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Ammo RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 3

RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

The RWS Diana 54 recoilless air rifle, also called the Air King, is big, beautiful, powerful and accurate.

Today, we’ll test the RWS Diana model 54 Air King for accuracy. Before I show you the targets, however, let me mention a couple of things.

Some observations
First, I shot this rifle for today’s test rested directly on a sandbag. There was no artillery hold. As I mentioned in the earlier reports, the Air King anti-recoil system acts like an artillery hold and is able to do so perfectly. There’s no reason to rest this gun on the palm of your hand. That’s not because the rifle is recoilless, but rather because of how the rifle handles recoil.

In the 54, the action slides in the stock when the gun fires. It always slides the same distance and always contacts the same points within the stock, so the system acts like a perfect artillery hold. A rifle having a different anti-recoil system like the Giss contra-piston system, for example, doesn’t work the same way and does need to be held in the artillery hold for best accuracy; but those guns that use the sledge system — like this one and a few FWB target rifles — do not.

Next I want to comment on the trigger. The one I’m testing is a T05 and very nice. It has a positive two-stage pull with a crisp second-stage let-off. It does have a plastic trigger blade, but that isn’t important because it isn’t one of the wearing parts within the trigger assembly. Everything that wears is steel and properly hardened.

The one detractor of this trigger is that the blade is too curved. A straighter blade would feel better. I am going to test the new T06 trigger soon, and I’m going to scrutinize it closely because it has a long way to go to be better than the T05.

Finally, I used a prototype UTG scope base with a lot of built-in droop to mount the CenterPoint 3-9x40AO scope on the test rifle, and it STILL shot low. So, a lot of droop is still present in Diana guns, and it still needs to be addressed with a drooper mount. I did find that the UTG base sped up the scope-mounting process, turning a half-hour job into a 10-minute task. The scope I used is an older one and doesn’t have the illuminated reticle of the scope I linked to here.

The UTG scope base does raise the scope quite high, but the high comb on the 54 was able to elevate my face to the exit pupil. I could have easily used a scope with a 56mm objective lens and still had clearance for the scope over the spring tube.

Because I am still recovering from a hernia operation, I shot only a single 10-shot group with each pellet tested. Ten-shot groups really require a lot of cocking, and this sidelever isn’t the easiest gun to cock. The distance was 25 yards, and all groups contain 10 shots.

The first pellet I tested was the venerable 14.3-grain Crosman Premier, which is well-known as one of the best for this .22 caliber rifle. They fit the breech easily but were not loose. And the gun buzzed a lot when firing them.

Nine of the ten pellets made a group measuring 0.518 inches between centers. But pellet six strayed outside this neat little hole to enlarge the group to 0.929 inches between centers. It wasn’t a called flyer, it just went outside the group for no reason I can explain.

After the Premiers, I loaded 10 JSB Exact 15.8-grain domes, which are often even better than Premiers in some airguns.

Ten JSB Exact 15.8-grain domes made this group, which measures 0.613 inches between centers.

Finally, I tried some Predator Polymag pellets that everyone likes to use for hunting. They fit the 54 breech very tight, but went in without a lot of forcing. They expand well on small game and are especially effective in .22 caliber.

Ten JSB Predator Polymag pellets made this 0.975-inch group at 25 yards.

Well, there you have it. I think if I were to shoot additional groups of Premiers, most 10-shot groups would look like that first 9-shot group. Because I didn’t season the bore with each new pellet, I think I would have gotten slightly better groups if I had.

Ten shots into a half-inch at 25 yards is not to be sneezed at, though I really thought I would do better. I was thinking I could get half-inch groups out at 35 yards from this rifle. It might still be possible, but I think I’ve demonstrated that the 54 is an air rifle to be reckoned with.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

79 thoughts on “RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 3”

  1. BB,
    I will not sneeze at your results on those first two targets. I think they demonstrate that this rifle is capable of being a hunter.

    On the first target, I’d like to know the shot number of the pellet hole in the 5 ring, just to the right of the errant #6. Was it #5 by any chance? Could it have been affected by the same factor as #6?

    On the third target, I’d like to see another group or two before deciding on its accuracy. I don’t think this target alone tells the story. And I don’t think you intended it to. Those three shots “walking” across the bottom are interesting. Is that a hernia induced string? 🙂

    • Chuck,

      That other “errant” shot was shot number 10.

      The last target could have been influenced because I balanced the rifle at a different point on the bag. So I agree, there should be additional targets. I would not rule out that pellet, based on that one target.


      • PA Blog Index for May 2011

        2. The new Walther Lever Action CO2 rifle: Part 2
        3. Beeman P1/HW 45 air pistol: Part 2
        4. Benjamin’s Rogue ePCP — a new way of making airguns: Part 2
        5. Something for you: A homemade pellet trap
        6. Beeman P1/HW 45 air pistol: Part 3
        9. The new Walther Lever Action CO2 rifle: Part 3
        10. UZI CO2 BB Submachine Gun from Cybergun: Part 1
        11. RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 1
        12. FWB 150: Part 2
        13. BSF S70: Part 1
        16. Benjamin’s Rogue ePCP — a new way of making airguns: Part 3
        17. Beeman P1/HW 45 air pistol: Part 4
        18. RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 2
        19. The new Walther Lever Action CO2 rifle: Part 4
        20. The “pogostick” repeater
        23. Crosman Outdsoorsman 2250XE: Part 1
        24. Crosman Silhouette PCP pistol: Part 3
        25. Why do shot groups move?
        26. UZI CO2 BB Submachine Gun from Cybergun: Part 2
        27. Benjamin Rogue ePCP – a new way of making airguns: Part 4
        30. BSF S70: Part 2
        31. RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 3

        sorry, late again

      • Chuck,

        In my experience, the preferred resting point for this rifle is right at the front corner of the stippling, where it begins.
        And I use the /product/shooters-ridge-monkey-bag-gun-rest?a=2793 Shooters Ridge Monkey Bag Gun Rest.
        It’s great. After a few shots a “channel” forms as the sand settles into which the forearm of your rifle settles. Give it 5 or 6 shots
        so you don’t have to readjust your position anymore.


        • AlanL.,

          I don’t really use a sandbag. Mine is filled with crushed walnut shells that weigh half as much as sand but are just as rigid. It’s a very high-quality bag I have used for years.

          As far as letting the rifle settle into the bag, because of my hernia I have to cock the rifle in an unusual way, so it has to be picked up off the bag every time. It never gets to settle in. I do agree with you on the right resting point, though The rear of the checkering was where I rested the rifle to take most shots.


  2. B.B,

    “It wasn’t a called flyer, it just went outside the group for no reason I can explain.” I can: Your heart finally beat, iceman!

    B.B., you are sorely tempting me into keeping this gun. But you are right, it isn’t the easiest to cock at all, and your timing on depressing the release lever has to be perfect, or there goes your pull rod. This is (literally) the weakest link in this rifle.

    I found it interesting that you tested Predator Polymags for hunting, when hunting is probably the last thing most people will buy this rifle for: 1) No sling swivels for portage into the field, and even if it did have them, you’d probably want to take a string of porters along to haul it for you. 2) The effort required to cock it and the wide arc required of the cocking lever make it less suited for close quarters maneuvering in underbrush. 3) A large scope (which this rifle deserves) also interferes to a certain extent with easy access to the loading port. On the plus side, it is accurate! I wish you had tested the H&N Baracuda Match pellets which mine seems to love even better than the three pellets you tested. Interestingly, transitioning between pellet types does require at least 4 seasoning shots and significant scope readjustment at 25+ yards, so it’s probably best to settle on one particular pellet and leave it alone. For the tight-fitting pellets I use the Beeman Pell Seat, or a Pilot G-2 pen tip.


  3. Those are darn good groups. In my opinion, the scope is the weak link. I’m shocked at the group shot with the jsb 15.8gr pellets. My 54 hated them but liked the jsb 14.3gr.



  4. Kevin and AlanL.,

    Okay, okay! For you guys and anybody else who wants in, I will do a part 4 on this rifle. I’ll start a list of all the things I, “Should have done.”

    The scope was fine for 25 yards. I could cover the 10-ring dot with the crosshairs. The problem with the first two groups was I shot the aim point away. I need to drop the shots lower to stop that from happening.

    I will try Beeman Kodiaks, JSB 14.3-grain Exacts and I will re-shoot a group of Predator Polymags, to settle the rifle placement on the bag.

    Anyone else want something? Can I move my house a couple inches to the left? 😉


    • B.B.,

      Part 4 is unnecessary. Considering how well your 54 shot the jsb 15.8gr I wouldn’t be surprised if it hated the jsb 14.3gr. As many of us know, pellet testing can go on forever. As with all of your tests I think you’ve accurately shown what the gun is capable of. It’s up to the buyers of 54 to spend the time and take pellet testing to the next level.

      Nonetheless, I’d prefer that you moved your house to the right not the left.


      • BB

        I don’t care what direction you move your house as long as its uphill. Oh, and Mrs. Slinging Lead will probably want you to try several different positions like when I am moving heavy furniture.

        I was struck by what you said about the trigger and wanting it to be more flat. The TX200 has a very curved trigger, I was wondering if you’d prefer that trigger to be flat as well? Also, does the sledge mechanism add any extra effort or technique required to the cocking stroke?

        I wouldn’t mind seeing a part 4 of this series. Your groups are not bad by any stretch, but something was holding you back. It would be good to see your results with the Hawk sidewinder scope mounted.

        As far as ammo, I would like to see the H&N Barracudas and field target trophies tested. It would also be cool if you could disassemble a disco ball and glue all the little mirrors to the stock.

        • I was struck by what you said about the trigger and wanting it to be more flat. The TX200 has a very curved trigger, I was wondering if you’d prefer that trigger to be flat as well? Also, does the sledge mechanism add any extra effort or technique required to the cocking stroke?

          If this is the trigger in photo, it already looks dead flat to me… (compared to my mental impression of the T01 trigger blade).

          What I’ve discovered most annoying about both the T01, and the Gamo (even with GRT-III replacement) is that the architecture from pivot, through first and second stage screws, to trigger blade results in the blade “rising” into the stock as one pulls it… That tends to cause the upper side of my finger to press against the trigger slot. I suppose I could shorten the first stage pull length — but to get it to where it doesn’t noticeably rise would shorten first stage to an unsafe level (and probably prevent the safety from engaging too).

          Guess I’ve been spoiled by too many firearms where the trigger pivot point is just above the blade (or even a hair behind it), wherein the trigger basically swings horizontally, not on a near vertical basis.

          As for cocking… resetting the action forward just requires one to fully pull the cocking lever back. The last few degrees of the stroke have the piston/spring fully compressed and the linkage encounters a stop ridge; since the linkage and piston are now stopped, the remaining stroke has to move the main hinge point, and the action, forward. Moving the action into battery can be done with the same thumb that one uses to disengage the safety (it’s moving the action rearward that requires force — the ball detent is engaged).

    • B.B.,

      You’re in rural Texas, right? Real estate prices are down now. Don’t jiggle your house at all- just buy about 250 acres around it, then Edith CANNOT object to you riding your Harley on your own private trails, where the worst surprise you’ll encounter may be a water buffalo crossing your path, or maybe a sidewinder…


  5. b.b., do you have any idea of how the RWS Hypermax would shoot in a lower powered gun like the Slavia 631?
    Looking back through the blog, I only seem to see them tested on higher powered guns where, though they increase velocity the accuracy suffers at those very high velocities.
    I’d like to try them, but at $10 for 100 (in Canada) they’re pretty pricy.
    What to do you think?

    • CSD,

      Let’s try a test, shall we? I have wondered the same thing myself, and not just the HyperMax, but also a couple different kinds of PBA ammo. I happen to have a 631 that I’ve been wanting to shoot for some time and this would give me the perfect chance to do it.

      I see a two-parter on this. A combined Parts 1 and 2 where I describe the 631 for this who don’t know it and then a velocity test with the intended ammo, plus Hobbys and maybe Premier lites (or whatever accurate pellet you can suggest). The second part of the report would be an accuracy test. Please allow me to use open sights for this.

      Whaddaya think?


      • I think that is great!!
        I don’t have a problem paying what they’re asking for the Hypermax…if they work. I’m not the kind of shooter who goes out and ploughs through a tin of pellets in a shooting session…in fact lately I’ve been using a snipers dataguide manual and recording each shot after I take it…so in an hour I might only shoot 25 or so shots.
        So far I’ve had good success at 30 yds with the RWS Superdomes. But this summer I want to try for that mythical 100yd Quigley shot (though I will be using a scope). I figure that if the Hypermax did give the claimed 30% velocity increase, that on a dead calm day (I imagine a lightweight pellet is more affected by wind) I might have a better chance of some accuracy at 100 yds if the pellets are as accurate as RWS claims.

        • This test would also be interesting in the lower powered .22 & .25 cal springers. I have tried the Gamo PBA pellets in my Crosman 1377 and found them to be quite accurate at ten meters ,but the accuracy falls off as the velocity drops quickly at longer ranges. I am also going to try some .25 cal alloy pellets in the BSA springer and see if I can get decent accuracy at 25 yards. The alloy pellets are nearly the same wt. as the 20.6 gr lead pellets it likes . With the lead pellet it will do only 600fps at best.

  6. RE: Crosman Premier group

    From Taylor and Grub tables the expected normalized group size (GS) for 9 shots is 3.710. The normalized upper 95% Confidence Interval (CI) limit is 5.029. So a guess at the 95% CI on the 9 tight shots is:

    (5.029/3.710)*0.518 = 0.702

    So yes it is reasonable to strongly suspect that the errant shot is a statistical flyer. However you’re now left with a vexing task. What is the true group size of 9 or 10 shots? What is the percentage of flyers? Is there some processing that can be done on the pellets to prevent flyers? Does BB have the yips and is just occasionally going to throw one?

    The above equations are not exact since we don’t know the “true” group size of 9 shots. All we have is one 9 shot target, not say 30 that we have averaged. At this point we just don’t have the right statistical tables to properly analyze the data.

    What this essentially means is that the confidence interval isn’t truly a upper 95% CI. It could be more like 90%. But whatever the exact percentage, it is methodical, and repeatable. So it is far better that just guessing if that stray shot is a flyer.


  7. RE: Motorcycles

    Seems that the lawmakers have made the wrong laws about motorcycles. The only law out to be that anyone who obtains a motorcycle operator’s license automatically agrees to be an organ donor. Why make them wear helmets? It will just cut down on the available donor organs. 😉

    On a more truthful side, I knew a kid with a motorcycle. I was trowing papers and want to move up in the worse way. However the kid was riding around on one of the local 4 lane roads and had to lay the bike down. He was wearing tennis shoes, shorts and a light shirt. He was out of school for a couple of weeks. When he returned, it looked like he had been skinned by being scrubbed from head to toe with a wire brush. I lost all interest in a motorcycle.


    • While I agreed with Edith’s fears being well founded in regards to the general mayhem that results during motor cycle accidents. I don’t ride one myself. I will also say that I once rushed an individual to a hospital in my pick-up ,who had blown up and entire container of pyrodex . I had to dump a five gal water container over him first to put him out. Think wily coyote cartoon scenario with totally brunt off hair and black burnt flesh , and smelling like a burnt taco.Even so , I still shoot black powder guns. We all have to make our own choices.

  8. B.B.,
    A second accuracy test is always welcome, but only if you bring someone with you to crank that big mutha over. Let me suggest a pellet not to test, the JSB exact 13.43. They keep my 52 under 20ft/lbs, but open up past 25 yards.

  9. Howdy Hey folks!

    Long time no see. This cowboy… make that burro boy.. has been very busy getting ready for our second annual “Memorial Weekend shootout”. We made a real nice 25 meter & 50 yard bench rest range too, with a concrete slab in a metal building, with 6 concrete shooting tables, with room for 3 more as we get the shooters into the club. LD and Tim got me into the air rifle bench rest game, so I had to make a range to shoot my rigs! LD said he could get real spoiled shooting here… but alas, he went home to his very windy course in Temecula CA… after upping his scores a lot!

    The last day of qualifying for the world air gun bench rest contest to be held in S. Carolina this late July is TODAY! … and for some crazy reason.. I’m still in the top ten and might qualify!.. go figure.

    here is a link to the list of qualifiers in Light Varmint (12fpe), and Heavy Varmint (20fpe)

    And, although the turnout was low for our Memorial Weekend shootout, we still had a lot of fun and turned in some good Field Target scores. Kevin Yee, after an easy win two weeks ago, at LD’s Temecula Challenge”, even cleaned my very tough (41 troyer), course on the first round with a 50/50!.. then followed with an amazing 48/50 for a total of 98/100… that is for sure world class FT shooting! Kevin, of course won the open class with that great performance, and I came in a distant second with 90/100… here is a link to the full report…

    Now that our raised bed season is slowing down, the world BR qualifications are over, and the Memorial shootout is done, I should have a little more time to join in here.. I miss you folks! … until of course, if mine and LD’s scores holds through the day, LD and I start our car journey across the country to S. Carolina… we plan to take some time to enjoy the journey.. should make it from Oregon to S. Carolina in 53 hours:-)

    Wacky Wayne,
    Match Director,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range

      • B.B.

        I haven’t shot my 30-30, 7mm rem mag, or Marlin 45lc in months! .. not even the 45lc blackhawk revolver. no time.. and it’ll be even longer, since I’ll be practicing & traveling for & to the World bench rest contest.. it’s all your fault. YOU and this silly blog got me spending all this time and money with bb guns.. what a world! thanks!

        Wacky Wayne Burns,
        Match Director,
        Ashland Air Rifle Range

        • Wayne,

          It’s good to hear from you again!

          Check out my new avatar. That’s my cat, Pender Van Woozel. We are both back from the desert now. I retired in April and brought him home with me.


          • Les, I’ve been trying to retire.. but they won’t let me yet. Half time for work is the best I can muster right now… that only leaves 3/4 time for air guns:-)

            Cool Cat, we had one that looked like yours, we called tabby.

            Wacky Wayne

    • Wayne,
      Good to hear from you. I wish you the best in the world air gun bench rest contest. Keep us posted. When you become the champ I want to be able to say, I knew you when….

      • Hi Chuck,

        Thanks for the kind words.. but I don’t think I’ll be very competitive, but I’m gonna give it my best shot:-) .. I’m really going just to give LD a ride, (if we both qualify), and learn the game a little more. Some last minute scores were added so, it depends on who is willing to make the journey, AND had high enough scores.. I know some of the high scoring folks never planned to go, they just wanted to compete from home, and compare to other USA shooters, so I’ll find out soon, when all the qualifiers make their decision to travel or not.

        Wacky Wayne

  10. BB and other on the blog, I bought the Diana 34 .22 I asked about a few days back. It was a good deal at $125.00. There isn’t much of a market around here for used air guns hence the low price. Most people just shoot cartridge guns. Those that want a air gun most often by a GAMO from one of the local stores. The gun looks new, no marks on it of any kind. The scope on it is a Walther 1.5 to 4.5 air gun scope with B Square mounts. So, the old boy that set it up knew a little bit about air guns. It is zeroed, but I haven’t really tested it yet. I just shot a few pellets to see if it worked. Do you have any suggestions for this one or should I just shoot it?


    • I’d check the screws and just shoot it. That’s all I did with mine for the first 1500 or so pellets. If you have a chronograph I’d run a few strings over it to check the consistency of your velocity and give you a base from when you started with it just to know,if you do change something for some reason. My 34 in .22 does a average of 690 fps with JSB jumbo’s, and 696 fps with CP’s. The RWS hobbies go 770fps, RWS superdomes 722 fps. I didn’t change a thing in mine, except add a higher front sight ramp which I made for the Mendoza peep sight. The Mendoza peep sight needed a higer front sight.

  11. Thanks Robert and BB;

    I have a chronograph so I’ll check the velocity. I’m about to order pellets so I’ll be sure to get some Premiers. I already have some JSB’s, I also wanted to try the Premiers in the Crosman 160. Cocking effort is stiff. It feels harder to cock than my Diana 52’s. The trigger has some creep in the second stage. I’ll see if I can adjust it out.


  12. B.B.,
    Good accuracy. I’ve held one at a local sporting goods outlet, and did find it to be very large. I can’t help but believe that they can make something a little less massive. Otherwise, it’s a great rifle. The weight doesn’t bother me, as I wouldn’t use it for hunting anyways. In fact, I prefer heavy rifles for target shooting. I’d still prefer to use target aperture sights.

    I like shooting for accuracy at 50 yards to see how accurate an air-rifle is, and to learn about the effects of wind on pellets. This distance is good training for hunting, which might be practical someday. This rifle would be on my short list, but would probably have to follow a nice PCP.


  13. Hey B.B.

    My father is very interested in the Diana rifles and have asked me to look for a book or register of some kind about them. So that he knows which he has and which he needs.
    Do you know if a book like that exists, because I’m a bit lost when it comes to guns and rifles.

    Love Mette.

  14. i just traded my custom disco pcp with pump for a 02 model 54 .22,t01 trigger,the almighty german 8 land barrel.
    no regrets.
    yeah its heavy….but dime groups @30 yards with cheap cphp’s…well worth it.
    this gun is pcp status….but in a heavy package.

  15. after reading all that you wrote b.b. pelietier , i have a hard time cocking my 54 as i had a torn rotor cuff repair in my right shoulder and it was never right . it was done in 1989 and never was correct . but after several diffrent ways now i rest the stock on my pelvisto the left side and hold the barrel with my left hand then cock with the right hand . after lots of tries i can now cock it without any pain. id hate to give my 54 up because of this condition

  16. I have short listed two scopes for my Diana model 54 T06;

    Hawke Airmax EV 4-12×50 AO
    Hawke 4-16×44 AO Varmint Rifle Scope

    I intend to use it for FT and for hunting
    Could you help me decide, which one should I get?

    • Abdul,

      I must assume you will shoot in the Hunter class, since neither scope has enough magnification for rangefinding past about 30 yards. I would chose the lighter scope, because the 54 Air King is a very heavy rifle just by itself.


  17. BB-

    Would the Airking benefit from lets say a JM aftermarket spring or tune kit or the likes of a Vortek system drop in? I keep seeing the “buzzing” word which equates to “twang” to me? I did not have my HW97K for a month when I dropped a Vortek system in and totally transformed that springer and wonder if the Airking would be the same as well as maybe using a heavier pellet in the 18 grain range given it’s power????

    Thanks for the review and this gun sits on my short list for sure.

  18. Hello B.B.

    My Diana 54 seems to have ‘dried up’, I intend to lubricate the trigger assembly, the action the rifle slides on and possibly part of the piston. What should I use; gun grease?

    Best Regards,
    Abdul Wasay

  19. Tom:

    Is scope eye relief an issue when shooting this gun?
    Is it, or could it be, an issue for some people, depending on how close to the eye that one holds his scope, or even which scope is used?
    Is it something that you choose to admit; did the recoil of this gun ever hit you in the brow/eye/eyeglasses?

    ~ deerflyguy

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