Archive for June 2007

RWS Diana 34 Panther – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Before we begin, Gamo has just changed their warranty period from three years to one. I thought you would like to know that. Son of a gun if my post a few days ago about warranty periods changing wasn’t prophetic!

Today I’ll clean the Panther’s barrel, mount a scope and head to the range.

Barrel cleaning
I’m using a new .177 brass brush loaded with JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound. The reason for cleaning a brand new rifle is to remove latent rust from the bluing process and all the sharp burrs that remain from barrel manufacture. The first several strokes were extremely difficult, but they eased around stroke eight. By the tenth stroke the barrel was feeling very smooth, and by stroke 16, I was able to reverse directions of the brush without removing it from the bore.

A BIG surprise!
As the barrel became cleaner and I was able to feel the brush passing through, I thought I could feel a restriction toward the muzzle. Of course I was cleaning from the breech, which is always recommended. When I started running the dry cleaning patches through the bore to remove the bore paste, I could definitely feel the restriction. On some breakbarrels there is a coincidental constriction from the upsetting of the bore when the front sight dovetails were swaged in, but this rifle doesn’t have them. It has a plastic front sight base that’s bonded on with epoxy, probably. That makes the bore restriction intentional, and what that means is Diana has intentionally choked the bore at the muzzle! I can’t wait to see what this does for accuracy!

Scoping
The RWS Diana 34 Panther is a slim breakbarrel rifle, so I selected a smaller scope to go with it. Being a breakbarrel, you have to keep the barrel joint free to open, which means a shorter scope. Normally I would like to use two-piece mounts for the extra scope positioning flexibility they give, but this is a Diana and has to use a one-piece mount with the vertical scope stop pin hung in front of the scope base on the rifle. The scope I chose was a 3-9X40 Leapers that Pyramyd doesn’t stock at the moment, but in size it’s very close to the 3-9X32 range estimating AO scope they do carry. I used a B-Square 17101 adjustable one-piece mount, and I put two turns of elevation on the rear ring and a half turn on the front. That should compensate for the Diana’s tendency to shoot low.

Initial range results
It’s been a wet year and my range in under water right now, but I am able to shoot at a closer distance (20 yards) in the backyard. I selected the Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets, the Logun Penetrators that weigh 9.5 grains and a Czech Republic pellet called the Diabolo Standard. Well, the Czech pellet was all over the paper at 20 yards, so I didn’t pursue it. But the Logan Penetrator showed some promise with some half-inch groups. It might be worth testing at longer distance when the range is available again.

However it was the old standard Crosman Premier that saved the day! They went into such tight little groups that I knew I had my best pellet. And then I noticed that this 34 is less sensitive to hold than others I’ve tested. Also, it groups better than any RWS Diana 34 I have ever shot!


Ten Premiers at 20 yards on the left. Five on the right.


Five more Premiers at 20 yards. Not bad for a quick and dirty test! This Panther holds very well and takes less technique than most breakbarrels.

Rest the rifle just forward of the triggerguard, where it is very muzzle-heavy, hold softly and this rifle will shoot! It takes far less technique than a Mendoza or that Hammerli Storm Elite I tested a few weeks ago. And it takes less than any 34 I’ve ever shot. I have to believe that a lot of the accuracy lies with the choked barrel.

The trigger is very crisp and light at 3.5 lbs. let-off. There is not one hint of creep. An overtravel adjustment would make it feel even nicer, but in this price category you won’t find one much better.

The straight stock is a shooter’s dream. The rifle comes up to your eye without any moving around and the sharp checkering make the gun easy to control with a soft hold.

Most of the piston seal noise is gone after 50 shots. The detent is still hard to open, but the rifle cocks smoothly from that point on.

I do need to get out to the range and see what the rifle can do at longer distance. but to this point I am very pleasantly surprised.

RWS Diana 34 Panther – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Today I’ll continue with the physical description of the RWS Diana 34 Panther. I left off with the barrel, which is 19 inches long. The muzzle cap makes it look longer and also serves as the base for the front sight ramp, which is skeletonized.

The breech uses Diana’s time-honored ball-bearing detent, and, lest anyone say a ball bearing can’t hold the breech shut as well and a chisel detent, I have to slap the muzzle to begin breaking the barrel. Hopefully that will become easier as the gun breaks in.

Cocking
This Panther seems like a hard-cocking breakbarrel! The piston seal honks like a goose, which indicates a dry seal, but I know the Diana seal is self-lubricating so I’ll not lubricate it until the gun has some shots on it. I expect it to quiet down with use – to break in, so to speak. Cocking effort is a surprisingly low 31 pounds. The surprise is because it feels like a lot more – probably due to the noisy piston seal.

Front sight is fragile!
I must criticize the front sight element for being extremely fragile. Mine broke within the first few shots, and replacement doesn’t look easy! This is a flaw Diana will have to fix soon. Fortunately I will scope the rifle, so it won’t prove to be a problem.


This won’t cut it! Plastic on airguns is okay, but there has to be enough to do the job. This sight needs to be redesigned!

Scoping is a challenge!
The scope base is the weak point on most RWS Diana spring rifles. It simply isn’t engineered to accept scope rings with scope stops. There are two shallow holes for a vertical stop pin, but they aren’t deep enough to do the job. I have seen dozens of Diana spring guns with long gouges extending backward from these holes. The earlier form of the Diana C Mount was a cause for some of these problems because it has a tapered rounded Allen screw stop pin that acts like a plow when the gun moves in recoil. But RWS recently went to B-Square to make the C Mount, and they have a better cylindrical stop pin. But at best, these are just field expedients.


The older RWS C Mount used an Allen screw with a rounded tapered bottom as a scope stop pin. It would plow through the backs of the shallow holes on the Diana rifle mount. B-Square fixed this flaw and the pin is now flat, but the rifle base still doesn’t measure up.


The Diana rifle scope base has two shallow holes that are inadequate for scope stop pins. The large-headed screw on the rear (left) of the scope base should NOT be used as a scope stop. It has a thin shank that will shear off under recoil. The ONLY place for a stop pin to work is the front of the scope base (also called the ramp) shown at the right.


This pin on a B-Square one-piece scope mount is the right size and shape to stop the movement.

What is needed is a way to anchor the scope ring solidly to the rifle, and the only way I know to do that with what currently exists is to hang a vertical stop pin in front of the base on the receiver. The stop pin can then be lowered enough to really bear on the steel base and stop all rearward movement. Clamping pressure alone cannot stop the movement.

Velocity
This was tested with the brand-new gun. No break-in was done. I expect some changes after a few hundred shots have been fired. H&N Baracuda Match (Beeman Kodiaks for several dollars less) averaged 820 f.p.s., Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets went 919 f.p.s. and RWS Hobbys averaged 1021 f.p.s. This is the first time I have ever seen a .177 model 34 get over 1,000 f.p.s., so something inside must be different. It will be interesting to see what happens after a few hundred shots are fired.

I’ll save the firing behavior and trigger comments for the range testing. But the trigger is light, if not crisp, and the rifle doesn’t buzz as much as I remember my other 34s buzzing. So maybe this is the dawn of a new day.

RWS Diana 34 Panther – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier


RWS 34 Panther is an all-black air rifle with a synthetic stock. The use of a non-Monte Carlo buttstock is a bold move, offset by the straight line of the stock (less drop).

For those of you buying a Diana rifle for the first time, you cannot compare what you receive to the guns that shipped a decade or more ago, but I can. I have owned more than one model 34 in both calibers, so I’ll make the comparison between those guns and this new RWS 34 Panther as I go. This one is a .177.

What’s new?
The Panther has a black synthetic stock that’s new. It’s shaped differently than the wood stocked Diana 34 that’s been made for so many years, and it felt a little heavier to me. Sure enough, the specifications on Pyramyd’s website indicate an extra quarter pound. That’s not much, except all the weight seems to be in the front of the gun. That makes the gun very stable to hold.

With the new stock, you get something no 34 ever had – checkering! Both the pistol grip and forearm are checkered with sharp diamonds to keep the rifle secure in your grip. In the past, you had to buy the upgraded model 36 to get checkering. There is no cheekpiece and the safety is in the center of the end cap, so this is truly an ambidextrous air rifle! The wood-stocked 34 is less so because it does have a cheekpiece on the left side of the butt.

Fiberoptic sights
The Panther also has TruGlo fiberoptic sights front and rear, which the wood-stocked model doesn’t have. If the light is too low to light up the front bead, the shape of the post is square, so it makes a perfect conventional front sight. The rear notch is also square and sized correctly for the front post.

T05 trigger
The Panther has the T05 trigger, which is found on most of Diana’s spring guns these days. That may not mean much to you, but as the owner of several older T01 triggers, let me tell you that the T05 is better. It’s crisper than the older model, but unfortunately it has a plastic trigger blade that offends some shooters. I like it better than the older stamped steel blade of the T01 that was too curved, in my opinion. This trigger is straight and feels much better when pulled. It doesn’t swing up as it comes back. I have lived with the use of plastic in firearms for so long that a plastic trigger in an airgun doesn’t bother me, but I know there are many who object to one.

The trigger is adjustable for the length of pull of the first stage, which determines where the second stage kicks in. The manual warns that too much adjustment will remove all the first stage, but some shooters really want that. The pull-weight and overtravel are not adjustable.

The safety is automatic and pops out at the rear when the rifle is cocked. It can be applied at any time and simply blocks the trigger from moving. No safety is 100 percent safe, though, and you should always hold the barrel with the cocking hand when loading to catch it if the sear should slip.

Warranty
After my little rant about Beeman’s cancelled lifetime warranty yesterday, I thought to check on the warranty for this gun. Mine came packed with a lifetime warranty card that was issued by RUAG Ammotec, who sold their RWS USA franchise to Umarex two years ago. So, I called and spoke to the Umarex USA repair center, and they told me that the warranty they offer is a limited lifetime with 18 months on the wearout parts such as seals and mainsprings.

There are some contradictory words in the owner’s manual about the warranty. It says the gun is warranted for two years. What’s happened is that Diana has published their own warranty in the manual and RUAG/Umarex has included a separate U.S. warranty card with the gun. In the U.S., the warranty is for a lifetime, except as noted.

General fit and finish
Everytime I pick up a new 34, I’m impressed by its overall quality. I have to say that this Panther is the best one of all. The steel parts are not highly polished, but they’re evenly finished and darkly colored. They are very attractive. The synthetic stock is smooth and even and the checkering is sharp, as noted. The stock is slender to favor a hunter or offhand shooter.

Barrel
The owner’s manual says not to use wire brushes in the barrel, but I’m going to disregard that and do my usual JB bore compound cleaning. I am not recommending that you do the same; I am simply avoiding the 500-1,000 shots at break-in to smooth out the bore for the best accuracy.

More on the Panther tomorrow.

Does “better” cost more?

by B.B. Pelletier

“You get what you pay for” is a quote you hear when talking about the prices of things. But is it true?

Not always! Sometimes, things that cost more are no better than other things, but how do you know for sure? Today’s blog was prompted by a comment Matt made a couple months ago, “The Shadow is obviously a better gun because it costs more, but is it worth the $40 price difference?”

Don’t assume that $40 makes any difference at all. I will explain with brutal frankness. You probably know that Beerman has its R-series spring rifles made by Weihrauch. And, the Beeman R1 retails for about $150 more than the Weihrauch HW 80. There are differences between these two models, but in this case, the stock is the biggest one. If that isn’t a big deal for you, then go for the less expensive gun.

People used to say to me, “I bought the Beeman gun for the lifetime warranty.” Well so did I, and when SR Industries took over the company, they lost little time changing that “policy” so the lifetime warranty became void. Apparently, the “lifetime” it referred to was the span of the warranty, itself, (he said, with a tear in his eye). In other words, when it’s over – it’s over! I’m sadder but wiser, as they say. I learned that my own ability to make repairs to my R1 is more important than any paper issued by a company that can change their policy at a moment’s notice.

Price doesn’t always mean quality, either. I bet you know of many products that sell the “sizzle” without the substance. That’s what brand positioning is all about.

Sometimes, there are tremendous bargains buried among the cabbage leaves. When I find one, I’ll shout it from the rooftops. I want to be sure you get in on the good deals. I have done that in this blog whenever possible. For example, the BAM B40 is a super gun for the money. The Gamo CF-X is another great buy. In the used gun department, an FWB 124 is one to watch for, as is a BSF 55N. And, the Hakim military trainer should also be considered if you want a nice accurate .22 plinker.

Except for the used guns just mentioned, this is only about new guns. And I’m not just talking about model cross-comparisons, either, though the R1/HW80 story was about that issue. I’m talking about guns that have higher prices and aren’t necessarily worth it, while others with lower prices languish because people can’t believe anything so inexpensive could be that good.

That’s exactly where the Mendoza RM-200 falls. The more powerful RM-2000 is an okay airgun, but the RM-200 is a tremendous bargain if you ask me. I think it’s underpriced by $50, and I hope Pyramyd Air leaves it right where it is. Thirty years ago, the Diana model 27 was in the same place, and they now command $250 in fine condition (up from a retail of about $69 when they were new).

But here’s the deal. Just because the RM-200 is a super bargain doesn’t mean the rest of the Mendoza line is. Another incredible bargain is the Marksman 2004, which has just recently started selling as the Beeman P17. The guns are identical and made in China. The Weihrauch HW 40 PCA that they copied is almost three times the price. Another super buy is the IZH 61. While it may be funny-looking, it’s as accurate as any inexpensive target rifle. How can you go wrong paying $100 for that kind of quality?

You have to turn over a lot of rocks to find the gold. Sometimes, all you find is slithery! Just because something’s new or you haven’t heard of it before, doesn’t mean it’s a great gun…or a bad one. You have to know what to look for, which is what this blog is all about.

Flexible cleaning rods

Flexible cleaning rods

by B.B. Pelletier

Today’s topic is one that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Ever since we talked about the Dewey cleaning rod, I’ve also wanted to address flexible cleaning rods. I use them myself, but they have some drawbacks that you need to be aware of.

They come in all types
Most people probably think of the Otis flexible rod when they think of them at all. Otis makes flexible rods for Beeman, as well as under their own name. The thing that tells you it’s an Otis is the round, padded zipper case.

Why use them?
Sometimes, you have to use a flexible rod because of the construction of the gun. If that’s the case, you’ll be putting the flexible rod through the muzzle and attaching the cleaning patch at the breech. Each time you want to use a new patch, you have to go through this procedure, which makes the flexible rod more cumbersome to use. The Otis comes with a brass crosspiece that slides through a hole in the tail of the cleaning rod, making a handle for pulling the rod through the bore. When you pull, make sure you pull in a straight line with the barrel. Don’t allow the flexible rod to ride against any particular side of the muzzle.

The Otis rod also comes with a brass cleaning brush that works like any other bore brush. It’s short enough for most breeches; but when you wear it out, it’ll be difficult to find a replacement.

All rods are not created equal
I’ve been talking about the Otis rod, which is a well-designed flexible cleaning rod. There are others on the market. Several years ago, someone was selling a flexible rod made of lawn trimmer string, which is heavy monofilament fishing line. Using a rod like that is very dangerous, because the monofilament allows dirt to embed itself. That creates a saw sharp enough to cut steel. More than a few airgun barrels have had grooves cut into their muzzles by the improper use of this kind of flexible rod.

Flexible rods have been around for many decades. The Garand in WWII used one, because it was easy to carry and the construction of the rifle made it impossible to clean from the breech. As I said, there’s nothing wrong with them. You just have to be careful with the muzzle!

What about shooting from a vice?

by B.B. Pelletier

Several months ago, a reader asked about using a vice to test the accuracy of different pellets in an airgun. In the comment sections of our posts, this question has come up many times over the years. Let’s talk a little about using vices.

First, let me say that I’m not an expert on this subject. What I know has come from my readings and talking to airgun testers rather than actual experiments.

Even with a vice, there’s vibration
A vice does not cancel all vibration. Depending on how the barrel is held by the vice, it’ll still vibrate a lot or maybe significantly less than when it was not in a vice. You can’t stop vibration completely. Many people believe a vice cancels all possible error. While a vice will cancel human error, there are other errors that the vice will not address.

Let’s start with a vice-like product that’s been in use for many decades…the Ransom rest. A Ransom rest is for handguns and is made to hold the grip of a handgun in a vice-like fixture. In some cases, this is identical to shooting from a vice because the barrel is rigid in the frame. With other guns, such as the 1911 Colt, the barrel moves during the firing cycle. All the Ransom rest does is guarantee the same starting point, shot after shot.

The Ransom rest is free to move when the gun recoils. After each shot, the gun is moved back to an indexed starting position for the next shot. So each shot starts from the same place. However, because the gun is free to move in recoil, the rest isn’t exactly the same as a vice that never moves. It’s more like a perefect artillery hold than like a vice.

Not perfect
Gun writers use Ransom rests because they save a lot of time when testing handguns, but they don’t make the guns more accurate. In numerous gun tests, it has been demonstrated that a good shooter can out-shoot a pistol held in a Ransom rest.

I know that last comment is going to stir up a controversy, so it’s time for me to tell you that several fine German airgun manufacturers test their airguns with human beings and not with vices. It’s faster, and they’ve found no difference in accuracy. That’s right, all those super-small shot groups that come with target guns were fired by a human being!

The biggest proof of all!
You’ve heard me quote many times in the blog from F.W. Mann’s The Bullet’s Flight From Powder to Target. Dr. Mann spent nine straight years and the better part of 37 years in total gathering information for this book, which was published in 1914. One of his test instruments was a concrete pier sunk 40″ into the ground. Atop this pier was a fixture that held a cylindrical receiver, into which Dr. Mann threaded all of his test barrels. He called this fixture his “shooting Gibraltar.” It was his belief that the vice would free him from any human error and make his test results as pure as possible. However, what he discovered was extremely interesting. He had guns in his personal collection that could out-shoot the Pope-made barrels mounted to the action on his shooting Gibraltar. The only explanation for this is that a vice, while seemingly rigid, does not solve all the problems that cause inaccuracy.

If you really want to read the definitive work on exterior ballistics, locate and buy a copy of Dr. Mann’s book. His tests will open your eyes!

During the Civil War, there were several snipers armed with rifles that weighed 50-60 lbs. These guns had built-in rests because they were too heavy to be held and had to be shot from a specially made bench. In the finest recorded shot in history, a Union captain killed a Confederate general at a measured distance of one mile. The range was determined by artillery surveyors through triangulation before the shot was taken. The rifle used was not held in a vice, but the nature of its extreme mass undoubtedly added to the accuracy it achieved.

What I’m saying is that, while vices sound like a good way to test pellets, they may not be. OR, they may not be as good as some other method that is easier and more convenient.

Please remember that I am not an expert on shooting with a vice. All that I’ve told you here are things I’ve read or things that have been told to me by those who test airguns for a living.

What’s wrong with scope adjustments?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question came in from Pestbgone, who asked why a scope with 1/4″ adjustments at 100 yards did not respond with 10 times the number of clicks at 10 yards. In other words, why don’t 10 clicks move the pellet a 1/4″ at 10 yards, if one click moves it 1/4″ at 100 yards. Great question. Simple answer.

Nothing is for certain
How do you think scope makers get the reticle to move 1/4″ at 100 yards? They do it by using a screw with a very fine thread. This screw moves the erector tube by a small amount. Attached to the screw is a ratchet or click detent that produces an audible and tactile signal that one “increment” of distance has been covered. For example, one click equals 1/4″ at 100 yards.

The truth is that one click never does equal 1/4″ at 100 yards. It’s close, but not exact. That’s because screw threads are not cut that way. While it’s possible to get close, it’s next to impossible to get exact movements that equal the measurements scope manufacturers put on the adjustment knobs.

Does that bother you? And, why do I know all this? Well, about 10 years ago, several field target shooters came up with a brilliant idea. They reasoned that if software programs could calculate pellet drop, they would never need to sight-in their guns at more than one distance. They could simply adjust their scopes for all other distances once they had been “sighted-in.”

Surprise, surprise!
Only, it didn’t work that way. When they actually tested their theory, they discovered that click adjustments came in all sizes. They found scopes with 1/7″ adjustments, 1/5″ adjustments and many others. What they never found were scopes with adjustments that were identical to the inch value given on the adjustment knobs or in the scope’s instructions.

You would think that this would cause a tremendous uproar, but it never did. In fact, very few people today even know about this phenomenon. The truth is that when someone goes to the range, they adjust their scope til the gun hits where they want it to, and they pay little attention to the actual click value.

Airgunners, however, have a greater need than firearms shooters to know the click values. Because our adjustments are all at much shorter ranges, we have to apply many more clicks to move the strike of the pellet. Therefore, we notice when things don’t seem to be working out the way we think they should. That’s why Pestbgone noticed that his scope was not adjusting as expected.

Do the work
There’s not substitute for actually sighting-in a scope at all ranges you wish to shoot. That’s what the experts do, and that’s what you’ll have to do if you expect to hit what you’re shooting at. This is the reason that my explanation of the two points of intersection (where the pellet is right on the crosshairs) is so important. No one has time to sight-in at every possible distance they will shoot. You need to find a good medium range to sight-in, then test your rifle at different distance throughout your intended range of use. Don’t count on click values being correct. Even on precision target scopes, they’re going to be off a little.

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