Some years ago, I got caught in a rain storm with a finely made German air rifle. I dashed back to the car as quickly as I could, swabbed off the water with my bandanna, and stashed the rifle in a gun case. When I opened the case that evening, I could see that a tiny bit of rust was already beginning to form in a couple of places on the metal. Frankly, it annoyed me, and it put me on the lookout for an air rifle that could withstand wet weather.
Fast forward a few years, and I managed to obtain a Beeman R1-AW. This was a special version of the legendary Beeman R1 with electroless nickel plating on the metal parts and a black composite stock. Available only as a .20 caliber carbine, it was a beautiful gun, designed to withstand the elements, but jeez-Louise, it was heavy – fully 9.7 pounds just as it came out of the box. The one I bought had a muzzle break on it, which meant a scope was mandatory, raising the ready-to-go weight even more. Eventually I sold the R1-AW because I didn’t want to tote around all that weight.
In 2007, I tested the Weihrauch HW50S in .22 caliber and found it to be a lovely spring-piston air rifle. So imagine my delight when the good folks at Airguns of Arizona surprised me the other day with an “extra” rifle packed in a shipment. It was a Weihrauch HW50S Stainless.
The “Stainless” looks a whole lot like a scaled down version of the R1-AW. It has a stainless metal finish on the action (I suspect it might be the same nickel finish used on the AW) and a black synthetic finish on the wooden stock. The end result is an air rifle, available in .177 or .22, that ought to withstand inclement conditions pretty darned well.
What makes the HW50S Stainless particularly nice is its very manageable size and weight. It’s only 40.5 inches long (the same size as a Beeman R7) and weighs only 6.8 pounds (less than an HW35E or HW85 and nearly 3 pounds lighter than the R1-AW.)
In terms of looks, the Stainless is a study in functionality. You won’t find checkering or other decoration anywhere. At the extreme aft end, there is a brown rubber butt pad with a black spacer and a slight swell for a cheekpiece on the left-hand side of the stock. The forestock extends over the two-piece cocking linkage and breech block, giving the HW50S a more finished appearance rather like a Beeman R1. The two-piece cocking linkage allows the action to be anchored by a single big screw in a steel seat underneath the forestock.
The trigger guard is black metal and fastens to the stock with two screws. Inside is a silver metal Rekord trigger and a silver adjustment screw. . (With the factory settings on the Rekord trigger, the first stage will come out between one and two pounds, and the second stage will go off between three and four pounds, but the Rekord trigger can be adjusted much lighter than that.) The barrel and receiver look like stainless steel. The barrel is 15.5 inches long, and on top of it at the muzzle end you’ll find a black metal globe sight with interchangeable inserts, just like on the R1. The receiver has three holes for anti-recoil pins, and you’ll find a bright red push-button safety at the rear, which looks really snazzy against the silver and black of the rest of the gun.
To get the Stainless ready for shooting, grab the barrel near the front sight, pull it down and back until it latches (I estimate this requires about 32-34 lbs of effort), slide a pellet into the breech, and return the barrel to its original position. Take aim at your target, click the automatic safety off, and ease the first stage out of the trigger, squeeze a bit more, and the shot goes down range. The shot cycle is pretty smooth, with a bit of vibration, but the vibration is more heard than felt. The HW50S Stainless launches JSB Jumbo Exact .22 pellets (15.9 grain) at around 560 fps, which works out to about 11 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. I wouldn’t want to take on a charging cape buffalo with this air rifle, but it is plenty potent enough for defending the garden.
For accuracy testing, I mounted a scope on the Stainless and found I could easily shoot ragged one-hole groups at 13 yards with the JSB Jumbo Exact pellets. The HW50S is no slouch when it comes to accuracy. Shooting the non-stainless version couple of years ago, I entered a Hunter Class Field Target Match and placed second. Another approach to a sighting system for this gun would be to keep it as lean, mean, and utilitarian as possible and mount a peep sight instead of a scope. I understand Airguns of Arizona is now carrying the full line of Williams sights and can fit the Stainless with a peep sight that will meet your needs.
The bottom line is that the HW50S does a number of things well, and I think many airgunners will really enjoy this versatile and weather resistant air rifle. I know I did.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott