With the engineering you would expect, and the attention to detail that leaves nothing to chance, the Weihrauch CW66 .22LR is a perfect vermin gun, says Bruce Potts.
Weihrauch is famed for its well-engineered range of air rifles, of which I am a bit of a collector. My first air rifle was an HW35, too.
Weihrauch has made a range of rimfires as well as full-bore rifles for decades and its rimfire rifles offer the same blend of old-world engineering and craftmanship combined with modern-day techniques to offer a superbly built and accurate rimfire rifle for vermin.
The Weihrauch HW66 .22LR exudes quality
I have tested the HW60J about 10 years ago, but this time it is the turn of the Weihrauch HW66 .22LR thumbhole. It exudes quality and you just want to pick it up, handle it, and get out in the woods after rabbits. The all-blued steel action and barrel give a traditional feel that is complemented by a walnut stock with pretty radical thumbhole design for practicality rather than looks. Add to this a match-quality trigger and detachable magazine system and you have a lovely little vermin gun.
This is a very well-engineered action design of tubular steel and is large enough to accommodate a .222 centrefire cartridge. It is strong and over-engineered, as with all Weihrauchs — built to last springs to mind — but still nicely styled.
The whole action has a lovely deep bluing to it and is 7.25in long, accommodating the 6.75in bolt. This is part-blued and polished steel and has a twin extractor claw that grabs the spent case which is then ejected by a protruding spur from the action floor.
The magazine well has a blank at its rear to accommodate the smaller .22LR rimfire rounds and the bolt does not operate fully rearward for the same reason. Its operation has a low angle opening and is very smooth, assisted by the semi-flattened oval bolt handle with ample chequering for grip.
There is also a red cocking indicator — to denote the action is cocked — that protrudes from the bolt shroud and the action has a twin dovetail 11mm rail. Weaver-type bases can be fitted, as I have, and are handy for putting night-vision kit on and off.
Trigger, safety and magazine
The trigger is Weihrauch’s forte as the Rekord on its air rifles is the best in the industry. This model too is superb — match-quality with a fully adjustable capability.
Set at the factory, there is a two-stage trigger with a smooth first pull then a 1.65lb final stage, which is perfect. The safety is a simple lever type behind the bolt handle: off when forward and on when rearward.
The magazine is all steel, of course, and comes with a five-shot and eight-shot option. The release catch is easy to use because it sits behind the magazine. A quick tilt rearward and the magazine pops out to refill or exchange.
This is the asset that stands out with this model. Weihrauch’s thumbholes, as on its airguns, put the “hole” into thumbhole — they are large. I like this as it gives a good hold, though it may not be that aesthetically pleasing.
The stock has no cheekpiece so is ambidextrous, with a very long fore-end and large pistol grip. Both have really nice fish-scale laser-cut chequering that both looks good and gives a really good hold.
The overall finish is matt oiled, which is practical and a good grade of walnut is used. My only quibble is no sling swivel studs to fit a sling — but this is an optional extra.
The HW66 has a match-grade 1-in- 16in rifling twist-rate barrel made from chromoly steel. It has a heavy profile for its whole length of 16in, which is ideal on a .22LR because a sound moderator can be fitted to the threaded muzzle without increasing the overall length too much.
To the bench
A rifle of this stature — in size as well as quality — deserves a good scope that complements the look and does not spoil the balance.
I chose a Leupold 3-9x33mm EFR scope as it is light, compact, has great optics and a parallax focus down to 10m; perfect for rimfire use.
I also fitted a Schultz & Larsen rimfire sound moderator as, in addition to the good noise reduction, it is light and looks good on the rifle.
Most people will buy this rifle as a rabbit gun and so will only shoot .22LR rimfire subsonic loads but I also shot some high-velocity and reduced loads to see how versatile the HW66 was.
First over the chronograph were the subsonics. The Eleys shot an average of 1,044fps for five shots over the chronograph, which is pretty standard for this length barrel.
At 30 yards I had five shots in 0.45in. Stretching to 50 yards I had 0.55in groups — so not that much bigger — and at 75 yards I was well under an inch at 0.75in. This is very good.
Next I tried the Winchester 40-gr subsonics, followed by the new 42-gr Max loads. Winchesters always have very truncated and hollow points to the lead bullets that expand very well, exerting their retained energy into the game you are shooting.
Accuracy is excellent and the 40-gr bullet shot 1,067fps, five shots into 0.40in at 30 yards and 0.50in at 50 yards. The 42-gr Max shot even better, slightly higher velocities but still subsonic at 1,078fps, 0.35in groups at 30 yards, 0.45in at 50 yards and 0.65in at 75 — that is impressive.
The RWS subsonics too shot less than 0.50in at 50 yards. They are always slower in velocity at 992fps so very quiet through the Schultz & Larsen sound moderator.
I often use reduced-load rimfire ammunition for feral pigeons in barns and the CCI CB Long is good to a maximum of 20 yards. Here a velocity of 751fps for 36ft/lb energy yields 0.55in groups at that range. Another favourite, the RWS Z Lang, achieved 855fps and 47ft/lb from its 29-gr bullet.
It is always worth keeping a spare magazine with high-velocity ammunition in, just in case a fox walks by, so I shot some through the HW66.
The best groups came from the RWS High Velocity with a velocity of 1,248fps for 107ft/lb energy, and accuracy at 50 yards was 0.65in and less than an inch at 100 yards. The Federal 31-gr high-velocity loads shot 0.75in groups for 1,389fps and 133ft/lb energy.
Spinners are great for practice at differing ranges to judge bullet drop because they are instantly reactive, and audible as well as visual, compared with paper targets. In the field you rarely have a steady rest as off the bench, so practice on spinners with a suitable backdrop from real shooting positions is excellent.