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.

Pellet Traps for indoor practice

If you want to improve your marksmanship you’ve got to practice, and unless you have a dedicated outdoor range with a sand berm, like one friend of mine, you’re going to need a pellet trap. Even if you have an outdoor range, if you live in the Northern half of this country you’ll need a way to practice indoors if you want to keep your edge.

The simplest and cheapest trap, suitable for low powered (under 5 foot-pound) guns, is a cardboard box tightly packed with newspapers. That’s what I used when I was a student living in a tiny downtown apartment, practicing with my Daisy 717. The problem with this arrangement is that you have to keep replacing the front of the box and eventually you end up with a box filled with a mix of lead and shredded newspaper that’s hard to sort out for disposal. It’s a good system for BBs, as they don’t ricochet, and you can separate them out for reuse or recycling with a magnet.

Another popular homemade trap is to make or repurpose a wooden or metal box that’s open at one end, and pack a 1″ layer of duct seal compound (also known as electrician’s putty), a non-drying, oil-filled clay mixture, in the back of the box. Some use a large electrical box, others build elegant hardwood boxes. The pellets accumulate as a layer on top of the clay that can be periodically peeled off and disposed of. You can buy  blocks of duct seal at your local big box home store for $2.50, or buy it from Beeman as “ballistic putty” at a healthy markup. Your choice.

if you’d prefer a commercial trap, the cheapest I can recommend is Gamo’s, which can be had for around $15 from Amazon, though some enterprising sellers ask as much as $40.

imageIt’s simply made from a few pieces of spot-welded mild steel, and if you use anything more powerful than a 10 meter match pistol or rifle on it you’ll knock it apart (I took one shot from my Beeman R7 that knocked off pone of the flanges that hold the pellet receptical on the back.) Still,  it’s cheap, it works, it’s easy to empty pellets from, and you can hang it on a screw on the wall. Typically it comes packaged with Gamo’s cardboard “Bone Collector” targets, which look like the above targets but they’re a faded grey and have the image of an elk or some other large ungulate superimposed over the bullseye. They’re pretty worthless for target practice, but you can find the targets pictured with the trap on their own at Amazon, eBay and elsewhere.

A definite step up is Gehmann’s series of pellet traps, available from specialist suppliers like Pilkington Competition and a few eBay suppliers:

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These come in three sizes and are designed to fit standard international targets available from Edelmann and Kruger. The largest is the pistol trap, at 17cm X 17cm (6.7″ x 6.7″). I have one of these and I use it a lot with my Alfa Proj PCP match pistol and my Daisy 777.  The smallest is the 10cm X 10cm (4″ x 4″) 10 meter rifle trap. The intermediate sized 14cm x 14cm trap is for both rifle and pistol, but I haven’t seen anyone selling it in this country.

The traps are simple boxes that have a spring-loaded plate ahead of the back of the box. The spring is just spring enough to absorb the energy of a pellet fire from a match pistol or rifle and let it drop to the bottom of the box, where it can easily be emptied. They’re pretty small, but even a  novice shooter with a halfway decent target rifle or pistol should have no trouble keeping their shot son the target at 10 meters.

Targets for the Gehmann can be obtain from Pilkington, eBay sellers, and other specialist in Bullseye shooting supplies. They cost more than the Gamo targets and other inexpensive paper targets, and with good reason. Take a look at this photo of a Gamo target from my basement range, shot with RWS match wadcutter pellets:

 

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The holes made by the pellet are all torn instead of neatly cut. Now take a look at a Kruger target shot at the same range with the same gun:

 

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There’s very little tearing, even with overlapping holes. If you’re serious about target shooting, these are the targets you’ll want to practice with.

 

If you want to practice with higher powered air guns, what you need is a trap designed for .22 caliber cartridges. The oldest and the best is the Champion, available from Amazon and most large shooting sports retailers. It’s made of welded steel and build to last. There’s also the similar Do-All, which is more lightly constructed and screwed or riveted together. It sells for about 30% less, but I’d stick with the Champion. It’ll last a lot longer.

 

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Alfa-Proj PCP Match Air Pistol

 

 

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I’ve been looking for a reasonably priced better-quality match air pistol for a while. Used FWB 65s are now going for over $600, and parts are getting harder to find. The Hammerli A20 is almost a thousand bucks, and sized for a junior hand. But Air Arms’ PCP-modified Alfa Proj, at $749, is almost up there with the top PCP guns and cost around half as much. When Pyramyd Arms put reconditioned  models on sale at $595 I decided it was time to buy.

Operation is simple. Pull back the bolt- which is on the left side of the gun, so right-handers can operate it with their free hand- insert a pellet, and close the bolt. Pull the cocking knob(s) back and you’re ready to fire. There’s a simple but clever dual purpose safety lever that, if engaged while the gun is uncocked, prevents it from being cocked. If it’s engaged while the gun is cocked, it limits the travel of the hammer. This prevents the gun from discharging, and allows it to be dry fired. When you pull the trigger with the safety on, the cocking knobs move perhaps an eighth of an inch, and are easily reset afterwards for the next shot.

 

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The trigger is adjustable for height, angle, weight, and first and second stage travel. I left it mostly alone, other than moving it back a fraction of an inch to accommodate my finger length. The gun arrived with the trigger post loose (despite paying an extra $10 for pre-shipment testing) and I had to fuss a bit to realign and tighten it. The grip was also loose- easily fixed with the supplied tool- but still a bit of a bother. The cocking knobs kept unscrewing after a few shots, and checking the exploded  diagram in the manual, it looks like one of the washers is missing. One more thing they should have caught.  I used a drop of low-strength (Purple) Loctite to stop the knob from loosening, and  Pyramid tells me that they’re sending a replacement washer.)

Firing behavior is very smooth and absolutely recoiless. I did my first tests at just 5 yards to make sure I would be hitting the target and not my wall. At that range, adjusted for point of aim, it was trivially easy to put every pellet (RWS Meisterkugeln) in the 10 ring. Backing off to 10 meters my shots spread out significantly but I was still keeping them all in the black.

The rear sight is easily adjustable, and according to one reviewer requires 4 clicks to move the width of one ring on a standard 10M target. The front sight is triangular and can be rotated to vary the width. The rear sight leaf has two slots of different widths, but even with the front sight set at its narrowest width the widest gap in rear leaf isn’t wide enough for me. That’s what you get for being tall and having long arms. I prefer at least a 1-2-1 ratio in gap and post width, but right now it’s about 1-3-1 with the front sight at its narrowest setting. There  isn’t enough of a gap to get enough light either side of the post.

The Alfa-Proj actually started out as a CO2 gun that sells for around $550, if you can find one. Air Arms modifies the gun with an in-grip air reservoir, an external barrel shroud and muzzle brake, and a push-on air coupling:

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Air Arms and Alfa-Proj also take away the fitted case the CO2 gun comes in (I assume it won’t fit with the PCP mod) and replace the adjustable grip with an ambidextrous one. I’ve ordered a quality hard case to keep the gun in and I’m contemplating buying the better grip.

The pistol comes with a charging coupling that terminates in a standard 1/8″ BSPP high-pressure fitting, so I added a Foster-type quick connect male adapter to the coupling in order that I could use the pistol with my Foster-equipped Hill pump. It also comes with a set of Allen wrenches for trigger adjustment, a special tubular wrench for the threaded ring that holds the grip in place, and a sliding weight:

 

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The weight is heavier than I’d like at, if I recall, 9 ounces. I’d prefer one or two 4 ounce weights.

The supplied grips are ambidextrous, and the general opinion out there is that they’re not very good. I found them tolerable, although the position of the shelf prevents me from wrapping my pinky around the grip. That’s not a fatal flaw, as the second and third fingers should do most of the gripping. Adjustable right and left handed grips are available for another $99, and while I’m considering buying a set, I’ve read that they run on the small side. Accommodating large hands requires removing most of the wood on the palm shelf, or perhaps making your own. If I could find a second set of ambidextrous grips, cheap, I’d try modifying them with epoxy wood putty into something that would custom fit my hand.

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While the Alfa-Proj may not be as refined or as well made as the $1400 FWBs, Hammerlis, Steyrs, Morinis and other top line match air pistols , I think it’s still a good value, particularly if you can find a used or reconditioned one. I see the CMP is selling them new to clubs with CMP junior shooting programs for $595.

Four month followup:

This is a great gun. It’s very accurate and easy to shoot. It has only one real flaw, and then only for those of us with XL sized hands. The problem is that because the air reservoir is in the grip, and the fill connector is at the base of the grip, there’s a limit on how big the grips can be. If you’ve got large hands you simply can’t wrap them properly around either the supplied ambidextrous grips or the available adjustable grips.

And because of that, even though I could get my share of 9s and 10s with this pistol, I was never able to shoot it offhand as consistently as I could my Feinwerkbau LP80, or even my Daisy 777. For that reason I put the Alfa up for sale at TargetTalk, and quickly found a buyer… who, coincidentally enough,  was selling a pair of IZH-46s, another pistol I’ve always wanted to try. Watch for a review.

The Daisy 777 Target Pistol



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I’ve written a bit about the 777 and its cheaper cousins, the 747 and 717, but until this one arrived via UPS yesterday I had never actually handled a 777. I found this one at a very good price on Gunbroker.com.  It arrived, along with a Plano case, a set of airgun-sized silhouettes, and three tins of pellets, showing wear from use but in otherwise near-perfect condition. No nicks, scrapes, scratches or other signs of abuse. Not bad for a gun that’s between 18 and 25 years old. Superficially, it looks just like the cheaper 717 and 747 except for the wooden grips and the better rear sight:

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But the differences go a lot deeper than that. The first clue is that the 777 is substantially heavier than the 747 pictured with it- almost 10 ounces heavier, in fact. The 747 weighs about 2 lbs, 8.5 oz. The 747 comes in at 3 lbs, 3.75 oz. Close examination shows some significant construction differences. Take a look at the cocking lever and compression tube of the 747:

 

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The arm is a stamping, and while you can’t this clearly see from the photo, the compression tube is made of thin steel. Compare that to the 777:

 

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Here the arm is a milled piece, made from steel stock with a ground surface. More importantly, you can see that the tube is made of brass. That alone probably contributes to most of the weight difference. I’ve read that the 717 was originally made with a brass compression tube, too, and that this was changed after the 777 was dropped from the line, but I don’t have the definitive word on this, and I don’t remember how my 1980s 717 was made. The finish is better on the 777, too, and you don’t see flashing or seams between castings or other artifacts that were probably polished or ground off back in the era when this 777 was made.

At first I didn’t shoot the 777 nearly as well as I did the 747, owing to the greater weight and the fact that the grip was sized for much smaller hands than my XL mitts. I took a rasp and sandpaper to the grip, and removed about half an inch of material off the palm rest, which made it a lot more comfortable to shoot, but I still have another 3/8″ or more to remove if I want a really good fit. Removing that wood did make a difference, though, and my shots, which had been scattering out to the 5 and 6 rings, started grouping in the 7 and 8. it’s a start.

The rear sight is the real prize in this gun, particularly when compared to the plastic unit that’s standard on the 717 and 747. The solidity and adjustability is impressive; along with height and lateral adjustments, the blaze gap is adjustable over a wide range. That’s a real help for those of us with long arms. As with the 747, I found I have the best results with a sub-six hold. I could probably shoot better with a dot sight, but the main reason I’m attracted to shooting bullseye with iron sights precisely because it is a lot more difficult.