A few years ago than I care to memorize, I worked in a gun shop on Saturdays and handled every new airgun that arrived with deep interest and all too often, desire. At that moment I was shooting a Webley Vulcan MK1, which was powerful but not too difficult. One day, I arrived for work to ﬁnd the fabled Weihrauch HW80 air rifle export on the gun rack and immediately ran for the keys so that I could unlock it.
There, in my hands, was what I felt was the ﬁnest airgun ever made and I was in awe. The weight of all that top-quality steel felt supportive, and the smartly ﬁnished walnut store was head and shoulders above anything I’d seen before. In my eyes, the Germans had stolen a march on making air guns feel like high-quality ﬁrearms. Working in a gun shop, I frequently handled top-quality shotguns and deer-stalking riﬂes, so I had known all too well what could be done to make a gun feel special if you could afford it.
Money, Money, Money
There was just one problem – I couldn’t afford it. My meager funds were already stretched to the limit running my Enduro motorbike in the off-road competitions I was entering. There was simply no cash for a new air gun.
As the years passed by, I was tempted by the HW35’s big brother, the Weihrauch HW80 air rifle and eventually bought one, imagining it superior to the Weihrauch HW35 air rifle by dint of being even bigger and heavier. The Weihrauch HW80 air rifle was designed for the export markets where no power limit existed, and when turned down to our 12 ft.lbs. needs were too much gun. It is big and heavy, making it a good choice for long trips aﬁeld. The ground-breaking HW77 air rifle soon followed, along with my ﬁrst foray into competition shooting, before I jumped aboard the good ship PCP and never looked back. However, in recent years, somewhere in the back of my mind was the yearning to own an HW35E, my ﬁrst true love. It had been my dream riﬂe and I felt that my gun cabinet needed a springer of some kind, so that was the obvious choice.
Special Order Only
I contacted Hull Cartridge, Weihrauch’s loyal importer for 40 years, and asked if I could get one. There was good information and bad. The good news was that they can still be ordered. When we saw the longer barrels all those years before, we simply ‘knew’ that bigger must have been better. Of course, we now know that it served no beneﬁcial reason at all, but I wanted one all the same. The long barrel made the Export version stand out from the crowd, but hey ho, I could only have what was on offer.
Everything else looked just right. The stock on my gun is a nice dark walnut with ﬁne chequering on the pistol grip, ﬁnished with a white line spacer and a stepped black cap. The fore end has the trademark deep ﬁnger grooves and the trigger guard is the classic cast-metal unit that we all thought was so cool 35 years ago. Because it uses an articulated cocking linkage, the cut-out in the fore end is very short, making the stock feel strong and stable. This layout also means that there are no screw heads visible from the sides, adding to the clean looks.
Weihrauch HW80 Air Rifle Barrel Latch
Perhaps the most revolutionary feature of the Weihrauch HW80 air rifle was the sliding barrel latch. Again, we ‘knew’ that this would make the air riﬂe more accurate. The solid mechanical lock-up basically had to ensure perfect alignment of the barrel to the cylinder, where the scope was placed, so it made complete sense to us. The aura of this class- “The bad news was that you can no longer have the 22” Export length barrel. I was heartbroken” leading brand’s engineering knowledge simply blew our minds, and this innovative characteristic fuelled our desire even more to own one.
In a neat piece of ergonomic design, the barrel latch disengages quite naturally as you slide your hand along the fore end, ready to pull the barrel down. With the latch released there’s no need to bump the barrel down to start the cooking process. It quite naturally drops a few degrees before engaging the spring. With the breech open you will see that the barrel is ﬁtted with a locking nut, as are all modern Weihrauchs. This modular system is superior to the old press-ﬁt system in keeping the bore true.
In the name of purity, I intend to use the open sights, keeping the lines unsullied by some vulgar, bulky optic. Of course, ﬁtting a modern scope would reveal the riﬂe’s true potential, but as I only plan to use the riﬂe for pleasure, ultimate accuracy is of no concern. I think the ones ﬁtted are a more modern version of the classic sights and no doubt better for the improvements, but they keep much of the character of the originals, which pleases me. The back sight has a plate that can be rotated to show four different notches, whilst the hooded foresight has interchangeable elements as well. These are most certainly superior sights and can be set to suit almost any taste.
The comb of the stock is set at the correct height for open sights and the air riﬂe comes very naturally to the aim this way. I ﬁnd it odd and a little sad, in all the time this riﬂe has existed, that very few manufacturers have corrected the height of their stocks to suit the near universal uptake of scopes. Most, if not the entire, stocks are still designed for open sights when nearly nobody uses them.
For the sake of authenticity, I ordered a .22. I haven’t shot .22 much at 12 ft.lbs for some 20 years, but again, I intend to use it as a ‘super plinker’ so the .177’s ballistic advantages mean nothing, and as a young man I only ever shot the bigger caliber. It was much more powerful-er, you know!
Inside, things have moved on a great deal because Weihrauch has installed all the latest upgrades that have moved their spring/piston riﬂes forward so much in recent years. An improved spring supported by efﬁcient guides delivers a smooth cocking experience and a well-controlled and quiet ﬁring cycle. This is head and shoulders above the riﬂes we desired so desperately in the ‘70s straight from the box, with little beneﬁt to be had from tuning these days.
For the Record
The further design item that blew us away was the now famous Rekord trigger. This was such a huge step-up over any other trigger available, at that time, that we were easily able to believe its performance. It’s a multi-level system, so it was able to be delicately adjusted to suit your taste, whilst delivering full sear overlap to ensure complete safety in operation. To this day, few triggers have bettered its performance quite an incredible endorsement, in my opinion. Like most of the Weihrauch riﬂes of the day, the reach to the trigger blade was rather long, and I still ﬁnd it that way today. There are companies that offer set-back blades for a more comfortable reach, but I won’t be ﬁtting one to my Weihrauch HW80 Air Rifle; straight from the box is how this one will stay.
The safety is a cross-bolt system that pops out automatically as the action is cocked, and is in a good place to be disengaged just before ﬁring. Once disengaged, it can only be reset by cocking the action again.
When disengaged, a small red pin protrudes from the right side of the action, warning you that the riﬂe is ready to ﬁre. Just as I remembered, it makes a distinct metallic click as it’s disengaged, and more than one rabbit had its life saved by this noise in my Weihrauch hunting career.
With all this nostalgia coursing through my veins, I needed to get down to some proper testing seeing if the air riﬂe could live up to my dreams. A few moments over the chronograph with my standard test pellet, the Air Arms Diablo Field (16 grains) showed a suitably consistent 570 fps for a healthy muzzle energy of 11.54 ft.lbs. just as I’d like it to have been set.
Open Sights, at Your AGE?
Next, I came to my biggest challenge – to shoot with open sights. At my age, it’s no big surprise that my eyesight isn’t what it was, but my short-sightedness is now being matched with my close vision worsening too. I have the worst of both worlds, as my optician enthusiastically informs me. Thanks for the good news!
Anyway, I found some pistol cards from my good friends at Target Air, with a big bold bull that allowed me to see it clearly, and shot a few groups at 20 yards. To my amazement and delight, I had some quite respectable groups. I was honestly shocked. I tried with my glasses, and without, and was unable to tell which was best. To lighten the pressure on myself, I gathered some small windfall apples and stood to plink them off hand, again at 20 yards. Watching them explode and the bits go ﬂying, took me right back to the beginning of my shooting career. There’s a word for this type of shooting if only I could remember it. Oh yes, I’ve got it … FUN!
I was just reveling in the simple pleasure of a break barrel springer, with open sights, blatting little apples for the simple pleasure of shooting. What could be better? Then it occurred to me that this was very useful offhand shooting, something I practice far less than I should. I avoid taking standing shots whilst hunting as best I can, but sometimes there’s no other option if you want to bring home the bacon, so it’s a skill that every hunter should work on hard.
Of course, being a technical type, I was already thinking about working on the open sights to make them easier to shoot. The front view accepts a range of interchangeable elements so I am trying the different permutations. Then, I thought about adding a few color to them, such as white or ﬂuorescent orange to make them easier to see. You see, as much as I’d like to keep the Weihrauch HW80 Air Rifle stock, hitting the target is too important to overlook.
They say that you should never meet your heroes, but I’m saying that in this case, they’re wrong. This is every bit the air riﬂe I lusted after and with the manufacturing improvements that Weihrauch has added to the build, it’s an even better air gun than the one I ﬁrst saw. It’s also very inexpensive for such a ﬁne riﬂe, in my view. My air gun will not see a scope, will not be tuned and will not have any accessory added. It’s a truly superb riﬂe just as its makers envisaged it, and some classics need to be respected for what they are. On a personal note, I want to say thank you to Weihrauch for keeping this beautiful air riﬂe in your catalog. I may be not the wildly very enthusiastic young man I was 35 years ago, but your riﬂe hasn’t aged one day and my love for this air gun burns just as brightly as it ever did.
Weihrauch HW80 Air Rifle Specification
|Velocity (0.22 Cal.)||765.00 ft/sec|
|Velocity (0.177 Cal.)||1000.00 ft/sec|
|Trigger||Two Stage Adjustable|
|Sights||Open, Fully Adjustable|