Feinwerkbau 100 Match Air Pistol

Yes, another 10 meter match air pistol. I’d never fired (or even seen in person) a Feinwekbau 100, 102, or 103, but I’d heard that they’re great guns, the best of the single-stroke pneumatic era. One came up for sale at a fair price, and I’d just sold some expensive toys, so…. this one made it into my collection.

As you can see, functionally it’s not terribly different from the IZH-46m. There’s a large cocking arm underneath that rotates down and around 180 degrees to open. When you reach the fully extended position, the loading gate flips open:

Place a pellet in the loading tray, close the gate, and that o-ringed aluminum bolt pushes the pellet into the  barrel and seals it.

Bring the cocking arm back around and you compress a charge of air. It takes significantly more force to do so than cocking the IZH-46m, something that was dealt with in later versions of this pistol. The model 102 (there was no 101) used two cocking levers that divided the work between them. Easier, but a bit clumsy. The 103 used a longer cocking arm with better geometry to less cocking effort. It was also removable, which made the gun lighter.

The trigger on this gun, like the triggers on just about every other Feinwerkbau, is about as good as you would want. It’s adjustable for length of pull, position, first stage and second stage length and weight, and trigger shoe angle. I was able to get it just where I wanted with just a few adjustments to the position of the trigger, and left everything else alone.

Firing performance is excellent, as you might expect. It’s recoilless, of course, and absolutely free of any vibration or movement on firing. The sights are more of less identical to this eon my LP-80, being adjustable for not only windage and elevation but also for the width of the rear sight notch, something I really appreciate. For some reason the sights were cranked way to one one side and very low when I received it, but after a quick check of the manual to see which way the controls worked I had it on target pretty quickly.

As it points better than my IZH-46 and has a better trigger as well, I decided the Izzy would go and this gun would take its place. If you’re looking for one for yourself, 100s, 102s and 103s in excellent working condition generally  run from $600 to $700. They don’t seem to show up for sale as often as other guns, perhaps because once someone buys one, they tend to hang on to it. Like the Feinwerkbau recoilless spring  guns, you could shoot one of these in competition today without giving up very much to shooters with $1500-2000 PCP guns, although your cocking arm might get a bit tired over a long match.

[Single-Stroke Pneumatic (SSP) air pistols and rifles were an intermediate stage between the complex recoilless spring-powered guns that dominated ISSF competition in the 1970s and today’s modern pre-charged pneumatic guns. With no spring to wear out, and no spring hysteresis, SSPs are more efficient than spring guns and have much less vibration. The very first match SSP was the Walther LP1, which came out in the mid-70s. While it was a very accurate gun, it was harder to cock than the Feinwerkbau and didn’t really challenge it on the firing line. It wasn’t until the LP100 came out in 1988 that the big move to SSPs started. SSPs in turn were replaced by CO2 powered guns, which were less fatiguing to shoot (as there was no cocking effort), but problems with fluctuating gas pressure at different temperatures and altitudes led to CO2 guns being replaced by PCP guns. When it comes to actual firing performance, there’s not a lot of difference between an SSP and a PCP gun.]

The Chiappa FAS 6004 Air Pistol

 

A friend of mine who shoots PPC bought an FAS 6004 last year, thinking it would be good for home practice. A few months later he must have decided otherwise as he offered it to me at an attractive price. I’d been interested in the pistol since first reading about it, and so after an hour of testing it in my basement range I decided I had to buy it.

The gun is based on the earlier FAS 604, which was originally made by Domino in (I believe) the 1980s. The 604 was a serious competitor in the world of ISSF competition back then, when single-stroke pneumatics like the FWB 100 and the IZH 46 were starting to  displace spring guns like the FWB 65/80/90 and the Diana Model 6 from the firing line. It was not a cheap gun, being made of precision made parts, and costing close to $1,000. Today’s FAS 6004 is a less expensive clone of the 604 made by Chiappa of Italy that uses more cast parts to reduce the cost of manufacture. Externally, it’s almost identical. From a dozen feet away it’s impossible to tell the difference.

 

The FAS 6004 is available in two models, differing only in the style of grip. Mine is the less expensive ($420 retail) model that uses an ambidextrous wood grip. For $550 you can get the pistol with an adjustable wood grip in two sizes and in left or right handed versions. Everything I’d read about the ambidextrous grip said that it’s the best ambidextrous grip ever put on an air pistol and I’d have to agree. It’s made of solid wood, with a very fine stippling pattern that provides a superb grip. It fits my XL sized hand as well as smaller hands. Before I bought it I thought I might upgrade to the adjustable grip, but now I think I’ll stick with it.

 

I really like the feel and the balance of this pistol. It has a solid feel and is just muzzle heavy enough to stabilize it. The sights are easily adjustable, thanks to the large coin-slotted knobs. I’d prefer an adjustable width front of rear sight, as I like to see more space either side of the front sight, but shooters with better vision or shorter arms may not see this as an issue.

Functionally the pistol works a lot like the Gamo Compact or the Beeman P17. You release the barrel and cocking lever by depressing a latch on the left side of the pistol, just in front of the rear sight:

 

And lift the barrel/cocking lever assembly up and forward:

 

The pellet is then inserted directly into the rear of the barrel:

…and the cocking lever/barrel is swung back into place, compressing a charge of air. This takes a fair amount of force (more than is required for cocking an IZH-46m) , and while it’s certainly not difficult for an adult male (or a fit adult female) it’s probably too much for a junior shooter.

Shooting behavior is very predictable. The trigger is adjustable for weight, length of first stage, and trigger position. It’s not as crisp or smooth as my FWB 80 or IZH-46m, but it’s a lot better than the Daisy 717/747/777 or the Gamo Compact. Trigger weight can’t be adjusted as low as the FWB and IZH (I learned this when the adjustment screw popped loose and flew across the room) but it can be set as low as 12 ounces, according to Chiappa.

At first, a lot of my shots went pretty wide, with some of them landing outside the black. I realized that this gun was not as forgiving as my other match air pistols. The sight radius is shorter, and the velocity is around 100 fps lower. That means that the pellet takes a longer time to exist the barrel, and that means that follow through is much more important. Once I started concentrating on my follow through, groups tightened up:

 

 

It looked like I was pulling to the left, which suggested that I pay more attention to trigger control, but it also looked like the gun was shooting low. I added 4 clicks of elevation and tried a few more:

 

 

Not a great group, and one wild shot (which I called), but the two shots that felt the best went right into the 10 ring. I can certainly live with that.

I haven’t shot competition since 1998, preferring to just compete against myself in my basement 10 meter range. (If I intended to compete, I’d sell all three of my air pistols and buy one good PCP pistol.) But if you’re looking for a starter pistol for competition, this wouldn’t be a bad choice. If the IZH-46m was still available, that would be my first choice, but they haven’t been imported for a while. The Gamo costs around $150 less, but the trigger on the Gamo isn’t nearly as good.

The FAS is a fine entry level match pistol, and one that will teach good shooting habits. If you can regularly shoot good scores with this gun, you could move up to an entry-level PCP like the Hammerli AP20 and start winning competitions. If, like me, you just want to shoot informal matches against your friends and yourself, the FAS 6004 is a pistol that you can enjoy shooting for a long time.

Postscript: I thought the 6004 might replace one of my other target air pistols, but while deciding which guns to sell as part of a general thinning out of the collection, the 6004 got the nod. In many ways it was one of the most enjoyable match guns to shoot, but I do significantly better with my FWB LP80 and IZH-46m.

My new old Feinwerkbau 300S, part II

My recently acquired FWB 300s was a fine shooter as it arrived, but the stock was a mess of scratches and deep dents, and there was rust and bare metal everywhere. I spent several days steaming dents, removing rust, and applying cold blue and aluminum black, and here’s the result.

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While I did some removal of metal scratches, I didn’t draw file out one large dent in the barrel sleeve. Maybe later.

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Postscript: Despite how much I liked this rifle, it too eventually found a new home. The problem was one of fit: I either had to raise the sights, or lower the cheekpiece to get a good head position, but the stock is non-adjustable, and you can’t fit a riser block under the front sight of the 300S (you can under other 300 models). The only other options were seriously modifying the stock or fitting a scope. I didn’t want to butcher a stock that can’t easily be replaced, and I bought this gun specifically to shoot with iron sights, so off it went.

The IZH-46m Part I

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Having sold my Alfa Proj, I once again had money in my toy account (aka my PayPal account) and just as I was wondering what to try next a pair of clean IZH-46m pistols showed up on the TargetTalk forum. I jumped on one for a very reasonable $425 (they’re $599 new) and three days later it arrived on my front porch.

Russian match guns have a reputation for excellent performance coupled with crude workmanship, but this pistol looks like a piece of quality workmanship. About the only thing that’s not impressive when you pick this gun up is the grip, which is bulky and crudely shaped- but more about that in a minute. Shooting is simple: Open the cocking lever until the loading gate pops open, close the lever (which pressurizes the air chamber, insert a pellet, close the loading gate, and you’re ready to fire.

You can dry fire the 46m, too. There’s a small projection on the right side of the fitting at the breech end of the barrel:

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If you push forward on that tab,  the fitting moves forward and allows the breech block to pop open:

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This is a good way to store the gun, as it takes pressure off the breech seals. If you lift the breech block until it clicks, that cocks the trigger. You can then close the breech until it locks, and the trigger may be safely dry fired.

So how does it shoot? Not surprisingly, given its history in competition, it shoots as good as any match gun of its era and far better than I can. Here’s one of my first targets, shot while I was tweaking the sights:

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That shot on the upper left of the 10-ring was my last, after adding a couple of elevation clicks and adjusting my grip. Not Olympic quality, but not too bad a start.

About those grips: They’re intentionally left large and clunky because IZH expects the owner to carve and shape the grips to fit. Some owners spend a few hundred dollars to buy custom grips from Rink, but I decided to grab a rasp and dig in. After referring to Don Nygord’s invaluable “Nygord’s Notes” I grabbed my trusty Nicholson #49 Patternmakers Rasp and started removing wood.

Nygord emphasizes that a proper grip involves pressure at three points: The web between thumb and forefinger, where the second finger grasps the front of the grip, and the front of the palm shelf. A properly shaped grip will allow the shooter to grasp the pistol exactly the same way every time, locating on these three points.

The first step in shaping is to taper the grip front to back, so that it fits the tapered gap between thumb and forefinger.

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I’ve only removed about an eight of an inch of wood but it already fits my hand much better.  Note that I’m also thinning the section above the web of the hand to both enlarge the area and get my hand a bit closer to the barrel axis.

The second area that needs shaping is the side and front of the grip, where your fingers wrap around. The first step was just to break the hard edge, which made the grip much more comfortable:

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Just this small change made the grip much more comfortable. I plan on removing more wood in this area and adding finger grooves to improve the repeatability of my grip position. Once I have a good shape I’ll switch to sandpaper, starting with 150 and moving down to 320. I might do some stippling as well to improve the grip.

Should you decide to do some grip or stock shaping yourself, be advised that the Nicholson #49 hand-cut rasp I’m using is a made-in-USA model I bought in 1998 when I was fitting airgun field target stocks. A few years ago they moved production to Brazil, and the #49s and #50s they’re making now are junk. If you’re looking for a good stock shaping tool, look into the French rasps made by Auriou and Liogier, both available from several on-line sellers. Theyre expensive, but worth it. A rasp with hand cut teeth cuts much faster, and much smoother than any machine cut rasp. The secret is the randomized spacing of the teeth.