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Grand European Varminter Carbine

Grand European Varminter Carbine

Having spent much of my late teens handling and using highly tuned spring powered airguns, I developed a love for the whole concept quite early on in my shooting career. Airmasters and Venom Arms were of course the main two protagonists in the 80’s, and when the sport of Field Target was in its infancy, these two custom houses just about dominated the scene, with some exciting battles between their rifles taking place up and down the country every weekend.

However, the arrival and meteoric rise of the Pre Charged Pneumatic (PCP) has seen specialized and heavily customized spring powered rifles, largely sidelined and certainly overshadowed. Nevertheless, not everyone wants the hassle of air bottles and external pumps, and the sheer paraphernalia associated with the pre-charged world is enough to put many people right off airguns altogether.

Don’t forget though, that the best examples of spring power, can compete with the PCP world in terms of accuracy - you just have to work that bit harder with consistency of technique and hold.

Steve Dixon, of Country Sporting Guns, based in Lincolnshire is a man who is only too aware of the potential market for a quality customized spring powered model, and his latest venture is the impressively named Grand European. 

Quality Base

Based around the super successful Weihrauch HW80, the version on test here is actually the Grand European Varminter Carbine Thumbhole, to give it its full title, and it’s a beautiful looking piece of machinery for sure.

Weihrauch’s solid over-engineered approach is recognized the world over, and Steve’s choice of base action follows in the footsteps of the likes of Airmasters and Venom, who clearly new what guns were worth spending time over.

The ’80’ of course, is a break barrel design, and Steve’s version comes with the open sights removed, and a rather attractive nameplate emblazoned with ‘Grand European’ set in place of the rear sight. Look closely, and you’ll also notice the specially reworked breech block, complete with bevelled edges. The end result is not only aesthetically pleasing, but highly functional. Elsewhere, Steve checks over and cleans up the Rekord trigger, and orders in custom polished aluminium trigger guards from Rowan Engineering, which perfectly compliment the trigger blade itself.

With the sturdy oversized HW80 originally designed with one eye on the FAC market, unsurprisingly, Steve can also offer his Grand European in a high power ‘on ticket’ version, for those with the necessary paperwork. Carbine Varminter versions fitted with a silencer, Sporter stocked versions, or alternatively full length barrel spec, are all further options -so he’s clearly thought of everyone.

Custom Stock

story continues below...

Stock wise, that sumptuous walnut thumbhole woodwork is sourced from the British company Custom Stock, based in good old Sheffield, and it’s a nice piece of work that handles as good as it looks.

Bold in style, the deep tapered fore-end offers a far reaching grip, as well as plenty of deep section just past the trigger, to aid standing shots. A prominent high cheek piece offers perfect eye/scope alignment, whilst that chunky rubber butt, not only sets off the butt, but just for a change, its even fairly soft! Pin sharp lazer cut chequering is fairly industry standard these days, and the panels on the Grand European are super stylish, not to mention perfectly executed.

Getting a good grip is vitally important as an aid to good shooting, and here the classic thumbhole configuration allows for either the full thumbhole (thumb through) or the thumb shelf (thumb up position) to be utilized, and it’s great to have the choice. Varied technique and choice all add to the enjoyment of our sport, and fine detail such as this can only help.

Range Time

Technical stats first. Steve reckons these actions always benefit from a period of running in to settle the spring, yet over the chronograph this test model still posted very acceptable consistency figures.

RWS Superdomes returned a ten shot string with a spread of just 10fps, equating to 10.4ft/lbs; whilst Air Arms Diabolo Fields came in bang on the money, with a spread of 12fps and kinetic energy of 11.8ft/lbs. Steve confirmed that he sets these Grand European’s up with JSB, to around 11.6-11.8ft/lbs, so my rifle was a perfect example. That said, velocity figures were hovering a little too near the legal limit for my liking.

Accuracy wise, I’ve never shot a Weihrauch that couldn’t produce tight groups over 30 yds, and this model happily proved no exception. For the record, groups typically measured 3/8inch over that distance, and with the trigger adjusted to a lighter release, and a bedding in session allowed for, I would expect that to improve still further.

Simple Brief

Anyone familiar with Weihrauchs will appreciate those hallmark clicks and crunches as the break-barrel action goes about its business. It seems to signify the meticulous engineering, and it’s a satisfying experience for sad individuals such as myself. As far as the internals go on these Grand European conversions, Steve basically replaces the standard factory mainspring with a high grade Swedish silicon spring, and then adds his own piston seal. He doesn’t claim any full tune, and the rifle doesn’t shoot like it has had one. More a case of ‘it does what it says on the tin’, to coin the cliché - and it does it very well.

The blueprint is simple: High grade base action, plus high grade spring, plus high grade stock. The result: a beautiful, dependable solid spring gun that’s satisfying to shoot and own; fettled and assembled for the airgun connoisseur who appreciates fine engineering in a self contained format.

On that score alone, Steve has undoubtedly achieved his goal. GM

  • Grand European Varminter Carbine - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Grand European Varminter Carbine - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Grand European Varminter Carbine - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Grand European Varminter Carbine - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Grand European Varminter Carbine - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge


  • Model: Grand European
  • Varminter: Carbine (based on HW80)
  • Manufacturer: Weihrauch/ Custom
  • Stock: Country Sporting Guns
  • Country of Origin : Germany/ UK
  • Type: Customized spring powered sporter
  • Calibre: .177 on test, .22 available
  • Weight: 9lbs
  • Overall Length: 42inches
  • Barrel Length: 16inches
  • Stock: Walnut Thumbhole
  • Spread: 12fps
  • Average Velocity: 795fpsusing 10 shot string of Airm Arms Diabolo
  • Trigger: Re-worked Rekord
  • Energy: 11.8ft/lbs


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