Looking back at the FWB C-20 pistol – Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
Pete Zimmerman has been both a reader and contributor to this blog and many of you know that his interest lies with 10-meter shooting. Today, he’s going to begin telling us about his special target pistol.
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by Pete Zimmerman
First, some history
The first air pistol that I owned I inherited from my father-in-law, who gave me his ancient Diana 5-series pistol. By the time I got the old breakbarrel gun, its barrel had been chewed to pieces by 20 years of summer afternoons when my wife’s family shot darts at a target. But it was fun to shoot with pellets until it finally died. Then, I bought a Diana 6-series semi-match pistol when I visited Hamburg. That was a great gun to learn on because it had a recoil-compensating system, so the slap-smash recoil pattern of the old five-series pistol was gone. Even so, it was too heavy, and took too much effort in the cocking.
That problem of the double recoil from airguns had to be solved if really high accuracy in a match was ever to be achieved. Two post-World War II German companies found ways to make an air pistol almost recoilless. The Dianawerk used two opposed pistons, one going forward, and the other backward, in what was called the Giss system — after its inventor. If both pistons could be timed identically, then the major part of the spring recoil would be equalized out. Feinwerkbau took a different approach. It decided to mount the entire action on rails so the recoil energy would be coupled into a heavy, freely sliding sledge that recoiled smoothly so the gun didn’t bounce. For FWB, this was an adaptation of a match rifle action of the highly successful 300 series. From its introduction in 1965 until the late 1980s, the FWB-65 ruled international competition; in 1992, shooters using FWB guns took all the airgun medals at the Olympics. Only well into the 1990s was the FWB-65 definitively surpassed — by guns from the same company.
Despite mechanical compensation, my old Diana match pistol still had a noticeable kick, and even the FWB-65 was not perfectly still. So, how to make a better match pistol? The obvious idea was to get rid of the piston and the spring; the first advance was high-quality, single-stroke pneumatic power, but those guns still had the disadvantage of having to be cocked shot-by-shot. Easy enough for a short time, but over the length of a match it can be fatiguing and distracting.
Could cocking be eliminated entirely? It wasn’t a new idea. Carbon dioxide had been used to shoot pellets for decades; usually, the gas came packaged in the standard 12-gram capsules, much like those used to make seltzer water. But there’s a problem: it takes 85 shots to complete a men’s match: 15 sighters and 60 shots for score. If you’re successful, a further 10 for the finals. To be certain that gas pressure doesn’t drop at the end, just when the competitive pressure is at its peak, a shooter would like to have at least 10 more shots in reserve for a total of 95 shots to complete a match in comfort. The problem was that those little 12 gram capsules were just too small. The solution was bulk-fill CO2 in a tank under the barrel of the pistol — a system patented by Austrians Emil Senfter and Viktor Idl. Their partnership foundered, and Senfter took the basic design first to Walther and later to Steyr-Mannlicher, resulting in the world-beating Walther CP-1 and Steyr LP-1. Idl approached FWB, which then produced the C-2. Much of this information comes directly from some e-mails I had with Frauke Umdasch of Steyr, where Herr Senfter remains on the payroll.
The FWB Model 2 and the Walther and Steyr pistols look almost like triplets as a result.
Enough history! On to the pistol…in tomorrow’s blog.
Note the barely visible rocker just under the charging cover. That’s used to set the gun for dry firing or live fire.