Mike Powell finds out whether good things really do come in small packages when testing the Weihrauch HW66 in .22LR
Regular readers will know I am a big fan of Weihrauch rifles. I have the Weihrauch HW60J in .22 Hornet, which is turning out to be all I hoped it would be. I also tested a 60J in .17 HMR and was sorely tempted to trade in my faithful Anschütz 1717 for it, though eventually financial common sense got the better of me (for a change).
I was looking around the Sportsman Gun Centre recently when I spotted a dinky little rifle in the centrefire section. I use the description ‘dinky’ because the barrel on the HW66 is a miniscule 14in. Even with an SAK mod fitted it only stretches to 19.5in, and overall the rifle measures 38in.
‘Compact’ would probably be a more appropriate description, but it struck me as being ideal for use from a vehicle when out after rabbits. As is always the case with this make of rifle, the finish was excellent, with the walnut stock well up to the high standard of the others I have seen. There is a palm swell on the right-handed stock although I think ‘lefties’ would have no trouble handling it. The forend is a traditional shape and the design of the stock overall could be best described as just that, traditional, with no chequering. The woodwork has an attractive matt sheen and is finished with a black rubber butt pad. Length of pull is a fraction under 14.5in.
The action was stiff to start with but soon loosened up, while the bolt handle had a chequered finish and was placed far enough from the woodwork to ensure an easy grip. There is a red cocking indicator to the rear of the bolt, while the safety sits within easy reach of the thumb and is a fairly conventional forward-fire, rear-safe design. It has a ridged operating thumb grip, which along with the lever safety action gives a positive and easy-to-use unit.
Feed from the metal five-shot magazine was stiff but would undoubtedly ease up with use. The lips of the all-metal magazine on the rifle I tested were sharp, and I would probably take an oil stone to them if the rifle was mine.
The magazine is a drop-down type operated by a press-up catch. The whole magazine system worked very well for me. In use, the two claws of the extractor worked perfectly, giving faultless extraction/ejection every time.
The two-stage trigger with a ridged blade was, as you would expect from this maker, first class. The second stage broke at just under one pound. Probably a bit on the light side, but as the trigger is adjustable, that’s no problem.
The finish on the barrel was a deep black and of a high quality. It was screw cut for a sound moderator ½in UNF and this again was to a high standard.
Overall the rifle felt and looked solid and well built, and was the sort of rifle that would undoubtedly give a lifetime’s service. At £560.99 it wasn’t the cheapest .22 out there but it was certainly one of the best built. The SAK moderator worked, as we have come to expect, extremely efficiently and blended in well with the whole set up.
How did the rifle perform? As I said earlier it was all a bit stiff to start with, but by the time I had put 100 or so rounds through it, it was easing up nicely. I tried a variety of ammo through the Weihrauch and it handled them all well, not varying very much in performance between brands.
As usual, my preferred brand – Winchester subsonic hollow points – worked well, giving about ¾in groups at 100 yards. More than good enough for the sort of work this little rifle was designed for: rabbits at relatively close ranges. The short barrel made it handy to use from the pick up or 4×4. While this is no willowy wand of a rifle, it is an extremely functional tool that would serve both the recreational shooter and the gamekeeper extremely well.
Until now I haven’t mentioned the scope I used in the test. While I have my own, I wanted to try something a bit different. I had heard reports that MTC Optics had rather a nice scope: the Genesis. I have to confess I knew little to nothing about MTC Optics, but a bit of searching showed it to be the husband-and-wife team of well known competition shooters Gary and Sammie Cooper, who are located in Wiltshire. They started off searching the riflescope market to perfect scopes for their own competition use, and this gradually grew into the MTC business as it is today, dealing with a wide range of shooting-related optical products. Contacting the firm soon produced a scope: the 5-20×50 Genesis.
As I was in the process of doing the review on the Weihrauch, I took the opportunity of mounting the Genesis on the diminutive .22. Let’s be clear – this is no air rifle or rimfire only scope, it’s clearly a centrefire unit as well. Korean-made to the Coopers’ exacting requirements, it features edge-to-edge multi coated lenses, a 30mm tube, glass-etched illuminated reticle and side parallax. It comes complete with Butler Creek flip-up covers and sunshade. The RRP is £349.
Mounting it on the HW66 presented no problems, and for test purposes I zeroed it at 50 yards. Removing the target-type turret covers revealed clear increment markings, and the adjustment ‘clicks’ were well spaced and positive. The scope has an AMD (advanced mil dot) reticle with ½, 1 and 5 mil dot aiming points – ideal for both short- and long-range shooting. I have to confess I never really got my head round the mil dot system in its original format, but for me, the addition of half mil dots made the system far more user-friendly. I used the Hawke BRC download to set up my rifles. Used in conjunction with their own and other scopes, it gives the user multiple aiming points, which I find works really well.
The combination shot really well, and it happened that unusually I needed a rimfire for a fox control job that I had been asked to carry out. I have detailed this particular foray in a previous article – suffice to say it was a clear, moonlit night and the situation dictated only a rimfire could be used. I set up a bait point and waited out without either night vision or lamp. Charlie turned up on time, clearly visible through the scope. The illuminated centre cross was lined up on the chest, the Weihrauch released the round and the fox dropped. A quick second shot – always advisable when using a rimfire – finished the job.
Although a fox had been the main target for the Weihrauch on that occasion, it is clearly first and foremost a rabbiting tool. Short, light and accurate, it really comes into its own when used from a 4×4 or similar vehicle.
There has been an enormous surge in rabbit numbers in my area, and a desperate landowner nearby asked if I could sort out a few of the grey hordes that were invading the early corn crops. As I had to return the rifle the following day, we arranged a ‘drive-by’ that evening. I was familiar with the land and so we set off about an hour before dark. Although I knew there were a lot of rabbits, even I was surprised at the numbers.
An hour or so later we were back home and again the little HW66 had done the job. Some 30 rabbits were in the bag, and the rifle had performed faultlessly. The whole package had proved itself. For barely more than half a grand this would be an excellent addition to any shooter’s armoury.