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Beeman R8 a classic: a Beeman from the past.

One of the smartest things Robert Beeman ever did was to create his own line of air rifles. I'm speaking now about the R-series air rifles that begin with the R1 and go on through the R11. Beeman wanted a brand of guns whose specifications he controlled and he found the Weihrauch company had both the basic level of quality he was after, plus the willingness to cooperate with him in his venture.

Weihrauch had an amazing catalog of proven performers that included the world-class Rekord trigger. Among these finer air rifles was the HW50, a medium-powered breakbarrel they made in both. 177 and .22 cals.

Though it was considered powerful at the time, it would soon be relegated to the midrange of power as giants like the side-lever RWS 48 and 52 and Beeman's own R1 would soon dominate the world stage. The HW50, pushing a light .177 cal. pellet out the spout at just over 700 fps, was no match for those monsters. But it was a winner in its own right.

R8

The HW50S was lightweight, reasonably short, easy to cock and had the famous Weihrauch Rekord trigger. In retrospect, it seems to have been an easy decision for Beeman to ask Weihrauch to repackage such a rifle in the Beeman wrapper as the Beeman R8-a no-brainer, as it were. But that's taking the decision out of the world in which it existed.

The R1 was launched at almost the same time as the R8, which debuted in late 1982. The powerful R1 was the flagship of the Beeman fleet. It dominated the then most popular Feinwerk-bau 124 by almost 150 fps velocity in .177 cal., and within the next 18 months would exceed even that by an additional 150 fps. In short, it was the long pole in the Beeman tent.

The R8, by contrast was smaller, lighter and less powerful. But it was not significantly less money. Oh, it was $80 cheaper at a time when $80 was a lot of money ($249.50 to $329.50 in the spring of 1983), but there was also a new R7 (derived from the HW 30S) that shot almost as fast and was priced at $90 below the R8.

The R8 came to market squeezed between a powerhouse on one side and a budget-priced rifle on the other. Sitting in the center, it didn't seem to offer anything special. There was even a .20 cal. Beeman R5 at that same time that would be stillborn, though that wasn't known then. In all of that noise, the R8 that seemed like a middle-of-the-road compromise airgun was really the best of them all.

The Rifle

The R8 is an adult air rifle that's on the small side in every way. Overall length is just 43 inches. The weight is around 7.2 lbs., give or take, for the variable weight of the wood stock and the pull is 14 inches, even. Yet the lines of the rifle are very similar to those of the larger Rl.

If you ever handled one after shooting one of today's mega-magnums that cock like the bending of Hercules' bow, you would take to it instantly. And the smooth shot cycle would be refreshing after shooting most magnum spring rifles that slap you in the jaw.

The stock is beech wood that's stained dark reddish brown. The pistol grip is checkered on both sides, but the forearm is plain. A cheek rest is raised on the left side of the stock and the comb is raised. As far as I know, the rifle was only produced with right-hand stocks, but it is shaped to be easy for a leftie to adapt.

My R8

I'll be honest--the Beeman R8 was never an airgun I wanted. Perhaps it was the low power or perhaps it just wasn't exciting enough for me. Whatever the reason, I didn't want one. But when the chance to buy one at a ridiculously low price arose at the Findlay, Ohio airgun show this year, I bought it.

That was when my education began. I could have resold that gun five times during the rest of that one-day show, and I didn't even have it out on my table. People heard about it and came to me with offers--some of them open-ended, as in how much did I want? That made me think I'd better take a closer look at this one.

Rekord Trigger

The rifle cocks with 25 pounds of effort, which makes it super easy to cock and load. The trigger is a Rekord--Weihrauch's legendary sporting airgun trigger that's highly adjustable and glass-rod crisp. The Rekord is a multi-lever trigger system that operates like a more sophisticated German trigger, rather than like traditional airgun sporting triggers that have direct-contact sears. It's so nice that a special version of it was used in Weihrauch target rifles for many years.

That one could be safely adjusted to a release of just a few ounces. Even the sporting Rekord can go down to a pound with safety, as long as the right things are done. And lubrication isn't that essential.

Rather than rely on friction, the Rekord uses multiple levers to hold back tremendous mainspring force. The levers multiply mechanical advantage of the trigger blade with the result that when the Rekord releases it is crisp and repeatable.

Sights

Those were the days! In the 1970s and '80s Weihrauch put globe sights on the front of most of their sporting rifles. They came with a package of interchangeable inserts for target, hunting or general plinking use.

The rear sight was adjustable in both directions with crisp detents the user could feel. Both adjustments had visible scales that could be referenced for coming back to a certain setting.

Oddly, though, the rear sight was just a U-shaped notch appropriate to sporting and general purpose use. Other makers like Diana put four different rear notches on their rear sights, so the rear could be matched to the insert used up front.

Of course if the owner really wanted to shoot targets he could always purchase the optional Weihrauch rear peep sight that came on all their target models.

Firing Cycle

The firing of an R8 has to be experienced to be believed. The rifle just pulses in your hands without a hint of buzz from the mainspring. One factor that helps is the stock that has only a short cocking slot. The R8 cocking link is in two parts, to allow the stock slot to be short. That keeps the vibration at a minimum, because the stock does not act like a tuning fork when the rifle fires.

But the powerplant plays a big part in the rifle's smooth operation. The R8 has a powerplant that's highly maintainable, with easy access for the owner who works carefully. The end cap that restrains the mainspring unscrews from the spring tube, allowing fast and easy inspections and parts replacement. And the tolerances inside the powerplant are held to a minimum for greater efficiency and less vibration. As a result, this is one spring rifle that is tuned more often than not.

My rifle had a lube tune on it when I got it. That means the insides of the powerplant were full of viscous grease. That's is the easiest way to tame the powerplant of a spring rifle, and the R8 doesn't need much taming.

When I tested its velocity, JSB Exact RS pellets weighing 7.33 grains averaged 645 fps. The Beeman catalog says to expect a velocity of 735 fps, so this one is shooting slow. That may be due to all the tacky grease, so I will have to play with it to see what I can get.

The firing cycle is so smooth that I hate to do anything but shoot the rifle as is. I have had $400 tuneups that vibrated more than this rifle!

Accuracy

I tested the R8 at 10 meters off a rest, using the open sights. The JSB Exact RS pellet that was tested for velocity was also used in this test. Ten of them went into a group measuring .37" at 10 meters. That's exceptionally good for open sights. I expect a 25% reduction from a scope.

Money In the Bank

Owning a Beeman R8 is like money in the bank. It will always sell for a premium, because the cachet that's grown up around it is so strong. It's not unlike a Sheridan Supergrade or an FWB 124 in that respect. And with the R8 you have an investment you can shoot all the while it earns you money.

Summary

I bought this rifle because the price was right. I had no plan of doing anything but turning it around, but now that I've shot it and see what it can do, I may wind up adding it to my collection. Sometimes it's the obscure ones that take the prize!

Caption: Gaylord says the Beeman R8 is a classic that was overlooked when it was available, because of other, sexier offerings at the time. Now they are appreciated and sought after.

Caption: The cocking slot is short because the cocking link is articulated. The more rigid stock vibrates less, contributing the excellent accuracy and improved shooter comfort.

Caption: The Rekord trigger is the epitome of a fine sporting airgun trigger. It's modular and highly adjustable. The pin and spring activate the automatic safety when the rifle is cocked.

Caption: The end cap screws into the spring tube to hold the mainspring in place. The long slot is for the trigger unit. Gaylord's rifle had very heavy lubrication for smooth operation.

Caption: Ten JSB Exact RS pellets made this .37" group at 10 meters. With a scope, Gaylord would expect to see this shrink a little, but it's still excellent for a breakbarrel.
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Author:Gaylord, Tom
Publication:Firearms News
Date:Jul 1, 2017
Words:1646
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