- By Graham Allen
- 5 Comments
- Last updated: 29/06/2018
The vast-majority of air rifles use the humble coil spring as a power plant; there are obviously loads of pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) and CO2 guns out there too, but good old springers are the top dog. However, there has been another alternative available for many years, thanks to two rather clever English chaps back in the early 80s. Ben Taylor and the late Dave Theobald came up with the idea of using a sealed unit filled with nitrogen instead of a spring that worked in a similar way to a car tailgate gas strut, inside an otherwise conventional break barrel air rifle.
After making a few prototypes to test the idea, Theoben Engineering was born and their range of patented gas ram rifles were an overnight success and a huge hit with shooters all over the world. The management at Weihrauch in Germany were also rather impressed with Theoben’s clever internals and they entered into an agreement with Theoben to use the gas ram system in one of their own rifles, which was to become the HW90. The original patent has long since expired and gas ram rifles are made by loads of companies now, but I truly believe that the Weihrauch is the best available, as it was built with input from the founding fathers of the technology.
It’s been quite a while since I’d shot a Weihrauch gas ram rifle, so I was keen to reacquaint myself with one. When the HW90K (K for ‘Karbine’) arrived, it was pretty much as I’d remembered but the stock is much nicer than the original, but the differences are subtle. I’ll come to the woodwork later, but my first thought was that this is no lightweight rifle! It’s not dreadfully heavy of course but I guess I’ve been using a lot of comparatively light PCPs lately, so I’ve been a little spoilt! Another thought was how nice it would be if the rifle came with a set of sling swivels fitted. Apart from these observations, everything else was positive.
The stock is a nice piece of beech, with some grain showing through the lacquer. Starting from the rear, there’s a brown rubber buttpad that has a black spacer fitted between it and the timber. Moving forward, there is a subtle cheekpiece on the left of the butt (the 90 is not ambidextrous by the way) and the pistol grip fills the hand well and there are attractive and practical panels of chequering on both sides to enhance grip. The rounded forend is fairly plain and lacks any chequering, which I think is an omission, as it would look good, as well as provide a grippier surface. The slot cut in the underside of the forend is relatively short, thanks to the articulated cocking piece that engages the piston during cocking. That’s about it for the furniture but it’s very well machined and finished and does exactly what it was designed to do, without any fancy embellishments or gimmicks.
That’s the woodwork sorted, so what’s the metalwork like? Well, Weihrauch have always been very good at finishing their rifles and having been to the factory in Mellrichstadt, I know the various processes that take place to ensure a perfect finish; all steel parts are given a proper mirror polish before being immersed in a rather nasty looking vat of blueing salts. This produces a hard-wearing, tough finish that should look great almost indefinitely if treated to a wipe over with an oily rag now and then. The cylinder has scope mounting grooves machined into the rear, top portion and at 6¾-inches long, they ensure that pretty much any scope can be fitted. There are also three holes drilled into the top of the cylinder, so that arrestor pins on some mounts can engage with them to lock the mounts securely. One thing that should be considered though, is that as the 90 is a break barrel, you must make sure that the scope doesn’t overhang the breech – if it does, you’ll soon realise that you can’t cock the rifle! The usual health and safety blurb is machined into the left of the cylinder, just above the trigger but Weihrauch feel that this is something that must be done; so, I’ll simply point out that if you don’t like it, don’t look at it.
The compression cylinder is 35mm in diameter, which is large enough to allow this rifle to produce decent FAC/ export power levels. The jaws at the front of the cylinder are well machined’, allowing the barrel to open smoothly and a bolt is fitted with a locking nut, rather than a pin, as seen on some other break barrel rifles. At 12¼-inches long, the ½-inch UNF threaded barrel itself is much shorter than previous models and all the better for it, as there is now one of Weihrauch’s excellent silencers screwed onto the end. Weihrauch barrels are superb, by the way; I’ve seen the robot that makes them and the real live human being who straitens them by eye if needed. These silencers are very well designed and made and work really well and with no ‘twang’ from a coil spring, the rifle is nice and quiet in use. The silencer does actually unscrew if needed and makes for a much more compact package for transportation. I can’t see the silencer being knocked out of alignment though, even with a hefty blow (don’t try it on purpose though!) as the threaded portion of the barrel is ¾-inches long! The barrel is held firmly in position by a strong, spring-loaded plunger and a gentle nudge is required to ‘break’ the barrel from its locked position. The cocking stroke is very smooth, as there’s no potentially rough spring inside and the gas ram really shows itself to be a worthy inclusion.
Once the barrel is fully open, the sear of the trigger mechanism is engaged, whereby a pellet can be loaded directly into the bore; always keep hold of the barrel/silencer when doing this. The trigger unit isn’t the world famous ‘Rekord’ model, fitted to the majority of the company’s rifles but the ‘Elite’ unit is still a quality item. The safety is a push through type in front of the gold anodised trigger and pops out to the right when the action is cocked. To fire, the button is pressed to the left but if the shot isn’t taken, the safety can be re-set by pushing the small serrated catch at the front of the guard.
As the HW90K lacks any form of open sights, a scope is obviously needed, and I fitted a nice optic from Shilba. The scope in question is the Varmint RGB 4-16X40 and has a 1-inch tube, adjustable objective lens, ¼ MOA turret adjusters and an illuminated Mil dot reticle. I used a onepiece Sportsmatch Dampa Mount to affix the sight and the scope stayed firmly in place during testing. The image was clear and bright and was a perfect companion to the rifle.
As far as pellets went, I just used the supplied Weihrauch FT-Exacts and at 8.44-grains, I was rewarded with excellent accuracy and consistency, so didn’t actually use anything else. From experience, I know that Weihrauch’s barrels work with a wide range of ammo, so I could have chosen pretty much anything. Ragged clusters at 35-yards were the norm (once I’d got used to the rifle’s firing cycle – PCP make you lazy!) so, this rifle will do just about anything asked of it, from informal target shooting, vermin control and HFT competitions. The firing cycle is very quick and with no spring inside to resonate, there’s no twang from inside the compression cylinder and a very subdued report is the result. I really liked the trigger and the ability to re-set it without having to re-cock the action is a handy bonus.
The Weihrauch HW90K is an accurate, quality break barrel air rifle, with an interesting operating system inside but it functions in exactly the same way as a conventional spring piston model. The firing cycle is quick without being too snappy and the quality trigger unit ensures a predictable let-off. Yes, it is a little heavy, but this robust, superbly engineered rifle will last a lifetime and don’t forget, there’s no spring to weaken and wear out!