by B.B. Pelletier

RWS 34 Panther is an all-black air rifle with a synthetic stock. The use of a non-Monte Carlo buttstock is a bold move, offset by the straight line of the stock (less drop).

For those of you buying a Diana rifle for the first time, you cannot compare what you receive to the guns that shipped a decade or more ago, but I can. I have owned more than one model 34 in both calibers, so I’ll make the comparison between those guns and this new RWS 34 Panther as I go. This one is a .177.

What’s new?
The Panther has a black synthetic stock that’s new. It’s shaped differently than the wood stocked Diana 34 that’s been made for so many years, and it felt a little heavier to me. Sure enough, the specifications on Pyramyd’s website indicate an extra quarter pound. That’s not much, except all the weight seems to be in the front of the gun. That makes the gun very stable to hold.

With the new stock, you get something no 34 ever had – checkering! Both the pistol grip and forearm are checkered with sharp diamonds to keep the rifle secure in your grip. In the past, you had to buy the upgraded model 36 to get checkering. There is no cheekpiece and the safety is in the center of the end cap, so this is truly an ambidextrous air rifle! The wood-stocked 34 is less so because it does have a cheekpiece on the left side of the butt.

Fiberoptic sights
The Panther also has TruGlo fiberoptic sights front and rear, which the wood-stocked model doesn’t have. If the light is too low to light up the front bead, the shape of the post is square, so it makes a perfect conventional front sight. The rear notch is also square and sized correctly for the front post.

T05 trigger
The Panther has the T05 trigger, which is found on most of Diana’s spring guns these days. That may not mean much to you, but as the owner of several older T01 triggers, let me tell you that the T05 is better. It’s crisper than the older model, but unfortunately it has a plastic trigger blade that offends some shooters. I like it better than the older stamped steel blade of the T01 that was too curved, in my opinion. This trigger is straight and feels much better when pulled. It doesn’t swing up as it comes back. I have lived with the use of plastic in firearms for so long that a plastic trigger in an airgun doesn’t bother me, but I know there are many who object to one.

The trigger is adjustable for the length of pull of the first stage, which determines where the second stage kicks in. The manual warns that too much adjustment will remove all the first stage, but some shooters really want that. The pull-weight and overtravel are not adjustable.

The safety is automatic and pops out at the rear when the rifle is cocked. It can be applied at any time and simply blocks the trigger from moving. No safety is 100 percent safe, though, and you should always hold the barrel with the cocking hand when loading to catch it if the sear should slip.

After my little rant about Beeman’s cancelled lifetime warranty yesterday, I thought to check on the warranty for this gun. Mine came packed with a lifetime warranty card that was issued by RUAG Ammotec, who sold their RWS USA franchise to Umarex two years ago. So, I called and spoke to the Umarex USA repair center, and they told me that the warranty they offer is a limited lifetime with 18 months on the wearout parts such as seals and mainsprings.

There are some contradictory words in the owner’s manual about the warranty. It says the gun is warranted for two years. What’s happened is that Diana has published their own warranty in the manual and RUAG/Umarex has included a separate U.S. warranty card with the gun. In the U.S., the warranty is for a lifetime, except as noted.

General fit and finish
Everytime I pick up a new 34, I’m impressed by its overall quality. I have to say that this Panther is the best one of all. The steel parts are not highly polished, but they’re evenly finished and darkly colored. They are very attractive. The synthetic stock is smooth and even and the checkering is sharp, as noted. The stock is slender to favor a hunter or offhand shooter.

The owner’s manual says not to use wire brushes in the barrel, but I’m going to disregard that and do my usual JB bore compound cleaning. I am not recommending that you do the same; I am simply avoiding the 500-1,000 shots at break-in to smooth out the bore for the best accuracy.

More on the Panther tomorrow.