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Weihrauch HW90 and HW98 rifles

Mark Camoccio tests the gas-ram powered Weihrauch HW90 against the spring powered Weihrauch HW98

This month I'm spotlighting two relative heavyweight, break-barrel designs from top German manufacturer, Weihrauch; seeing what makes them tick, and what they have to offer.

The HW98 and HW90 are, on the face of it, two of a kind; yet looks deceive – and whereas the ‘98 is a conventional spring/piston design, the ‘90 takes a something of a different approach.

UK/German alliance

Weihrauch's HW90 model has been around for quite some while now, yet the very fact that it has managed to retain its place in their illustrious line-up speaks volumes for the original blue print, and the rifle's ever-green appeal. Whilst it could be described as a little plain, it certainly isn't basic!

Visually, the HW90 looks conventional, in the classic Weihrauch mould. It's a high quality, no-nonsense gun, traditionally made, yet utilizing modern techniques and updated features were necessary. It's a case of German engineering housing on-board English know how in the form of a ‘gas-ram'; and if you've yet to encounter one of these, then allow me to enlighten you. The gas-ram is the result of a deal struck with the English company, Theoben, some years back, to utilize their revolutionary system in one of Weihrauch's own models. Think of the gas-ram itself as similar to a motorbike air suspension fork (the initial inspiration to it's designers after all). When the rifle is cocked in the conventional manner, a sealed chamber of air is compressed by the drawing back of the piston (instead of compressing a mainspring). On firing, the piston is released, and the compressed air behind it forces the piston forwards. From this point on, the gun acts like a conventional springer, with the piston compressing the air in front of it, and powering the pellet. The air contained within the sealed unit should never escape, and in theory will give very long lasting performance to the rifle.

By contrast, the HW98 uses a solid, traditional spring/piston arrangement; yet there's more to it than that. Something of an under-stated rifle, the HW98 offers something a little different – slightly departing from the conventional, and to my mind, has no obvious rivals.

It's a bit of a curio, and a very appealing rifle; best described as a cross between a target rifle and a sporting rifle –and certainly looks the part.

First impressions are one of a fairly heavy, very solid, adult rifle for the serious shooter. It's not actually that heavy for this type of gun, just built to last. Several obvious features stand out straight away; such as the chunky ‘bull' barrel, the large panels of black stippling, and the fully adjustable butt and cheek-piece of the stock - all adding to the precision target feel.

Details, such as the wedge shape applied to the breech end of the barrel add distinction, and a superior air. In short, it looks superb. The whole barrel end diameter of over .75inch comprises of a 3mm thick barrel sleeve shrouding the barrel, neatly retained by grub screws to the underside.

The HW90K has that same robust level of machining, and the model I had for test here was the ‘K', denoting carbine – i.e the 14inch short barrel version, as opposed to the full length standard model. The barrel is capped off with a very smart and well proportioned barrel weight. This obviously looks the part, and also gives much needed assistance when cocking the action. I'd normally opt for a longer barrel, just for the balance alone, but in the case of this ‘90, the weight is well distributed. However, 8.5lbs, in this type of rifle, is not for the feint hearted, so the ‘90 has to be labelled a serious adult sporter.

One point to note, according to Hull Cartridge, the UK importers, is that future carbines may be supplied with shorter barrels (by 4inches) and the larger Weihrauch silencer, to compensate for the change in balance.

By contrast, the ‘98 is fractionally lighter than its stablemate, by a quarter of a pound.
With regards to finish, both rifles are evidence of Weihrauch's wealth of experience, sporting a supreme chemical blue throughout.

Weihrauch have been manufacturing break-barrel airguns for longer than I care to remember, so as you'd expect, they've pretty well perfected the system.  Both rifles benefit from a solid breech arrangement, so peace of mind is assured. With two ‘dirty great' bolts, one either side of the breech, any play in the barrel lock-ups after a few years service, could be speedily nipped in the bud by applying further tension on the bolt. It's unlikely to be an issue, yet the over-engineered approach and attention to detail is to be applauded.

One of the features that sets the ‘90 apart, and makes it instantly recognisable from the pack, is the large, distinctively shaped trigger guard housing. Finished in a smart matt grey that nicely matches the rifles blueing, the oversized guard houses a re-settable safety catch mechanism. The unique shaping enhances the classic hunting rifle profile too; giving the rifle real character into the bargain.

The HW98, meanwhile has the usual Weihrauch automatic safety and button to the rear of the cylinder. Both rifles have full length cut scope rails and provision for arrestor studs, machined into the cylinder, so mounting a scope should be no problem.

A quality rifle is nothing without a decent trigger, and thankfully both of our featured guns come well equipped. The ‘98 has the world famous ‘industry standard' Rekord unit, while the ‘90 has the Elite unit, which was specially made to work in tandem with the gas-ram. Both systems are on a par – and by that I mean darn good for sporting triggers – being crisp and predictable.

Woodwork

It's time to look at those stocks - the other area where these rifles really contrast. Largely following a similar basic pattern, the ‘90 is pure convention, being of a varnished, plain beech sporter configuration. The shape is well rounded and includes a substantial pistol grip with pressed chequering panels. A subtle brown rubber pad sets off the but, and the stock is comfortable on aim, in its field environment.

The HW98 on the other hand, takes much the same shape, but includes large panels of high-grip stippling; extensive in the case of the underside of the forend, and highly functional when applied to the pistol grip. Some attractive cut-outs on the sides add style to that function. The stippling is quite rough, but with it's wrap-around application, the overall impression is of a purposeful, precision rifle, equally at home on the range as in the field.

The comprehensive spec of the HW98 stock continues with an adjustable butt pad and cheek-piece, both easily set with an Allen key – just slacken off and adjust to the desired point. The rubber butt pad is of the type where it sits on an aluminium plate and locates onto a matching plate on the rifle. This can then be adjusted and then tightened up to any level required.

Range tests

On the range, the different firing cycle characteristics come to the fore. The HW98 has an air of precision, making all the right clicking noises as the action engages. Cocking effort is very reasonable, whilst the shot is smooth and crisp – with a tuned feel to the action. That bull barrel, as well as looking fantastic, means the balance is in the right place, making the HW98 slightly muzzle heavy, which is perfect in my book…

The HW90, on the other hand, has the unique feel of the gas-ram. Cocking is best completed in one confident motion. Although significant effort is required it's more about technique than anything. In fact it reminds me of a compound bow – hesitate and you pay the price.

As supplied, and using Daystate FT pellets, the HW90 registered a fair variation of 15fps but was a little low in the power stakes, returning 10ft/lbs over the chrono. A power adjuster is featured, that sits at the back of the cylinder, so with a Slim-Jim hand pump, available from Theoben Ltd., the valve can be adjusted up or down as necessary. The HW98 posted text book figures, with a variation of 16fps and energy at 11.7ft/lbs.

On the range, the HW90 action displayed the smooth quick snap, so characteristic of the gas-ram system. An incredibly fast lock-time is another by-product, and all I can say is the accuracy was stunning. At 35yds, from the over-arm FT position, a five shot group measured a mere 5/16inch, with four of the shots in a clover leaf.

The HW98 felt less harsh to fire, but the groups were slightly larger – still a very creditable half inch at the same range.

If a quality break-barrel air rifle is top of your shopping list, then both these rifles should be on it. Final choice comes down to the individual, but I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that the HW98 is such an incredibly satisfying beautifully engineered, well appointed tool, that for me, it just shades it!

Technical Specifications
Model HW90K | HW98
Manufacturer Weihrauch | Weihrauch
Type Break-barrel (gas-ram) | break-barrel (spring/piston)
Country of origin Germany | Germany
Calibre .177 on test (.22 avail) | .177 on test (.22 avail)
Overall length 41.5inc | 43inch
Barrel length 14inch | 16inch
Weight 8.5lbs | 8.25lbs
Stock Beech sporter | Adjustable target/sporter
Trigger 2 stage adjustable | 2 stage adjustable
Velocity (using Daystate FT pellets) Low 725fps | Low 781fps
High 742fps | High 797fps
Ave 730fps | Ave 790fps
Various 17fps | Various 16fps
Energy 10ft/lbs on test (usually 11+) | 11.7ft/lbs
Price £399 | £366
Options Slim Jim pump to adjust power £80 approx from Theoben

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

Gun Mart Shooters Forum - Get Involved in the Discussion!
User Comments
  • I have the 'standard model' HW90 in .177, and it's truly a beast of an air rifle!

    The gas-ram has a very different feel to a traditional springer when fired. It's a pretty heavy airgun and takes some considerable effort to cock the action.

    It's a VERY satisfying airgun to fire! wink

    Comment by: _Jon     Posted on: 27 Apr 2009 at 04:54 PM

  • Yes, I've got an HW90 too - only in .25 - and as you said, although a break barrel, it has a very different feel to a spring powered rifle. Regarding the cocking effort, this is probably the calibre rather than the rifle, as the smaller the calibre, the more powerful the gas-ram (or spring piston) has to be to achieve the legal energy limit.

    Comment by: pat farey     Posted on: 28 Apr 2009 at 01:10 AM

  • I have a HW90k which I bought new in 1999 for £189.When first used it was at 11,5-13ft lbs depending on pellets,However it soon lost power to 9.5 and was returned to Hull Cartridge for attention.Got it back at 11.5,but soon dropped again.Local gun shop pumped it up again,and since been ok,but would buy a hw80 instead if i'd known the problems.Incidently Weihrauch's have doubled in price since 1999.must be the low pound exchange rate!

    Comment by: JAMES BRACE     Posted on: 10 Jan 2010 at 10:25 PM

  • I have the HW90 in caliber .25 and really like the high build quality. After some practising it easily shoots tight groups of 1'' on about 30 yards. This with a 24 bar pressure in combination with H&N Field Target pellets. I got mine with the Weihrauch pump and pressure gauge. The only common 'problem' with almost any standard factory hw90 is that the inertia weight in the gasram does not work as it should be because the weight is fitted to tight. The weight should be able to move by pushing with your finger. This can easily be solved with a dremel tool and some sanding paper. Surprisingy the intertia weight will fit in a dremel in combination with one the standard polishing tools. I lowered the diameter of the o-ring part to ø18,2 mm and lubricated the o-rings with molykote 33 medium. Of course, before you dismantle the rifle always first remove all pressure from the gasram!! Safety first. The hw90 is very easy to dismantle and does not require special tools.

    Comment by: Maurits     Posted on: 02 Aug 2010 at 10:34 PM

  • I am looking for a good gas ram air rifle, but prefer a light weight one. I assume the high quality timber stock adds some weight to the Theobens, anyone every weighed their Theo's with and without the stock to see. Failing that does anyone know of a good lightweight gas ram?

    Comment by: Ken Moran     Posted on: 15 Nov 2010 at 03:55 AM

  • Personally I think that you would have to go a long way to beat the Theoben gas-ram rifles and the HW90, but if you prefer something lighter (possibly with a synthetic stock), have a look at the new Hatsan 60 GS and the Crosman/Remington NPSS Nitro.

    Comment by: Pat Farey     Posted on: 15 Nov 2010 at 11:28 AM

  • Thanks for that, I looked up the Hatsun and I'm impressed. There is a lot I want but supply is thin here, so it will be whats available at the time I suppose.

    Comment by: ken moran     Posted on: 15 Nov 2010 at 10:17 PM

  • POWER ADJUSTMENT?

    Well I got a Crusader (FAC) in .20. I tried some sheridan pellets and they are bad, so I tried another brand which appear to be much better.

    I'd like to reduce the kick in this gun, it does kick a lot and I have heard that reducing the pressure and the kick doesn't reduce the MV by that much, unless of course I Iet all the air out!

    Mine has a round steel disc on the back of the with a thing in the centre of it, Im hoping this is the valve, can anyone help with this bit?

    Which pellets are the best?

    Comment by: Ken Moran     Posted on: 03 May 2011 at 02:41 PM

  • Unless you are experienced with maintaining Theoben rifles, don't try to adjust this yourself. Speak to Theoben and send it back to them if necessary. Letting pressure out of the gas-ram will drop the power.

    Comment by: Pat Farey     Posted on: 03 May 2011 at 10:17 PM

  • One more thing - before you do anything to the rifle, try Crosman Premier .20 pellets.

    Comment by: Pat Farey     Posted on: 03 May 2011 at 10:20 PM

  • Thanks a lot, I have never thought about bad pellets to a few days ago when I was firing the cylindrical pellets (I have to check the box for the brand) and I noticed I was seating them with my thumbnail and leaving two small nicks in the skirt! Im sure that would not help.

    A long time ago I was shown how to smooth the base of the pellet by rubbing it on a table top till there was a nice smooth ring around the base, this was said to help accuracy by taking out the imperfections.

    Comment by: Ken Moran     Posted on: 04 May 2011 at 12:29 AM

  • Hi Ken. You don't need to smooth the bottom of the pellets - if the skirts are that bad, then the rest of the pellet probably is too. Just bin 'em or use them for plinking.

    To save 'nicking' the skirt of pellets, make yourself a seating tool. I usually get an old fashioned corkscrew with a 'T' handle, cut the screw off leaving a short length of metal rod (a couple of inches is fine). Grind or file the cut end into a round nose roughly the same calibre as your rifle, then fine chamfer it until it fits snugly into the base (skirt) of your chosen pellets.

    Now when you load you just enter the pellet into the barrel breech (or magazine) then use the seater to gently push the pellet in just below level with the rim. Always seat the pellets to the same depth in the barrel. This not only seats the pellet without damaging it, but also acts as a sizer too.
    Put a cord around the T-handle of the seater put it around your neck or attach to your shooting jacket.

    Some people prefer to make similar pellet seaters, but out of plastic/nylon rod (nick one of your grannie's knitting needles).

    Comment by: Pat Farey     Posted on: 04 May 2011 at 10:56 PM

  • If you want a cheap, quality, lightweight gas ram, buy a lightning and a gas ram from Theoben and fit it yourself.

    Result, a very powerful, consistent air rifle, ideal for lamping from the 4x4 due to its short length and weight.

    Comment by: John     Posted on: 27 Jun 2011 at 09:49 AM

  • Thanks for that,Ihave since bought myself a Crusader but Ill keep that in mind

    Comment by: Ken Moran     Posted on: 28 Jun 2011 at 02:32 AM

  • It's true to say that the 'off the peg suit' can look, feel and be quite astir, but the suit that's tailored to the individual is often described as perfect due to being individual, so it goes with the HW98, you can tailor it for you via the the adjustable check piece and butt pad (which come as standard) get it measured correctly and give PCP's a run for there extortionate money!!!!!!

    Comment by: Tone     Posted on: 29 Oct 2011 at 08:26 PM

  • bought a fac hw90 in .22, had to let about 9 blasts of air out of the gas ram valve with a punch and small tapping hammer before i could group with H & N ftt pellets

    Comment by: dave     Posted on: 15 Dec 2011 at 04:32 PM

  • ive the 90 in .22, i reduced the pressure in the gas strut to 19 bar and it still produces about 20ft lbs muzzle energy with H & N FTT pellets and is bang on without much recoil

    Comment by: dave     Posted on: 06 Mar 2012 at 05:48 PM

  • I also have a 90, But its called a HW TB 90, Theoben saw fit to put one of there lovely looking custom stocks on board,makes a lot of differance to the handling, higher cheek combe, deeper forend, and a lot deeper rake to the grip. I bought extra barrels in .177 and .20 so i had three calibers with the .22. And after a lot of experimenting with different lenghs of the barrels, The rifle performed exactly as i wanted it to, ragged 1 cm holes in .177 at 50 mtrs, And the .20 and .22 only slightly bigger at 14 mm. The lengh of barrel i chose for all three, was 12.25 inches. re crowned and with 1/2 inch unf thread for suppressor. A truly superb hunter, outstanding accuracy. One i will never part with.

    Comment by: Hunter     Posted on: 20 Jul 2012 at 11:58 AM

  • Earlier this year bought a new HW90K Best described as awsome, it is both powerful and deadly accurate. Build quality is second to none and is a truely handsome gun. If you can cope with the weight and the effort required to cock it this is the gun to have

    Comment by: ray     Posted on: 24 Nov 2012 at 11:20 PM

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Weihrauch HW90 and HW98 rifles
Weihrauch HW90 and HW98 rifles
Weihrauch HW90 and HW98 rifles
Weihrauch HW90 and HW98 rifles
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