Mike Powell’s expectations are higher then ever as he fulfils a childhood dream by buying a Weihrauch HW60J in .22 Hornet, a calibre he has always coveted
When I bought my first .22 rimfire in the early 1950s, I didn’t know anyone who had anything bigger, and except for reading the odd magazine I knew precious little about the larger calibres. I had an uncle in Canada who sent me Hunting and Shooting in Canada, which opened a new world to me. I couldn’t wait to read tales of shooting bears and all sorts of other exotic species.
I suppose it was in those pages that I first heard about the Hornet. I am not sure whether it was the name, or that I saw it as a centrefire version of my little .22, but from those days I was fascinated by this calibre. Things improved a little when I befriended a local keeper who had a Hornet. He shot everything from rats to roe with it, and I was hugely impressed. Whenever I got to a gun shop I would look for a Hornet, but I never actually saw one – so I never got round to acquiring one, but my interest in this calibre never went away.
Nowadays my fox control activities continue to grow. More and more I am finding I have to adapt to shooting foxes near habitation. I have a range of rifles capable of killing foxes, but I really needed something to fit between the .17 HMR and the .223. My thoughts turned to the Hornet yet again, and I decided to take the plunge.
In February I reviewed a Weihrauch HW60J in .17 HMR. I really liked it and thought it was every bit the equal of my normal make of choice, the Anschütz. So after a bit of research I ordered one in .22 Hornet from the Sportsman Gun Centre in Exeter. As I wanted it factory-threaded for a moderator, I knew there would be a wait, and about eight weeks later I got the call to tell me the rifle had arrived.
The first impressions were more than favourable. Like the .17 HMR before it, the quality of the wood was the first thing to strike me. It was excellent, dark and well figured. The stock itself is typically Germanic with a low hog’s back design. The skip line chequering was well cut, and a brown rubber butt pad finished off the stock.
The 23in free-floated barrel with one-in-16 twist rate was well fitted – as was the bolt, which although smooth in action was free from the ‘slop’ found in some makes. The bolt handle is short with a slight curve and is positive in action. It is fitted with a single claw extractor, which works perfectly. The blued rear section of the bolt houses a centrally placed red cocking indicator. Operation was smooth from the start, and became even smoother with use.
The trigger, being a Rekord, has an excellent reputation as owners of Weihrauch air rifles will know, and this one was certainly no let down. A two-stage unit, it is adjustable by a screw through the trigger guard. There is a smooth first stage with a positive stop before the release of the second stage. This rifle came with a light let-off at 13oz. This worked so well, I left it where it was. The safety is placed on the right of the action and is a conventional forward-and-back lever with red and white indicators. Silent in operation and convenient in use, it finishes off an excellent trigger unit.
The all-metal magazine has capacity for four rounds plus one in the chamber. Feed was precise, but I found that the Hornet rounds are not the easiest to feed into the magazine. I suspect this is down to their shape. Practice will make perfect, I am sure.
The scope I put on the Hornet was a 6.5-20×42 Hawke Sidewinder IR TAC 30. This is one of Deben’s top models, with a 30mm tube, side parallax with two-inch side wheel, sunshade and a red and green illuminated half mil-dot reticle. The target-type turrets are fully locking and easily reset to zero marks. Adjustable ocular focus and the non-slip zoom ring are smooth in operation, and all markings are very clear and easily readable. At £289, this is very good value. For the sort of ranges the Hornet will be used at, this scope seemed ideal.
Zeroing the rifle was a doddle – within eight shots it was spot on at 100 yards. The ammunition I was using was Hornady 35-grain V-Max. I have found this to be very consistent ammo, and it didn’t disappoint. A half-inch group at 100 yards from a new rifle was more than good enough for my purposes.
The sound moderator I was using was an early Wildcat Growler. I am a big fan of Wildcat mods, especially for the smaller calibres. This one, proofed for WMR, did a first-class job of subduing the not overly noisy Hornet, and was light into the bargain.
With foxes keeping me busy I was keen to try the Hornet in the field. There has been a real pain of a fox causing mayhem that I have been called in to deal with, but at the moment it has a charmed life, so I thought I would see how the rifle performed on the local rabbit population. At around 65p per round I wasn’t about to go on a killing spree, but 10 shots later with nine rabbits in the bag I was more than happy. Damage to rabbit carcases can be substantial – one didn’t even require paunching. However, head shooting would solve the problem, and a change from my fox round to a home-loaded Sierra soft point would certainly help.
The Weihrauch is a very nice rifle indeed. I am more than happy with it, and I have to say it must present a serious challenge to Anschütz, that other German make I have used for so long.