Posts Tagged ‘10-meter rifle’
by B.B. Pelletier
Photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald
This is the second of my reports on the 2012 SHOT Show. There will certainly be at least one more after this, and perhaps even more, as there’s simply too much new information to pack into a single report.
The state of the airgun industry in 2012
Before I get to some specifics, I want to make a general observation. This year’s SHOT Show was different for me in a major way, because I saw for the first time that firearms shooters are beginning to understand airguns as never before. In the past, I always had to start my explanations with the cooling of the earth’s crust and then progress through the age of the dinosaurs because each firearms person I talked to thought of airguns as either toys or BB guns. This year, a lot of them were clued-in on what’s happening. They weren’t surprised by the accuracy we get, and they knew about big bores. A lot of them had some airgun experience and more than a few asked me the same kind of questions that I get from long-time readers of this blog.
That tells me the day of the airgun has finally dawned in the U.S. Instead of 25,000 to 50,000 active shooters (at best!), we will now see an influx from over 5 million active firearm shooters who are ready to augment their shooting experience with airguns. I’m already getting calls and emails from state departments of wildlife resources, asking about the issues of incorporating airguns into their hunting seasons.
It has been a long haul to get to this point, but we’re now seeing the start of the harvest of all the work that’s been done over the past 40 years — starting with Robert Beeman in the early 1970s. The job is now to manage this growth and provide useful information to the tens of thousands of new airgunners who are flooding in the doors.
Let me reflect on how the industry seems to be reacting to this trend. Some companies have been on board for many years and are poised to ride the new tidal wave of business as far as they can. Other companies are aware that airguns are very hot, but they’re foundering, trying to understand them. Let me say right now that it’s not as easy as you think!
The readers of this blog are among the most clued-in airgunners in the world. But they’re unique, and they do not represent the true market. The demographic of a new airgunner is a man (usually) in his late 20s to late 40s who is most likely a fan of AR-type rifles and Glock-type pistols. He wants repeaters, semiautos and he thinks that a five-shot group is the gold standard of any gun. Velocity impresses him, and he isn’t comfortable with the term kinetic energy.
Things like good triggers and good sights are not an issue with this customer until he experiences bad ones. His ARs have decent triggers off the rack, and he can choose from many drop-in triggers that are much better. When he encounters a spring-piston gun with a horrible trigger that cannot be easily modified, he’s surprised.
He does not use the artillery hold, and he equates all airguns to be alike in terms of performance. When he learns about precharged guns, he’s put off by the additional equipment he must buy. Spring-piston guns seem the best to him for their simple operation, and he doesn’t appreciate the fact that they’re also the most difficult airguns to shoot well.
That’s the customer who’s coming to airguns today, so that’s the person airgun manufacturers have to deal with. If you have wondered why many of the new airguns are what they are — this new-customer profile is the reason.
Okay, I’ve talked about those companies that get it and those that are struggling to understand. There’s one more type of company out there. I like to call them the “gloom and doom company” or the “zero sum company.” They’re firmly entrenched in the 1970s and cannot take advantage of this new windfall of business. They either fired their engineers years ago or they let them all retire, and now they couldn’t build a new airgun to save their lives. As far as they’re concerned, there are only 25,000 airgunners in the United States and it’s the NRA’s responsibility to identify and train them so these companies can sell them some guns.
They think of marketing in 1950′s terms, when a simple paint job and some sheet metal was enough to create a new product. Their “secret” business plan is to buy guns made by other manufacturers and have their name put on. If you’re a collector, better buy up the guns these guys sell because in 10 years their name will be a memory.
That’s enough of the big picture. Let’s see some more products.
More from Crosman
Many of you saw the list of new Crosman products Kevin posted last week, so the few that I show here are by no means all there is, but they’re the highlights. Crosman had about half the new airgun products at the entire SHOT Show.
New tan M4-177 and carry handle
The M4-177 multi-pump that I recently tested for you is going to be very popular this year. Crosman is also offering it as an M4-177 Tactical air rifle with a new carry handle that replaces the rear sight for improved sighting options. I think this gun will be in their lineup for many years to come.
I mentioned to Crosman’s Ed Schultz that this rifle looks like the A.I.R.-17 of the 1990s, but done better. He said he always wanted to update that design, and that is exactly what this is. So, what he said next came as no great surprise.
I shared my thoughts on a 2260 made as a multi-pump in .25 caliber, and Ed told me that was how the rifle was originally created (not in .25, however). The CO2 version was an afterthought that got put into production, while the multi-pump version languished in the Crosman morgue. I told him that I thought the time was ripe to bring it back as an upscale hunting rifle, and he seemed to agree. We can only hope.
Carbon fiber tank
As Crosman extends their capability into PCP guns, they know shooters are always looking for better options for their air supply. Besides the new butterfly hand pump I showed you last time, they’ll also be adding a long summer-sausage black carbon fiber tank with increased capacity over their current tanks. This is a 300-bar tank that has 342 cubic-inch capacity. It comes in a black nylon carrying case with sling for field transport.
More air for you! New Benjamin carbon fiber tank will help you take your PCPs further afield.
Benjamin Nitro Piston breakbarrel pistol
The Benjamin NP breakbarrel pistol certainly has people talking on the internet. This is the first commercial gas spring application in a pistol, I believe. The most distinctive feature is a cocking aid that can either be detached or left in place while shooting. That reminds us that this pistol is going to be hard to cock, but I’ll test one for you so we’ll all know just how hard.
New Benjamin Trail NP pistol is a breakbarrel with a gas spring. The cocking aid can be detached or left in place while shooting.
Crosman 1720T PCP pistol
Everybody was ready to jump down Crosman’s throat for creating the 1720T PCP pistol. They wondered with the .22-caliber Marauder pistol and the .177-caliber Silhouette PCP pistol already selling, why was this one needed? As Ed Schultz explained it to me — this one is for field target. It’s a .177 (naturally) that produces just under 12 foot-pounds through a shrouded Lother Walther barrel. It can be used for hunting, but field target was its primary purpose. They worried about the shot count with the Silhouette; but with this one, power was the criterion. Look for about 800 f.p.s. with a 7.9-grain Premier. And the trigger is the same as the Marauder, so excellent operation there.
Crosman MAR 177 PCP conversion
The Crosman MAR-177 PCP conversion is another new product that has a lot of people talking. This AR-15 upper converts your .223 semiauto into a .177 PCP repeating target rifle. Because it’s on an AR platform, almost everybody expects it to be semiautomatic — including those who should know better. This rifle is a bolt action that cocks and loads via a short pull on the charging handle.
This conversion is an Olympic-grade target rifle for a new official sport that Scott Pilkington and others have been promoting for several years. It will take the U.S. battle rifle back into the ranks of target shooting. However, the look of the gun has many shooters totally confused. I was even asked at the show if I thought Crosman should have come out with an “everyman’s” version of the gun first. That would be like asking whether Feinwerkbau missed the boat by not first making their 700 target rifle in a $300 version for casual plinkers.
Crosman TT BB pistol
It’s all-metal and a good copy of the Tokarev pistol. The weight is good and the gun feels just right. This will be one to test as soon as possible.
Crosman’s TT Tokarev BB pistol is realistic and looks like fun.
Benjamin MAV 77 Underlever
The Benjamin MAV 77 underlever rifle is going to force Crosman to recognize spring-piston air rifles instead of just calling them all breakbarrels. This is the TX-200 copy from BAM that was once sold by Pyramyd Air. When the quality dropped off, it was discontinued. Hopefully, Crosman will watch the quality on this one.
They didn’t have a firm retail price yet, but hopefully it’ll be significantly under the TX. Otherwise, why buy it? I may test one for you, but I already know that BAM can make a great rifle when they want to. I think it all comes down to price.
Benjamin MAV-77 is an underlever spring-piston rifle that looks and, hopefully, performs like an Air Arms TX-200.
The Crosman TR-77 is a conventional breakbarrel spring-piston rifle in an unconventional stock. It’s different enough that I want to test one for you. It appears to be a lower-powered rifle that probably sells at a bargain price because it’s branded under the Crosman banner rather than Benjamin. Mac photographed one in a sand-colored stock for you.
Crosman TR-77 breakbarrel in a sand-colored stock also comes in black.
There was a lot more at Crosman that I could have mentioned, but now let’s go over to the Leapers booth.
I’ve watched Leapers grow from a relatively small company back in 1998 to a major player — blasting past older, entrenched companies as they grew. This year, they were playing a video about the company on a continuous loop in their booth. I was impressed to see their plant in Livonia, Michigan, where they build airsoft guns, tactical mounts, accessories and scopes right here in the U.S. The plant is filled with many CNC machining centers and testing facilities to keep close watch over their products during development.
Leapers owner David Ding told me he wants to get control over the production process so he can assure the quality of all of his products. In keeping with that goal, I was shown the new scope line for 2012 that now offers locking target knobs on all of the upscale models. Many of them feature etched glass reticles that are amazingly crisp and sharp.
Mac was impressed by the reticle on the new 3-9x Bug Buster scope. He urged me to look through it; and when I did, I saw that the reticle is now fine and sharp — not the heavy black lines of the past.
David Ding shows me the new 3-9x Bug Buster scope (not out yet), with target knobs and a finer reticle.
But scopes were just the beginning at Leapers. Next, I was shown the whole line of tactical flashlights and lasers, including some mini lasers I will test on my M1911A1 for you. These are all made in the U.S. now and have more rugged internals, adjustments and optics than similar products from the Orient.
UTG 555 Long Range Light
One item I hope Pyramyd Air will consider stocking is a fantastic 500-lumen tactical light for law enforcement. It can be mounted on a rifle, handheld or even mounted on a bike! It comes with rechargeable lithium batteries and a smart charger…and believe me when I tell you it turns night into day!
The UTG Long Range light can go on your rifle, held in the hand or even mounted to your bike! The rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack will keep it shining at 500 lumens for 1.5 hours.
Fast Action Gun bag
Not all Leapers products are for airguns. They also make tactical and law enforcvement gear that rivals spec-built equipment but sells at a fraction the cost. As a result, many of their customers are ordering straight from the front lines of combat and from law enforcement agencies all over the country to get the products that their own supply lines cannot or will not furnish.
One of their latest developments is a Fast Action Gun bag that lets the wearer walk in public with a substantial firearm hidden from view. A quick pull of a strap, and the bag opens to reveal the weapon inside.
Leapers owner Tina Ding models their new Fast Action Gun bag. Here, it’s concealed; but she’s just pulled it over her shoulder from her back, where it looks like a tennis bag.
And in less than a second, the bag is open, giving instant access to the tactical shotgun or submachine gun inside.
Leapers has an entirely new range of quick-disconnect scope mounts coming this year, but there’s another innovation that I think you’ll find even more impressive. It’s an adapter that snaps into a Picatinny scope mount base, turning it into an 11mm dovetail. So, your conventional air rifle will now also accept Leapers Picatinny scope mounts with this adapter.
11mm-dovetail-to-Picatinny adapter is small and doesn’t raise the mount at all! This will be one to test!
Leapers is still the company to watch because the owners want to build a lasting corporation here in the U.S. They’re poised to move to the next level of quality in their optics, which gives me a lot of hope for the future — they’ve always been receptive to the needs of airgunners.
Whew! That’s a lot of products, and there are still many more to show. As I said in the beginning, there will be at least another report.
by B.B. Pelletier
Timothy Burman is the Big Shot of the Week. He’s holding his HW97K in .20 caliber.
The day before the SHOT Show opened this year was a special day set aside for the media to sample all the new guns at a range in Boulder City. There were 1,200 official registrants and another couple hundred who got in after the registration ended, plus about 500 personel running the ranges. So, for 2,000 people, each of whom fired 100-1,000 rounds, there was a whole lotta shootin’ going on!
Only two air gun ranges were running — one by Crosman and the other was Pyramyd Air. At the Crosman range, I got a chance to sample the new AR-16 upper that converts your lower to a PCP target rifle. It has a Lothar Walther barrel and is a repeater that loads via the charging handle. Whatever sort of lower receiver you attach the upper to is what determines the kind of rifle you have, so the one that designer Scott Pilkington let me sample was quite nice.
But it was the 9mm Conquest (yes, it’s both semi-auto and full-auto) rifle that thrilled me most. Maybe it was because I was repeatedly hitting the silhouette target at 200 yards with a rifle the first time I fired it! That’s hard enough to do with a centerfire rifle right out of the box, but this gun did it the first time.
Tom shoots the 9mm Evanix Conquest at Media Day.
The 9mm is not ready for the market yet, and I still have the .22 report to finish; but it’s being developed, and we already know that it works. As it gets closer to being a reality, I’ll get into the particulars — but at least you know it’s coming.
The show started the next day, and I saw a number of interesting new things right off the bat. I’ll start with Hatsan USA. The company has stepped out on its own and will do business under the Hatsan name from now on. The designs that have been driven by other companies will no longer encumber the Turkish designers. We already know they make great firearms, and we hope that will spill over into the airguns they bring.
I saw two new things that need to be tested. They offer a new Quattro trigger that’s extremely adjustable, according to president Blane Manifold, who referred to it as a match trigger. I’ll withhold judgement until the first test, but here’s hoping he’s right!
Hatsan’s new rifles carry their name. Hopefully, their features will be fresh and sharp.
They also have a shock absorber system (SAS) that they say will isolate the shooter from the powerplant buzz. I hope the guns won’t need to use it much because they’re inherently smooth to begin with, but again, only a test will tell.
Over at Crosman, there are so many new products that if I were to tell you all of them it would take more room than this blog can dedicate. But one new product caught my eye over the others — the new butterfly hand pump. Those who read my report of the Benjamin 392 pump-assist gun will understand that applying the same technology to a hand pump means easier pumping to maximum pressures.
The new hand pump looks like a radio tower when the handle is extended. The butterfly design amplifies your energy to reduce the effort required to pump.
The new pump is in development and, no doubt, will require more time before we see it for sale…but it is in the works. With Crosman’s stake in the pneumatic world, I think they need to fast-track this one!
At Umarex USA, there was another cornucopia of products, but once again something special caught my eye. This time it was two Hämmerli rifles — one a sporter and the other an affordable 10-meter target rifle.
Hämmerli’s sporter and affordable 10-meter target rifles will be the topic of our tests this year.
While there are many attractive attributes to these rifle, I do have a couple concerns for the 10-meter rifle. First, the max fill pressure is 300 bar, which is close to 4,500 psi. Not many U.S. shooters have air at that pressure. The guns can be filled to 200 bar, of course, but the shot count is reduced.
The velocity for the 10-meter rifle is 780 f.p.s. — way above what the other target rifles generate. I know Walther (Umarex owns both Hämmerli and Walther) would never dare field a target rifle that shoots that fast, so I’m curious to learn why they thought this one would be okay. Perhaps, it was just marketing copy written by someone unfamiliar with competition and was obtained with a non-lead pellet that would never be used in the real world. I certainly hope so — because in all other ways, this rifle has a lot going for it.
Another very interesting gun at Umarex was the Morph 3X — a BB gun that changes from a pistol to a rifle to a shotgun. I’ve got to test this one as soon as I can, because I’ve never seen anything like it. Okay — maybe in some cartoons or when the Joker pulls a revolver with a 6-foot barrel out of his waistband to shoot down the Batplane — but never in the real world!
Glenn Seiter of Umarex USA holds the parts of the amazing Morph 3X — a one-gun-does-it-all for BB-gunners.
I’ll end this part of the report at the AirForce booth, with the Spin-Loc air tank attachment system. How many times have I heard people say they wish AirForce tanks had a pressure gauge? This is it, and it allows the shooter to index the tank in any position or rotation he desires. The tanks also have a new adjustable buttplate that allows you to not only adjust the rotation, but also the length of pull.
The new Spin-Loc air tank attachment system gives the shooter the in-tank pressure gauge shooters have been asking for.
On the opposite side of the tank, there’s a male quick-disconnet fitting, so the gun can be filled while still on the gun. This is another feature that’s been requested, and it makes sense to put it on with this new fill system.
I have taken a lot more pictures than I’m showing here, and of course there will be a more detailed report after I return from the show. I’ll try to make sense of some of the rumors you may have read. Til then, chew on these new toys and let’s hear what you think.
by B.B. Pelletier
The Haenel 311 is the world’s only bolt-action spring-piston 10-meter target rifle.
Today is accuracy day for the Haenel 311, and the day holds a couple surprises and should be a fun read. Because of the crude design of this rifle, I don’t shoot it that often and I forget just how well it shoots.
The 311 is a recoiling spring-piston air rifle and, as such, has to be held with the artillery hold for best results. I needed to be reminded of that.
Also, I tend to shoot smaller groups with the Ballard .38-55 rifle at 100 yards when I wear my glasses. But when shooting a 10-meter rifle I tend to do best without them. Since I haven’t shot at 10-meter targets in a while, that was another point that needed to be remembered.
Finally, the 311 rear sight adjusts for lighting conditions. But it only works if you remember to adjust it.
So the first few groups I shot were horrible because I held the rifle too tight, wore my prescription glasses and didn’t adjust the peep size. Then, I figured out all three things at about the same time and the rifle caught fire — at least with one pellet. And that was the other thing that surprised me in this test. The cheap eastern-European target rifle scorns high-priced target ammo from the best pellet makers. Instead, it loves the cheapest wadcutters on the market. I know that will disappoint many of you, but that’s how it is.
I sighted-in with RWS Hobby pellets. Why a 10-meter rifle ever needs to be sighted-in is beyond me, because what other things would you do with them besides shoot them at 10-meter targets? Well, maybe not you. I guess I’m talking about me. Nevertheless, the rifle was hitting the edge of the bull when I started and required about 30 clicks of left adjustment to get the pellet close to the center. As I’m not really keeping score, I stopped when the first pellet was close enough.
And this is the very next group of Hobbys after I took off my prescription glasses and made the rear sight aperture smaller for greater depth of vision. This is still not a good group, but it does look better than the first one. Hobbys are probably not a good pellet for the 311.
H&N Finale Match Pistol
The next pellet I tried was the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellet. This pellet has always been good in my 10-meter rifles. Maybe it’s not the best in every rifle, but it’s among the top three almost every time. Well, I used perfect technique to shoot the group you are about to see.
H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets did this at 10 meters. It looks like a group fired by an Avanti 853 to me. It would be acceptable for a junior target rifle, but not for a precision-class rifle. The technique was perfect, so this is not a good pellet in my 311.
I said I would try the new Gamo Match wadcutter in the 311, even though I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for it. As I shot the first group, I was holding the rifle in a good soft artillery hold and pulled the fourth shot. It was so obvious that I exclaimed, “Oh no!” aloud and Edith heard me in her office. You can see the results of pulling that shot on the target.
Since the four shots were in such a tight group, I decided to shoot another group, and this time watch both my technique and the sight picture very carefully. Before I show you the group, I want to answer the question that some readers are asking right now. Isn’t this what I’m supposed to do every time I shoot? Yes, it is; and if I were a world-class shooter, I would be able to do it. However, that takes a state of concentration that I’ve never achieved. Shooters who compete will understand.
And there it is. This is the best 10-meter group I’ve ever shot with any target rifle. It’s so close to zero that I won’t even attempt to measure it. Five Gamo Match pellets went through that little hole.
I told you there were some surprises in today’s report. Will I ever be able to repeat that group? Probably not. Is the group representative of what the 311 can do? No, I don’t think that it is. Everything had to be perfect for a group like that to be shot — even from a rest at just 10 meters! But I was curious about the possibility of repeating it, so I shot another group of Gamo Match, just to see.
Here’s the very next group. I held just as steady and sighted just as well. This is probably representative of what the 311 can do with these Gamo Match pellets. This 5-shot group measures 0.163 inches between centers.
So what can I say about the Haenel 311 target rifle? Well, it’s more accurate than its styling would seem to indicate, but it’s a crude rifle from the standpoint of ergonomics and powerplant operation. Yes, it can shoot alongside the FWB 300S, but it takes a huge amount of technique to do so. The 300S is easy to shoot, in comparison.
The Haenel has a heavier trigger than I like in a target rifle. It’s very positive, but I would like it to be a few ounces less and have a positive stop after the release.
All things considered, the Haenel 311 is a swell target rifle for just $59. That was all it cost when they were first available to American buyers. You’ll now pay $250 and up for the same gun, and I think that’s still a bargain.
For shooting while standing, this is a great and inexpensive way to go.
by B.B. Pelletier
The Haenel 311 is the world’s only bolt-action, spring-piston 10-meter target rifle.
Let’s look at the velocity of my Haenel 311 target rifle. Because of the way it cocks, this rifle is low-powered. It isn’t possible to put a long-stroke piston or a stout mainspring in the mechanism when the rifle is cocked by pulling back on a three-inch bolt handle. You don’t pull it straight back, either. The base of the handle pivots like a fulcrum, and the handle rocks back to pull the piston into the cocked position. As I mentioned in Part 1, it’s so difficult to cock that the gun is destined for adults, only.
However, a short piston stroke and a weak mainspring combine to give very low velocity. Since this is a target rifle, velocity doesn’t matter. But this wouldn’t be the gun to choose as an all-day plinker. Get a Diana 27 for that, or any one of the Haenel breakbarrels. Save the 311 for its intended purpose.
If it sounds like I’m making excuses for the gun, that’s not what I want to do. I just want the reader to understand it in the right context.
Since this rifle has a leather piston seal, I dropped several drops of oil into the loading tap, then closed it and stood the rifle on its butt for several days before this test. For those who are new to airgunning, leather seals need lots of oil to do their jobs. Synthetic seals need a lot less oil, and it needs to be silicone chamber oil so it won’t detonate with the high heat it can generate.
In a rifle of the 311′s power, you can use plain old household oil for the seals, because the rifle doesn’t generate that much heat. But using silicone chamber oil won’t hurt anything, so that’s what I used. And there’s one additional reason for oiling the gun before shooting. The loading tap has to have some clearance to be able to move and do its job. When you oil the gun at the tap, some oil gets on the tap itself and helps to seal it when the rifle fires.
A note to the new reader. I test rifles with a range of pellets appropriate to that rifle. There will be a weight spread among the pellets I use, so you can gauge the power of the gun from what I use. But bear in mind that some pellets will work better in certain guns and the lighter pellet won’t always be the fastest. I also won’t test a gun with a pellet that I deem inappropriate for the gun, such as Beeman Kodiak heavyweight domed pellets for this target rifle. For a 10-meter target rifle, I’ll test with wadcutters since they’re the only pellets that are legal to use in a 10-meter match.
Let’s get right to it. The first pellet I tested was the Gamo Match wadcutter. This pellet used to be a viable and inexpensive pellet for target guns, but the design was changed a few years ago. While it’s still inexpensive, it doesn’t perform as well as it used to in many guns. Still, I thought it was worth a try.
This pellet averaged 462 f.p.s., but the spread was quite high — going from 439 to 479 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the rifle puts out 3.66 foot-pounds with this pellet. The wide velocity spread makes me think this one won’t be that accurate, but we’ll see.
Next I tried RWS Hobby pellets. At just seven grains weight, they should be among the fastest lead pellets in this rifle. Hobbys averaged 490 f.p.s. in the 311, and the spread went from 478 to 497 f.p.s. That’s tighter than the Gamo Match. At the average velocity, the energy developed at the muzzle was 3.73 foot-pounds. Sometimes, Hobbys are very accurate in certain guns and are worth trying in this one.
The last pellet I tried was the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellet. At 7.56 grains, you’d think they’d be slower than the Hobbys that weigh a half grain less, but these pellets averaged 492 f.p.s. in the 311, and the spread went from 480 to 501 f.p.s. They’re clearly faster and more efficient. At the average velocity, they produce 4.06 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
Seeing the efficiency of this pellet gave me an idea. What if I used a pellet seater to iron out the skirts of this pellet? What would happen to the velocity then? I say that because a taploader tends to allow some air to blow past the pellets before they’re blown into the bore. Enlarging the skirts is a possible way to minimize this.
I tried enlarging the pellet skirts with the ball end of a pellet seater. However, the results surprised me. Instead of boosting velocity, this knocked it back to an average 474 f.p.s. for the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. However, the extreme spread ran only from 472 to 478 f.p.s., so the overall velocity was a lot tighter from shot to shot.
The bottom line is that the Haenel 311 is a target rifle and nothing more. Because of the design, there’s no way to soup it up for greater performance; and as I noted in Part 1, this is a rifle you want to stay out of.
Next time we’ll look at the accuracy of this Cold Warrior.
by B.B. Pelletier
The Haenel 311 is the world’s only bolt-action spring-piston 10-meter target rifle.
At the Roanoke Airgun Expo several weeks ago, I saw a Haenel 311 target rifle on one of the tables, which it reminded me that I’d promised myself long ago to give you a full report on this curious air rifle. Today, I’ll begin to fulfill that promise.
Back in the days when Edith and I published The Airgun Letter, we were contacted by a pawn shop that was importing target airguns from the former East Germany. We told our readers about them, and thousands of model 310s and 311s and a few 312 sidelevers were sold over the course of a few years. The prices were quite low. As I recall, the 310s went for $49, and the 311s brought $59. I bought several guns to test and as gifts, and the 311 you’ll see here is one of those purchased.
The 311 is unlike any other air rifle in the world. It’s a .177-caliber pellet rifle that uses an articulated bolt action to cock a spring that powers the piston. It appears similar to the Haenel 310 action except the 310 shoots only round lead balls fed from a magazine, while the 311 shoots standard diabolo pellets fed one at a time though a loading tap. The two guns are very different, except for their cocking levers.
Here the cocking bolt/lever has been lifted out of its stored position and is ready to be pulled back to cock the gun.
The rifle is sized for an adult, with an overall length of 43-7/8 inches and a weight of 7 lbs., 14 ozs. These numbers come from my rifle and do not agree with the information in the Blue Book of Airguns.
The stock is blocky and looks like it was fashioned from a two-by-six piece of lumber. The wood is tightly grained and may be beech, though I’m not certain. It’s stained with a thin orange color that does not penetrate the wood to any depth. The finish is a thin shellac that’s very prone to chipping and wear.
The pistol grip is hand-checkered with large diamonds in a very crude pattern. The work looks like it was done by a prisoner wielding a not-too-sharp jackknife. There’s no checkering on the forearm, but both sides have a long European-style finger groove.
The checkering is clearly hand-cut, and a rough job at that. Overruns and missed diamonds abound.
The metal is very well polished and finished with an even hot blue. You must appreciate that Haenel has a reputation as a fine arms maker, and this rifle is so out of line with most of what they made that it looks like a government job for sure. The rifle began production in 1964, which was at the height of the Cold War, so that assessment is probably right on the money. Production ended in the early 1990s.
The 311 is a 10-meter target rifle, but it is so different from any other 10-meter rifle that it’s very difficult to categorize. The cocking effort is very difficult — owing to the short cocking lever — so this is not a three-position rifle in anyone’s book. It’s meant for offhand shooting, alone. Even then, the shooter must take care where he points the muzzle while he struggles with the cocking lever. It takes 33 lbs. of force to cock my 311, and applying it through the 3-inch bolt handle isn’t easy. In the offhand position, I would shoulder the rifle and simply pull the handle back, using my shoulder to hold the rifle in place. It sounds easy, but after a couple shots you start feeling the strain.
The 311′s sights are very interesting. The rear adjustable aperture sight looks very similar to a Walther target sight of the same era. Though it’s designed for inexpensive production, you can see that the designers managed to make it quite precise. It has the swept-back look of the 1930s.
The adjustable rear aperture sight looks like something from a 1930s sci-fi movie. The design is simple but very similar to what Walther was making at the time.
As austere as this sight is, it still contains diopters (peep holes) of different sizes to accommodate different lighting conditions. That’s an advanced feature that you don’t expect to find on such a crudely finished rifle. And it doesn’t end there.
The 311 also has the provision for mounting an intermediate adjustable sporting sight on a base located at the end of the compression tube, just behind the loading tap. Most 311 owners have never seen this sight, but I was able to obtain one with my rifle, so I can show it to you now. This sight must relate to some sporting event the East Germans had for this rifle. The Falke rifle also had provisions for two different types of rear sights, so there must have been a good reason for them. I do know that many zimmerstutzens come with this same provision, and there’s a separate sporting match for the zimmerstutzen. It’s not too difficult to imagine that there was the same kind of match for air rifles that are equipped this way.
This adjustable sporter rear sight is an accessory few 311 owners have ever seen. It mounts behind the loading tap and is undoubtedly used in different matches than the target sight.
The front sight is a globe mounted on a tall stalk. It accepts different sight inserts, which would be necessary if the sporting rear sight were to be used. My rifle came with an aperture in the front sight.
The front sight is a globe with replaceable inserts that sits on a tall stalk.
The 311 loads through a rotating loading tap. That is a strange feature on a target rifle, because the shooter cannot insert the pellet directly into the rifling. The tap is entirely manual and separate from the cocking function, so it can be operated at any time.
The loading tap is manual and not connected to cocking the gun in any way.
One thing about a loading tap is that it requires a different procedure for oiling the piston seal. I put 5-10 drops of silicone chamber oil into the tap, then close it and stand the rifle on its butt for at least an hour. The reason I used 5-10 drops is in case the piston seal is made of leather. I use silicone chamber oil in case it’s synthetic. Talk about covering all the bases!
The trigger is one place where the Haenel pedigree shines through. It’s a multi-lever unit that breaks cleanly if not crisply. It’s every bit as nice as the trigger on the Bronco.
Here’s a warning to all you would-be tuners. Years ago, I wanted to quiet the vibration of my 311 action, so I started what I thought would be a simple disassembly. When I got inside the trigger, however, the job proved to be anything but simple. I assembled the gun with the automatic safety out of whack and have lived with it ever since. The 311 is not the rifle to take apart unless you have a lot of patience and perhaps a spare rifle to look at when it’s time to put it back together.
As for power and accuracy — well, this is only Part 1. I’ll test this rifle completely in the established pattern, so you’ll get answers to both questions.
by B.B. Pelletier
I’ll be having another outpatient procedure today and will be gone most of the afternoon. I’d like to ask the regular blog readers if they’d help out answering questions from the new people. Edith will be with me in the hospital and will have her computer and also help out with answers if needed.
Photos and testing by Earl “Mac” McDonald.
Readers who have been with us for several months know that my friend Earl “Mac” McDonald has been helping me test airguns while I recover from my hospitalization. Well, Mac is an airgunner, too, and he has a nice collection of fine vintage guns that he would like to share with all of us. So, while we were on the way to the Roanoke airgun show, we discussed the possibility of his testing some of his guns that may not be well-known among airgunners today.
I asked him to test his RWS Diana model 72, which is a youth target rifle based on the Diana model 6 recoilless target pistol. But when he went to test it for velocity, he discovered that the seal had dry-rotted, a common failure of all recoilless Diana target spring-piston guns. So, that one will have to go back to Umarex USA, which is also RWS USA, for repairs. We’ll eventually test it for you, but in the meantime, I asked Mac to test his full-sized Diana 75.
The RWS Diana 75 target rifle (right) is a normal-sized target rifle. The little model 72 next to it is a youth target rifle based on the model 6 target pistol.
The 75 is the last recoilless spring-piston target rifle made by Diana. Like all the other guns, it uses the GISS system in which the primary piston is countered by another piston of similar weight that moves in the opposite direction. The second piston does not compress air, but it’s timed so the forward thrust of the true piston is cancelled.
Do you get confused between the names RWS and Diana? Diana is the German maker of the guns and RWS is a separate and very large German company that’s the exporter.
The first four target rifles made by Diana were all breakbarrels. The models 60 and 64 were conventional breakbarrels, and the model 65 and 66 were the final versions that incorporated a barrel latch. Target shooters were no different in the 1960s than they are today, and they felt uncomfortable about using a breakbarrel for competition. They reasoned that the barrel could not possibly lock up in the same place every time. Of course, it does, and those rifles are just as accurate, and breakbarrels simply had to give way.
The first fixed-barrel Diana target rifle was the model number 75. It was produced in several different model variations from 1977 until sometime early in the 21st century. It’s now discontinued. When it was initially introduced, I believe Beeman referred to it as their model 400 for a brief time.
What is this Original?
The rifle Mac owns is a very early model 75. He says it is dated 1979 or possibly 1978. Date stamps on Diana rifles are usually found on the left rear of the spring tube, just above the stock line. However, you can tell that Mac’s rifle is early because of the name Original stamped on the spring tube. Diana designs and tooling were acquired by the United Kingdom as war reparations for World War II, and the Milbro company in Scotland began producing Diana spring rifles soon after the war ended. To avoid the obvious confusion this engendered, the German Diana company stamped Original on their guns. That lasted as long as Milbro continued to produce Dianas, which ended in 1982. Diana repurchased their name from Milbro in 1984 and dropped the Original name from the guns they made.
German-made Diana guns had the name Original stamped on them during the 1960s and into the ’80s, when Milbro of Scotland also made Dianas.
This is a big, heavy air rifle. It weighs about 11 lbs., depending on the weight of the walnut stock, and is 43.5 inches overall. The length of pull is 14 inches, which is quite long for a target rifle. As you see in the first photo, Mac’s gun has three holes in the forearm, and there are a matching set on the other side. They don’t go all the way through the forearm and are just there for decoration, however this design was not received well by shooters and was soon replaced with a solid forearm.
Unlike many other sidelevers, the model 75 has no latch to lock the sidelever in place. Instead it uses an over-center geometry with a connecting rod that contains a short spring. Similar to the models 48/52 and 54 that followed, this is a positive way of locking the lever to the side of the rifle without any latching mechanism.
Push the sidelever toward the stock and the spring in the end of the connecting rod puts tension on the lever, holding it fast to the rifle’s side.
Like many sidelevers, the model 75 has a sliding compression chamber. However, unlike any other rifle with that feature, the 75 has a solid floor beneath the breech that prevents a dropped pellet from getting lost, the way they always do in other guns with sliding chambers. This floor moves with the sliding chamber, and it fits under the barrel when the chamber is all the way forward.
When the sliding compression chamber is pulled back to cock the rifle, there’s a solid floor beneath the breech. A dropped pellet has nowhere to go.
The stock is rather unique in a couple of ways. First, it has an accessory rail in the forearm. While those are commonplace today, they weren’t when the model 75 was new. And, the second unique feature about the stock is found at the butt. The butt has a definite cast or angle to it that situates the cheekpiece properly against the shooter’s cheek.
An accessory rail was uncommon when the model 75 was new. Today, they’re found on all 10-meter rifles.
The butt curves into the shoulder, making the cheekpiece fit the face much better. Definitely a right-hand-only model!
The 75 was no powerhouse, even in its day. Expect velocities of normal target pellets in the high 500s. In report 2, I’ll report all velocities Mac obtained. As easy as it shoots, the 75 is even easier to cock. Mac measured just 11 lbs., 7 oz. needed to pull the lever back all the way.
Mac had one more thing to say about this rifle. He had forgotten how light the trigger was set. His gauge recorded a pull weight of only 5.2 oz. (147 grams) needed to trip the sear. While even that much sounds heavy compared to what they do today (there’s no bottom pull weight for a 10-meter rifle, so some guns have triggers that only need 20 grams of pressure to fire), it’s extremely light compared to the 3 to 5 lbs. of pull we’re used to on a sporting rifle. Many shooters will set it off just getting their finger on the trigger blade, the first few times.