RWS Diana 34

by B.B Pelletier

A reader pointed out that I have never looked at the RWS Diana 34 before, so today I will rectify that. I have actually owned a couple of 34s over the years, and I’ve had both calibers. My time spent with other Diana guns is helpful as well, since things such as triggers and barrels are shared between models.

What IS a Diana 34?
The Diana 34 is an entry-level, German-made Diana breakbarrel spring-piston rifle. It’s important that you know this rifle is made in Germany, because in recent years, RWS, like Beeman, has added guns to their lines made in Spain and now China. While the powerplants of guns from those countries might be as good as the lower-cost German guns, the barrels and triggers usually aren’t.

Both calibers are good
The 34 comes in both .22 and .177, and, at the power level it achieves, it’s good in both calibers. Though it is rated at 1,000 f.p.s. in .177, it actually achieves around 920-950 with light Hobby pellets and in the high 700s with heavier Beeman Kodiaks. That’s when the gun is running right. In .22, you’ll get velocities in the high 500s/low 600s with heavy pellets and the high 600s/low 700s with light pellets.

It’s fairly easy to cock, at just over 30 lbs. of effort when broken in. The trigger is a two-stage adjustable model that can be adjusted for a crisp release. The stock is as plain as a wood stock can get, with just a raised cheekpiece and also a Monte Carlo profile to help scope users. The absence of a rubber buttpad means you must be careful when standing the rifle up on its butt.

The flagship of the Diana line
Diana designed the 34 to be an entry-level air rifle. At the time it was introduced, it had no raised cheekpiece or Monte Carlo profile. There was also a higher-priced model 36 that came with a rubber buttpad, front globe sight with replaceable inserts and a well-profiled stock with checkering. The model 38 was even nicer because it had all of those features plus a walnut stuck. The actions of all three rifles were identical. But, customers voted with their wallets, and only the 34 remains. For many years, it was Diana’s best-selling model, and it may still be today.

Scope mounting
The 34 has the same scope-mounting deficiencies that most other Diana guns have, in that there is NO way to anchor a scope mount! You have to use a one-piece scope mount and let the scope stop pin hang down in front of the 11mm dovetail ramp on the receiver, same as for all the Diana sidelevers. That means a portion of the scope mount will hang off the rail at the front, but it’s the only safe way to stop the mount from moving under recoil.

A big airgun!
This is a large air rifle, whose dimensions are well-suited to full-grown adults. Don’t think of it as a youth gun just because the price is so low. It’s the kind of air rifle that can grow with you as time passes. You can start out with just the rifle by itself and shoot for years using the sights that come with it. When the time comes, investing in a tuneup is worth the trouble because both the accuracy and the trigger warrant it. For a scope, I would choose a Leapers 3-9x40mm with a red/green reticle.

One note to owners. If you feel a distinct bump when cocking the rifle toward the end of the stroke, it means the plastic mainspring guide has broken. You can continue to shoot your rifle without damaging it, but your velocity will be lower.

The 34 can do what any of the powerful breakbarrels can. In .22, it’s a good hunting gun; in .177 you can use it for field target. It’s worth adding a nice scope and shooting premium pellets such as Crosman Premiers (I recommend the 7.9-grain in .177 and the 14.3 grain in .22.) You can also try Beeman Kodiaks and JSB Exacts in both calibers. This rifle is somewhat sensitive to hold as well as hand placement under the forearm. I like putting my open palm under the start of the cocking slot.

I am sorry I didn’t get around to this rifle before, but now I have, so it’s time for all you owners to chime in and tell the readers what you think of your air rifle.

Killing snakes with an airgun

by B.B. Pelletier

This is not your normal posting, because I don’t usually discuss killing critters with airguns. That’s not going to change, but a question last week prompted me to write this one post. A reader asked if there was a good semiauto pellet gun for under $100 that he might use to kill venomous snakes. Of course, there is no semiauto pellet gun for less than $100 and even if there was, it wouldn’t be the thing for hunting snakes. What you want is a single-shot breakbarrel.

What I’m about to share with you, I had discovered 30 years ago and have used it successfully ever since. I’ve killed many snakes, venomous and otherwise, with this tip – every one was a one-shot instant kill.

When I was a young man, I went on a camping trip in northern California’s Marble Mountain Wilderness Area with two friends. In those days (mid-1960s) the roads were unpaved, and it really WAS a wilderness area. We camped for four days and never saw another human being. But, I did almost step on a Pacific rattler in a creekbed!

The snake was a young one and his rattles were so high-pitched that he sounded like a large hornet. When I discovered him, he was three feet away and reared up to strike. I drew my M1911 Colt (in California, no less!) and let fly with a full clip, but the bullets all went through his thick body without stopping him. Alright, I MIGHT have missed once or twice. The final shot cut him in two behind the head, and he was finished. But I wasn’t! I shook for 10 minutes, because we were a day’s hike from our car and another day’s drive from the nearest town! We had snakebite kits, but I had no desire to see how well they worked.

About six years later, I was maneuvering with my cavalry unit in the desert at Fort Bliss when another rattler reared up in the middle of the trail. This time, I was in a jeep and again armed with a Colt automatic, but I also had a cheap .22 revolver with me. I had the driver stop about 15 feet from the snake, and I took aim at the snake’s head. When the shot went off I couldn’t believe my eyes. I hit the snake between his eyes! I was a pretty good shot in those days, but not that good!

It dawned on me that the snake had played a part in the shot, too. I started killing snakes with a breakbarrel pellet rifle. My best shot was 20 feet without using the sights! I couldn’t use them because there were none on the gun, but I had learned a secret about snakes and guns.

Apparently a snake lines up to face a threat head-on if possible. They do it so accurately that if you give them a few seconds, they will line up on the muzzle of your pellet rifle (or pistol, but don’t use a pistol unless it has at least 20 foot-pounds). I have eliminated quite a few snakes since learning that trick and every one was shot between the eyes. All were instant kills. I might get lucky once in a lifetime, but never as often as I have. I’ve had help from the snakes.

Let’s talk about safety. Some snakes are aggressive and move too fast to use this method. In the U.S., the water moccasin (cottonmouth) is one such snake. They will charge you aggressively, not leaving time to aim properly. Rattlesnakes are usually less aggressive, but don’t bet your life on it. Avoid them if you can. My experience has been with Pacific rattlers and diamondbacks. The diamondbacks are aggressive, but they normally don’t charge unless you scare them. Non-venomous water snakes can be pretty aggressive when you get too close. Although they don’t have venom, they can draw blood. (Any snakebite, venomous or not, can easily become infected and should be treated immediately.)

Finally let’s remember that most non-venomous snakes are creatures that benefit the ecology. Black snakes get rid of pests, and common garter snakes are as gentle as mice when handled gently in return. Some snakes, such as the California king snake, eat venomous snakes.

So don’t go on a witch hunt for snakes with your newfound knowledge. But, if you have a few bad guys living under the porch, now you know what you can do.

Remember to check your state laws. You could be fined for killing a venomous snake that your state has decided to protect.

How can a single-stroke pneumatic be a repeater?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question came from one of our more active readers who wonders why a gun that requires you have to do something other than simply pulling the trigger for each shot can be called a repeater. That’s a good fundamental question that I’d like to answer today.

Single-shots came first
Nobody will argue that early muzzleloading firearms were single-shots. The shooter had to preform an elaborate loading ritual each time he wanted to shoot the gun. Shooters in those days must have thought, what a blessing it would be if that were not necessary – if the gun could just be cocked again and shot without reloading!

There were many early attempts to create repeating firearms before 1800 – but the one I want to mention was the gun invented by Italian Bartolomeo Girandoni. He worked to get his gun perfected; but, when it blew off his son’s arm in an accident, he abandoned the idea of working with gunpowder (too dangerous) and went to airguns. The 22-shot Girandoni repeating AIR RIFLE was adopted by the Austrian army in 1780, and they took delivery of up to 1,500 arms before the contract ended. This air rifle was capable of hitting a man-sized target from greater than 100 yards with lethal results! Imagine – everyone on the battlefield is shooting single-shot smoothbores that can’t be expected to hit a man beyond 40 yards, and here comes a guy with a 22-shot repeating RIFLE! It was the assault rifle of its day (only this assault rifle was really accurate, too).

Austria’s Girandoni of 1780 is a 22-shot .46 caliber repeating air rifle.

Repeating firearms – SAFE repeating firearms – had to wait another half century. In the 1840s, Jonathan Browning (John Browning’s father) perfected a “harmonica ” repeater that had a sliding breech with multiple (5 to 24) chambers in it. The mechanism that locked the breechblock in place also shoved it forward into the end of the barrel for a gas-tight seal. This was the innovation that was necessary to stop repeaters from blowing up. Unfortunately for Browning, the metallic cartridge was invented at about the same time, so the end had finally come for loose gunpowder.

Moving forward to 1873, the U.S. Army was issued a new breechloading rifle – the .45 caliber Springfield (Trapdoor). The Army thought a single-shot would discipline the men from wasting ammunition. They needn’t have made this decision, because lever-action rifles were already available and had been used in the Civil War ten years earlier. But, it was peacetime, and the Army wanted to keep its budget as low as possible, so the single-shot prevailed (in the American Army, only) for about the next 20 years.

So, what is a repeater?
Here is the distinction – a repeater is a gun that contains more than one round of ammunition and can be readied to shoot without loading again. That doesn’t mean you don’t work the action to load the round into the breech – it means you don’t load it into the rifle. So Daisy’s 840 Grizzly single-stroke pneumatic can be a repeater, even though it has to be pumped for every shot. So can Crosman’s 760 multi-pump pneumatic, even though it has to be pumped several times for every shot. Ah, but the Daisy 840 Grizzly is also a single-shot when you shoot pellets, because it has no pellet magazine. You must load a pellet each time you shoot, which makes it a single-shot, where the Crosman 760 has a five-shot pellet magazine, so it’s a repeater with both pellets and BBs.

Magazine vs reservoir
Before we get out of the woods, though, you need to understand the distinction between a magazine (or clip) and a reservoir. Daisy’s Red Ryder has a MAGAZINE capacity of 650 BBs. If you keep working the lever, all 650 will eventually be shot out. In contrast, Crosman’s 760 has a BB MAGAZINE with a capacity of 18 BBs and a RESERVOIR with a capacity of 200 BBs. When the BBs are gone from the magazine, you shake the gun in a certain way to move more BBs from the reservoir to the magazine. If you don’t do this, you can have 200 BBs in the gun and not be able to shoot a single one!

Get it?

Daisy No. 12, Model 29

by B.B. Pelletier

Daisy’s No. 12, model 29 is a retro-looking single-shot from the 1920s and ’30s.

I love this little BB gun – just for the way it looks. It’s so retro, and, indeed, it’s a follow-on to Daisy’s earlier model H. According to Dunathan’s The American B.B Gun book, the No. 12,pyramydai Model 29 was produced from 1918 to 1937. The Blue Book of Airguns, Fifth Edition puts the dates between 1929 and 1932. I believe Dunathan is closer to correct because this gun is obviously a follow-on to the model H, which ended in 1920 (Dunathan) or 1923 (Blue Book).

It’s a single-shot that shoots both BBs and darts. To load it, you remove the barrel using the bayonet-type front sight blade, which is actually a spring-loaded barrel catch. The BB goes in the rear of the barrel and rolls down until it hits the shot seat, which is a constriction. There, it sits until the gun is fired. In this day of semiautomatic BB guns, I wonder how many shooters would be patient enough to put up with a system like this?

To load the gun, the shot tube is removed, and a BB is loaded into the breech. The front sight is also a spring-loaded bayonet catch for the tube. Neat!

Use the right ammo
By BBs, I mean air rifle shot, which are 0.175″ lead balls. If anyone ever shot smaller more modern steel BBs in it, they would have hammered out the shot seat in the barrel so it wouldn’t work with lead BBs any more (it wouldn’t work with steel, either!). That’s what happened to my gun, so I feed it .177 Beeman Perfect Rounds. They stick in the shot seat like they’re supposed to, but the velocity is reduced because they are heavier.

My gun shoots Beeman Perfect Rounds about 285 f.p.s. when it’s all oiled up, so it probably shot air rifle shot about 350 when it was new. Accuracy is an iffy thing, because the mechanism doesn’t always seal correctly. Some shots exit at 135 instead of 285. But, you learn to live with that when you shoot old BB guns.

What catches the eye when you first see one of these is how incredibly
small it is! The overall length of 31″ is about the same as other small Daisy single-shots, but the outer dimensions of the gun are positively child-like. Yet, cocking takes adult strength. Daisy had not yet repositioned the cocking lever screw, which they would do in just a few more years to cut the cocking effort by half.

Also quite neat is the cast iron cocking lever. Besides looking retro with the small finger hole and long straight piece, it resembles something the village smithy made. The cast iron looks cobby – like it came from a rough sand mold.

The No. 12 came in both nickelplate and blued steel finishes. The nickel gun is gorgeous when most of the nickel is intact, but the blued gun is also attractive. My own gun has nearly 100 percent of the original blue; unfortunately, it’s well-peppered with rust. Daisy’s name is found on both sides of the receiver between two bullseyes.

Even the name looks retro on this little beauty.

The rear sight is a simple wide notch with no adjustability. It’s also the anchor for the mainspring assembly. A gumwood stock with a deep crescent butt has a scant 11.5″ pull, which is very small for an adult, but the trigger return spring is stiffer than the one on my 1873 Trapdoor Springfield. This little gun is a study in contradictions!

I don’t shoot it much; I just like to look at it. Every six months or so, I oil it and shoot just a few so it won’t forget it’s a BB gun.

Open sights: part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

We are discussing the types of open sights encountered on sporting airguns and firearms.

Post and bead
This has been a popular sporting sight for more than a century. The front sight is a blade with a small bead on top. The rear sight is a u-shaped notch. On some guns, a v-shape is possible, but that means whoever selected the rear sight was not familiar with this type.

The bead on top of a post has been a popular sporting front sight for a long time – and still is today. The bead represents where the bullet will go.

I have never cared for this sight. I find it too arbitrary for accuracy beyond simple plinking, and I find that the bead is almost never lighted well enough to use it the way it was intended. The recent addition of fiber optics has made an improvement to the second shortcoming, but the sight is still too imprecise for me. On the other hand, it is found on more guns than any other sight.

Another very popular sight that preceded the post and bead. This is a v-shaped front sight with an inverted “v” rear notch. It is even seen on military rifles, including the venerated M98 Mauser.

The barleycorn is very popular for both military and sporting rifles.

Post and notch
I don’t know when the post-and-notch sight was first invented, but the first use seems to be in the latter two decades of the 19th century. By that time, the blade and notch had evolved into an adjustable sight that was quite precise, and the square post was probably only seen as a good sight to use on round bullseyes. In fact, it was just one of many sight types that emerged as the first true need for long-range shooting emerged during the buffalo hunting days. When that brief period was over, long-range shooting at targets took its place, and the square front post insert in a globe front sight (with aperture rear) was popular. But, the use of a square front post with a square rear notch must date from sometime in the 20th century.

The post and notch is a target-type sight.

Then there was the buckhorn and semi-buckhorn rear sight of the 1950s and 60s. For some reason, gun companies fell in love with this type of sight. It’s really just a variation of the post and bead or barleycorn, but the “horns” were supposed to bring the eye into quicker alignment with the front sight. It’s really just stylistic and not a different type of sight.

Buckhorn sight is just a style, not a different sight. It can be either post and bead or barleycorn.

Open sights: part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

This post was promised last week, and it will take more than one posting to cover it all. Open sights are so simple-looking that few shooters give them a second thought. If we had been brought up at a time when firearms had no sights, we would probably appreciate today’s highly refined open sights much more.

Blade and notch
The earliest open sights were on the front of the gun only and were nothing more than a reference point. Since the guns themselves weren’t accurate, the sights were of little concern. However, during the matchlock era, rifling came into play, and the shooting community also discovered that a close-fitting lead ball can be very accurate when fired from a smoothbore, too. In fact, there was a club of target shooters in Ohio in the 1800s that shot nothing but smoothbore guns and round balls. They were said to be capable of making groups of just a few inches at 100 yards with those guns!

The early blade front sight was a low, rounded piece of metal made of brass or German silver (a combination of nickel, copper and zinc – but no silver). The rear notch was a wide, low v-shaped sight that was used as a reference point for the front blade. Both sights were fixed and the sight picture was changed to move the strike of the bullet.

This is a representation of the sights found on a Pennsylvania rifle from the late 1700s. Note the different sight pictures. These are just representations of the dozens of different sight pictures the rifleman had. Because the shooter probably had just one rifle, he became an expert at positioning the sights for the desired outcome.

Crosman’s new 2300S

by B.B. Pelletier

Crosman’s new CO2 pistol! The 2300S is the gun that aftermarket makers have been building for years. Now, Crosman offers it straight from the factory

You can tell a lot about a company by the new products they field, and Crosman is a company that’s alive with new products. Some of them, like this new Crosman 2300S target pistol, show they are listening to the serious airgun market.

What is the 2300S?
You may not know this, but Crosman doesn’t offer a .177 version of the 2240 pistol. That’s just the reverse of what usually happens, because .177 is so much more salable these days. Well, the 2300S is a longer-barrelled .177 version of the 2240. However, it’s a lot more than just that.

Lothar Walther barrel!
Crosman gets it, don’t you see? They know serious shooters want a serious barrel on their guns. Even though Crosman happens to make a heck of a nice barrel of their own, they put a Lothar Walther barrel on this gun. And, they specified a CHOKED barrel, which you know is the most accurate kind. The barrel is 10.1″ long, which gives you the double bonus of higher velocity AND a few more shots. The greater efficiency of a long barrel is best used on a CO2 gun. Crosman says you’ll get 60 consistent shots from a single 12-gram powerlet. But, the good news doesn’t end there.

New bolt
This pistol has a stainless steel bolt with a longer handle for better purchase and a longer probe to seat the pellet deeper into the rifling. Deeper seating should give more consistency, and that should translate to increased accuracy. Crosman gets it, again!

Special Williams receiver sight
I know Williams receiver sights, and this isn’t one I’ve seen before. It looks like it’s based on their sport aperture sight with micrometer adjustment knobs, to which an open rear notch has been added. The association of Crosman and Williams goes back to the 1960s, and I suspect Crosman requested this modification just for this pistol. Obviously, someone at the company who knows about target airguns and what makes ’em tick! Score another one for Crosman.

The new pistol meets the requirements for IHMSA Production Class silhouette pistols, and it’s also a dandy target pistol. The trigger is single-stage and adjustable from 1 to 4 lbs. In this day of liability suits, Crosman engineers must have drugged the lawyers to get that one approved! The trigger also has an overtravel screw, which you want in a target pistol.

Power is adjustable from 440 to 520 f.p.s., according to Crosman literature. That’s done by adjusting the hammer spring tension, which is the same way most CO2 guns with adjustable power do it. The top end is powerful enough for hunters to take a look.

All these niceties come at a price, of course. The company has to buy both the rear sight and the barrel, so the retail price has to include them, as well. I predict that serious pistol shooters are going to want one of these. I’m putting in my request to get one for testing right now. As soon as I know – you’ll know.