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The gun is based on the earlier FAS 604, which was originally made by Domino in (I believe) the 1980s.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 I

 

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Way back in 2007 I wrote about the Feinwerkbau 300, a gun I had fired a few times but never owned. Then just a few weeks ago I found a very affordable one in a a target shooting forum I regularly check into . I sent payment, and four days later it showed up on my porch.

It’s actually a 300S, a later version with a few improvements. There were several models made, mostly differing in the stock and the sights. There was the standard 300S, a Running Boar version, set up for scope use, a Universal model, and a junior model, and maybe more. Feinwerkbau made untold thousands of them between the 300 in (I think) 1968 and its replacement with the single-stroke pneumatic FWB 600, though I believe they kept making the 300S for some years after the introduction of the 600. .

This particular rifle has  seen a lot of use, judging by the scores of dents in the wood and the scratches in the metal, but it’s been well maintained where it matters. It was resealed not too long ago and shoots smoothy and accurately- more accurately than I can, certainly. I started out shooting it at my Gehmann air pistol target trap, which inflated my ego, as I was getting a lot of 10s, but then the Gehman air rifle trap and targets I’d ordered arrived to put me in my place.

ISSF air pistol targets are 17cm square with an 11.5mm 10 ring. The air rifle targets are 10cm square, the actual target ring is 4.5cm, and the 10 “ring” that’s more of a dot is a huge 1.5mm in diameter:

 

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These were fired at a distance of 10 meters- official ISSF distance. On an air pistol target, those would be 9s and 10s. On this target, it’s a 9, three 7s, and a 5. In international competition, the 10 ring is further divided into decimal fractions, so depending on how well centered your shot is, it might scope anywhere from 10.1 to 10.9. I definitely have a lot of work to do over the winter.

The pellet trap I’m using, in case you haven’t seen a Gehmann trap, is a very clever affair. It’s a small box made of stamped steel, and inside is a movable steel plate held in position by a spring. The spring is just strong enough to absorb the energy of a 7.0-8.0gr pellet traveling  at 400-600fps. The result is that all the pellets get trapped in the box and there’s no splatter or pellets bouncing out:

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Mine cost me $20 + shipping from an eBay supplier. I’ve got two of the pistol traps, too. Less walking across the basement to replace shot out targets.

Over the winter I plan on removing the heavy varnish that’s been applied to this stock, raising as many of the dents as I can, using steam, and refinishing it with a Tru-Oil finish, which I think will compliment the walnut stock much better. I’ll post photos in this blog when I do.

Update: I’ve been practicing. My first two shots today, from an honest 10 meters:

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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.

Feinwerkbau 80 Match pistol

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Back in the 1980s, when I first discovered high quality airguns, the Feinwerkbau 65 was the pistol that ruled ISSF air pistol competition. Introduced in 1965, the FWB 65 used a simple and elegant  system to eliminate recoil: The receiver was free to slide rearward on firing, dissipating recoil energy instead of allowing it to disturb the aim of the gun. This is the same system that was used very successfully in Feinwerkbau’s Model 300 rifle, the most successful target rifle of the spring gun era. While there were other recoiless systems, like the Diana guns that used a pair of opposed pistons, none were as simple or as effective as the Feinwerkbau system.

Feinwerkbau made around 220,000 model 65s, and then came out with the 80, which added a number of improvements, including removable barrel weights and an adjustable trigger. 48,000 model 80s were produced, and then the 80 was succeeded by the 90, which added an electronic trigger. Only about 22,000 Model 90s were produced. The 90 was followed by the single stroke pneumatic 100, 102, and 103, and those were succeeded by the modern CO2 and PCP guns. But despite the 50 years of development since the introduction of the 65, they can still be highly competitive in the right hands.

I had a chance to shoot a model 65 back in 1998, when I was competing in Airgun Field Target at the National Matches at Camp Perry. It was the best air pistol I had ever fired, and I started pricing a new 65, but they were  far out of my financial reach. When I got back into shooting air guns a few years ago I started looking for a used 65 or 80 but I rarely came across one, and when I did, the asking price was very high. Then just last week I saw this model 80 for sale at a target shooting web page for $500, or $400 without the scope. I’d recently sold my Crosman 1701p along with the custom grips and Williams sight, so I had the money just burning a hole in my PayPal account. I messaged the seller, and three days later I had it in hand.

First job was to remove the scope mount. The sights are mounted very close to the barrel axis, which means that even this 1/4″ high mount interferes with sighting. Unfortunately this leaves several holes to be filled. I’ll have to visit the hardware store tomorrow for some metric screws with very low heads, or just Loctite a couple of allen screws in place. (Turns out these holes are threaded 6-32, which means the rail was added by Beeman, the importer, and not by Feinwerkbau. )

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I also had to polish out the nicks and rust in the barrel that didn’t show up in the seller’s photos. I used 000 steel wood to remove the rust and the pits, and Brownell’s Dichropan blue, which did a fair but not great job of evening out the finish on the barrel. I’m going to try some Brownell’s Oxpho-Blue which has long been my go-to blue for refinishing and repairing guns.

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Next step was to sight it in. The sight is adjustable for vertical and horizontal displacement, and also has an adjustment for the width of the notch in the rear sight:

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It’s a well designed mechanism and easy to adjust. It only took a few clicks to get it right on target- this was shot offhand at 10 meters:

 

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The trigger was a bit too far away for me to get a straight pull back with my index finger, so I moved it rearward a bit- an easy adjustment that involves loosening a screw, sliding the trigger along a rail, and retightening the screw.

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This made it easier to get a clean trigger release without pushing the muzzle to the left.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the gun. Compared to what’s available in new and used guns at this price level, it’s very competitive. Certainly the sights and trigger are far better than the $250 Gamo Compact or the $385-545 FAS 6004. A used FWB 100 will cost you  $600 and up these days. The Russian-made IZH-46m is certainly competitive with the FWB, but costs around $600 new and $450-500 used, and it’s a heavier, bulkier, gun. Everything else costs a lot more. The Alfa Proj runs $795 new and $595 used. Most PCP guns are in the $1300 and up range. I’ll probably keep this one around for a while.