Posts Tagged ‘HW55’

FWB 300S vintage target air rifle: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

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.

Shot Velocity

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?

FWB 300S vintage target air rifle: Part 1

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.

FWB 150
Haenel 311
Walther LGV Olympia
HW 55 Tyrolean
Diana model 60

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.

Anti-recoil mechanism
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┬ámodels 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.

Daisy gun
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.

Stock configuration
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 Ansch├╝tz 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!

The Walther LGV Olympia – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The Walther LGV Olympia is a beautiful breakbarrel spring-piston target rifle from the 1960s.

Well, the Roanoke Airgun Expo starts today, so while you read this, Mac and I will be buying, selling and looking at airguns. I will take pictures to show you, of course.

So, there I was, on the morning of October 5, reading my October 4 blog, “A safe strategy for no-loss — mostly gain — airgun collecting — Part 1,” when I came to the embedded link to the Yellow forum classified ads. Since I always check the embedded links in blogs, I clicked through and immediately came upon an ad for a Walther LGV Olympia target rifle in great condition for $425. What? Are they going to be selling Harleys in crates left over from World War II next?

And, then, I noticed that the seller was none other than Tom Strayhorn, one of America’s most well-known collector of Walthers. I knew Tom was a straight shooter, so this ad was apparently no scam despite the 1990s price. Ironically, this ad came to me right as I was lecturing to all of you that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes along every few months if you look for it.

So, I bought the gun. What else could I do? I had just told you not to miss out on really good prices when they come along, and here was one that just landed square in my lap. Talk about serendipity!

Walther LGV
During the 1960s, spring-piston target air rifles reached their high water mark. There was the Anschutz model 250, the FWB model 300, the Weihrauch HW 55 and, in 1963, the Walther LGV joined the fun. The LGV was the last in a long line of target breakbarrel rifles from Walther that started in the 1950s with the LG 51. Its immediate predecessor, the LG 55, is well-known as a fine European club gun, and the LGV took that one step farther. Although it’s a recoiling spring-piston rifle, the LGV is so smooth and heavy as to be almost recoilless. It was produced until 1972.

There are several different versions of LGVs, and mine is the first model called the Olympia that has rounded corners on the wood. I owned another Olympia LGV years ago that had a matte finish on all the barrel jacket to cut the reflection, but this current one is probably an older model that has all deeply polished metal finished in a deep black oxide. The polish is fully the equal of a Whiscombe or a Colt Python with the royal blue finish.

The forearm contains a lead weight to make the rifle decidedly muzzle-heavy, as target rifles are supposed to be. The rifle weighs 10.5 lbs., or just about one pound more than a 1903 Springfield rifle. It’s very muzzle-heavy, not only from the lead weight in the stock by also from the thick steel jacket that surrounds the barrel.

The heavy steel barrel jacket is held on by a special nut at the muzzle.

Casual observers will spot the barrel latch immediately. Like Weihrauch’s HW 55 target rifle, Walther provided the LGV with a special latch to positively lock the heavy barrel closed. The LGV was the only breakbarrel Walther did this for. The LG 55, which is quite similar in size and power, does not have a barrel latch.

Barrel latch locks the breech like a bank vault.

To compliment the latch, the baseblock has two hardened steel pins, one on each side of the block, that eliminate any possibility of sideways wobble in the barrel. In combination with the barrel latch, they make a vault-like rigid joint when the barrel comes to the closed position. Like the doors on a Mercedes, the barrel closes with the quietest of clicks that mask the ultra-rigid lockup.

Hardened steel bearing pins on either side of the baseblock ensure zero sideways barrel play.

Cocking effort on the LGV Olympia is legendary. It’s one of the few adult models to cock at less than 12 lbs. effort. This rifle has been tuned prior to my receiving it, so it may cock a little harder, but it’s still on the silly side of trivial. I will record it for you when I test the velocity in Part 2.

You’ll notice that the grip is heavily stippled to grab your hand during a match. These rifles were shot from the offhand position only, so all the design features stress that position over all others.

LGV grip is roughly stippled for better purchase.

The curved buttpad is rubber and adjusts both up and down. The trigger is a fine target trigger, although it is of 1960s technology and not the current day. It’s two-stage and breaks at 11 oz. And, of course, it’s adjustable.

The stock is figured walnut (I think) with a reddish-brown finish. It’s very full and robust, yet the forearm has no checkering, stippling or even finger grooves. It seems almost informal compared to the other contemporary target rifles. The Olympia was not intended to shoot in world cup competition. That honor was reserved for the LGV Spezial and the UIT models.

The front and rear sights are target-grade and identical to those found on the LG 55. In the front, a globe accepts standard inserts; in the rear, Walther’s own proprietary aperture target sight prevails. The rear sight rail allows for some adjustment of eye relief, though the rear sight has to lock down in one of the half-round cross slots on top of the receiver.

The LGV uses the same rear aperture sight as the LG 55.

I’m not a target rifle shooter, but I must say that this rifle holds steadier than any other rifle in my collection. Mac is supposed to bring a Weihrauch HW 55 CM for me to see, so I’ll get a chance to compare that to this gun. But of all my target rifles, this one is the steadiest.

In Part 2, I’ll chrono the rifle for you and measure the cocking effort.

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