The ideal comparison.
I was giving the old question of ' which calibre is the best for hunting' some more thought. I knew an old friend of mine had a HW77 (.22) for sale and he'd already told me that it was in good condition.
My own HW77 is .177 and fitted with a thumbhole stock. Over the years it has proved itself to be the perfect spring powered rifle. Now I wondered, what if I purchased my friends HW77, stripped it, brought it up to competition standard and fitted it to the thumbhole stock, along with the same scope ( 3-9 x 40 ), that would allow me to make a direct comparison of both calibres and no excuses ! *
Clutching my hard earned cash, a deal was made.
I made an initial assessment of the rifle and it had about as much wear that I expected. I did some test firing and again the performance was as I would expect from an un-tuned rifle of this age (about 9 yrs).
Stripping the rifle's mechanism I found that the main cylinder was swamped with a strange oil, there was very little grease where it should have been and the mainspring was still the original Weihrauch unit. There was some wear on the upper trigger sear so I replaced it. The piston/seal and cylinder were in perfect condition. The safety catch was not working, but that problem was cured during the de-grease that I gave the rifle.
I re-assembled the rifle using molybdenum based greases and dry-slide lubricants. I had an old but little used Ox maximiser mainspring 'in stock' so I fitted that.
The rifle fired with lovely low recoil. Feeling pleased with myself I took the rifle to my local gunsmiths to have it fired over their chronograph - the result - 8 ft lbs ! ! !
I immediately bought a new Ox mainspring.
I fitted the Ox mainspring and subsequent testing over the chrono' showed that it was now clocking 11.98 ft lbs (nice). It also had a sweet shooting action and low recoil.
So to the test range......
The scope zero needed to be corrected as it was set up for the .177 rifle. I chose to use RWS Superdome .22 pellets as I've found that they're ideally suited to Weihrauch barrels.
The initial test groups were extremely promising, I couldn't fault it, I put down any fliers and inaccuracies down to myself not having used the thumbhole stock/rifle for some time.
Now to the hunting......
I have a pigeon roost on one of my shooting sites so I set myself up to intercept the birds as they returned at dusk.
The zero for these shots on the high branches had already established in a tree over on the other side of the shoot, so I was ready for the cull.
I took six pigeons in this session and found no fault with the accuracy of the rifle combo, my only doubts were again with the amount of holdover required and the slightly longer time between firing and pellet impact with the longer shots (shots with .177 out to 35 yds always seem instantaneous). The only other question I had was with the amount of penetration the .22 pellet has at ranges beyond 35yds as a couple of birds were not killed stone dead.
I have since used the rifle on numerous squirrel hunts and found the .22 calibre easily despatched all squirrels. The range for these shots was usually within 25 yds and the squirrel being a tough little critter, absorbed all of the pellet's energy.
So which is the better calibre ?
I now believe that both calibres are almost as accurate as each other, I noticed no peculiarities with the .22 pellet's flight. So that brings me back to the holdover and penetration. Not all .177 shots are successful, so the .22 can't be said to be worse than the .177 and the performance on the squirrel hunt showed that against the right quarry and at the right range, there is no reason not to take the .22 when going hunting.
At this time I've had no opportunity to test the rifle against rabbits or rats but I'm sure that the 'on the limit' power would dispatch them with ease.
My final conclusion must be that it is a case of ' horses for courses' .
If I were hunting magpies, crows and pigeon and I need pinpoint accuracy and long range I would go for .177. If I were after shorter range (full impact) targets as rabbits, squirrels and rats I wouldn't hesitate taking the .22. But having said that, I have had many excellent rabbiting sessions with my .177 rifles.
It's your choice.
What do you reckon - 35 yards ?
* ( UK power limit of 12 ft lbs = 600 fps - .22 and 800 fps -.177 (approximately) )