Air Arms TX200 vs. Weihrauch HW97 on a hunting expedition
PUBLISHED: 17:07 21 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:07 21 May 2019
Jamie Chandler puts the Air Arms TX200 and Weihrauch HW97 up against each other during his latest hunting expedition
In the natural world, one of the greatest apex predators ever to have walked this earth is still here after 200 million years, and little changed for the last 80 million. Having survived everything from dinosaurs, through ice ages and even the most prolific hunters the world has known - humans - all 22 species of crocodile still remain and have changed very little. The key seems to have been extraordinary genetic makeup and the ability to evolve. Although remaining as close as whiskers to their original form, crocodiles have evolved just enough to ensure both their survival and their dominance as an apex predator in their domain.
The airgun world hasn't been around for 80 million years, of course, but the principle is the same. There are airguns designed over 40 years ago that have gently evolved, and because of that original, groundbreaking design and engineering, they are still apex hunting tools today, at the top of their game and delivering high performance. I am talking about the legends that are the Air Arms TX200 and Weihrauch HW97. These mighty 'crocodiles' have been delivering success both for hunters and silverware seekers for decades in one format or other, and neither need any real introduction. Having been a fan of Weihrauchs in both HW77 and 97 guise since the early '90s, I wanted to pit the Air Arms TX200 against my own HW97 and see if there was a definitive winner.
I have to tell you that having used the 'bang up to date' BSA Defiant bullpup for a month almost exclusively, reverting to full-power springers was as immersive as ever, and upped my shooting game, as it does every time I do it. Mistakes like not concentrating, lacklustre follow-through and incorrect hold were punished with wider groups and a sinking feeling. I battled through and reigned in those negative habits, and both the HW97 and TX200 rewarded me with breathtaking accuracy and consistency that I'll wager would be difficult to beat with any other airgun. These rifles were in .22 and both shooting AA Field Diablos in 5.52, achieving one-hole groups on the garden range. They had been chrono'ed and both were as close as damn it to 11 ft.lbs., so it was a pretty fair fight between these hunting legends.
I headed out with the TX200, this was an opportunistic hunt with no more of a plan than to wonder about and see what was out there for dinner. Although both these guns weighed in at just over 4kg, once I had a sling fitted like on my HW97, or fashioned out of an old one, like on the TX200, the weight was not an issue.
Obviously, the first difference to show for me was loading the pellet. The loading port of the TX200 was half the width of the HW97 that I'm used to, but after a few fishing expeditions to retrieve dropped pellets I was fine and things came naturally. I had heard about the TX200's loud bear-trap click as it engages on cocking, and that it could be a negative to some because it might alert quarry to your presence. Honestly, if you've just taken a head shot with any airgun, very rarely does quarry within 60 yards hang about after the crack of the pellet's impact, so a few light clicks on reloading will have no effect. It might be annoying to some, but certainly won't ruin a day's hunting.
I walked around in the spring sun, looking in all the usual hot spots on this farm permission. Finally, and after a few hours of searching, stalking, being rumbled and starting over, I finally got onto a rabbit by sneaking 100 yards down a fence line and using some bales as cover. Ever so, ever so gently, I raised the TX200, rested my lead arm on the bales, released the safety and let the wonderful CD trigger unit send a pellet on its way. A dull thud and a slight nudge at the shoulder, followed by a crack, indicated a perfect headshot and I moved forward to retrieve my prize. With pin-perfect accuracy at 35 yards, the TX200 had proudly demonstrated just why it has it's awesome reputation.
I swapped to the HW97 at the car and headed out again. Time was marching on and I felt I was beginning to lose the day. I stopped at the pig field to see if there were any rats starting to move, but could only spot bacon and moved on. Pigeons were coming into the trees, around the barns, in the yard, but with little cover, and every time I raised the rifle they were off. Finally, and after what had seemed like a long afternoon of little reward, I saw some ferals flock into a barn.
Skirting through the doorway and moving slowly, pressed against the wall, I slipped down the barn until in the gloom I spotted a feral on a rafter. I knelt to provide a better angle, ensuring that any over-penetration from the pellet would be safely absorbed by the rafter itself, flicked the safety and let the HW97 blow a deadly breath of lead straight to the kill zone. The feral pigeon dropped to the floor with barely a twitch. Again, I collected my prize and deciding to call it quits, headed back to the car with my thoughts on these two mighty predators' performances.
I already knew my HW97 was as good an air-gun as I would ever want, PCP or spring-powered. Once mastered, it has delivered blistering performance time and again. It never leaks, its power never fluctuates; it is just fantastic and still I don't think bettered, even by the TX200.
The TX200 mk 3 is outstanding ,and there is no question of that; it looks elegant, it handles like a true, full-size hunting springer should, and like the HW97, delivers performance way beyond my skill level. It's everything I again could want in one airgun.
To pick one over the other would be like asking me to pick my left shoe from the right. Performance-wise, these airguns share so many similarities, but in looks and build they differ. I like the fact that you can decock the TX200, but also like not having its anti-bear trap and a silent cocking stroke on the HW97. The balance feels slightly less front heavy on the TX200, but the HW97 has a bigger loading port. Personally, I like the fishtail scrollwork on the TX200, but others prefer the more simple HW97 flowing style. These are tiny differences that might make a difference to some, but really don't make enough for a definitive judgement from me.
For about £450 you can own one or other of the best airguns out there, bar none. You won't need charging gear, you won't have leaks or mystery power drops, and you can send either away to be made even smoother by an aftermarket tuner. There's no doubt you will want another airgun at some point, but either of these time-proven springers will leave you needing nothing more.
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