I love movies. One of my favorites is “Jeremiah Johnson.” In it there is a scene in which Bear claw Chris Lapp (an experienced mountain man) says to Jeremiah Johnson (a tenderfoot who has nearly starved to death trying to learn to be a mountain man): “Mountain’s got its own ways, pilgrim . . .” Meaning you have to deal with the mountain as it is, not how you wish it was.
Around El Rancho Elliott “Mountain’s got its own ways, pilgrim” has become a code phrase for having to deal with the peculiarities or eccentricities of an individual, organization, or piece of machinery.
The same could be said of the Weihrauch HW45 http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/Weihrauch.htm#WeihrauchHW45 . It is a singular air pistol, and it does, indeed, have its own ways. Nevertheless, you need to know right up front that the HW45 is simply a whale of a lot of fun to shoot.
Greg Glover at www.airgunsofarizona.com calls the HW45 “Old Smokey” because “I can instantly recognize when anyone is testing an HW45 in the shop. I can smell the dieseling and see the smoke.”
Recently I tested a new HW45 in .177 caliber and right out of the box it dieseled and smoked just like Greg said it would. The HW45 stretches 11 inches from end to end and weighs 2.54 pounds. At the extreme aft end of the receiver is what appears to be a hammer but is actually a release that allows the back half of the “upper” to be moved for cocking. The pistol grip is scaled like that on a 1911 Colt automatic, and there are ambidextrous walnut grips with diamond checkering on either side.
Just forward of the grip is a lever type safety. Forward of that, a black metal trigger guard surrounds a black metal adjustable two-stage trigger. Forward of that is the muzzle and the upper part of the receiver which houses a red fiber optic front sight. The top of the receiver has dovetails so that a scope or red dot sight can be mounted. On top of the receiver, at the extreme aft end is a green fiber optic rear sight that is adjustable for windage and elevation.
What makes the HW45 really interesting is that, compared to other spring-piston air pistols, it is built backwards. If you look at the RWS LP8 pistol http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/rws.html#LP8 for example, you’ll see that it is longer and heavier than the HW45 and built essentially like a scaled-down breakbarrel air rifle. When you cock the LP8, you pull the barrel down and back toward the pistol grip. The process shoves the piston and spring back, toward the rear sight. When you pull the trigger on the LP8, the piston rockets forward and then bounces back off the cushion of compressed air at the end of the compression chamber near the front of the LP8. The muzzle tends to kick up in the air.
When you are cocking the HW45, however, you are pulling the rear of the upper part of the receiver up and forward, toward the front sight. This pulls the spring and piston toward the front sight. When you trigger the shot, the spring and piston rush toward the back of the gun and then bounce off the compressed air near the transfer port at the rear of the HW45, which tends to rotate the muzzle downward.
In either pistol, the whole forward and back recoil cycle happens very quickly. But if you shoot with a tight grip on the pistol at first and then loosen it with subsequent shots, what you will tend to notice is that, with the LP8 as you loosen your grip the point of impact will tend to rise, but with the HW45 as you loosen your grip, the point of impact will tend to drop.
The HW45 has a crisp, clean trigger and it kicks hard (for an air pistol) when the shot goes off. (First stage of the trigger on the sample that I tested measured 1 lb. 5.3 oz. Second stage measured 2 lb. 7 oz.) But that, quite frankly, is part of the fun. The HW45 launches 7.9 grain pellets at 451 fps average, and that is hard enough to be useful for defending the bird feeder or the garden at short range. I have successfully used the HW45 to dispatch a squirrel that was causing problems in our attic. See http://126.96.36.199/blog/2008/10/noise-in-attic.html and http://188.8.131.52/blog/2008/10/noise-in-attic-part-ii.html
The HW45 is a fun and challenging air pistol to shoot. Sure, it’s got its own ways, pilgrim, but over time I’ve come to really enjoy this unique pistol.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott