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Ammo Testing a Diana model 23 breakbarrel rifle: Part 4

Testing a Diana model 23 breakbarrel rifle: Part 4

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

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Diana 23
Not as pretty as I would like. This Diana 23 has led a hard life. I’ll refinish it.

Today, we’ll return to an oldie we haven’t looked at in close to 2 months — the Diana 23. You may remember this is a rifle I bought for very little from an online auction — and when it arrived, I found it was better than expected. The finish is gone, but I plan to refinish it. And Larry Hannusch generously donated a brand-new old-stock Diana 23 barrel for the project, so I’m farther along than might be expected.

Last time, we tested the rifle at 10 meters and found that it showed decent accuracy for such a low-powered air rifle. Today, I’m pushing that out to 25 yards with 2 of the best pellets from the last test, plus a new one I’ve thrown into the mix. The goal is to see if this little vintage springer is accurate enough for general plinking duty out to 75 feet.

Days like this are always relaxing for 2 reasons. The first is that I’m testing something that’s no longer available, so there are no company reputations on the line. I enjoy testing airguns, but it’s disturbing to read all the sniping negative comments we receive when things don’t go exactly perfect. It makes me feel like I have failed the gun somehow, and that’s nerve-wracking.

The second reason a day like today is a pleasure is that the gun, itself, is such a little sweetie. The Diana 23 is lightweight and easy to cock. The trigger is certainly not world-class, but it releases with a reasonable pull; and, if the gun is also accurate with open sights, all the better.

The hold
I find when I shoot light low-powered airguns like the 23, the artillery hold isn’t so important. I grasp the rifle tighter than a real artillery hold, though not as tight as I would hold a recoling centerfire. Maybe something more like a rimfire hold. The rifle seems to respond okay to this treatment.

JSB Exact RS
The first pellet I tried was the JSB Exact RS dome. They did well in the 10-meter test that I read before starting this one. I noted that deep-seated pellets did best in that test, so all pellets in this test were seated with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Pellet Seater. The RS pellets fit the bore very well and were not tight going into the breech as they were seated. They hit the target high and just a little to the right when I held the tip of the front sight on the 6 o’clock spot of the black bull. I used the standard 10-meter pistol target because it appears large enough for open sights all the way out to 50 yards.

The group I got measures 1.16 inches between the 2 furthest centers. I’m quite satisfied with that group, except for the centering. The way the 23’s sights are made, I’ll have to drift either the front or rear sight in their dovetails to correct where the pellets land; and since I’m going to change the barrel, I decided to wait and see where the new one shoots.

Diana 23 JSB RS group 25 yards
Ten JSB RS pellets made this 1.16-inch group at 25 yards. It’s a little large; but for such a small rifle — and with open sights, I’m satisfied.

Air Arms Falcon
The second pellet I tried was the Air Arms Falcon that blog reader Kevin Lentz likes so much. They’re made by JSB and weigh the same as the RS pellets, so the temptation is to think they’re RS pellets under a different name. But I don’t think that’s the case. The late Bill Saunders of Air Arms told me that Air Arms owns the dies for all their pellets; and even though JSB makes them, they’re not simply rebranded pellets. If anything, Falcons fit the bore a little looser than RS pellets.

At any rate, Falcons didn’t do as well as RS pellets in the Diana 23. Ten of them made a group that measures 1.568 inches between centers. This group appears not to have 10 shots in it, but several pellets must have gone through the same hole at the top of the group because I counted each shot carefully.

Diana 23 Air Arms Falcon group 25 yards
Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets made this 1.568-inch group at 25 yards. This is larger than I would like. I think I’ll stick to the RS pellets for this rifle.

RWS Hobby
The final pellet I tried was the RWS Hobby wadcutter. They fit the bore very snug and popped in when seated. Though they were at the outside limit of distance for accuracy (wadcutters start to spread apart after 25 yards), they performed very well — delivering the smallest group of this test. Ten pellets went into 1.014 inches at 25 yards. With that kind of accuracy, I would stick with the Hobbys that are less expensive than the other premium pellets anyway. Sure, the accuracy falls off as the distance increases, but how much farther do I expect to shoot this rifle? Not much!

Diana 23 RWS Hobby group 25 yards
Ten RWS Hobby pellets went into 1.014 inches at 25 yards. This is great accuracy for such a small rifle and open sights.

That’s all I’m going to test for now. Next comes the refinish and then whatever I do as I put the rifle back together. It’s a fun little gun. I wish there were more like it!

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.

54 thoughts on “Testing a Diana model 23 breakbarrel rifle: Part 4”

  1. I wish there were, too!

    This gun sounds a lot like the Bronco. I wish there were more guns like it in that price range.
    It seems to me that a lot of low-priced springers trade good triggers and accuracy for velocity.
    I find accuracy much more desirable than velocity.

    Maybe I can find a good used version.


  2. Hi B.B.

    Bang on with the Hobbys Sir. We used a similar Wadcutter by Diana & John Bull domes sent by my Aunt in Britain.It should do much better with the new barrel & tune.It was a lovely little gun & I’m glad you like it. Even the hold did not matter that much. The front sight was a bit of a pain & tended to shift if it was bumped. We took Extreme care that it was not touching anything when it was stored.Have fun!!


    • Errol,first thanks for letting this one find a good home to make many more memories and smiles! I went back to the first installment on this one through the link at the top.BB took good pics of the rear sight assembly.You can see the little marks on the side of the dovetail arrangement……it probably stayed put and never needed adjusting that you recall! That is the build quality that makes the old ones great.

      • FrankB

        Maybe you’re right about the rear sight.My gun was an Original Diana 23 but I just cannot recall a dovetail mount though. Thanks for your sentiments & yeah, they don’t make em like this anymore.


        • I’m sorry Errol,I thought this was your old gun! I’m sure you are correct about your rear sight.There can be so many variants of any airgun that lasted for decades.It sure keeps things interesting for collectors.

          • Frank

            Was just about to send you a clarification. B.B. has got the gun made by Diana for Winchester. It is almost identical in all respects to the original and just triggered off all those almost forgotten memories for me. Even those not connected to it.Ha Ha…


      • B.B.

        Thanks for the info Sir. I just can’t wait to see it perform with the new barrel & tuneup. I know it can do much better, accuracy wise. My Dad used to punch cloverleaf holes in the target at about 20 meters most times,though I never could. He favored the 3 shot groups.


    • Kevin,

      Thank you for your most kind inquiry. I am fine. The Lord has been very good to my family. How have you all been doing and how is Danielle’s skiing been treating her?

      I’d like to wish each and everyone of you a most Happy Thanksgiving!


      • Bruce,

        Thrilled to hear you and yours are doing well. You’ve been missed.

        We haven’t skied this year..yet. Last weekend Danielle brought a friend to the cabin and we spent hours sledding. We just got a new yellow lab puppy and he did a good job keeping the girls busy.

        Want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!


  3. Last week i picked up a Haenel Mod 1 for not a lot of money at all, along with a Webley and Scott Hawk Mk 11, And a Hungarian Relum Zepher to go with my many other Relum’s. They where rusty, dusty, scored, scratched, and generally unloved, but after a quick clean they didn’t look half so bad. I had put an advert in the local village shop offering money for old, broken, and unwanted air rifles a good while back, with the idea of getting cheap air rifles for restoration which i could record on my ‘Angry Angry Gun Company’ airgun blog.

    Looking at the the Diana Mod 23 i can see so many similarities between this and the Haenel, being German and very well built for a start. Research leads me to believe that the Haenel is also a very accurate plinker, but with the breech seal being well worn and the safety not working i don’t really want to be taking many shots until i have brought her back to near her former glory. After reading today’s report i can’t wait to get her up and running properly, as it would be something else to get groups like that from such an old quality gun if i played my part.

    In the mean time i will have to get on with the Webley Hawk with it’s novel double piston ring seals, broken safety, and cracked stock, as i have most parts and tools on hand to get that one running a lot better. This was one of the last Webley’s to come with inter changeable barrels, though i only have the .177 with this one.

    One day some one might have an old Diana to sell me and that day would be a very good day indeed, but hopefully not till after Xmas as i had to break into my Air Arms S410 funds to get these lovely little numbers as it was ( Yes, that does include the Relum as well). I know this is a report on the Diana Mod 23 but any info and experiences on the Haenel Mod 1 (very early 50’s due to the safety switch at the rear would be most appreciated. I am really enjoying this report by the way, so thank you Reverend Gaylord and keep up the good work with the Church of the Latter Day Air Rifles.


    Best wishes, Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe.

      • It’s alive! This past week I had a little time to try it out and I was shooting 1″ groups at 10 meters with round balls. I am still learning the trigger and sights. This is one sweet air rifle! Hopefully this weekend I will have some time to break out a bunch of different pellets and give it a good workout.

        The problem now is I am hooked on these old sproingers. I have a chance to pick up another one of these BSAs in .22. I have even seen a .25 for sale, but what they are asking is WAY beyond my budget. Before long I will probably be wanting some real old break barrel.

        • RR,

          For gosh sakes, that rifle is a taploader that needs pellets with thin skirts to seal the bore. get some RWS Superpoints. Or Daisy pointed pellets. They should work well.

          And we want to hear the whole story — with pictures!

          Not a homework assignment. Think of it as an extended opportunity to brag! 😉


          • I know, but this thing looks like it should be shooting round balls, so I picked up a tin and gave them a try. They did pretty good really. The main reason that the group was as big as it was is that I am not used to the sights and the trigger and I pulled three of them. I knew it as soon as I pulled the trigger without even looking.

            I also have a stack of other pellets to try in it, various shapes and weights, until I find the one. Hopefully I will have some time to do such this weekend.

            I have been taking pictures along the way and fully intend to do a bit more bragging on this baby!

            Right now it has a place of honor on the wall of my log house. My wife even thinks it looks good hanging there. Now if I can just get her to let me shoot in the house. Maybe I can get Edith to talk to her some. ;o)

  4. Howdy Mr. BB, Ms. Edith & the Gang. Wishin’ ya’ll an awesome “damn, I ate way too much…again” day. Thanx for lettin’ me sit at the big table once in awhile. If you’re on the other side of the pond, take the day off & go, shoot &/or ride safe.

  5. Has anyone tried to use Anschutz target rifle rearsights on Diana rifles? My Anschutz sight fits on my Hy-score 810sm rifle. Since it is recoiless, there is no problem. Would it shoot loose on recoiling Diana rifles? The sight does not have the locking device found on Diana sights . Ed

  6. “It makes me feel like I have failed the gun somehow, and that’s nerve-wracking.”

    AAahHAAA! A chink in the master’s armor!! Let’s just exploit that with this “Hazard Fraught” crow bar……!

    No, seriously BB, that pain is the fault of the student. Not yours! You just keep calling them like you see them. Good, bad, or indifferent…


  7. Hi BB,
    That’s the perfect gun for plinking. Hang a soda can from a tree with a string tied to the tab and have at it from about 30 yards out. There is no stress when you miss and you smile or even giggle when you get a solid hit. I can do that all day long. That’s what I do with my Tempest too.

    Is the 23 the gun that you talked about that was a smooth bore? I remember you were going to shoot some darts from a smooth bore but I don’t remember for sure which gun it was.

    I hope you take off for a long weekend. We can go for a few days without the blog and I am sure you need a break from time to time. I hope you and Edith have a great weekend,

    David Enoch

    • Pop can ?!? First sign of an amateur plinker :)! They are OK for BB’s, which will still tear them up quick, though.

      For pellets, steel (soup or vegetable) can works much better, hang it from a wire/string via nail hole on the bottom. For the high-powered plinker, fill the cans with water and shoot them with hollow points or wadcutters; occasionally a .22LR hollowpoint is fun as well. The big kahuna of stress relief is a large metal coffee can on a fiberglass electric fence post; roll up newspaper inside the can and put a small hole in the lid to put the post through. Place from 50 to 100 yards away and have at it: The longer the range the more satisfying the clank after a delay…and you can measure the “quality” of the hit by how far the post moves back and forth and how long…

      • I have good luck with the aluminum cans. They seem to take a lot of hits. When one drops, I just replace it. I like aluminum because pellets pass through and I don’t get the ricochet sound that might scare the neighbors. The neighbors don’t mind me shooting but I just don’t want to concern them.

        David Enoch

        • I would say it probably can. How likely it is to happen would depend on two main factors: where the pellet hits on the can (since that would change the angle) and how powerful the gun firing the pellet is.

          A hit to the centerline of the can should hit relatively squarely. That should minimize the possibility of a ricochet and produce a nice round hole (hopefully through the front and back). However a hit to the side of the can (away from the centerline) would result in the pellet hitting at an angle. That could deflect the pellet, especially since as you increase the angle you increase the amount of steel you have to shoot through (hence the sloped armor on tanks…).

          As for the bit about the power of the gun shooting the pellet… Pretty self explanatory really. A 15-20 ft-lb gun is more likely to drive a pellet through the soup can than a 1-2 ft-lb pellet gun. So the more powerful gun is less likely to ricochet a pellet off the sloping edge of the can.


          • And that’s what happens when I don’t specify which question I’m answering… Hopefully it was obvious that the previous post was about the pellets deflecting.

            As for the can lasting longer… Its heavier, thicker material. So it will take more punishment before it finally tears in half.

    • I use one of those portable plastic sawhorses with a PVC pipe spreader bar to hang soda cans by their tabs from strings with hooks. Hitting the tabs just right makes them fly off the hooks in a satisfying way. I also use those inexpensive chrome plated wire roasting forks from the camping section to hold cans. You stab the fork end in the ground and the handle end is just right for a squeeze fit into the mouth of the can.

    • That will be fun to watch, unless SyFy has something better (and by better I mean so horrid that it is entertaining) — I recently found “In the name of the king: a dungeon siege tale” to fit that bill, but pretty much anything SyFy makes is pleasantly and predictably bad. I know you are a connoisseur!

      • BG_F

        Sci-Fried has a James Bond marathon tomorrow…. No spooks, creatures, cannibals, aliens, or disasters.
        The only worse movies are on EPIX Drivein and Chiller.


        • Confound it all, you are right! I never understood the allure of James Bond movies, excepting the women, and they weren’t special enough to suffer through the rest for. I did enjoy the Dean Martin spoof movies, though.

          You may already have enough of an idea for a Syfy movie there already. If you add that the main (socially awkward male and English impaired coed) characters are on college break at a new lake retreat/indoor mall on the moon base, I think it would be even better.

          • Actually, the action on the older Bond films is kind of dated. I guess it’s a response to the cool factor that is either there or not. “My name is Bond, James Bond.” But ironically, that name was originally chosen by Ian Fleming because it was ordinary. Anyway, it is all British cool as in:

            Zorin: You amuse me Mr. Bond.
            Bond: It’s not mutual.


      • I have the Walking Dead series, Season 3 waiting for me on disk. I have to work Friday through Monday though, so I’m likely to sneak off somewhere tomorrow to watch….


        • My wife is starting to watch that on Netflix (I think); I haven’t heard much about it yet, though. We watched “Fringe” together, which was enjoyable, but it takes a long time, as she falls asleep halfway through most episodes, and I have to wait a week for her to catch up. Tell me if it is any good.

          • BG

            You have it easy. Mrs Slinging Lead talks through half of most episodes, so I have to rewind every couple of minutes to catch the dialogue I missed. She is lucky she’s cute, otherwise…

            “The Walking Dead” really is a good show. Mind you it is more than a little gory, so if that puts you off, don’t bother. But it isn’t just about zombies, its about the way different people handle living in a post-civilization world, with some doing anything to survive and others attempting to preserve a sense of humanity and civility. Incidentally, it is filmed in my home state of Georgia, and Mrs Slinging Lead met two of the actresses on the show while walking a dog on a bike path.

            AMC seems to have cornered the market on good television shows lately. “Breaking Bad” was epic. Best television program ever. “Hell on Wheels” is also good.

  8. Just taking a moment to wish all a Happy thanksgiving, and as I understand it, Hanukkah begins tomorrow as well this year, Happy Hanukkah! Thanks to B.B. and Edith for the time you put into the blog, I’ve enjoyed it very much and learned a great deal as well!!

  9. I found that I need to be a bit selective when I take on a restoration job. If the thing is too old and abused sometimes the gun just isn’t worth the expense of going into it and fixing it. I’ve had a few guns come through my work bench that I had to replace close to half the gun. Some of these old guns have been seriously abused. They have had rocks shot through them, left outside in mud, thrown around on the ground, tossed in trees and stored in an old root cellar for years. Always be cautious when you buy a used air gun. There is a good reason I don’t normally like to deal with old guns. Sometimes repair parts are just impossible to find.

  10. Considering 10 shots and open sights that is not bad at all.

    I think I’ve passed a plateau. Night after night, the IZH 61 is zinging them in there. At a farther distance, things might look different, but at 5 yards there is not a lot of improvement that can be made without a sophisticated measuring device. It only took about 100,000 shots. So be patient with your IZH 61 because the break-in is a little longer.

    So, what do I do now? Shall I turn my attention to one-handed pistol shooting where I’m spraying shots all over the place? By no means. Mindful of my awful high school shooting career with its ups, I will now pour it on to anchor in my new killer method. There will be more hurricanes of lead. There was a villain on the old Flash Gordon shows called Ming the Merciless, and I think that I will make a fair claim to being Matt61 the Merciless…


  11. B.B.

    A few days ago I started reading your blogs starting at the very beginning (I’m up to June 2006). What a tremendous amount of information you have supplied us. Makes for entertaining reading as well. Last night I read your review of the S&W 686. Today I got mine out and shot silhouette targets at 10 yards. What a blast, it is a great CO2 pistol.

    Thanks for all of your and Edith’s work over the years. Have a Very Happy Thanksgiving.


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