This bargain-priced semi-recoilless rifle has the precision of a Swiss watch, says Bruce Potts
Feinwerkbau (FWB) — or Feinwerkbau Westinger und Altenburger to give it its full name — is based in Oberndorf at the head of the Neckar river and was started after World War II by two engineers. Ernst Altenburger and Karl Westinger had to start slowly, because after the war their machine shop was still in French-occupied territory, so metal wheels for children’s scooters and later a mechanical calculator hid their development of air rifles. In 1952, rifled barrel manufacture was allowed once again and air rifle development started in earnest. The FWB 100 and 150 in 1961 were their first fixed-barrel recoilless air rifle design.
This system was also designed for the FWB LP 65 pistol and the target awards started to pour in. Today Feinwerkbau — which means “fine work factory or company” — produces some of the most accurate air rifles and small-bore rifles in the world.
This FWB 300 was their 1969 to 1996 model that had many guises in that time, mainly regarding stock design. This FWB 300SU was the “Universal” model with all the bells and whistles.
The whole essence of this air rifle is the semi- recoilless design. FWB designed a recoil elimination device that can be traced back to the owners’ development of anti-recoil devices for machine guns at the Mauser factory they worked in before setting up on their own. It involves a system whereby, when the trigger is released, the upper action and barrel are unlocked and allowed to ride backwards, counteracting the forward movement of the piston thus resulting in almost zero recoil. It only moves about a ¼in but it is incredibly effective and contributes to the incredible accuracy of the 300SU.
With the fixed-barrel design, there are no associated problems with barrel lock-up or alignment, as with break-barrel air rifles. The FWB is cocked with a side-lever that only requires 9lb of cocking effort to compress the dual spring and piston system. This is because the FWB is only available in .177 calibre and runs at 640fps for about 6.5ft/lb energy. As the side-lever is cocked, it opens a sleeve to reveal the barrel so a pellet is placed directly into it and aligned.
Every part is made like a Swiss watch, all beautifully machined and working in unison. The way the FWB seals the piston and barrel is unique too — there are no “O” rings and leather washers here. The piston has a single metal piston ring like a car engine, which is virtually maintenance-free on older models. As the action is closed, the cylinder seals against the end of the barrel on to a tapered seal that tightens more when fired, so eliminating leaks. Both seals were reported to last for more than 6 million shots!
The trigger can be adjusted from a superb light 3.5oz weight up to just over a pound at 17.7oz. It is fully adjustable, with a two-stage unit for weight, release, finger length and sideways position. The stock evolved from a fixed walnut unit to this SU model, which has the adjustable elevating cheekpiece. The butt-pad is adjustable for height and the fore-end is scalloped and stippled for grip.
You could buy an accessory pack that included an extra-high cheekpiece and elevated rearsight mount and higher foresight. These rifles were designed for target use and came with precision aperture adjustable sights as standard, but the action was also grooved for a scope, as the Running Boar model came without sights and only for scope use.
I mounted a Leupold EFR (extended focal range) scope on this 300SU, as I have found that the reduced power but superb accuracy is perfect for shooting feral pigeon in barns — where a normal powered air rifle would over-penetrate and break a roof tile or window. The FWB 300 is capable of putting pellet on pellet at 20 yards, when the normal range is 10yards. I use JSB Exacts in .177.
To buy second-hand, this Feinwerkbau 300SU would cost £300 to £400 for a good one, but you would have an absolute bargain of a classic rifle. This one came from John Knibbs International Ltd.
What to look for when buying a Feinwerkbau 300SU
Barrel: Check that the muzzle weight and sight dovetailed shroud is intact as some people try to remove it by using a heat gun
Action: The action should cock smoothly and ride cleanly on the “free recoiling sledge”; if there’s any roughness then steer clear
Weight: 8.8lb to 10.8lb, dependent on model Length: 43.3in
Features: Semi recoilless action and superb accuracy
Importer: Second-hand only
Prices: £300 or more, dependent on quality. Check it has correct diopter sights fitted