I generally have the most fun when I am shooting an air rifle that is really, really accurate. Whether I am competing in field target competition or simply plinking in the back yard, it’s more fun when the gun is a tackdriver.
And when I say “really, really accurate” I mean three things. First, that, once you find the right pellet for the rifle, it will shoot very tight groups consistently. For me, anyway, in field target competition, I’ve found that confidence in the gun is critical when you get to the shooting line. If I know that the gun will do its job – if I do mine – that gives me assurance I need to do my best. By contrast, I’ve had the experience of having an air rifle produce “mystery shots” that missed the target, but I had no idea why. That is a pure nightmare and no fun at all.
Second, the rifle has to maintain a consistent correlation between point-of-aim (where I am aiming) and point-of-impact (where the pellet actually lands), so that I have confidence that the gun will shoot where it is aimed each time I use it. This is not a trivial matter. I once owned an air rifle that had to be re-sighted-in each time I used it. It drove me nuts. Some guys like to fuss, fiddle around and tweak their equipment all the time. Not me – I’m a shooter. I want take the gun from the case, shoot a couple of shots to confirm it’s still “on,” and get to work.
Third, the air rifle has to be easy to shoot well. Some air rifles (springers in particular) are notorious for requiring that you do everything “just so” for them to deliver their best accuracy. Some folks call this “hold sensitivity” while others insist that there is no such thing as hold sensitivity, there are only “shooter problems.” Okay; I’ll concede the point and rephrase: for an air rifle to be really accurate, it has to be tolerant of my mistakes.
Just a few days ago, I had opportunity to shoot an air rifle that fits my definition of a tackdriver, the Beeman HW97, MkIII. Weighing 9.2 lbs and stretching just over 40 inches long, the HW97 is a fixed barrel, underlever air rifle. It has Weihrauch’s excellent Rekord trigger and a Weihrauch barrel. At the end of the barrel is a handsome muzzlebrake. The righthand hardwood stock has a rubber recoil pad at the back, a raised cheekpiece, and checkering on the pistol grip and forend. The HW97 is available in .177 and .20 cal. I shot the .177 version.
To get the HW97 ready for shooting, you push a button on a latch just under the muzzlebrake. This releases the underlever for cocking. Pull the lever down and back until it latches. The cocking effort is around 35 pounds, and the cocking stroke is very smooth. The cocking stroke slides open the breech and also activates the automatic safety. The sides of the breech are cut down on both sides, so it is easy to slide a pellet into the aft end of the barrel from either side.
All that is left is to return the underlever to its original position (which also closes the breech) and push the button, located at the rear of the receiver, that de-activates the automatic safety. The HW97 is now ready to shoot.
Ease the first stage out of the trigger, and you’ll feel a distinct “wall” where the second stage begins. Squeeze a bit more (how much depends on how you adjust the Rekord trigger) and the shot goes down range. On the sample that I shot, the shot cycle ended with a tiny hint of vibration – tungggg – but it was vibration that was heard and not felt through the gun. As a result, that slight bit of vibration was a non-issue for me.
The HW97 is wickedly accurate. Some time ago, a nationally ranked field target shooter sent me a target he had shot at 50 yards from a sitting position with his HW97. You could cover the five-shot group with a dime! The HW97 launches 7.9 grain Crosman Premier pellets at 847 fps, producing 12.6 foot-pounds of energy.
When I shot the HW97, it had been quite a while since I had launched any pellets with a recoiling spring-piston air rifle. I was delighted to find that HW97 made it easy to produce pleasingly small groups.
In my opinion, the HW97 is an excellent choice for any shooter who wants to have some fun with a bona fide tackdriver.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott