Mark Camoccio tests an accurate yet often overlooked air rifle - the HW98
Weihrauch are certainly one of those manufacturers that has a firm foothold in pretty well every division of airgunning. Be it beginners lightweight starter set-ups through all types of spring gun up to full blown pneumatic rigs, there seems to be something in the Weihrauch range to satisfy everybody. As usual, the sheer choice of products from competing manufacturers, in each particular sector of the market, can be bewildering to say the least. One rifle though, hiding in the Weihrauch product line-up, seems to offer something a little different, slightly departing from the conventional, and to my mind, it has no obvious rivals.
The target hunter
The Weihrauch HW98, the subject of this test, is a bit of a curio, yet a very appealing rifle. It’s best described as a cross between a target rifle and a sporting rifle, and certainly looks the part.
First impressions on handling this gun, are one of a fairly heavy, very solid, adult rifle for the serious shooter. It’s not actually that heavy for this type of rifle, just solidly built. Indeed my recent over use of lightweight pneumatics has made average sized rifles just feel heavy. 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 cheekpiece of the stock; all adding to the precision target feel of the whole rifle.
Starting with the ‘bull’ barrel, the way Weihrauch have given it that pressed wedge shape just before the breech, gives character and distinction and looks quite superb. The whole barrel end diameter of over 0.75” comprises of a 3mm thick barrel sleeve encasing the barrel, and neatly retained by two grub screws on the underside, just in front of the breech.
Weihrauch use their usual solid breech arrangement on the HW98, incorporating that signature chunky bolt head, providing a wonderfully positive lock up, giving peace of mind that repeatable accuracy should be a formality.
The rest of the mechanical action is largely classic Weihrauch, with pop out safety catch to the left of the rear of the action, which is perfectly placed for the thumb to disengage. The reliable ‘Rekord’ trigger unit is also on-board, giving a wealth of adjustments. I know what these triggers can do when properly set up, indeed, the standard ‘Rekord’ unit in my trusty old Airmasters tuned HW77 is still going strong, totally crisp and positive, and a joy to use, some twenty years on; testament to a great design.
Overall finish to the metalwork is exemplary, and bearing in mind how long Weihrauch have been in the business, we should expect nothing less.
Extensive scope rails are deeply cut into the top of the main cylinder, giving plenty of choice for scope positioning. One thing to remember though, as with any break-barrel air rifle, is that some telescopic sights with a very long body and a large objective bell, may foul the breech area, and get in the way of the cocking arrangement, so some care must be taken with scope selection.
Moving on to the stock, this is basically a beech sporter style. However, the word ‘basically’, doesn’t really do it justice, as there’s a clever list of features that come together rather nicely; and the end result is an extremely slick and purposeful product. The small ventilations cut out from the body of the forend, give an instant feel of a target rifle, as this style of ‘decoration’ is often found on indoor match rifles. Helping to shed some weight, however slight, they also set off the stock perfectly, and just add to that overall impression of an original rifle, that little bit different from the herd.
A large wrap-around panel of quite abrasive black stippling has been applied to virtually the entire underside of the forend, and a further extensive panel envelopes the pistol grip; providing a slip resistant hold, whether shooting with a conventional hand grip or adopting the ‘thumb-up’ position. One thing’s for sure, with the adhesion of those panels, this rifle won’t be dropped in a hurry!
Coming to the butt end of the stock, the butt pad itself is adjustable, with a solid black rubber block, nicely shaped with a deep curve, sitting on an adjustable metal plate, giving full adjustment to suit the individual. In addition, a fully adjustable cheek piece is provided. Slackening off two allen headed bolts, allows the cheek piece to move up or down on two steel rods, and by slightly tightening the bolts again at the desired height setting, everything then locks into place nicely. I’ve seen a few adjustable cheekpiece designs over the years, with a few surprisingly crude efforts on supposedly top flight competition rifles ( I’m thinking of those plastic disc spacer/risers for example), but the set-up on this HW98 is a beauty – well engineered and finished; simple yet totally precise.
The combination of full adjustment from both the butt pad and the cheek piece, means that the dimensions of the rifle can be fine tuned to suit the physique and style of shooting of the individual. This not only maximizes comfort, but obviously encourages accuracy - the main aim at the end of the day, after all.
My only criticism of the stock, indeed of the whole gun, is the vagueness of the forend tip. Not since the original Weihrauch HW80, with it’s gloriously angular, pointed forend, have Weihrauch gone the whole hog on the style front. Blandly rounding off the forend, just looks unfinished in my book; but maybe it’s just me. As far as function, the stock can’t be faulted, and that’s the bottom line.
On the range
This was an extremely satisfying gun to shoot. With the heavy ‘bull’ barrel giving plenty of front weight, I found the HW98 just sat on the target and felt right, from the start. The cocking action was crisp and smooth, and didn’t require a great deal of effort, with the internals feeling semi-tuned, straight from the box. On firing, there was no spring twang; just the sound of a slick action, operating near to its optimum.
It was always likely that this air of sophistication was going to translate into raw accuracy, and I wasn’t disappointed. I put three main brands of pellet through this rifle, JSB Exact, Crosman Accupel, and Logun Penetrator, and what did surprise was the consistent results with all three! At 35yds, all the brands put in near identical groups- spot on 0.5” centre to centre; satisfying with any spring gun, especially straight from the box.
The chronograph figures were much the same, showing very creditable consistency and minimal variation, with the Logun pellets just shading this one with 12 fps variation over 10 shots.
All in all, quite a performer. If you prefer the relative simplicity of a spring/piston rifle (avoiding the hassle of pre-charged air bottles, etc.), then the HW98 represents a quality package. Aimed at the more discerning shooter, packed with appealing features, all aimed at improving accuracy, I’d say it’s the unsung star of the Weihrauch spring gun range.
|Country of origin||Germany|
|Calibre||.177 (on test) & .22 available|
|Stock||Beech with adjustable cheekpiece and butt plate|
|Velocity||Accupel | JSB Exact | Logun Penetrator
High 816 fps | 797fps | 742fps
Low 801 fps | 781fps | 730fps
Average 810 fps | 790fps | 735fps
Variation 15fps | 16fps | 12fps
|Energy||11.5ft/lbs | 11.7ft/lbs | 11.4ft/lbs|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates