by B.B. Pelletier
I can't believe I haven't reviewed this classic air rifle, but last week a reader named Bob pointed out that I hadn't. I call it a rifle, singular, because the wood stock is the only thing that differentiates the two models. Both models have the same action, and Diana used to make the action with both numbers.
The Beeman R1 quickly took over as the baddest airgun in town in 1982, with an initial muzzle velocity of 950 f.p.s. in .177. Before that, Diana had one of the most powerful guns in their model 45, which could sometimes get up to 850. In the mid-1980s, Diana brought out the model 48 sidelever, which had an advertised velocity of 1,100 f.p.s. in .177. I have tested them in that caliber, and you actually can achieve it with light lead pellets. By that time, the basic R1 had climbed to 1,000 f.p.s. in .177, plus Beeman had a Laserized model that just made 1,100. However, you had to have that done as an option or you had to install the Laser kit yourself. Diana was back on top.
A quick caliber rundown
The 48/52 has been produced in all four smallbore calibers but is currently available only in .177 and .22. The .25 was disappointing for its low relative power, and I guess the .20 didn't sell well. The .177 is popular with shooters who compete in field target and is often purchased by people unfamiliar with adult airguns who are attracted by the high but unusable velocity. Once they discover supersonic pellets are inaccurate, they have the ability to go to heavier pellets and shoot them under 1,000 f.p.s. with a lot of power. Twenty-two caliber has always been the best caliber of all for this air rifle. It's best at using the available power, and it seems to shoot smoothest of all, though a tuned gun in any caliber can be very smooth.
For the power, I think the 48/52 cocks easier than any other spring gun. The ads say 39 lbs., but I have registered as little as 32 on some of them. The gun does have a healthy kick. Some I have shot also had a lot of vibration, while others were very smooth, so I guess it depends on the individual gun. A ratchet safety holds the sliding compression chamber until a button in the stock is deliberately pressed; and, while it is quite a simple arrangement, it works very well. Remember to press the button after loading, or the sidelever won't budge.
I registered a high of 22.73 foot-pounds of muzzle energy from a new .22 caliber model 48 when shooting 14.3-grain Crosman Premiers. That's a velocity of 846 f.p.s., which is an ideal speed for a pellet. I never tested the gun with JSB Exacts, but I certainly would today. They would go a little slower and produce a little less energy, too. A new .177 caliber model 52 I tested got 1040 f.p.s. with 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers. That works out to 18.98 foot-pounds.
This rifle has a deserved reputation for accuracy. The Bullseye Airgun Club in Louisiana used to have a huge contingent of shooters who shot 48s and 52s in field target competition. All were .177, of course. I personally have found the rifle quite accurate in both calibers but somewhat touchy as to how it is held. The trigger is usually under three pounds and a delight to use. With adjustments, it can get much lighter. A shooter who knows his gun can give a good accounting of himself with this gun in either caliber.
Potential for improvement
These guns respond well to a tuneup. I like to lower their power by 10 percent and eliminate all the vibration, and then they are a real delight to shoot. Hunters will find that they readily accept aftermarket sling swivels because of the solid stock. Ditto for bipod users.
All Diana spring airguns have a weak scope mounting system. Little thought has been given to it, and there is no intrinsic scope stop anchor point like every other quality airgun has. You work around the problem by hanging the stop pin over the front of the raised ramp. Why Dianawerke doesn't wake up and change this half-century-old system is a mystery to me. Although, I confess that I sometimes cheat and just back the rear mount up to the large screwhead in back of the ramp and hope it doesn't shear off, as they are known to do.
I hope this report makes up for my oversight in never covering this model. It's a very nice spring gun with lots of power and accuracy. If it tickles your fancy - go for it!