Weihrauch HW97KT Synthetic - Blacked Out!
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- Last updated: 06/02/2024
The original HW97K has been a firm favourite with shooters since the very first models rolled off the production line. First, it appealed to target shooters, and then the hunting fraternity realised its potential, largely due to its accuracy, smooth firing cycle, and handling. Then, we had a limited-edition option in a blue laminate stock that proved so popular that it’s not limited anymore. It wasn’t long before the company decided it was high time to introduce a thumbhole-stocked model, which was a hit from the very start. This was named the HW97KT.
By popular demand
With its popularity soaring, and increasing demand for synthetic stocked air rifles, Weihrauch wisely decided to quickly follow up on the HW97KT with two new models featuring synthetic handles. One has an all-black action, while the other, the STL, has a matte stainless finish on the main parts of the action. Not being one for bling, I’ve always been drawn towards the all-black variant, which is why I have opted to take the black version for another test drive. Yes, not my first outing with this model, but due to the number of synthetic stocked springers hitting the shelves, I felt it high time that this highly worthy springer deserved more exposure, closer scrutiny, and assessment over a more demanding and extended test period.
At the risk of stating the obvious, synthetic stocks are now extremely well established and accepted by all manner of airgun shooters but especially by airgun hunters who aren’t afraid to get out in search of quarry, no matter what the weather. In fact, due to the stock material and the benefits it offers, this model is undoubtedly the most appealing option for all-weather hunting. Not only is it a very stylish design, but it’s also one that’s crafted/moulded to enable the user to get the most from the rifle’s precision-engineered action and inherent accuracy potential.
Similar but not the same
Like its wooden counterpart, the stock is ambidextrous and features a high cheekpiece with a semi-hog’s back design. However, it differs from its organic relative by forgoing a fully adjustable butt pad in favour of a relatively thin rubber pad with outer ridging. The large, elongated thumbhole and steep drop-down pistol grip are very likely inspired by the stock design the company use on their superb HW100 PCP range. This thumbhole/grip configuration, coupled with the well-defined finger channels that run directly above the metal trigger guard, offers a rock-steady hold and gives a high level of trigger control for both right-handed users and southpaws. The pistol grip features stippled panels, while the relatively slim, yet lengthy forend, has two panels of stippling along either side. As a matter of interest, this is a reversal of the layout on the beech-stocked version. This change, although minor, affords an assured leading handhold anywhere along its length. The forend is also relatively lengthy and both tapers and curves upwards to end with an angled forward tip. The length allows the underlever’s articulated rod to be kept safely out of harm’s way and even upon cocking, this connecting lever doesn’t drop much below the underside of the stock. More on this later when we come to the cocking operation, as the way the rifle action is designed and engineered in this area surely helps with the ease of cocking and the smooth firing cycle, not to mention its overall handling and balance.
The underlever sits neatly below the high-grade fixed barrel above. It is held very securely in the closed position by a catch in the underlever’s retaining housing, which is found directly below the muzzle. The design is such that cocking the rifle is a very easy affair, as once you depress the underlever’s generously sized release button with the thumb of your leading hand, it’s already ideally placed to grip the lever between the fingers of the same hand to draw it down and back.
Lock back in the open position is secure, and the automatic cross-bolt trigger safety pops out to the left, clearly showing the rifle’s ‘safe’ status. Weihrauch also incorporates an anti-bear trap mechanism, but as always, good shooting practice should be adhered to, which means you should always keep hold of the underlever while loading a pellet.
During the cocking operation, the sliding breech, as the name implies, smoothly slides back to reveal a wide and roomy loading bay. This makes direct pellet loading into the German barrel, even in .177 calibre, a very easy task. On returning the lever to its original position, the sliding breech simultaneously moves forward to seat the pellet and seal the breech.
The articulated arm that links the underlever to the internal spring/piston power plant, is cleverly designed to allow for a surprisingly short cocking stroke. In addition to this, operating the cocking mechanism isn’t overly strenuous. Finally, another sensible addition is a rubber ‘O’-ring around the front of the underlever, which ensures it doesn’t move around when in the closed position.
Optic fitting & acclaimed trigger
The top of the compression chamber has a lengthy run of standard dovetails, with three stud arrestor holes for secure scope mounting. For the test, I used an MTC Mamba Lite 3-12x44 scope with an SBC reticle. These optics specifications are well suited for hunting and HFT. The scope needed setting in high mounts, as the cheekpiece virtually demands it for optimum head position and eye-to-scope alignment.
The highly acclaimed, 2-stage Match Rekord adjustable trigger unit with auto safety is a mainstay on virtually all the company’s mechanical airguns, and the trigger blade and adjustment screw being gold anodised certainly gives it a touch of class. Such is its reputation, there’s no need to heap more praise on this superb unit because it’s a given it’ll precisely release a shot.
The synthetic is not as long as the wood variant because it forgoes an adjustable butt pad. It’s also slightly lighter. I mention the latter as the downside of a lighter stock on a springer with a relatively heavy mechanical action, is that it tends to be front-heavy. This isn’t the case here, as recoil is felt as a very controllable nudge on firing. Also, muzzle flip isn’t a problem due in part to the muzzle weight and smooth firing cycle. However, all features of the rifle combine to prove what a well-thought-out design the 97KT synthetic actually is, plus the rifle’s inherent handling and balance are equally admirable.
Surprisingly, the muzzle weight seems to also help tame report to a highly acceptable level, and I would not hesitate to use this airgun without the optional extra silencer for hunting. If, however, you do want more sound suppression, the muzzle has a very slim screw-in end cap that can be removed with a 7mm Allen key. This then reveals the internal thread that accepts the dedicated HW97KT silencer. When fitted, it adds over 7” to the rifle’s overall length! Personally, I find it a bit too much, but to its credit, it does further reduce the report.
The accuracy is amongst the best you’ll find of any production springer in this price bracket. Using the MTC’s recommended 35 yard zero for the SBC reticle and for the .177 calibre test rifle, my best groupings showed a ½” ragged hole using quality ammo. All while shooting from a rested position.
The HW97KT Synthetic is up there with the best underlever air rifles on the market. The stock design certainly helps aid better shot control and handling, plus the all-weather stock material is both stylish and very practical in the field.
As touched upon at the start of this test, if production class springer HFT is primarily your thing, and you want a bit of bling, the STL version may be more to your liking, as it boasts a cylinder, barrel, underlever, trigger blade, and trigger guard with a matte stainless finish, while the front muzzle weight, including the underlever housing, are blued. So, a cosmetically attractive option then.
Overall, the Weihrauch HW97KT Synthetic is a very user-friendly, practical, synthetic stocked option that’ll easily stand up to the rigours of the most arduous airgun hunting situations.
Thanks to T & J. J McAvoy LTD for supplying the rifle on test.