PUBLISHED: 13:49 31 August 2012
Longer ago than I care to remember I worked in a gun shop and saw each new product as it arrived, and to this day I remember the arrival of the Weihrauch HW45 pistol. As a keen fan of full-bore handguns, this gun's Colt 1911 styling immediately appealed to me, and I began to save up to buy one. I remember its size and balance and that German engineering feel.
As soon as I bought it, I took it to our club where field target was just getting going, so that I could try my powerful new pistol against proper knock-down targets. To be honest, my results were mixed. I soon realised that pistol accuracy can’t compete with rifles and that despite the HW45’s full power promise, only accuracy counts. After placing targets at more realistic ranges, I soon learned that when I did my bit, this pistol would knock them down every time, not something that could be said of other pistols of the time. I can’t honestly remember why I sold that gun, I guess I must have needed the money.
Recently my interest in pistols has resurfaced, shooting Co2 pistols in IPAS competitions, and when it was offered I relished the chance to shoot a modern version of my old favourite. In essence, the pistol hasn’t changed in the intervening years; the layout is just the same.
To cock the pistol, you pull back a dummy hammer that releases the top half of the action. You then lift this up and forward against the spring tension. A neat trick Weihrauch designed into this gun is that if you stop the cocking stroke at 90 degrees, the gun will give half-power. If you swing the action all the way forward, you get full-power. The low power setting is around 2½ ft.lbs., while the full power setting offers over 5 ft.lbs. The low setting makes the gun softer and easier to shoot and is plenty of punch for paper target and indoor shooting. It also saves some muscle strength, which can be welcome if you’re planning a long session.
I’d be telling lies if I pretended that the full-power setting wasn’t really what I wanted though, and remember that at the time this was among the most powerful pistols you could buy. This was the reason that it could flatten those knock-down targets. But power is nothing without control, as the advert says, and the HW45 is a seriously accurate gun, something I proved after fitting a telescopic sight. Now, I know there are people who shoot brilliantly with open sights, but I’m not one of them, so the scope was a great aid. With it fitted, I was able to increase my successful range by another five yards, which I liked a lot.
The pistol on test is the Silver Star version, which apart from the different finish, has two significant upgrades over my old gun. The first is the improved sights, which have fibre optic inserts built in. These have long, exposed centre sections that absorb light which is then redirected to the ends. This makes them seem to glow brightly, especially in low light conditions. The front sight has a red insert and the rear sight has a yellow one, either side of the notch. These naturally draw your eye and help alignment in a natural way, especially for people like me who wear glasses. The top of the frame still features a long dovetail for scope fitting, but if you choose that route you need to think it through. When you cock the gun, you grasp the area where the scope is fitted and it’s wise to avoid placing strain on any optic, so you need to avoid using the scope as a grip. To avoid this only takes a minute’s thought and practice, and time will be well spent.
When the action is cocked you’ll be able to see the breech and load a pellet directly in which is always the best way. This ensures that it’s properly seated for best accuracy. Next, clip the gun closed and you’re ready to fire. There’s a manual safety catch behind the trigger should you need it.
Another reason I loved this gun was the quality of the trigger. We all know that Weihrauch builds great triggers, but I’ll confess I was surprised at just how good the HW45’s was. It’s still a great trigger today and if trigger control is important in rifle shooting, it’s 10 times as important in pistol shooting. Even straight from the box, the test gun’s one was excellent, helping me to squeeze the very best accuracy from the gun.
The second big upgrade the Silver Star enjoys is the anatomical grips. These support the hand well and are a big improvement over the standard ones, which to be honest are more about looking like a Colt 1911, than all-out performance. They are stippled for a secure hold, and this finish is more about performance than good looks. The subtle thumb-shelf and flared base, support the hand in a relaxed hold, encouraging delicate trigger control, vital ingredients for top accuracy.
I took the test gun to my current gun club where I know several club mates own HW45s in various guises, to let them have a few shots with this version for comparison. Praise was heaped on the grips immediately, confirming my own feelings that they are a worthwhile improvement. Our pistol range goes out to 30 yards where there’s a bank of bowling pin-shaped knock-down plates which need a good hard hit to flatten, but the HW45 had no trouble at all. On a couple of occasions I shot five for five, not something I’ve ever achieved with lower powered guns.
I guess you might call this a trip down memory lane, but it’s more than that. Yes, the modern version did confirm just what an excellent pistol the original HW45 was, but it also validates the modern upgrades that the Silver Star option brings. Better control and better sights add up to better accuracy, and after all, hitting the target is the whole point of shooting in the first place.