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- Last updated: 26/01/2017
Shortly after my introduction to the world of airguns (1979… how could I forget?) and as an excited teenager, I remember trawling through the streets of London with my dad, doing a mini- tour of the gunshops. Our quest was to find the very best piece of figured walnut, attached to the Webley Vulcan Deluxe that we had decided upon.
This ritual became a regular one, whenever a new/ replacement rifle was on the cards – and the sense of awe and excitement I felt entering these Aladdin’s caves of hardware has stayed with me to this day. That unique smell of quality leather, gun oil, and country goods, combine like no other, but this particular afternoon, somewhere in central London, I recall this curious chap informing us of his obsession – to fix the ‘Weihrauch Click’. “It may not make me a fortune,” were his parting words, as we left him surrounded by vintage airsporters, and airgun curios.
Many years down the line I doubt he’s still there, long since forced out by crazy rents and the like, but his obsession largely centred around one classic piece of engineering from Weihrauch: the near legendary HW35.
Introduced in 1951, this German break barrel made a huge impression from the start, and with a host of quality features and a level of engineering to outshine most of its rivals at the time; Weihrauch’s new heavyweight was a runaway success.
On test here is the latest version of this timeless classic, and for me personally, I’ve considered the experience a privilege, since amazingly, I’ve never shot one before!
Possibly the most distinctive feature of the 35 has to be that rather neat breech or ‘wedge’ lock. To cock the action, that little curved catch needs to be pulled forwards with the leading hand. This releases the barrel, which can then be pulled right down to compress the spring. That semi- circular cut away in the stock, is relieved in order for the catch to pass through the forend, as the cocking stroke completes its arc, and the resultant side profile is such that there is simply no mistaking this model for any other.
So what of that intriguing ‘click’ referred to, by our mystery gunsmith? Well this originates from the breech lock and articulated cocking linkage moving, as the breech is opened… and yes, it still occurs on the modern version. Yet, whilst it could be considered an issue when hunting, back in the real world the noise of cocking the average break barrel is fairly obtrusive in any case. In the field, being cocked, ready and waiting, is simply the better option, and here the 35 has no great disadvantage.
Time moves on, of course, and where the original rifle was specified with a UK power output of around 10.5ft/lbs, today’s upgraded model has replaced the original leather piston washer with synthetics, and can now punch out full limit kinetic energy.
Cast an eye over the HW35 and all the usual Weihrauch attributes are here. Let’s start with the attractive beech woodwork, and those stylish finger grooves in the super deep forend. Visuals overall then are fairly satisfactory, but surely it’s about time to beef- up that butt section, given the rather vague cheekpiece? A nod to the past, maybe, but consider that at the time of this model’s introduction scope use was far rarer than today – some increased definition and physical height for today’s enthusiasts wouldn’t go amiss.
Classy, rich chemical bluing is all part and parcel of the Weihrauch deal, and this HW35 delivers on that count. Solidly engineered components is another company trait, and the breech area in particular, is most reassuring. Note that chunky cross bolt to adjust later down the line if necessary if any wear should take its toll on the breech lock up. Highly unlikely, admittedly, given the belts and braces design, yet all part of the reassuring detail built in.
Open sights are always a nice inclusion, and on such an old favourite Weihrauch have stuck wisely with traditional irons. The rearsight is a sprung leaf all-metal affair, whilst the fore-sight is their time-honoured hooded design, incorporating interchangeable elements; accessed by simply unscrewing the rear of the hood assembly.
The test rifle is the now standard Carbine (K for karbine) version, which features a fairly short 16 inch barrel. Given that deep forend, the overall look is rather stubby, yet the legendary Export model is still available to special order, in an albeit trimmed-down modern format with an 18.5 inch barrel. This is available via the UK importers Hull Cartridge, and they expect these special orders to take in the region of 12 weeks to materialise from Germany.
On the subject of triggers, that famous Rekord design features here, just as it did on the original. Of course today, with an ever demanding market, several manufacturers now have its equal, yet this sophisticated cassette design still impresses enormously. Capable of fine adjustment to please most enthusiasts, triggers on spring powered airguns don’t get much better than this.
With little to moan about, other than that rather plain butt, I’m limited to highlighting, yet again, the tacky business of stamping a paragraph of safety warnings into the rear of the cylinder. Why such an esteemed manufacturer as Weihrauch persist in this wanton vandalism, I’m not entirely sure, but there we are. You wouldn’t get it on a shotgun, and it doesn’t deserve to be here!
And so to business. Cocking the action (at first a little awkward with that breech lock) soon becomes second nature, and completing the stroke and compressing the spring is surprisingly easy, given the fairly short barrel. The usual Weihrauch clunks and clicks accompany the action, but to us enthusiasts it’s the sound of finely engineered components engaging with each other, just as they should.
Chronograph readings revealed a power plant running maybe a little high for comfort, but astonishingly consistent with my batch of Air Arms Diabolos in .22 calibre. Given the action felt slick, crisp and quick, with no spring resonance at all, it was hardly surprising that accuracy was equally impressive. Sub 1⁄2 inch clusters (all shots touching) over 30 yards, achieved from an over-arm FT sitting position, was indeed most satisfying, and the HW35 proved an absolute pleasure to shoot.
Thumb through old airgun magazines from the 70s and 80s and the Weihrauch HW35 appears as an object of envy, often sporting, in Export form, that frankly ludicrous, but impressive looking 22 inch barrel.
This modern upgrade looks rather bland in comparison for sure, yet once handled and shot the quality and performance can be appreciated for what it is. Weihrauch rarely disappoint and the fact that this famous old model still finds a place in the current line-up is testament indeed to the original design.
Okay, an HW95 will do everything this will, in a slicker package if you want my honest opinion, but for that bit of retro styling, and a link to some serious airgun heritage, the HW35 wont diappoint.
PRICE: £302 (guide price)
CONTACT: Hull Cartridge Company 01482 342 571 www.hullcartridge.co.uk
HW35 Export model (18.5 inch barrel, and walnut stock): RRP £379 – available to 12 week special order