by B.B. Pelletier
I’ll be having another outpatient procedure today and will be gone most of the afternoon. I’d like to ask the regular blog readers if they’d help out answering questions from the new people. Edith will be with me in the hospital and will have her computer and also help out with answers if needed.
Photos and testing by Earl “Mac” McDonald.
Readers who have been with us for several months know that my friend Earl “Mac” McDonald has been helping me test airguns while I recover from my hospitalization. Well, Mac is an airgunner, too, and he has a nice collection of fine vintage guns that he would like to share with all of us. So, while we were on the way to the Roanoke airgun show, we discussed the possibility of his testing some of his guns that may not be well-known among airgunners today.
I asked him to test his RWS Diana model 72, which is a youth target rifle based on the Diana model 6 recoilless target pistol. But when he went to test it for velocity, he discovered that the seal had dry-rotted, a common failure of all recoilless Diana target spring-piston guns. So, that one will have to go back to Umarex USA, which is also RWS USA, for repairs. We’ll eventually test it for you, but in the meantime, I asked Mac to test his full-sized Diana 75.
The RWS Diana 75 target rifle (right) is a normal-sized target rifle. The little model 72 next to it is a youth target rifle based on the model 6 target pistol.
The 75 is the last recoilless spring-piston target rifle made by Diana. Like all the other guns, it uses the GISS system in which the primary piston is countered by another piston of similar weight that moves in the opposite direction. The second piston does not compress air, but it’s timed so the forward thrust of the true piston is cancelled.
Do you get confused between the names RWS and Diana? Diana is the German maker of the guns and RWS is a separate and very large German company that’s the exporter.
The first four target rifles made by Diana were all breakbarrels. The models 60 and 64 were conventional breakbarrels, and the model 65 and 66 were the final versions that incorporated a barrel latch. Target shooters were no different in the 1960s than they are today, and they felt uncomfortable about using a breakbarrel for competition. They reasoned that the barrel could not possibly lock up in the same place every time. Of course, it does, and those rifles are just as accurate, and breakbarrels simply had to give way.
The first fixed-barrel Diana target rifle was the model number 75. It was produced in several different model variations from 1977 until sometime early in the 21st century. It’s now discontinued. When it was initially introduced, I believe Beeman referred to it as their model 400 for a brief time.
What is this Original?
The rifle Mac owns is a very early model 75. He says it is dated 1979 or possibly 1978. Date stamps on Diana rifles are usually found on the left rear of the spring tube, just above the stock line. However, you can tell that Mac’s rifle is early because of the name Original stamped on the spring tube. Diana designs and tooling were acquired by the United Kingdom as war reparations for World War II, and the Milbro company in Scotland began producing Diana spring rifles soon after the war ended. To avoid the obvious confusion this engendered, the German Diana company stamped Original on their guns. That lasted as long as Milbro continued to produce Dianas, which ended in 1982. Diana repurchased their name from Milbro in 1984 and dropped the Original name from the guns they made.
German-made Diana guns had the name Original stamped on them during the 1960s and into the ’80s, when Milbro of Scotland also made Dianas.
This is a big, heavy air rifle. It weighs about 11 lbs., depending on the weight of the walnut stock, and is 43.5 inches overall. The length of pull is 14 inches, which is quite long for a target rifle. As you see in the first photo, Mac’s gun has three holes in the forearm, and there are a matching set on the other side. They don’t go all the way through the forearm and are just there for decoration, however this design was not received well by shooters and was soon replaced with a solid forearm.
Unlike many other sidelevers, the model 75 has no latch to lock the sidelever in place. Instead it uses an over-center geometry with a connecting rod that contains a short spring. Similar to the models 48/52 and 54 that followed, this is a positive way of locking the lever to the side of the rifle without any latching mechanism.
Push the sidelever toward the stock and the spring in the end of the connecting rod puts tension on the lever, holding it fast to the rifle’s side.
Like many sidelevers, the model 75 has a sliding compression chamber. However, unlike any other rifle with that feature, the 75 has a solid floor beneath the breech that prevents a dropped pellet from getting lost, the way they always do in other guns with sliding chambers. This floor moves with the sliding chamber, and it fits under the barrel when the chamber is all the way forward.
When the sliding compression chamber is pulled back to cock the rifle, there’s a solid floor beneath the breech. A dropped pellet has nowhere to go.
The stock is rather unique in a couple of ways. First, it has an accessory rail in the forearm. While those are commonplace today, they weren’t when the model 75 was new. And, the second unique feature about the stock is found at the butt. The butt has a definite cast or angle to it that situates the cheekpiece properly against the shooter’s cheek.
An accessory rail was uncommon when the model 75 was new. Today, they’re found on all 10-meter rifles.
The butt curves into the shoulder, making the cheekpiece fit the face much better. Definitely a right-hand-only model!
The 75 was no powerhouse, even in its day. Expect velocities of normal target pellets in the high 500s. In report 2, I’ll report all velocities Mac obtained. As easy as it shoots, the 75 is even easier to cock. Mac measured just 11 lbs., 7 oz. needed to pull the lever back all the way.
Mac had one more thing to say about this rifle. He had forgotten how light the trigger was set. His gauge recorded a pull weight of only 5.2 oz. (147 grams) needed to trip the sear. While even that much sounds heavy compared to what they do today (there’s no bottom pull weight for a 10-meter rifle, so some guns have triggers that only need 20 grams of pressure to fire), it’s extremely light compared to the 3 to 5 lbs. of pull we’re used to on a sporting rifle. Many shooters will set it off just getting their finger on the trigger blade, the first few times.