by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana AR-8
Diana AR8 N-TEC air rifle.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

  • New Diana scope base
  • Droop?
  • The test
  • Baracuda Match 5.53mm heads
  • Firing behavior
  • Better artillery hold
  • JSB Exact Jumbo
  • RWS Superdome
  • Notice all three groups
  • Conclusions

This report has taken a long time to write. I wanted to test the Diana AR8 from 25 yards with open sights, but my sighting eye has degraded to the point that I can’t do that. The AR8 is also very hard to cock and it would be too much trouble to shoot it left-handed, so I scoped it for today’s test. I used a 3-12X40 UTG scope that’s no longer made.

New Diana scope base

As you may remember, Diana changed the installed scope bases on all their spring rifles a few years ago, negating the aftermarket bases that were designed for them in the past by UTG. There are still hundreds of thousands of those vintage rifles that those bases fit, but the new base on all their spring rifles will not allow the old droop-compensating UTG mount base to be installed.
The problem is — Diana’s base on the rifle doesn’t accept a scope ring set very well. I wanted to use a base that accepted Picatinney scope rings, because of the heavy recoil of the AR8, but Diana doesn’t provide a ring like that, nor would it fit their base if they did.

Droop?

I had a prototype UTG base that did fit, but it did not have any droop compensation. In my first test today with H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 5.53mm heads the pellet was striking the target about 8 inches below the aim point, and I thought it was due to droop, but with the next two pellets the groups were right on target. After testing I don’t think the AR8 I’m testing droops very much. It does droop a little, but not as much as vintage Diana breakbarrels.

The test

I shot from a rest at 25 yards. I used the artillery hold and in this report you will read that the best hold is with the off hand rested under the cocking slot, not touching the triggerguard. I shot 10 shots per pellet and the groups were so scattered that I had to photograph the target still taped to the backer board.

H&N Baracuda Match 5.53mm heads

First up was the H&N Baracuda Match pellet with the 5.53mm head. That was the most accurate pellet at 10 meters using open sights, so I thought it was a good place to start. Unfortunately this heavy pellet dropped so much (around 8 inches) that I had to use the third mil dot down on the vertical reticle as my aim point. And, even with that the group was still a couple inches below the aim point.

Ten pellets went into 1.321-inches at 25 yards. The group was very vertical and this was the only group that was shot with my off hand rested so it touched the triggerguard.

Diana AR-8 Baracudas 25 yards
Ten H&N Baracuda Match pellets went into 1.321-inches at 25 yards. The verticality of this group may reflect where my off hand was resting beneath the rifle.

Firing behavior

The AR8 has a very light trigger that I love. The rifle doesn’t vibrate much when it fires, but it does recoil significantly.

Better artillery hold

After the first group, I slid my off hand out until it rested beneath the cocking slot of the stock. That stabilized the rifle more and I think gave better groups. I would have shot another group with these Baracuda pellets, but this rifle is too difficult for me to cock. After a few sighters and 30 shots for the record, I was finished.

JSB Exact Jumbo

The next pellet I tried was the 15.89-grain JSB Exact Jumbo. The heavier 18.1-grain Jumbo Heavy did not do well at 10 meters, so I wanted to give this lighter one a try. Using the new artillery hold, 10 of these pellets made a group at 25 yards that measures 1.415-inches between centers. The group did strike the bottom of the bull I aimed at, so this pellet shoots about 8 inches higher than the Baracuda Match. It’s also the reason I say the AR8 is not much of a drooper.

Diana AR-8 JSB 25 yards
Ten JSB Exact Jumbo pellets went into 1.415-inches at 25 yards.

RWS Superdome

The last pellet I tried was the RWS Superdome. It’s light for the power of the AR8, but if it’s accurate, who cares?

Ten Superdomes went into 1.288-inches at 25 yards, which proved to be the best group of the test. They landed lower on the target than the JSBs, though they also did strike near the bull at which I was aiming. A couple of the last shots landed off the target paper, so I left the target taped to the backer board for photography and measuring.

Diana AR-8 Superdome 25 yards
Ten RWS Superdome pellets made this 1.288-inch target at 25 yards.

Notice all three groups

If you examine all three groups you’ll see there is a group within each of them that contains about half the shots. That suggests to me that there is a shooting hold that will improve the accuracy significantly. I almost had it, but not quite — as these groups show. I therefore think the AR8 is more accurate than my testing was able to demonstrate.

Conclusions

I still think the AR8 makes a nice hunting rifle for those wanting a springer. It’s definitely not for plinking, but if you can discover the right hold, I think you will be surprised.

Given the power, I think this rifle is very well-behaved. This is the second Diana with an N-TEC gas spring that has surprised me this way. I think they have their act together.