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Robert Law and Air Rifle Headquarters.

Most airgunners think that the modern era of high quality, precision airguns begins with Beeman in the 1970s. Beeman themselves help to perpetuate the myth in their official history- as in this quote from their web site:

There really wasn’t a significant adult airgun market in the United States prior to 1975. The European makers simply could not understand why. Little did the Beemans realize when they mortgaged their home for their first inventory, that soon not only would they be increasing the importation of true adult airguns into the U.S. over one hundred fold, but changing the very nature of those guns!

armBut in truth, that’s nonsense. The real pioneer in bringing high quality airguns into the US market, and the man who pioneered the use of airgun tuning and synthetic lubricants was a fellow by the name of Robert Law. He merits only a single sentence in the official Beeman history, but if not for Law, I doubt the Beemans would have ever gotten involved in airguns. He was not the first to import precision airguns- Winchester, Stoeger and others had done it before- but it was Robert Law who developed the essentially techniques and materials for maximizing the accuracy and power of these guns.

Not only did Law develop the tuning procedures that Beeman later popularized, he was the first to mount rifle scopes to airguns, and to address the problem of damage in scopes caused by spring airgun recoil. He described how to select airguns for scope use. He came up with the use of “ballistic putty” for testing, when ballistic chronographs were still multi-thousand dollar devices. He sold the first silicone oil designed for lubricating leather piston seals, and was the first to use molybdenum disulfide lubricants in spring gun compression chambers. Yet the Beemans still belittle his contributions (see, for example, http://www.beemans.net/beeman_predecessors.htmattempt to minimize his role), referring to him as a “hobbyist” without acknowledging all his work that they took advantage of. (This is not to belittle the role of Beeman, specifically- they certainly were the great airgun promoters of the postwar era, and did a lot to get German makers to produce guns to US tastes- but I still think it’s rather shabby the way they treat Law’s role.)

Law was, like so many pioneers, a bit of a visionary, and some would say, a bit of a crank. He was certainly a fascinating and creative man. He may not have been a great businessman, but he was a tireless, hardworking promoter. He issued a series of magazines called “Air Rifle Monthly” that were part catalog, part handbook, and part proselytizing. The one pictured about is #20, from 1969, and is a special issue devoted to the Weirauch guns that later became the basis of Beemans’ business. Inside, you’ll find a complete guide to stripping, tuning and rebuilding these guns. I only have a few of these wonderful documents, but a friend and shooting partner has very close to a complete collection, having been one of Law’s first customers back in the early 1960s. If you happen to find a set at a yard sale or used book store, grab them. They’re still a fantastic source of historical and care information for spring gun fans.

As Beeman built up his volume, he solidified his hold on the Market by signing exclusive distribution deals with Weirauch that essentially meant that Law had to buy his guns through Beeman. Law couldn’t make any money this way, and eventually closed his business to concentrate on his ministry work. He never held any grudge against them, but then, he was not one to blame others.

Today, the name of “Air Rifle Headquarters” is kept alive by a man who perhaps rightfully deserves to be called the successor to Law- Jim Maccari. Jim started out as an air gun hobbyist, but through years of study and experimentation has become the single greatest authority on spring guns- how to make them perform and how to get the most out of them. His springs, guides, lubes and other tunring materials are considered by spring gun shooters to be the state of the art. I myself have an Air Arms TX-200 that was tuned by Jim, and I can safely say it’s the single smoothest and most accurate airgun in my collection. I’ve used his springs, pistons and lubes in my Beeman R-7 and C1, too. More on Jim’s parts and materials at Air Rifle Headquarters.

27 Comments

  1. Peter Blais wrote:

    I purchased my first “Adult” air rifle from Air Rifle Headquarters in 1976. It is the El Gamo Model 68XP which I still have to this day. If it wasn’t for Robert Law I would still be using my Crosman 760.

    Monday, August 6, 2007 at 8:12 pm | Permalink
  2. Steve wrote:

    I credit Robert Law with introducing high quality European air guns to the American market. I was teen when I first saw his ad in a gun magazine. I recall lovingly reading his literature over and over. I ordered an HW55SM from ARH. I still have my beloved HW55SM. I have a dozen ARH catalogs which I read from time to time.

    I never respected Beeman. I grew tired of Beeman
    bulls***t. I didn’t like that he promoted his Beeman
    brand RWS guns, then turned his back on Diana when
    he started selling Feinwerkbaus. Also, when Anschutz
    and Walther wouldn’t kowtow to his demands, he
    relegated the LGR and Anschutz match rifles to half or
    quarter space in his catalog. I love my non-Beeman
    FWB 300s, but the LGR and the Anschutz LG 380 are
    better rifles.

    Thank you, Robert Law, for your unique catalogs, and
    many, many hours of shooting fun.

    Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 11:50 pm | Permalink
  3. Sylvan wrote:

    Not to detract from the excellent tribute to Robert law
    and ARH,but the credit for experimenting with lubes
    for Springers goes to Ladd Fanta a early contemporary who had a shop in california. and wrote quiet a few articles on airguns.

    Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 1:36 am | Permalink
  4. Chuck Sampier wrote:

    It is good to see that not everybody believes Beeman’s elitist BS, and recognizes the efforts by Robert Law (ARH). Much of the information in early Beeman catalogs is almost direct copy from earlier ARH literature. Law gave credit to Ladd Fanta (who operated Fanta Air Rifles) for much of the experimentation with lubricants (esp. Moly lubes such as Dri-Slide). On occasion, Law seemed to enjoy poking fun at his own less than perfect use of the English language in his writings (Air Rifle Monthly). I managed to visit with Mr. Law and see the ARH facility just before he shut it down. I do recall him stating that a main factor in the closure of ARH was the ‘exclusive’ deals Beeman managed to make with several manufacturers (Beeman was definitely a better salesman than Law was!). Still, even with the end of ARH near, he did not seem bitter toward Beeman, but was prretty excited about a new American air pistol which he thought met the critera as an ‘adult’ airgun (this gun was the Daisy 717). While there were others before ARH (the Gordon’s, who imported/sold BSF I believe, and Steve from Hy-Score), I would have to say ARH was a pioneer in the ‘Adult Airgun’ market. I am also glad there are people like Jim Maccari and Tim McMurray who have advanced airgun ‘tunes’ way beyond those early efforts of Fanta and Law (who mainly focused on lubrication while retaining factory parts). I believe Ladd Fanta passed away some years ago; I wonder if he would believe what has been done with airguns these days?

    Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 7:12 pm | Permalink
  5. Joe DiCarlo wrote:

    I stumbled upon Robert Law and the ARH when I read an obscure, mice-type add in the back of a Popular Mechanics magazine in 1966. I quickly obtained his catalogue and ordered a Weirauch HW-35 .177 and a Wisco .22 within the week. I sold the Wisco to a friend in 1968, but kept the Weirauch. I had / used the Weirauch all these years without a problem, except that I had to replace a breech seal. I would still have it today, but I recently gave it to a 15 year old nephew who is just starting out in air gunning. I have not been active in air gunning for a long time and I’m amazed at the popularity of the sport and the amazing array of equipment currently available. I credit the interest and popularity to Robert Law who introduced the first “adult” air rifles to the USA.

    Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 12:53 pm | Permalink
  6. Badger Johnson wrote:

    I first found out about ARH and Robert Law in 1966, and saved up my money (think it was $118) from my paper route to buy a Weihrauch 35 .177. It was a beautiful gun. It was more accurate than I was! I saved up all the catalogs and would pour over them for hours.

    Sadly, my Dad got mad and cut my beautiful gun in half (he was nearly skewered by the spring!). And my mom threw out all my catalogs, so I only have memories.

    But Mr Law was always great to me and I treasure those days I had shooting all because of him.

    Sunday, October 12, 2008 at 7:08 am | Permalink
  7. Wayhe Gittelman wrote:

    I purchased my first “serious” airgun from ARH in 1975, when I was 14. It was a Wischo 55B, I remember paying extra for a tune and select stock. It truly was a piece of art, and was responsible for my harvesting literally hundreds of squirrels over the next several years. I deeply regret trading it years later. Although I never corresponded with Mr. Law after this purchase, I credit him with starting my love of European air guns.

    Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink
  8. jake spencer wrote:

    I started out with a crosman 760 and by accident I found out about arh. I bought a fwb 124 in 1986 and still shoot it today.

    Saturday, December 20, 2008 at 10:33 pm | Permalink
  9. Ron Holmberg wrote:

    Well sir, now you can have any air gun you desire. I wonder, WHY did your father cut the gun in half? were you misbehaving?

    Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 7:17 am | Permalink
  10. Ron wrote:

    Thank you for sharing the
    Robert law story,
    I was looking for oil for use in air guns when I found this site. & I like history
    & would love to find a robert law air gun book.
    ron

    Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 9:04 am | Permalink
  11. Jim Humphrey wrote:

    I bought a Weirauch from him in 1977-78. He really sold me with his booklets.

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink
  12. Dave T. wrote:

    I have 5 ARH catalogs and many ARM booklets on display on my website.
    The HW55T pictured on my Tyrolean page is an ARH gun. I believe the FWB 150 on the 10 Meter page is one as well.
    Beeman is finally out of the airgun business except for his foray into the Blue Book. By his standards only he can have a 100% gun. What a stuffed shirt!

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink
  13. Chris K. wrote:

    I discovered Air Rifle Headquarters in 1971 and ordered a catalog. Print made the Wischo 55N seem like it could work magic and everything in Robert Law’s catalog were the things a kid’s dreams were made of. One owner wrote “Bagged starlings up to 100 yards”. Another, referring to a treed bobcat in his backyard said “It dropped, surprisingly, from a single round well placed”. But in 1971 $62.50 was insanely out of reach for a gun crazy 12 year old who got $2 a week allowance. A few years later I varnished the outside of our entire house and garage and my father grudgingly bought me a $32 Sheridan Blue Streak for my labor. The 55N had been replaced by the Wischo Model 70 which sold for $158.50, and the more expensive Feinwerkbau F-12. In hindsight the Sheridan had more knock down power than either but lacked the magic ARH gave the German spring guns. On a return home visit from college in 1978, with money in the bank from working construction jobs for several summers, I stumbled across an indoor air gun range with an HW35 on the shelf. I fired it twice, hitting the tiny bull’s eye target both times and bought it on the spot for $180. A more refined gun, it still wasn’t a Wischo and I felt I’d bought the second or third best air rifle in the world (little did I realize how insignificant the difference in power was). When a friend let me borrow his scoped Beeman R10 in the mid ’80s I knew there was much more to air rifles than my HW 35 and I immediately purchased my first of 3 R1s. I still have that 35 and love to shoot it several times a week. Beeman solidified my enthusiasm for fine German air rifles, but it was Robert Law who started the fire in the heart of a 12 year old 49 years ago who enjoys air rifles today almost as much as back then. I still have those catalogs from ARH and Beeman, but it is the ARH catalogs I pick up first that take me back to those magic years spent small game hunting “back in the woods”.

    Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Permalink
  14. Chuck Sampier wrote:

    Follow-up to my earlier post:
    Way back then, I was glad to hear that ARH had been re-built after the fire (as described in ARM [Air Rifle Monthly] #5). Due to that fire, issues of ARM before #5 are rarer than the later editions. The last issue of ARM I have is # 22 from ’71-’72 (not sure if there were any after that). They sure were all intereting reading. Too bad I never did order his Sporting Rifle, Air Pistol, or Match Rifle Digests (advertised in my 1967 ARH catalog for 50 cents to $1 each).
    I think the funniest part of ARH history has to be the short-lived “girlie” catalog (mid 70s?). Someone swiped the one I had…

    Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 1:44 am | Permalink
  15. I PURCHASED A WISHCO AIR PISTOL FROM ROBERT LAW I THINK IN 1979 HE WAS GOING OUT OF BIZ OR ABOUT TOO.
    I LIVED IN NYC AND USED IT TO SHOOT RATS AND PIDGEONS.
    HE TOLD ME HE WAS GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SO THERE WAS NOT MUCH LEFT, PLUS HE DID NOT HAVE MUCH MONEY, I ASKED HIM WHY NOT JUST DO A CHAPTER 11 AND SEE IF HE COULD CARRY ON HE SAID I TRY TO PAY MY BILLS, I THINK HE DID SELL BIBLES OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
    HE SEEMED TO BE A NICE GUY.
    I WOULD CALL HIM AND HE WOULD HELP ME.
    I SCREWED UP MY WISHCO ONE TIME AND HE SAID SEND IT BACK AND HE FIXED IT FOR FREE LOL.

    STUART BRANDT

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 7:32 am | Permalink
  16. David Cobb wrote:

    I bought a HW35L from ARH in 1972. It cost me 98 hard earned dollars; for a kid that was a lot of money back then. I waited, and waited… my Dad said, “You got taken,” as several months had gone by and no gun. A little over a year later, my gun finally arrived. My worn out Crosman was sent packing and I shot that 35 almost every day for several years. I still have it; and it remains my favorite air gun because it is the one that introduced me to adult airgunning. Thanks Bob Law.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  17. morris williams wrote:

    Were is Robert Law today? I have over fifteen rifles and pistols i purchased for him on the payment plan! I have a large supply of the silicone oil and moly lubes and parts for all my guns.

    Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink
  18. Eugene Holstein wrote:

    I met Robert Law in the early 70’s, at his store in Grantsville,WV..He was a kind man who helped me seleck the rifle I’ve kept for years. I had my Weihrauch 55sm reworked
    about 3 years ago by an airsmith in Tn. It still performs well today as it did back then.
    Thanks to all who have remembered and spoke
    well of this kind man.

    Friday, October 21, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  19. Daniel Beattie wrote:

    I have always loved air guns having started out with a Daisy Golden Eagle#95 for my 12th Christmas present, graduating to a Benjamin 310 the following year and a Sheridan Silver Streak much later. THEN— I came across an add in an outdoor magazine about Bobby Laws Air Gun Headquarters in Grantsville West Virginia. I had a cheap European springer that I bought used from a friend for $1.50, and that was all the experience I had with this type of air gun. Then one day at the barbershop, my barber told me he had a Wisho Bavaria 55N and would let me borrow it untill next haircut! Loved it and wanted one now! Didn’t want to shell out that much money, mail order on a gun though so I planned a trip from home in Ohio to DISNEY with wife and kids,in 1982. Being very carefull to save back enough cash to buy, we made a side trip to Air Rifle Headquarters in West Va..The “store” was a ranch house with big computers in all the rooms for his mostly catalog business. I was promptly introduced to Bobby Laws and informed him I was looking for the fastest,most accurate sporter he had in .177. He took me to a stack of boxed Beeman R1’s and let me shoot a one hole group in his basement range. I paid $300.00, and he gave me a bottle of his silicone oil that I still have. That was my highlight of the “Florida” trip! Many good memories driving the curvy hilly backroads in West Va. just to get there.I still have an R1, but not the .177. Itraded for a .22 model later. Miss Bobby Law’s business, and service!!

    Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Permalink
  20. mje wrote:

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing it.

    Saturday, December 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Permalink
  21. Bill Stewart wrote:

    I had written Mr. Law a letter with many questions about different model airguns and which one to purchase. He wrote me back with some helpful comments and tips. (This was way before the internet and email days!) I called him long distance and spoke with him for quite a while. Seemed like a great guy. He was in the process of shutting down the business. I ended up buying a LH FWB 124 stock and other things. You rarely find the kind of customer service and appreciation he offered. Hope he is doing well.

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Permalink
  22. Susan wrote:

    I began working for Air Rifle Headquarters right out of high school and Robert (Bob) Law and I have always been great friends. What a great business it was! He is a familiar sight in Grantsville, WV.

    Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 12:20 am | Permalink
  23. Bill wrote:

    I also worked at Air Rifle Headquarters where I eventually got to do the customizing of the sporter rifles. It was the greatest place to work that I ever had. I actually would have done it for nothing if I had not had a family to take care of.. Bob made it such a wonderful place to work. It was the workplace highlife of my life.

    Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink
  24. SteveInMN wrote:

    I bought my Feinwerkbau 124D from Robert Law’s ARH back in 1978. At the time, $212 for the gun, leather sling, a bottle of ARH Silicone oil and 5000 Silver Jet Pellets seemed like a lot of money. I still have everything but the pellets; that amortizes at $5.88/year, so I guess I did allright.

    I had a choice back then between ARH and Beeman. Even a green 18 year old could spot the Real Deal.

    RIP, Robert. God Bless.

    Monday, October 20, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink
  25. Peter Beliveau wrote:

    I have a Bavaria 55 old model in great shape however my sister broke the pot metal trigger housing. all attempts to locate one have been goose chases. Would like any help in the location of one. all common sources have been tried.

    Friday, April 3, 2015 at 4:14 am | Permalink
  26. Rex Jensen wrote:

    In 1976 at the age of 16, I found an add for the ARH catalog and quickly sent for a copy. I was already addicted to air rifles from the Benjamin that I had been shooting for three years.

    When that catalog came, I could hardly put it down. I even took it to school with me and spent hours drooling over all those beautiful adult airguns.

    I had to have one and picking a make and model and staying within my budget of fur trapping money, I settled on the Weihrauch 50S deluxe. Can’t remember the exact price, but I think it was around $148.00 which was a fortune for a 16 year old boy back then to spend on a pellet gun.

    I wasn’t dissapointed in any way and it only fueled my love and passion for great European springers. I still have the 50S along with 25 more airguns, but it is still my favorite because it along with Robert Law and ARH introduced me to the great quality of European airguns.

    I doubt if a small pickup bed would hold the game and birds that were taken with that HW 50S. Thank you Robert Law and hope you remain in the memories of all of us that were associated with you. Thank you and rest in peace. :0)

    Thursday, July 30, 2015 at 11:31 pm | Permalink
  27. Alvin reed. wrote:

    I bought myfirstgerman spring rifles from arh back in the early 60s bob gave me personal advise and answered every letter and all the dumb questions I asked he sold the best rifles avaiable. He was first one to introduce dieseling with ether and high tech lube. Very honest man to deal with.

    Monday, August 21, 2017 at 12:36 am | Permalink

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