by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

A history of airguns

FWB 110
FWB 110 target rifle. I’m the one who cut off both ends of the gun in this photo.

This report covers:

  • FWB target rifles
  • First target rifle
  • How rare and what is it worth?
  • What’s it like?
  • Sliding compression chamber
  • Same as a 300
  • Trigger
  • What does it feel like?
  • Summary

I was going to run the Daisy 99 today, but this opportunity to review the FWB 110 came along and things were just right for it. How about I do Part 2 of the Daisy 99 on Monday?

Most of today’s pictures were provided by Tommy Cupples. My thanks to him for their use.

FWB target rifles

After World War II the world of airguns got a jump start from the reorganization of economies worldwide. In many countries there was disposable cash to spend and airguns vied for a share of it. In Germany the production of fine target air rifles like the Weihrauch HW55 and the Walther LG50-series brought formal airgun competition to the forefront. By the 1960s, things had heated up in both the competition realm as well as in the innovation and production of the guns. There were national titles to be won, and, before long, a world cup!

Feinwerkbau entered the target rifle competition in 1962 with the model 110. It was produced from March of ’62 until March of ’64, but fewer than 200 models were produced. I am taking these facts from the Blue Book of Airguns, where Robert Beeman placed them. Many times the Blue Book has been criticized for incomplete data, but in the case of anything relating to FWB, you had better listen. Robert Beeman was very close to the company and their founders and he visited them several times over the course of many years. Don’t forget that it was his company that spotlighted the FWB 124, which started the velocity wars of the 1970s.

First target rifle

Back to the story of the 110. It was Feinwerkbau’s first target rifle, and they nailed it! In this report I will show you what I mean and describe how it feels to shoot an FWB sidelever that recoils. I can do that because, thanks to reader Jerry Cupples and his brother, Tommy, I have photos, data, targets, plus I had the rare experience of shooting a 110 at the recent Texas airgun show!

How rare and what is it worth?

There are two sides to this story and I will deal with the first one now. How rare is the FWB 110 and what is one worth? With fewer than 200 ever made, this has to be one of the rarest production airguns in existence. The one at the show was the only one I have ever seen, and I have only heard of 2 others. One is in a collection and the other is in parts in Canada — awaiting the next decision for its fate.

FWB 110 markings
The markings on the gun. Photo Tommy Cupples.

What it’s worth is a subject for debate. The Blue Book puts a value of $1,800 on one in like-new condition. That is obviously too low, because if anyone offered one at that price in that condition it would evaporate in minutes. Airgunners gossiping at the show placed a value of $5,000 to $10,000 on the gun in the photos, but that’s not real, either. An FWB 110 is worth what someone is willing to pay, when given the chance.

Here is food for thought. About 1,100 Colt Walker revolvers were produced in 1847. Many were destroyed in the Mexican War, others blew up because the gunpowder charge of 60 grains was too much for their metallurgy. Today an average condition Walker (all of them are worn out) will fetch $350,000-600,000, and a record price of $1.6 million was paid at auction for the only known cased example this year. That made it the 7th most valuable firearm in the world. The FWB 110 was produced in far fewer numbers than the Walker Colt. Though it does not share the same rich history of that revolver, there are far fewer 110s in existence than Walkers today, yet they will only fetch a fraction of the price.

That is as much information as I have on the rarity and value of an FWB 110. From this point on, your guess is as good as mine.

What’s it like?

The second thing I can address is performance, because I had the chance to shoot this rifle and also because those who had it in their possession did some testing for us. But before we get into that, let’s look at the rifle close up. Tommy Cupples took several detailed photos of the rifle.

The rifle is a single shot spring piston air rifle that is cocked via a sidelever on the right side of the receiver. Like the FWB 150 and 300 guns that many know, the 110 cocks easily, with a light pull on the lever. The lever locks when closed, so the handle must first be rocked back to unlatch it from the rifle, then the lever is retracted to cock the mainspring.

FWB 110 lever latch

The latch at the end of the cocking lever is spring-loaded and must be rocked back to unlock the lever from the side of the rifle. Photo Tommy Cupples.

This locking latch is a design detail that remained with the target rifles throughout their production. The shooter develops a feel for the steps required to cock the rifle and before long forgets the latch is even there. The latch on the FWB 300S works differently, but the concept is the same.

FWB 110 lever uncocked
When the lever latch is unlocked the sidelever opens this far and stops. Photo Tommy Cupples.

FWB 110 lever back
When the lever is pulled back as far as it will go, the sear catches the piston and holds it until the gun fires. There is an anti-beartrap device on the trigger to prevent the sliding compression chamber from closing as the gun is loaded. The breech is loaded and the lever is returned home, moving the sliding compression chamber to the forward position awaiting the shot. Photo Tommy Cupples.

Sliding compression chamber

Like it’s younger cousins, the 150 and 300, the FWB 110 has a sliding compression chamber. This chamber mates with the barrel breech in a junction that’s conical. A breech seal keeps the air in the gun.

FWB 110 breech
When the compression chamber pulls back, the breech is accessible for loading. As you can see, the rifling in the 110 goes all the way to the back of the barrel. Photo Tommy Cupples.

FWB 110 breech seal
When the compression chamber is pulled back you can see the breech seal around the air transfer port. This seal is brand new. Photo Tommy Cupples.

I hope the pictures explain the sliding compression chamber’s operation for you. They also tell us that 1. The pellet can be loaded directly into the breech and, 2. The rifling goes all the way to the end of the barrel. Remember our discussion of the fit of the pellet to the bore? This design acknowledges that the positioning of the pellet in the bore is critical to accuracy. It’s not as convenient as a breakbarrel, but far more precise than a loading tap.

Same as a 300

So far I haven’t shown you anything that the owner of an FWB 300 doesn’t already know. There may be small fit and finish differences, but these parts on the 110 are the same on the 150 and 300. Let’s look at something that’s different — the trigger.

Trigger

The trigger on the 110 is light and crisp — I checked for it when I shot the rifle. Without a gauge I can’t tell you where the pull is adjusted but it feels similar to a 300 as far as weight and crispness of the release go. However the trigger blades are quite different.

FWB 110 trigger
The trigger blade on the FWB 110 is curved like a sporting trigger. Also the trigger is adjustable, but not to the same extent the later triggers were.

FWB 300 trigger
The trigger blade on my FWB 300S is straight. Older 300s and 150s had curved blades.

What does it feel like to shoot?

What does an FWB sidelever target rifle that recoils feel like? Well, it’s no different than a Walther LGV Olympia, a heavy Walther LG 55 or a tuned HW 55CM. Heavy airguns that don’t produce a lot of velocity don’t recoil much. You feel a tiny pulse in your arms and that’s it.

One nice thing is the action of the 110 doesn’t slide back in the stock when the gun fires, so the rubber eyeshade doesn’t hit you in the eye on every shot. That part is a relief!

This is all good news if you’re a shooter. It means you don’t need this super-rare target rifle to enjoy shooting informal targets. Any one of the vintage good ones will feel and shoot about the same, and be much more affordable.

“Yeah, but the FWB 110 has a fixed barrel that everybody knows is more accurate than a breakbarrel!” Guys — “everybody” wised up about a decade ago. Time to catch up. Breakbarrel, fixed barrel — same, same.

Summary

I have a lot more to tell you about this rare target rifle, but it will have to wait for Part 2. I expect by then we may know even more than we do right now.