by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana 35
Diana 35 pellet rifle.

Part 1

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The rear sight
  • Breech seal
  • What to expect?
  • RWS Hobby
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger
  • Summary

Today we start looking at this Diana 35 that I got from reader Carel in the Netherlands. This is an older rifle that doesn’t have a manufacturing date, but it was probably made between 1953 and 1964. It has the features of the early model (stock with finger grooves), yet it has a hooded front sight with a fixed post that isn’t usually found on rifles this early. Of course the sight could have been added at some later time. The rear sight, though, is quite different.

Diana 35 rear sight 1
The Diana 35 rear sight is different than any I’ve seen.

The rear sight

Reader Mike Driscoll thought the ears around the sight might have been protection during initial shipping. So far no one has come forward with a different explanation, but as soon as this blog gets published some reader I don’t know will link me to the book on Diana rear sights that explains this one’s rich history!

Not knowing any better, I took the sight apart. Five minutes to disassemble and 30 minutes to put it back together correctly. Where engineers today would use tiny coil springs and ball bearings guaranteed to get lost in the carpet, Diana of the 1950s used stamped sheetmetal springs. They aren’t as easy to put together, but at least they don’t get lost. It follows the mid-20th century tradition of never using one part when 27 will do.

Diana 35 rear sight ears
That heavy sheetmetal set of “ears” around the rear sight is a piece that’s just laid under the sight and attached to nothing (arrows). I never thought of it until editing this report, but I guess I could have just pulled it out without any disassembly.

rear sight apart
The component parts of the Diana 35 rear sight. The “ears” are not going back on the rifle!

As someone pointed out, the ears make it difficult to adjust windage on the rear sight. So they aren’t going back on the rifle — at least until I’m done testing it. I suppose I should put them back after that or they will be separated from the rifle forever.

Breech seal

The rifle arrived with a leather breech seal that was toast. Carel had told me it was bad, so I ordered a synthetic seal and shim from Chambers. I didn’t shoot the rifle because that seal was not only flat, it had divots in it. When I removed it. it was hard and rotten. The new shim and seal went in easily and I was ready to test the velocity.

Diana 35 breech seal
The breech seal was flat, pitted and hard.

What to expect?

This rifle is a .177 and the Blue Book says to expect a velocity of around 665 f.p.s. That would be with a lightweight lead pellet, because they didn’t have lead-free pellets when this airgun was made. I presume nobody has tested it with a lead-free pellet since then, so I selected an RWS Hobby that weighs 7.0 grains.

Before I test the velocity I will note that the cocking seems very light for a model 35. I bought a new mainspring when I bought the seal, so if necessary I will replace that sometime in the future.

RWS Hobby

I’m only going to test the rifle with this one pellet today. That should tell me where it is.

Hobbys averaged 603 f.p.s., which is a little slow for a 35. It’s not bad, but there was some vibration with the shot so I’m betting the mainspring is either canted or broken. I probably need to replace it when we go inside, though I do like how easily the rifle cocks right now.

The spread was 31 f.p.s., from 587 to 618 f.p.s., which is on the high side. A rifle like this that’s tuned well should vary 15 f.p.s. or less. That also makes me think the spring is either broken or canted.

Cocking effort

A 35 should cock at 28-30 pounds or so. This one cocks at 18 lbs. Something is definitely wrong.

Trigger

The trigger had a short first stage and a mushy second stage that broke at 3 lbs. 15 oz. After three adjustments I had it breaking at 3 lbs. 10 oz. with a long first and a short second that is very crisp. It’s a little heavy but just how I like them!

Summary

This was the first time I have fired this airgun. Now I know how it shoots I plan to definitely go inside and see what’s what. I will probably install the new spring, perhaps tighten up the tolerances and lube the powerplant with Tune in a Tube. I’m going to take my time with this one, so we may not see it finished this year.