Posts Tagged ‘Diana 25’

The Roanoke airgun show: Part 2

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

Part 1

Today I’ll show you more of the airgun show that was held in Roanoke, Virginia, last Friday and Saturday. I’m going to jump around just like you would if you walked the aisles at the show.

Let’s begin at Larry Hannusch’s table. Larry has been an airgun writer since the 1970s, and he has a great collection of fine guns. This year, he displayed some of his ball-flask guns, giving show attendees a chance to see airguns that no American museum has.

Hannusch ball reservoir airguns
Not many people have ever seen this many ball reservoir airguns in one place. Larry Hannusch collection.

Hannusch vintage hand pump
How do they fill those ball reservoirs? With vintage hand pumps like this one. Dennis Quackenbush and I experimented with these pumps and learned they can develop up to 1,000 psi when the right technique is used. And they don’t have piston seals — just lapped steel pistons!

Larry also had a sales table with some fine vintage guns that were actually for sale. One was a BSF S54 underlever target rifle with a peep sight the size of a satellite dish. The one thing you can count on with guys like Larry is that they always bring out the rare and wonderful guns that most of us have only seen in books.

Across the aisle from Larry was Lloyd Sikes — the man who invented the electronic valve that went into the Benjamin Rogue. In fact, it was at a Roanoke airgun show years ago where Lloyd shared his idea for that valve with me. And the rest is history.

Lloyd has made quite a name for himself by producing Benjamin Marauder pistols with dual air reservoirs. His company, Airgun Lab, started making the P-Rod Double last year and then moved to the Disco Double — a Benjamin Discovery with 2 reservoir tubes. This year, he’s bringing out a Disco Double with 2 aluminum reservoirs that, as far as I can tell, is as light or even lighter than the original Benjamin Discovery rifle on which it is based.

When I picked up the prototype lightweight Disco Double at his table, I was amazed! It can’t weigh much more than 5 lbs.!

I’d promised to do a project with Lloyd last year and never got around to it, but this year a wonderful thing happened. A man who had purchased a new Discovery last year from Mac came to my table and wanted to return it. I explained that Mac had passed away, but then I thought that this might make the perfect rifle for a project with Lloyd. It was leaking, but that’s not a problem because it will have to be sealed anyway after the conversion. And with the 2 aluminum reservoir tubes, I should get about twice the number of useful shots per fill. And that’s a 2,000 psi fill, mind you.

So, I bought the gun and gave it to Lloyd for the conversion. As we talked and refined the details, I decided to also install a Marauder trigger on the rifle, which will give me what I always wanted — a single-shot rifle with lots of shots, a great trigger and superior accuracy. There — that’s 1 of the 4 airguns I bought out of the way!

Benjamin Discovery
Mac sold this Benjamin Discovery at the show last year, and I bought it back this year. It’s one of the early ones with a walnut stock, and it also came with the hand pump.

I was also located next to Ingvar Alm, a collector/dealer from Minnesota who always has wonderful stuff at these shows. He’s one of the major contributors to the Blue Book of Airguns. I could spend an entire blog on just the stuff on his table; instead, let me share with you the one gun that really caught my eye. It’s a dart gun from 1887!

1887 dart gun
The “Harmless” pistol. Wouldn’t you just love to see this at a Congressional hearing on toy safety today? This was on Ingvar Alm’s table, and he let me load and cock it for this picture!

Lest you BB-gun collectors feel left out, there were also plenty of desirable guns that you love at this show. I saw at least one model 40 with a bayonet, and I believe there was also a scarce model 140 Defender on the same table.

BB guns
Yes, there were plenty of rare collectible BB guns at Roanoke, too. And the prices were just as reasonable as the rest of the airguns.

What’s REALLY rare? How about a 1923 first model Crosman pneumatic with a front pump? There are seldom any at a show, but at this show there were at least 2! One of them had a price tag of $1,250, which is almost half what I’ve seen them bring in the past.

Crosman 1923 front pump
There were 2 of these 1923 Crosman front-pump pneumatics at the show, and both were for sale. This is something that’s seldom seen.

Okay, I guess it was blog reader Bradly who asked if there were any air shotguns at this show. Yes, there were. I saw a Farco air shotgun on one table. That’s the 28-gauge shotgun from the Philippines that Davis Schwesinger (the Roanoke show promoter) used to kill a wild pig several decades ago.

Farco air shotgun
Gun on the left is a Farco air shotgun. Gun on the right is a Crosman 102 repeater. Yawn. That’s what happens when you’re surrounded by riches.

What guns did B.B. buy?
You already know about the Disco, so what other airguns did I get at Roanoke this year? The first one was something I just couldn’t pass up. A Diana model 25 for $75! It’s the model without the ball-bearing trigger and the cosmetic condition isn’t that great, but it’s all there and seems to have a powerful mainspring. I felt the gun was undervalued, so I paid a little more than was asked but still got a great bargain.

Diana 25
This Diana 25 was a real bargain! You’ll see it in the future.

Before I came to the show, I was thinking about buying a BSA Meteor. I’ve always heard good things about them but have never pulled the trigger on one. This was the time.

At the show, I saw Meteors from $30 (junky) to $125 (excellent condition), and the average price was around $60. I bought one from Don Raitzer and will test it for you in the future.

BSA Meteor
This BSA Meteor was my only planned acquisition.

The last gun I bought was a flight of pure fancy. My money was mostly spent; but when I saw this rifle laying on the table I really wanted it — not because of its rarity or value, but just for the neatness factor.

It’s a Falke model 70, and it’s not much like the model 90 underlever I already have. This one is a breakbarrel that comes with an adjustable trigger and a barrel lock. The stock has been refinished, and the metal is mostly patina. But the rifle looks and feels solid. The dealer, Dave Bingham, said it reminds him of a Diana 27. It looks heavier and more powerful than that  to me, but I suppose we’ll find out when I test it. I got it for $100, which I think is a wonderful deal.

Falke 70
This Falke model 70 was on the same table as the model 80. This one is intriguing and I will be testing it for you soon.

Davis Schwesinger, the promoter of the show, had several tables full of vintage airguns. I’m going to show just a few that convey what was there.

Schwesinger table
Dave Schwesinger’s tables just went on and on. Here you see a Hämmerli Cadet, a VZ 47, a pre-war Diana model 30 and a Swedish Excellent. Where do you see airguns like these, except at shows like Roanoke?

Jan Kraner had a table displaying the most beautiful wood-stocked rifles. Most of them were not for sale, but they were a feast for the eyes. Jan uses them to showcase his talent as a stock maker, and believe me — it works!

beautiful stocks
Jan Kraner’s stocks stopped people in their tracks.

At last
I saved the best for last. In recent years there haven’t been too many Sheridan Supergrade rifles showing up at these events. But this year John Ford had a nice one and the price was just $1,250. That’s hundreds under what they have brought in recent years.

Sheridan Supergrade
A Sheridan Supergrade for sale is a rare thing. And this one was affordable.

The show was over before I knew it, and another year had slipped by. This one was different, as my pal Mac wasn’t there to share the excitement. But as I am reminded every time I go to one of these things — nothing is forever. We don’t own any of these airguns. We’re just their custodians for a time. In the future, these prized possessions of ours will be in someone else’s collection. That’s how we got them in the first place.

Advanced airgun diagnostics: Part 1

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

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this blog is teaching me things. I’m learning a lot more things by doing all these little tests and experiments than I ever learned by reading about airguns. Of course, that’s partly because there aren’t that many good books around, but it’s more because of the excellent discussions we have here. And more often than not, something really special comes from all this study.

Yesterday, I was finishing an article for my monthly column in Shotgun News when I happened to spot something interesting. I was writing about the Chinese KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever spring-piston air rifle and I showed two targets — one shot with RWS Hobby pellets at 10 meters and another shot with the same pellet at 25 yards. The 10-shot group at 10 meters measured 0.38 inches between centers, and the 10-shot group of the same pellet that was shot at 25 yards measured 1.918 inches. That was certainly a huge increase for just moving the target 14 yards farther! But it was more than that. I had seen something similar recently — something that really stuck in my mind.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle right
Fast Deer sidelever rifle has a quality look, but the accuracy falls off fast after 10 meters.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle RWS Hobby group
At 10 meters, the Fast Deer put 10 Hobbys into 0.38 inches.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle Hobby group
But at 25 yards, another 10 Hobbys went into 1.918 inches.

Then I wrote something in the column that jogged my memory. I said the Fast Deer was acting like it was a smoothbore because it shot great at 10 meters but lousy at 25 yards. That was just how the Diana model 25 smoothbore had shot when I tested it last year! And that’s when it hit me. As I remembered it, it was performing EXACTLY like the Diana model 25 smoothbore!

Diana 25 smoothbore
The 1940 Diana model 25 smoothbore performed exactly like the Fast Deer air rifle.

So I looked it up, and I was right. With JSB Exact RS pellets the Diana 25 put 10 into 0.337 inches at 10 meters, and at 25 yards it put the same JSB Exact RS pellets into 2.421 inches after I played with the seating to find the best place.

Diana 25 smoothbore JSB Exact RS deep-seated group
At 10 meters, the Diana 25 smoothbore put 10 JSB Exact RS pellets into 0.337 inches.

Diana 25 smoothbore JSB Exact RS deep-seated group1 25 yards
But at 25 yards, the best the Diana 25 could do with 10 JSB Exact RS pellets was 2.421 inches.

Learning has occurred! I now know that I’m getting the same results from a gun with a rifled bore as I got from one that is a smoothbore. Or, to put it another way, the rifled gun shoots like the pellets aren’t being stabilized by the rifling. It shoots like a smoothbore.

Is the Fast Deer even rifled?
Then I wondered if the Fast Deer is really rifled. So, I ran 2 different pellets down the bore from muzzle to breech — have to go that way because the barrel is fixed. Both pellets (RWS Hobby and an old Tech Force Chinese pellet) showed good engraving around the bases of their skirts, but only one showed any contact with the pellet head. Unfortunately, the RWS Hobby that I’d used when testing the rifle did not have any marks on its head. Instead, it was the domed Tech Force pellet made years ago that had engraving. However, I never shot the Chinese pellet when testing the gun for accuracy. Pyramyd Air used to carry them, but they no longer do. The point is, they may solve the longer-range accuracy problem. If they don’t, I will look around for another fat .177 pellet that will.

So what we have is a Part 6 test coming up for the Fast Deer rifle. I said I would scope it and shoot it at 25 yards for Part 6, but if it doesn’t shoot accurately with open sights at 25 yards, that seems like a big waste of time.

Diana 25 air rifle: Part 4

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Diana 25 air rifle
The Diana 25 (this one says Winchester 425) was made for decades. It is at the top of the youth line of air rifles from the ’50s through the ’70s.

On Friday, I tested the Chinese Fast Deer sidelever rifle at 25 yards, and in doing so I started the juices flowing again for the vintage airguns. One remark I made in the report was that I thought the Fast Deer might be more accurate if I fitted a peep sight in place of the open sights that are on it now. That got me thinking about other low-powered spring guns I’ve recently tested — including the Winchester 425, which is a Diana 25 by another name.

I tested the 425 at 10 meters because it has open sights and also because of the low power level. It’s a .22-caliber spring rifle that shoots in the low- to mid-400s, and long-range accuracy is not its strong suit. But after seeing the Fast Deer perform, I began to wonder how the 425 might do if I tried it with a peep sight. Kevin recommended trying it, and I was happy to take his suggestion. We always talk about how peep sights improve the aiming situation, so a peep sight ought to have some impact on even a rifle like this one.

As it happens, I have a peep sight that attaches to the rear sight base on many vintage Diana air rifles, including this 425, so it was easy to remove the open rear sight and attach the peep. I left the open sight in place until the peep was firmly anchored to the base, then I looked through the peep and adjusted it until the open sight picture looked perfect through the peephole. That told me the peep was looking at the same place as the open sight, so no special sight-in procedure was required.

Diana 25 peep sight
The Diana peep sight fits the model 25 as well as many of the larger models. It looks simple but delivers on target!

The Diana peep sight is vintage and appears less sophisticated than the target peeps we see today; but when you use it, you soon learn that it’s as nice as any of them. It has crisp detents with very visible scales for both adjustments plus the directions are also on the adjustment knobs. They’re in German, though, so they’re the reverse of American adjustments. The sight sits low on the spring tube and is shaped to conform to the contours of all Diana rifles, so there’s very little clearance between the sight and the gun. The sight does extend back, which is helpful, but as small as the 425 is, I still found it difficult to get as close to the eyepiece as I would have liked. That’s because the stock’s pull is a sporting length instead of a target length that would be several inches shorter.

JSB Exact RS
Since JSB Exact RS domes had proved to be very good at 10 meters, they were the first pellet I tried at 25 yards. I trusted that the pellet would go to the point of aim and it did. The first shot was right on target, but there was a small problem because I was trying to use 10-meter rifle targets and the bull is too small for me at 25 yards. So, I replaced the target with a 10-meter pistol target and afterward everything was fine.

The first group of 10 pellets measures 1.059 inches between centers. Now, that sounds like a big group; but if you look at the target, I think you’ll see that it really isn’t so bad. Seven of the 10 pellets landed in 0.545 inches and that’s good.

Diana 25 RS target
The JSB Exact RS pellet made a large group, but there’s a much smaller group within. This shows promise.

RWS Superdomes
Another pellet that did relatively well in the 10-meter test was the RWS Superdome. And this is where the difference between 10 meters (11 yards) and 25 yards really shows! Ten Superdomes went into 1.349 inches, and the group appears scattered left and right. This is not a pellet I’d use in this rifle at this distance.

Diana 25 Superdome target
RWS Superdomes were generally scattered left and right. Not a pellet to pursue.

Here is another example of why a 10-shot group is so much more valuable than several 5-shot groups. You could get lucky with several 5-shot groups and never know how well the rifle really shoots, but a single 10-shot group tells the tale very clearly. In the end, it saves time and pellets.

Notice that Superdomes struck the target lower than the JSB RS that preceeded them. So, I adjusted the rear sight to hit higher on the target following this test.

JSB Exact 14.3-grain domes
Next, I tried some JSB Exact Jumbo Express 14.3-grain domes. Since the RS pellets had done so well, I thought these might do well, too, even thought this pellet has disappointed me very often in the past. For some reason, the RS and 15.9-grain pellets shoot rings around this one, and I don’t quite know why.

The Diana 25 doesn’t like them, either. Though the group is well-rounded, the shots seem scattered within it. The group measures 1.288inches between centers and there is nothing to give much hope of any better performance.

Diana 25 JSB Jumbo Express target
JSB Jumbo Express group is even more scattered than the one made by the Superdomes. Another pellet to remove from the list.

At this point in the test, I was starting to lose confidence in the rifle. True, the RS pellets had shown some promise and deserved another chance, but instead I had a thought. What about Crosman Premiers? I normally don’t shoot Premiers in vintage Dianas because I like to use only pure lead pellets, but it sounded like it was worth a try.

The pellets loaded snugly into the breech, but they weren’t quite what I would call tight. The firing behavior, though, was quite different from all the other pellets I’d shot in the gun. It was harsh and a bit buzzy, which tells me the powerplant isn’t being cushioned sufficiently by this pellet.

Down at the target, though, the story was quite different. Premiers made the second-tightest group of the test and were so good that they looked like they warranted a test all their own. The vertical dispersion was 1.09 inches between centers, which is slightly larger than the group made by the JSB RS pellets. The lateral dispersion was only 0.491 inches! And the group was way below the bull, meaning that this pellet dropped many inches from the impact point of all the others. In fact, I’m not certain that all 10 shots landed on the paper because the ragged hole they tore doesn’t tell me how many pellets passed through. It just looks like they all went there.

Diana 25 Crosman Premier target
Crosman Premiers also made a large group, but they were tight side-to-side. This is a pellet to consider further! Sideways dispersion is the gun’s fault. Vertical error is more of an aiming issue or perhaps a wild velocity variation.

Premiers struck the target much lower than the JSB pellets before them, so the feeling upon firing is also evidenced in the velocity. Remember, I’d already adjusted the rear sight higher to compensate for the Superdomes, so this second adjustment jacked it up a lot from where we started.

Observation thus far
The addition of a peep sight to the Winchester 425 was a great idea. It took an accurate and easy-shooting rifle and stretched the useful range many times. I don’t know that a scope would give results that are any better, though it might be fun to try!

Diana 25 air rifle: Part 3

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

Part 1
Part 2

Diana 25
The Diana 25 (this one says Winchester 425) was made for decades. It’s at the top of the youth line of air rifles from the ’50s through the ’70s.

Today, we’ll learn how accurate a vintage Diana model 25 breakbarrel air rifle, in the form of a Winchester model 425, can be. I have to tell you, days like this are pure candy to me! Shooting a smooth vintage air rifle is so relaxing. Since they’re no longer sold, I don’t have to scramble to shoot my best, because only a collector will ever buy one. On the other hand, these lower-powered spring guns mostly out-shoot the modern guns anyway, at least at short distances, so even shooting relaxed I do pretty well.

We all agreed that the model 25 is a close-range plinker, so I shot from 10 meters. I used a 10-meter pistol bull since I was using the open sights that come with the rifle. By strongly lighting the target and keeping the room I’m shooting in dark, the sights appear sharp against the target. I normally don’t like the German Dachkorn-type front sight, which is a V-shaped post; but under these circumstances, it worked very well. Incidentally, I’ve always referred to this as a Perlkorn; but while researching this report I discovered that the Perlkorn has a bead on top of the tapered post.

Sitting down at the bench to shoot reminded me of just how easy this little rifle is to cock. The barrel goes down butter-smooth, and it takes only about 14 lbs. of force to do it. But when I brought it back up after loading, I discovered that the pivot bolt was a little loose. The barrel wouldn’t stay in one position after the rifle was cocked. It flopped back down again. That’s a sign that the pivot is too loose, which leads to a loss of air at the breech. I decided to tighten it, and that lead me to another wonderful feature of the Diana 25 — the pivot bolt has a locking screw!

Diana 25 barrel pivot bolt locking screw
The head of the barrel pivot bolt (larger slotted head in the photo) is cut out around its edge to receive the smaller head of the locking screw. Once set, this bolt will not get out of adjustment.

The pivot bolt has cutouts around its edge to accept the head of a smaller locking screw. Once you set the bolt where you want it, put the locking screw in and the setting will never move. This is one of those seemingly insignificant features that we overlooked when rifles like this were new, yet  today even the most expensive pellet rifles don’t have it! In fact, a good number of the current guns don’t even have a pivot bolt — they use a plain pin that can never be tightened.

RWS Superpoints
The first pellet I shot was the .22-caliber RWS Superpoint. I mentioned in an earlier report that I like the Superpoint for its thin skirt that gets blown out into the sides of the bore when the rifle fires. Other pellets are either too hard, or their skirts are too thick to deform with the relatively light puff of air from the model 25′s piston. The Superpoint, though, should work well in a gun like this.

The distance was 10 meters and I shot from a rest, so this report is about the rifle’s capability and not the shooter’s. That crisp ball-bearing sear was a real pleasure to use, and I didn’t waste a lot of time setting up each shot.

I used the sights exactly as they were set when I got the rifle. Remember that my friend Mac was the former owner, so it came as no surprise when the pellet landed exactly at the aim point — a 6 o’clock hold on the bullseye. After seeing the first pellet was where it needed to be, I didn’t look at the target again until the 10th shot had been fired. What I saw then was a surprise — even when I had been expecting good results. Ten RWS Superpoints went into a group that measures 0.613 inches between centers. It’s a one-hole group that looks smaller than it really is because the pointed pellets allowed the paper to return to its normal dimensions after they pass through. This is the same kind of accuracy I used to get from the Hakim trainers at the same 10 meters.

Diana 25 breakbarrel spring-piston rifle--RWS Superpoint pellets

Ten RWS Superpoints made this 0.613-inch group at 10 meters. It’s larger than it looks because the paper flapped back after the pellet passed through.

The next pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby. This is another pellet that’s often very good in rifles that shoot at lower power. And by being fairly light, at 11.9 grains, it has the advantage of traveling faster than most other pellets. Ten Hobbys grouped in 0.538 inches between centers. It was another one-hole group. Nothing to do but to smile and hope the rifle continues to shoot like this!

Diana 25 TWS Hobby target
Ten RWS Hobbys are even tighter, making this 0.538-inch group.

The last pellet I tried was the JSB Exact RS dome that weighs 13.4 grains. I hoped that this pellet might shine in the little 25 in the same way the .177 version does in my Beeman R8. Well, shine it did, putting 10 of them into a group that only measures 0.38 inches between centers. Does that explain why I like shooting these little vintage spring guns so much?

Diana 25 JSB Exact RS target
The JSB Exact RS dome was the best pellet of all. Ten made this 0.38-inch group at 10 meters.

Deformed pellets?
The Diana breakbarrels all have slanted breech faces; and when the barrel is closed, if the pellet isn’t seated flush all the way around the skirt, it can catch on the action and slightly bend the rim of the skirt when the barrel’s closed. This was happening with all three pellets used in this test. So I shot a fourth group of 10 with the most accurate pellets (JSB Exact RS) seated deep in the breech. I wanted to see what effect this would have, if any.

Diana 25 pellet in breech
Because the breech face is slanted, the tip of the pellet skirt sticks out like this when the pellet is seated.

Diana 25 deformed pellet
When the breech is closed, this is what happens to the pellet. It doesn’t seem to hurt accuracy.

Diana 25 JSB Exact RS target pellet seated deep
Seating pellets deep in the breech (JSB Exact RS used) opened the group up and also dropped the point of impact about one inch at 10 meters.

Deep-seating didn’t work this time. The group of 10 JSB Exact RS pellets opened to 0.615 inches. It also dropped the point of impact about one inch at 10 meters. Doesn’t seem like it’s worthwhile.

The end?
I sure hope this isn’t the last report I get to do on this air rifle. What a joy it is to shoot something that’s accurate, has a great trigger, is quiet and is easy to cock. I know you have to buy these used, but it’s worth the effort, in my opinion. It doesn’t replace your modern magnum air rifles, but it gives you something to do when you just want to shoot without a lot of fuss. If you’ve enjoyed reading this report, remember that there are three different models of the Diana 25. Only two of them have the ball bearing sear, so be careful when you look for one.

Diana 25 air rifle: Part 2

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

Part 1

Diana 25 air rifle
The Diana 25 (this one says Winchester 425) was made for decades. It’s at the top of the youth line of air rifles that were made from the ’50s through ’70s.

Today, I’ll test the Winchester 425 (Diana 25) breakbarrel air rifle for velocity and power. When I shot the rifle, the ultra-smooth firing behavior suggested that it might have been tuned. And a faint whiff of burned grease confirmed it. I shined a tactical flashlight down into the cocking slot and saw the mainspring is coated with a thin layer of black tar — proof positive the innards have been breathed upon!

The second clue as to its past is that the rifle was owned by my friend Mac before I got it. I know he loves this platform and does not fear taking one apart to make it better.

Finally, the trigger is adjusted to perfection. Mac knows how to do that, as I described in Part 1 of this report. The trigger is two-stage with a very long first stage that stops at a definite second stage before breaking crisply at the shot. I would not call it a glass-rod trigger, because the excessive overtravel after the trigger breaks makes it feel less precise than it really is, but if you’ve never sampled a fine sporting airgun trigger, this one would amaze you. The only aspect that might put some people off is that the first stage has to be very long for the second stage to be crisp. You can try to shorten stage one if you like — but then stage two disappears, and the trigger becomes a guessing game.

The trigger return spring on this rifle is heavy enough to give the first stage a 1 lb., 1 oz. pull weight. Stage two breaks at 2 lbs., 15 oz., and I doubt you’d guess it to be that much.

Cocking effort
One reason I love little breakbarrels like this model 25 is their light cocking efforts. This rifle has a ball-bearing detent that makes the barrel break open easier. Then just 14 lbs. of force are needed to cock the rifle. That’s so little that pre-teens will find it easy. Of course, this particular example is as smooth as they come because of the tune it’s received, but even a rusty old relic that’s been sitting up in the loft of a barn for 30 years will still cock pretty easy.

Diana 25 air rifle ball bearing detent
Instead of a chisel detent that has a powerful spring behind it, the Diana 25 barrel is held closed by a spring-loaded ball bearing. It is much easier to open and close the barrel, yet it stays shut when the gun fires.

Remember, this is a .22-caliber air rifle — not a .177. This is a case where the smaller caliber probably would have been the better choice, but folks with large fingers will still appreciate this one for the ease with which it can be loaded.

RWS Hobbys
The first pellet I tested was that old standby — the RWS Hobby. In .22 caliber, this wadcutter weighs 11.9 grains and typically offers the highest velocity of any of the lead pellets. In the test rifle, Hobbys averaged 440 f.p.s. The spread went from 421 to 458 f.p.s., which is a fairly broad 37 f.p.s. range. They loaded firm, as if fitting the bore well, so I expect them to do well in the accuracy test. At the average velocity, Hobbys generate 5.12 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

From what we learned while testing the Hy Score 801 rifle that has a pellet seater built into the barrel, deep-seating pellets can sometimes increase velocity and also stabilize the overall range of velocities achieved. I tried seating the Hobbys deep into the breech. The result was a large loss of velocity — from 382 to 408 f.p.s. for the deep seating! That tells me the model 25 doesn’t like its pellets seated deep, so I didn’t try it with the other pellets.

JSB Exact Jumbo Express
The next pellet up was the JSB Exact Jumbo Express dome that weighs 14.3 grains. This is a pure lead pellet, and it fits the rifle’s breech very nicely, going in easier than the Hobbys. These averaged 417 f.p.s. and ranged from 414 to 422 f.p.s. That’s an incredibly tight 8 f.p.s. spread across 10 shots! I want to note that this pellet also went deeper into the breech with just finger pressure. That means the skirt was not subject to damage when the breech was closed — something I can’t say for the other two pellets I tested. This pellet produces 5.52 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

The last pellet I tested was selected for a very specific purpose. I’ve found in the past that taploaders that have large holes through their taps — such as the Hakim trainer — need a soft lead pellet with a very thin skirt so the light air blast will flare the skirt out to contact the bore and seal it against air blowby. Even the RWS Superdome has a reinforcing ledge inside its skirt that prevents this from happening. But the RWS Superpoint doesn’t. The Superpoint skirt is very thin, soft and pliable; and it seals better than any lead pellet I’ve ever used. I like to at least try them in low-powered spring guns like this model 25 air rifle because they often give very good results on paper.

In the test rifle, Superpoints averaged 377 f.p.s., and the spread was from 373 to 383 f.p.s., so only 10 f.p.s. The Superpoint weighs 14.5 grains, so at the average velocity the muzzle energy was 4.58 foot-pounds. With the first two pellets as a comparison, I wouldn’t call this a great performance.

How does the 25 compare to the Diana 27?
For no better reason than the fact that I was curious, I then tested my Diana 27 (Hy Score 807) with the same pellets. I figured it would be a little more powerful than the 25, but not a lot.

Where Hobbys averaged 440 in the 25, in the 27 they went 495. The JSBs that averaged 417 in the 25 went 449 in the 27. And the RWS Superpoints that only went 379 in the 25 actually went 458 in the 27 — exceeding the JSB pellets! I think that result was that thin soft skirt kicking in, and the 25 probably doesn’t have quite enough power to blow the skirts out like I mentioned.

Impressions so far
I wish this rifle was still being made so more of you could experience it. It’s a delight to shoot. It cocks so easily, and the trigger is a dream to use. Let’s all hope the accuracy is there, as well. I’m not looking for tackdriving accuracy at 25 yards this time — just nice round groups at 10 meters because the Diana 25 is a plinking air rifle — first, last and always.

Diana 25 air rifle: Part 1

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

Diana 25
The Diana 25 (this one says Winchester 425) was made for decades. It’s at the top of the youth line of air rifles from the ’50s through ’70s.

Before we begin, I owe you an explanation. Although the title of this report says the Diana model 25, the rifle we’ll look at is actually a Winchester model 425 — Winchester’s branding of the model from the 1970s. I used the Diana 25 model name because there are many times more Diana 25 air rifles than just the few thousand that carry the Winchester name. That way, all who read this will know the root airgun. If they ever need parts, they’ll know what to look for.

At most airgun shows, I buy and sell as much from/to the other dealers as I do to the public. I’ll often sit at my table with my eye on a certain gun for almost the entire show before making my move. I bought David Enoch’s Gamo 68 as we were packing up to leave the Malvern show. I’d wanted it all show long and hoped it would still be there when I sold something and had the money to buy it. When I did have the money, I found my self unable to open my wallet until David started packing it up to go.

The Fast Deer I bought at Roanoke this year is another example of the same thing. I had the money, but still I putzed around for no reason, arguing with myself over a $40 purchase!

And all the while we were at this show, I watched Mac’s Winchester 425 (Diana 25) sitting on the table next to me. He had it marked at $200, which is a very good price, because this is the model 25 that has the three-ball trigger. I had a Winchester model 427 (a Diana 27) for sale for $225, which is also a good price for that model, but people were overlooking my gun and focusing on Mac’s 25. His rifle is even cleaner than mine and frankly, at $25 less, it looked like a better deal.

Finally, after much agonizing and hand-wringing, I either bought Mac’s rifle or traded for it. I think we traded, which is always better, because then you never know for sure who got the better deal. It’s the old two $2,500 dogs for a $5,000 cat routine.

Every time I buy an airgun, I’m always justifying it by thinking that I’ll write a blog about it, which I almost always do. Sometimes, like the case of my Falke 90, I get so involved in the gun that I start investing even more time and money just because I get caught up in the story and want to see how it turns out. And, FYI, the Falke stock is on its way to the refinisher to get a new lease on life. The results of that will be coming in a separate report some time in the future.

Back to my report. So, I acquired this Diana 25, and now I want to share it with you. For years, Mac has told me that the 25 is just a 27 that’s a little shorter. I wanted to test that. Mac has had a whole collection of these guns, including several 27 and 25 airguns. He sold a 27 at the Roanoke show the year before, and I was sad to see it go — even though I have two of them myself and do not need another. Mac’s had more of these rifles than I, so I listen to what he has to say about them.

Diana 25 and 27
Diana 27 (top) was just slightly larger and more powerful than the 25.

The 25 stands out because there were several different versions of the same gun, built over the decades the model was being manufactured. There’s the 25 that has a more or less simplistic trigger with a direct sear. That one isn’t adjustable, as far as I know. It’s not a bad trigger, but it doesn’t compare to the model we’re examining here.

Then, there’s the model I’m testing for you that has two adjustment screws for the trigger — only one of which actually adjusts the pull. The other screw is nothing but a lock screw that holds the adjustment in place. People who are not familiar with the trigger adjustment process of the 25/27/35 will invariably mess up the adjustment and get a trigger-pull that’s single-stage, long, creepy and vague as to the let-off point. They’ll declare the trigger to be junk and get rid of the rifle when it could so easily be adjusted to a very fine pull if they only knew the secret.

Diana 25 trigger screwsThe presence of two screws on a Diana 25 air rifle trigger signifies a ball-bearing sear trigger. The front screw (left) is just a locking screw.

Adjusting a two-screw, three ball-bearing sear Diana trigger
Here are simple instructions for adjusting the Diana 25/27/35 triggers that have two screws. The front screw is just a lock screw. Loosen it and then screw the rear screw in as far as it will go (that’s clockwise). Then, turn it back out two full turns and try cocking the rifle. Be careful not to let go of the barrel, because some guns may be adjusted to the razor’s edge this way. If yours is and you need a little more sear engagement, try turning the screw in or out just a quarter turn until the sear holds well. Next, tighten the front screw, and the job is done. You’ll have a long first stage followed by a definite stop and crisp stage-two break when the gun fires. You only have to experience one of these triggers adjusted correctly to know how nice they all are.

Diana 35 trigger
This trigger assembly from a Diana 35 is identical to the one found in the model 27 and the model 25 we’re examining. These parts are held together inside the gun by the spring tube. Assembly requires a lot of tacky grease to hold these parts together until they’re safely contained inside the spring tube.

There’s one more variation of the 25, and that’s a rifle with just a single trigger screw. It’s a later design that did away with the need for a locking screw by virtue of having the adjustment screw pass through more metal and be less resistant to movement. This one is much easier to adjust because there’s no chance of making a mistake with the locking screw since it isn’t there.

The rifle is small, being made primarily for youth. At just 37-3/4 inches overall, it’s sized like a carbine, though the proportions look more like those of a rifle. The pull is just 12-7/8 inches, which is short for an adult but about right for a teenager. Today, these rifles are more often used by older shooters than their builders intended. As Mac stated, they’re viewed as smaller model 27 air rifles — especially when they have the ball-bearing sear. The barrel is shorter than the one on the model 27, at 14-1/2 inches. The rifle still cocks easily because the mainspring isn’t that strong.

The stock is beech, which is stained very differently than the darker model 427 shown for comparison. There’s actually a pleasing grain that isn’t common to beech. The butt has a single rubber “button” at the top that confuses airgunners all the time. It’s there to keep the wooden butt from sliding across the floor when the rifle is stood in the corner. There’s a slab-sided profile to this 25 stock that isn’t seen on the 427. It just means they started with a thinner blank.

The metal parts are all well-polished and deeply blued. Today, the finish looks exceptional; but when this rifle was made, it was considered standard for the time.

The rifle weighs 5-1/2 lbs. on the nose. It feels like a gun you could carry and shoot all day.

This model came in both .177 and .22 caliber, though all the Winchesters I’ve seen were in .22 caliber. That’s a pretty large pellet for such a small powerplant, and you can expect velocities somewhere in the 400s with light- and medium-weight pellets. That sounds pretty anemic to those who are accustomed to supersonic velocities, but the fact is that these are pretty accurate at close range and a lot of fun to shoot.

The 25 and 27 air rifles have fully adjustable rear sights and hooded front posts that are fixed. There’s also a serrated ramp on the back of the spring tube that accepts a Diana peep sight, should you be fortunate enough to find one.

Diana 25 rear sight
The rear sight adjusts in both directions. It’s crisp, clear and an example to all airgun makers today.

I’m testing this rifle because Mac has piqued my interest over the years. Normally, I would say the Diana 27 is the epitome of lightweight spring guns, but there might be something here that I haven’t yet seen. At any rate, it’ll be fun to find out!

More about Gamo Match pellets: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

This is the third part of Vince’s test of old and new Gamo Match pellets. In parts 1 and 2, he tested .177 caliber. This test is for .22 caliber.

After part 1 was published, we discovered that today’s report was supposed to be the first part! So, you’ll read a lot of introductory info that Vince intended for you to see when he started this series. Sit back and enjoy the rest of Vince’s pellet tests.

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Part 1
Part 2

by Vince

Gamo. A name well known in the airgunning field and inextricably intertwined with its history. Just run it by any knowledgable, passionate airgunner and you’ll quite likely elicit the emotionally charged response, “Gamo? Ehhh….”

Gamo was never known for making junk. Well, their PT-800 came close (plastic compression tube? Oh, please!), but that was more a case of poor design than poor manufacturing. There’s a world of difference between the two. They also didn’t let advanced engineering get in the way of a good profit margin. And, maybe that’s what always defined Gamo — engineering compromises coupled with reasonable manufacturing quality control yielding a product that, well, could be worse.

Their old standby springers of a few years back certainly showed this dual side of Gamo. Remember the steel-barreled Shadow, 220, 440, 880 and 890? Say what you want about their 5000-shot triggers (that’s often how long it took before they smoothed out), spotty spring reliability and zesty twanginess. They looked good, with nice bluing and decent plastic or wood stocks. They generally shot pretty well with solid lockups and good barrels. My first decent air rifle (and I still have it!) was a $125 Shadow from Walmart. Before buying that Gamo, I thought the Industry Brand QB25 was a good airgun. Seriously.

But times change and while there are still a few holdouts in the Gamo lineup (the CFX comes to mind) many or most of their products are being modified or substantially altered to adapt to changing market conditions. A lot of these changes have traditionalists scratching their heads. Although guns like the Big Cat and its cousins still seem to shoot well, the proliferation of structural plastics and marketting gimicks just detracts from their appeal.

Their pellets, however, have followed a different course. Seems that the marketing and advertising departments at Gamo got deeply involved in the ammo end of the business. The result? Killing a hog with a PBA pellet. Bragging about breaking the sound barrier with a pellet that isn’t shaped for it. Armour piecing. Red Fire. Glow Fire. Clearly, these pellets don’t follow the traditional path.

These gimicks might lure in the novice, like my Dad and, well, probably most of their customers. But, with products like that, they’re not going to capture the heart of the purist! They kept their old standby pellets — Gamo Match, Hunter, Master Point and Magnum — for that one-tenth of one percent of their customer base…the traditional airgunner.

Note from B.B.: Gamo’s business goals may not be what we assume they are. From my discussions in the past, I’ve learned that they’re most interested in converting firearm shooters to also use airguns. It seems to me that they see their products not as airguns but as firearms, and in that light they seem to be pursuing the hunting crowd most actively. In that pursuit, they seem less concerned with traditional airgunning. And, given that the hunting demographic that uses firearms is so many times larger than all airgun disciplines combined (in the U.S.), this may be a good business model for Gamo.

No one is going to march into a field target match armed with Gamo pellets. After all, quality control hasn’t always been the best. I occasionally come across one of these in a tin of Match pellets in .22:

Inverse wadcutter, SUPER hollow point, or the Escher pellet? I call it the “Gamo Cadwutter.”

The occasional cadwutter aside, they were still reasonably priced and shot well enough in enough guns that they were pretty popular for everyday use. B.B. even alluded to some competitors using them in local pistol matches, although I imagine this is after sorting them. Generally, they seemed to work pretty well in low-powered guns. Since I’m doing all of my shooting indoors these days, I’m spending a lot more time with guns like that.

That’s why I ordered a bunch of Gamo Match pellets from Pyramyd Air — a total of 23 tins in both .22 and .177. I figure I’m set for a while. Then, I opened one of the .22 tins…

New Gamo Match on the top, old on the bottom.

…and something’s wrong. These pellets are impostors! They’re trying to LOOK like Gamo Match, but I’m not fooled! Something fishy is going on. I examined the tins side-by-side.

New Gamo Match on the left, old on the right.

While the packaging looks the same, the weight is different. I flipped the tins upside down.

New Gamo Match on the left, old on the right.

They looked identical from this side. In fact, even the UPC is the same. Are they really the same? We’ll see about that.

I picked out a selection of .22 rifles so I can put these to the test. I’ve included my low-power guns and a few stronger ones as well. I didn’t bother most of my heavy hitters since I usually shoot just Crosman Premier hollowpoints in those.

Rules of the game
For each gun, I shot 5-7 of the new Gamo Match pellets just to get the bore used to the pellets (this seems to make a difference). I put 5 shots onto the target sheet from 10 meters, switch to the old version of the pellet and fire five more. I’m not sorting pellets. If I get a flyer that’s way off the main group, I’ll give the pellet the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I just got a bad one, and I make a 6th shot and discount the flier.

How did the impostors fair? Let’s take a look and see (in no particular order).

Mendoza RM2000
The Mendoza RM2000 is a repeater that likes only repeating with certain pellets. It has an inline mag with an elevator shuttle, an arrangement that can be prone to deforming long or short pellets or squirting undersized ones right through the shuttle and onto the floor. I never used the repeater, and these were all loaded single-shot.

The Mendoza didn’t seem to differentiate much between the two in terms of consistency although the point of impact did shift a bit. Verdict: Comparable performance.

This gun is BAM’s pseudo-clone of the RWS 34 action with the TO5 trigger. I say pseudo because it isn’t an exact copy. There are differences. It’s the same family as the Ruger Air Hawk rifles (of which I’ve had two), but the B25 is probably the best of the lot that I’ve sampled. Still, it’s taking me a bit of time to warm up to it.

In this gun, there’s absolutely no comparison. Quite passable with the old pellets, useless with the new. Verdict: The new ones just don’t cut it.

This is a fairly new addition to my collection. It’s also a gun I’ve owned before and always sold to make room for others. Since I’ve got tons of room now, it’s a non-issue! It’s a massive sidelever that outweighs the RWS Diana 48 by a pound or so. It’s also longer and a much cruder gun. It’s frequently described as being a clone of the 48, but I won’t even call it a psuedo-clone. There are just too many significant differences. Let’s call it an imitation.

And what did the B21 think of the new Gamo pellets?

Point of impact seems pretty consistent, and the groups are comparable (although not outstanding for either pellet). Verdict: Pretty much interchangeable.

The BAM B3 is a novelty gun that’s proven quite popular over the last several years, although for some reason it seems to have been discontinued. It’s made to resemble an AK47 and is equipped with a folding stock. Mechanically, it’s a simple rifle but made fairly well.

As you can see, it didn’t like the new Gamo Match pellets very much, and frankly it’s so-so on the old ones. Verdict: The new ones are inferior.

RWS Diana 27
The Diana 27 is an old favorite of B.B.’s and for good reason. It’s a nicely made rifle that looks good, shoots well, and is easy to cock and hold. Diana barrels are generally pretty good, and this one is no exception, although the Gamo Match isn’t it’s favorite ammo.

Oddly enough, this rifle — so far, the only rifle — seems to show a preference for the new pellet. It wasn’t a blowout, but the group is definitely tighter. There’s a very significant POI shift. Verdict: New pellets are at least as good as the old.

Winchester 425
Known as the Diana 25 in its native brand, the Winchester 425 is the smaller cousin to the Diana 27. It’s a very similar gun overall with the same trigger and sights, but shortened to make it more of a youth gun. Like the 27, it’s very well made. It didn’t agree with the 27 on pellet preference, though.

It didn’t scatter the new pellets to the four winds the way a few guns did, but the preference for the old ones is pretty clear. Again, we have a POI shift. Verdict: Old pellets are superior.

Industry Brand QB57
The QB57 is another novelty gun made by Shanghai Airguns and sold under the Industry Brand name. It’s a 2-piece takedown sidelever bullpup that comes in its own suitcase with a cheap scope and a tin of even cheaper pellets. Oddly enough, it copies the Gamo trigger. Generally speaking, Shanghai’s knockoff of this trigger isn’t that bad. The scope rail is way forward on this gun, so it’s a bit awkward to shoot with a standard scope. At least it’s mounted directly to the barrel, which is the most accurate place for it to be. It’s also relatively new and, I’m sure, not quite broken in yet.

It seems to agree with its countryman, the XS-B3, only more so, with a wider gap between the two. With the old pellets, it really didn’t do too badly for a lower-grade rifle. Verdict: No contest. Old ones are much better.

TF97 (aka Industry Brand QB-36)
The TF97/QB36 used to be one of the flagship springers of the Shanghai Airgun Factory. Along with the QB36-2 (TF97), it represented one of the better efforts of that company, which, of course, is relative to the other offerings of that company (B1, B2, B3 underlever, etc.) which were pretty poor. Judged on it’s own, the’97 is a so-so gun — low-powered for the weight, fair trigger, and accuracy that’s somewhere in the middle. But certainly not an oinker by any stretch.

As you can see, this gun really wasn’t crazy about either pellet. Although the spread with the new ones looks a bit larger, it’s really about the same. Verdict: They’re comparable.

Sterling HR81
The British Sterling HR81 (and it’s nicer-stocked sibling, the HR83) is a bit of an oddball. The compression tube on this underlever is located beneath the barrel, almost like the reservoir on a CO2 or PCP rifle. The air is ducted up to the barrel via a short, vertical transfer port and into the hollow pellet feed rod behind the pellet. Powerplant efficiency, needless to say, is not its strong point. The loading port is opened with a bolt located several inches behind the loading port, and closing the bolt pushes the pellet into the firing position. I’ve sampled 2 of them and found both to be stable, consistent shooting platforms. The much-used .22 I have doesn’t seem to shoot quite as well as the .177 HR-83 I serviced for a fellow last year, but it still does pretty well with the right pellet.

Well, the right pellet certainly is NOT the new Gamo Match, which performed horribly in this gun. Much better results were obtained with the old ones. Verdict: New pellets are inferior.

Gamo 440
The 440 was part of the old Shadow/220/440/890 family that immediately preceded the current crop of plastic-shrouded, higher-powered breakbarrels (Big Cat, Whisper, etc). Like its old stablemates, it’s light, accurate, well-balanced, and easy to cock and shoulder. Once the trigger is modded and the spring properly tarred, it’s a very pleasant plinking rifle. Originally, I wasn’t even going to try this one. This is one of the guns that does so well with Crosman Premier hollowpoint pellets that I typically don’t shoot anything else in it. But, it’s the only .22 cal. Gamo I have, so I decided to see how well a Gamo rifle did with Gamo pellets.

So, there you have it. A nice group with the old pellets, and a lousy one with the new. It didn’t choke on them as badly as the HR-81, QB57 or XS-B3; but this is certainly a poor showing for a decent rifle. Verdict: No comparison. Old pellets are superior.

So what’s the final tally? I’ve shot these pellets back-to-back in 10 different rifles. Of those 10 rifles, 4 shot the new pellets as well as or slightly better than the old; 3 of those 4 showed a significant POI shift. The remaining 6 preferred the old, most by a very considerable margin. From all this, I think we can safely draw three conclusions:

1. The new pellets are not the same as the old, and they’re not interchangeable. They do carry the same part number and description, and the Gamo website gives no indication that there’s anything different about them at all. I would suggest that it’s misleading for Gamo to alter the pellet and change its characteristics while pretending that its the same. It’s common knowledge that airguns can be real picky about their ammo; Gamo should know better.

Note from B.B.: We’ve been seeing the same thing from various high-quality European pellet manufacturers. Things can suddenly change without notice. However, the comments on this blog serve to inform the manufacturers that veteran airgunners are very concerned.

2. In my tests, the new pellets were generally not as good as the old ones. In the cases where they fared well against the old pellets, it was a relatively close call. In those cases where it didn’t, they generally shot pretty poorly.

3. The new pellets are not absolute crap. They might be OK for plinking in some guns, but make sure you try them out first. If your gun liked the old Gamo Match in .22, there’s no guarantee they’ll like the new ones.

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