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Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine

Mark Camoccio puts in a thumb – but will the HW97KT turn out to be a plum?

When Weihrauch launch any new product, it is an exciting occurrence. As the largest producer of top class spring powered air rifles, this prestigious German brand occupies something of a unique position in the market place, and as such, we simply have to take notice.

Their comprehensive product line-up includes a hatful of break-barrel designs, many of which have built up loyal followings over the years. Yet it’s their range topping under-lever models that have spearheaded the way.

The new Weihrauch HW97KT ‘Thumbhole’

On test here, is the very latest version of the HW97K model, complete with the brand new thumbhole custom stock.

Appraising the ‘97 is impossible without acknowledgement towards its lineage. One glance at the new brochure from Hull Cartridge, Weihrauch’s long standing official UK importers, says it all, with the entry printed alongside the ‘97’s forerunner…  “It all started with the HW77!”, and indeed it did, and when the ‘77 took Field Target shooting by the scruff of the neck, and most of the opposition with it, back in the 1980’s, the airgun scene was never quite the same thereafter.

What the HW77 brought to the table was direct feed and fixed barrel accuracy, in a reliable, rugged design, (free from dodgy loading taps and the like) that genuinely swept all before it - certainly where competitive performance was concerned.

Unsurprisingly, the ‘77 action went on to become the raw material upon which the custom tuning houses based their ‘specials’; and with the majority of top silverware subsequently falling to Airmasters and Venom tuned rifles, the rest as they say is history. My own Airmasters tuned ‘77 brought many a competition win, and is still as accurate as ever some 24 years down the line - testament indeed to the build quality of the original Weihrauch chassis upon which it is based!

Part of the customization process from those specialist companies (and several others for that matter) included an integral, dedicated silencer/lever catch assembly. Weihrauch inevitably wised up to this, and finally saw fit to introduce a revamped model which largely came ready fitted with the add-ons that had previously been supplied as after-market items.

That revamped model was the HW97K. My test rifle has the same action, which has remained largely unchanged save for a revision of that silencer arrangement, shoe-horned into the new custom furniture. But with several quite bold design features included within the stock specification, this new variant offers real choice as an exciting option in the product line-up.

Strictly for adults

Let’s nail the specification, first and foremost, for those unfamiliar with this classic piece of German engineering.

As previously stated, this rifle offers a fixed barrel configuration, with an under lever that is hinged at the breech, and is used to cock the conventional spring-powered piston action; complete with that rather sleek sliding breech system. With the ‘97 tipping the scales at over 9lbs in weight, and given it’s full sized dimensions, and significant cocking effort, it really has to be considered a sporting rifle strictly for adults.

Weihrauch’s famous ‘Rekord’ trigger unit sits pretty here, the blade being treated to a gold anodized finish. It still stands as a benchmark for many too, but as these rifles are supplied from the factory with a general setting, some judicious adjustment makes sense. Just don’t attempt to adjust this precision unit unless you are totally familiar with the theory. When correctly set, this unit is extremely good, but setting up triggers is a fine art, so if in any doubt, leave well alone and seek expert assistance, rather than wreck a celebrated piece of engineering. The genuine 2-stage design can offer impressively light and totally crisp release points, so it’s well worth some preparation time.

Weihrauch’s reputation is built upon several factors, such as superb engineering, and an excellent standard of finish. This Thumbhole version of the HW97K is a perfect example of their art, with a smooth lustrous chemical blue applied to all the metalwork, and solid no-nonsense construction and build quality - that really explains why the company leads where others follow.

The ‘97 is supplied in carbine length only (as opposed to the ‘77 which is still available as a carbine or in full length rifle guise. The integral silencer adds front weight to the shortened Weihrauch barrel, whilst the dummy lower barrel tip doubles as the under-lever release catch- easily depressed to allow for the lever to be drawn down and back, compressing the mainspring in the process. Cocking effort is significant, but as always, it’s more a case of technique.

When the rifle is cocked an automatic safety catch pops out (on the left of the compression cylinder) and an anti-beartrap system is activated, locking the piston until the lever is returned. However, at the end of the cocking stroke, once the trigger has engaged, the only safe procedure is to keep a firm grip on the cocking lever with one hand, whilst feeding a pellet directly into the exposed breech. Weihrauch now fully machine away the sides of the loading bay (another mod carried out by the custom houses on early ‘77s), and access to the breech is a non-fiddly affair.

Direct feed is by far the best system on any air rifle, and with this HW97K, finger sensitivity is effectively allowed to call a bad pellet. Too slack, or too tight a fit, and the shot could become a ‘flyer’. This rifle helps to eliminate such irritants, and puts greater control in the hands of the shooter.

T is for thumbhole

To reach this point in the review and still have overlooked the new woodwork is a measure of the weighty specification that’s on offer here.  The new thumbhole stock is in a word, impressive. It’s actually beech, treated to a ‘walnut finish’, but the figuring on my test model was very attractive.

Yes of course it’s typically Weihrauch, and that ultra raked pistol grip and overly scalloped thumb-hole will always divide opinion. Yet in use, it feels extremely functional and very comfortable. One key detail should be made clear at this point. The stock is totally ambidextrous, whilst losing nothing in the performance stakes. No mean feat, and one which will please all those south-paws out there who feel short changed from many a manufacturer - either being ignored altogether, or forced to pay a premium for their minority predicament!

The pleasantly angled fore-end is suspiciously similar to the revised TX200 blueprint, (this rifles main rival) yet since that excellent model was itself something of a Weihrauch clone, I don’t think we’ll be seeing lawyers exchange notes just yet!  Weihrauch’s use of stippling (something they excel at) in place of the usual chequering, adds further character to a well thought out design; with the level of grip afforded to the pistol grip and fore-end highly impressive.

My only negative observation is on a purely cosmetic level; that being that the cheek-piece itself would benefit from crisper, more angled definition - rather than the slightly vague profile as seen. Personal taste perhaps, and you simply can’t fault the new woodwork from a handling perspective.

An adjustable rubber butt pad completes the spec list here, set onto a serrated plate, easily adjusted by slackening off the screw at the rear. An excellent feature which can really make all the difference with regards to gun ‘fit’.

The best just got better

Over the test range the fine balance of this gun became apparent, and with a nice amount of bias towards the muzzle, the HW97K sits well on the target. As previously mentioned, despite the trigger being factory set a little heavier than I would have liked, several brands of pellets still printed excellent groups, with Daystate FT just nudging out Weihrauch’s own F&T brand, with tight 3/8inch clusters the norm.

As a point of interest here, my sample of Weihrauch pellets felt a little too tight in the barrel, whilst some JSB Exacts virtually fell down the barrel, and were discarded for the purposes of the test as a result. With both the JSB’s and the Daystate slugs, also used in the test, both prescribed as 4.52mm, it just goes to demonstrate the vagaries of airgun ammunition/ rifle suitability. Personal experimentation, as always, will pay dividends.

From experience, I can tell you that the action on this under-lever classic will only improve with age, whilst investing in a full tune-up from the likes of Airmasters or V-Mach, will transform an already classic rifle into the thoroughbred it’s waiting to become.

All this performance makes this ‘97 one of the safest bets for the popular sport of Hunter Field Target shooting, and with the new stock adding further versatility to an already impressive package, any prospective competitor will certainly have the edge.

One thing is for sure - this latest incarnation of the market leading HW97K is a winner from the start, and a tasty addition to a stunning product range. In short, there is no better production springer out there!

Technical Specifications
Model HW97K Thumbhole carbine
Type Spring/piston powered sporter
Calibre .177 on test/ .22 available
Weight 9.2lbs
Overall Length 40.5inches
Barrel Length 11.75inches
Stock Beech thumbhole with walnut finish
Velocity Using Daystate Field 4.52/ Weihrauch F&T 4.51
High 795fps 766fps
Low 780 749
Aver 791 758
Spread 15fps 18fps
Energy 11.7ft/lbs 10.8ft/lbs
Trigger 2-stage adjustable (Rekord unit)

All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates

User Comments
  • Hi,
    I have a HW77, 97, & 100 which I would like to upgrade as I have just been granted a FAC. Can you reccommend any firm to do the work ?
    PS I live in the West Country- many thanks

    Comment by: Julio     Posted on: 08 Jun 2010 at 09:52 PM

  • I don't know any companies local to you - ask at your local gunsmiths.

    If not, try Dave Welham of Airmasters (01442 266831), based in the South of England.

    Or Tony Wall at Sandwell Fieldsports (0121 520 2000) or Steve Pope at V-Mach (07850 296360). Both are Midlands based.

    Comment by: Pat Farey     Posted on: 09 Jun 2010 at 01:23 AM

  • HI
    I have a weihrauch 97k and a weihrauch hw 100 both are true stars, have had air arms tx and hc and both not as good as 97k but the air arms 400 are a different thing hw 100 is the best

    Comment by: francis simons     Posted on: 10 Nov 2010 at 09:54 PM

  • Hi,
    what scope did You use in the video?
    thank you

    Comment by: Harald     Posted on: 02 Aug 2011 at 01:43 AM

  • hello
    I'm torn between this (HW97KT) version and old, HW97K version. I'll use it for FT. Sadly, , because of the place i live, i can't try them both, the only way to get one is simply to order it from Germany :(
    I'm interested in your opinion: is there a tangible bonus in taking the KT version over the old one, or is the difference mainly cosmetic?
    Thanks
    shoki

    Comment by: shoki     Posted on: 24 Apr 2012 at 01:20 PM

  • It really depends on which type of stock you are more comfortable with. Some people really like thumbhole stocks and will have no other, some people hate them, but virtually everybody can get on with a standard sporter stock - which is why they are called 'standard'!

    The choice is always yours, so unless you really like TH stocks anyway, go for a sporter.

    Comment by: Pat Farey     Posted on: 24 Apr 2012 at 05:28 PM

  • I personally think you'd be better off with the thumbhole stocked version, as I think the more upright pistol grip would be better for shooting FT style. I also think you'd get better trigger control, but maybe that's just me!

    It's a shame you can't get to try one of each, as it's the only real way of compering the two stock types.

    Let us know which one you go for and how you get on with it.

    Comment by: Troll Hunter     Posted on: 25 Apr 2012 at 12:52 AM

  • ok, i got an excellent deal for a HW97KT Synthetic, so i took it.
    And i'm loving it to bits. I would have preferred wood, but :mother of god: it's expensive.
    Just to report, i'm absolutely loving new thumbhole stock: indeed, my arm is in more natural position, i don't have to rise my elbow as much as i'd have to do it with sporter stock. Arm just sits beautifully.
    So, to whomever is indecisive, you absolutely MUST try both stocks, because this new one is really, really, REALLY good.
    Also, don't write off synthetic stock untill you actually try holding the rifle.
    Happy shooting!

    Comment by: shoki     Posted on: 27 Apr 2012 at 12:58 PM

  • Well that's good news!

    I also like synthetic stocks and I think more and more air rifles will be fitted with them in the future.

    Comment by: Troll Hunter     Posted on: 27 Apr 2012 at 07:03 PM

  • I have a hw97k mki with a Hawk 6-18X44 Airmax- I can put 3 pellets in 1 hole at 10 -12metres-It looks like I missed the target twice !!!!I dont need to compare this rifle with any other - It really is all I need .

    Comment by: Milton     Posted on: 07 Jun 2012 at 01:33 PM

  • Weihrauch certainly know how to make an accurate barrel. One of my most accurate rifles is an HW35, which is why I'll never sell it.

    Comment by: Troll Hunter     Posted on: 07 Jun 2012 at 06:43 PM

  • Good report - have a .177 HW97 Blackline (plastic stock on it's way to me tomorrow- should be here by Friday. Just received an HW 98 last Friday and put close to 500 pellets through it with 6 or 7 different makes or styles on two visits to the range. VERY happy with the HW98- however decided to check the screw and ALL were very loose - yet with the pellets it likes was shooting .329 to .550" at 25 yards off a single sand bag, fore end held by my left hand, which was resting on the bag. If i let it bounce the groups opened up. Removed the screws and applied thread locker on them - the POI rose 2 1/2" at 10yards.
    At a mere 10 yards, the springer puts one on top of the other, as does every other of my air rifles, springer and PCP. I believe one must shoot at 20 to 25 yards to show 'accuracy' tendencies. Some pellets that shoot into one tiny hole at 10 yards, shoot horribly, over an inch, at 20 or 25 yards. One must experiment at longer ranges to know what the rifle wants.
    Still more than happy with the 98 .22 for springer hunting and looking forward to the 97 for FT and silhouette.
    Weihrauch's are especially well make rifles!!!!!
    Thank you Weihrauch.

    Comment by: Daryl S     Posted on: 14 May 2013 at 06:43 AM

  • Thanks for this. I am looking at this rifle as well as the (cheaper) BSA Lightning XL SE.Trying to decide between both which I would be better off with. I use mine for some target shooting as well as rabbits, pigeons, pest control etc. I am disabled so weight handling etc is extremely important to me

    Comment by: Blue Humphries     Posted on: 30 Jun 2014 at 11:59 AM

  • I think you can only really weigh up each rifle by, well, weighing up each rifle! I'd recommend a visit to your local gunshop to see which one would suit you best. They're both accurate rifles, well up to what you want to use them for, so handling, balance and weight will be the deciding factors.

    Comment by: Troll Hunter     Posted on: 30 Jun 2014 at 09:50 PM

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Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine
Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine
Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine
Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine
Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine
Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine
Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine
Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine
Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine
Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine
Weihrauch HW97K Thumbhole Carbine
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