Looking back at the FWB C-20 pistol – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, guest blogger Pete Zimmerman gives us his third and final report on the C-20 pistol…performance!

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email us.

Bloggers must be proficient in simple html, know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them), and they must use proper English. We’ll edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Part 1
Part 2

by Pete Zimmerman

FWB C-20

A C-20 costs well over $1,000 when I got mine, and its descendant, the P44, is close to twice the price today. For that money, you ought to get a gun that out-shoots your own skills but also one that makes it easy to shoot the best you can. Using a top match pistol, the shooter can’t complain that misses are the gun’s fault. The first few targets shot with such a gun provide a crash course in no-excuse humility.

The pistol promises that the pellet will go through the X-ring in the middle of the 10-ring if you deliver the perfect shot. Time after time. Of course, some guns prefer one brand, product line, weight or pellet head diameter better than others. And, some pellets are inconsistent in weight and balance coming out of the tin, so getting to Nirvana, where misses are only the fault of the shooter, may take a little effort.

To point out one thing, the 9 and 10 rings on an NRA or ISSF air pistol target are really quite forgiving. Any decent match pistol using any match pellet should result in a group smaller than the 10 ring from a bench or in the hands of a good marksman. Scott Pilkington, the moderator of the Target Talk forum says that it isn’t worth your time to test. I found out that it is.

For this article, I set up a portable Workmate tool kit and vise combination on top of my shooting table. I opened the vise jaws a bit and anchored the gun by putting the gas tank in the vise grooves. I protected the tank with a bit of old foam rubber. The pistol can still rotates around the long axis of the CO2 tank but can’t move up and down. Small rotations of the gun change the cant angle and the impact point, so I put a small spirit level across the action to check position. I made no attempt to aim the rig to line up the sights on the bull. The point was to shoot groups that hit a piece of target paper…somewhere. I moved the target, not the rig, when I changed the type of pellet.

For test rounds, I had a grab bag of miscellaneous pellets sitting around from three manufacturers: RWS, H&N, and Crosman.

Start with the top performer, and another one not so good:

A 5-round group using RWS R-10 pellets, and another with H&N Match 4.49mm pellets sold under the Pilkington house brand.

The heavy RWS R-10 Rifle pellets (0.53 grams) delivered not only a one-hole 5-shot group, but a near zero-jitter group extraordinarily close to the target sample delivered with the pistol. The hole was small enough that a pellet won’t fall through the hole. It’s almost exactly as good as the proof target that came with the gun. The 4.49mm-diameter H&N Match pellets were significantly worse, resulting in a fairly open one-hole group that looks like a two-hole-with-flier because I bumped the Workmate after the first shot and took 5 more shots at the new aim point. Forget the “flier”; the group is still far too large for this pistol.

Meisterkugeln rifle pellets tested against 4.50mm H&N Match Pellets. Victory to the RWS brand.

The R-10’s less expensive stable mate, the Meisterkugeln Rifle pellet, also delivered a single-hole group, almost as perfect as the R-10s. On the other hand, the Haendler and Nattermann Match pistol pellet with a 4.50mm diameter head resulted in a ragged single-hole group, indicating that the C-20 might just not like H&N ammunition in its barrel. Not shown is a test of R-10 pistol pellets, which were almost as good as the heavier R-10s. In the C-20, heavier is better.

I gave the H&N 4.49s a second try, and then got the day’s surprise when I shot some cheapie Crossman Copperheads.

I decided to give the 4.49mm H&Ns another try. After all, they shoot extremely well from my IZH-46M. No joy. A very ragged single-hole group, with a diameter fully 3x that of a pellet diameter. Then, I noticed in the bottom of my pellet drawer a plastic box with a hundred or so Crosman Copperhead pellets, picked up a year or two ago over a weekend when I was otherwise out of ammunition.

The five shots landed in a single-hole group no larger than 1.5x the diameter of a pellet. I’m impressed and surprised.

I don’t contend that another batch of those cheapie pellets would shoot the same as the few that I tested for this post. But what the heck, it’s a better 5-shot group than either size of H&N pellets delivered.

This round of testing is enough to convince me that with current production pellets, the C-20 likes the RWS brand a lot more than the competition, and that it prefers a heavy pellet to a lighter one. I’ll probably save some money by using Meisterkugeln for practice and R-10s for when I finally enter some matches.

One thing’s clear: my C-20 will out shoot me and might still be suitable for international-level competition as long as the temperature remains constant on the range. All those world-beating CO2 pistols? They didn’t turn into trash when the first PCP guns hit the market. Quite probably only the top few hundred shooters in the world will ever need a better weapon, even in competition.

I have concluded that my worst problem is that the C-20s grip doesn’t fit my hand well and allows the gun to shift right as it’s fired. A lot of putty didn’t cure it. I’ll be in Germany soon and will have Thomas Rink of Rink Formgriffe make me an absolutely custom grip from a casting of my hand. If I have the bread, I might let that be the butter on a new Steyr LP-10 Compact, which weighs almost 250gm less than the C-20. A savings of almost half a pound! That will be an advantage for my medically damaged right arm and shoulder muscles.

Looking back at the FWB C-20 pistol – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, guest blogger Pete Zimmerman continues his report on the C-20 pistol, as he shows us the technical side of his target gun.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email us.

Bloggers must be proficient in simple html, know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them), and they must use proper English. We’ll edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

Part 1

by Pete Zimmerman

FWB C-20

Overall impression
The C-20 is a good sized gun. By catalog specs, it’s 16.5 inches (419.1mm) long, and weighs in at 2.5 lbs. (1150 grams). The grip looks much like a Morini competition grip, but old FWB parts lists say that it is not (at least not technically) from the Morini factory.

The palm shelf is held by two small Allen-head screws and is readily adjustable. Unfortunately, it’s not easily fixed precisely in place unless you have three hands — one to grip the pistol, one to hold the palm shelf in place against the gripping hand and a third to wield the wrench to tighten the Allen screws. (Thomas Rink’s custom grips have a patented palm shelf that can be adjusted with only one hand!)

Apparently, the C-20 was the first FWB pistol in which the angle of the grip is also adjustable. The two Allen screws that hold the grip together can be loosened to permit the grip angle to be changed through about a 10-deg. arc. This is a major improvement; without it my scores would suffer!

The inside of the C-20’s grip. Allen bolts through the two slots let the grip rotate approximately 10 deg. forward and backward to help the shooter get to a good rake angle. It’s crude, but it works.

The loading system is extremely easy. The shooter pulls up the charging cover until it reaches full stop. The breech is now open, the bolt retracted, the gas system charged and the trigger cocked. Between breech and bolt is a small channel — pellet-sized. The shooter simply puts a pellet in the channel and closes the cover. The bolt moves forward, and a small o-ring seals it in the breech. The gun is ready to fire. Remember…competition arms have no safety, so the weapon is live! There’s one other problem. You cannot see the pellet once it enters the breech, so it’s too easy to lose focus, load a second pellet, and then shoot both. This is not a good idea. I know from experience.

We’re looking at a pellet in the loading tray with the bolt behind it; the charging gate is open. The black o-ring on the bolt is the only seal that’s failed in the 16 or 17 years I’ve owned the gun. They’re not cheap but are readily available in the US. I got mine from Pilkington Competition.

Dry-firing is extremely easy to set up. After opening the breech and charging the system, simply push on the tab extending out from the left side of the action. The trigger can be pulled completely as if you were shooting a live round, but all that happens is a click when the sear disengages. To return to live fire, open the breech, cock the gun, push the tab in the other direction and close the breech. You can shift from live to dry firing while there’s a pellet in the bore!

The rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation with click stops marked in the conventional European way. To move a shot that lands right of the target, turn the windage knob toward R (right or rechts). The rule of thumb is to turn the knob “into” the error. “Up” and “down” are marked as “H” and “T” for hoch and tief in German. The width of the notch on the rear sight is adjusted by putting a small Allen wrench through a whole in a shaft and then turning it until the desired size is reached. I haven’t been able to check how much backlash there is in the crucial micrometer screws, but I think it’s about one click.

A good look at the very adjustable rear sight. The only adjustment not readily available is the depth of the notch.

The pistol is packaged with several front sight inserts of varying widths. For the first time on the C-20, FWB also milled in grooves on the barrel so the sight radius can be adjusted. Shortening the sight radius theoretically ought to reduce the precision of your aim, but it also tends to reduce small “adjustments” (lets call them correctly, the shakes!) in your hold, so for the moment I’ve moved the front sight to the shortest possible radius. The standard ISSF AP target is so big that the small reduction in aiming precision is negligible compared to the large improvement in apparent steadiness! I then chose a sight insert which appears from my shooting eye to be about the same width as the diameter of the bull. I then adjusted the notch width to have an apparent size twice that of the front sight. When I focus and concentrate, this consistently gets me 10-shot string scores between 82 and 90, mostly around 85. Your mileage, like mine, may differ.

The front sight has been moved backwards from its “standard” position near the front of the barrel. I might move it even farther back.

Ah, the beautiful FWB trigger. It breaks with a snap as sharp as breaking the thin stem on a fine crystal wine glass. There is no sense of motion as the shooter applies pressure to the blade, until the gun fires. And, if it’s properly adjusted, the blade instantly hits the trigger stop, so that there’s no motion afterwards, either.

The trigger on the C-20 is very highly evolved from the ones on the C-2 and C-10. There are more adjustments, including first-stage length and weight, ratio between first and second stages, firing point and trigger stop. You can also loosen the large screw on the trigger shaft to rotate the trigger blade to any angle, left or right around the shaft, and can move the entire shaft to the right or left, forward and backward. Well, actually, if there’s anything on the entire pistol I really don’t like it’s the adjustment that allows the trigger blade to rotate on its shaft. It seems to me that I can never get it locked down so the blade angle doesn’t shift over 50 or 100 shots. It’s a constant battle between me, the trigger and the little multi-tool with screwdriver that comes with the gun.

I haven’t fired a C-2 or C-10, but the instruction manuals for both pistols are available online at the FWB site. The diagrams of the older generation triggers show simpler mechanisms with fewer adjustments. This may be a good thing, as making too many adjustments is a fast way for a shooter new to the weapon or the sport to get into really big trouble.

The manuals for any FWB gun ever made along with exploded parts diagrams and complete parts lists are readily available on the FWB site, which has both English and German versions. Choose on the home page.

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.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email us.

Bloggers must be proficient in simple html, know how to take clear photos and size them for the internet (if their post requires them), and they must use proper English. We’ll edit each submission, but we won’t work on any submission that contains gross misspellings and/or grammatical errors.

by Pete Zimmerman

FWB C-20

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.