The airgun market has no shortage of budget, sub-£100 pistols, most of which offer perfectly acceptable performance. But does any extra spend get you a proportionate increase in quality? In other words, will a £200 pistol be twice as good? Well, rather than splash out that kind of cash, I erred on the side of caution and got hold of the HW40 PCA from German gunmaker, Weihrauch – a pistol distributed to gun shops by Hull Cartridge for the still-affordable amount of £133.
This model’s cousins, the HW45 and HW75, are regular best-sellers in the pistol charts, its PCA moniker being an acronym translating roughly from the German as ‘pistol compressed air’. It exudes a modern, military feel – with a frame and barrel housing made from high-impact polymer.
It also features an imitation slide catch, cartridge ejection port and magazine release button – and although these are all dummy mouldings designed to complete a tricked-out firearm appearance, the muzzle porting does serve a minor purpose. Steel hardware features in the compression cylinder and associated parts, giving the HW40 a pleasing balance without being unwieldy – it weighs only 780 grams.
In terms of sighting, a dovetail rail is included for the fitting of a scope or red-dot sight – but as it’s moulded from plastic, care must be taken not to over-tighten the mounts. Most casual plinkers won’t want to bother with scopes, though – and will instead turn to the integral Tru-Glo fibre-optic open sights. These green and red elements collect ambient light, resulting in a crisp sight picture that appears to ‘glow’, and supposedly help your eye to acquire the target better. Using a screwdriver, the rearsight is fully adjustable for elevation and windage, though the indexing is a little vague.
Picking it up, the HW40 fits snugly into your hand, with anatomical grips that are textured around the backstrap, and more subtly around the sides and front. If you have paws like shovels you may find it a little small, but my nine-year-old could shoot it comfortably single-handed. Two-handed operation also works well, as the front of the trigger guard has a textured finger grip for the second hand. For once, left-handed shooters are actually at an advantage here – they can use their trigger finger to operate the safety catch.
The trigger itself is two-stage, with a well-adjusted first stage leading to a second that I felt had a tiny amount of creep – but its let-off is light enough for target shooters and back-yard plinkers. Adjustment can also be made via a hex key.
To cock and load the PCA, you pull back the dummy hammer which releases the barrel lock. The barrel assembly can then be swung over the top of the frame, whereupon you pop a pellet into the now-exposed breech – a job that’s a little fiddly until you get the knack. The return stroke then cocks the trigger and charges the dump valve with sufficient air for one shot.
It’s straightforward, and though it may be a little too much effort for youngsters, I happen to know that the HW40 has gained quite a following with members of the Pony Club – a youth equestrian organisation that also incorporates air pistol shooting at targets between 7 and 10 metres.
A bonus feature of this pistol is that if you don’t pull the barrel beyond 50 degrees, you can set the trigger mechanism for ‘dry firing’. This is a safe method for practising indoors, and the Pony Club teenager in these photos also found it most useful for mastering the basic rudiments of his pistol shooting skills.
When it comes to actually shooting some lead, though, you have to train yourself to remember to disengage the sliding safety for each shot – it comes on automatically when the pistol’s cocked and will catch you out plenty of times… just as you’ve got the ‘perfect’ sight picture!
Accuracy-wise, the HW40 excels as, being a single-stroke pneumatic, it’s effectively recoilless. It’s very forgiving, with minimal muzzle flip – and crack – on firing. Just as well, really – there’s no provision to screw on a silencer or weight.
Over the chrono, my HW40 PCA returned a top muzzle energy of around 2.5ft/lb – more than adequate for plinking and target work. However, the shot-to-shot consistency over 10-shot strings was superb, with a maximum variation of 9fps – and on six-yard paper targets, the pistol gives a very good account of itself. With a rest, I printed clusters that could easily be covered by a 1p piece – and the best five-shot group I recorded with .177 RWS Hobbies measured just 3.5mm c-to-c!
As well as being accurate, Weihrauch’s HW40 PCA is also extremely well-engineered and will give a good account of itself for years, whether you’re using it for plinking or entry-level competition work. It’s a delight to shoot straight from the box, and I don’t think there will be many pistols that can out-shoot the HW40 for less money. Most of the sub-£100 pistols in gun shops give a so-so return – but in this Weihrauch’s case, it would appear that another 30 quid or so buys you a significant gain in performance.
– Phil Bulmer
Model: HW40 PCA
Maker: Weihrauch, Germany
Distributor: Hull Cartridge Co.
Type : Single-shot, single-stroke pneumatic
Overall length: 235mm
Barrel length: 170mm (rifled)
Calibre: .177 (tested), .20 and .22
Sights: Fully-adjustable Tru-Glo, with scope rail
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable. Dry-fire facility
Safety: Automatic, resettable
Velocity: 357fps (with RWS Hobby)