Direktlänk till inlägg 3 december 2014

The legend lives on...

Av Johnny Ottosson - 3 december 2014 13:00

My Sport and Me

  Feinwerkbau Sport

Idag kommer ett gästinlägg ifrån Richard Wellham, England, som tävlade friskt med Feinwerkbau Sport i begynnelsen av Field Target. Berättelsen är därför ett intressant historiskt dokument ifrån någon som var med på tiden då det begav sig i sportens begynnelse. Självfallet så är den också, vilket titeln antyder, även en hyllning till ett av världens bästa fjäderluftgevär. Jag har själv personligen haft en Sport och jag kan inte mer än att hålla med.

"My first encounter with a Sport came when my Uncle Dave bought a .22 example from a classified in the back of the Airgun World. He actually went to buy the export model Vixen that was the subject of the ad but by happy chance, he also returned with a FWB Sport.


I can remember comparing the two. The Vixen looked fantastic with its beautifully figured, rounded walnut stock, white line spacers, elegant 22” barrel and sparkling chrome detailing. It really was the ultimate in late 70’s airgun ubercool. By comparison, to my young untrained eyes, the Sport looked like a poor doudy cousin with its plain, almost purple beech stock, plastic trigger, square lines and total lack of bling. Shooting the two at close range confirmed my suspicions. The Vixen had a wonderful trigger and smooth firing cycle where as the sport by comparison, clearly had the trigger from a staple gun and was powered by 'Zebedee' off of 'The Magic Roundabout' (ask your Dad). However, as is often the case, first impressions can be deceptive.


Both of us fell head over heals for the Feinwerkbau. From the first moment I picked it up it felt right. I wanted the Vixen to be the best. It looked the best by a million miles but after a week of plinking and hunting, both of us were favouring the Sport. It was just incredibly accurate. Mounted with an Original 4x40 scope and using Mount Star Silver Jet pellets it seemed impossible to miss. So Uncle Dave, quite rightly, adopted the Sport and I had to make do with the Vixen - I know - poor old me.


Six months later after many early starts and hours wrestling oversize Sunday supplements, I’d managed to earn enough money to purchase a Sport of my own. It was one of the very first mark 2’s and in all honesty it looked very plain. The wood work was featureless and grey, the trigger was now metal but otherwise the same and the firing cycle still made me want to shout ‘Time for Bed!’. But I couldn’t have been happier, it was perfect.


My rifle arrived the same year that Field Target took off. The inaugural competition had been held the year before, which Rex Browne had won with a .22 Sport. Inspired by Rex, we’d been practicing all that winter and attended the second heat in the spring of ‘81 which was held somewhere near Leeds. Dave won! He was amazed, the rest of us weren’t. After that we never looked back. For the next 5 years Field Target became our obsession and the Feinwerkbau Sport’s dominion.


Compared to some, Feinwerkbau of Obendorf, Germany are a relative newcomer to air rifle design. As makers of the worlds finest target rifles their first attempt to build a ‘sporting’ air rfle was greatly anticipated. First produced in 1973 the Feinwerkbau Sport became available in the UK in 1976 under two different model designations - the ‘124’ being .177 calibre and the ‘127’ being .22. The only other difference between the two models was the calibration of distance on the rearsight. Both were available in either standard (S) or deluxe (D) configurations. Feinwerkbau also produced the model ‘121’, a 6 ft lb model wearing the standard stock made specifically for the German market and the Beeman commissioned ‘125’ which featured a beautiful ‘American style’ sporter walnut stock which was, according to legend, also available in .20 calibre. For me the ‘125’ is one of the two prettiest Sporting air rifles ever made. 

The design spec’ was updated twice. These models were marketed in the UK as the Mark II and, yep you’ve guessed it, the equally imaginatively named Mark III. The Mark II saw the plastic trigger blade upgraded to a cast aluminium version and a new look safety catch. The Mark III featured an excellent, re-modelled stock and a rather unusual muzzle weight fitted with a rather painful nasty surprise that could also be used as a foresight. There is no difference in performance between any mark, (but the early Mark Is are the best). 1982 saw some Mark II grey imports hit the UK, but even these were mechanically fine, the only difference was that these lacked the usual ‘wundhammer’ swell to the pistol grip.


The Sport was one of the first air rifles available to be capable of reaching the 12 ft lb legal limit straight out the box. However its power was just an added bonus. The main beauty of the sport is its inherent accuracy. This was due in no small part to the fact that the 124 shared the same excellent choked barrel as the Feinwerkbau 300 Series target rifles. Take a look down a clean 124 bore, and to this day you’ll not see one better.


It was an expensive rifle in its day, the reason for this becomes more obvious on close examination. The component parts are made to a standard not seen on any other sporting rifle of the day. All the major components are beautifully machined. Unlike HW's offerings very little on the sport is rolled, pressed or stamped. The breach pin is split to guarantee a constant perfect fit. The barrel lock is a high precision design that uses a hardened steel ball detent. It looks tentative when compared to some of the competition but it produces a totally consistant alignment. In operation, there is none better. Also the breach jaws are equipped with a spring washer to remove any lateral movement, a mod’ now encouraged by tuning houses to improve some other break barrels performance.


The only parts on the rifle that, on face value, disappoint are the pressed steel safety catch and the plastic trigger blade on Mark Is. However, it is the design of the safety catch that determines the method of manufacture, not penny pinching. It’s still very well made although it can be problematic now, the tang that engages the safety spring and the folded ‘ears’ at the back being subject to metal fatigue.


The Sport can also suffer from one major mechanical defect but luckily it is visible. The breach detent eventually wears to the point where it ceases to function. As there are no longer spares available this is now a problem. One solution is to rebuild it with weld and re-machine to the correct profile.


The much maligned trigger unit is really quite remarkable. The release isn’t as light as the excellent Weihrauch rekord unit, but it is a very clever, incredibly compact design for a genuine two stage unit. It’s this compact size that enables the trigger to be positioned in the perfect place for the average hand, there’s no need for a set back trigger here. Correct adjustment results in a positive, creep free two stage unit with a clean 2.5lbs break. The trigger has a single adjusting screw, this is turned anti clockwise to reduce the release weight. However when it is wound out too far the crisp two stage pull transforms into one long, indistinct, squeeze - the ‘staple gun’ effect. Some might call this a ‘surprise break’ which, by many target shooters, is considered to be desireable. There’s a definite knack to using the trigger set this way but once mastered the results can also be excellent.


The metal work is finished to a high standard as is the woodwork although this can be disappointingly plain, apart from on very early Mark I models. The stock is fitted to the action by one retaining bolt at the back and two angled bolts at the front. These angled fixing bolts enable the action to be pulled down, tight into the stock. It’s just another a small detail that brings another small advantage but all these small advantages all add up. However it does mean that if the stock screws are loose, even just a quarter turn, accuracy will suffer.


With the right ammunition the FWB Sport is capable of startling accuracy. Anything bigger than 10mm, off hand, at 30 metres was considered disappointing - better was expected. 30 years ago they were very pellet sensitive, mainly because the quality of ammunition in those days, in a lot of cases, was poor. To get the best results then we had to chase new dies. As a new pellet was released they were perfectly made, but as the production run increased the dies that made the pellets wore, the head sizes shrank, became elliptical and group sizes increased dramatically. These days I find H&N Field Target Trophy are excellent and as good a choice as any.


As good as it is, the Sport does have its faults. For a start it doesn’t suite everyones shooting technique. Why that is I really couldn’t guess but some of the best shots of that earlier era couldn’t get the best out of them. For example, Terry Wheeler, a brilliant shot and FT national champion that competed using a Original 45, tried the Sport on numerous occasions but it just didn’t work for him. For these unlucky few, the devotion the FWB Sport creates amongst its fans will always remain a mystery.


It can be a very unforgiving rifle, expect no mercy. On a bad day, it will magnify your errors and punish them. The key to getting the best out the rifle is to let it do what it wants, don’t fight it. I’ve always found that the most successful position to adopt is the original field target sitting position. Try to lean into the rifle, elbows resting on knees, rifle resting in the palm of your forehand. Just let the rifle lie in your hand, don’t restrain it at all. Your trigger hand should be relaxed on the pistol grip and try to keep as much weight as you can off the cheekpiece. Let your crosshairs float over the target and gradually increase the trigger pressure. This technique also transforms well into the standing position but it can be a pig of a rifle to shoot well when prone.


As field target became more competitive so did the equipment. New rifles came and were assessed but none, until the arrival of the HW 77, could match with the Sports ‘tack driving’ accuracy. The only option therefore was to improve the FWB. Many hours were invested, experimenting with the transfer ports size and shape, piston heads materials and configurations, improving bearing surfaces, changing the pistons weight and stroke lengths. No stone was left unturned. However, the amount of real world return for all this effort was very small.


As with any sub 12ft lb springer, the single biggest efficiency gain to be made is by fitting the piston head correctly. A piston with a parachute seal should glide easily under its own weight but refuse to move forward when a finger is placed over the transfer port. To fit a seal attach it to the piston and spin it at high speed. This is best done on a lathe. Use some emery paper to remove material from the side of the seal, taking care not to round the leading edge. Remove small amounts at a time and check the fit frequently, as it’s all to easy to go to far and end up with no seal at all. There is no need to polish the air chamber as if it’s too smooth it will wont hold lubricant. Over zealous polishing can also produce a tapered or elliptical compression chamber, if this happens you will need to get expert (read expensive) help.


Add to this a good quality 27/28 coil main spring to quicken the lock time (these days I find either Steve Pope or Jim Maccari springs to be excellent), a top hat and piston sleeve to damp spring vibration, lubricate the piston with a light moly’ grease and the spring with a heavey moly or Maccari Tar and that’s really all that needs to be done to improve the firing cycle.


You will need a spring compressor to work on the Sport as the standard spring has a lot of preload and fitting the cross bolt that holds the assembly together is very tricky even with the new shorter spring in place. It’s very easy to cross thread the bolt as the trigger housing it fits into is made from a soft alloy. Make certain you chronograph the rifle on completion as they can easily exceed the legal limit.


Another useful mod’ is to fit a locking grub screw to the breach bolt as this has a tendency to unscrew itself each time the rifle is cocked. A 3mm one does the job but you need to use a specialist tip drill bit as the breach pin is very hard.


I like a short barrel on a Sport. This is a tricky operation though, as it needs shortening from the breach end to save the barrel’s excellent choke. Beware short barrel examples with a flattened crown and no visible means of fitting a foresight.


It’s also worthwhile checking the breach seal, just put some talc on the breach and fire a round. If there’s a puff of talc the seal is compromised.


For five years the Sport dominated Field Target competitions winning 4 of the first 5 national titles. Sadly though, nothing lasts forever and 1986 saw its position superceeded by the cheaper, easy going, horribly brilliant HW77K. Feinwerkbau launched the half hearted Mark III to counter this new challenge but the less said about that effort the better. The success of Walther rifles and the new breed of Italian pneumatic pistols meant that Feinwerkbau were busy defending their core ISU market and I think they took their eye of the ball here.


The Mastersport in its ultimate FTS incarnation continued to cling on to be competitive for a little while but it was still much harder to shoot, maintain and was much more expensive to buy than the equivalent 77. At the same time for me, working in the airgun industry eventually turned what had once been my passion into a torment and as the FWB finally vanished from Field Target and competitive airgunning, so did I.


I had some fantastic times with that little rifle, and wherever life has taken me since, the one air rifle I have never been without has been my FWB Sport. The first creative director I worked under gave me some very good advice on day one out of art college. He said that any design was not finished until you have removed the last element that is not absolutely necessary. The FWB Sport embodies this philosophy with a purity of line that maybe even Frank Lloyd Wright would have appreciated. It was designed with imagination and discipline, built with pride, and was universally admired and appreciated.


There are a few machines that transcend the mere function they are designed to fulfill. It’s not just what they do, it’s also the way that they do it. They have a unique character that engenders an admiration from the people that use them to the point that they become iconic. The Supermarine Spitfire is one such machine, as is the Fender Stratocaster and Mercedes 1937 Silver Arrow. Compared to these examples, the Feinwerkbau Sport is clearly very incidental but in its own field, I believe it is the equivalent.


And yes, without doubt my image of the Sport is coloured with a great big dollop of nostalgia but it’s nostalgia built on the rifles achievements, its past glories in that brief moment in the early 80’s when it was without peer. Surely if there is one airgun from that era that deserves iconic status, it has to be the this wonderful little rifle - the Feinwerkbau Sport."

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3 december 2014 22:23

Fant du artikkelen på airgunbbs, eller har du snakket med artikkelforfatteren?

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6 december 2014 16:07

Har faktiskt lyckats få tag på en mk1 i toppskick. Ska bli väldigt intressant att testa under julledigheten.

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7 december 2014 12:07

Sport: Nu blev jag avundssjuk!

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8 december 2014 00:01

Precisionen hos en äkta Feinwerkbau gör en aldrig besviken. Skulle inte ha något emot äga en klassisk gammal FWB 124. Jag var spekulant på en sådan bössa en gång, men tyvärr gick bössan till någon som för dagen hade större ekonomiska muskler än mig. Får väl se om den dyker upp igen någon gång.

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