Posts Tagged ‘Diana model 23’

Testing a Diana model 23 breakbarrel rifle: Part 4

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Diana 23
Not as pretty as I would like. This Diana 23 has led a hard life. I’ll refinish it.

Today, we’ll return to an oldie we haven’t looked at in close to 2 months — the Diana 23. You may remember this is a rifle I bought for very little from an online auction — and when it arrived, I found it was better than expected. The finish is gone, but I plan to refinish it. And Larry Hannusch generously donated a brand-new old-stock Diana 23 barrel for the project, so I’m farther along than might be expected.

Last time, we tested the rifle at 10 meters and found that it showed decent accuracy for such a low-powered air rifle. Today, I’m pushing that out to 25 yards with 2 of the best pellets from the last test, plus a new one I’ve thrown into the mix. The goal is to see if this little vintage springer is accurate enough for general plinking duty out to 75 feet.

Days like this are always relaxing for 2 reasons. The first is that I’m testing something that’s no longer available, so there are no company reputations on the line. I enjoy testing airguns, but it’s disturbing to read all the sniping negative comments we receive when things don’t go exactly perfect. It makes me feel like I have failed the gun somehow, and that’s nerve-wracking.

The second reason a day like today is a pleasure is that the gun, itself, is such a little sweetie. The Diana 23 is lightweight and easy to cock. The trigger is certainly not world-class, but it releases with a reasonable pull; and, if the gun is also accurate with open sights, all the better.

The hold
I find when I shoot light low-powered airguns like the 23, the artillery hold isn’t so important. I grasp the rifle tighter than a real artillery hold, though not as tight as I would hold a recoling centerfire. Maybe something more like a rimfire hold. The rifle seems to respond okay to this treatment.

JSB Exact RS
The first pellet I tried was the JSB Exact RS dome. They did well in the 10-meter test that I read before starting this one. I noted that deep-seated pellets did best in that test, so all pellets in this test were seated with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Pellet Seater. The RS pellets fit the bore very well and were not tight going into the breech as they were seated. They hit the target high and just a little to the right when I held the tip of the front sight on the 6 o’clock spot of the black bull. I used the standard 10-meter pistol target because it appears large enough for open sights all the way out to 50 yards.

The group I got measures 1.16 inches between the 2 furthest centers. I’m quite satisfied with that group, except for the centering. The way the 23′s sights are made, I’ll have to drift either the front or rear sight in their dovetails to correct where the pellets land; and since I’m going to change the barrel, I decided to wait and see where the new one shoots.

Diana 23 JSB RS group 25 yards
Ten JSB RS pellets made this 1.16-inch group at 25 yards. It’s a little large; but for such a small rifle — and with open sights, I’m satisfied.

Air Arms Falcon
The second pellet I tried was the Air Arms Falcon that blog reader Kevin Lentz likes so much. They’re made by JSB and weigh the same as the RS pellets, so the temptation is to think they’re RS pellets under a different name. But I don’t think that’s the case. The late Bill Saunders of Air Arms told me that Air Arms owns the dies for all their pellets; and even though JSB makes them, they’re not simply rebranded pellets. If anything, Falcons fit the bore a little looser than RS pellets.

At any rate, Falcons didn’t do as well as RS pellets in the Diana 23. Ten of them made a group that measures 1.568 inches between centers. This group appears not to have 10 shots in it, but several pellets must have gone through the same hole at the top of the group because I counted each shot carefully.

Diana 23 Air Arms Falcon group 25 yards
Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets made this 1.568-inch group at 25 yards. This is larger than I would like. I think I’ll stick to the RS pellets for this rifle.

RWS Hobby
The final pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby wadcutter. They fit the bore very snug and popped in when seated. Though they were at the outside limit of distance for accuracy (wadcutters start to spread apart after 25 yards), they performed very well — delivering the smallest group of this test. Ten pellets went into 1.014 inches at 25 yards. With that kind of accuracy, I would stick with the Hobbys that are less expensive than the other premium pellets anyway. Sure, the accuracy falls off as the distance increases, but how much farther do I expect to shoot this rifle? Not much!

Diana 23 RWS Hobby group 25 yards
Ten RWS Hobby pellets went into 1.014 inches at 25 yards. This is great accuracy for such a small rifle and open sights.

That’s all I’m going to test for now. Next comes the refinish and then whatever I do as I put the rifle back together. It’s a fun little gun. I wish there were more like it!

Testing a Diana model 23 breakbarrel rifle: Part 3

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

Part 1
Part 2

Diana 23
This Diana 23 has led a hard life.

Today, we’ll see how accurate the Diana model 23 is. This report was supposed to be published just before the Roanoke airgun show, but so many things popped up at the last minute and got in front of it that I held off on this one til now.

Before we begin, let me give you a little update on the rifle. At Roanoke, Larry Hannush, the owner of all those beautiful ball reservoir airguns, came over to my table and handed me a brand new barrel for the model 23. He had read that I was going to refinish it with Blue Wonder and he thought a new barrel would shorten my time on the project. In fact the barrel of the gun was the only part where rust had done some more serious work. The old barrel would have either had pits in it, or I would have had to draw-file them out. This new barrel solved a problem for me, so thanks, Larry!

I decided to test accuracy at 10 meters because of the small size of the rifle. I selected 3 different pellets for this test, but none of them was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellet. I would like to tell you why. Crosman pellets are made from a lead alloy that’s hardened with antimony. As a result, their skirts don’t deform as easily as pellet made from pure lead. In a lower-powered rifle like the 23, that means they may not seal all the air behind the pellet.

The second reason I usually don’t select Crosman pellets for guns like the 23 is that they’re often right at or just under the required dimensions. They work very well in repeaters where their smaller size and harder lead are an advantage. In more powerful guns, their skirts can be blown out into the rifling; but in a single-shot spring-piston air rifle of low power, neither of these things is an advantage. So, I seldom select them for guns like the 23.

Now, let’s begin the test. The rifle is rested at 10 meters, and I’m using a classic artillery hold — though as light as the 23 is, it isn’t easy to hold this way. I had to grip it more than I would have liked just to control it.

RWS Hobby flush-seated
The first pellet I tried was the venerable RWS Hobby wadcutter. At just 7 grains, it seemed perfect for the power of the 23. I seated these pellets flush, but as I did something in the back of my mind sent up a red flag. After all the testing of deep-seated pellets in air rifles of lower power, I reckoned I had to come back and also try this pellet seated deep.

Ten flush-seated Hobbys went into a 0.792-inch group at 10 meters. The group looks okay, but it’s a little on the large side — even for shooting a light rifle with open sights.

RWS Hobby target
Ten flush-seated RWS Hobby pellets went into 0.792 inches at 10 meters. Not the best group for 10 meters, but a good start.

At this point, I knew I had to try seating these pellets deep in the breech. I was going to give you a link to the one report where I showed that deep-seating improves accuracy with guns of lower power, but some searching turned up about 20+ reports that all show the advantages of deep-seating! That kind of overwhelmed me. I guess I’ve been doing this for a lot longer than I thought!

The next 10 pellets were seated deep into the breech, using the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Pellet Seater. Of course, you can also use a ballpoint pen to seat pellets; but this seating tool allows you to adjust the depth to which you seat the pellet, and that can be beneficial.

This time, 10 Hobbys made a group measuring 0.52 inches between centers. Not only was it significantly smaller than the first one, the point of impact shifted up about an inch and the group became very vertical. The gun was definitely shooting this pellet differently, and all that had changed was the seating depth.

RWS Hobby seated deep
Ten RWS Hobby pellets seated deep into the breech went into 0.52 inches at 10 meters. This is good proof of the need to seat pellets deep in this rifle.

After seeing the results of this test, I decided to seat the rest of the pellets deep. It seems like that’s what the 23 wants.

JSB Exact RS
Next, I tried the JSB Exact RS dome. In the velocity test of this rifle, you’ll remember that this pellet exceeded both the other pellets in velocity and muzzle energy. I was anxious to see how it did for accuracy. This time, I didn’t fool around with flush-seating — I just assumed deep-seating was the way to go. Ten of them went into 0.618 inches.

JSB RS seated deep
Ten deep-seated JSB Exact RS domes made this 0.618-inch group. It’s not as tight as I’d expected, but it’s still pretty good.

Shooting behavior of the Diana 23
Like I said before, the Diana 23 is a light rifle, and holding it with the artillery hold is difficult. On top of that, add a trigger that breaks at almost 7 lbs., and you can see that I was fighting the rifle’s physical characteristics for accuracy. When I break down the rifle for refinishing, I think I’ll take a look at lightening the trigger. Dropping a few pounds of pull could have a major impact on accuracy.

The rifle does discharge without much vibration. The feel of each shot is very solid and quick.

Beeman Devastator
The last pellet I tried was the Beeman Devastator hollowpoint. I’m aware that Beeman refers to this pellet at a pointed pellet, so I’m showing you an enlarged view here. It sure looks like a hollowpoint to me — and it’s designed to perform like one, too.

Beeman Devastator
I think the image speaks for itself. The Devastator is a hollowpoint that has a short point in the center. It’s not a pointed pellet.

I decided to try Devastators because of how surprising they were in the Pellet velocity versus accuracy test I did back in December of 2011. They proved that vibration and not velocity alone is what destroys accuracy in a pellet. In this test, 10 deep-seated Devastators made a 0.667-inch group, which is on the high side. I don’t think this is the right pellet for this rifle.

Beeman Devastator target
Ten Beeman Devastators went into 0.667 inches at 10 meters. That’s not as good as I would like.

Overall evaluation
I guess I’m surprised by the accuracy potential of this little spring rifle. It looks so small that I thought its performance would also be small. But it wasn’t. Of course, I’ve learned that this one is shooting a bit slow, so maybe there’s even more to see. I think this rifle deserves a 25-yard test before I strip it down and begin refinishing.

Testing a Diana model 23 breakbarrel rifle: Part 2

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

Part 1


Diana 23
Not as pretty as I would like. This Diana 23 has led a hard life.

Today, I’ll test the Diana model 23 for power. I don’t know what to expect from this airgun, other than not to expect too much. Certainly, the velocity will be low with a powerplant as small as this one.

Cocking effort
I said last time that the 23 looks like a perfect 3/4 replica of a model 27. Well, that extends to the cocking effort, too. Believe it or not, this rifle cocks with just 10 lbs. of effort, making it the easiest-cocking breakbarrel air rifle I’ve ever tested. I don’t know if the mainspring is in good condition, nor do I know what the piston seal looks like; so, it may be premature to say this rifle is representative of all Diana 23s.

The trigger is a direct sear type, with no provisions for adjustment. That’s too bad, because even though it’s two stage and reasonably crisp, stage 2 breaks at 6 lbs., 14 oz. That’s a little high for the best work; and on a rifle this light, it’s very high. It will be hard to use the artillery hold as a result of this heavy trigger.

RWS Hobby
The first pellet I tried was the all-lead, 7-grain RWS Hobby. As light as it is, I’d hoped to see the best velocity figures with this one. Hobbys averaged 381 f.p.s. in this 23. The low was 371, and the high was 401 f.p.s. with a spread of 30 f.p.s. I would have thought they’d go about 50 f.p.s. faster, but I’m still getting used to this gun. At the average velocity, Hobbys produced 2.26 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Talk about your pipsqueak air rifle!

Remember that I did oil the piston seal, which transferred oil to the breech seal, as well. This little rifle should be doing all that it can in its present state.

Crosman Premier lite
Next, I tried the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellet. I think this one is on the heavy side for such a small air rifle, but we’ll see. Premier lites left the muzzle at an average 376 f.p.s. Given what the Hobbys did, I thought that was pretty good. The low was 364 and the high was 389 f.p.s., for a spread of 25 f.p.s. At the average muzzle velocity, the energy was 2.48 foot-pounds.

JSB Exact RS
The last pellet I tried was the 7.3-grain JSB Exact RS dome. What a surprise they were! Looking at the velocity of the Premier lites and Hobbys, I guessed these pellets would be in the same neighborhood, but they weren’t. They seemed to fit the bore looser (not loose, but less tight than the other 2 pellets), and the average velocity was 452 f.p.s. That was what I expected from the Hobbys. So, how does a pellet that weighs even more than a Hobby go so much faster? I have to chalk it up to how well they fit the bore.

The low was 449 f.p.s., and the high was 454 f.p.s.; so, the spread was super tight, as well. At the average velocity, this pellet produced 3.31 foot-pounds of muzzle energy — which, while low, is still considerably higher than either of the other 2 pellets. I think this is one pellet I must test in the accuracy report that comes next.

As I mentioned, I’ve oiled the piston seal and breech seal and also rubbed down the entire rifle with Ballistol. I really don’t know the condition of the powerplant, but I suspect that it’s not as bad as the outside would make you believe. And the wood soaked up the Ballistol to shine almost like it did when the gun was new.

What I forgot to do
I’ve already tested this rifle for accuracy, and it turns out we’re going to be interested in the velocity of these pellets seated deep — instead of flush — into the breech. We’re also going to want to test this little rifle at 25 yards, so there’s still time for me to rerun the velocity test.

And then…
After the 25-yard test, I’m thinking of opening up this rifle and seeing the condition of the internal parts. I’m also thinking of stripping all the metal finish and rebluing the gun with Blue Wonder. I think this little rifle will be with us for some time to come.

Testing a Diana model 23 breakbarrel rifle: Part 1

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

I’m going to the Roanoke airgun show this week. I’ll be on the road starting Wednesday morning, and I’m asking you veteran readers to help the new readers with their questions, as I’ll have less time on the road to devote to the blog. My wife, Edith, will more closely monitor the blog comments and jump in whenever she can.

I’ve also selected a special gun to report this week — the Diana model 23. I did all the photography and testing before leaving, so I’ll be able to write the report while I’m on the road.

The model 23 is the largest youth rifle Diana made after the war, but that’s still very small. When you see one in person, it isn’t very impressive; but when you examine it in detail the way I have, you begin to appreciate all that Diana put into this gun. The size may not be there, but the quality certainly is.

My late friend, Mac, loved airguns like these. He used to buy them, fix them up if they needed it and give them to young kids with their parents’ permission. It was his way of perpetuating the sport. I never used to give these small airguns a second glance before I saw them through Mac’s eyes. So I guess this report is a sort of memorial to him.

About a month ago, I was prowling though the Gun Broker website and happened upon a listing for a Winchester model 432 air rifle for $30 with no reserve. There were only a couple days left on the listing, yet there were no bids on the gun. A look at the photos told me why.

Diana 23
Not as pretty as I would like. This Diana 23 has led a hard life.

The finish was mostly gone from the gun! But I read the description and looked more closely at the detail shots and realized this might be a project gun that somebody abandoned. The seller said it was still smooth and powerful, despite the loss of blue. Had the owner simply stripped off the old blue in hopes of refinishing it?

A word about Winchester airguns
The name Winchester is magic in the gun community. Real Winchester firearms do command good prices, and they always command attention. But Winchester never made an airgun. The Diana-series air rifles made for Winchester are all numbered in the 400-series, and this is a model 423, which translates to a Diana 23. Winchester had about as much to do with the making of this airgun as any of you! So, in the grand scheme of things, the Winchester name on an airgun should mean nothing.

Except, it sometimes does! Firearms owners who are unfamiliar with the Winchester/Diana relationship of the 1960s and ’70s sometimes place a high value on these guns, regardless of the fact they’re neither rare nor made any better than any other Dianas from the same timeframe.

Diana 23 Winchester markings
The mottled blue hides the Winchester name. The model number is at the right.

The listing noted the great loss of blue and also said there were no cracks in the wooden stock. The pictures were detailed and not flattering. Therefore, I made the assessment that the dealer was honest.

For just $30 ($50, total, with shipping) I thought this rifle was worth a gamble. Even if it was trash, the parts were worth that much since it can always be rebuilt. I took a risk, made a bid and won it!

A week later, a large box arrived through the U.S. Postal Service and inside was my new air rifle, well-packed in bubble wrap and peanuts. After unwrapping it, the first thing I did was drop 10 drops of silicone oil down the air transfer hole and work the piston up and down until I heard the leather seal squishing. That told me it was pliable. Then, I loaded the rifle and took the first shot — keeping the muzzle over a box to prevent the oil droplets from hitting the table.

The rifle did seem to have all the power it was supposed to. Next, I examined the entire gun thoroughly, looking for defects. I found none. I’d given it a quick once-over before firing it, of course, but this examination was longer and slower.

The date stamp on the left side of the spring tube told me the rifle had been made in February 1969, making it an early one with the Winchester name.

Diana 23 date stamp
The date stamp of 02 69 means the date of manufacture is February 1969.

The rifle
The Diana 23 is either a small adult rifle or a fully-developed youth model. The model 22 that’s farther down the price scale has a brass liner barrel with a sheet metal outer jacket, so the 23 is the smallest model with the full features of an adult gun.

This model came in both rifled and smoothbore versions. It was made from 1951 to 1982, according to the Blue Book of Airguns, and came in both .177 and .22 calibers. Mine is a .177 that curiously does not have the European caliber designation of 4.5mm anywhere on the gun.

Diana 23 caliber marking
The only caliber marking is .177.

The rifle is 35.50 inches long with a 14.50-inch barrel. The length of pull is 13 inches even, which is a quarter of an inch longer than the Air Venturi Bronco pull. The rifle weighs 3 lbs., 11 oz.

The stock is beech wood and cut from a thin slab, so the rounded shape is more in your mind than in reality. But the edges are all nicely rounded to promote the look of a fuller stock. The stain is medium brown and even. There are no spots of wood filler like Chinese rifles often have, but the rubber anti-skid button found on the models 25 and 27 is missing from the bottom of the butt.

The trigger is a direct-contact type, and there’s no adjustment. It’s 2-stage, and the second stage breaks very crisply — much more so than I was expecting from a rifle in this class.

The sights are a fixed, tapered blade at the front (called a Korn sight in Germany) and a rear leaf that’s adjustable only for elevation. Both the front and rear sights can be drifted in their dovetails for small windage corrections.

Diana 23 front sight
Front sight is a tapered blade.

Diana 23 rear sight
Rear sight is a leaf that adjusts for elevation.

I was pleased to discover that the seller was correct about the condition. The metal is mostly smooth, despite the appearance. Only the barrel has any roughness to it. I wonder if I could refinish the whole gun with Blue Wonder cold blue?

A little gem
As I examined the rifle, I began to see Mac’s fascination with it. In every way, it’s a perfect little 3/4 replica of a Diana 27. It’s beautiful in that respect. After wiping down the stock with Ballistol, I was surprised to find the wood is in 95 percent condition! It’s as nice as the stocks on all my other Dianas! Only the metal parts need refinishing to make this little gun a bright new penny, again.

I think I’m going to have fun with this one.

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