by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Diana 25 smoothbore
This Diana 25 smoothbore was made during World War II.

What a topic to follow a twist-rate report — one about a smoothbore! Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the WW II-era Diana 25 smoothbore airgun. This is a play-day for me because this gun is so non-finicky and trouble-free. It’s the way I wish all airguns could be. Just load and shoot. No special handling beyond the basic artillery hold, and no need to treat it like it’s a vial of nitroglycerin.

Shoot from 10 meters
I decided to shoot from a rest at 10 meters just because this is a smoothbore, and I had no idea of what results we would get. I hoped it would hit the paper with all shots. That would be good enough. But nothing beats shooting, so that’s what I did.

JSB Exact RS
The first pellet I tried was the JSB Exact RS, which is a .177-caliber favorite of blog reader Kevin and has become one of mine, too. It seems to work in most airguns, and it’s often one of the very best pellets. So, how would it do in a smoothbore?

I shot off a rest with the artillery hold. My off hand was back touching the triggerguard, but the gun is not muzzle-heavy. The first shot landed below the center of the bull — but actually at the point of aim, if a bit off to the right. So, the rear sight elevator was pushed forward to raise the sight. I didn’t care if it was hitting the center of the bull or not, but I wanted to keep the shots mostly inside the large black bull of a 10-meter pistol target because I could see the holes when they were in the white and distracted me.

The first 10 shots were fired with the pellet seated flush with the breech face. And the group turned out better than I had expected, though about as good as several readers had indicated they get from their smoothbores. It may not look that good to you, but notice how narrow it is compared to the height? That’ll become important in a moment. This group measures 1.158 inches between centers.

Diana 25 smoothbore JSB Exact RS flush-seated group
Ten JSB RS pellets in 1.158 inches, center to center, at 10 meters. The lone shot in the white was the first sight-in shot and is not part of the group.

Next, I shot another 10 rounds of RS pellets, but this time I seated each pellet deep in the breech with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and PellSet. As before, the pellets all landed in the black bull, so it wasn’t until I walked down to change the target that I saw the group. Imagine my surprise to see a 10-shot group that could just as easily have been shot with an expensive target rifle! Ten JSB RS pellets went into a group that measured 0.337 inches between centers.

Diana 25 smoothbore JSB Exact RS deep-seated group
Ten JSB RS pellets seated deep in the breech made this 0.337-inch group at 10 meters. This is amazing for a smoothbore!.

You might shoot 5 shots some time and luck out like that, but 10 shots tell the truth. This airgun is very accurate at 10 meters, even though it’s a smoothbore. And it takes deep-seating the pellets to do it — at least with the JSB RS pellet. Now, I was curious. Would the two other test pellets show similar results?

Beeman Devastator
The second pellet I tried is one I don’t shoot a lot, but after it did so well in the Velocity versus vibration accuracy test I did a year ago, it has moved into the category of pellets I like to try when the circumstances are unusual. The Beeman Devastator is a hollowpoint that acts like a wadcutter at the same time. And a smoothbore is definitely unusual. The first 10 flush-seated pellets went into a group measuring 1.948 inches between centers. Not very good and more like what I’d been expecting from this airgun.

Diana 25 smoothbore Beeman Devastator flush-seated group
Ten Beeman Devastators didn’t group too well when seated flush with the breech. Group size is 1.948 inches between centers.

Now, it was time to shoot 10 Devastators that were seated deep in the breech. Would they also tighten up?

Well — yes and no. The 10-shot group of deep-seated Devastators measures 1.982 inches between centers, which is a little larger than the group of flush-seated pellets. However, 8 of those pellets did group into 0.691 inches. I would say that the deep-seating method still looks promising at this point.

Diana 25 smoothbore Beeman Devastator deep-seated group
Ten deep-seated Beeman Devastators made a group of 1.982 inches between centers, but 8 of those were in 0.691 inches. Deep-seating still looks good.

RWS Superdome
The final pellet I tried was that universal favorite — the RWS Superdome. The first group of flush-seated pellets was not that large, at 1.156 inches. If the deep-seating method held true for this pellet as well, it might beat the tight RS group when seated deep.

Diana 25 smoothbore RWS Superdome flush-seated group
Ten RWS Superdomes went into 1.156 inches at 10 meters. This is the best flush-seated group thus far.

A happy accident
As I was shooting the next group of Superdomes, I forgot to seat the second pellet deep and had to stop shooting the target. But the result on target was so dramatic that I photographed it, so you could see what happened. The deep-seated pellet is the high one and the flush-seated pellet is the low one. That shows more clearly than anything how deep-seating affects the shot.

Diana 25 smoothbore RWS Superdome mistake
The deep-seated pellet went high and the flush-seated pellet went low. This shows the dramatic difference deep-seating makes.

Deep-seated Superdomes
Then I got serious again and shot 10 rounds of Superdomes seated deep. They made a group sized 1.047 inches. While that’s only a little better than the same pellets seated flush, notice that these shots are centered in the bull much better. Not that I’m looking for that, but it’s a nice side benefit.

Diana 25 smoothbore RWS Superdome deep-seated group
Ten deep-seated RWS Superdomes went into 1.047 inches at 10 meters. It’s better than the flush-seated pellets.

What have we learned?
The first thing this test has taught us is that a smoothbore airgun isn’t that much of a disadvantage at 10 meters. I think the results of the RS pellets definitely call for another test of this airgun at 25 yards.

The next thing I learned is that deep-seating the pellets seems to improve their accuracy. Some improved more than others, but every pellet seems to have done better with deep-seating.

The last thing is that all of this shooting, all 63 shots, were fired with simple open sights. After some of the trauma you’ve witnessed me undergo in recent weeks to get some air rifles to group, this little Diana 25 seems to have breezed past all the big-name guns and taken the lead. I think that says a lot about what power levels are best for spring-piston air rifles.