Diana 72 youth target rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Diana 72
Diana 72 is a youth target rifle from the late 20th century.

This report addresses:

• History of the rifle
• The Giss contra-recoil system
• General description and dimensions of the Diana model 72

Today, we’ll begin looking at an air rifle that I’ve been waiting 3 years to share with you. In 2011 my friend Mac and I were looking at his vintage air rifles to see which ones would be of interest. We actually did a report on his Diana 60 target rifle that was labeled a Hy Score model 810. The rifle needed to be rebuilt, so the velocity was low, but the accuracy was right on. The report was so successful that he decided to test his Diana model 72 youth target rifle next.

Alas, the seals were gone on that rifle, and it no longer worked. So, Mac packed it together with some other target rifles and sent them all to be resealed. What he didn’t count on was the repairs taking two years to complete! The repaired guns arrived back at his home when I was there sitting with him last April, three weeks before he passed away.

This report is for Mac. It completes the plan he and I formulated in the days before illness overtook him. He was proud of this little rifle, and he wanted to share its quirks with all of you. He purchased the rifle at the Damascus airgun show that used to run at the Damascus Izaak Walton League in Maryland. He paid a lot for it because it was complete in the box, and because the model 72 has always had a cachet that other target guns lacked.

I purchased this rifle from Mac’s son this year when I was back to visit after the Findlay airgun show. I’ve wanted to share it with you for a very long time.

Air pistol
The Diana models 70 and 72 youth target rifles are breakbarrel spring rifles based on Diana’s breakbarrel models 5 and 6 target pistols. The model 5 pistol/model 70 rifle are the recoiling versions and the models 6/72 are the recoilless versions of the same gun. All Diana did to make these rifles was install a longer barrel shroud over the pistol barrel and drop the pistol action into a shoulder stock. So, the cocking effort and velocity of both the models 70 and 72 are those of air pistols — not air rifles, which works perfectly for 10-meter target shooting by older youngsters.

The model 70 was made from 1979 to 1993, and the model 72 lasted one additional year — to 1994. The model 72 cost $205 at the end of the production cycle, while the model 70 sold for $130 — no doubt accounting for its more popular reception. Both rifles appear identical from the outside, with the exception of the gear trunnions on the model 72 that hold both pistons — the real one that compresses the air, and the fake one that counter-balances the recoil.

The rifles originally came with a set of front globe inserts and 3 stock spacers to adjust the length of pull. Mac’s rifle had all of these accessories when he bought it; but when I purchased it from his son, we were unable to locate anything other than the rifle and its box. I’ll make some stock spacers at some point (they are easy enough to make from wood), but, for now, I’ll shoot the rifle using its short 11-inch pull. Because this is a target rifle meant to be shot offhand, the pull length isn’t that important.

The buttpad screws are very long to accommodate all 3 spacers when needed. So, nothing but the spacers are required to change the length of pull by about 1.5 inches. Just back out the 2 screws and slide in as many spacers as you need — up to 3.

The barrel appears to measure 13-3/4 inches overall from the outside, but there’s about a 6-1/2-inch freebore (hollow tube without rifling) up front. The rifled barrel is actually the original pistol barrel with a length of 7.25 inches, more or less (the actual barrel length of a model 6 pistol is nominally 7 inches).

Diana 72 target rifle muzzle

The “muzzle” is just the end of a hollow barrel shroud that covers the 7-inch pistol barrel. It gives the sights more separation.

Giss contra-recoil system
I’ve written about this before. In the Giss system, there are 2 pistons. When the gun fires, the forward one compresses the air that powers the pellet. The rear piston is simply a dead weight that balances the impulse of the forward piston, canceling the recoil. This is a pistol action, so the recoil is slight to begin with; but when this rifle fires, all you feel is a faint impulse in your hand that lets you know something happened.

Diana model 72 target rifle Giss system

The momentum of the forward piston is canceled by the rear piston in the Giss system.

Diana 72 Giss trunions
The round cap at the upper right covers the trunion, or anchor point of the 2 pistons. It’s actually where the upper and lower gears engage and that controls the piston rods.

General description
The rifle is 31-3/4 inches long — depending on which spot on the curved rubber buttpad you anchor the tape measure. It weighs 4 lbs, 8.5 oz. without any buttplate spacers installed. The metal is blued steel, and the stock is beech wood finished to an even medium brown.

Diana 72 Benjamin 392

By itself, the 72 appears normal-sized. When placed next to a Benjamin 392, you can see how small it is.

The trigger is two stages and adjustable. I’ll tell you more about that in the next report.

The sights are a globe in front with replaceable inserts and a small target peep at the rear. As I said, this rifle had no extra inserts when I got it, but Mac had installed an aperture element in the front, which is what I would have wanted. I’ll say more about the sights during the accuracy test.

Diana model 72 target air rifle

Diana used a rear sight that they put on many of their less formal target rifles. It suits the model 72 well — both in size and precision.

Very much in demand
As you might guess, a little gem like this is always in demand. While the rifles were still selling new, airgunners criticized the additional cost of the recoilless model; but the instant they went off the market in the middle 1990s, the price doubled. It has come back down somewhat since then, but a Diana 72 is a gun you lay on your table just once and take the first offer of the full cash price. It isn’t that the rifle appreciates in value so much as it can always be sold in a very short time.

There are many model 72s in this country, but they don’t change hands that often. This is the sort of airgun that you hold onto. This one will probably stay with me a long time.

67 thoughts on “Diana 72 youth target rifle: Part 1

  1. Tom, I think I spotted a couple typos.

    ” All Diana did to make these rifles was install a longer barrel shroud over the pistol and barrel and drop…”

    I think that should be “All Diana did to make these rifles was install a longer barrel shroud over the pistol barrel and…”

    “The model 70 was made from 1979 to 1993, and the model 70 lasted one additional year — to 1994″
    I’m not sure on this one since I don’t have the production dates for the models 70 and 72.

    Other than the typos, this looks like an interesting review in the making.



      • What J meant as the second typo, BB,, wasn’t the dates, but the model numbers being the same for both manufacturing dates,, ie… model 70 ending production in 93 AND a year later.


      • B.B.,I believe those were some leftovers of mine,-my apologies.Apparently the numbness & headaches weren’t justa pinched nerve.
        Just got off that vacation I said I needed!
        I counted back , while lying in the hospital bed, at least 3 strokes within the last month.
        Easy now everyone! I’m alright,as a matter of fact,I’m Very,Very lucky!
        It’s gonna be a bit before I can get back to shooting again.Sure am glad I own my 953, as it will make things much easier
        Physically,I’m only able to type with my right hand-without the typo’s that have been plaguing me, but I’m actually able to outrun wheelchair racers and am currently rehabbing my left arm via pushups.
        Still gotta long way to go to get back where I was.This is definitely gonna be my biggest challenge yet!
        Everyone watch your blood pressure!!!
        Gotta lotta catching up to do so I’m gonna see if I can find that blog on the stranger gun designs of historical significance
        Onward& upward!
        Thanks Ya’ll

        Reb


        • Reb,

          I had no idea you’ve been so ill! I always enjoy reading your comments but had no idea. Take care of yourself and get well quickly.

          Fred DPRoNJ


          • Thanks for your support Fred!
            I wonder if I could talk some of ya’ll into linking some of those more colorful comments here tonight, for my entertainment and maybe even education as to how it went down?
            Maybe That would explain my limited access to the site?


            • I think it would be safe to assume that I have probably offended more than one person.And would beg forgiveness from anyone who felt this way,as the Elephant Man once said,”I’m Not an animal!”and would like to have All my friends back!

              Sorry guys and gals, Reb slipped

              Reb




  2. What a little beauty- thank you, Mac, for sharing. Rest easy. I hope my boy could be shooting something like this, before too long.


    • If he starts off shooting fine target rifles like this, he’ll likely be out-shooting everyone else his age by the time he is a teenager. I’m just now learning how to actually hit what I aim at at 32 years old and I started practicing in earnest at 14 years old. The thing I love about marksmanship is no one is ever truly “done” learning and practicing. There is always room for improvement.


  3. What a beautiful little petite rifle. I’m curious as to its accuracy potential offhand since it clearly doesn’t weigh very much since essentially being a pistol in a rifle stock. Mac had fantastic taste in air guns, and I have no doubt this report will do his memory justice. Thanks for sharing this one with us BB, I’ll be keenly following along as always…


  4. I think the gun is great. And I have always liked the smaller light weight youth guns. They seem easier to control the hold.

    And that’s good in my eye’s that they developed something into their guns to make them more enjoyable when you shoot them. The counter acting piston.

    And what on Earth would make them think about turning a pistol into a rifle. I don’t know anybody that has ever done something like that before. But for some reason this number comes to mind 1377. :)


    • Gunfun1,

      I was listening when you wrote about your 1377/1322 experiments. So I purchased a 1322, steel breech and wire stock. I’ll order a longer barrel and other parts in an effort to build a higher quality, more powerful, and self-contained rifle.

      Thanks for the inspiration,

      RB


      • RB thanks for saying that. I’m glad your giving it a try. I think you will like it.

        And I’m sure I’m not the only person to put a steel breech on the 1377 and 1322 frame. And as soon as I say this somebody will say they done this. But I don’t think I have herd of anybody using the Discovery barrel yet.

        The length of that barrel works out real nice with the pressure that the 1377/22 pump makes. It does raise the feet per seconds of the pistol when you use that 24 inch barrel. And I think it keeps the pellet at a good fps to help stabilize the pellet. I think you will be surprised at how accurate the gun will be with that longer Discovery barrel. I tryed the shorter barrels also and they were good but not as good as the Disco barrel.

        It might look kind of funny bringing the gun we are talking about to like a hunter class field target match but I think it could hold its own in the right hands if you know what I mean. And the thing about it. Look at the over all cost of the gun. I think it ends up around a bit over a hundred and fifty bucks.

        But anyway again I’m glad your giving it a try. And I will definitely be interested in what you think.


        • Don’t count me out just yet either, I’m still going to get some parts ordered for my own 1377 mods as well. Thats what sucks about trying to live on workers comp when you can’t physically work anymore. I’d have more money if I worked at MickeyD’s.


          • Mitchell
            I was out of work for about 6 months from 2 operations a few years back. I would rather be working thats for sure.

            But I hope you get things worked out and you can give that mod a try on the 1377.


        • I put a steel breech on my 1377 and a shoulder stock. Then I could mount a Bushnell mini red dot sight. I still have the factory short barrel. I’d like to install a longer barrel but the 24″ would be too long for me.


          • Feinwork
            I cut a 177 Disco barrrel down to 18 inches and recrowned it. And I cut a 22 Disco barrel down to 16 inches and recrowned it.

            FPS was a little lower than the 24 inch barrels and the accuracy dropped of just a little at longer distances. But not by much. So I think you will still like shorter barrel. I hope anyway.




  5. BB,

    Just so you know, this particular Diana 72 has a home waiting for it should you ever lose your mind and decide to pass it on.

    I also have two other Diana’s on my mind. I am thinking of a model 10 pistol and a model 340 N-Tec Luxus Pro Compact in .22.


  6. I have a Diana 6 pistol with a brown synthetic molded stock that I bought from ARH in the late 70′s. The recoilless mechanism is amazing. It just goes SPUT in your hand and the pellet takes off. The pistol is quit accurate, too. Kind of low powered though, I think it makes around 350 fps. I replaced the seals once and I remember it being mechanically tricky with dual springs and gearing.

    With the barrel shroud on the rifle version, the 72 must be super easy to cock. With the long sight radius, this should be a very accurate, all day plinker!



    • Wow, this is getting sentimental and nostalgic. I was just looking for documentation and found an instruction booklet from Air Rifle Headquarters written by Robert Law himself. He did an amazing job of documenting the guns he sold. The instructions have all sorts of operating and maintenance tips as well as an exploded parts diagram and disassembly instructions.
      As a boy I used to read his newsletters and drool and dream about the stuff I wanted but couldn’t afford, while I made do with my Daisy 880 Ted Williams Sears BB gun special.



      • Feinwerk
        Can you please post a link to that if possible. I would love to see it. I have a catalog somewhere from ARH from the early 70′s that I still cant find. That I looked for over the weekend. I was just talking to BB over the weekend about ARH and Dr. Beeman.

        But there was some interesting articles in the catalog that I some what remember. One of the pictures I remember is like a 1970 Dodge Daytona or a Plymouth Superbird setting in the back ground with a few people plinking with air guns down a hill. And I hope I’m remembering what type of car it was.

        I want to find my catalog and its bothering me that I cant.


        • Gunfun,
          What I have are paper booklets that arh published in the late 60s n 70s. I have the Diana 6/Hyscore 816 book, the FWB sporter manual, and a couple of the ARM Air Rifle Monthly publications: the Weihrauch handbook and fun with an air gun. They are great to read. Robert Law was so great at sensationalizing air gunning with his writing that it got you all excited just to read it. The instructions included lube tuning but none of the secrets like buttoning or custom fitting spring guides, etc.
          I also have some Beeman booklets for the R1 & FWB 124 & the classic pellets & pistons booklet. Perhaps someday I can get them scanned to PDF for electronic archiving.

          Just ordered a new spring and piston seal set for my HS 816. It’s GREAT that ARH still makes these parts. And the old ARH book tells exactly how to disassemble it.


  7. Guys, until you see a Diana 72 in person it is hard to realize just how small a rifle it is. I love little rifles like the Slavia 618 but the Diana 72 is downright tiny. Besides it size, it is a tiny gem of a rifle with wonderful craftsmanship. The Diana 72 is one of those rifles that I look at and just wonder what got into someone to put that much technology and craftsmanship in such a tiny gun.

    David Enoch


  8. Hi BB,
    I’m wondering about the false piston action. It seems like a simple elegant solution to smooth out springers. And I’m wondering why this wasn’t copied by everyone else?

    Was this something that Diana had locked down tight in patents? Did it add too much weight to the adult guns? Or was it actually copied by other manufacturers and I just don’t know about it?

    Thanks much. Just always curious about these types of obvious advancements and why they’re not more widespread.


    • Rob,

      I think the name Giss indicates that this is a proprietary technology. But Whiscombe did turn it around and bring the two pistons together to double the power and also cancel the recoil.

      B.B.


    • It is not as simple of a mechanism as you may think. There are quite a number of parts in there and the timing, though mechanical, is critical for proper functioning. Precision made parts, complicated assembly procedures, etc. translate to higher costs. With the advent of the SSP and then PCP 10 meter rifles and pistols, the sproingers were doomed.


  9. What a beauty! Thanks for the review of a nice metal and wood oldie, BB! I really enjoy reading about these older, out of production guns!

    So many great guns! So little time….and even less money… I guess I just enjoy what I can!

    /Dave


  10. That treat peep looks like it fits over the standard rear notch site like an add on instead of being a separate stand alone unit. Is that true or am I seein’ things? Does any other mfg do this?

    Mac lives on in little things like this!

    /Dave


  11. B.B.

    That’s truly nice gun, my congratulations. I wish I could have one – just for the sake of craftsmanship and technical thought. Well, I’m aiming at Diana-75 myself, so maybe one day I’ll have its elder sister in my own collection.
    I repaired Mod. 75 once, and I’d say it’s German to the bone. Perfectly made but really complex. And the most difficult part of it is balancing pistons, spent almost 2 days to understand the trick and to catch the perfect balance that eliminates any and all recoil.

    duskwight



  12. Just took my first shot in over 2 weeks! From the offhand position the QB-36& a Crosman pointed .177 and I just sent a paper towel flying about 5 feet straight up in the air!
    Guess we’re still in a tornado watch?
    Can’t wait for some daylight tomorrow!


  13. B.B I’m trying to find some of the blogs with some of my comments from while I was affected and am having no luck.Is there any way you could help me,Please?




    • Oh joy. That’s all we need. Some ding-dong gets an airsoft to go “bang” with no accuracy and probably no usable energy… but none of that will matter if the wrong politician gets wind of this.


  14. What a nice little adorable gun you have there! Nothing wrong with converting a pistol to a youth airgun. It makes me wonder if single-stroke pneumatic pistols like the Webley Alecto or Weihrauch Hw 40 could be a platform for fine recoilless airguns, too.


    • I made a wire stock for my Alecto Ultra out of 3/8 aluminum rod. I attached a picatinny riser to the end of the rod and this allows the stock to attach to the accessory rail on the underside of the gun. I put a BSA 2x scope on it. It is neat!



  15. BB,
    I had shot a FWB 300S and a Diana 75, and the firing behavior and recoil is smooth. Is this cause by the recoil mechanism in these guns or is it because the internal power plant parts of made with tight tolerance, such as the spring, spring guide and top hat all fit snugly?


    • Joe,

      The parts tolerances on these older spring guns are not that tight. I have seen 300s that buzz like other spring guns.

      It’s the anti-recoil mechanisms that make them shoot so smoothly.

      B.B.


  16. Your Mod 72 looks virtually mint, congratulations, I’m very happy to find this article, by coincidence I received a NEW Diana 72 2 days ago from Germany and I’m trying to hunt out as much information as I can about this obscure pistol based junior match weapon.

    My gun had laboured unsold in a dealers for over 20 years, before being advertised on the internet, and I was able to purchase, took a couple of weeks more to make it through customs to here in Wales.

    Very rare in the UK, I’ve only found 6 people so far who’ve seen one, let alone owned one, I’d kept a look out on the internet for a year or more before I stumbled on mine on a web listing.

    “New Old Stock” item, boxed compete with an unhandled owners pamphlet, and sundry items – the rubber band holding the sales tag however was perished, but some paper dust from the box aside the guns as clean as a whistle.

    Gun also has a price sticker marking it up at 508 DM, which translates to about £175 at 1990 exchange rates, somewhere between £350 and £400 today, quite a lot for a rifle 99% of the public would have grown out of by the time they were 11 years old, I can understand why they were never a big seller either here or in Germany.

    Performance wise its less good – as a Model 6 expert had advised me before it arrived, the Seals were unlikely to have not oxidised after 20 odd years in the air, and after a great first shot, subsequent pellets failed to make it out of the barrel. After 3 attempts I ceased trying to fire her, to prevent any damage, and I’ll have to locate someone with the experience to recommission her.

    Reason for my interest, I was a seeking a rifle my overly petit girl friend can shoot at Bell Target (6 yard indoor match shooting – not sure if this is popular on the far side of the Atlantic, but its been a pub team sport in the UK for decades), at 4′ 11” and with size 2 1/2 UK (I think 1 1/2 US) feet, and biceps the size of my wrists, she’d struggled with even the Junior models of adult match rifles – reading about this, the-smallest-match-quality-production-weapon-ever-made, gave me a route to make her happy so I began looking.
    She is slightly embarrassed that a gun designed for age 6 to 9 seems to be the only one that she can handle mind.

    I’ve never really considered the word “Cute” could be used in reference to a weapon, but if any airgun deserves the title, I guess its this model.

    Having a bit of a ponder at the moment, as the gun is essentially brand new, despite being 23 or 24 years old, and it almost seems a shame to add any wear to it. I’ll resolve this after the seals have been reviewed by a professional.

    Just cursing the extended delay in seeing how she shoots, looking forward to a chance to see how accurate they can be. :)

    Photos of mine when it arrived and was unpacked Monday –
    http://s10.photobucket.com/user/hholliday/library/Air%20Rifles/Diana%2072/Diana%2072%20Arrival


    • Harryholic,

      Well! That is certainly a find And I was about to suggest that the seals might be gone, but I see you discovered that. The good news is the seals they replace them with will probably out-live you!

      I will probably shoot mine before you get yours up and running again, so you will have something to compare to. As I mentioned, mine has just been resealed.

      Please keep in touch on this.

      And I predict that your girlfriend will love the rifle when she shoots it. It seems perfect for her.

      Welcome to the blog,

      B.B.


      • Cheers BB,

        I’ll check back again soon – still looking for someone with experience with the Mod 6 over here to open up and relaunch her.

        Have fun with yours.
        HH


  17. Tom, a really excellent write-up on these unique little rifles! I always thought these were a really interesting design idea, and surely two of the very most advanced air rifles ever built for such young shooters. It’s a shame they are no longer around but one has to think the miniscule proportions and high price did limit the market for them.

    I had a model 70 for s short time and they really are TINY guns! i gave it to my average-sized nephew who was unable to use it by age 12! I helped him sell it at a tidy profit and turn it into an HW 30 which worked out well!

    The most ingenious detail on the guns to my eye, is the simple add-on plastic bit that turns the normal Diana open sight into an aperture sight, and modified rear mounting rail that lets you out the sight on the back of the gun. This harkens back to the famous “2-in-1″ type sight used on match variants of the classic models 35 and 50 back in the 1950′s, and would be a natural for Diana to put on their rifles even now.


    • Mike,

      The innovation of Diana at this time was amazing! We didn’t rank their airguns at the top when they were new (at least I didn’t) because of the Weihrauchs and Air Arms (later) that were around, but in retrospect, they were among the very best.

      B.B.


  18. b.b., best part you have your best friends favorite gun and he is gone. its great to see the gun in the hands of the right person,1 that shared the same passion for guns as you. im very sure it will be very well cared for too


  19. I have a 72 from 1990. The seals are in poor shape and I was looking to find someone who could repair them when I found your BLOG. Who repaired your 72? I would like to bring mine back to firing condition for my grandson. Also I have a 75 and looking for a rear sight. Do you have suggestions on finding one? Thanks
    Rex


    • Rex,

      The rifle was sent to a guy in California who kept it longer than two years. When he returned it, my friend whop owned it was dying and didn’t even know he got it back.

      I would send my 72 to Pyramyd Air — the folks who host this blog. They have the parts and can fix it in good time.

      Call their Tech department and talk to Gene if possible.

      888-262-4867.

      B.B.


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