its own!

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