Test Report: A Pair of Walther Spring-Piston Air Rifles

The firm of Carl Walther Waffenfbrik was founded at Zella Mehlis in 1886, but it wasn’t until the period between two World Wars that the company gained the prominence it reached in air and powder arms production. In addition to barrel-cocking air rifles of the highest quality, they also made the bolt-action pattern for military training. The quality of their arms set world standards which have seldom been surpassed.

Walther’s success story, really took off in the 1950s and 1960s with the development of the LG51, their first spring- piston rifle, which was soon followed by the LG54MG, a magazine model. They attained their pinnacle of success with the LG55M, a heavy Olympia design match rifle that was used by the Swiss team to win the 1966 World Championship.

Walther’s assault in the sporting air rifle field had already begun in 1964 when they brought out a rifle with enhanced precision – the Walther LGV which had an outstanding new feature – the repeat accuracy of its sturdy hinge. This essential precision factor in a break-barrel rifle was improved by using a new barrel with positive locking. This represented a significant improvement over the non-positive barrel locks used in barrel- cocking guns up to that time. While modernday technology goes ahead in leaps and bounds, it wasn’t until 50 years after developing the first LGV that Walther preented the new vastly improved, innovative LGV 2012.

The LGV 2012 not only features a precision hinge and barrel lockup system, which ensures that the barrel opens and closes with zero tolerance, but sets new standards with Walther’s Super Silent Technology and a Vibration Reduction System.

The reduction in recoil over similar magnum air rifles is noticeable. It’s probably the smoothest firing of any of the sporting types that I’ve tested to date. The simple braking action of the piston is due in part to having zero-play piston rings made of low-friction synthetic material. which ensures smooth, quiet movement in the cylinder. The metal body of the piston does not contact the cylinder wall as in conventional spring-piston guns.

While the piston is traditionally braked with an air cushion at the end of its travel, innovations include additional transfer holes for each energy level drilled at optimum locations which help dampen both vibrations and recoil. Walther claims that the rotary piston eliminates friction losses by absorbing the torsion forces of the spring. There are no friction losses because it has no contact with the cocking spring, unlike conventional spring-piston rifles wherein the piston rubs against the cocking rod spring when it moves forward.

The piston spring, made of specially tempered valve spring wire, has a long spring guide to keep vibration to a minimum and spring ends are ground to ensure straight movement. This lessened braking action places virtually no strain on the power- producing mechanism – it will probably stand up to a century or two of heavy firing!

The importance of reduced vibration to a scope-mounted airgun cannot be over-emphasized. For small game hunting, a scope is practically a must on an air rifle. In the case of airgun scopes, incredible advances have been made in recent years with a steadily increasing number of scope manufacturers now catering to the optical magnification needs of airgunners. While air rifles, even the magnums, generate but a fraction of the power delivered by even .22 rimfires, an often-forgotten fact is that spring- piston air rifles can be a lot harder on scopes than even big calibre centrefire rifles. This is due to the “double recoil” typical of this type of gun. As the gun is fired, the heavy piston used to create air compression surges forward, forcing the gun to move rearward. No problem so far; however the piston stops rather abruptly on a cushion of compressed air before it can crash against the front end of the cylinder. This cushion of air forces the piston to rebound somewhat. It is this sudden stop- and-rebound that makes the gun literally halt in mid-recoil and then snap forward. During this process terrific punishment is inflicted on the airgun scope. Regular centrefire riflescopes have been known to fall apart after only a couple of hundred rounds when mounted on a magnum air rifle.

Vibration to a greater or lesser degree, is also present in the spring-piston gun and can add its share of damage to the scope. The obvious advantage of Walther’s Vibration Reduction System is that it significantly minimizes the jarring effects of both recoil and vibration by doing away with the coaxial hooking or unhooking of the piston.

The Walther LGV design utilizes a spring-loaded wedge-shaped detent for lockup. It not only ensures a tight barrel fit but ensures that the barrel can only be broken by unlocking it manually. This is accomplished by lifting a catch located just in front of the stock’s split forearm.

The method of cocking the LGV is: hold the gun by the forearm just behind the rear sight, put your fingers over the barrel near the breech with your thumb hooked around the barrel release catch. Thumb pressure releases the latch and downward finger pressure breaks the barrel. Now, slide your hand out towards the front sight as far as you can and pull downwards. It takes about 30lbs of force to cock the massive spring and, I can vouch for the fact it’s a real muscle builder.

The forces generated by firing has no effect upon the barrels locked position. Something that enhances increased accuracy with repeat shots. One feature that surprised me was the LGV’s adjustable two-stage match-grade trigger. The weight of pull and first stage travel are adjustable. Adjustments for weight are made using a standard screwdriver. Access is through a small hole in the trigger guard and the alloy blade is well curved and smooth on its face.

The trigger safety is automatically activated when the barrel is broken open for cocking and a sliding button on the rear of the receiver must be manually disengaged in order to shoot. Conveniently located to the thumb, the safety button is large enough to permit easy manipulation.

Both the Challenger and Master use the same metalwork, but the former has black synthetic HI-Grip stock while the Master has a beechwood stock. The stocks are identically shaped with Monte- Carlo combs sans cheekpiece, and broad hand-filling forearms. The Challenger stock has a molded-in pattern on grip and forearm while the Master carries checkering only on the grip. Both stocks are fitted with a black ventilated recoil pad and are ambidextrous, a definite plus for southpaws considering either model.

A minor difference has to do with the front sights; the Master has a an alloy front sight tunnel which accepts interchangeable inserts. It comes with one straight post insert installed and but additional inserts are included. The Challenger has a TRUGLO fibreoptic foresight with blaze orange bead protected by a vented hood. Both rifles are equipped with the same U-notch rearsight, fully adjustable for elevation and windage via a micrometer click knobs.

The Walther is every bit an adult-proportioned air rifle. In fact, with an overall length of 1095mm and a pull length of 368mm, its size actually exceeds most other models in its class. On the other hand, this is by no means an obese sporter. Outward dimensions aside, the guns weigh in at about 3.8kgs with their factory open sights. Even when a good scope and mount are added, the rifles are still an easily managed package in the field.

Made mostly of steel, the receiver (including barrel and compression cylinder) boasts a practical dull blue finish. The LGV Challenger was equipped with a barrel weight grooved for the foresight, and the muzzle has a 1/2-inch 20 U F thread on the muzzle for a 3-chamber silencer which reduces muzzle noise, but does not lessen sounds which emanate from the rifle itself. Walther’s Super Silent Technology, however, makes the LGV extremely quiet; zero-tolerance fit in places like the barrel lock and cocking rod reduces the mechanical noise level, as does the guided piston with improved polyurethane seal and air cushion.

The Walther comes into its own when equipped with a good scope and taken afield. The top of the cylinder is grooved for a dovetailed scope mount and using Air King mounts I attached a Leapers 3-9×40 airgun scope to the Challenger. The lenses used in these scopes have special bracings that can withstand the peculiar recoil of even the most powerful spring-piston rifles. For a number of years I’ve been using Leapers scopes which are relatively sturdy and compact. This one has a focusing eyepiece and objective and illuminated red-green reticle. The only other airgun scope I had on hand was an old Tasco 1.75-5×20 which hadn’t been used for years, but was still serviceable. It went on the Master and worked like charm.

Airgun scopes come in all shapes and sizes. The common wisdom is that a hunter only needs 4x to shoot small game, but with a scope more powerful than 4x you can choose where you want to place your pellet more precisely to make a clean, one-shot kill. Airguns are so accurate that I recommend a 3-9x as minimum and a 4-12x wouldn’t be out of place.

A direct result of the spring-piston’s double-recoil and vibration is scope creep which can force scope and mounts to slide rearward a bit with each shot, making it almost impossible to maintain zero. Fortunately, Air King mounts are available with scope-stop screws and clamp solidly in place on the dovetail grooves using three large hex-screws on the side. Walther rifles also have holes in the top of the cylinder into a which a stud in the mount base is inserted to anchor the base and stop any rearward movement from repeated shooting.

The Challenger was 4.5mm (.177) calibre and the Master 5.5mm (.22) calibre. The Walther brochure lists the .177 has having a muzzle velocity of 296 m/s and 23 joules This translates into 971 fps with an unspecified weight of pellet, but energy will vary with pellet weight. The .22 calibre has 190m/s or in plain Aussie 623 fps. This qualifies the Walthers in the Magnum AirGun class which refers to rifles whose muzzle velocity exceeds 820 fps in .177- calibre and about 630fps in .22-calibre.

The use of air-powered arms in .177 and .22 for hunting should be limited to small pest birds of the sparrow or starling variety, and rats with rabbits at the top end. Generating such low energy figures, the light pellets despend on precise placement in a vital area and deep penetration to effect a clean kill. A penetration of 16 to 20mm in soft pineboard is, I have found, about the best that can be expected at a testing range of around 12 metres, and falls off rapidly as range increases. I’ve read claims of killing rabbits at 50 or even 60 metres with air rifles, but by my rule of thumb, the maximum range for these arms to be used against rabbits is more in the order of 25-30 metres, and then only with head shots.

Considering these are magnum class sporters, their firing behaviour is relatively mild. The test guns exhibited less than the normal amount of spring-piston gun recoil and discharge noise. Also, although the cocking effort was heavy, it was surprisingly smooth right from the start.

Being short of the traditional 250-500 breaking-in shots, the Challenger .177 still was able to push along very light 6gn pellets in excess of 900 fps, however, in more practical ballistical terms, the test gun was most efficient (and accurate) with the heavier 7.9-grainers. A zinc alloy .177 pellet with a polymer tip Red Fire averaged 860fps and can be depended upon to outpenetrate any leaden projectile.

While not a super tackdriver by matchgun standards, the Challenger can nevertheless hold its own on the target range. At the field distance of 25 metres, the gun routinely grouped five shots into an average 20mm.

The Walther Master .22 calibre (my top choice for hunting small game) was tested with round and dome head styles such as the Beeman Silver Sting, Silver Bear and Kodiak, EXP and Poly Mag. Although topped with the less powerful Tasco 1.75-5x scope, the gun regularly grouped 5-shot groups of 20 to 28mm centre-to- centre at 25 metres. But the pointed zinc alloy Poly-Mag with polymer tip was outstanding, on a rodent target at 25m with a 5- shot group of 18m. I finished by planting three shots in the rodent’s head. Accuracy results are shown in the table.

Summing up: the two guns are basically the same as far as power plant and method of operation are concerned. Both are traditional break-barrel models, capable of producing magnum velocities and excellent field accuracy with a variety of pointed and round-head pellets. Walther defintely has two great sporting air rifles here. They have a definite edge over most of the competition both on targets and in the field.


This article was first published in Sporting Shooter Magazine May 2013.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.