Haenel Sport Modell LP55R/ 250
Haenel Sport Modell LP55R/ 250
With thanks to Eberhard for this pic and John G for facilitating.
John G states: "The two versions are almost identical and the originator of the pictures has indicated that the illustrated pistol is the Haenel Mod 250 version".
In Airgun Collector issue 3 John Griffiths wrote: "ETW also undertook development of a repeating air pistol, the ETW [Ernst-Thälmann-Werk] or Haenel Sport Model 55R, which was the brainchild of E. Lehe, head of research at ETW. Although this interesting pistol seems never to have gone into serious production, a very small number of examples are known, showing that there existed at least three variations. The example shown has a tube magazine feed which clamped under the barrel housing, capable of holding 6, 8 or 12 round shot (4.4 mm). A modified version used a rotating drum magazine holding 25 shot. The neat looking pistol (overall length only 26.5 cm) has many original features, and is cocked by a top lever pivoted at the rear of the cylinder. This arrangement apparently makes cocking with the left hand a simple operation and suits rapid repeater shooting. Power is not very high, as might be expected for such a short design, and a muzzle velocity of around 200 fps has been reported. This is about the same as that produced by the diminutive Tell 2 pistol. Curiously, for what is in effect a low power BB shooter, the barrel is rifled. The barrel and cylinder are made of steel and the grip frame is constructed of die-cast alloy, with chequered walnut grip plates."
Haenel Sport Modell LP55R reproduction
With thanks to John G for the text and pics.
Haenel 55R pistol project now finished at last
About three months ago I started a build project on the Haenel 55R air pistol, for the simple reason that I wanted one for my collection and they are so rare that a copy would be the best I could ever hope for. For those of you who have never heard of this pistol an example (one of only three in existence) is shown in Danny’s Airgun Gallery here https://forum.vintageairgunsgallery....rt-modell-55r/
After three months of ups and downs I have now managed to finish the project it and this is a short account of how things went and my impressions of the pistol.
The inventor of the LP55R was Erich Leyh, employee of the state owned East German company ETW, which took over manufacture of Haenel air guns after the war, and the design was patented in 1954. The pistol almost went into production twice, once in 1955 and again in the early 1960’s but for some reason in both instances it never quite made it and only a few test examples were made, of which just three examples seem to have survived. However, recently a stash of component parts has been discovered languishing somewhere in a German warehouse.
The pistol is a repeating overlever spring air pistol designed in the Luger tradition, like the Haenel 28, and the repeating mechanism is based on Hugo Schmeisser’s system that was used in the pre-war bolt action Haenel 33 air rifle.
I had no idea if I would be able to bring the project to a successful conclusion as it was one of the most complicated I had tackled but nothing ventured nothing gained. The main features of the LP55R which needed to be included in my reproduction are summarised on the following patent drawing.
The original gun was made of steel and aluminium. The one-piece barrel /cylinder unit is made of steel, and the main frame of aluminium. These were the principal starting materials I used for the basic construction - 16mm thick aluminium slab, precision steel tubing, round and square mild steel bar.
By far the hardest part was surprisingly enough the cocking lever with its moulded shape and forked side arms. On the original gun it was made in one piece from pressed sheet steel but I had no way of duplicating this in the workshop. After a few aborted efforts I ended up making it in two parts. The top arm was milled from steel bar, and the side arms made from bent sheet steel, the two components being fixed together by a combination of brazing and riveting.
The forked cocking lever principle was also used on the Haenel IVM 50 air rifle (see the Gallery, https://forum.vintageairgunsgallery....fle/#post-3614 )
The piston also proved a bit tricky as for the repeater mechanism to work it has an air feed tube attached to the piston head which is a sliding fit within the barrel. Correct alignment of this exactly with the breech and with the pellet inlet is critical for pellet feed to work smoothly and to avoid air loss. Exactly the same air feed system was used in the Haenel 100 air pistol. Construction of the piston is shown in the following pictures with the Haenel 100 piston for comparison.
The LP55R shoots 4.4mm round shot only and the pellets are fed from a spring loaded magazine that clips below the frame. I was fortunate enough to be able to buy three original period Haenel magazines off eGun. As these are exactly what was used on the original pistols this added an air of authenticity to my project. In the following picture the smaller magazines hold 6 balls and the larger one holds 12. They are very easy to load with the ball shot, and the magazines can be clipped in and out of the pistol very quickly.
The front and rear sights are adjustable vertically. The rear sight was based on one of the Haenel rear sight designs used on their rifles and is adjustable by a knurled screw. I am indebted to Danny Garvin and John Atkins for providing me with pictures of Haenel rear sights so that I could make a suitable example for the pistol.
Lettering was put on the gun prior to bluing and makes it clear that this is a reproduction and not an original.
The pistol was finished by bluing the steel components and anodising the aluminium frame. I had the choice of dyeing the anodised frame black or leaving it silver, and both options would have been correct, as two of the known examples are silver and the third is black dyed. I rather liked the two- tone look so I opted for the silver finish. The grip plates were cut from a block of American walnut and chequered to match the pattern on the original pistols.
Unusually for me I decided to make a case for the pistol, mainly because a home was needed for the spare magazines, and also because I had put so much effort into this project I wanted to protect the pistol and indulge myself with a bit of bling at the same time So a cheap battered mahogany cutlery box was bought off the internet, sanded down, varnished and fitted out to take the gun and its accessories. Here are some pictures of the final pistol and its case:
So how does it perform? All I can say is great! The power is a bit low (I get what the makers claimed, about 200 fps with 4.4mm lead ball), but this is made up for by the ease of cocking and the faultless, fast repeater mechanism. Definitely a fun plinker and you can get through an amazing amount of ammunition in a short time without realising it. Fortunately it can be recycled several times if you have a soft target.
The special features work well. For example the cocking lever can be flipped up from its catch straight into a position comfortable for cocking thanks to the eccentric lever pivot hole. The automatic anti-bear trap works fine, ensuring the trigger is disconnected from the sear at all positions of the cocking lever except when it is clipped back home. The indexed manual safety gives the extra security needed for all repeating guns.
It is hefty gun, larger even than the Haenel 28, but not too heavy thanks to the aluminium frame. I can only assume that it never made it into production because of the likely high cost of manufacture and the fact that it fired round ball shot only, meaning it could never be a contender as a serious target pistol. Nevertheless it is now one of my favourite fun shooters, and it looks good and feels great as well.
As a collection item, yes ,it is only a reproduction but it fits in nicely in with the rest of the Haenel family of Luger-type air pistols.
So all in all, a very difficult and challenging project, but now one of my firm favourites.
If anyone has any questions I would be very happy to try to answer them. And if anyone fancies making one of these pistols for themselves I would be happy to provide more details.
John added later:
"I started off with an oldish tin of German “Punktkugeln” by Greif that I happened to have in my collection, and as the tin label states that they are specifically for Haenel air guns they seemed ideal. And they were, as the gun worked faultlessly with these and I could fire off six shots in as many seconds every time without any jamming or misfires. I measured their diameter and found that they averaged slightly less than stated, at 4.35 mm (0.171 inches).
As I couldn’t source any of these in the UK and prices from Germany with postage were crazy, I had a look at the readily available 4.5mm Gamo lead balls, figuring that if these were slightly undersized they might work OK. Although they did measure undersize at 4.45mm (.175 ins) (same as found by Steve) they did not work for me and were too large to load into the Haenel magazines.
Next I tried the 4.4 mm H & N lead balls sold in various pack sizes by Protek. These proved to be too loose, and although they could be loaded into the magazine with no problem, every now and then then one of the balls would one roll out of the barrel or be shot out of the barrel by the magazine spring while cocking the pistol. I measured their diameter as only 4.3mm (but with remarkably little variation compared with the others). I was able to use them if I coated them first with a thin layer of beeswax, which overcame the barrel looseness problem, but the accuracy was erratic.
Finally I spotted some H & N “Excite” lead balls on the Bay which were labelled on the tin as 4.5 mm, but the seller (Ramsbottoms) had taken the trouble to measure them and were informing buyers that they were actually 4.4mm and to ignore the tin label. So I have just taken possession of a tin and my measurements show an average diameter of 4.35mm. I have now found after fifty or so shots that they work perfectly in my pistol, just like the German pellets.
So as Steve has also found, the moral is, when it comes to pellets never believe what it says on the tin and just keep trying until you find the ones that suit your gun, and then buy up a good supply."