Harper Classic “Wolf” (1996 to 2003)

This is the legendary Harper Classic “Wolf” electronic trigger, pre-charged pneumatic air pistol! Why legendary Jimmie? Well, if Harper had not designed his electronic firing mechanism, he would not have gone on to design Daystate’s iconic capacitor discharge technology (CDT) firing mechanism for the Daystate MK3 air rifle.

Stephen Harper’s “Air gun” Patent

The pistol, and more importantly, the electronic firing mechanism was designed by Stephen Harper, a very clever and innovative airgun designer. I don’t know exactly when Harper developed his electronic firing mechanism however, it is known that he filed a patent for the design on May 29th 1996 which was later granted on December 3rd 1997. UK Patent GB 2313655 titled “Air gun”, described an air pistol of almost identical appearance to the “Wolf”.

Harper’s Patent Claim

The art of writing a good patent is to make the claims of the patent, which are the most important part, as general and all-encompassing as possible. Harper’s patent is a classic example of this. His key claim centred on “an electronic switch for causing the gun to be fired”. You can’t get more general than that! It implied that any design that utilised an electronic switch to form a firing mechanism might infringe the patent. Anyone wishing to produce and sell such a device, at least in the UK, would either need to negotiate a license from Harper or run the gauntlet of a costly legal battle in the courts. Harper’s patent expired in 2016 after running its full 20 year lifetime.

1996 Airgun World Advertisement

The pistol appears to have been originally available in .22 calibre only. However, perhaps later, the pistol was produced with .177, .22 and .25 calibre barrels. I have also heard rumours that .20 calibre pistols may have been available. Perhaps as a special order. Export versions were also available and produced a power of 14 ft/lbs.

The grip is made from black plastic and has a compartment in the base to house a 9v PP3 battery. The battery lasts for a considerably long time. I must have put half a tin of .22 pellets through this pistol and it is still going strong.

The threaded port cap and charging adaptor.

The pressurised air chamber has a rubberised black coating that closely matches the finish of the grip. At the front of the air chamber is a screw-on plastic cap that protects the 1/8″ BSP charging port. This pistol was supplied with an adaptor that I believe was intended to fit a stirrup pump. I use a diving bottle with Foster quick release fitting and so I made a filling adaptor from a male-to-male 1/8″ BSP adaptor and a male Foster connector. To make an airtight seal between the BSP adaptor and the pistol, I inserted an o-ring into the pistol’s fill port which seems to be held in place quite snugly. The threaded cap fits back in place perfectly despite the presence of the o-ring.

The simplistic rear sight and fixed front sight blade.

The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation however it is very crude. Elevation adjustment is finely adjustable via a screw yet the windage adjustment is a matter of crudely sliding the whole sight apparatus to one side or the other. The front sight is fixed and black to match the pistol. However, this makes aiming quite difficult with both the front and rear sight the same black colour. Providing the target is illuminated well, this should not pose too much of a problem.

A red dot sight, supplied as an optional extra, could be fitted in place of the plastic rear sight. The pistol was supplied with a longer screw for this purpose although I haven’t yet worked out how this would be used.

The manually indexed magazine and push switch electronic trigger.

The Wolf is fitted with a manually indexed magazine that cannot be removed for loading. Each pellet must be seated firmly with a “click” with the supplied pellet seating tool. If this is not done, the pellets would jump out when the pistol is fired. The opposite end of the tool can be used to push the pellets back out of the magazine if required. The .22 model had an eleven shot magazine. I would expect that a .177 calibre pistol would be fitted with a higher capacity magazine and higher calibre pistols would be fitted with a lower capacity magazine.

Despite having to manually index the magazine, it is quite easy to rapidly index it after each shot without coming “off-aim”. Using the “combat” grip method of holding the pistol, I found I could index the magazine with my left thumb without adjusting my grip between shots.

No doubt you have noticed that the barrel is brass. What the photographs do not reveal is that Harper’s barrels have significantly more spiralled lands than your typical barrel. Most barrels will have about five to eight grooves whereas Harper’s barrel had 20 or more micro-grooves! Why? It is said that whilst providing good rotational grip, it also offers less friction thus removing less lead producing a cleaner, less deformed pellet as it leaves the barrel.

The power and safety switch along with the charge indicator.

The rear sight mount, which also houses the transfer port, is also brass with the pistol’s name engraved on the left-hand side. On the right-hand side of the pistol is a typical electronic slide switch and red LED or light-emitting diode. In the forward position, the switch disconnects the battery from the electronics making the pistol “safe”. When in the rear position, power is applied and the LED glows red to indicate that the firing capacitor is charged and ready. After each shot, the LED extinguishes and then rapidly illuminates as the capacity recharges. With the switch on the right-hand side, pellets are loading into the magazine from the left-hand side.

Inside the grip, accessed from the battery compartment, is a plastic wheel that when turned one way or the other, adjusts the power of the pistol. I found that at maximum power, the pistol was limited to about 5.7 ft/lbs regardless of the pellet used. The power curve charts indicate that the pistol would provide about 25 shots before the point of impact would begin to drop noticeably. However, in practice, I found that I was able to achieve about 50 shots on bullseye! Now that’s not bad from such a small slimline PCP air pistol!

Chart of velocity vs number of pellets fired.
Chart of power vs number of pellets fired.

In the hand, the pistol is very light, compact and fits the hand very well. As you would expect from a close to the UK limit PCP pistol without a moderator, it emits quite a loud crack! Along with that crack comes a noticeable kick. You would think the trigger would be difficult to get used to. There is no conventional feel to it. There is no sense of when it will release. Certainly, there is no adjustment whatsoever. Yet surprisingly, I got the hang of it very quickly and on my short 5-yard indoor range, I was able to produce very tight groups! The target card shown is three shots in the same hole!

So, despite the poor contrasting and crudely adjustable sights, the pistol produces surprisingly accurate results. Oh, I used RWS Hobby 11.9gr .22 pellets for this test. These are my preferred .22 air pistol pellets due to their relatively low weight compared to say the typical 16gr Air Arms Diabolo Field pellet.

This particular pistol was obtained with its original box and accessories. Including the pellet seating tool, filling adaptor, long screw for the red dot scope, a sample tub of Milbro pellets and the instruction manual. It is said that approximately 400 pistols were produced by Harper Classic Guns of which this one is serial number A34.

The Harper Classic “Wolf” complete with all accessories and packaging.

I have been remarkably surprised by the accuracy and capacity of this compact PCP air pistol. I expect it to become a frequent visitor at the club range!

Until next time, happy shooting!

Jimmie Dee

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