Testing a Diana model 23 breakbarrel rifle: Part 4
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!