Diana 75/Beeman 400 recoilless target air rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana 75
The Diana 75.

Let’s make lemonade

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Refresh your memory
  • Wayne Johnson
  • The Diana 75/Beeman 400
  • Right-hand bias
  • History of the Diana 75
  • Giss contra-recoil mechanism
  • Sights
  • The wood
  • The metal
  • Summary

Today we begin our look at the Beeman 400 sidelever recoilless target air rifle that is really a Diana 75. I linked to the Making lemonade report because of the piston seals. That should be an issue I no longer need to explain.

Refresh your memory

This air rifle is the one I saw on Gun Broker and contacted Wayne Johnson, the seller, directly. I offered what I felt was a good price, plus the shipping he requested. I had never done that before and I was called a name for doing it, but I felt this was a special airgun and Wayne was a special owner. Here is exactly what I said to him on my first contact.

Diana 75 contact remarks

Wayne Johnson

Wayne and I hit it off right away. I would normally never publish the full name of anyone in this blog, unless that person was a personality or they were out there for some other reason. Wayne is the author of The FN49, The Last Elegant Old-World Military Rifle, expanded second edition, copyright 2019 by Wayne Johnson, published by Wet Dog Publications.

Diana 75 book
Wayne’s book is an excellent treatise on the development, production and oddities of the FN49 battle rifle.

I bought his book because the FN49 is a military rifle I always wanted to know more about. Now I do, thanks to Wayne.

Wayne is the kind of person you want to buy something from. From his listing I could tell that he is scrupulously honest, because on Gun Broker he listed every fault the rifle had — not that there were many! And, after he accepted my offer we conversed a little about his airgun.

Hi Tom,
I don’t think I need the proof of age – I imagine you are over 18 !

Yeah – I am pretty much a straight arrow on the auction stuff and no, I’m not insulted by the direct approach. After I had the gun serviced by David Slade I should have chronographed it to see what it did with the new seals. I was VERY disappointed when I test fired it yesterday and realized that it was shooting slow so I wanted to make sure that I pointed that out in the auction.  Anyway, as I mentioned before, I made this exception on cancelling the auction since I know it’s going to the right place. I did have 45 views on that auction in the first 12 hours along with 4 watchers so no telling where the auction might have gone but regardless, I like where the rifle is going.

I’ve attached to this email a scan of the original receipt that shows the purchase price from Beeman – I don’t know what info you include in your air gun write-ups but that may be of interest to some readers. I’ll include in the papers for the gun my original chrono data from 1984, when the gun was two years old (with 1500-1600 pellets fired) that shows it averaged 605 fps on two different range sessions.

If you think of it, after you complete and post your review of this rifle perhaps you could send me a link to that article.

Best,
Wayne

First off, know that I emailed Wayne the link to this blog. This is something I have been wanting to do ever since I got the rifle.

I want today to be about the Diana 75 target rifle in general, but I will weave in things that are special about this particular rifle as I go. Just getting ready to take pictures last Thursday I discovered an “Easter Egg” gift that Wayne had packed under the foam of the hard case he sent the rifle in. It was an unopened tin of Beeman Silver Bear hollowpoint pellets that the note said were about 35 years old. Well, they will still be unopened at my estate sale, so watch for them!

The Diana 75/Beeman 400

Although this rifle was sold to Wayne as a Beeman 400, it is a Diana 75. We sometimes see the name RWS attached to Diana airguns in the U.S., but that is an importation thing. Diana makes the guns. Both Robert Beeman of Beeman Precision Airguns and the late Robert Law of Air Rifle Headquarters thought enough of the 75 to sell it. But Beeman did change at least the name he called it in his catalog, if not the actual markings on the airgun.

Diana-75-receipt

Diana-75-logo
There are no Beeman markings on the rifle.

Diana-75-parts
Beeman literature like this parts list, plus the purchase receipt, is the only way to tie the rifle to Beeman as a 400.

The 75 has a long production life, though it changed and evolved as time passed. The basic 75, which I believe this rifle to be, was produced from 1977 to 1983. Mine was made in March of 1981, according to the date code stamped into the spring tube. Other versions of the rifle lasted until the 1990s.

Diana 75 date code
This 75 was made in March of 1981.

Right-hand bias

My rifle was made for a right-handed shooter. How can I tell? Look at the buttstock and see if you can tell.

Diana-75- butt
Whaddaya think? Made for a righty?

As the years passed, manufactures would move to more adjustable stocks so they weren’t locked into right- or left-handed shooters. But the 75 was made at a time before such things were considered.

By the way, Diana did offer the rifle with left-hand stocks and the Blue Book of Airguns says to SUBTRACT 10 percent for one! That’s odd, because everyone else adds a small percentage for a southpaw stock. Gotta change that in the book next time. I already wrote a note in my bench copy of the Blue Book.

History of the Diana 75

The Diana 75 lies at the end of a long line of recoilless Diana target air rifles that began with the Diana model 60 in 1960. The 60 was a pretty basic breakbarrel target rifle which was okay for a few years, as its competitors were also breakbarrel — like the Weihrauch HW 55 and the Walther LG 55. But when rifles like the sidelever FWB model 110 came out and then quickly morphed into the recoilless model 150, shooters started wondering whether fixed barrels were somehow more potentially accurate since their barrels never moved. That’s a hard argument to ignore and the world moved on, though Diana did bring out two more refined breakbarrel target rifles — the 65 and the 66.

Editor’s note: I cannot locate Part 3, the accuracy test for the FWB 150. I’m pretty sure I did it, but with all the WordPress changes over the years it’s gotten misplaced.

When the 75 came out it represented the high-water mark for Diana spring-piston air rifles. It was a Diana 66 with a fixed barrel and a sidelever for cocking. It was fully capable of competing against the finest FWB 300S, which it did for several years before CO2 and finally PCP rifles pushed springers off the world stage completely.

The test rifle came with its original manual that includes a Diana test target in which five pellets have grouped in 0.065-inches at 10 meters. That will give my most-accurate FWB 300S a run for the money!

Diana-75-test-target
The test target that came with the Diana 75 is serial-numbered to the rifle. A group of five pellets are in 0.065-inches at 10 meters.

Giss contra-recoil mechanism

Probably the best-known feature of the 75 is its Giss contra-recoil mechanism that renders it recoilless. As the real piston with its seal moves forward to compress the air, an equally-weighted false piston moves in the opposite direction. Both pistons stop at the same instant, cancelling all felt recoil. This system works surprising well, though it does pose a problem for airgunsmiths.

When replacing the piston seal, which you now know must be done at least once, the rear false piston must be timed perfectly if the contra-recoil is to be maintained. Timing can be a touchy task, and a shooter will notice immediately if it’s off. So, it must be done perfectly. Dave Slade replaced the piston seal in this rifle and I can tell you that he nailed it.

Sights

Naturally the 75 comes with a fine set of adjustable target sights, and I’ll give you a better look at them in future reports. The front sight has replaceable inserts that are early 1980s vintage, which is to say a solid post or aperture. This one came with a post installed and the rest of the inserts in a box. I will replace it with a clear aperture that allows for more precise aiming as well as not shooting at the wrong bull. More on the sights when we get to accuracy.

The wood

Back when this rifle was new manufacturers were using walnut for their stocks. This one has a nice bit of figure in the butt. The remainder of the stock is straight grain except for the vertical pistol grip. It also has some figure which means the grain isn’t straight there, either. That’s desirable, because a 10-meter target rifle stock is very prone to break at the wrist where the wood is thinnest and also straight grain. Feinwerkbau even put vertical wooden posts into their grips on later rifles to strengthen this sensitive area.

The metal

I hope the pictures show a little of the deep polish and bluing on the metal parts. I had to lighten them to show details in things like the logo and the date code, so you don’t get the full appearance of the miles-deep polish. Only the barrel is intentionally matte, and that is to cut down reflections when sighting.

Summary

That’s your first look at this fine old target rifle. Wayne entrusted it to me to care for and that’s an obligation I both respect and intend honoring. Stay tuned for lots more fun.

41 thoughts on “Diana 75/Beeman 400 recoilless target air rifle: Part 1




  1. B.B.

    Hopefully this schematic will help with an explanation of the GISS system:
    https://www.gunspares.co.uk/products/24404/75/

    As shown by a recent add on Gun Broker, $750 is a very fair price to pay for a nice D75.

    Boy do I wish current stock makers would cant their stocks! If anybody has a link to a cantable(is that a word?) butt plate, I would appreciate posting a link.

    Now lets see if B.B. can shoot a 0.1 inch size group?

    -Yogi

    P.S. I understand that David Slade will only use OEM seals. Will they degrade rapidly too?



  2. That stock’s angled butt plate assembly is an example of cast off. Cast refers to a stock angled right (cast off) or left (cast on) of the gun’s longitudinal (bore) center line. Cant refers to a stock angled in relation to the vertical (viewed from behind the gun) center line.



  3. There’s a Diana 75 TO1 in the back of the safe that I believe needs new seals. I sourced some from Maccari a while back. Haven’t found the time/interest/courage to do the replacement yet. Sending it out for service sounds like a good deal given the lack of time and the inherent risk involved. Does PA work on these?


  4. Had an FN-49 years ago. It was okay and was the gun that led FN to the FAL- the ‘Free World’s Right Arm’ and a seminal battle rifle of the twentieth century. The 49 went away to make room for a National Match M1A, one of the last guns that I will ever part with.


  5. Wayne,
    Welcome to the blog! You left the 400/75 in good hands. BB (Tom) has one of my babies also. I care more about WHO a lot of my guns go to than what I get for them.

    I almost bought a new in box left handed 75 at either Little Rock or Malvern Arkansas a few years ago. It is interesting comparing how it feels with the FWB300. The 75 seems like a bulkier package but it weights about the same as the FWB300. The FWB300 seems to be tightly packaged piece of finely machined mechanism and highly finished stock. The 75 is less well finished both on the wood and steel. The 75 had a walnut stock but was not grain sealed and the stock did not have a gloss finish. The 75 steel parts were polished where necessary to work well but many parts seemed to be exactly how they came out of the casting. The 75 seemed more like a military rifle. It was purpose built for a job. No money was wasted on other items.

    I will be interested in how the 75 feels when cocking. Most of the Giss mechanism guns I have handled were not very smooth when cocking. I am hoping that David Slade polished out the cocking to a butter smooth movement.

    David Enoch


  6. It’s funny that this is the subject of the blog today, I’ve just been thinking about adding a spring powered, fixed barrel, target rifle to my collection. Now, something like this 75 would be great, but it’s never going to be in my budget. So, are there any more common, less expensive springer target rifles? The AV TR5 would be a great option for me, but I read the report on it here and the accuracy just wasn’t there.


    • Toddspeed

      Prices for vintage match spring guns have increased quite a lot over the last two years. This blog has a very large following and folks have learned these old guns can compete with anything new offered under $1,000. While I only have the FWB300S that is not a break barrel vintage spring gun, you would be well advised to consider the Feinwerkbau. I say this based on my own opinion plus I have never known anyone to say anything negative on this blog about their accuracy. That goes for 10 meters, 25 yards and even more.

      Deck


      • Thanks Deck, I’ll look into the FWB, although I’m guessing they will be out of my price range. I was kinda thinking more along the lines of a Daisy 853 or an AR2078, just spring powered. We’re there any entry level target rifles from the 80’s that are still out there?



          • Thanks for the reply Chris, I actually have an 853 from the CMP. In my opinion it’s the best deal going in all of airguns, as long as you’re not concerned about high power. I have an AR2079b too. The more I shoot these low powered, target sighted guns, the more I’m interested in what other target rifles are available. In my mind I’m thinking an R7 powerplant, with side cocking, in a target stock. Anything like that out there, other than the high priced FWB and Diana 75?


            • Toddspeed,

              Well good,… I am glad you have an 853. I missed the,.. “but spring powered” part of your comment. MSP and SSP and PCP’s are hard to beat for smooth shooting. For springers you have to move to a low power something, or something like the GISS system, or a sled system.

              Chris


  7. B.B.,

    To those who have never shot a GISS system springer, take it from me, it is a revelatory experience.

    As you wrote above, buying one that has been recently resealed is a big bonus. That is what made me decide to buy my Diana 72. The seller wrote that he had just resealed it and that it was shooting smoothly.

    I imagine that adjusting a GISS system is simple in the sense that one can (I assume) immediately determine if the two pistons are unbalanced, even if just slightly. It is probably like a wheel that is out of balance. Even small degrees of imbalance will cause vibration, but when things are just right — Voila!

    Michael


    • My observation is you have either rearward recoil or forward recoil vs. just the normal “click” that happens when you fire it when timed correctly. I would not want to replicate that learning curve again though. It was stressful.


  8. B.B.,

    I so enjoyed this blog. What a wonderful story. In this age of cancel culture and toxic anger, finding a person of such integrity as Wayne is such a treasure. I’m not sure how to express my feelings, but I’ve read this blog several times vicariously enjoying your experience. It really helps to counter the current negative press.

    Many Thanks,
    Dan


    • Dan,

      I wrote everything for people like you, who appreciate buying from people they trust. I normally don’t disclose all the details of a purchase like I did this one, but this air rifle is special, not just for what it is, but also for who had it and how he kept it.

      BB



    • Yogi,

      I would love a 6G! (But my hands move as well.)

      I much prefer high quality springers to PCPs. And if the springer is free of felt recoil (sledge systems) or recoil, period, such as GISS systems, they are special indeed. They take more engineering and quality control to manufacture, but in the end one has an heirloom piece. Pass it on to your child who will pass it on to your grandchild, and so on. Nothing beats quality.

      Michael


      • Michael,

        B.B. article about target pistol shooting really helped, and I need all the help that I can get!
        The real key is learning to cock your elbow! Will shrink your groups in half…

        -Y


  9. BB,
    Were you able to retrieve The FWB 150, Part3?
    If not, I had saved it as a PDF back at the time and can e-mail you a copy if still needed.
    Mike’s link does work for me, though.
    Jonah


  10. Wayne,
    Thank you for sharing this fine old target air rifle with us by allowing B.B. to purchase it from you. Are you into airguns still? If so, I hope you register in the blog and become a follower and commenter. I am looking forward to future blogs on this rifle.
    B.B.
    Any idea of the cause of low fps? You didn’t mention the fps Wayne found when he chronographed the rifle, just that he was disappointed in the results. I think you have found a real treasure in this old target rifle. 🙂
    Geo


  11. B.B. and Readership,

    Pacoinohio beat me to this topic in his post above but if you want the Rest of The Story…read on!

    If the STOCK FITS YOU MUST ACQUIT! IF you typically miss the bull’s X by more than a hair shooting off hand, kneeling, or prone look to your FIT before you do anything else! AND! at the BENCH is an entirely different fit than off the bench.

    Gun Fitting Terminology
    If cast, drop, pitch, length, comb, toe, rib and heel all make you scratch your head and want to run a mile, wait! Read on and all will become clear…
    https://www.theyorkshiregent.com/shooting/gun-fitting-guide-fit-shotgun/
    Although this is seemingly about SMOOTH BORE fit it is still a long arm and the terms are the same. …nd now you Know The Rest Of The Story! Apologies to Paul Harvey; may he RIP!

    shootski


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