by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Diana 34 history
• 34P was used as a testbed
• Velocity with Premier lite pellets
• H&N Baracuda Match pellets
• Air Arms Falcon pellets
• Cocking effort
• Final comment
This is Part 2 of an update on the Diana 34P air rifle. I’ve already reported extensively on this rifle, both in its factory trim, in this 4-part report, and again, when I tuned it several years ago with the Air Venturi Pro-Guide Spring Retainer System, (see Part 5 of the series on the Air-Venturi Pro-Guide Spring Retainer System). That system is no longer available, but it’s in the gun we’re testing today.
This will be an update on this rifle by itself, but I’ll soon use it, again, in Part 6 of The great pellet comparison test. Before I do that, though, I wanted to familiarize our new readers with the performance of this tuned air rifle. After this report, I’ll be doing a traditional accuracy test to find one or two best premium pellets that will go against all those bargain pellets in the test.
Diana 34 history
I’ve often said in this blog that a Diana model 34 air rifle is the best inexpensive air rifle on the market. I know it’s far from the cheapest, so here’s what I mean by that. Back in the 1980s and ’90s, the Diana 34 wasn’t the rifle it is today. The powerplant was very buzzy, and the trigger left a lot to be desired. The rifle was selling for $90 in those days and RW USA, the U.S. importer of Diana airguns, used the 34 as their entry-level gun in a long line of models they were selling.
There was the upscale model 36 that had some nicer features, such as a better stock and sights, and the model 38 that featured a checkered walnut stock. At the heart of all 3 rifles, though, was the same powerplant. For several years, it was confusing to buy a Diana air rifle. You wanted the best you could afford, but the top-of-the-line model 38 had the same buzzy powerplant as the entry-level 34. The metal was finished better and, of course, the stock was much better looking. But, when the shot went off, you were back to a basic gun because the insides of all 3 models were all the same.
This story would be great if I could tell you that Diana changed everything overnight, but it didn’t happen that way. What I’m about to tell you took place over more than a decade as models shifted around and were eventually dropped from the catalog. First to go was the expensive model 38, whose walnut stock was kept for a special version of the model 36. The regular model 36 had a beech stock that was shaped nicely, in contrast to the 34 stock that looked like it had been melted.
As the models were changing, the insides of all versions were also changing. Tolerances were getting tighter, and the trigger was evolving. This went largely unnoticed by many, including me, until one day in 2007 when I chanced to test the Diana 34P (it was called the Panther at the time, but the name was changed to just the 34P). I remembered my model 34 from 1990 that was so rough around the edges; so, when I shot the much-improved 34P in the test, I was surprised that most of the buzzing had disappeared and the trigger was much improved.
34P was used as a testbed
I liked that rifle (which is the one I’m testing today) so much that I convinced Pyramyd AIR to let me keep it on a long-term loan so I could do more tests, using it as a base rifle. The UTG Drooper scope base was developed on this very rifle. And that is why the UTG base for the Diana 34 has such a pronounced droop! This particular rifle hits 21 inches below where the scope looks when no corrective base is installed!
As an aside, I did not come up with the idea for the drooper base. I was in a meeting with Leapers at the SHOT Show about a base that would fit all Diana rifles but would not bear against the large-head screw at the rear of their base. Back in the old days, shooters thought that screw was a perfect way to anchor a scope mount from moving. I cannot tell you how many hundreds of screw heads were sheared off! I did 2 of them, myself!
So, the scope base I was proposing to Leapers that day was just to fix that problem. My buddy, Mac, came up with the idea of correcting the droop at the same time. When he said it, I recognized that it was what had been missing from my proposal! I worked with Leapers’ engineers throughout the the next year, and the result was the UTG Drooper base.
I note with irony that the airgun manufacturer, Diana, who had ignored my pleas to correct their barrel drooping problem with certain air rifles, finally changed the bases on all their rifles, so the UTG base would no longer fit about 5 years after it came on the market. Oh, well! There are still hundreds of thousands of Diana rifles made before the recent change, and the UTG Drooper Base is the best way to correct the drooping problem on them.
During this same period of years, the Air Venturi Pro-Guide Spring Retainer System came out, and the 34P was a perfect candidate for installation. The Pro-Guide was a drop-in system that tightened the tolerances in the powerplant and boosted velocity at the same time. Mine has been in this rifle for 6 years. Although I haven’t shot it that much (I never get as much shooting of the guns I enjoy), it’s been shot enough to be broken in.
Today, I’m baselining the gun’s performance for you. When we get to Part 6 of the pellet accuracy test, you’ll be able to check back to this report to find out about the rifle that was used.
Velocity with Premier lite pellets
I began testing velocity with our standard candle — the Crosman 7.9-grain Premier lite. Not only is this the pellet I try to always use in velocity tests, it also happens to be accurate in this particular rifle based on my past tests!
Today, the Premier lite averaged 937 f.p.s. in this Diana 34P as it is tuned. The spread was large, ranging from a low of 923 f.p.s. to a high of 958 f.p.s. That’s a total of 35 f.p.s. — a little on the high side for a tuned air rifle. At the average velocity, this pellet produced 15.41 foot-pounds of energy.
H&N Baracuda Match pellets
Next up was the H&N Baracuda Match. Because Pyramyd AIR recently sent me some of these with larger head sizes, I decided to test the 4.52mm head in the 34P. They averaged 782 f.p.s., and the spread went from a low of 771 to a high of 792 f.p.s. That’s just 21 f.p.s. and is more like what I hoped for. At this velocity, the pellet produces 14.47 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
I must comment that the 34P as it’s now tuned is very smooth-shooting. There’s some recoil, but a light hold (which is needed for accuracy with a powerful breakbarrel anyway) negates that. However, when I loaded the H&N Baracuda Match, the firing behavior became smoother. Some of the recoil seemed to go away, as well. I can’t wait to try this pellet on paper at 25 yards!
Air Arms Falcon pellets
The last pellet I tested was the 7.33-grain Air Arms Falcon dome that’s been doing so well recently in my accuracy tests. This one has a 4.52mm head, also. Falcons averaged 930 f.p.s. in the 34P, which came as a real surprise to me. They’re lighter than the Premier lites, and I expected them to be over 1,000 f.p.s.; but as you can see, that didn’t happen.
The spread went from a low of 913 to a high of 941 f.p.s., which is 28 f.p.s. In this tuned rifle, they vary more than the much heavier Baracuda Match. Even though the head is large, these Falcons fit the Diana’s breech easier than the other 2 pellets. They were almost loose, but not quite.
At the average velocity, Falcons produced 14.08 foot-pounds of energy, which is below even the heavy Baracuda Match pellets. I don’t know whether or not they’ll be accurate in this rifle. We’ll have to wait and see.
Since this is a Part 2, I did a trigger-pull test for you, as well. The rifle has a T06 trigger that was installed and tested back in 2011. It’s set to 2 stages that are very clear and separate. Stage 2 breaks crisply at 1 lb., 8 oz. (24 oz.). It’s not a TX200 trigger, but it’s pretty darned nice — certainly nicer than the trigger on any powerful spring rifle in this price range!
The rifle, as it’s now tuned, cocks with but 28 lbs. of effort. However, it does feel like more than that. I have the barrel pivot joint adjusted extremely tight, and I think I’ve added some resistance to the cocking effort. It feels like over 30 lbs. to me. I will say that the cocking effort is incredibly smooth. Most breakbarrels have either some grinding as the barrel breaks down, or there will be hesitation or a sudden increase in the force required at some point. This rifle has none of that. It is what it as — all the way through the cocking stroke.
The last thing I will say is that this rifle, with its special tune, is no longer a stock 34P. I don’t want anyone to think that it is. Back when this drop-in tune was available from Pyramyd AIR, I think it was selling for around $100, or slightly more. A clever home tuner could do what this kit has done just by tightening all the tolerances in the powerplant, but I don’t want anyone to think that a factory 34P is as smooth as this one. I realize that none of you can feel how smooth this rifle is; but I’ll be commenting on it in the future, and I don’t want to confuse anyone.
On the same note, all 34Ps should be about as accurate as this one. Each rifle will vary, but they’re all quite accurate –and tunes do not increase the accuracy of the gun. They make them more pleasant to shoot. And a 34P comes with the T06 trigger today, where I had to install the one that’s in this rifle. So, I think the 34P is still the best spring gun bargain on the market.