I can honestly say that I don?t know whether I?m being too hard on the Beeman HW97K. It?s not a bad rifle by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I?d say it was quite good in most ways. But the places where it falls short are so glaring that I can?t help but focus on them every time I shoot mine. So keep in mind this review will be my impressions, based on my experience, with my rifle, so I encourage you to make of them what you will.
Though I?m not the kind of person that automatically assumes that things that weigh a lot are high quality, I can?t help but feel like there should be more heft to the HW97K. It?s less that it doesn?t weigh a lot, it certainly feels like a weapon with all that that entails, but rather that the weight is all over the place. I couldn?t find the part of the structure where everything was ?pointing,? where I could balance this on a dowel should I want to. Instead, the weight distribution is such that at times you?re feeling it dragging the barrel down, and at others it sits exactly where it needs to.
One thing I will say is that ergonomically this rifle fits very well, almost perfect. Perhaps it?s just my hands, but I felt like I had to stretch my finger to pull the trigger. However, that?s my only complaint in this department. Other than that I felt my hand could stabilize the stock well, and the raised cheek piece sits perfectly. I even liked the feel of the hand cut checkering on the stock and the recoil pad did an excellent job of taking the brunt of every shot.
The gold Rekord trigger really impressed me as well. I haven?t had a lot of experience with them, but the little that I have had has always been pleasant, and my friends who have them love how much you can tweak in order to get the pull just right. It?s a trigger for hot rodders, and it tells me a lot about Beeman?s commitment to letting their customers have total control over the shooting experience. Say what you will about getting things right out of the factory, but shooting is a highly individual sport and we all have our preferences. It?s better to give your customers options than to assume you know how they?re going to shoot.
Other than the weight, about the only thing that I didn?t much like at first sight was the bluing which didn?t live up to the quality I?ve seen on other Beeman products. It was off in a number of places, and just generally thin all around. If it were just aesthetic it wouldn?t bother me, but this is about protecting your weapon from corrosion, and at the price this rifle is I expect it to last me as long as possible. Laziness in this area is not something I will ignore.
Things got a lot better when I got it out to the range and put about 100 rounds through the 97. I mounted a UTG 3-9 x 40 AO True Hunter IE Scope on mine and it turned out to be a nice combination. It was a bit surprising how quickly this rifle broke itself in, and before long I was grouping so close you could have hidden it with a dime. I?m not used to rifles working themselves out so quickly, but this really took very little time to get into firing shape at 35 yards or so.
The accuracy managed to hold itself well for a good 500 rounds in the morning and another later on in the day shooting at targets. I also was able to take out a squirrel in the woods behind my house without any problems, so I can certainly vouch for its accuracy.
In the power department, I wouldn?t say that the 97 is bad, but again I expect more. In this case not from Beeman, but from a 35 pound cocking effort. It?s not ridiculous, but if you?re going to make me work that hard to get the spring in place, the spring should be able to push more than a fairly light 750 FPS. I don?t think this is so much the spring as the design itself, which is serviceable but could get a lot more power out of even a lighter spring with some changes.
Other than the awkwardness, the weight didn?t seem to bother me, even after getting a scope mounted on there. I could probably walk around with this all day and never have to worry about it becoming too heavy or just getting annoying.
This is easily one of the most accurate weapons I have shot. They really did a good job of calibrating every aspect of the rifle from stock to barrel so that it shoots where you point it. That it broke in so quickly still sticks with me and I have no doubt that it will be able to hold on to that accuracy even if you were to put it up for a few weeks or bang it around on a hunting trip.
The Beeman HW97K is a super quiet rifle. Once it as broken in I could hardly hear the shot or the spring snapping back into place. There is a light vibration, but it?s nothing that a little tuning can?t fix. In fact, I?m quite happy for the opportunity to tweak some of the specs on the 97 to meet my exact needs. A rifle that came perfect out of the box would be boring, this gives me a chance to make it mine.
I like the fully open breach. It leaves plenty of room for even someone with large hands to get in there and quickly place a pellet in the barrel with ease. The HW97K is an ambidextrous rifle and you will have no issues loading it from either side. The breach design is one area where I feel this rifle shines above some of its competitors such as the Air Arms MKIII.
One thing I wouldn?t change is the gold Rekord trigger. It?s incredibly easy to adjust to very tiny specifications so that it pulls exactly how you want it to. If you?re like me, you prefer a somewhat lighter pull, but for some people they want to feel the trigger when they shoot. There are a lot of reasons to have that customizability, and it?s good to see it here.
The firing on this rifle is really smooth. Not the smoothest I have ever had, but I can say without question that it doesn?t take a lot of fine tuning to get this to the point where it hardly jerks at all when you shoot.
For me it works best with Beeman Field Target Special 14.66 grain ammo, obviously, but fortunately you don?t have to break the bank in order to get stuff that works. The lower end domed pellets will do just fine and you don?t have to worry about the accuracy which will hold.
Perhaps the most glaring issue with this rifle is that it doesn?t quite go far enough in a number of areas.
The spring could be better calibrated so that every fifth or sixth shot didn?t feel a little flaccid. It hit the target, but if I were hunting it would probably give smaller game that fraction of a second that they would need to get out of the way. I?d like it better if the power were more consistent and I didn?t feel like I was fighting the underlever to cock a rifle that wasn?t putting in as much work as I was.
The checkering on the stock was very nice, but I think it could have been deeper to really emphasize the texture and provide a better grip. Similarly, some rifles can get away with a beech sock and still come off as high class and reliable, but the 97 just isn?t one of them. The design was good, but I felt like the stock would start to break any minute. It would be nicer to have an option for walnut so that I could be more confident in the product.
The bluing is such a disappointment. It?s not even that it was universally thin and cheaply done, it looked like it was applied in splotches. This is so far beneath a company like Beeman and I unfortunately have to keep looking at the problem and being reminded just to shoot.
Finally, the lack of open sights bothers me. I know that at this price you?re not likely to be selling to people without several scopes on hand that they can use, but also at this level you have to take into account the people who enjoy the challenge of firing with simple sights. It?s about knowing your audience.
The Bottom Line
Again, I don?t think that the Beeman HW97K is a bad rifle. It?s actually a very good rifle, not only in terms of being among the most accurate I have ever shot but also for how smooth and quiet it is. That being said, the problems are hard to ignore, so I spend my time enjoying the firing until I notice the poor bluing or a shot that doesn?t have much power behind it, then I am reminded all over again of the issues. I can ignore them, I can even take this on a fairly successful hunt I suspect, but eventually they start to get on my nerves and I have to switch out for something with fewer glaring minor flaws.
Be sure to check out my top air rifles for 2015 here!