Thursday, October 13, 2005

FWB 124 - a classic pellet rifle

by B.B. Pelletier

If it's motorcycles, it's a Harley. If it's wristwatches, it's a Rolex. If it's an air rifle, it's an FWB 124. This one spring-piston air rifle epitomizes the entire hobby. Why is it so popular and what makes it such a classic?


Feinwerkbau's 124 was an all-time classic air rifle!
It ushered in the modern age of magnum spring rifles.


The great race for power!
The 124 was, perhaps, the first spring-piston rifle to use technology over brute force to develop power. When it was new in the 1970s, the 800 f.p.s. barrier for .177 air rifles loomed large. A few models were knocking at the gate - the Weihrauch 35, the Diana 45 and the BSF 55. They offered nothing especially new, but with brute force and sheer size (except for the BSF) they were poised to break through the barrier. Then, from nowhere, the svelte Feinwerkbau 124 came along and shattered the barrier with power to spare. Within a year, two of the three challengers were also over 800, with only the Weihrauch 35, the largest of them all, still lagging.

Feinwerkbau used technology to triumph
The FWB 124 used a longer stroke coupled with a long but weak mainspring to generate a more powerful blast of air. Its piston was slender compared to the others, but a modern parachute piston seal made maximum use of the air it compressed. And, let's be fair, the 124 was a wow in .177 but a relative dog in .22, as the model 127. It was a one-trick monkey, while the HW 35 went on to be stretched and supersized into the Beeman R1 early in the 1980s.

But, in .177 the FWB reigned supreme. Despite having a less-than-desirable trigger that challenged airgunsmiths and a new automatic safety we all learned to hate, the 124 prevailed above all others. The Weihrauch 35 had a Rekord trigger that put the 124's pitiful unit to shame, but it had to do so from the slow lane. The 124 was shooting around 830 f.p.s. with light pellets compared to the HW 35's 750. And, the powerful 124 had that barrel!

FWB barrels are the best
Feinwerbau has long had the reputation as the airgun company that makes the finest barrels. It's their forte. The 124 was endowed with a splendid example of what they could do when they put their minds to it. It was bored tight all the way through. When pellets came out the spout, they were always the same size. You never found a rough bore on a 124.

The stock was beech, but the early ones had a wundhammer palm swell that delighted the unaccustomed shooting hands of Americans. The trigger blade was black plastic until the complaints piled high enough to force the factory to switch to aluminum. It did not change the trigger-pull one iota!


Beeman R1 spring on top is dwarfed by
the extra-long 124 spring. The wire is thinner, and
the coil diameter is smaller, which made the rifle easy to cock.


Easy cocking
A 124 is so easy to cock compared to the other powerhouses of the day. That longer stroke allowed the mainspring to be made of thinner wire with a smaller coil diameter, which reduced the cocking effort measurably. Recoil, on the other hand, was the absolute worst in its class. The 124 was the first air rifle with a reputation as a scope-breaker. Today, it feels like a pussycat compared to the Beeman Crow Magnum or Webley Patriot, and modern scopes that have toughened along with the rifles would have no problem with a 124.

You can still find a 124 in excellent shape for under $400 if you search. Avoid the internet auctions where prices are off the map. Instead, watch the smaller classified ads, and you can snag your slice of airgunning heaven.

45 Comments:

At October 13, 2005 11:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like these history lessons when I have time off.

Did the Jonhson target gun, from oct 4th, compress air to drive the pellet or did it work thike a slingshot?

Also, I'd enjoy hearing about the air shotgun(s) you mentioned in the past.

turtle

 
At October 13, 2005 12:03 PM, Anonymous B.B. Pelletier said...

Turtle,

The Johnson is a catapult gun, and catapult is another name for slingshot. The Sharpshooters are also catapults.

I'll look around for some pictures of some air shotguns and see what I can do for you.

B.B.

 
At October 13, 2005 11:11 PM, Anonymous D. SMEDLEY said...

IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THE SPRING IN MY RWSM350 IS SIMILER TO THE LONG THIN DESIGN YOU MENTIONED IN THE 124. IS THIS TRUE? MY GUN HAS BECOME EASY TO COCK BUT STILL HAS THE SAME POWER WHEN NEW.

 
At October 14, 2005 6:36 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

D. Smedley,

The spring in your RWS 350 Magnum is very long because Diana (the company who makes the gun) used the long-stroke design to achieve their power. It is made from thicker wire and the coils are larger than the 124, but there is similarity.

B.B.

 
At December 05, 2005 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got an old fwb124 does anyone want to buy it? I do not want to auction it.

 
At December 05, 2005 1:26 PM, Anonymous B.B. Pelletier said...

This is probably not the best place to advertise because people will not see this post unless they specifically look for it. It was posted October 13 and we're already up on the December 5 post today.

Try posting on the free classified ads at the American Airguns website. It's at

http://www.airguns.net/classifieds/classifieds.html

Good luck,

B.B.

 
At April 27, 2006 4:00 PM, Anonymous Dren said...

Glad I found this article on my 124- seems to be hard to find info on it now, 40 years later.
I just replaced the breech seal and piston seal (after a most horrendous Darwin move of clipping off the tip of my finger when the barrel slammed shut on it, no fault of the rifle, purely self inflicted..)

It produced 801 fps using Beeman Silver Star .177 pellets.
Not sure if this is the expected chrono number for these pellets, but the article mentioned a factory rating of 830 fps, so at least it's not all that far off the mark.

 
At April 27, 2006 5:05 PM, Anonymous Dren said...

Is there a way to determine if 801 fps with a Beeman Silver Arrow pellet would correspond to in terms of the 830 fps rating using a "light" pellet?

 
At April 30, 2006 8:30 AM, Anonymous B.B. Pelletier said...

Dren,

I'm sorry to hear about your accident.

Your 124 sounds a little hotter than the average gun. Silver Stars are heavy (and obsolete - where did you get them, or are they old pellets?). Your gun is cookin'!

B.B.

 
At June 17, 2006 9:38 PM, Blogger BOPLEO said...

Beeman tempest pistol, .177 cal.

How come this pistol is all over the place with different brands of ammo? I am a good shot but i am not very consistent with this pistol. Does any one have any ideans on type of pellets, modifications, or any other ideas to make it shoot better. I would like to know if someone does trigger mods to make it smoohter, or is there any i can do myself.

 
At June 22, 2006 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have the mechanical prowess, dismantle the trigger/sear assembly, using a Dremel tool with a felt polishing pad and some metal polish, polish the trigger/sear contact faces to a mirror finish.

When reassembling use a moly grease or a dry lube. I did this with my Tempest and it made a hell of a difference! I can now group the gun about 0.5" at around 6yds with 5 shots.

 
At June 23, 2006 7:45 AM, Anonymous B.B. Pelletier said...

BOPLEO,

To group with a recoilling pistol like the Tempest, you have to hold the gun in such a way that it is free to recoil as much as it possibly can. A two-handed hold would hurt your accuracy with a Tempest.

Let it bounce as much as it wants to and make sure you do not pull the trigger, but allow it to break by itself.

Shooting a Tempest is a lot like shooting an M1911A1 .45 ACP. Both guns like a light hold.

B.B.

 
At January 05, 2007 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great info on a classic rifle, I have 124 that needs repair, maybe just a seal and spring. I was told of a repair person named Russ (lost touch), who I spoke with via email over a year ago who said he could do it, however I have been in Afghanistan and still am, I will get it repaired at some point after I return in June of 07. Do you have any recommendations? I live in the Portland, Oregon area. rlh_airborne@yahoo.com thanks

 
At January 06, 2007 7:27 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

The guy you want is Russ Best.

Here is his contact info:

Telephone: (203) 484-7149
Email: cscbestunes@aol.com

B.B.

 
At May 27, 2007 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Feinwerkbau 124 sporter an it needs a new piston seal, the one that makes the pressure to fire . Where do I find one????

 
At May 27, 2007 4:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here:

http://www.airguns.citymax.com/page/page/251483.htm

 
At September 01, 2007 6:32 AM, Blogger bong said...

I have a FWB124 which i sourced from Germany some 15 years or so ago. I had the spring replaced with a Beeman spring which was advertised to be stronger.

I have stopped shooting and I want to sell this gun. My only problem is I'm in the Philippines and I don't know how to ship this to someone in the US who might be interested to buy.

 
At September 01, 2007 10:18 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

bong,

Use DHL, like everyone else in the world.

B.B.

 
At June 21, 2008 12:19 AM, Anonymous Greg Anderson said...

Hi B.B.

I know this is an old thread, but I thought I would add my impression of the “classic” FWB124.

I bought a new FWB 124D from Beemans around 1978 or 1979. Along with the rifle I bought 10 boxes of Silver Jet pellets, which they recommended for the 124. At the time Beemans was also pushing their overpriced scopes, insisting that other scopes would be beaten to death by the recoil, but I passed on the scope.

I called around to several scope manufacturers to see what was available for airguns. The folks at Weaver told me their Marksman K4 scope (Steel body, 4x32) would handle the recoil and they could adjust it for 50 yard parallax. In addition, they recommended mounts for the gun that would stay put under the sharp recoil of the piston slamming home. The mounts looked like ordinary 3/8" dovetail units found on most .22 rimfires, except for a row of hardened steel teeth on the clamps. I installed this scope on the rifle with these mounts, zeroed it and started shooting.

I’ve used this rifle for nearly 30 years now and I’ve never had to adjust the scope. I always used the Beeman Silver Jet pellets (8.39 gr, out of production for some years now I think) so there was never any need to re-zero for another pellet. I have about 700 pellets left out of the original 5000 so that’s at least 4000 shots through the rifle. I recently took the Weaver scope off the gun because my eyes are getting bad and I needed a scope with more adjustment in the eyepiece. When I pulled the mounts off the receiver each mount had impressed a neat row of notches in the dovetail cut on the receiver. There was no evidence the mount had ever shifted in 30 years. (Wish I could say the same for the mounts on my RWS 350.)

As long as I was going to invest in a new scope I thought I should replace the piston seal and mainspring. I decided I would chronograph the thing before I tore it apart so I could have a benchmark for the seal and spring change. The chronograph showed the gun still drove the Silver Jets at 780 fps and it made 830 fps with Beeman Lasers, so I just changed the breech seal and put on the new scope.

I have around a dozen modern airguns, all of them more recent purchases than the 124, including a Beeman R1, an RWS 350 and an RWS 54. Yet, the 124 is still my favorite. It’s the gun I always reach for if I just need to shoot something quick. It’s light, effortless to cock, quick to mount, powerful enough, quiet, and more accurate than I am. Yeah, maybe its trigger isn’t perfect, but it’s such an elegant little rifle in every other way that I can overlook the trigger. If I have one regret about the 124 it’s that I didn’t order it with a Beeman custom walnut stock. If I remember correctly it added around $165 to the 124D’s price, which, at the time, was a lot of money. Still, in retrospect, I wish I had scraped up the cash and got it.

You know the old gun magazine standby, “If you could only own one gun what would it be?” Well, if I could only own one airgun it would be the Feinwerkbau 124. In my opinion it is still the standard against which all other air rifles are measured.

Best wishes,

Greg Anderson

P.S. You’ve a great nom du plume for an air gunner!

 
At June 21, 2008 5:46 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Greg,

Thank you for that report. We have a guest blogger program, and if you are willing, that report with one or two photos would make a great blog.

If you are interested, contact me at

blogger@pyramydair.com

My wife came up with B.B. Pelletier

Tom Gaylord

 
At June 26, 2008 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I inherited a 124 that has hardly ever been used. I had beemans replace tha dried out seals. It has a beemans scope 6 plus thousand pellets and 6 inch stack of targets and flip up targets and a balistics putty back stop. There is also a tempest pistol and a hard case case with locks. I have no interest and would like to find these things a new home. Where would be the best place to dispose of these items. 870 7100834

 
At June 26, 2008 1:33 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

The best place for you to sell your gun and other things is on the American Airguns free classified ads.

Go here:

http://www.airguns.net/classifieds/classifieds.html

B.B.

 
At September 09, 2008 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Acquired a Sport 124 in an attic. Not well cared for and not working. Was able to revive her finding a machinist on line that make the parts. For about 80 bucks rebuilt her. Very simple to accomplish with a few tools and some decent clamps. Haven't had the opportunity to mess with it too much but know it carries a wallup. Goes straight through the pickets on my fence at 25 yds, free standing can maintain a .5" group with ease. Need to locate the original scope. Needs a really good rub down but is nice to konw I will have it for years to come!!!

 
At September 09, 2008 4:32 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Back in the '90s I bought a 124 Sport in sad shape and rebuilt it. It was a wonderful air rifle, though the finish remained bad.

B.B.

 
At November 12, 2008 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a question not a comment. I enjoy the hsitory and background on the FWB 124. I recently put mine back into shape - replacing the piston seal and spring.

The question I have relates to a Williams peep sight that I bought from Beeman when I got the 124. I can not sight it in at 10 meters with the stock foresight on the rifle and have been tempted to make my own foresight. Before I invest the time, I wondered if anyone had any experience with the Williams peep sight at 10 meters and could suggest a replacement foresight that would fit and have interchangeable inserts?

 
At November 13, 2008 9:14 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

You're not going to get much attention on this old posting. Why don't you ask this question on the latest blog posting?

B.B.

 
At June 13, 2009 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help
Own a Feinwerkbau 124 that I rarely shoot. Last time I shot it I missed the target. Same thing the next two times. Impossible till the last pellet was still visible in the barrel. Who do I send it to to have the pellets removed from the barrel?

 
At June 14, 2009 8:29 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

You have a bigger problem. You need a powerplant rebuild. That's why you have pellets stuck in the barrel. Contact this man for repairs:

John Groenewold, PO Box 830, Mundelein, IL 60060-0830, (847) 566-2365
http://www.jgairguns.biz

B.B.

 
At June 14, 2009 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Tom, got a 124, won't fire, some air tho. Can I fix it with new seals and such, or do I send it in?

 
At June 14, 2009 11:50 AM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

A 124 has a lot of spring compression, so you need a mainspring compressor. Other than that, follow my 13-part tuneup series:

http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2006/08/spring-gun-tune-part-13-range-testing.html

B.B.

 
At July 02, 2009 6:11 PM, Anonymous Bret said...

B.B.,
I just acquired a FWB124 and I was in need of some advise. Would it be ok to put some Whiscombe honey in the compression chamber or would I better off using something else. (Pellgun oil, 3 in 1) I'm trying to see if the seal is any good if not I'm probably going to get a kit and rebuild it. So is the series that you rebuilt the R1 is it pretty much the same as the124 or is there a web site where there is a step by step teardown of the 124 and could you recommend a good kit with the seal and spring and good lube. Can't wait to hear from you
Thank you, Bret

 
At July 02, 2009 9:05 PM, Blogger kevin said...

Bret,

Please place more emphasis on what B.B. says than I do but you've struck a chord with me and I couldn't help but comment.

Congratulations on acquiring one of the truly classic springers of all times. I've lost count of the number of airgunners that own multiple rifles that have said,"my fwb 124 will be the last gun I sell." I own an fwb 124d and say the same thing.

Whiscombe honey is a great concoction for lubing pellets but don't pour it into any compression chamber. Your gun has synthetic seals so pellgunoil and 3 in 1 is inappropriate.

Why do you think you need any lubricant in your compression chamber? Does it make noise when you cock it?

If this would be your first tune up on a springer I strongly suggest sending this fine classic to a reputable tuner. My vote is an advanced tune from Paul Watts with instructions for him to work his majic on the trigger. FWB 124's are terrific but have marginal triggers (if that matters as much to you as it does to me) and Paul Watts worked wonders on my fwb 124 trigger.

If you're tempted to tune a springer, buy a cheap chinese gun and rip into it as a practice run. An fwb 124 deserves a professional tune or to be your 4th or 5th tune project. Send it to Paul Watts. You'll thank me.

kevin

 
At July 02, 2009 10:00 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Bret,

Test your 124 by velocity from a chronograph, or laking that, by penetration into modeling clay. It should shoot a domed pellet into clay almost an inch. As Kevin says, don't be in a hurry to oil the gun, as over-oiling causes more problems than under-oiling.

Before you take it apart, build a mainspring compressor. That you will need.

The 124 is not as easy to disassemble as the R1, so keep that in mind.

I looked online and my own instructions are all I can find for the 124. But you might ask the guys on this forum:

http://www.network54.com/Forum/405945/

B.B.

 
At July 03, 2009 5:14 PM, Anonymous Bret said...

Kevin,
See I'm glad I ask before I did something stupid :) It cocks but it doesn't shoot. The pellet remains in the barrel and if it was a leather seal I was hoping some oil would revive the seal but it sounds more serious than that. The guy I got it from said it has been sitting for quite awhile. It is probably a good idea to have an experienced tuner look at it because you never know what the guy before you did with gun. So if you could give me some info. for Paul Watts I would appreciate it. And for Chinese rifle (Clayco Model 62 made in Shamgha China) I made a spring compressor and took it apart it really wasn't hard to do. (But by all means I'm no professional tuner). But I'm glad for your comment thats the kind of help I needed. So thanks for taking the time. And I guess were practically neighbors I'm right here next door to you in S.L.,Utah
Thanks again, Bret

B.B.,
Thank you too. If you have any more suggestions I would appreciate it as well and your link did help because I went there and I found a post on the FWB 124 every little bit helps.
So thanks again,
Bret

 
At July 03, 2009 8:00 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Bret,

Without a doubt you have a bad piston seal. This is very common in 124s that still have the original seal, because most of them became soft and ended up as chunks in the barrel.

Chamber oil is often what ruins thew oils deal, which was a poor formulation of synthetic.

You need to have the gun resealed. It's not hard to do, but an airgunsmith might be the best choice. At that same time you can have a better mainspring installed and some better lubrication.

B.B.

 
At July 11, 2009 8:42 AM, Blogger The Nimrod said...

Gentlemen,

I'm the proud owner of a Model 124. I purchased it new back in the 80's from Air Rifle Headquarters. Unfortunately, the gun has been relegated to the back of the gun safe and has hasn't been fired in 20 plus years. The exterior of the rifle is in excellent condition. I'd like to put it back in service. I'm wondering if it would be best to send the gun to a Specialist and have it torndown inspected, etc. or attemp to doing something myself. I have the original manual, along with silicone lube and other extras purchased with the rifle. Your advice and suggestions will be appreciated.

Thanks,

The Nimrod!

 
At July 11, 2009 8:52 AM, Anonymous Vince said...

Nimrod, it's up to you. How good are you, generally speaking, with mechanical stuff?

In any event, you'd almost certainly need a piston seal at the very least.

FYI, you'd get better exposure for your questions over at hte most recent blog: http://www.pyramydair.com/blog

 
At October 12, 2009 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I have a question. I FINALLY got my 124 back, in pieces, from a son, and have now had it reworked but I would like to have the manual or a copy of one. Does anyone know where I might get one? Any info would be appreciated. Pops-n-Texas

 
At October 12, 2009 7:06 PM, Blogger B.B. Pelletier said...

Pops,

You might contact the Beeman company. They were the importers.

www.beeman.com

 
At April 08, 2010 7:57 PM, Anonymous least549@aol.com said...

I have gotten a feb 124 from my father who bought it in the 70's or 80's . It will cock but not push the pellet out . It was in Dad's closet for a number of years. Is anyone near South Carolina that works on these. I would like to get a pro to set it up correctly . Thanks. least549@aol.com

 
At April 08, 2010 8:27 PM, Anonymous Mr B. said...

least549@aol.com,

You've posted to a blog that was written 5 years ago. The arn't alot of us checking back here. I cann't answer your question, but if you repost to the currnet blog you'll sure to get an answer. www.pyramydair.com/blog

Hope to see you there.

Mr B.

 
At April 08, 2010 9:21 PM, Blogger Bobby Nations said...

least549,

Congratulations on the FWB 124! From everything I hear, they are classics.

It sounds like your main seal has deteriorated. It would be best not to attempt to fire it any more as it is probably slamming the piston against the end. IIRC, the material that FWB used was prone to dry rot.

Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any airgun tuners who live in South Carolina, but someone over on the current post might know of one. My advice would be to ask for the best FWB tuner and then ship the gun to him for a complete overhaul. Once the accept the cost of shipping it for repair, which should be $20 to $30, then it opens up a lot of options.

You may enjoy reading a few other posts on this blog.

- A Shrine Built for a Feinwerkbau 124
- FWB-124 30 years later
- Airguns as Investments - the Queen B FWB 124

Best of luck and keep us informed of how things work out.

 
At April 09, 2010 10:59 AM, Anonymous Edith Gaylord said...

least549,

Call Paul Watts, and he'll fix your gun. He's a pro & will do right by you. I guarantee it. Just a couple days ago, I got a phone call from someone else who had an FWB that needed new seals. He didn't want to replace them himself, so he's sending his gun to Paul for a complete tuneup. I suggest you do the same. Click here to go to Paul's website, where you'll find his phone number. Because airgunsmiths are few & far between, you'll have to ship your gun for repairs...whether you use Paul or decide to go to someone else.

Edith

 
At April 09, 2010 11:05 AM, Blogger kevin said...

Mrs. Gaylord,

My apologies. I responded directly to the email left in this comment and should have noted it on the blog.

Based on my experience so many of these inquiries never find their way back to where they originally posted their question(s) and end up asking again somewhere else hoping for a response.

I also suggested Paul Watts but attached a long list of airgun tuners in the event he didn't want to wait on Paul Watts or wanted it done cheaper.

Hope you're doing well and are asking to receive the blessings and prayer that are being offered everyday. I'm still very concerned about the situation but am hopeful that I'm just being overly cautious and worried.

kevin

 
At April 09, 2010 11:14 AM, Anonymous Edith Gaylord said...

Kevin,

Thanks for contacting him directly. I hesitate to do that because I never know what they're going to do with my email address!

I'll be visiting Tom shortly and then again later tonight. I call the nurse 5-6 times a day to see how he's doing. Usually, he's just resting or sleeping, sometimes he's with the physical therapist. This weekend, I'm putting him to work :-) I know he'll love it! Keeping him sedated so long has not helped his muscles very much, so that's a work in progress right now. "This, too, shall pass."

Words fail to adequately express my deep appreciation for the love and caring shared by you and others. Thank you so much!

Edith

 

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