by B.B. Pelletier
Photos and test results by Earl “Mac” McDonald
Anthony Stewart’s photo of his cousin shooting his Red Ryder is this week’s winner of the Big Shot of the Week. I’d say this boy really wants to shoot since it appears he’ll do whatever it takes to make a too-big gun work for him.
The Diana model 60, which is a Hy-Score model 810 in this case, is a breakbarrel target rifle from the 1960s and ’70s.
Today, we’re looking at the accuracy of the Diana model 60 recoilless breakbarrel target rifle. In Part 2, I also reported on my HW 55 CM, but now I’m back with the model 60 exclusively. All along, I’ve been baiting you with the incredible accuracy of this rifle. Today is the day we’ll see what that means.
We learned that Mac’s model 60 suffers from a loss of velocity over the factory specs. Blog reader Mike Driskill was kind enough to give us the velocities of his two model 60s. The first rifle is one that he suspects still has the original factory springs that came with the gun. It got a new piston seal back in 1999 from RWS USA. It shoots RWS Hobby pellets at an average velocity of 567 f.p.s.
The second model 60 is one rebuilt by Randy Bimrose, who commented that it was the hottest model 60 he had ever seen. That rifle averages 666 f.p.s with the same RWS Hobby pellets.
Mac didn’t shoot his rifle with Hobbys, nor did he test with any of the same pellets Mike did, but with H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets it averages 457 f.p.s. I will make an educated guess that his rifle might shoots Hobbys at 495-510 f.p.s., based on that performance. It’s slower than Mike’s slowest rifle and perhaps it has the original springs with an updated piston seal.
Velocity is not something we look for in a fine target rifle, but nobody wants their gun to be performing substandard, either. Mac still hasn’t decided what he will do about the gun, but I believe he will send it off to be rebuilt. Pyramyd Air is now fixing all Giss system rifles and pistols, so Mac knows where to send his gun to get it refreshed.
Back to accuracy — the sights
But today isn’t about velocity. It’s about how accurate this rifle is. I’ve made some strong claims for it in the past, so it’s time for me to show the evidence.
When we talk about accuracy, naturally the sights come into play. The Diana 60-series rifle sights are interesting and very well-built. Let’s begin with a look at the sight base that many of us have mistakenly called a scope base for years.
The Diana rear sight base has grooves running perpendicular to the axis of the action along the top of the entire sight base. To most of us, these look like an interesting but useless detail; but if you own a Diana peep sight, their real purpose springs into sharp relief.
The rear sight base on the Diana model 60 rifle has ridges that run perpendicular to the action of the rifle. They’re locking grooves.
The underside of the target sight has corresponding grooves that mesh with those on the sight base, locking the rear sight in position.
When you see the underside of the target rear sight, you see the corresponding grooves that bear down and intermesh with the grooves on top of the sight base, locking the sight firmly in position. One wonders why Diana never marketed scope rings with the same feature.
Yes, the model 60 is recoilless and probably doesn’t need its sight to be locked down, but the same sight base is found on their recoiling sport models made during the same timeframe. It’s easier to make the parts the same for all guns, so even the recoilless rifles get this locking feature.
Mac says he’s very intrigued by the level of sophistication he finds in the Diana target aperture sight. He took some detailed photos so I could share it with you.
This view shows the back of the rear sight, which contains both scales for windage and elevation adjustment. Both adjustment wheels have click detents that alert the shooter to exactly how far the sight has moved during adjustment.
The front sight accepts different inserts, like most target sights of that era. Mac discovered that it also accepts the clear inserts that have become very popular in recent years.
And now the targets
The proof is in the pudding, as they say, so let’s see how this target rifle shoots. First up was the venerable RWS Meisterkugeln, a time-honored wadcutter that has been around for most of the modern airgunning age. I used them back in the mid-1970s, and they’re still going strong today. Mac found them to be reasonably accurate in his rifle.
Next Mac shot the H&N Finale Match Rifle pellet. It grouped just about the same as the Meisterkugeln , though the group was centered on the target better.
So far, the rifle has shown accuracy that is average for a good 10-meter rifle. But next up was the JSB Exact Diabolos, a domed pellet that Mac uses for mini-sniping. The group these pellets shot was so small it was almost impossible to measure; but by being generous with the calipers, Mac estimates that it measures 0.10 inches between the centers of the two shots that are farthest apart. That’s the sort of accuracy seen in today’s top target rifles, so the model 60 gives away nothing to modern guns except ergonomics.
The bottom line
This report has been about a breakbarrel target air rifle that’s just as accurate as any fixed-barrel target rifle we see today. It proves the point that the breakbarrel system can be just as accurate as any other spring-piston system.
The report also reminds us that there are a lot of vintage airguns around that can be every bit as nice as they were 40-50 years ago when they were the latest technology. Fortunately, we live at a time when they are also repairable, so these vintage treasures can continue to serve us well in the years to come.
I’d like to thank Mac for taking the time to test his fine old target rifle and share the results with us in this blog.