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H.W.Z. MARTINI-ACTIONED RIFLE - Germany

Hermann Weihrauch in Zella-Mehlis

This rifle falls outside our normal remit, but is an important and unusual member of the small-bore Martini family, and worthy of representation.


The H.W.Z. Model 21 .22RF Martini Target and Sporting rifles

Zella-Mehlis was, prior to the Second World War, the German town South of Erfurt in which Hermann Weihrauch commenced arms manufacture circa 1922. He produced air weapons as well as firearms, and indeed Weihrauch "HW" models remain today at the forefront of air-arm technology. The town was then a base for a number of arms manufacturers, including Friedrich Pickert and the well-known arms manufacturer Schilling, which company still operates in Zella-Mehlis; but, post-war, H.W.Z. transferred to Mellrichstadt, in Bavaria, where, amongst other arms, they manufactured the Weihrauch "Arminius" revolvers (taken on from Pickert after W.W.II) such as the HW-38, and altered their initialling to H.W.M.

Between the wars (1922-39), Weihrauch also manufactured B.S.A. style Martini-actioned .22" rimfire rifles, one of which is shown below. It is commonly described as their Model 21.

Similar in design to the famous B.S.A. Model 12, it differs in particular in the action, which incorporates an horizontally dovetailed spur at the rear. This spur, which clearly defines the rifle in side-elevation, provides the mounting for a specific aperture rear-sight - seen in the images below. It is certainly a possibility that actions were bought-in from the Birmingham Small Arms Company and re-profiled, with small adjustments to body chamfers here and there, but this cannot easily be confirmed; perhaps you have evidence one way or the other? B.S.A. small-frame Martini actions were certainly used by other manufacturers of miniature calibre rifles, including W.W. Greener, C.G. Bonehill and the Australian gunmakers Sportco.

The rear-sight appears to be especially made for the rifle, with elevation and windage adjustment requiring the use of a squared key.

The fore-sight tends to sporting rather than target use

The left-hand side of the action body is marked

"H.W.Z. MCD.21"

The action locking screw is not in place.

Compare the action with that of the B.S.A. rifle models 4 to 12

The barrel is marked "CAL 6/22 Long Rifle" referring to the association between 6mm and .22 inch bores.

The under-barrel markings show German proof, no doubt familiar to collectors of such firearms, and a calibre mark of "5,4 m/m"

 

The serial number of the rifle illustrated is in the region of 12500, suggesting that a good quantity were produced, but production estimates made from unknown serialling sequences are notoriously inaccurate.

The company logo is stamped at the front of the action, a large "Z" with the H and W incorporated within its angles.

The cartridge feed groove in the top of the falling-block is marginally narrower than those usually seen on the B.S.A. Martinis.

The action width overall is a fraction over 1 inch (1.075"), compared with the nominal1¼ inch (1.20") wide actions of the BSA Models 12 and higher, and the again nominal 1" of the lower BSA model numbers.

The three images of the rifle above and left have been kindly contributed by E.S. (full name if desired)

H.W.Z. also produced superb special versions of their Model 21, one of which was detailed on a Mauser rifle forum recently. This rifle was most suitably described by the correspond initiating the topic, who wrote enthusiastically...

"This is one e of the most beautiful rifles I have ever seen. Single shot 22 LR, drop block type action, 27½" fluted octagonal barrel, completely engraved, with a solid rib that runs about 8"-9" forward of the chamber. Claw mount scope bases installed on the rib/rail, along with open sights forward of the forward claw base. It is beautifully and meticulously engraved, and includes the following.

Side of receiver is engraved HWZ Model 21["H.W.Z. MOD.21" - Ed]

On the under side of the receiver is a vertical oval with a large Z and an H below the top horizontal line of the Z and the diagonal slash. W is engraved in lower right hand segment of the Z. On the rib there is engraving but open sights and the forward base cover most of the engraving there, but could easily make out xxxxburg, Berlin. On the underside of the receiver, forward of the trigger guard is a design that loops into the Greek letter for Omega, I think. To one side it appears as if someone "scratched" in Roman numeral 9... "IX". The engraving is all hand cut, and some of the finest, if not THE finest I have ever seen. The rifle was a WWII bring-back by a colleague's father who also returned with another similar rifle chambered in 22 Hornet."

The spur extension forming the rear-sight mount is clearly shown on the image to the left. It is designed to permit quick removal of the sight to afford access to the cleaning-rod aperture.

This rifle is additionally fitted with claw mounts for a telescopic sight in addition to the open rear sight shown below. The latter sight is likely to be of the same H.W.Z. manufacture as the aperture sight on the previous rifle, since the windage adjustment is by means of an identical square-headed screw. The partly obscured name with a Berlin address engraved into the cut barrel-rib is probably that of the retailer.

We must acknowledge source of the four images of this latter rifle, which were uploaded to the forum by the correspondent.

It is ap that the quality of the rifle is extremely high. The images clearly show the rear-sight mount spur at the rear of the action. On this latter rifle, the spur certainly looks to be integral with the action body, and the "standard" model rifle shows little evidence that the spur is an addition. However, it may be that the careful fitting and finishing of the mount to the 'special' model has disguised joints. The cost of manufacturing an action body especially for a comparatively low-volume production rifle would probably have been barely economic. If any reader has knowledge of this subject we would be grateful to hear details, even of the cost of the rifle when new. We are also wondering why, if the detail in the two respective action side photographs does not deceive, the 'standard' rifle should be marked "H.W.Z. MCD.21" and the luxury sporting rifle is marked "H.W.Z. MOD.21". Perhaps a German reader could advise whether there is a reason for this variance in the centre characters 'C'and 'O' between the two marks.

The image contributing owner of the "standard-style" rifle has asked that anyone with knowledge of where a sight key, or an action locking-screw, might be obtained to restore the piece to its original whole, should please CONTACT him.

A later product of the Weihrauch company was the Fifties model of another configuration of falling-block action; the HW 52 Target Rifle

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