Gun test: Weihrauch HW90K
- Credit: Archant
Mark Camoccio revisits this old classic gas-ram rifle, which is still extremely popular
As one of the first customers of Theoben, the originators of the gas-ram system, I have had an appreciation of this type of airgun from quite early on. The idea of replacing a conventional mainspring with a contained chamber of air is indeed an inspired one, the theory being that with no spring onboard, recoil is more controllable, and there should be less resonance as the shot is released.
The contained/sealed chamber of air – or gas in the early days – gets compressed instead of a spring, driving the piston forward, and compressing air ahead of the piston in the usual way. Characteristically, this system should result in a slick snappy action, with none of the ‘twang’ associated with a good old springer.
Weihrauch did a deal with Theoben quite early on, apparently supplying the internal gas-ram systems, and their HW90K was the result, but with this model still earning its place in the product line-up, we can safely say it has stood the test of time. Of course, as Theoben’s original patents have now long since expired, just about every airgun manufacturer has jumped on the bandwagon to produce their own take on the gas-ram theme, but in my experience, many are no improvement over spring power, and in several cases, are fairly violent and unpleasant to shoot.
Pick up the HW90K, though, and we are talking pedigree, and with a few notable exceptions that can give it a run for its money, the ‘90 still stands as one of the finest gas-ram models currently available. At £460, it’s not cheap, so just what are we getting for the asking price? Well, it’s a break-barrel action, fitted in a stylish beech sporter stock, with a quality two-stage Elite trigger, resettable safety catch, and Weihrauch’s own silencer, fitted as standard. The stock is technically right-handed, but in practice, perfectly usable on an ‘ambi’ basis.
At 8.8lbs, this model is quite a handful, and this is partly due to the dimensions. An oversized cylinder of 35mm diameter allows Weihrauch to adapt this model to produce FAC energy levels, but it does make the 12 ft.lbs. version a bit beefy. Finish and machining quality is all as you would expect from this premium manufacturer, and with the signature chunky adjustable breech here too, peace of mind is assured.
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Perfect chemical bluing sets off the action, and this is complimented by the matte finish of Weihrauch’s own silencer screwed onto the muzzle. You won’t notice the efficiency on this model, when compared to a PCP, yet this remains one of the best cans available on an airgun.
Handling and free
With Theoben’s demise, the gas-ram power plants are all now made in-house by Weihrauch, and it’s this hidden feature that makes a big difference. A small jolt frees the barrel, then pull the barrel fully downward in one full sweep until the clicks from the trigger sear are heard to engage. The cocking stroke itself is super-smooth, and if done quickly, fairly effortless, too. Feed a pellet flush into the lip of the barrel, and then close the action. Weihrauch fit an auto-safety with this model, so press the button just forward of the trigger, and the ‘90 is now ready to do its stuff. If for any reason you want to reset the safety, just press the small triangle at the front of the guard. Interestingly, the action can also be de-cocked for those instances when this is appropriate.
Gently squeeze the two-stage Elite trigger, and the action trips with what feels like an ultra-quick snap. Gas-rams should give a super-fast lock time, and the slick feel of the HW90K is right up there with the best. We are talking milliseconds, and whilst there is still recoil to consider, there’s a sophisticated feel throughout that’s missing from several rival gas-ram offerings. Given the characteristic snap of the action, a one-piece mount – possibly of the Dampa variety – has to make sense. I would opt for a one-piece mount with any recoiling airgun, to be honest, and it will just avoid any scope creep issues further down the line.
So to performance; first stop, the chronograph test, and with 11 ft.lbs. energy recorded with both Air Arms Diabolo Field and Bisley LRGs, the ‘90K was bang on the money. Switching to Daystate Rangemaster Li pellets returned 10.3 ft.lbs., so pretty healthy across the board. Accuracy-wise, and testing from my over-arm FT sitting position, I produced better than half-inch, centre-to-centre, over 30 yards, with both Air Arms Diabolos and the Rangemasters, with the LRGs a close-run thing.
If you want to keep a tab on power output, then the small valve at the rear of the cylinder is the entry point for a ‘Slim Jim’-style hand pump, and this would add another dimension for any enthusiast.
Beautifully made, as you would expect, from one of the top airgun names, the HW90K is a big bold piece of engineering, built to do a job. If the heft doesn’t put you off, the performance can’t fail to impress. One of the first gas-rams available, and still equal best, it comes highly recommended as a quality hunting rifle or classic all-rounder.
Type: Break-barrel, gas-ram powered
Calibre: .177 on test/.22 available
Length: 45 inches
Barrel: 12”, Weihrauch’s own
Stock: Beech sporter
Trigger: 2-stage adjustable/Elite Unit
Velocity/Energy: Over 10 shots: Using AA Diablo Field/Bisley LRG
High – 777fps
High – 810 fps
Low – 762
Low – 804
Ave – 770
Ave – 806
Spread – 15fps
Spread – 6fps
Energy – 11.1 ft.lbs.
Energy – 11 ft.lbs.
Contact: Hull Cartridge Co. / hullcartridge.co.uk
RRP: £460 (approx. including silencer)
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