by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Today I’ll continue with the physical description of the RWS Diana 34 Panther. I left off with the barrel, which is 19 inches long. The muzzle cap makes it look longer and also serves as the base for the front sight ramp, which is skeletonized.

The breech uses Diana’s time-honored ball-bearing detent, and, lest anyone say a ball bearing can’t hold the breech shut as well and a chisel detent, I have to slap the muzzle to begin breaking the barrel. Hopefully that will become easier as the gun breaks in.

This Panther seems like a hard-cocking breakbarrel! The piston seal honks like a goose, which indicates a dry seal, but I know the Diana seal is self-lubricating so I’ll not lubricate it until the gun has some shots on it. I expect it to quiet down with use – to break in, so to speak. Cocking effort is a surprisingly low 31 pounds. The surprise is because it feels like a lot more – probably due to the noisy piston seal.

Front sight is fragile!
I must criticize the front sight element for being extremely fragile. Mine broke within the first few shots, and replacement doesn’t look easy! This is a flaw Diana will have to fix soon. Fortunately I will scope the rifle, so it won’t prove to be a problem.

This won’t cut it! Plastic on airguns is okay, but there has to be enough to do the job. This sight needs to be redesigned!

Scoping is a challenge!
The scope base is the weak point on most RWS Diana spring rifles. It simply isn’t engineered to accept scope rings with scope stops. There are two shallow holes for a vertical stop pin, but they aren’t deep enough to do the job. I have seen dozens of Diana spring guns with long gouges extending backward from these holes. The earlier form of the Diana C Mount was a cause for some of these problems because it has a tapered rounded Allen screw stop pin that acts like a plow when the gun moves in recoil. But RWS recently went to B-Square to make the C Mount, and they have a better cylindrical stop pin. But at best, these are just field expedients.

The older RWS C Mount used an Allen screw with a rounded tapered bottom as a scope stop pin. It would plow through the backs of the shallow holes on the Diana rifle mount. B-Square fixed this flaw and the pin is now flat, but the rifle base still doesn’t measure up.

The Diana rifle scope base has two shallow holes that are inadequate for scope stop pins. The large-headed screw on the rear (left) of the scope base should NOT be used as a scope stop. It has a thin shank that will shear off under recoil. The ONLY place for a stop pin to work is the front of the scope base (also called the ramp) shown at the right.

This pin on a B-Square one-piece scope mount is the right size and shape to stop the movement.

What is needed is a way to anchor the scope ring solidly to the rifle, and the only way I know to do that with what currently exists is to hang a vertical stop pin in front of the base on the receiver. The stop pin can then be lowered enough to really bear on the steel base and stop all rearward movement. Clamping pressure alone cannot stop the movement.

This was tested with the brand-new gun. No break-in was done. I expect some changes after a few hundred shots have been fired. H&N Baracuda Match (Beeman Kodiaks for several dollars less) averaged 820 f.p.s., Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets went 919 f.p.s. and RWS Hobbys averaged 1021 f.p.s. This is the first time I have ever seen a .177 model 34 get over 1,000 f.p.s., so something inside must be different. It will be interesting to see what happens after a few hundred shots are fired.

I’ll save the firing behavior and trigger comments for the range testing. But the trigger is light, if not crisp, and the rifle doesn’t buzz as much as I remember my other 34s buzzing. So maybe this is the dawn of a new day.