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.

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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.