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.