Little Bit: Diana No. 0–Were they kidding or what?

by B.B. Pelletier

I just returned from the Pyramyd Air moving sale and have a few days before I fly out to New York for a week of filming more episodes for The American Airgunner. The moving sale was nothing short of spectacular! Lots of people came out, tons of stuff was sold and John Goff of Crosman flipped a whole bunch of burgers. Things moved so fast, my head was spinning.

I’ve tapped into a past issue of the Airgun Letter to bring you the Diana No. 0 [zero] rifle, which I have dubbed “Little Bit.” I hope you enjoy reading about this fabulous little gun as much as I enjoyed owning it.

It’s little, it’s light and a six-year-old can cock it. What is it? Well, according to the original paperwork, this tinplate smoothbore sidelever is a Diana Cork-Airgun Number 0. The date stamp on the back of the wooden butt says 9, 50–which is the German manufacture date of September 1950. That makes this little treasure just over 59 years old [of course, when I wrote this in 1996, I said it was 46 years old].


The Diana 0 is a tiny toy-size airgun. It looks harmless, but this little tinplate shoots as powerfully as a full-size Daisy!

The paperwork that came with it says (in German) that the gun was manufactured under license number 77, issued August 9, 1949. It says that it’s primarily a cork-firing gun that can also shoot 4.5mm pellets or round balls from three to five meters (9.5 to 16.4 feet) when the extension barrel is installed. There is a 4-1/4″ screw-in sleeve that houses a smoothbore seamless brass barrel to adapt the gun to the smaller ammunition. One could unscrew the extension and load from the rear for each shot, I suppose, but I find it much more convenient to load through the muzzle and drive the shot home with an ultra-thin ramrod. Beeman Perfect Rounds are a snug fit in the bore, but they provide the most accuracy and muzzle energy.

The gun measures just 30″ long, although it appears much smaller. It weighs–Are you ready?–just under 1.5 lbs.! Yet, even with its Lilliputian size, the Diana Zero is a tiny tiger, throwing steel BBs an average of 213 f.p.s. The large .177 lead balls go just as fast, plus they smack with enough force to pass completely through a thick cardboard barrier. Granted, this is no Philippine monkey gun, but it packs a lot of power into a very small package.

Besides the gun, which is in near-perfect condition, and the original instructions, there’s also one of the original three corks that came with the set. How do I know it’s original? Simple–the gentleman from whom I got this little gem was the original owner! He remembers purchasing it for the equivalent of $2 or $3 in a department store in Mexico City in 1954. He bought it for his daughter, but she apparently grew out of BB guns (Can you imagine?), and he wanted to see it go to someone who would appreciate it as he once had.

The strange thing about this story is that I had just seen a slightly different version of this gun, the Diana model 10, at the 1996 Baldwinsville Airgun Show. Until Baldwinsville, I was unaware of a sidelever Diana tinplate. I knew about the model 1 breakbarrel and even the half-tinplate/half-serious model 20 underlever that Dennis Hiller makes so much of in his book, Air Rifles; but Richard Schmidt’s model 10 was the first miniature sidecocker I’d ever laid eyes on.

A week after Baldwinsville, the owner of our subject gun called, and we struck up a conversation that led to my acquiring it. Until it arrived a few days later, I assumed it was really a model 10, and he was simply misreading the model number off the barrel. Now I know better. This IS a different gun; although it’s no stretch to imagine that the Zero eventually morphed into the model 10.


The only marks on the gun are these on the metal and the production date stamped into the butt. The later Diana model 10 had the model number stamped into the metal.

Upon close examination of the paperwork and the gun, you can readily discern that this is an early production item. In fact, except for the Diana name and the words “Pat. ang.” (patent pending), there are no markings anywhere on the metal parts. It’s from the instruction pamphlet, which has two detailed halftone photos of the gun, that the model number is established.

The instructions suggest that corks are for indoors. In that mode, the gun is considered completely safe for children. The backyard or garden is the place to shoot balls or pellets when the extension barrel is installed. Shooting in the street or in the public places is strictly forbidden by the police.


The barrel extension must be screwed in to fire BBs and pellets. Without it, this is a cork gun.

The sidelever incorporates an anti-beartrap safety device, so little fingers can’t be pinched if the trigger is inadvertently pulled while the lever linkage is exposed. To fire, the lever must be snug against the stock. That’s not too impressive in a modern airgun; but in a child’s post-war tinplate from the 1950s, it’s nothing short of incredible! Heck—I KNOW I had a double-barreled cork shooter that would close the barrels smartly by a pull of the trigger.


Sidelever airguns aren’t that common, but the Diana Zero is one made of folded metal. It’s easy enough for a child to cock, plus it has an anti-beartrap device to protect little fingers.

And the mainspring is light enough that small children can easily cock it. The wonder is that it shoots as hard as it does.

The instructions tell you to cock the gun first, in order to let air pass freely into the compression cylinder in front of the piston. If a ball or cork were in the barrel, there would be no way for air to get past it as the piston is withdrawn. Well, that’s the theory. The truth is that this gun is made of folded metal and there are PLENTY of ways for air to get into the compression chamber!

Accuracy is relative. It tends to group its shots inside the same compass quadrant as the barrel orientation. Point it west, and the ball will head toward the setting sun somewhere between the north and south poles. Maybe it groups tighter with corks, but I haven’t tried them (and I doubt I ever will).

I have been unable to locate any advertising literature on either the Zero or the model 10 Diana guns (there was also a model 10 target pistol from the ’70s, but that’s a completely different airgun). They surely don’t show up in the common airgun literature. Perhaps, because it also fires corks, this is more of a toy gun, and I have very little resource material for them. I don’t know–IS there a popgun/cork gun reference?

I think this gun belongs to the airgun community because of its credible performance with lead BBs, but I doubt there will be much written about it. Does anyone have a 1951 Frankonia Jagd catalog in their collection? Were they even in business then?

Just through inquiries, I turned up another Diana Zero in New Jersey (not for sale), so it isn’t a one-off fluke. Still, I think it may be a good bit more scarce than many of the more well-documented, rare Dianas, such as the pre-war Peerless models.

Why write about such a trivial gun? It’s simple. If you’re a Diana collector, the Zero belongs in the set, as does the model 10. Even though you may never find one, they’re a part of the post-war product line. There’s always the chance you might encounter one at a toy show or flea market some day. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what it is? We’re all aware how spotty and incomplete airgun literature is, so here are a couple more paragraphs of the story.

58 thoughts on “Little Bit: Diana No. 0–Were they kidding or what?



  1. Neat little rifle, and I’ve got a 5yr old G-son – just the right little guy to use it. Course after he’s done with it it won’t see 60. No, he’s better’n that. He’s at the age now where he’s trainable.

    Did they GIVE away JSB Eacts at the moving sale?! I have talked too much about them? Now that I need some they’re all gone. Don’t buy Hobbys for your 1077 they’re no good (hee, hee, now maybe they won’t run out, too)

    -C



  2. Sounds like you guys had a good time. Wish i could have gun, but we all know if i had gone, i wouldnt be able to buy a car now. lol. Someone let us in on the deals they got.
    Brody


  3. The moving sale sounded great, I still think they should have made some of the items available online for us out of towners! Maybe something will show up in the sale/closeout section sometime if they didn’t sell everything.

    I have a question about powerplants. It seems like hold sensitivity is something that I need to be concerned with. The airgun I’m thinking of buying (yes, I still haven’t ordered yet because of some wonderfully slow paying clients – God bless them)will be used mainly for hunting and not for controlled target practice. Meaning that I’ll be out in the woods in all sorts of different positions and angles. Are springers inherently less accurate than say a multi-pump, CO2 or PCP in those conditions? Also, am I understanding things correctly that a long stroke springer would be more hold sensitive than a lesser powered one with a shorter stroke?


  4. Fused,

    You need the best PCP you can afford, even if it’s the lowly disco..
    A multi pump makes too much noise, and if your pumping anyway.. do it all at once with a PCP.. but better still..get a couple smaller fiberglass tanks.. there are good used ones on the yellow classified.

    CO2 is to temp sensitive..

    Springers to hard to shoot accurate..

    So, from the bottom up price wise:
    Disco, Talon, Condor, Marauder, Blizzard, used FX Timberwolf or BSA lonestar or FX superswift, …. or drum roll please…. Air Arms S410..

    Do the springer thing under 750fps and then you can shoot them accurately.. some times….

    Just my .02 cents worth.. well maybe that’s .025 cents worth.. you decide:)

    Wayne,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range



  5. Fused, your assumptions make perfect sense. But they also don’t hold true in many instances.

    Yes, springers tend to be harder to shoot well – although I would think that CO2 or multi-pumps might be marginal for hunting power – especially compared the the stronger springers.

    As for hold sensitivity, though – it’s a combination of a variety of factors, all of which are not easy to define. The Baikal MP513 (I’ve had one in each caliber) are very powerful, light, and have mediocre triggers and very harsh firing cycles… yet they’ve been among the most accurate and easy-to-shoot springers I’ve ever had. And the IZH61 – which is also light, but has a better trigger and has a much smaller and weaker powerplant (with about 16% of the power) is very hold sensitive.

    The Diana sidelevers are generally considered to be among the less hold-sensitive yet more powerful springers. They’re a bit on the heavy side, but they balance well – and on these it’s relatively easy to mount a sling. If you ultimately decide that a springer is the way to go, you might want to consider this one.



  6. On the subject of the scope with the bubble level, I’m as interested as anyone. David Tubb makes a big deal out of a level bubble that he installed on his rifles, so maybe this idea is trickling down.

    Wayne and Kevin, thanks for the reassurance about hand pumping. Maybe I’m still in the game. Actually, the hand pumping would fit into my workout routine so a purpose would be served.

    BG_Farmer, thanks for the report of the Savage BV–sounds pretty good to me. I was thinking about the way the protruding clip interferes with an offhand hold. Perhaps you can make a virtue of this by gripping the magazine. I know that some shooters of the M1A grab the magazine for certain positions and claim that it makes things easier.

    Vince, that’s interesting about the hold-sensitivity of the IZH 61 which B.B. also noticed in his report. I haven’t experienced that myself. But that may be because I use the standing position exclusively (which B.b. said was more forgiving), or I’m just not sensitive to this feature, or I lucked onto a good hold from the outset. Have you made any progress with your BAM breakbarrel? My experience suggests that with your skills in tuning, you’ll be able to make a good rifle out of the material that a BAM rifle will give you.

    Anyone want to argue the merits of underlever/breakbarrel cocking versus the sidelever? My understanding is that the sidelever will have a slight deviation to the right because of torque induced by the weight of the sidelever. However, this can be compensated for (I have not experienced it myself) and the sidelever strikes me as more convenient to cock in all positions.

    Matt61


  7. Thanks for the great feedback. I would love to eventually get a PCP, but right now they seem a little loud and/or too expensive with a shrouded barrel.
    The feeback on the Baikal and RWS 48/52 was very interesting. They seem like great rifles.


  8. Why dont you spend a little extra and get a Weihrauch instead. The Rekord trigger is brilliant! The HW97K is one of the best springers, but Im not sure what name its marketed under in the States.


  9. Matt61,

    Well, I’m not the guy to praise springers, especially ones that shoot over 750fps, but the two I liked best so far are underlevers, the TX200 and HW77, the 77 was my favorite for balance, ease of use, and fit..
    I just got a great deal on some RWS 300R and Stutzens.. (underlevers too).. so I’ll have them to test too..

    Had some sidelevers and didn’t notice anything like that, but I didn’t shoot them long enough to really notice. It just makes sense that underlevers would be more stable.

    But in general, the double recoil of the spring bounces the gun around too much for me, especially when it’s a spring strong enough to shoot hard enough to hunt a squirrel or rabbit.. It’s a doable thing, but just not as easy as a nice PCP!!!.. If there is any way to get a scuba tank filled, a PCP is the only way to go!!

    Indoor plinking or close up (less than 20 yards) starling hunting with the classics like a diana 23, 24, or 25 or even Tom’s and my favorite the 27, is a totally different game.. there I love springers… about 600 fps is just right..

    Wayne,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range


  10. Matt,

    Unless David Tubb is an airgunner, too, I doubt anything “trickled down.” Instead, it was airgunners who developed the internal bubble level and sidewheel parallax focus in the mid ’90s for field target. The SWAT world didn’t embrace the sidewheel until after Y2K.

    B.B.




  11. B.B.

    As a matter of fact, Tubb mentions that he has an airgun range with “excellent equipment” but I don’t know what kind of involvement he has. He just mentioned putting a bubble level into the aperture sights of his high power guns without mentioning any antecedent. Anyway, I will be looking for a scope to improve the performance of my B30 at 50 yards, so I will look forward to the new offerings.

    Wayne, thanks for your observations. The ease of use is what I was getting at. From a bench, I can more or less keep a sidelever rifle in position and both operate the lever and load the pellet with the right hand. With an underlever, which I do not possess, you would have to raise up the rifle and move the hands around. Similarly for standing as I picture it, you would need to switch hands around using an underlever.

    Regarding the lower predictable accuracy of springers, it is clearly below what you get with pcps, but I don’t know if it is permanently unreliable. I suspect that if one were to keep plugging away that you would eventually get a pretty fair level of certainty; it just takes time.

    In view of the gas piston and the recoil retarding mechanism in the RWS 54, I wonder how much technology will permit the reduction of recoil in springers. I don’t suppose it will go away completely, but maybe more than anyone expects now.

    Matt61


  12. Anyone who can help,
    Does anyone know a good scope mount or set of rings for a FWB 124? Or can I just use a regular set of rings and put the scope stop pin in the groove? Any help is appreciated.

    Chris



  13. Fused, the MP513 was very accurate and powerful. But beyond that I really greq to dislike them. They are also very hard to service, and although right now there are parts available I don’t know if that’ll be true in 10-15 years.

    The RWS sidelevers are pricier, but better in every respect except weight.







  14. BB,
    I think that’s the most interesting gun you’ve covered — my son would love it! I can’t show it to him right now, though, because we just went fishing (his first time), and he caught 14 fish, so he’s bouncing off walls. I made sure to leave him alone with my wife, so she could share his excitement:).

    Matt,
    RE: holding the magazine. I’m either going to make it flush with a modified magazine or single shot adapter, or build up the surrounding area, but I have to be careful not to create a palm rest:).

    I like underlevers best, as they are a compromise between easy to load (slightly behind breakbarrals) and balanced with weight forward, not to mention fixed barrel. Sidelevers have always seemed like the best technically, since the fixed barrels can be free-floating and the stock doesn’t have to be forked, but it is awkward to load them in a standing position, at least for me.


  15. Matt61,

    I never meant to say that high power springers are not accurate, in some people’s hands they’re real accurate!! And I’ve shot some real tight groups (3/4″ -10 shot @20 yrds), with the Avenger 1100, TX 200, HW77, and even the rws 94…

    … but not over and over any time I want… like I can with the AAs410 or any of the PCPs for that matter.. and you could make that a 30 shot group really..

    Also, keep in mind that cocking a sidelever like the 48 or 52 takes more effort than you can do while it’s in the bench rest..

    Again, I sound like the preacher from Air Arms…(and of course there are others).. but if the goal is to get lots of practice in a short time, a sidelever that only takes 2 lbs, (not 35 or 40 lbs, this is not your 61).. and loads the pellet while it’s cocking!!… is the way to go.. You’ll get 8 times more shots off, even with filling the magazine and air tank..

    That’s really what got me hooked… more shots per session..
    by a “one hole” lot:)

    Wayne,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range


  16. Hey off topic, but would the Benjamin super streak be too big for a 14 yr old 120lbs 5′ 6″ guy who can take 40 pounds of cocking effort easily and has a shooting stick and gun strap, my purposes are chipmunk to racoon sized pests


  17. Wayne,
    If you have younger or smaller customers and you want to expose them to springer break barrels I would recommend the Gamo Recon, now. It has a 16lb cocking effort and mine is quite accurate at 10m with JSB Exact 8.4gr, plus it is an inexpensive investment ($90). It is not hold sensitive at all. Mine likes to be held a tad at the forearm. It can be upgraded to a GERT trigger if you want to. I’ve been thinking about doing that to mine. It comes with a cheap 4x scope but at 10m it’s not so bad. I put a 6x Bug Buster on mine and put the 4X on my 1077. I am really liking this gun, the Recon. Yesterday I shot 3 10Xs out of 5 shots and it was not a fluke. It might be worth a try for your youngsters.

    -C


  18. I have finally gotten around to sharing my visit to the KCR machine gun shoot near Louisville, Ky. Go here:

    http://picasaweb.google.com/cjrley

    Note the first two shooters are friends of mine shooting an AK47 and a fully automatic version of the AR15. Note the recoil of each. Someone on this blog asked for this comparison. These guys are over 6' tall and over 200lbs. The remaining three vids are me shooting an AK47, a Thompson sub machine gun and for a hoot a fully automatic Ruger 10/22. I am under 6' tall and under 200lbs.

    -C


  19. I can shoot my Beeman R1 .20 ( which is a good power for hunting) to 1/2 inch groups at 25 meters but it's not easy.
    PCP's are much easier to be accurate with. And they don't get harder to shoot with more power either, up to a certain point anyway.
    So if you want to hunt beyond a range of about 40 meters you definitely need a PCP.


  20. BB,

    That is a great little piece of history. Thanks for sharing it. I think my cork gun of the 1960's was made in Japan and lasted for all of a day or two. My, how things change!

    Please take a moment to give some advice on another subject if you don't mind. I am tired of hitting pests with my .177 caliber guns only to have them run or fly off wounded. 35 years of airgunning experience is no match for aging eyes and frayed nerves either, so the problem only seems to be getting worse with passing seasons. I rarely ever totally miss. The kill zone just seems to be shrinking with age.

    Could you (or anyone else)steer me to a few .25 caliber guns to choose from? I would like to keep the price under $400 for everything I need. I only have break-barrel springers, multipumps, and CO2 guns in .177 now and don't want the expense of "tooling up" for PCP's, so I know most of those are out of the question.

    I would also consider any opinions about varmint hunting with .22 caliber vs .25. 95 percent of my shots are under 60 yards with pecan robbing squirrels near the top of my offender list. Cost and availability of ammo is not a concern, nor is cocking effort. I already own a house full of great target plinkers. This gun will be strictly used for dispatching the occasional pest as swiftly and humanely as possible.

    I am leaning towards the .25 caliber Falcon Hunter with a gas spring conversion but would like to know of any others of similar price and peformance.

    Thanks BB, and I realy enjoy your reports.

    Ralph in Alabama



  21. Ralph
    Have you considered more powerful
    scopes instead of larger pellets
    with more of a learning curve trying too learn the wider trajectories?
    just a thought

    JTinAL


  22. Justin,

    Have you not been reading here?

    That is the biggest & baddest springer of all!! … That will be the hardest to shoot accurately!!

    Go back up the list to the Discovery PCP and pump (or soon the Marauder for more money)..

    About the same price… make some MORE muscles… and hit your target!!!

    all good things:)

    Wayne,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range


  23. Actually, JT, I don’t currently own a scope and never have. I am a big fan of old fashioned target sights – as long as they are decent. And too many guns today – even some “high end” ones – seem to have cheapo plastic ones with the fragile fiber optic tube “thingy” I hate. So, this will probably be my 1st dealing with a scope. Maybe I’ll find out old eyes aren’t as much of a handicap with one. I doubt there’ll be anything that can substitute for aging nerves however. Most of my shots would be clean kills with a harder hitting pellet though so I’m still planning on getting a larger caliber. Maybe it’s just a macho thing.

    Thanks for your input, fellow Alabamian.

    Ralph


  24. Ralph in Alabama,
    Here is a post by BB made in Sept. 2005:

    /blog/2005/9/a-rifle-to-hunt-squirrels-and-rabbits/

    Maybe this will shed some light on your question. Please be sure to read all the comments attached to this post because many good choices are usually mentioned in them by people with real life experience.

    -C




  25. Justin,

    i would agree with Wayne. the Discovery PCP is an awesome gun, and produces just as much power as the Super Streak. (it’s proven too. the Disco produces about 21 foot-pounds max in .22, and the Super S. produces 21 foot-pounds in .177 at the VERY max, and it doesn’t get much better with .22.) i would say either the Discovery, or, if you don’t wanna pump every 40 shots, go with the Walther Falcon Hunter, RWS 48, RWS 350, or Beeman R1. (the R1 is very heavy however, and may not be anymore desirable in weight than the Super S.) these are all great, powerful springers. the Falcon Hunter in is better in .22 than .25. also, with the Air Venturi Gas Ram upgrade, it takes MUCH less technique than a standard springer to shoot. i’ve heard it takes about as much technique as a centerfire… (although i SERIOUSLY doubt it takes that little effort… that’s just the word on the street.) oh and i almost forgot, don’t forget Gamo. their Whisper guns with the Air Venturi Gas Ram are some of the best values for the money out there. just putting MY 2 cents in…

    -John W.


  26. Ralph
    I understand about the scope thing
    I grew up that way myself.As you probly know, unless you hunt the green fields you rarely get a clear shot of more than 70 yds. on deer and pigs and rabbit turkey and squirrel are more likely to be within 25.So I was raised on 30-30
    .22 and 12 guage with open sights.
    It wasn’t until my 40s that I
    even gave scopes a half a chance.
    I started with a cheap Daisy
    Powerline 3-9×32 and I’ve still got it.I’ve used some nicer ones but this one has been on RFs
    springers and pumpers with no problems at all.For the price I couldn’t have begged for more improvement in my group sizes.
    AS for the shakys a scope can help learn how to get the most out of what you can do.
    All that yackin just to say go for
    the macho thing,but get a scope to try too.I betcha you’ll be glad you did:)

    JTinAL




  27. Ralph,

    You’re jumping from the frying pan into the fire by going from .177 to .25. Yes, the Falcon Hunter will do the job, but give the .22 a chance, as well. It’s much more accurate, because accurate pellets for the .25 are hard to come by.

    B.B.


  28. Thanks, BB, and everyone else that responded.

    I value your opinions. A .22 it will be. I hadn’t considered the time, effort, and expense to test several different .25 pellets for compatability and accuracy. This also means there are several more rifles from which to choose. I can’t wait to check them out.

    Please keep up the good work, BB.

    Ralph


  29. BB and others. I have Big Cat 1200 and the scope has seen its last useful shot. I need to replace it with something that will last (I know thats open ended). I see the Leapers Mini swat that BB used in the big cat test and want to know if this is an appropriate scope for universal purposes or if there is something better suited. I like the variable adjustments. Keeping new rings and scope under 150 dollars is my goal. I have a single raccoon that is my prime objective right now. And then squirrels once my garden produces fruit.

    Thanks so much.



  30. is this an appropriate scope? Which rings would you suggest? This is a great site that you have here!

    /s/a/UTG_3_9x50_AO_Rifle_Scope_Illuminated_Mil_Dot_Reticle_1_4_MOA_1_Tube_Weaver_Picatinny_Rings/658#readReviews



  31. What is the advantage other than adjustment that the 2 piece offers over the one piece rings? Especially being the spring gun would the one piece be a better investment? Thank you for the knowledge, mine is certainly limited and I know I read that most people like one piece with a spring gun. Thank you!

    /s/a/Leapers_Accushot_1_Rings_High_9_5_11_5mm_Dovetail/635

    I had been looking at this one piece

    /s/a/Leapers_Accushot_1_Pc_Mount_w_1_Rings_High_11mm_Dovetail/636

    Thanks again. I enjoy reading your blog.




  32. SER,

    You don’t need that scope stop as long as your Big Cat has a hole on top of the spring tube (above the trigger). A vertical scope stop pin in your scope rings drops into that hole and positively prevents the scope mount from moving.

    Read this article and watch the video if you can:

    /article/How_to_mount_a_scope_Part_1_October_2008/53

    Or read this article:

    /article/All_about_scopes_Part_2_February_2005/21/

    B.B.


  33. Hi
    I have one of these a Diana Model 0 with sidecocking action. Sound to not be in anywhere near as good condition as yours. Do you know the street value? how much did you purchase it for. Information regards is few and fair between.
    Any help would be apprieciated.
    Thanks

    Mark
    Markus_1983uk@hotmail.com


  34. Mark,

    I paid about $75 for my gun, but the person I got it from was giving me a great deal. In average working condition I suppose one should be worth $300-500. The broad band is to cover condition and the fact that these don't come up very often.

    B.B.




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