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.)
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 Beeman R1, which is one of my favorite air rifles. Both the HW90 and the R1 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