Weihrauch HW45 & HW75
Mark Camoccio compares two similar looking but very different Weihrauch air pistols; the spring powered HW45 and the pneumatic HW75.
Weihrauch have made quite a name for themselves in the world of airguns. Synonymous with sturdy, crisply executed, and superbly finished products, this famous German company is a classic example of the old adage that ‘you get what you pay for’.
This reputation for classy design and enduring build quality is ably illustrated by Weihrauch’s HW45 and HW75 air pistols, offering an intriguing choice to any enthusiast. Whilst the former is a full-power (6ft/lbs UK legal limit) spring-piston model, the HW75 offers a slightly more target orientated format, and a neatly designed single stroke pneumatic layout.
Both pistols have many similarities yet that inherent difference in the method of power delivery sets them clearly apart, each with their unique appeal.
First impressions with both are of a slightly military overtone; hardly surprising given that they very loosely follow the profile of the classic American made government Colt45 pistol. From the serrated pattern on the sides, to the sizeable hammer at the rear, it’s obvious that the detailing has been well observed.
I’m no particular fan of replica guns or military style airguns for that matter. With replicas, I just fail to see the attraction in a gun that can’t be fired and earn it’s keep, so to speak. With regards, to military style airguns, I just feel they create the wrong impression, and unnecessarily attract negative attention along the way.
With these two pistols here ,however, Weihrauch have won me over. The build quality is everything we have come to expect, whilst the design of both is so slick and well finished, that the end results are just undeniably appealing.
Externally, both pistols share identical metal frames, with those wonderfully chunky, slab-sided chassis setting them apart from an obvious firearm, and incorporating an integral trigger in the casting.
Many features are shared so well look at those first.
The manual safety catch fitted falls neatly to the thumb on the left hand side. When the pistol is ready to fire( i.e the small tab bar is in the forward position), a red dot shows, although as always, it’s never good practise to rely on any safety mechanism – being far better to fire the gun off and prove the action is empty. On this basis, I would hope this feature is largely redundant; anyhow, it’s not automatic so has to be consciously applied.
The cocking action of both is near identical, and very similar to the time honoured ‘up and over’ stirrup design used by Webley.
On the 45, the rear hammer is pulled back, releasing the top barrel carriage. This is hinged at the muzzle end, and can then be gripped with a reverse hold and pulled back to cock the action. A pellet is then chambered into the barrel and then the carriage is then returned and snapped down into place. The pistol is now ready to fire.
With this model, a conventional mainspring is powering the piston, yet the clever design incorporates two stages if required.
If the barrel assembly is pulled back to just 90 degrees, then the pistol can be shot at half power (around 2.5ft/lbs). If the barrel assembly is pulled all the way back (through an arc of around 135 degrees), then full power of up to 5.9 ftlbs is achievable.
It must be said that the half power option is by far the best, resulting in a much milder mannered action , with less kick and in turn, unsurprisingly greater accuracy; yet the power option is there (for more informal plinking sessions for example) – and a wonderfully clever feature it is too; making the 45 a versatile product.
One obvious point of interest here is that with regards to the HW45, when set on half power, the trigger too is significantly improved - allowing for lighter pulls into the bargain, although I’m well aware that the added kick and lively feel of the full power setting is part of the attraction for some. Each to his own as they say.
By contrast, the HW75 with it’s more dedicated target appearance, takes an intriguingly different approach to launching the lead; incorporating what has to be my favourite configuration of any airgun system – a single stroke pneumatic power plant.
The firing cycle here differs slightly from the 45, and is as follows: -Firstly the small button to the right of the rear hammer is pressed, and the same barrel carriage can then be lifted up. The barrel is pulled up and back in an identical fashion to the 45, yet in one deliberate sweeping motion. Towards the end of the outwards stroke, a small hiss can be heard as air is sucked in via the inlet hole, visible on the top of the piston compression tube. The return stroke requires somewhat more effort, as this actually compresses the quantity of air taken onboard.
The entire process is more about technique than real effort, and a confident movement makes the stroke a lot easier. One word of caution here when closing the action – apply pressure directly to the top of the barrel carriage, keeping any parts of the hand out of harms way, as the final part of the stroke sees the carriage snap down into place, with the potential to catch anything in it’s path. A conscious, methodical approach is all that’s required – and the rewards for your toil can then be appreciated. Finally, the hammer is pulled back to cock the action.
Both pistols share the same trigger blade – a good thing , since it is nicely shaped with a broad serrated front face, and subtle curve. Internally a sear or two is shared, but then the difference in the mechanisms comes into play. A two stage action is incorporated into the design, with an extremely crisp, positive let –off (a Weihrauch forte after all) achievable on both. If anything, the HW75 gives a slightly lighter final pull weight; probably a result of the trigger having far less load to hold back in the design, although there’s not much in it.
I should point at this stage that my father has had one of the HW45 pistols in his armoury for some while now, and it’s given a great deal of enjoyment along the way, as we’ve fought it out in informal’ home championships’. Neither of us are crack shots with a pistol, yet the 45’s easy manner and inherently accurate action , coupled with a damn good trigger unit, make even us look proficient!
I just had a sneaky feeling all along that I was going to be impressed when I finally encountered the 75, and that mouth-watering pneumatic mechanism; and although it’s taken a while to catch up with it, I haven’t been disappointed.
The Wooden checquered grips on the 45 are both smart and nicely made; yet the target grips on the 75 (including full palm shelf) raise it up a level. A pronounced swell supports the thumb too, yet still the grip remains ambidextrous.
The single-stroke pneumatic principle is abasically the holy grail ,as far as I’m concerned, with regards to airgun design. The principle sounds simple: a totally independent, self-contained mechanism that compresses air as it’s taken in on each shot, resulting in a totally recoilless action.
Theory is often simple, yet the format has given designers many headaches over the years; with the fundamental problem being the difficulty in generating full power in a .177 calibre rifle layout. Even in .22, the effort required to charge the gun has normally been prohibitive, with the result that most designs have simply quietly disappeared.
Where air pistols are concerned, let’s face it, power is hardly vital, with accuracy and pure enjoyment being the pre-requisite.
Here, the HW75 comes into it’s own. It may only generate around 2.5ft/lbs if you’re lucky, yet I couldn’t care less. Indeed, performance figures are largely irrelevant in this instance.
What matters is how these pistols perform in their natural environment i.e over a 10yd or 20yd range – and I have to report that they impressed.
All groups were finally shot using the post and notch open sights, and Air Arms field pellets (since Weihrauch’s new Fand T pellets proved a little tight in the barrel.
The HW45, as stated, is an old friend, and in my hands, from a two-handed stance (on the half-power setting) is capable of grouping five shots within .75inch at 10yds, and a group of 1.25inch at 20yds – all delivered with aplomb, just a mild kick at the wrist, and aided by that great trigger.
A point of interest here is that the higher-power setting alters the zero by around 10inches at 20yds – so zeros/settings must be decided upon.
The 75, over the same distance was a revelation, and certainly lived up to my expectations. At 20yds, a five-shot group of just less that .75inch grabbed my attention; whilst the 10yd target, was as far as I’m concerned, stunning – forming a group3/8 inch ctc..
Both these fine pistols have extended dovetail rails so the fitting of a scope or sight, to maximize performance further, is an option.
With the HW45 and HW75, Weihrauch have two supreme examples worthy of the mark.
The sheer user friendly nature of their design just puts a smile on the face, enabling pretty impressive accuracy when you do your bit. Whilst obviously lacking the sophistication of full-blown Olympic standard target models, both these pistols manage to hold there own in the middle ground, offering plenty of features to extract a very creditable performance from the actions in the right hands.
Apparently a new variation of the HW45 may be launched later in the year, offering laminated grips and a snazzy finish , but no further details as yet.
As for these two gems, they may not be cheap, but class never is.
Spring or single stroke pneumatic – the choice is yours!
|Model||HW45 | HW75|
|Country of origin||Germany|
|Importer||Hull Cartridge Company|
|Type||spring/piston pistol | single stroke pneumatic|
|Calibre||.177 and .22 | .177 only|
|Overall length||11inch | 11inch|
|Barrel length||6.75 inch | 6.75inch|
|Weight||2.5lbs | 2.5lbs|
|Trigger||2 stage adjustable | 2 stage adj|
|Power||2.5 – 5.9ftlbs (variable) | 2.5ft/lbs|
|Price||£232 | £278|
|Options||Silver finish (STL) £257|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates