Posts Tagged ‘FWB 300’
Every airgun show is unique. I’ve said that many times before, but it’s always true — and this one was no different. What I look for when I try to describe an airgun show is how it stood out from all the others. That’s what I’ll do today.
An airgun show is small, in comparison to0 a regular gun show, but there are more airguns on a single table then you’ll see at most big gun shows. And the guns range from inexpensive Daisys and Crosmans to then most exotic airguns imaginable. So go to gun shows for and crowded aisles, but to airgun shows to find airguns.
I didn’t get away from my table for the first half of the first day. When I finally did, the show immediately began to reveal itself. It was jam-packed with big bore air rifles! I mean jammed! Dennis Quackenbush and Eric Henderson are always the mainstays of the show; but this time I met Robert Vogel, whose business is Mr. Hollowpoint. Robert casts each bullet by hand from lead as pure as he can make it. His bullets mushroom on game perfectly and rip huge holes in living flesh, making the most humane kills possible. I bought a bag of 68-grain .308-caliber hollowpoints for the Quackenbush .308 test I’m conducting, and he threw in a second bag of .22 pellets for free. These will have a special debut in a smallbore test in the near future.
Robert Vogel (standing) is Mr. Hollowpoint. He has thousands of different bullets for big bore shooters to try.
But Mr. Hollowpoint wasn’t the only bullet maker at the show. Seth Rowland, the show’s host and promoter, also supplies the big bore airgunning community with cast bullets in numerous sizes and shapes. And their customers can hardly appreciate the untold hours they spend at the lead pot, casting and sizing these silver slugs one by one.
Need bullets? Seth Rowland has them in different sizes, shapes and weights.
Another theme that’s common to all airgun shows is 10-meter target guns. This year’s Arkansas show had plenty of them, both from dealers like Scott Pilkington of Pilkington Competition Equipment in Tennessee, as well as numerous private individuals. I mentioned several weeks ago that Mac was bringing some recently overhauled FWB rifles to this show, and on day one an interested buyer sought him out. This man was serious about buying a target rifle, and he had done his research on the internet. But this was the first time he’d seen, felt and shot these rifles.
Mac took him out to the shooting range to try out an FWB 150 and a 300; and from his testing, he decided the 300 was the gun he wanted. Because it lacks the barrel jacket, it’s lighter than a standard 300S. He was buying the rifle for his wife to shoot in competition. They made a deal, and he went home with the exact target rifle he wanted — an overhauled ex-club rifle at a price that was several hundred dollars below what he would have paid for a gamble on the internet. For this man, driving all the way to Arkansas made good sense.
I’m sure that same scenario was played out numerous times at this show, because that’s what happens at an airgun show that also has a shooting range. You get to try out the guns before you buy — something that’s impossible at a regular gun show.
The odd and wonderful
You never know what you’re going to see at one of these shows, but there are a few people who always seem to have interesting things. Larry Hannusch, the top airgun writer for the past 30 years, is one person who can always surprise you. This year, our tables were together, giving me the opportunity to look at his guns more closely than normal. He had a Crosman 113 bulk-fill CO2 rifle, which isn’t unusual, except the owner of this one had inlet a pellet box into the right side of the stock — much like the patchbox found on certain muzzleloading rifles.
Some owner made this patchbox in the stock of his Crosman 113 bulk-fill rifle.
He built the “patchbox” with a built-in spring. There were pellets inside.
When was the last time you saw one of these? A French ball-flask pistol from the 1700s.
The big find
Often there will be a big find of some certain airgun that shows up at a particular show. I remember one year someone was selling piles of brand-new-in-the-box S&W 78G and 79G pistols. There were at least 50, but as my memory serves there might have been as many as 100 brand-new guns that were at least 20 years old at the time. Another year, it was Scott Pilkington who brought almost 300 club target guns for sale. You could buy an FWB 300 for $150-$200! Of course, it would have been a beater and would have needed to be resealed, but it certainly was the budget way into a 10-meter gun.
Then there was the year that someone had over 20 Johnson Target Guns, the submachinegun-looking plastic catapult BB gun from the late 1940s. They were all new in the box, and the cloth backstop that was in the box to stop the BBs inside the box lid that also served as a backstop had turned to dust. But they were complete. To collectors, they were a wonderful find. I actually saw two of these at this year’s Arkansas show; so even after more than 10 years, they’re still slowly dissolving into the collector population.
Two brand-new Johnson Target Guns in the box with all the literature and accessories.
When I walked into the second large room in this show and turned the corner, I ran into Randy Mitchell’s booth, where he was selling a pile of recently discovered TS45 sidelever air rifles for $20 each! I blogged this rifle several years ago, and Vince also wrote a guest blog about the same rifle. Until now, there were no new guns you could buy. You had to find one by chance and would always be one somebody had owned and possibly modified. Now, Randy Mitchell, who runs his Adventures in Airguns store, has a huge pile of these rifles to sell. They aren’t very safe and are the very guns that chopped off thumbs when their anti-beartraps failed; but if you cock them safely and load while restraining the sidelever, they’re fun to shoot and are often accurate.
Randy Mitchell found these old/new TS45 sidelevers and brought them to the show. It’s stuff like this that keeps me going to every airgun show I can make!
Of course, there are too many modern guns to name here, but know that at any show you’ll find almost every modern classic airgun for sale. If you’re looking for good TX200s or old R7s, they’re usually available — and they were at this show, too. But what you also see are airguns that are so rare and hard to find that some of them won’t even be seen in airgun books. This yearm Ingvar Alm had both a Winsel CO2 pistol in the box and a Giffard CO2 pistol from the 1870s on his table. Giffard invented the application of CO2 for gun use, and Winsel made only 50 guns in the early 1950s. Neither gun is represented well in any airgun book I know.
The Winsel pistol was a bulk-filled CO2 pistol that required the owner to mail his tank back to the company to be filled. Yeah, that’s going to work! They made 50 and quit. Today, they’re a prized collectible.
Giffard pioneered the use of CO2 in guns in the 1870s. His pistols are many times rarer than his rifles. The empty pop bottle is for contrast — like Cindy Crawford’s mole.
There were more big bores at this show than I see at other shows. Perhaps, that’s because the focus of big bore airgunning seems to center around Texas, where the LASSO match is held. Dennis Quackenbush delivered his guns to eager buyers, but the only rifle he had to show was his own .308, which he doesn’t want to sell. Eric Henderson and Big Bore Bob Dean were both there with some guns to sell, as well as Robert Vogel. But the one maker with a lot of guns on display was Jack Haley, whose table was a rainbow of laminated stocks.
Jack Haley’s table was a colorful display of big bore rifles.
Then there was the big bore that has been a joke in the airgun community for many years. The gun itself is fine. It was made back in the 1980s by Ben Patron, whose name is clearly on the side of the receiver. Somewhere along the line, some person got ahold of it and displayed it at the Springfield, Missouri, gun show as a “U.S. military .50-caliber sniper air rifle.” The label for that display was still inside the guitar box that held the gun, and Dennis Quackenbush remembers seeing it at the Springfield show. After that, it somehow ended up in an Arkansas pawn shop where Big Bore Bob found it and bought it.
Some previous owner had concocted a colorful background story for the Patron big bore of the 1980s.
Many shows have a drawing, but airgun shows are so lightly attended that you actually have a chance of winning! This year, they gave away several very nice prizes at the close of the show, including a scoped TalonP pistol from AirForce! Then came the drawing for the frame-extended silencer for the Talon SS. I knew before the little girl picked my ticket that I would win it. How ironic is that? I’m testing a Talon SS with a bloop tube right now, so of course I’m going to win another one! But the supreme irony came when Randy Mitchell, a big bore hunter, won the .50-caliber Dragon Claw donated by Pyramyd Air.
Randy Mitchell (right) won the Dragon Claw. Show host, Seth Rowland, standing, ran the drawing. The young lady added a lot of sparkle and enthusiasm to the show. I see an airgunner in the making!
On the trip home, Mac and I relived the show many times. That’s another benefit. I can remember snippets from most past shows, and this one will now be filed away in the library.
by B.B. Pelletier
Shivashankar says this is his 4-year-old son with his dad’s Diana Model 23 on the boy’s first day at their club!
The FWB 300S is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.
We’ll look at accuracy today, but this isn’t our last look at the 300S. You convinced me to take this rifle to the range and test it at 50 yards. I’ll do that, but I have to have a perfectly calm day for it. Kevin also convinced me to test weight-sorted pellets against pellets straight from the tin, so that’s how I’ll do the test. I want to use domed pellets at that distance, so today I’ll be looking for a good one that the rifle likes.
More 300S trivia
Mac sent a batch of photos to show some details that few people have ever seen. I’ll show a couple today and more in the next report.
Remember the Running Target rifle we talked about last time? Well Mac sent photos to show how the loading port differs from the one found on the standard 300S match rifle. The port is the same size, but FWB has rotated it to the right to make access for loading a little easier. I guess they expected a lot of right-handed RT shooters, or more likely they also built one in a left-hand version. Mac’s is the right-hand rifle.
The standard 300S loading port is centered on top of the spring tube, to be equally accessible from either side.
On the right-hand Running Target rifle, the loading port is rotated to the right for better access from that side.
All of today’s shooting was done from a rest at 10 meters. I attached the Gehmann color filter wheel to the rear aperture and used the yellow filter to sharpen the bulls. It seemed to work okay. Unless I were to use it for a lot longer, I really could not say that it adds anything. I don’t shoot a 10-meter rifle often enough to notice things like that.
Pellet head size is important when shooting a target rifle, and I shot pellets with heads of 4.50mm and 4.52mm, but none with a 4.51mm. Interestingly, the 4.50mm heads ranged from bad to good; so even when you have a single head size, you aren’t done looking for the right pellet.
Pellets that didn’t make the grade
I tried nine pellets in this test. Seven were wadcutters and two were domes. RWS Hobby pellets and Gamo Match were the two that didn’t cut it. Both shot so poorly that I didn’t waste any time with them. Oddly, in the test of the FWB 150 I did last year, RWS Hobbys were tied with H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets as the best ones. Go figure!
I shot two 5-shot groups each with the other 7 pellets. And with 6 of the 7 pellets, the second group was smaller than the first. That lends support to the notion that an airgun barrel needs to be seasoned before it will perform its best.
The following pellets did okay, and I would have continued to use them if I had nothing better. Each of them seemed to want to do better than they were doing, but I tried an extended test with one of them and it didn’t pan out.
The RWS R10 Match Pistol pellet came the closest to making the final cut. Maybe if I shot it more it might improve. But the best group of five I got measured 0.153 inches between centers.
I tried the Vogel match pellet that Scott Pilkington makes here in the U.S. It’s a great match pellet, but for some reason the 300S didn’t care for it that much. This is the pellet I shot four groups with, but the best of them measured 0.192 inches between centers. No dice!
JSB S100 Match pellets were another tease. The best group measured 0.113 inches between centers, but in the end it just wasn’t enough to make the cut. This was the only pellet I tried that had a head size of 4.52mm. All the others were 4.50mm. This pellet did very well in an Edge match rifle from AirForce, so I thought it might have a chance here, but no dice.
The one domed pellet that I thought might work but didn’t was the Air Arms Falcon pellet. The best group out of two was 0.167 inches between centers. It was a nice, round group; and because this isn’t a wadcutter, the group looks about half the size it really is. With domes, you have to make extra allowances for the skirt that tears through the target paper.
Three pellets showed great promise in the 300S, and one of them was superb. The JSB Exact RS was the best domed pellet, putting 5 shots into a beautiful round group that measured just 0.111 inches between centers. Because these groups are all so small, I’ve enlarged the photos for you to see them better. My dime is in the photo for reference. This is the pellet I will take out to 50 yards.
I tried both H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets and H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets in the 300S, and both turned in a wonderful performance. These are the pellets the gun likes best. The Finale Match Pistol pellets turned in a group that measured 0.117 inches between centers. It looked very good when I saw it, but one that’s even better was yet to come.
The best pellet of the day was the last one I shot — the H&N Finale Match Rifle pellet. Five of them went onto a group measuring 0.097 inches.
So we found out what we knew all along: the FWB 300S is an accurate target rifle. Just for fun, I checked back to the test of the FWB 150 and saw that the best two groups with that rifle measured 0.119 inches between centers, so I did a little better with this one. On any given day, I suppose either rifle would emerge the victor. But I like the firing behavior of the 300S a little better.
The next time you see this rifle, it will have fired those JSB Exact RS pellets at 50 yards. What a day that will be!
by B.B. Pelletier
The FWB 300S is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.
Some more history
The first part of this report was certainly met with a lot of enthusiasm, so I think I’ll add some more history today. In the comments to Part 1, we had a discussion of the sport called Running Target. Some called it Running Boar, which it was for several decades, and long before that it was called Running Stag.
The sport originated in Germany, I believe, though it was probably popular in Austria and perhaps even in Switzerland. It existed at least as far back as the mid-19th century and was shot outdoors at a target pulled on tracks by human power. The original target was a male chamois made of wood with a target where the heart of the animal would be. But that target evolved into a male red deer, called a stag. The stag was exposed to the shooter for a specific number of seconds.
In time, the stag was replaced by a running boar, because the stag was thought to be a noble animal and the boar wasn’t so highly regarded…though in England they did have a similar sport called Running Deer.
As the match evolved, it picked up rules. There was a slow presentation of the target (5 seconds) and a fast presentation (2.5 seconds), and the shooter was supposed to shoot one shot on each pass. The target was engaged in both directions during the match. It wasn’t long before the wooden animals were switched for paper targets that were both cheaper and easier to score.
The Running Boar target was double-ended so it could be used in both directions on the same track.
The aim point was usually the animal’s nose, but that was the choice of each shooter.
Over the years, the rifles they used changed from muzzleloaders to centerfires, and eventually to rimfires and airguns, because of the increased opportunities for range safety. Today, both rimfires and airguns are still being used at the World Cup level.
The guns have traditionally used sights that account for the movement of the target and allow the correct amount of lead. When scopes came into the event, they were specialized with reticles that allowed for the lead to be dialed in. Anyone who owns an FWB 300S Running Target rifle with the correct scope has something to prize.
Gary Anderson brought a running target range to the Roanoke Airgun Expo back in the late 1990s, giving many airgunners the opportunity to closely examine the target setup. By the 1970s, the sport had become Running Target — to assuage those who felt shooting at boars was not politically correct. The sport was part of the 1992 Olympics, but was dropped after the 2004 games. It’s a sport that goes in and out of fashion as the years pass; but it’s still a World Cup event, so we may see more of it in time.
When the change was made to Running Target, the target was changed to a target with one central aim point and two bulls — one for each direction.
Velocity of the FWB 300S
Today is the day we check the velocity of this FWB 300S, so let’s get to it. When it was new, the 300S was advertised with a velocity of 640 f.p.s., though the pellet they was used to get that number was never specified. I will use a range of pellets I believe are appropriate to the power level of a spring gun like this. And, in a departure for me, one of the pellets I test will be domed.
Air Arms Falcon
I tested the Air Arms Falcon pellet even though it’s a domed pellet that’s not appropriate for target shooting, because many readers use these rifles with scopes for plinking and other pursuits. So, I’ll also shoot this pellet for accuracy — just to see what it can do.
This was the first pellet I tested, and I’m so glad I own a chronograph, because I learned something valuable about the 300S in this test. This rifle needs to warm up before it’ll shoot with stable velocity. Think of an older car from the 1950s that had to be warmed up for a minute or so and then driven slowly for the first mile to allow the parts to expand and start sealing as they should. Heck — most car engines from that era developed leaks pretty quickly, and you did whatever was necessary to keep them from wearing faster than they should. Well, this FWB 300S needs the same kind of warmup. Let me show you the first 9 shots.
So, if you shoot a 300S — or any of its derivatives — for score, maybe you better shoot about 10 shots just to warm the action before expecting the rifle to do its best.
After shot 9, the rifle became very stable and averaged 658 f.p.s. with the Falcon pellet. The low was 655, and the high was 671 f.p.s. At that speed, this pellet generates 7.05 foot-pounds. That’s pretty brisk for a 300S; but Mac, who traded the rifle to me, said it had just been sealed and overhauled by Randy Bimrose, so it’s performing at its best.
A couple observations
Before I move to the next pellet, I’d like to make a few observations. First, I said in Part 1 that the 300S action doesn’t need to be levered forward at the end of the cocking strike like the action of an RWS Diana model 54 Air King, but that was incorrect. It does have to be levered forward into lockup in just the same way, but the 300S action is so smooth that I didn’t notice it until now. With a Diana 54, you always notice it.
I mention this because, like the Diana 54, the 300S uses the sledge-type anti-recoil system; and even though it’s a gentle rifle, it has to operate in the same way as the more powerful Diana. Moving the action forward into lockup prepares the action to release when the gun fires and to move on the steel rails in the stock just a fraction of an inch, canceling the feel of recoil.
The second thing I noticed this time is that I can feel the cocking link bump over the mainspring coils as the cocking lever moves back to the stored position. I sometimes feel that same roughness in other spring rifles, where the tolerances are tight, and I thought I’d mention that this one does the same thing.
RWS R-10 Pistol pellets
Next, I tried the RWS R-10 Pistol pellet, which weigh 7 grains, even. I tried them because of their weight — not because I think they’ll be the most accurate pellet. I just want to show the rifle’s velocity with a reasonable range of pellet weights.
This pellet averaged 658 f.p.s. with a low of 640 and a high of 664 f.p.s. The low shot was the only one that went slower than 656 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 6.73 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets
The final pellet I tested was the 8.18-grain H&N Finale Match Rifle pellet. It averaged 609 f.p.s. and ranged from 597 to 616 f.p.s. The average velocity generated a muzzle energy of 6.74 foot-pounds
There you have it. This 300S is extremely healthy and ready to go target shooting in the next report! It’s still a joy to shoot and is a rifle that you should continue to covet if you’re so inclined.
One additional thing. There has been some talk of how accurate these rifles are at longer range. If you want, I’ll schedule a special fourth report in which I shoot this rifle outdoors at 50 yards. I’ll have to wait for a calm day, of course, but wouldn’t it be fun to see how this rifle shoots at that range?
by B.B. Pelletier
The FWB 300s is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.
I’ve danced around writing this report for the better part of a year, and some of you have asked me when I was going to get around to it. Well, today is the day we’ll begin looking at Feinwerkbau’s fabulous 300S — considered by many airgunners to be the gold standard of vintage 10-meter target air rifles.
Today’s blog is an important resource for those who are interested in fine vintage 10-meter target rifles, because I’m going to give you the links to all the other reports I’ve done.
There are plenty of vintage 10-meter rifles that I haven’t tested for you yet. The Diana 75, the Anschutz 380, the Walther LGR, the Anschutz 250 and the Gamo 126 all come to mind; but if you want to split hairs, there are numerous similar models like the Walther LG55 and the Diana 65 that also belong to a very long list of classic oldies. But the guns we’ve looked at thus far are a fair representation of the classic era of target air rifles. Today, we’ll look at the rifle many consider to be the pinnacle of achievement during that period.
You probably know the history, but if you don’t — first there was the FWB 110, a sidelever target rifle that recoiled! Yes, it recoiled. What’s more, Feinwertkbau didn’t make too many of them. The 110 is considered to be a very desirable airgun collectible today, and many advanced airgunners, including me, have never even seen one. According to the Blue Book of Airguns, fewer than 200 were made from 1962-1964.
The FWB 150 followed the 110 and introduced Feinwerkbau’s anti-recoil system. I reviewed the FWB 150 for you last June. I found it to be easy to shoot and compellingly accurate, but it wasn’t everything it could be. That honor awaited the 300S that I’m reviewing for you today.
The FWB 150 is the predecessor of the 300S. It shares a more sporterized stock profile with the interim FWB 300.
A footnote deserves to be inserted here, as the first edition of the Beeman catalog, a collectible in its own right, also mentioned an FWB 200 model, existing at the same time as the 300. A short line in the Blue Book says the model 200 was similar to the model 300 but lacked the recoil-compensation system. Until I researched today’s report, the model 200 was unknown to me and I’ve certainly never seen one. Is it as rare as the model 110? Has anyone ever seen one? These are the curious things that pop up as we research this fascinating hobby, and they’re what keeps the collector in me in a permanent state of anticipation.
The model 300 was much like the 150, in that it has a single coiled, steel mainspring and a thinner, more sporterized stock, yet it was definitely labeled a 300, rather than the 150. You don’t see as many straight 300 rifles as you do 150 rifles these days. Perhaps that’s because when the 300S came out it overshadowed the 300 and drove it from the marketplace in fairly short order. The 300S was a very different gun.
If you’re like me, you never paid much attention to the difference between a 300 and the 300S. What’s in a letter designation, after all? A lot of things, as it turns out.
Let’s start with the mainspring. The 300S has two coiled steel springs that are wound in opposite directions. It’s said they cancel the slight amount of torque at firing, though I cannot say that I’ve ever noticed any torque in my 150. The RWS Diana 48 sidelever does have noticeable torque upon firing, and you’ll feel a definite rocking to the right after the trigger is pulled. Since the sidelever already unbalances that rifle, the feeling is magnified; but the 150 doesn’t have the same feeling. At least — my rifle, which was recently tuned by Randy Bimrose, doesn’t.
The 300S stock is shorter than the stock on the 300/150. It also has a more vertical pistol grip to enhance the offhand hold. A slight flare at the bottom might go unnoticed in the catalog photos; but when you hold the rifle, the pistol grip grabs you right back.
So, how does this rifle block the recoil? Well, for starters, it actually doesn’t! All the FWB spring-piston target rifles do recoil; but in the 150 models and the 300-series there’s a special system in the stock that isolates the shooter from the movement. A set of steel rails set into the stock allows the action to move while the stock remains still. The shooter doesn’t feel any recoil and only the slightest vibration in some guns. But you do notice the movement of the action, because of the eyepiece that’s close to your sighting eye. The movement is very short — on the order of a quarter-inch or so — but if you’re close to the rear sight you’ll notice it. A rubber eyecup helps take up the shock and prevent your eye from banging into the rear sight disk, and I find it necessary to use this accessory with this model rifle.
This system is called the sledge system, after the name for a dry-land type of sled whose runners make it easy to drag heavy loads. It’s completely different from the Giss anti-recoil system, in which a counterweighted piston actually has no discernible recoil.
This mechanism is very refined compared to a similar system found on the RWS Diana model 54 Air King. Of course, that magnum spring-piston rifle has to deal with three times the power in a rifle of similar weight, so it’s actually doing quite a good job of canceling the recoil. Still, when the 300S lever is retracted, there’s no “levering” of the action required at the end of the cocking stroke like you have with the Diana 54. The ratcheting anti-beartrap safety that prevents the sliding compression chamber from smashing your thumb during loading does not need a separate button to release the cocking lever after you’ve loaded. The only extra step the 300S does have is a small locking latch on the sidelever that unlocks the lever at the start of the cocking stroke. The 150 and 300 cocking levers both have an end section that pivots outward to unlock the cocking lever and achieve the same thing.
Press down on the cocking lever latch to release the lever for cocking and loading.
The sidelever on a 300S is also much shorter than the one on the 150, yet the cocking effort remains as light. Obviously, some geometry was changed when the model was updated.
My 300S is a Daisy gun. While many were imported and sold by Beeman, many more came into the U.S. through Daisy when the company was trying to establish itself as a target gun company. The FWB name trumped the Daisy name, however, and a Daisy FWB is exactly the same as one from Beeman or one imported directly from Europe.
This 300S came from Daisy.
No piston seal
Another odd but not unique feature of these rifles is the lack of a conventional piston seal. Instead of a traditional seal, they use a metal ring much like those found on an automobile engine’s piston. These rings will last for millions of cycles, as some club guns have demonstrated, though other parts like the breech seal will eventually have to be replaced. And the coiled steel mainspring set needs occasional replacement, as well.
Many Webley pistols and a couple of the older Webley rifles have the same design, so piston rings are not unique in the airgun world. They are, however, features that are found only on guns of quality.
When the 150/300 was new, American airgunners were not used to light target triggers as a rule. They were accustomed to a 3-lb. pull being considered light. So, when they encountered the FWB trigger that releases at ounces rather than pounds, they were astounded. In fact, if they’d been accustomed to shooting the older target rifles from the 19th century, like Ballards, Maynards and Winchesters, all of which had fine double-set triggers, they would have been less impressed.
The 300S trigger has a nominal pull weight ranging from 3.5 oz. to 17.7 oz. (an optional trigger spring boosts that range from 10.6 oz. to 52.8 oz.). In target rifle terms, even the lighter range is not very light, though I find it just right for me. The trigger on my rifle releases at a satisfying 4.4 oz. It’s a two-stage pull with stage two being very definite. With practice, you can get on target and “think” the trigger off as the sight picture becomes perfect.
The 300S trigger also adjusts for position, cant and first-stage travel — all things that the 150 trigger does not do. Although the 150 trigger is just as light and crisp as the one on the 300S, you can’t reposition it. It’s also curved like a sporting trigger instead of straight like the target trigger found on the 300S.
The trigger of a target air rifle has no lower limit, the way a target air pistol does. In the ISSF rules for air pistols, a match pistol trigger must break at more than 500 grams (17.64 oz.). This is done in the interest of safety, as the muzzle of a pistol is too easy to move while on a firing line. But a rifle like the 300S is more obvious and easier to control, so there’s no lower limit. Some target air rifles today are releasing at less than 50 grams (1.76 oz.) of force.
The stocks of the vintage target air rifles show a fairly broad latitude of design, but they stop short in a few important areas. Tyrolean stocks are not permitted in World Cup and Olympic matches, nor are butt hooks. Today’s rifles are studies in ergonomics applied against these rules. Today, a 300S looks fairly normal to eyes that are accustomed to wild aluminum stocks with numerous adjustments; but when it was new, it seemed to push the envelope of possibility. I suppose it’s equivalent to how the finned cars of the late 1950s appeared when they were new compared to how we see them today.
Another drastic measure was taken at the World Cup level in the realm of target sights. For a brief time, the tube-type rear aperture sight was used, but complaints that it gave an unfair advantage caused a ruling that it was no longer permitted. This is very odd, since tube-type sights have been in use since at least 1776 and were in widespread use in target matches throughout the 19th century. But the ruling was made, and today’s rear sights cannot use tubes to enhance the sharpness of the sight picture.
FWB target rear sights looked as exotic as a Rolex watch when they were new in the 1970s. Today, they seem almost simple, but they still do the job. The click detents are nowhere close to the thousandth-inch measurements of the Vernier scale peep sights I showed you recently; but since you’re shooting 10 meters instead of 1,000 yards, they’re more than adequate for the job.
Unfortunately, these rifles were also sold without sights for a slightly reduced price, and many buyers mounted short scopes on their 11mm sight dovetails. While they may have been pleased with the gun that way, they created a shortage of sights for the future that is difficult to resolve. Until five years ago, you either had to install a hoplessly crude rear sight made either in Spain or China and live with the problems of adjustment backlash, or you had to pony up almost as much money as you paid for the entire rifle just to buy a set of precision sights.
AirForce corrected that lack for you with their adaptive rear target sight that fits most 10-meter guns. For about a third of what a German rear sight costs, you get a unit that’s the equivalent of the vintage FWB rear sight; and as a bonus, it looks at home on any rifle. An additional feature that never seems to get mentioned is this sight can be removed from its base and installed in a standard one-inch scope ring — multiplying the possible applications greatly.
The front sight looks more conventional and is of the globe design with replaceable inserts. On the 300S, it’s part of a larger aluminum barrel sleeve that makes it proprietary. When the globe on an Anschütz or Weihrauch target rifle slides onto a dovetail, this globe actually fits only the 300S barrel.
The front sight on this HW55 attaches to two dovetails of standard width. All Weihrauch rifles that have dovetails can use this sight.
The FWB 300S front sight globe is integral with an aluminum sleeve that fits over the barrel. It’s either this or nothing!
The front sight is pinned to the barrel through the sight base. On some versions of the 300S, like the Universal and the later Match, this pin is at the bottom of the barrel. On my rifle it’s located at the top.
You may have also noticed that the 300S has a blued barrel sleeve that’s slenderer than the one on the 150. Only toward the end of the barrel does it swell a bit. That’s because the 300S barrel is longer than the one on the 150, so there has to be less sleeve material to balance the weight correctly.
But the real test of this airgun comes with shooting. I’ve already shot this rifle several times, so I know what’s in store. You should feel eager expectation for the next two installments, because this rifle wants to shoot!
This report is going to start a controversy, because it dares to question the things that are currently held dear among airgunners and firearms shooters, alike. Sorry, but here it goes.
What is a crown?
The crown is the end of the barrel, or the place at the muzzle that has the final influence upon the bullet as it transitions to ballistic flight. One popular belief is that if the crown is not perfectly symmetrical, then one side of the pellet or bullet can exit before the other and allow escaping gas to impart a destabilizing effect on the bullet at the beginning of its path to the target. So, crowns have to be perfect, according to the vast majority of shooters.
The other side
But there have been experiments done that show that escaping gasses have zero effect on a bullet in flight. The most well-documented of these were done by Dr. F.W. Mann, who wrote about them in his book The Bullet’s Flight, From Powder to Target. Dr. Mann did numerous experiments until finally he demonstrated that a plank six inches long placed within 1/16 inch of the muzzle blast has absolutely no effect on the accuracy of a bullet.
You see, in Dr. Mann’s day riflemen believed that the muzzle blast had a deleterious effect on the flight of the bullet, and they warned shooters to keep the muzzle clear of any and all obstructions.
But is what Dr. Mann tested the same as an inaccurate crown? Maybe not. The question seems to be what, exactly, does the crown do?
The end of the rifling and the face of the muzzle bore must be as square as possible to the bore for the crown to be perfect. The reason for this is as I stated earlier — that the base of the bullet/pellet leaves the muzzle at exactly the same point around its circumference, rather than one part coming out before the rest. But there are all kinds of crowns, including some that don’t look like a crown at all.
Let’s look at some crowns now.
The crown of this Ballard target rifle is flat and polished like a mirror. The old-time shooters felt it was easier to see the distribution of the bullet lube — as it made a pattern on the face of the muzzle. There’s almost no break between the bore and the muzzle on this rifle — which is one of the more accurate ones I own. In the 135 years since this rifle was made, there has been no damage to this crown.
This Butler Creek bull barrel for a Ruger 10/22 has a recessed crown that’s similar to the Ballard crown except for the recess. However, on this one, it’s possible to see a tiny break (chamfer) at the muzzle. With the right ammunition, this rifle can hold 10 shots close to one-half inch at 50 yards. The recess supposedly protects the actual crown from inadvertent damage.
No doubt that this crown on an FWB 300 target rifle will look more familiar to most shooters. It’s the traditional rounded or radiused crown with a protected chamfer at the true muzzle. It’s on my most accurate ten-meter target rifle. Doesn’t look so pretty up close, does it?
The crown on this HW55 SF air rifle is similar to the one on the FWB 300, but up close it looks pretty disgusting. The rifle is one of the more accurate 10-meter target rifles I own. So, looks can be deceiving, and a “perfect” crown may not be all that it’s cracked up to be.
Not looking like your typical crown, this Swedish Mauser M1938 crown is a lot like the “redneck” crown job that hobbyists do on their guns. This is on a very accurate rifle. The lighting makes the bore seem to have a shoulder around the inside of the muzzle, but it doesn’t.
The redneck crown
Since the 1960s, there has been a hobbyist approach to crowning a barrel. It consists of a round-headed brass screw and a grinding compound — like automotive valve grinding compound. Chuck the screw in a hand drill and coat the domed screw head with grinding compound. Then, run the drill motor slowly while allowing the axis of the drill to oscillate to avoid making an oval cut. The result will look something like the crown on the Swedish Mauser M1938 shown above.
The crown on a custom barrel for a .17 HM2 rifle. Though brand-new and not even broken in yet, this rifle has already shot a five-shot 50-yard group that measured 3/8 inches across the centers of the widest shots. Note the powder burn pattern around the muzzle. This is the same thing that old-timers analyzed on the mirror surface of the Ballard muzzle when it was bullet lubricant that spread out instead of carbon fouling. This is another deadly accurate rifle that has no noticeable “crown” to the muzzle. The transition is very close to 90 degrees.
The crown on an AirForce Condor is very similar to the recessed target crowns shown before, except that this one has a definite chamfer or break at the muzzle. This rifle shoots half-inch five-shot groups and three-quarter inch 10-shot groups at 50 yards. And, yes, I did notice that it is time to clean this barrel!
So, what’s the verdict?
I’m not sure. That’s where I am on the whole crown issue. The reasoning makes some sense, and I can see why a PCP or a CO2 gun would then need a good crown, but a springer barely has any compressed air exiting the muzzle, so where’s the advantage there?
Don’t say anything about crowns removing burrs at the muzzle, because Dr. Mann did an extensive test in which he screwed blunt-tipped screws into the side of his Pope barrel at the muzzle to see if burrs at the muzzle that deformed bullets affected accuracy. They did not. He set his blunt-tipped screws to plough to the bottom of the grease groove of the exiting bullet, and no change was noticed in its accuracy at 100 yards.
Are crowns placebos?
I’m still undecided on the importance of crowning a barrel. I’ve read what everyone says, which is that the crown is of paramount importance to the accuracy of the barrel, yet I’m not convinced that it is. I’m also not convinced that it isn’t. I just don’t know.
I think there’s something more that has not yet been discussed about crowns and their importance to accuracy, but I’ll be darned if I know what it is. Do shooters shoot better after receiving (or doing) a crown job on a particular barrel? If you read what they write, they seem to. And most shooters believe that the barrel’s crown is of great importance to the performance of the barrel.
I wish I knew for sure, but I don’t.
by B.B. Pelletier
Announcement: The California General Assembly requires your attention one more time. Several months ago, Senator de Leon wrote SB 798 in an attempt to make black airguns and airsoft guns illegal. All airsoft guns and BB and pellet guns would have to be clear or brightly colored. Because so many of you protested and signed Pyramyd Air’s petition, Sen. de Leon and his cohorts in the Public Safety Committee were forced to pull SB 798. Unfortunately, they’re very creative and have rewritten SB 798, and it could be even more disastrous than the original bill because it now allows any county or city to pass the exact bill they had to pull, resulting in a patchwork of legal and illegal areas around the state. Airgunners could end up being legal one moment and illegal the next. You’d never know when you’re breaking the law as you drive along a street or highway.
You can read about the rewritten bill on Pyramyd Air’s site. You’ll have an opportunity to sign a petition that Pyramyd Air will send on your behalf and also download a letter that you can sign and send to individuals on the California General Assembly.
We won a battle on the first go-round, but the war against airguns is still raging. Click here to support the fight against SB 798. Now, on to today’s blog.
Photos and all testing by Earl “Mac” McDonald
While I say this report is by me, it’s really by Mac, who’s been telling me about mini-sniping for almost a decade. It’s one of his favorite sports.
Mac and I used to compete at field target with the DIFTA club in Damascus, Maryland, back in the 1990s. We also used to shoot 10-meter pistol every Monday evening in the league we set up there. So we got to see a lot of each other, though Mac lived in Silver Spring and I lived in Ellicott City.
Mac has always been the better rifle shot of the two of us, and his love of 10-meter rifles helps fuel his constant practice. When field target grew too difficult for many reasons, not the least of which was Edith and I moving to Texas, Mac started mini-sniping with a vengeance, though he had been doing it all along for many years. He has a weekend home on Maryland’s eastern shore, where he can shoot his airguns safely on several acres without bothering the neighbors. One of his favorite sports on this property is mini-sniping.
What is mini-sniping?
Mini-sniping is a game that grew up without a governing body or rules of any kind. In its simplest form, it’s shooting very small targets at long distances with airguns. There’s no standard set of rules to follow, so what I’m about to describe is really just the essence of a sport that has no real definition.
The object is to shoot small objects that move when they are hit. You don’t keep score, unless you want to, and a hit would be a point. But the fun comes not from the score but just from the sheer fun of shooting small targets and sending them flying.
Mac and I have noticed that the way the game is played changes from shooter to shooter or from one small group of guys to another. Some shoot at small plastic Army men (can you say, Toy Story?) while others such as Mac shoot at empty cartridges. And when I say empty cartridges, I do mean just the empty brass cases. Nobody in their right mind would ever shoot at a live round of ammunition.
The cartridges can vary from the common 9mm pistol case to the unbiquitous 12-gauge shotgun case. Mac prefers the 9mm case, so that’s what he’s written about.
The guns can be anything that’s accurate, for mini-sniping is a game of accuracy. Mac chooses to use 10-meter rifles, but nothing prevents you from using a Slavia 630, an Air Venturi Bronco or even a TX200. And it shouldn’t have to be said that the guns can also be pneumatics and even powered by CO2.
For sights, you can use open sights, target sights or even optical sights. With a scope, you can stretch the distance to the target considerably, but it doesn’t have to become a chore. Mac uses ISSF-legal target sights and engages his targets out to as far as 30 yards. A 9mm case looks pretty small at 90 feet, so bear that in mind when setting up the range. Also, the choice of gun will govern how often you lose a case, because when you hit one squarely it’ll fly. Of course a hit from a TX200 will put it into orbit, while a 10-meter rifle will keep it in the same county.
Mac picks an oldie
For this report, Mac selected a Feinwerkbau 300 that was tuned by Randy Bimrose. It lacks the barrel sleeve, so it’s lighter than the typical 10-meter target rifle, though just as accurate. Mac says the action buzzes like a tuning fork after each shot, though he can’t feel it because of the sledge anti-recoil system.
Mac is sitting in the classic international sitting position for field target. He has no support for himself or the gun. Just the triangulation of his body holds the gun steady on target.
For sights, he uses the standard FWB 300 rear aperture, augmented by a Gehmann insert that magnifies the front sight element like a reading glass. The insert provides a variable aperture hole from 0.5mm to 3.0mm wide for different lighting conditions. It also magnifies the front sight 1.5 times.
The Gehmann insert (top) contains a lens that sharpens the image of the front sight element for the shooter. It replaces the standard aperture insert in the FWB 300 rear sight, as well many other 10-meter target rifle sights.
You can see the lens at the back of the Gehmann insert.
The reason he uses this insert is because in the front globe he also uses a clear plastic insert with a 2.0mm hole. That’s a smaller hole than you usually get when you buy a set of clear inserts, but the Gehmann rear insert magnifies the tiny hole so the shooter can see it better against the target. When the target is a 9mm cartridge case 90 feet away, you need all the help you can get to see it without a scope.
The front sight insert is clear and has a smaller hole than normal. Together with the rear sight insert, it makes for greater precision.
You can see the big difference between the 2mm hole in the clear insert and the standard 3.6mm hole in the black insert.
The Gehmann insert lengthens the rear sight. Even so, Mac still positioned the rear sight as far back on the gun as it would go.
Even though the Gehmann insert lengthened the rear sight, Mac still positioned the sight as far back on the rifle as it would go.
Mac suspects that the target sights are giving him less problems with holdover because they’re mounted closer to the bore than a scope would be. Given the loopy trajectory of the slow-moving .177 pellet this rifle uses, he wants all the advantages he can get.
Mac tells us that he didn’t waste any time sorting though pellets to find the best one. Instead, he went straight to the 8.4-grain JSB Exact dome that proved so accurate in his Diana model 60 target rifle that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Because all these rifles shoot premium pellets well, he knew he could count on that pellet to work well in this FWB 300, which he’s never really tested since it was repaired.
This pellet gave a velocity averaging 580 f.p.s., with a spread of just 3 f.p.s. It doesn’t get much better than that — ever!
For targets that would mean something in a print report, Mac decided to use a paper target that showed the results. Of course, in real mini-sniping the target is always an object that moves when hit. He cut a 9mm case in half lengthways and laid it on the target paper, then spray-painted black paint around it. It then appeared to him as a bright aim point (the white paper directly under the 9mm case that didn’t get painted) surrounded by dark areas. He says that’s the way a real 9mm case appears.
Mac fired two shots at the target from each distance of 10 yards, 15 yards, 20 yards and 30 yards. For all shots, he used the center of the cartridge silhouette as the aim point. What he discovered was that all pellets were in line with the target, but those fired at 20 yards and 30 yards landed below the aim point.
This one target was used at all ranges. Both the 10-yard and 15-yard pellets landed in the same place on the silhouette of the cartridge case. At 20 yards, the pellets landed a little low and at 30 yards they were about one inch low. Had Mac held his sights high to compensate for the drop, all pellets would have hit the target.
You can do this
Mini-sniping has been going on for decades, and I suspect for longer than we know. It’s really just a type of plinking where the targets are standardized instead of random. If you don’t have 9mm cases laying around, you can use clothespins or plastic caps from soda bottles. Some shooters who don’t want to have random targets laying around substitute Necco wafers as targets. These sugary candies are completely biodegradable, whether they are hit or not.
Mini-sniping is a great way to enjoy your airgun. And though the accent of this article has been on rifles, there’s no reason you can’t do the same thing with an air pistol.
I wonder how many of you readers are already doing something like this and just not calling it by this name? I would enjoy hearing from you about how you do it in your neck of the woods.
by B.B. Pelletier
Well it’s Friday again, and it’s time to have some fun. When I tested the TF 79 competition air rifle, I mentioned that I also shot several vintage 10-meter rifles the same day, just to make sure I was still able to shoot a good group. Well, we heard from a lot of readers who apparently like these oldsters just as much as I do, so I thought I would take today and report on how they all did.
I’ve owned most of the better-known classic 10-meter target air rifles over the years, but I didn’t hold onto them because I was always chasing some other dream. Long-range accuracy or big-bore prowess were always competing with these quiet target rifles, and there’s only a finite amount of money to go around. So, over the years I’ve both shot and given up some real vintage beauties.
A couple years ago, I decided that I had to always have at least one vintage 10-meter target rifle on hand at all times for when those assignments — like testing target pellets — came along. At the Little Rock airgun expo, I searched for an HW55 — a rifle that I knew from experience would be right for the job. Well, there was one in my price range. What I didn’t know at the time was that it was a very rare version of the HW55 that not too many collectors have ever seen. It was the HW55 SF, the only HW55 ever made without the positive barrel latch on the left side of the action. In reality, it’s just an HW50 with a target sight, but Weihrauch had marked the barrel as an HW55, and I was able to find a listing for the model in a vintage catalog from Air Rifle Headquarters. Technically, it’s a 55, even without the barrel latch, because the manufacturer says it is.
I’ve owned most of the better-known classic 10-meter target air rifles over the years
That rifle sparked a renewed interest in vintage 10-meter target rifles; and over the course of the next two years, another four guns have come into my possession. They are, in order of acquisition, a Walther LGV Olympia, an HW55 Custom Match, an FWB 300S and, most recently, an FWB 150. The 150 is off to the airgunsmith getting overhauled right now, but the other three are on hand and are part of today’s testing.
From the comments I received, I knew that I would not only have to report on how these guns shoot, but also on their particular weaknesses, because many of you seem to want to acquire one for yourselves. Today’s report is not meant to be a detailed report on each of the rifles. There is no time for that here. I’ve already reported on the HW55 SF and the Walther LGV Olympia in separate reports that you can read, so there are only the FWB 300, HW55 CM and the FWB 150 yet to get their own three-part evaluations at some time in the future.
I’ll shoot four of the five target rifles for you to compare their accuracy against what you’ve seen from the TF79, not to mention the Crosman Challenger PCP and the AirForce Edge. Be sure to read the reports on the Crosman Challenger PCP and the AirForce Edge, too. And, also, please know that Crosman made another target rifle called the Crosman Challenger 2000 that was a CO2 rifle with a Benjamin 397 barrel. That rifle was never as accurate as the Challenger PCP, but you can easily get confused by the similar-sounding names.
The HW55 SF
As I mentioned, this was the airgun that kicked off my renewed interest in vintage 10-meter target rifles. As you can see in the picture, it’s just a simple breakbarrel that happens to have a target sight. In its day, which was around 1968, Weihrauch was making the finest breakbarrel rifles they ever produced, so there’s a lot to this rifle that you won’t see in an airgun made today.
The HW55 SF was an unexpected find. It was supposed to be a work-a-day test-bed rifle. Instead, it rekindled old interests.
Also, because this is a model 55 in the eyes of the manufacturer, they installed the special target version of the Rekord trigger. While the standard Rekord trigger is something to behold, the target version has a much lighter trigger return spring and can be set to release safely at just ounces of breaking pressure. So there’s not much difference in feel or performance between this trigger and the one found on the FWB 300.
Nearly all HW55 rifles have this locking lever for the barrel on the left side of the gun. It’s the most easily recognized feature of this model.
Only the rare HW55 SF is without a barrel-locking lever. The baseblock is marked “HW55.”
So, the old 55 likes inexpensive RWS Hobby pellets, too. What a plus! Sometimes, that’s exactly how it goes. I also shot RWS R10 Heavy pellets, but they weren’t as accurate as the H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets. The rifle is a bit buzzy when it fires, which I don’t like. But the accuracy is almost too good to do anything to the powerplant except use it as it is.
The two weaknesses an old HW55 can have are a bent mainspring and worn seals. The early seals were leather and can be handmade by the owner, but later guns used the synthetic HW50 seals that seem to last a long time. If the breech seal is synthetic, there’s a good chance the piston seal will be, too.
Walther LGV Olympia
The next rifle I tested was the Walther LGV Olympia. This old classic was one I bought from collector Tom Strayhorn, at what I thought was a super price. Tom sold it so low because of some finish loss on the forearm, but color me purple if that matters one iota! I’m a shooter. While I like a good-looking air rifle, if it shoots well it can look like a dog. Besides, I don’t think this one looks that bad! Finally, there’s a real advantage to my low standards!
Isn’t the Walther LGV Olympia a gorgeous air rifle?
The LGV has a beautiful firing behavior. It’s smooth and free from vibration. I like the way the heavy rifle cocks, as well. It’s so smooth that it’s like watching a bank vault door operate. The trigger is the equal of the HW55 target trigger.
The Walther LGV series guns have two flaws. First, they tend to crack their stocks at the pistol grip where the wood grain is aligned wrong for strength. Second, all of them were made with seals that crumble in time, but the replacement seals of today seem to last forever. So, check on the grip and seals before buying. Most airgunsmiths can work on an LGV because it isn’t too intricate.
HW55 Custom Match
This is a rifle that deserves a complete three-part report of its own. Although I’ve owned it for several months, I haven’t shot it that much. I know I got some good groups from it in the past, but to tell the truth, it was the ugly stepsister in this test. The firing behavior is harsh and jarring — not at all what I expect from an HW55. It feels like the rifle was tuned by someone who only wanted power. I think I need to open it up and calm it down.
The HW55 CM represents the finest technological advance of the entire series of rifles.
I have so much to say about the HW55 CM because it represents Weihrauch’s high-water mark with the 55-series rifles. Even rarer than the Tyroleans that everyone covets, the CM was around for only a very few years at the end of the half-century-long production run of the HW55. It was the finest “buggy whip” they ever made, though my rifle needed some fixin’ to get to that point.
An embarrassing target! These H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets should have grouped in less than half this space. I really need to tune this rifle to reduce the harsh firing cycle. I also shot the gun with the R10 pellets but won’t show it because it’s even worse than this one.
Compared to the other rifles, the 55 CM feels thin and spindly. It has the thinnest barrel of all; in this crowd of heavyweights, it’s a definite pipsqueak. The lower-grade 55 SF feels so much more substantial. Of course, that’s not how it’s supposed to be, and I think the harsh firing behavior is causing me to project bad feelings on the rifle. I really need to calm it down. When I do a separate report, I’ll tune the rifle and hopefully get it shooting like it should. If I can’t, this one will have to hit the road.
The 55 CM has the same flaws as the other 55 rifles. Mine has a leather breech seal, so I assume the piston seal is also leather.
The last vintage rifle is the one all the others are always compared to — the venerable FWB 300S sidelever target rifle. It features a sledge anti-recoil system in which the powerplant slides a fraction of an inch on steel rails in the stock when the gun fires. The shooter senses only the slight rearward movement of the rear sight, but absolutely no recoil.
Feinwerkbau’s 300S is the standard against which all vintage target rifles are compared.
This is another rifle that will get a separate three-part report sometime in the future. I got it from Mac at the Roanoke airgun show last fall. Bought it for cash right off the table after looking at it for one whole day.
This rifle shoots good groups in spite of the person on the trigger. You almost can’t make it do otherwise. Together with the LGV Olympia, it’s the easiest 10-meter spring rifle to cock. I can’t wait to see what the FWB 150 feels like because this one has prepared me for a winner!
The FWB 300S is real prone to break at the wrist. And the seals will wear out. In this case, the No. 1 repair station in the U.S. is Randy Bimrose. I wouldn’t use anyone else.
The bottom line
I had a wonderful time shooting these four veteran target rifles. Each has its own personality and feel, but they all were at one time the best air rifles in the world.
It’s very relaxing shooting these old guns, because I don’t have to work hard to get good results. The lower velocity comes with reduced recoil and lower noise that makes the whole experience one worth repeating many times.
If I were to pick winners at this point, the FWB 300S would be the overall leader, followed by the LGV Olympia as the best breakbarrel.