In a world of black polymer firearms, Heym USA chooses the road less traveled.
The firearms industry is inexorably tied to history. While we have some great, new names that are delivering some excellent products, names such as Winchester, Remington, Rigby, Mauser, Holland & Holland, Marlin and Savage have all been bringing us great firearms since the 19th century. Among those greats—quietly making superb firearms since 1865—is the German firm of Heym.
Establishing its reputation by producing fine double-barreled shotguns and rifles and three-triggered drillings (Friedrich Wilhelm Heym actually patented the first hammerless drilling), Heym survived the tumult of a pair of world wars by making cuckoo clocks and slide rules in West Germany after 1946.
Fast-forward to the end of the 20th century, and you’ll find Heym with a modern firearms facility in a united Germany and Thomas Wolkmann at the company’s helm, producing such famous rifles as the Heym Model 88B double rifle.
In the first decade of the 21st century, Chris Sells began to bring the Heym rifles to the American market; his Heym USA is the exclusive U.S. importer of the great German guns. However, Sells is more than an importer; he’s led the redesign of some of Heym’s most significant firearms and worked for the past 15 years to re-establish the Heym brand in the United States.
The 88B was the flagship of the fleet when Sells began importing Heym rifles. He saw room for improvement in the time-tested 88B and began refining the rifle immediately. The second task was the re-release of the Heym Express, complete with a stock designed by famed gunsmith Ralf Martini. That Heym Express—with its oversized bolt, perfectly designed magazine box and follower, Krupp steel barrel and smooth-as-silk, magnum-sized action—has become my absolute favorite rifle of all time.
Mine is a .404 Jeffery, and it’s traveled the world with me. I’ve never had a rifle so well-balanced, delivering sub-MOA accuracy and fully capable of taking any and all of the world’s game.
Chris Sells Explains The Model 89B
The next Heym USA release was what I consider to be the crowning moment in the company’s recent history: the Model 89B double rifle. After taking a long, hard look at the strengths and weaknesses of the 88B rifle, Sells set out to make the best rifle possible. The company’s done such a good job that I bought one for myself. My 89B .470 NE is a beast, but it’s in no way hard on the eyes.
Honored to have taken the first head of African game with the first 89B off the line, I sat down with Sells to get the story of the rifle’s development.
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“When we began importing Heym rifles in 2006, the 88B Safari was really the flagship of the Heym lineup,” Sells explained. “It had been in the market for more than 25 years and had a solid reputation with both professional hunters and safari hunters, but I felt as if we were limiting our market, because the 88 had a few design elements that were more Germanic in styling.
“Now, the 88 has a very recognizable look to it—specifically, how the metal and wood fit together at the back of the action. But, I’m an enthusiast and a student of double rifles, and it didn’t quite fit the historic profile of a double rifle from the 1920s. I wanted to create—or rather, re-create—a modern boxlock with the efficiencies of CNC machining at an affordable price. We spent the better part of a decade examining the classic double-rifle actions.
“Of those actions, probably the most influential rifle in our design was the Webley PHV-1 (also known the ‘long bar’ because of its long water table). The 88’s long water table was a natural fit, so by rounding the bottom of the action a little, it not only takes on more of the Webley look, it also better fits the hand.
“Of all the changes we made (starting with the 88B), the most noticeable change for the 89, of course, has been to the back of the action, where the wood meets the metal. By simply squaring off the back of the action, all of a sudden, the entire rifle changes. This one element is really the conduit that brings together all the individual, small changes over the past 10 years and packages them in such a way that you can really look ‘beyond the trees and appreciate the forest.’
“Mechanically speaking—and like the 88—the 89B has all the features you’d expect in a well-made double. We’ve added disc-set strikers to the 89, but it still has automatic ejectors, intercepting sears, a non-automatic safety and an articulated front trigger. In addition, they’re still made to order—one-at-a-time—right- or left-handed and stocked to fit each individual shooter!”
It’ll Make You Proud
Nevertheless, Heym USA doesn’t only manufacture big-bore rifles. In fact, it’s just released the Heym Carbon Precision, a SR30 straight-pull action with a carbon-fiber barrel and carbon-fiber stock. It’s available in medium calibers and is capable of serious precision shooting. In a world of cookie-cutter precision rifles, Heym’s Carbon Precision has the balance and feel for which Heym is famous, thus setting this rifle apart from the crowd.
For more information on Heym USA, please visit heymusa.com.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.