Posts Tagged ‘RWS Diana 54 Air King air rifle’

FWB 300S vintage target air rifle: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The FWB 300S is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.

Some more history
The first part of this report was certainly met with a lot of enthusiasm, so I think I’ll add some more history today. In the comments to Part 1, we had a discussion of the sport called Running Target. Some called it Running Boar, which it was for several decades, and long before that it was called Running Stag.

The sport originated in Germany, I believe, though it was probably popular in Austria and perhaps even in Switzerland. It existed at least as far back as the mid-19th century and was shot outdoors at a target pulled on tracks by human power. The original target was a male chamois made of wood with a target where the heart of the animal would be. But that target evolved into a male red deer, called a stag. The stag was exposed to the shooter for a specific number of seconds.

In time, the stag was replaced by a running boar, because the stag was thought to be a noble animal and the boar wasn’t so highly regarded…though in England they did have a similar sport called Running Deer.

As the match evolved, it picked up rules. There was a slow presentation of the target (5 seconds) and a fast presentation (2.5 seconds), and the shooter was supposed to shoot one shot on each pass. The target was engaged in both directions during the match. It wasn’t long before the wooden animals were switched for paper targets that were both cheaper and easier to score.

The Running Boar target was double-ended so it could be used in both directions on the same track.

The aim point was usually the animal’s nose, but that was the choice of each shooter.

Over the years, the rifles they used changed from muzzleloaders to centerfires, and eventually to rimfires and airguns, because of the increased opportunities for range safety. Today, both rimfires and airguns are still being used at the World Cup level.

The guns have traditionally used sights that account for the movement of the target and allow the correct amount of lead. When scopes came into the event, they were specialized with reticles that allowed for the lead to be dialed in. Anyone who owns an FWB 300S Running Target rifle with the correct scope has something to prize.

Gary Anderson brought a running target range to the Roanoke Airgun Expo back in the late 1990s, giving many airgunners the opportunity to closely examine the target setup. By the 1970s, the sport had become Running Target — to assuage those who felt shooting at boars was not politically correct. The sport was part of the 1992 Olympics, but was dropped after the 2004 games. It’s a sport that goes in and out of fashion as the years pass; but it’s still a World Cup event, so we may see more of it in time.

When the change was made to Running Target, the target was changed to a target with one central aim point and two bulls — one for each direction.

Velocity of the FWB 300S
Today is the day we check the velocity of this FWB 300S, so let’s get to it. When it was new, the 300S was advertised with a velocity of 640 f.p.s., though the pellet they was used to get that number was never specified. I will use a range of pellets I believe are appropriate to the power level of a spring gun like this. And, in a departure for me, one of the pellets I test will be domed.

Air Arms Falcon
I tested the Air Arms Falcon pellet even though it’s a domed pellet that’s not appropriate for target shooting, because many readers use these rifles with scopes for plinking and other pursuits. So, I’ll also shoot this pellet for accuracy — just to see what it can do.

This was the first pellet I tested, and I’m so glad I own a chronograph, because I learned something valuable about the 300S in this test. This rifle needs to warm up before it’ll shoot with stable velocity. Think of an older car from the 1950s that had to be warmed up for a minute or so and then driven slowly for the first mile to allow the parts to expand and start sealing as they should. Heck — most car engines from that era developed leaks pretty quickly, and you did whatever was necessary to keep them from wearing faster than they should. Well, this FWB 300S needs the same kind of warmup. Let me show you the first 9 shots.

Shot Velocity

So, if you shoot a 300S — or any of its derivatives — for score, maybe you better shoot about 10 shots just to warm the action before expecting the rifle to do its best.

After shot 9, the rifle became very stable and averaged 658 f.p.s. with the Falcon pellet. The low was 655, and the high was 671 f.p.s. At that speed, this pellet generates 7.05 foot-pounds. That’s pretty brisk for a 300S; but Mac, who traded the rifle to me, said it had just been sealed and overhauled by Randy Bimrose, so it’s performing at its best.

A couple observations
Before I move to the next pellet, I’d like to make a few observations. First, I said in Part 1 that the 300S action doesn’t need to be levered forward at the end of the cocking strike like the action of an RWS Diana model 54 Air King, but that was incorrect. It does have to be levered forward into lockup in just the same way, but the 300S action is so smooth that I didn’t notice it until now. With a Diana 54, you always notice it.

I mention this because, like the Diana 54, the 300S uses the sledge-type anti-recoil system; and even though it’s a gentle rifle, it has to operate in the same way as the more powerful Diana. Moving the action forward into lockup prepares the action to release when the gun fires and to move on the steel rails in the stock just a fraction of an inch, canceling the feel of recoil.

The second thing I noticed this time is that I can feel the cocking link bump over the mainspring coils as the cocking lever moves back to the stored position. I sometimes feel that same roughness in other spring rifles, where the tolerances are tight, and I thought I’d mention that this one does the same thing.

RWS R-10 Pistol pellets
Next, I tried the RWS R-10 Pistol pellet, which weigh 7 grains, even. I tried them because of their weight — not because I think they’ll be the most accurate pellet. I just want to show the rifle’s velocity with a reasonable range of pellet weights.

This pellet averaged 658 f.p.s. with a low of 640 and a high of 664 f.p.s. The low shot was the only one that went slower than 656 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 6.73 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets
The final pellet I tested was the 8.18-grain H&N Finale Match Rifle pellet. It averaged 609 f.p.s. and ranged from 597 to 616 f.p.s. The average velocity generated a muzzle energy of 6.74 foot-pounds

There you have it. This 300S is extremely healthy and ready to go target shooting in the next report! It’s still a joy to shoot and is a rifle that you should continue to covet if you’re so inclined.

One additional thing. There has been some talk of how accurate these rifles are at longer range. If you want, I’ll schedule a special fourth report in which I shoot this rifle outdoors at 50 yards. I’ll have to wait for a calm day, of course, but wouldn’t it be fun to see how this rifle shoots at that range?

FWB 300S vintage target air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The FWB 300s is considered the gold standard of vintage target air rifles.

I’ve danced around writing this report for the better part of a year, and some of you have asked me when I was going to get around to it. Well, today is the day we’ll begin looking at Feinwerkbau’s fabulous 300S — considered by many airgunners to be the gold standard of vintage 10-meter target air rifles.

Today’s blog is an important resource for those who are interested in fine vintage 10-meter target rifles, because I’m going to give you the links to all the other reports I’ve done.

FWB 150
Haenel 311
Walther LGV Olympia
HW 55 Tyrolean
Diana model 60

There are plenty of vintage 10-meter rifles that I haven’t tested for you yet. The Diana 75, the Anschutz 380, the Walther LGR, the Anschutz 250 and the Gamo 126 all come to mind; but if you want to split hairs, there are numerous similar models like the Walther LG55 and the Diana 65 that also belong to a very long list of classic oldies. But the guns we’ve looked at thus far are a fair representation of the classic era of target air rifles. Today, we’ll look at the rifle many consider to be the pinnacle of achievement during that period.

You probably know the history, but if you don’t — first there was the FWB 110, a sidelever target rifle that recoiled! Yes, it recoiled. What’s more, Feinwertkbau didn’t make too many of them. The 110 is considered to be a very desirable airgun collectible today, and many advanced airgunners, including me, have never even seen one. According to the Blue Book of Airguns, fewer than 200 were made from 1962-1964.

The FWB 150 followed the 110 and introduced Feinwerkbau’s anti-recoil system. I reviewed the FWB 150 for you last June. I found it to be easy to shoot and compellingly accurate, but it wasn’t everything it could be. That honor awaited the 300S that I’m reviewing for you today.

The FWB 150 is the predecessor of the 300S. It shares a more sporterized stock profile with the interim FWB 300.

A footnote deserves to be inserted here, as the first edition of the Beeman catalog, a collectible in its own right, also mentioned an FWB 200 model, existing at the same time as the 300. A short line in the Blue Book says the model 200 was similar to the model 300 but lacked the recoil-compensation system. Until I researched today’s report, the model 200 was unknown to me and I’ve certainly never seen one. Is it as rare as the model 110? Has anyone ever seen one? These are the curious things that pop up as we research this fascinating hobby, and they’re what keeps the collector in me in a permanent state of anticipation.

The model 300 was much like the 150, in that it has a single coiled, steel mainspring and a thinner, more sporterized stock, yet it was definitely labeled a 300, rather than the 150. You don’t see as many straight 300 rifles as you do 150 rifles these days. Perhaps that’s because when the 300S came out it overshadowed the 300 and drove it from the marketplace in fairly short order. The 300S was a very different gun.

If you’re like me, you never paid much attention to the difference between a 300 and the 300S. What’s in a letter designation, after all? A lot of things, as it turns out.

Let’s start with the mainspring. The 300S has two coiled steel springs that are wound in opposite directions. It’s said they cancel the slight amount of torque at firing, though I cannot say that I’ve ever noticed any torque in my 150. The RWS Diana 48 sidelever does have noticeable torque upon firing, and you’ll feel a definite rocking to the right after the trigger is pulled. Since the sidelever already unbalances that rifle, the feeling is magnified; but the 150 doesn’t have the same feeling. At least — my rifle, which was recently tuned by Randy Bimrose, doesn’t.

The 300S stock is shorter than the stock on the 300/150. It also has a more vertical pistol grip to enhance the offhand hold. A slight flare at the bottom might go unnoticed in the catalog photos; but when you hold the rifle, the pistol grip grabs you right back.

Anti-recoil mechanism
So, how does this rifle block the recoil? Well, for starters, it actually doesn’t! All the FWB spring-piston target rifles do recoil; but in the 150 models and the 300-series there’s a special system in the stock that isolates the shooter from the movement. A set of steel rails set into the stock allows the action to move while the stock remains still. The shooter doesn’t feel any recoil and only the slightest vibration in some guns. But you do notice the movement of the action, because of the eyepiece that’s close to your sighting eye. The movement is very short — on the order of a quarter-inch or so — but if you’re close to the rear sight you’ll notice it. A rubber eyecup helps take up the shock and prevent your eye from banging into the rear sight disk, and I find it necessary to use this accessory with this model rifle.

This system is called the sledge system, after the name for a dry-land type of sled whose runners make it easy to drag heavy loads. It’s completely different from the Giss anti-recoil system, in which a counterweighted piston actually has no discernible recoil.

This mechanism is very refined compared to a similar system found on the RWS Diana model 54 Air King. Of course, that magnum spring-piston rifle has to deal with three times the power in a rifle of similar weight, so it’s actually doing quite a good job of canceling the recoil. Still, when the 300S lever is retracted, there’s no “levering” of the action required at the end of the cocking stroke like you have with the Diana 54. The ratcheting anti-beartrap safety that prevents the sliding compression chamber from smashing your thumb during loading does not need a separate button to release the cocking lever after you’ve loaded. The only extra step the 300S does have is a small locking latch on the sidelever that unlocks the lever at the start of the cocking stroke. The 150 and 300 cocking levers both have an end section that pivots outward to unlock the cocking lever and achieve the same thing.

Press down on the cocking lever latch to release the lever for cocking and loading.

The sidelever on a 300S is also much shorter than the one on the 150, yet the cocking effort remains as light. Obviously, some geometry was changed when the model was updated.

Daisy gun
My 300S is a Daisy gun. While many were imported and sold by Beeman, many more came into the U.S. through Daisy when the company was trying to establish itself as a target gun company. The FWB name trumped the Daisy name, however, and a Daisy FWB is exactly the same as one from Beeman or one imported directly from Europe.

This 300S came from Daisy.

No piston seal
Another odd but not unique feature of these rifles is the lack of a conventional piston seal. Instead of a traditional seal, they use a metal ring much like those found on an automobile engine’s piston. These rings will last for millions of cycles, as some club guns have demonstrated, though other parts like the breech seal will eventually have to be replaced. And the coiled steel mainspring set needs occasional replacement, as well.

Many Webley pistols and a couple of the older Webley rifles have the same design, so piston rings are not unique in the airgun world. They are, however, features that are found only on guns of quality.

When the 150/300 was new, American airgunners were not used to light target triggers as a rule. They were accustomed to a 3-lb. pull being considered light. So, when they encountered the FWB trigger that releases at ounces rather than pounds, they were astounded. In fact, if they’d been accustomed to shooting the older target rifles from the 19th century, like Ballards, Maynards and Winchesters, all of which had fine double-set triggers, they would have been less impressed.

The 300S trigger has a nominal pull weight ranging from 3.5 oz. to 17.7 oz. (an optional trigger spring boosts that range from 10.6 oz. to 52.8 oz.). In target rifle terms, even the lighter range is not very light, though I find it just right for me. The trigger on my rifle releases at a satisfying 4.4 oz. It’s a two-stage pull with stage two being very definite. With practice, you can get on target and “think” the trigger off as the sight picture becomes perfect.

The 300S trigger also adjusts for position, cant and first-stage travel — all things that the 150 trigger does not do. Although the 150 trigger is just as light and crisp as the one on the 300S, you can’t reposition it. It’s also curved like a sporting trigger instead of straight like the target trigger found on the 300S.

The trigger of a target air rifle has no lower limit, the way a target air pistol does. In the ISSF rules for air pistols, a match pistol trigger must break at more than 500 grams (17.64 oz.). This is done in the interest of safety, as the muzzle of a pistol is too easy to move while on a firing line. But a rifle like the 300S is more obvious and easier to control, so there’s no lower limit. Some target air rifles today are releasing at less than 50 grams (1.76 oz.) of force.

Stock configuration
The stocks of the vintage target air rifles show a fairly broad latitude of design, but they stop short in a few important areas. Tyrolean stocks are not permitted in World Cup and Olympic matches, nor are butt hooks. Today’s rifles are studies in ergonomics applied against these rules. Today, a 300S looks fairly normal to eyes that are accustomed to wild aluminum stocks with numerous adjustments; but when it was new, it seemed to push the envelope of possibility. I suppose it’s equivalent to how the finned cars of the late 1950s appeared when they were new compared to how we see them today.

Another drastic measure was taken at the World Cup level in the realm of target sights. For a brief time, the tube-type rear aperture sight was used, but complaints that it gave an unfair advantage caused a ruling that it was no longer permitted. This is very odd, since tube-type sights have been in use since at least 1776 and were in widespread use in target matches throughout the 19th century. But the ruling was made, and today’s rear sights cannot use tubes to enhance the sharpness of the sight picture.

FWB target rear sights looked as exotic as a Rolex watch when they were new in the 1970s. Today, they seem almost simple, but they still do the job. The click detents are nowhere close to the thousandth-inch measurements of the Vernier scale peep sights I showed you recently; but since you’re shooting 10 meters instead of 1,000 yards, they’re more than adequate for the job.

Unfortunately, these rifles were also sold without sights for a slightly reduced price, and many buyers mounted short scopes on their 11mm sight dovetails. While they may have been pleased with the gun that way, they created a shortage of sights for the future that is difficult to resolve. Until five years ago, you either had to install a hoplessly crude rear sight made either in Spain or China and live with the problems of adjustment backlash, or you had to pony up almost as much money as you paid for the entire rifle just to buy a set of precision sights.

AirForce corrected that lack for you with their adaptive rear target sight that fits most 10-meter guns. For about a third of what a German rear sight costs, you get a unit that’s the equivalent of the vintage FWB rear sight; and as a bonus, it looks at home on any rifle. An additional feature that never seems to get mentioned is this sight can be removed from its base and installed in a standard one-inch scope ring — multiplying the possible applications greatly.

The front sight looks more conventional and is of the globe design with replaceable inserts. On the 300S, it’s part of a larger aluminum barrel sleeve that makes it proprietary. When the globe on an Anschütz or Weihrauch target rifle slides onto a dovetail, this globe actually fits only the 300S barrel.

The front sight on this HW55 attaches to two dovetails of standard width. All Weihrauch rifles that have dovetails can use this sight.

The FWB 300S front sight globe is integral with an aluminum sleeve that fits over the barrel. It’s either this or nothing!

The front sight is pinned to the barrel through the sight base. On some versions of the 300S, like the Universal and the later Match, this pin is at the bottom of the barrel. On my rifle it’s located at the top.

You may have also noticed that the 300S has a blued barrel sleeve that’s slenderer than the one on the 150. Only toward the end of the barrel does it swell a bit. That’s because the 300S barrel is longer than the one on the 150, so there has to be less sleeve material to balance the weight correctly.

But the real test of this airgun comes with shooting. I’ve already shot this rifle several times, so I know what’s in store. You should feel eager expectation for the next two installments, because this rifle wants to shoot!

Airgun selling strategies

by B.B.Pelletier

I attended a gun show this past weekend; and on the first day, I noticed something that I’ve seen for many years but never appreciated. Most of the people who attend gun shows don’t know what airguns are worth. You can benefit from that.

Nobody knows what airguns are worth!
Across the aisle from me, a dealer had a Daisy model 21 double-barreled gun laid out. When I examined it, I noticed that it was really beat-up. It was a 20 percent gun, at best.

The dealer said he wanted a thousand dollars for this gun, because he’d seen one new in the box selling for $3,500 on the internet. He knew his was a junker, but he figured it must be worth that much at least.

He probably saw the asking price for the new-in-the-box gun. There are lots of outrageous prices like that online, and they usually never get a nibbler. But some people use those bogus prices as their starting point, and this dealer was one of them.

I’ll be attending the Roanoke Airgun Expo in a couple weeks, and I expect to see half a dozen to twenty model 21 Daisys, ranging from $300 for beaters, like the one I described, up to perhaps $1,400 for one like-new in the box. Yes, the price spectrum is really that broad, but it doesn’t continue on up into the stratosphere like many people hope and dream.

So, here’s an idea. Get a real cheap model 21 and bring it to a gun show! While you’re at it, there are many more airguns you can dispose of in this manner.

Airguns that firearms people like
You can’t go wrong with any of the Winchester-marked Diana breakbarrels. At the gun show, they think the name adds value. So your $200 Winchester 427 is now worth $250 or even more.

Older Benjamins and Crosmans always seem to go well. Since I am old myself, let me explain that by old I mean pre-1960. Pre-war is even better. And by pre-war, I mean before World War II.

Older and classic Daisys sell well. Older Daisys command attention wherever they are. But there are classic guns that don’t have to be old. The No. 25 is the poster child of all classic BB guns, and guns made in Rogers in the 1970s are very attractive to non-airgun buyers. You can pick them up cheap everywhere and make a nice profit when you sell them to someone who doesn’t know how common they are.

Another certain seller is an older, well-made gun like a Webley Senior or a Tell III. However, you have to buy them right, because gun show guys just don’t understand $300 pellet guns. Guns like the Weihrauch HW 45 (Beeman P1) are not so good, because you’ll usually have to pay too much to get them; or if you do get one right, it’ll be too hard to explain it to a non-airgunner.

But whatever you bring has to function, because these guys don’t want to collect them. They’ll be reliving their childhood with the treasures they buy from you. Spend the money to get them sealed and working before you lay them out, and you’ll be surprised at the response you get.

Older, vintage-looking guns
There’s a small market for wall-hangers at gun shows. I recently sold several cheap shotguns to guys who just wanted them as accent pieces for the wall. Well, what about older Daisys and Kings that reek of the 1920s? What about a real old Benjamin model D that isn’t worth fixing, but has great lines? Just be sure to pay pennies for guns like this, because you’ll sell them for pennies, as well.

Safety first
One thing you absolutely cannot do at a gun show is dry-fire an airgun. People do it at airgun shows, and I think some folks believe it’s okay. If you do it even one time at a gun show, you’ll be ejected from the show and banned from returning.

Become “the airgun guy”
Pick a gun show and attend it regularly. Soon, the dealers and veteran attendees will know you as the airgun guy. Whenever someone brings an airgun to the show, they’ll be directed to your table. Whenever someone asks about where the airguns are, they’ll be sent to you. You won’t have much competition at most of the smaller gun shows, from what I’ve seen.

The more regularly you attend a show, the more traffic you’ll build. These are people who will come to the show just because they know you’ll be there. They may have a gun that needs to be fixed or they may have just bought a collection that included airguns. Whatever the connection, if you’re the airgun guy, all the business will come to you.

Feinwerkbau 150: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Here’s this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 gift card.

This was taken by A.J. Stewart right after a blizzard in New York. Edith says this reminds her of the movie “Where Eagles Dare.”

Part 1
Part 2

The FWB 150 is a classic target rifle from the past. It’s also the father of the FWB 300.

Today, we’ll see if the FWB 150 target rifle can shoot. A couple good things have happened in the meantime to help me with today’s test. First, you may remember the last time I shot the Ballard rifle I discovered how to best hold it (on the bench) for really fine results. I applied all I learned there to the 150, and it did seem to help.

Next, you remember I reported that my eyes had suddenly gone bad a few months back? That was due to some blood sugar issues and the fact that my body was so dehydrated that my eyes had lost enough fluid to alter their prescription. They’re back to being very close to where they used to be now that I’m controlling my blood sugar, so sighting with non-optical sights is getting easier.

While my eyes were bad, I discovered that if I used a 500-watt quartz photo lamp on the target instead of a 75-watt lamp, I could see the target better. Now that my eyes are recovering almost all their former power, it’s even more helpful to use such bright illumination. I remember from the NRA National Junior Air Rifle matches that each of the 140 shooters on line had a 500-watt quartz lamp illuminating each target. So, the answer was there all along, I just wasn’t paying attention.

Finally, my 150 rear sight came with a Gehmann color filter; and when I switched from clear to dark yellow, all the mirage left the target. Mirage is when the target appears to distort and even move while you’re sighting. The yellow filter in this case cancels that and the bull stays put and also perfectly round.

My rear aperture sight has an extra attachment. A Gehmann color filter (the two knurled rings with the silver ring in between) allow you to select one of several filters through which to view the front sight. I found that far from being a gimmick. It really worked.

I began the test with RWS Hobby pellets, knowing that I probably needed to sight-in. The rifle was laid directly on a sandbag at 10 meters, because the 150′s sledge anti-recoil system acts like the perfect artillery hold, just like the RWS Diana model 54 Air King did the other day.

In fact, there were a lot of comparisons between the 150 and the Diana 54. Both are sidelevers, but where the 54 action has to be levered into position by the sidelever before the shot, the 150 doesn’t do that. The target rifle is so easy to cock that you can leave it in position on the bag and simply pull the sidelever.

Also, the shot cycle of the 150 is far smoother than that of the 54. In fact, this one is smooth for a 150. The tuneup really changed the nature of this gun for the positive.

All of the following shot groups are five shots. I continued to adjust the zero throughout the testing, so if the point of impact seems to move from target to target, it’s because it really does.

One last observation before I begin the report. The other day while testing the Diana 54, I complained because I shot out the point of aim early on, making it difficult to aim precisely. A scope sight needs something in the center of the target for the crosshairs to align with. With an aperture sight, you can hit the exact center of the bull repeatedly and never notice it, because you’re using the outside of the black bullseye to sight. That’s why I felt comfortable adjusting the sights to hit the center of my targets.

RWS R10 Match Heavy pellets
For some reason, RWS R-10 Match Heavy pellets produced the largest groups of the four pellets I tested. I shot several groups and then tested all the other pellets in turn. Finally, I returned and shot a couple more groups with R10s, but they just didn’t want to group as tight as the others. The best group I shot measured 0.191 inches.

Try as I might, this was the best group I shot with RWS R-10 Heavy target pellets.

Next came the H&N Match Pistol pellets. They shot tighter groups than the R10, but still not as good as I was expecting from this rifle. The best group measured 0.153 inches between centers.

H&N Match Pistol pellets were better in the 150.

Then, I switched to H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets and saw an immediate improvement. There were several good groups, but the best one measured 0.119 inches between centers.

H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets shot one of the smallest groups of the test.

The last pellet I tried was also the first one I’d started with — the RWS Hobby. For some unknown reason, Hobbys shot the generally tightest groups of all four pellets in this particular rifle. Even though H&N Pistol Match tied them on one target, Hobbys were best overall.

RWS Hobby pellets also shot the smallest groups of the test. This one measures 0.119 inches.

End of the test
Well, that was a good look at the FWB 150, and it sets us up for the next report on the FWB 300S, a later, more refined version of the same gun. I found the 150 to be a good blend of old-world craftsmanship and the latest technology of its day. Ten-meter rifles continued to evolve and get easier to shoot after the 150 was left behind, but they didn’t get much more accurate.

RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

The RWS Diana 54 recoilless air rifle, also called the Air King, is big, beautiful, powerful and accurate.

Today, we’ll test the RWS Diana model 54 Air King for accuracy. Before I show you the targets, however, let me mention a couple of things.

Some observations
First, I shot this rifle for today’s test rested directly on a sandbag. There was no artillery hold. As I mentioned in the earlier reports, the Air King anti-recoil system acts like an artillery hold and is able to do so perfectly. There’s no reason to rest this gun on the palm of your hand. That’s not because the rifle is recoilless, but rather because of how the rifle handles recoil.

In the 54, the action slides in the stock when the gun fires. It always slides the same distance and always contacts the same points within the stock, so the system acts like a perfect artillery hold. A rifle having a different anti-recoil system like the Giss contra-piston system, for example, doesn’t work the same way and does need to be held in the artillery hold for best accuracy; but those guns that use the sledge system — like this one and a few FWB target rifles — do not.

Next I want to comment on the trigger. The one I’m testing is a T05 and very nice. It has a positive two-stage pull with a crisp second-stage let-off. It does have a plastic trigger blade, but that isn’t important because it isn’t one of the wearing parts within the trigger assembly. Everything that wears is steel and properly hardened.

The one detractor of this trigger is that the blade is too curved. A straighter blade would feel better. I am going to test the new T06 trigger soon, and I’m going to scrutinize it closely because it has a long way to go to be better than the T05.

Finally, I used a prototype UTG scope base with a lot of built-in droop to mount the CenterPoint 3-9x40AO scope on the test rifle, and it STILL shot low. So, a lot of droop is still present in Diana guns, and it still needs to be addressed with a drooper mount. I did find that the UTG base sped up the scope-mounting process, turning a half-hour job into a 10-minute task. The scope I used is an older one and doesn’t have the illuminated reticle of the scope I linked to here.

The UTG scope base does raise the scope quite high, but the high comb on the 54 was able to elevate my face to the exit pupil. I could have easily used a scope with a 56mm objective lens and still had clearance for the scope over the spring tube.

Because I am still recovering from a hernia operation, I shot only a single 10-shot group with each pellet tested. Ten-shot groups really require a lot of cocking, and this sidelever isn’t the easiest gun to cock. The distance was 25 yards, and all groups contain 10 shots.

The first pellet I tested was the venerable 14.3-grain Crosman Premier, which is well-known as one of the best for this .22 caliber rifle. They fit the breech easily but were not loose. And the gun buzzed a lot when firing them.

Nine of the ten pellets made a group measuring 0.518 inches between centers. But pellet six strayed outside this neat little hole to enlarge the group to 0.929 inches between centers. It wasn’t a called flyer, it just went outside the group for no reason I can explain.

After the Premiers, I loaded 10 JSB Exact 15.8-grain domes, which are often even better than Premiers in some airguns.

Ten JSB Exact 15.8-grain domes made this group, which measures 0.613 inches between centers.

Finally, I tried some Predator Polymag pellets that everyone likes to use for hunting. They fit the 54 breech very tight, but went in without a lot of forcing. They expand well on small game and are especially effective in .22 caliber.

Ten JSB Predator Polymag pellets made this 0.975-inch group at 25 yards.

Well, there you have it. I think if I were to shoot additional groups of Premiers, most 10-shot groups would look like that first 9-shot group. Because I didn’t season the bore with each new pellet, I think I would have gotten slightly better groups if I had.

Ten shots into a half-inch at 25 yards is not to be sneezed at, though I really thought I would do better. I was thinking I could get half-inch groups out at 35 yards from this rifle. It might still be possible, but I think I’ve demonstrated that the 54 is an air rifle to be reckoned with.

RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The RWS Diana 54 recoilless air rifle, also called the Air King, is big, beautiful, powerful and accurate.

There’s certainly a lot of interest in this RWS Diana model 54 Air King rifle. We heard from many readers, including some surprises. We also saw a lot of interest among those who have considered buying the rifle but have not yet taken the plunge. Also, I heard a few disturbing things.

Light-duty barrel?
The first disturbing thing I heard was a question about whether the 54 really does have a “light-duty” barrel. Since I never raised that issue in this report I have to assume the reader read it on one of the forums. The RWS Diana 54 does not have a light-duty barrel, but I think I know where this comes from. The rifle has a metal jacket surrounding the barrel, and if it’s removed the true barrel does look out of proportion with the large proportions of the rest of the airgun. But it isn’t too thin for the job it’s asked to do. In fact, it’s a normal barrel diameter, but that fat metal jacket makes it appear thin in comparison. Since you don’t cock the rifle with the barrel, it’s plenty strong.

One tip Mac wants me to pass along to all of you is that the barrel jacket must be absolutely tight to have good accuracy. If it gets loose, accuracy goes away. When people fool with the front sight, the barrel jacket sometimes gets loose. The jacket on the test rifle is as tight as can be, so we should see some good groups.

Two-stage trigger?
This is another concern that was raised. Yes, the trigger is two-stage. Whether it’s a T01, a T05 or the new T06, when it finally comes out. They’re all two-stage triggers. But some owners don’t like two-stage triggers, so they adjust the first stage out. You can do that and if you do, what remains is just a single stage.

You need to read the trigger adjustment instructions in the manual for your rifle, or go online to the library of manuals on the Pyramyd Air website. Here is the page with trigger adjustments. The trigger can be adjusted to be crisp and even, if you take the time to read the manual and follow the instructions.

Is the rifle too heavy?
The 54 is a large, heavy air rifle. It’s not the gun to tote around in the woods all day. It’s more of a take-it-to where-you-want-to-shoot gun. I have a lot of firearms in my collection that are like that. The M1 Garand isn’t a rifle to carry all day unless you have to, nor is the Ballard, nor my Remington Rolling Block. These are all too heavy to lug around, but when the time comes to hit the target, these are the best rifles to have. I think the 54 is like that, too.

Before you decide to buy a 54, think about how you intend using it. If you want tight groups at 50 yards, this is one of the best spring rifles you can buy. But if you want to shoot 500 rounds in a lazy afternoon, get an Air Venturi Bronco or a TF39 from Tech Force.

Bent cocking link?
Finally, here’s a complaint from a long time ago, but one that is still valid today. A reader wrote that the cocking link of his RWS Diana sidelever rifle (could have been a 48, 52 or 54) was bent when he got it. We went back and forth on this blog for days about it. A new link was ordered and I believe installed. All, for naught.

The cocking link is flexible and is supposed to be bent! Besides linking the sidelever to the sliding compression chamber, the link also acts as a spring that flexes when the lever is closed. It pops over center and maintains force to keep the sidelever pressed tight against the side of the rifle. In other words, it’s designed to look bent and to do exactly what it does. So, keep outa da mechanism! Just cock, load and shoot.

Cocking effort
Unlike the RWS Diana 48 sidelever, the 54 cocking mechanism has one additional function to accomplish. It has to lever the entire barreled action forward to set the rifle in position for recoilless operation. Whatever force that takes must be added to the regular cocking effort needed to make the gun ready to shoot. I found the test rifle cocked with 33 lbs. of force, which is exactly as advertised. Levering the action in the stock at the end of the cocking stroke dropped the effort back to 30 lbs., so in this case, the rifle doesn’t need any additional effort. You simply have to pull the lever back a little farther with this model.

Velocity with Premiers
The test rifle is a .22 caliber and Crosman Premiers averaged 827 f.p.s. for 10 shots. The velocity went from a low of 824 to a high of 833 f.p.s., so a total spread of 9 f.p.s. That’s tight for a springer. At the average velocity, this 14.3-grain pellet generates 21.72 foot pounds.

JSB Exact 14.3-grain pellets
The JSB Exact Jumbo Express pellet weighs 14.3 grains, also, but it’s pure lead, unlike the Premier. That usually means it’ll be faster, but in the test rifle that wasn’t the case. This pellet averaged 794 f.p.s. and the total spread was 22 f.p.s., from 781 to 803 f.p.s. The average velocity generated 20.02 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

RWS Hobbys
The last pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby. This is a light lead pellet that weighs 11.9 grains. Normally, the lighter pellets generate higher muzzle energy in spring guns and these averaged 872 f.p.s., with a spread of 9 f.p.s., ranging from 867 to 876 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they generated 20.10 foot-pounds, so the norm didn’t hold this time. The heavier Premiers were also the most powerful pellets tried in the test rifle.

Overall observations
Thus far, this rifle is behaving very well on the test. It’s broken-in but not tuned in any way. What I got is also what you can expect from a rifle after it’s been broken in.

The firing behavior is buzzy, though recoilless. I would like to get rid of that buzz, but if I do it with lubricants I will lose about 2-3 foot-pounds. A better way would be to machine some tighter-fitting parts to eliminate the vibration. Since I don’t have the tools to do that, I’d have to pay to get it done. I don’t think I’m going to shoot this rifle enough to justify a professional tune. I’ll just put up with the buzz and let things remain where they are.

RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The RWS Diana 54 recoilless air rifle, also called the Air King, is big, beautiful, powerful and accurate.

Recent interest among our readers in the Beeman P1 pistol has given me cause to revisit some of the other classic airguns I’ve tested in the past. If the guns are still available for sale, I’m taking a look at the old reports to see if they stand up to our current standards. Today’s rifle, the RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle, was the first classic airgun to be considered, though it did struggle with the Beeman R1 to get there. I read the old reports on this classic recoilless spring-piston air rifle and was surprised to see how different they are from what I do today. It’s time for an update.

RWS Diana 54
This rifle is made by Mayer & Grammelspracher Dianawerk, an airgun manufacturer located in Rastatt, Germany. The gun is imported into the U.S. by RWS USA, which is where the RWS name comes into the picture. The model 54 is a recoilless version of the Diana sidelever rifle action. I’ll have more to say about the recoilless system at the end of this report, but now let’s look at some general information on all the Diana sidelevers.

When the 1,000 f.p.s. “barrier” was broken for the first time by a .177 caliber Beeman R1, I thought we’d gone as far as we could go in terms of velocity. That was in 1981. After a few more years, though, Diana brought out their model 48 and 52, which were sidelever rifles that advertised 1,100 f.p.s. in .177 caliber. And, they really could do it! At that point, all bets were off and the power race was on.

But the recoilless model 54 waited until 1993 to come to market. When it did come out, however, it made a big splash, because not only could you break the sound barrier, you could now do so with a rifle that also handled sweet, like a Feinwerkbau 300. That fact fascinated many airgunners of the day, but not me. You see, I didn’t believe it at the time. I’ll come back to that.

The rifle
The first impression everyone gets of a model 54 is how large it is. Both the 48 and 52 have somewhat slender stocks, but the 54 is mounted in a fat, rounded stock that conveys the impression of great size. Weighing well over 9 lbs., it dwarfs most contemporary magnum centerfire rifles. The next thing you notice is the checkering. It wraps around the forearm and conveys great quality. The pistol grip is also checkered with the same sharp impressed diamonds (pressed into the wood by heat and a metal die). As far as ambidexterity goes, the cheekpiece is only on the left side of the butt, and the cocking lever cannot be moved, but other than that this rifle is reasonably ambidextrous.

The wood has a medium-brown stain and a satin finish. The inletting and fit is very good. Because of the anti-recoil system Diana used, the action cannot be tightly fitted to the stock. The buttpad is a black rubber that’s separated from the stock with a white line spacer. All major metal parts are finished semi-shiny. There are some plastic finishing touches on the rifle here and there, but it’s mostly a wood and metal airgun. Most of the metal you can touch is steel.

The trigger
The 54 trigger is both crisp and adjustable. When the rifle’s cocked, the safety automatically comes on. It sticks straight out the back of the spring tube and can be taken off with the thumb of your firing hand as you grip the rifle to shoot.

While a Diana trigger is not in the same category as a Rekord or Air Arms trigger, it’s still very good and can be adjusted to a crisp, light release. It’s certainly far ahead of other spring-gun triggers that have many aftermarket upgrades. Once you get it adjusted to suit your needs, it should serve you well for as long as you own the rifle.

Diana sights have always been good and so are the current ones. The front sight is a post attached to an inclined ramp that’s cast into the muzzle piece. It allows the front sight to be raised (lowering the shot) and lowered. The rear sight is a click-adjustable open notch that offers a choice of four different notch shapes. As open sights go, this is a good one, but very few U.S. owners will use it.

As powerful and accurate as the 54 is, it begs to be scoped. It certainly does if you want the absolute best performance the rifle can give. Now that the UTG scope base exists, nothing could be easier than mounting a scope to this rifle. Because many of the sidelever rifles do have some barrel droop, I recommend using the scope base that’s made for this particular model. Even if it raises the impact of your shots higher than you need, no harm is done. No one ever needs a negative adjustment range on their scope, so any downward adjustment below the sight in impact point is wasted. But a scope that has to be adjusted too high is the death of accuracy.

With all the power that’s available, I feel the 54 is ideal for .22 caliber. However, because it’s recoilless, it also works in .177 caliber, as long as you use heavier pellets that are accurate. Personally, though, the .22 is my pick, and the rifle I’m testing is a .22.

No, the RWS Diana 54 is not actually recoilless. Neither is the Feinwerkbau 150 nor the 300 target rifle. What they do is isolate the shooter from the recoil by allowing the barreled action of the gun to slide backwards in the stock when it fires. Because of this, rifles like these apply a perfect artillery hold on their own and you can hold them like you hold Winchester .30-30s and still do remarkably well. Because you are not restraining the rifle from recoiling when you do.

When the rifle is cocked, it sets itself up to counter the piston’s movement. When the piston takes off, the rifle moves backwards in the stock on steel rails that are hidden from sight. This is called the sledge anti-recoil system and it works remarkably well. It also means you can rest a 54 directly on sandbags and get superior accuracy, because the stock does all the work.

This system works so well that shooters are surprised by the accuracy of the rifle the first time they shoot it. All that’s happening is the rifle is executing a perfect artillery hold, instead of the shooter having to perfect his technique. Since I’m one of the converts, this is something I know about. Until I first shot a 54, I didn’t see how it could be anything more than a glorified 52 that didn’t recoil. But I was missing the greater benefit of a consistent artillery hold. I actually out-shot my TX200 with a Diana 54; and ever since discovering that, I’ve been trying to spread the word.

In an ironic twist of fate, there once was a semi-recoilless version of the TX200, but I owned one and tested many others and can report that they were not well-executed. They were no more accurate than the straight TX200, plus they took a bunch more effort to cock. The Diana 54, in sharp contrast, got everything right and is the airgun it should be.

This report might potentially go longer than three parts if enough ancillary testing needs to be done. You readers will tell me what you’d like to see.

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