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HW 55 history notes (long)

July 17 2005 at 1:11 PM
  (Login MDriskill)

Gents, a couple of years ago I conducted an informal survey of HW 55 rifles on the yellow forum (with the help of many of you here). Since that time I have examined or gotten data on more than 50 examples of the Weihrauch's little target classic. The following is a summary (the WordPerfect indents will be messed up in the forum window, but hopefully it will still read OK).


WEIHRAUCH HW 55 NOTES

VARIANT DESIGNATIONS
Except for the HWB Champ, the differences between variants are solely in the stock design, not the action. The first six designations were stamped by the factory into the breech markings on the gun until the early 1970's, after which this practice was discontinued. The others could have been introduced by either the factory, or major distributors such as Beeman. Designations can differ for the same model over time, or in different markets:

1. HW 55 S: plain beech-stock
2. HW 55 M: Bavarian-style stock
3. HW 55 T: Tyrolean-style stock
4. HW 55 SF: plain beech stock, automatic breech latch with no locking lever
5. HW 55 MF: Bavarian stock, automatic breech latch with no locking lever
6. HW 55 TF: Tyrolean stock, automatic breech latch with no locking lever
7. HW 55 SM: later designation for beech-stocked variant
8. HW 55 MM: later designation for Bavarian-stocked variant
9. HW 55 CM: match-style walnut stock, alternate designations in other markets were “HW 55 M” and “HW 55 Match”
10. HWB Champ: junior variant with small beech stock, short barrel, barrel weight sleeve, adjustable-position trigger

The HW 55 was introduced in the mid 1950's. The SF, MF, and TF were advertised until at least 1980, but seldom seen in the US. The SM and MM seem to be the most commonly-seen variants in the US, thanks to years of Beeman importing them. The CM variant was introduced about 1978, possibly to increase the HW 55's appeal to shooting clubs or beginning 10-meter competitors. Walnut stocks were discontinued in the early 1990's. The SM was discontinued around 2002. The HWB was introduced in the mid 1990's and is possibly still being manufactured.


SERIAL NUMBERS
Weihrauch rifles are fairly difficult to tie down by date. It appears that the traditional designs that were the mainstay of the HW lineup for many years–the HW 30, 35, 50, and 55–were actually numbered in the same sequence, with “blocks” of serials periodically assigned to each model as needed.

An excellent article by Richard MacHale in “Airgun Hobby” magazine listed the following estimated milestone dates, which seems to be consistent with the few rifles I surveyed that could be tied to an original purchase date:

First HW rifle production: 1951
200,000: 1966
400,000: 1972
600,000: 1976
800,000: 1980
1,000,000: A special gold-plated HW 35 made in August 1983. I own HW 55 no. 12137xx, which was sold by Beeman to the original owner in June 1992.


STOCK VARIATIONS
Five basic stock models have been used. Minor variations are quite common, especially on older examples.

1. Standard beech stock: finger grooves in sides of fore end, “hogsback” comb shape, no cheekpiece, checkered pistol grip, curved rubber buttplate.
a. Oldest guns differ slightly in comb shape and have a less curved red rubber buttplate.
b. Small triangular patch of checkering in front of trigger guard deleted sometime after 3133xx serial block.
c. Late guns have more deluxe styling, with a Bavarian-style cheekpiece similar to the M/MM stock, but retaining finger grooves on the fore end. Possibly introduced after walnut stocks discontinued.

2. Bavarian stock: checkered sides of fore end, “hogsback” comb shape, typical Bavarian-style “stretched hexagon” cheekpiece shape, curved rubber buttplate.
a. Oldest guns have a slightly different shape to front of comb and less sloped front cheekpiece edge, and a less curved red rubber buttplate.
b. This style stock is usually walnut, but was also available in beech, e.g. serial 2158xx.
c. Small triangular patch of checkering in front of trigger guard deleted sometime after 3133xx serial block.
d. Many later guns have an accessory rail under the fore arm. Some overlap in time of between guns with and without rails. The rail may have been an extra-cost option in some markets, and is seen on most Beeman imports. The “MM” designation does NOT refer to the rail.
e. Checkering panels have been seen in two different shapes, which seem to overlap in time to a great extent.
i. “W” shaped pointed border at front and rear of panel of fore end panel, and top of pistol grip panel.
ii. Vertical border at front of fore end panel, and sloping curved border at rear. Curved border at top of pistol grip panel.

3. Tyrolean stock: checkered sides of fore end, high concave heavily sculpted cheekpiece, curved rubber buttplate. The fore end is more tapered, and the butt shorter and more downward-sloping, than other HW 55 variants. The “T” is an exceptionally graceful and attractive rendition of this traditional German stock style.
a. These stocks are largely hand-carved, and many minor shape variations are evident. Oldest guns have a less curved red rubber buttplate.
b. This style stock is usually walnut, but may have also been available in beech.
c. Small triangular patch of checkering in front of trigger guard deleted sometime after 3133xx serial block.
d. Fore end side checkering panel has been seen in two different shapes, which seem to overlap in time to a great extent.
i. “W” shaped pointed border at front and rear of panel of fore end panel, and top of pistol grip panel.
ii. Vertical border at front of fore end panel, and sloping curved border at rear. Curved border at top of pistol grip panel.

4. CM/”Match” stock: walnut, heavy “squared” shape similar to contemporary recoilless rifles, deep flat-bottomed fore end, fore end accessory rail, near-vertical stippled pistol grip, Anschutz 6709A adjustable buttplate. Introduced 1978.

5. HWB Champ stock: beech, angular modern match styling, very small proportions, stippled grip, accessory rail, adjustable buttplate with spacers.


VARIATIONS IN ACTIONS AND ACCESSORIES
The HW 55's action is modified from the HW 50 sporter. The barrel, cocking linkage, receiver, piston, and thread-off rear section are identical. The spring is somewhat weaker (although many guns had HW 50 springs fitted), the trigger has a lighter return spring and a locking sleeve around the weight adjuster screw. The biggest mechanical difference is the complex adjustable breech latch, with its rotating cam lock and characteristic actuating lever.

1. Earliest guns have completely different front sight, different rear sight, and a knurled area at rear of thread-off rear section. The earliest rear sight may have been similar to those seen on BSF and Falke target rifles in the 1950's, and when the distinctive HW diopter was first fitted it was more slender than seen on later guns. The trigger is not the famous modular “Rekord” pattern but a compact multi-lever steel assembly pinned directly into the rear section. Often supplied with open barrel-mounted rear sight as well. Good illustration in W H B Smith’s classic 1957 book. Distinctive in appearance and quite rare.

2. Serial presentation: on older guns the serial is stamped on left side of thread-off rear section above the stock line, and repeated just in front of this on the receiver tube below the stock line. Newer guns have serial stamped under barrel in front of barrel block. Some time overlap in this detail, but all stamped on barrel sometime after 6373xx serial block.

3. Sight groove spacing: dovetail grooves are spaced 13mm apart on early guns, 11 mm on later guns, changed at around 755xxx serial block. HW’s rear match sight was also changed. The 11mm guns will also accept Anschutz, Walther, and some other sights.

4. Accessory rail on fore end: introduced for the HW 55 M/MM in 1974. This is the same unit mounted on the HW 55 CM.

5. Sight mounting holes: early guns have two holes in the threaded-off section, and some have sight grooves only long enough to mount the sight. Most HW 55's have a third hole added in the receiver tube in front of this section, and much longer grooves to accommodate scope use.

6. Breech taper: early guns have a noticeable tapered “throat” to the breech end of the bore. Later guns have a shorter, sharp-angled chamfer. This can make a considerable difference in pellet preference.

7. Barrel locking lever: as noted above, some early guns were available with the same breech assembly as the HW 50 sporter, with automatic breech detent and no locking lever.

8. Cocking linkage: early HW’s were notorious for the “click” made when the linkage joint popped up against the receiver tube during the cocking stoke. The front stock-attachment stirrup was altered at around the 752xxx serial block to eliminate this.

9. Trigger blade shape: the earliest guns with non-Rekord trigger are noticeably different. The early Rekord-equipped rifles have a blade that is subtly thinner and more curved, hard to distinguish unless directly compared to a newer Rekord.

10. Barrel weight sleeves: available in two weights, 400 grams (14 oz) and 900 grams (2 pounds). Seen with different types of setscrew attachment. Late sleeves can be quite roughly finished inside and easily scratch the barrel. The HWB Champ has its own unique short sleeve.

11. Barrel shim washers: early guns have no shims beside the breech block. HW started using these on all rifle models around 1973.

12. Barrel block markings: too many variations to list. Some notable points:
a. Model designation: stamped on left side, up until sometime after 4170xx serial block. The S, M, T, SF, MF, and TF variants have been seen marked this way. Subsequent guns are simply marked “HW 55.”
b. “WEIHRAUCH” usually appears on the right side, with “Mellrichstadt-Bay.” beneath, both lines within a lozenge-shaped cartouche. Cartouche is on the left on many Beeman-marked guns.
c. Distributor names often seen, usually on right side. Beeman probably best known, in several variations, some of them several lines long. Burgo seen on one early gun.
d. Older guns often have the last four digits of the serial number on the bottom of the barrel block (indicating barrels were hand-fit to each action). Stopped sometime after 3501xx serial block.

The photo shows the three traditional stock styles for the HW 55, from top to bottom an HW 55 SM, HW 55 MM, and HW 55 T. The first two are of mid-1980's vintage, the Tyro a few years newer.


 
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