by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This Diana model 5 air pistol is marked as a Winchester model 353.
This report covers:
- Iconic air pistol
- Gun Broker
- The gun
- Expected performance
Iconic air pistol
Today we begin looking at one of the most iconic air pistols of all time — Diana’s model 5. In all my years as an airgunner, I have never owned a model 5! I’ve seen them, handled them and shot them, but have never owned one. I have owned 2 Diana model 10 target pistols that are related to the model 5, if not that similar. The model 10 has the Giss anti-recoil mechanism and is the target version of the model 6, while the model 5 is a conventional recoiling air pistol. Models 5 and 6 look a lot alike, except for the round caps on either side of the model 6’s spring tube that house the Giss anchors.
The model 5 has a long and colorful history. It was made from 1931 to 1940 as the model 5V, and, although the Blue Book of Airguns tells us that model is not the same as the post-war model 5, they are related. The 5V had a wooden grip and was actually documented in a guest blog some years ago.
Diana made the model 5 pistol we are looking at here from 1958 to 1978, but if you include the models 5GM and P5 Magnum, that time extends to 2008. There was a break in manufacture from 1978 until the ’90s, so the ’58 to ’78 timeframe is the most accurate for the pistol before us today.
Actually, the pistol I am testing for you is marked as a Winchester model 353. Winchester never made airguns, but in the 1970s they had Diana make certain models with their name on them. These airguns are no rarer than Diana airguns marked with the maker’s name, but in the United States people often put a premium on the Winchester name. Airgunners know better, but firearms people often don’t. So, if you find one of these at a gun show, expect to pay more, based on the Winchester name.
The Winchester name often adds value to the pistol in the U.S.
I found this pistol on the Gun Broker auction website. A trusted dealer I buy from was listing it, so I felt secure. However, if it needed any work, there are still plenty of parts available. Usually these “Winchester” airguns draw a lot of interest, but for some reason this was one wasn’t, so I got it. It’s in 95 percent condition, with 100 percent bluing and some light scratches on the plastic stock/grip. The action is tight and new-feeling, and even the breech seal looks good. As old as it is (40-45 years), I’m thinking this one might have recently been overhauled.
The model 5 is a large breakbarrel spring-piston air pistol. Overall length is slightly more than 15-3/4-inches, with the barrel being slightly more than 7 of those inches. The weight is 3 lbs. 1 oz., which is more than the Blue Book states (2.4 lbs.). That makes it a large air pistol — definitely not for younger shooters. In size it’s the equivalent of the BSA Scorpion that is similar to the BSF S20 and larger than the Webley Hurricane.
It’s a breakbarrel, which also makes it a single shot. This one is a .177, though the model was also offered in .22. The effort to break the barrel and cock the pistol is in-keeping with its size and weight. I will test that for you in Part 2.
The rest of the gun is very conventional. Mostly blued steel on the outside, other than the plastic grip — a very conservative airgun of the style of the 1950s.
The dark brown plastic grip is an extension of the pistol’s stock that houses the entire barreled action. It is one piece and features coarse checkering all around the grip. And there is a thumbrest on the left side because, as you know, until around 1990, everyone was right-handed.
Coarse checkering is characteristic of Diana model 5 grips.
The sights are a strange mix. The front sight is a fixed tapered post inside a globe. It belongs on a cheaper air pistol. The rear sight, in sharp contrast, is a highly adjustable target-type notch. The rear sight begs for a front sight with interchangeable inserts, but this one doesn’t have them.
Some model 6 pistols have the identical front sight, while others have a globe sight with interchangeable inserts. As far as I can see, though, the nicer sight will not fit on the model 5, because it attaches to the model 6 barrel with a purpose-built sleeve. Maybe a reader with more experience than I can elaborate.
The front sight appears to be a globe with inserts, but this photo shows that its really a fixed tapered post. Some model 6 pistols have this same front sight.
The rear sight is fully adjustable. I need to find out why this one is adjusted way over to the right.
The trigger is 2-stage and there is a single adjustment with a locking screw. My guess is the adjustment is the control the length of the first stage. At present stage 2 is difficult to feel. The let off pressure is nearly equal to the first stage pressure and both are light.
According to the Blue Book I can expect to see up to 450 f.p.s. with lightweight pellets in .177 caliber. That should tell me how healthy this powerplant is when I test it.
There is a lot to see and experience in this report. I know many of you own model 5s, so please tell us your experiences. Let’s see what this one can do.