HW90 – Smoooooooth!

Monday, September 22, 2008

One of the great things about doing a blog like this is that it lets me give free reign to my curiosity. If an airgun looks interesting, I give the good folks at Airguns of Arizona a call. If they have a sample of the airgun I’d like to see on hand, pretty soon it’s on the way to me. (Some of the extremely popular guns are just about impossible to keep in stock, so for those I’m on a waiting list.)

The HW90 is one smooth-shooting air rifle.

One of the air rifles I’ve had a hankering to shoot is the Weihrauch HW90, which is an air rifle equipped with a Theoben gas ram powerplant. I had seen a lot of favorable comments on the airgun forums about the RX-2 (which is the Beeman equivalent of the HW90), so my curiosity was on high alert.

My first impression on taking the HW90 out of its box was: “Boy, this looks very, very familiar.” And indeed it does. The HW90 is extremely similar in appearance to the Weihrauch HW80, which is one of my favorite air rifles. Both the HW90 and the HW80 are just a bit over 45 inches long, weigh 8.8 pounds, and have a 20-inch barrel. And both are extremely pleasing to look at.

The HW90 is available in .177, .22, and .25 calibers. Of course, what really sets it apart is the gas ram system. But what is a gas ram? Well, if you’ve ever seen a “lift back” truck or automobile that had pneumatic struts that lift the back hatch and hold it open, you’ve seen the basic working innards of a gas ram. That pneumatic strut operates on the same principle as a gas ram: compressing and decompressing gas within an enclosed space.

On the practical side, a gas ram air rifle works exactly like a spring-piston air rifle. With a spring-piston you break the barrel or pull a lever that drives a piston back and compresses a spring until it latches. When you pull the trigger, the latch is released, the spring and piston go rocketing forward, compressing air in the compression chamber and launching the pellet down range.

With the gas ram, when you cock the gun, you’re compressing the gas ram, increasing the pressure inside of it, instead of compressing a spring. When you pull the trigger, the gas inside the ram is allowed to expand, pushing the piston down the compression tube, compressing air in the compression chamber, and sending the pellet toward the target.

From a shooter’s perspective, the HW90 feels different. When you cock the rifle, there is no spring noise whatsoever. Further, unlike a springer, where the cocking effort tends to increase toward the end of the cocking stroke, the effort to cock the HW90 feels constant throughout the stroke at around 46 lbs.

When you pull the trigger on the HW90, the action feels quick – super quick – and smooth, a bit like a custom-tuned springer on 28 cups of coffee. I tested a .22 cal. version of the HW90, and I really enjoyed shooting it off-hand with the iron sights that came with it. Even though I wear old-guy glasses (no-line bifocals), I had no trouble with the sight picture, and when I triggered a shot standing up, the HW90 just felt supple. When I was shooting from a sitting field-target position, I felt more of a jolt from the gas ram action, but I still really liked this air rifle.

If this were my air rifle, I’d keep it simple and shoot it with the iron sights or perhaps fit it with a peep sight. It seems like the perfect airgun for a stroll in the woods and fields. Slip a tin of pellets in your pocket, and you’re good to go.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott


  1. Mike Hrivnak says:

    Great piece on an obviously great rifle. I think you talked me into one! I own an older RWS 34, which I enjoy, but would like to step up to a. .22 or .25 caliber. Are you sending your weather down here? (Delaware) Throw in your mountains and I’d be happy!

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Thanks for the kind words. The HW90 is very, very smooth.

      As to the weather, we had about 5 inches of “partly cloudy” in the drive this AM.

  2. Yunder says:

    Just ordered the .25 version. I spent several weeks researching which .25 break barrel might be the most fun/satisfying to own and use, and your review certainly lines up with everything else I’ve read. I don’t know whether you can answer this question, but here goes: if the HW90 is the un-rebranded equivalent of the Beeman RX-2, why do I see higher FPE stats for the Beeman RX-2 than for the HW90 (in .25)?

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Sorry, I don’t know the answer.

    2. Chevota says:

      Beeman probably used Laser pellets to rate it where I’m betting HW used a match wadcutter. I’ll bet money Lasers were made to order for Beeman to boost his numbers because back then nobody that I know of carried such a pellet. It’s just like today they use PBA or aluminum pellets to claim 1200, then you get it home and it’s 800, or my last gun was supposed to be 950 in 22 but was 700, 550 w/ a Kodiak. They go even further and flat out lie too because that same gun was advertized as 23ftlb, real life; 14.5-15.6. Quite a diff… Changing out the gunk inside for real lube got it up to 16, but it’ll never see 18, let alone 23!
      I have an RX-1 in .25 and it shoots at 21.5ftlbs. It’s 12 years old and isn’t even broke in yet because it’s too nice to take outside. Where I live in semi-communist southern California the cops will fine you and just might confiscate the gun. And “if” you get back it will be scratched up (first hand knowledge with other guns). They treat them like they would a broken broom handle because they don’t give a s***. It won’t be long before they have an SS symbol on their collars, no joke, it’s just a matter of time. I digress….

      Ok, back to the RX. I do wish I had bought it in 22 now because there’s no power difference but the 22 shoots much flatter and farther. But if I had then I’d be saying how I wish I had it in 25. So to solve my problem I’m going to buy a 22 barrel for it. They’re $95 but so worth it for a gun of this caliber (pun intended). You might consider the same for yourself.. I’d skip 177 tho, it’s a bad match for the gun and they’ll probably all go supersonic anyways.
      There is one thing I really don’t understand about this gun, and that’s why is it ~21ftlbs when it should be more like 30 based on cocking effort and the high quality. Did they drop the ball in design or something? It’s the top companies top gun for $650+ and it can be beat badly by a $150 chinese gun. What gives? If they can do it then why can’t this gun?
      I’d love to open it up and tune, but I feel like it’s a pristine first edition of the Superman comic book, like if I open it I’ll ruin the value. The chinese guns I rip open right away, but this gun is more like art than weapon.
      Well, if anyone knows please post. And if anyone has a question about mine feel free to ask.

  3. Scott Smith says:

    I have a 1st model (Beeman RX) that I bought for a song, it wouldn’t hold air and the trigger was a mess.
    Long story short I went to Ace and got all the o-rings, cleaned and re-greased the cups and after the third time removing it I finally figured out why the trigger didn’t work. I bought a charging adapter adapter then adapted that to a Scott shock absorber pump (600 psi).
    13 grain Crosman domed with 300 psi in the ram gives about 600. 10 grain H&N wadcutters are about 750.
    The max pressure in the ram is 400 psi but it is a bugger to cock when set that high.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Thanks for your comments.

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