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The Diana 20 Model Youth

This is a special guest report from reader Paul Hudson, on his Diana model 20 youth breakbarrel spring airgun.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me at blogger@pyramydair.com.

Take it away, Paul.

The Diana 20 Model Youth

By Paul Hudson

Diana 20 right
Diana model 20 youth.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • A little history
  • A really small airgun
  • Complex construction
  • A smooth shooter
  • Velocities
  • Accuracy
  • Wrapping it up

Airgun collecting can take you down some unexpected paths, and this Diana Model 20 is a perfect example.  It is very small, nickel-plated, and has only a quarter-stock (no forearm); all things that I don’t really like in an airgun. So why did I buy it? Precisely because it is so different from the rest of my collection.

A little history

The model number 20 is a designation that Diana has used for multiple airguns. First was the pre-WWI model 20 which was made from around 1907 until 1911, according to the Blue Book of Airguns. My model 20 is the second version and was made from 1913 until about 1940. Both model 20’s were nickel-plated, tinplate airguns; the most noticeable differences are that the original 20 had square-ended forks and three rivets attaching the stock instead of the rounded forks and two rivets of later guns. The Blue Book lists this gun as the Model 20 Youth to distinguish it from the much later and completely different Model 20 Adult.

The only caliber option was .177/4.5mm with a smooth bore, presumably to keep costs down. Diana’s period literature mentions very good grouping at 6 to 8 meters and at that range the lack of rifling is not a detriment. For the shy kids Diana did offer the 20 with a traditional blued finish on special order.  

Diana 20 logo
Nice logo but no model number!

Keeping with Diana’s practice at the time there is no model number on this gun – just the Diana name and Goddess logo, but the model 20 looks like nothing else that Diana produced at the time.

A really small airgun

The model 20 is 34.25-inches (87cm) long with an 14.25-inch (36cm) barrel. The length of pull is 12.5-inches, or 32cm and the weight is only 2 pounds, 12 ounces (1.25kg) so it is definitely kid-sized. At only 7/8-inches thick the walnut quarter stock reinforces this impression. Compared to a modern Daisy Red Ryder the Model 20 is about an inch shorter but weighs a half-pound more. The Red Rider also feels larger due to its thicker fore end and stock.

The stock is stamped with the date 1.31 (January, 1931) where the wrist meets the metal of the action, and it has no checkering or grooves.

Diana 20 date code
Made in January, 1931.

One area that Diana did not skimp on is on the appearance. Other than the sights and the trigger all of the metalwork has a mirror-like nickel finish. This airgun is 90 years old and the only wear is on the cocking arm, and that is constantly handled. Even the plating on the barrel has not been worn through. 

The fixed sights are definitely not adult-friendly; the rear sight in particular is next to useless for anyone with less than  perfect vision. In the early 1930’s the rear sight was moved to a more useful location on the breech block and made adjustable for elevation.  

Diana 20 sights
The fixed sights require good eyesight!

To get groups instead of patterns I made a simple peep sight by drilling a small hole in a piece from a metal pet food can. The rear sight was wrapped with electrical tape to avoid scratches and the base of the new sight was carefully crimped onto the existing rear sight. With the peep sight I can actually hit cans out to about 25 yards!

Diana 20 peep
Yes, it is crude, but I can get groups now!

As was mentioned above, the model 20 was only sold as a smooth bore. The soda straw barrel is made of brass and is held within a folded-metal housing to give it a proper appearance. This same setup was used on the models 15, 16, and 22 well into the 1980’s and is completely serviceable. Since the barrel is brass it won’t rust and will probably never need cleaning. 

Diana 20 breech
The barrel is a brass tube in an outer jacket.

Complex construction

The receiver is a bit complicated for a low-priced kid’s gun. Where most airguns use a steel compression tube with forks machined from bar stock the 20’s action is made of four parts. The outer “jacket” was formed from sheet steel; you can see where it is wrapped around the barrel forks above.

Diana 20 cylinder bottom
Complex construction for a kid’s gun!

The actual compression tube is a thin-wall cylinder within the receiver and the whole assembly is tightly crimped together by a strap on the underside of the front part of the receiver. The split in the outer jacket is visible with the trigger guard removed.

A smooth shooter

Shooting the Diana 20 is a pleasant experience.  Being a kid-sized gun, the cocking effort is kid-sized, too: only 10 pounds. The barrel breaks easily and the spring compresses very smoothly with no crunching sounds.  As with most airguns of this era there is no safety or anti-beartrap mechanism. It is possible to decock the gun by breaking the barrel completely down and, while holding the barrel, pull the trigger and let the mainspring decompress.

I did disassemble this gun to clean and properly lube the internals; there was no special work done that could be considered a “tune”. However the shooting cycle is still very smooth and the noise level is very low with no spring buzz. I think that it is even quieter than a Daisy Red Ryder. Since the Model 20 is so light it does move a bit when fired.

Stock Up on Shooting Gear


Testing was done with a fairly wide range of pellets weighing from 4.2 to 8.6 grains.  Velocities ran from the upper 300’s to the upper 500’s.  The extreme spread with several pellets was 5 feet per second.  Muzzle energy ran from 2.4 to 3.2 foot-pounds, depending on the pellet. That’s not enough for ethical hunting but just perfect for short range plinking.

GrainsFPSFt LbsESNotes
Crosman Destroyer
7.73962.74Vertical stringing
Falcon Accuracy Plus
5.24982.95Horizontal stringing
H&N Econ II
7.44152.812Poor accuracy
H&N Excite Plinking
JSB Exact
JSB Simply WC
7.04423.014Best accuracy
RWS Hobby
RWS Super HP
RWS Super Point
Winchester MVP

Diana 20 trigger
The single-stage trigger breaks at around 5 pounds. 


Getting the best groups with the Model 20 takes a lot of concentration: the basic sights, light weight, and heavy trigger all work against you. The single stage trigger breaks at about five pounds and has some creep that is really noticeable when target shooting. For informal shooting it is less of an issue.

Diana described the Model 20 as having “good accuracy from 6 to 8 meters” in its advertising from the 1920’s but with the right pellet it achieved some surprisingly small groups. Most pellets gave groups around three-quarters to one inch at 8 meters and a couple were just awful.  

All targets shown below are five shots each at 8 meters.

Diana 20 RWS Super HP
RWS Super Hollowpoint pellets: 0.66-inches/16.7mm

Diana 20 H&N FTT
H&N Field Target Trophy pellets: 0.57-inches/14.5mm

Diana 20 RWS Supewrpoint
RWS Superpoint pellets: 0.41-inches/10.4mm

Diana 20 H&N Excite
H&N Excite Plinking pellets: 0.59-inches/14.0mm

Diana 20 RWS Geco
RWS Geco pellets: 0.42-inches/10.7mm on the left and 0.27-inches/6.9mm on the right.

Any of the pellets above are completely adequate for short range plinking, and I was pleasantly surprised how well the Geco pellet did considering its low cost. With a little holdover it was pretty easy to hit 3-inch diameter pet food cans at 25 yards!

Wrapping it up

The Model 20 is a basic airgun from a simpler time. It was one of Diana’s least expensive models but it was very well made. The trigger is quite heavy — probably to prevent accidental discharges by a less than careful kid — and that makes shooting for groups a chore. The rear sight is almost useless for someone without perfect vision. But it is perfectly suited for shooting cans in the back yard without disturbing your  neighbors.

It is also a pleasure shooting a 90-year old airgun that is surprisingly accurate with the right pellet and I am glad to be its owner for awhile, until I pass it on to someone else.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

44 thoughts on “The Diana 20 Model Youth”

  1. Paul,

    Thank You for a this report on a wonderful and delightful airgun for youths (and youths at heart)! Maybe present day manufacturers can learn something from this.


  2. Great report on a very interesting looking airgun. Curious that certain pellets with more velocity variation shot more accurately than others.

  3. Paul,

    Thanks for sharing one of your gals with us. That one is in awesome condition. Here at RRHFWA, many of the gals do not have wooden fore stocks, but also have walnut butt stocks.

    There is an older gentleman that lives near me that has an old Diana youth rifle like this, but it is blued. I believe it to be a Model 15, but I have not seen it but once a good time ago, so I am not sure.

    Many are quite surprised at how well these old gals will shoot. They seem to think accuracy in an airgun is a new thing. It is true that there is a much larger selection of well-made pellets these days, but the old timers still managed to do quite well.

    Please do share more of your collection with us.

    • RR,

      Thank you; I was surprised to find a “kid” gun that had survived 90 years in this condition. Several of the old airguns I have worked on had BBs or small nails embedded in the piston seal.

      I have several oldsters that may be interesting to others – an early 30’s Diana 45 underlever, a Haenel 550, and a Haenel V repeater (not currently in working order.) Unfortunately I have several airguns that are somewhat rare but otherwise unexceptional – a Heym 101, a Krico LG1, a Gehr, and a Wagria M50. Maybe a single blog on those?

      Paul in Liberty County

      • Paul,

        A single blog about those rare old gals would be great!

        My “collection” has been more about the different designs that manufacturers tried to get pellets downrange. Some of these seem to be quite unique if not “valuable”.

        I do seem to have an affinity for Webleys. A while back I let a Tempest get away from me. Right now, I have a Service MK2 air rifle, an old Senior from the 30’s and a Junior on the way. When I was a youth, I had a post WW2 Mk1. I have never found the Webleys to be particularly accurate, but I do find them fun to shoot.

        You should not be surprised at finding a kid airgun that old in great shape, since many were confiscated while still almost new and put in the back of Mom’s closet, never to be seen again.

      • Paul

        Thank you, thank you! Hope you will follow up with another report on your oldies. They deserve a place in history thanks to BB’s blog.

        Good job.


    • “Many are quite surprised at how well these old gals will shoot.”
      That’s a big “10-4” on that! When I read that line yesterday, it got me to thinking; so, today I went out with the old Haenel model 1 (which has a tight action and perfect rifling, by the way) and the JSB RS and the Falcon pellets. Since Falcons are marked “Czech Republic” on the back (and they are 7.33 grains, just like the JSBs), they may come from the same factory as the JSBs. However, they do seem to group tighter, and to hit even closer on windage…like dead on. So, I got some targets I could see, some 1/2″ diameter plastic tubes, and put them out on the 15-yard range. From the bench, with the artillery hold, and controlling my breathing (as best as I can these days!), I found I can hit those little 1/2″ tubes end-on. If this thing had grooves for a scope, and I threw the BugBuster on it, I think this old gal would give my HW30S a run for the money. As you said, these old gals can shoot! 🙂
      Take care & lots of happy shooting to you,

      • Dave,

        The JSBs, the FX and the Falcons are made in the same factory. I believe the British Rangemaster brand is made there also. The Falcons are almost identical to a couple of the JSBs, but they have their own proprietary molds.

        I have a relatively new sproinger I have been wanting to shoot some, but I keep grabbing up one of the old gals and dancing with her a bit. I really need to spend more time with the younger ladies before they get jealous. Either that or find them a new home. 😉

  4. Paul,
    Great report! I love reading about these type of “blast from the past” airguns. And I like what you did with the home-made peep sight; I did the same on my old 1919 Geco Carabiner (even though that’s a .22LR and not an airgun). This is a sweet little rifle; happy shooting with her. 🙂
    Take care,

      • I did indeed.

        You have to watch them on their used stuff. They like to buy really low and sell really high. They also tend to be quite inflexible. There is no “wheeling and dealing”.

        They do have some nice deals on their high-end stuff right now, but it is still out of my reach. 🙁

        • RR
          I don’t care what they buy them for. I care about what I buy them for. And haggle. I have haggled with them for many years and got pretty good deals. Maybe that’s the difference. Years.

          I got that used Hw35e for a real good price from them. And it’s in really good condition. And it’s so far the most accurate break barrel I have owned. It is as good if not better than my Tx 200 and FWB 300s out at 25 and 50 yards.

          Anyway going out for some shooting now. Finally a calm day.

          • Doing business with them over the years could very well be the secret. I used to know some of the people at PA and was able to get a pretty good deal or two.

        • RR & GF1

          I was told the rear sight would be sent to me along with the rifle. A previous buyer had removed it and returned it and rifle deciding on a PCP instead. Installation of rear sight may require octopus fingers. Will let you know how things go. Can hardly wait to give it a TIAT tune. This may be the best way to stop any buzz this side of a button job.


        • RR & GF1

          Feinwerkbau Sport arrived. Unlike some I have heard about it has a beautiful deep navy blue finish on both barrel and receiver. Quality is excellent everywhere that I can see. Lots of droop but no problem for Sportsmatch mounts. Rear sight was included but pin is missing that attaches it to the barrel mount. Will try to find one but this one deserves the scope that now sits on it.


  5. Yes Paul, thank you for this excellent report on your 90 year-old Diana Model 20! It’s gratifying to see such a lovely, good-functioning example of a vintage airgun that has lasted to this day and beyond. I was thinking yesterday about who would get my airguns when I’m gone. I hope I will have grandchildren who might be interested, but if not, my small amassment will go into the world however they will and will continue to be enjoyed by others.
    When I use an old piece like this (I collect, restore and use vintage fountain pens) I daydream about who might have used it back when it was new and what those people were like.
    Nice job, Paul!

  6. For those who were having concerned about mounting a bipod to a springer, what about attaching some type of strap that would encircle your non-trigger hand and rest on the bipod, so you could still use the artillery hold?

    • RG,

      The answer I think really lies with shooting sticks. BB used to use his monopod on occasion and rest his hand on top of it. I have seen some sproinger shooters do this with various shooting sticks. I have also seen some rest their sproingers directly on the shooting sticks. The Airgun Detective sells a bipod setup that seems to work well on many sproingers.

      When bench shooting or mounting and zeroing a scope, I will lay my sproinger directly on my bags, which just happen to be quite unique in many respects. The bags themselves are made from the legs of old denim jeans and air rifles will slide on them very easily. They are also filled with 1/8 inch plastic pellets which shift real easily. I find this imitates a hand pretty well.

      You have to try different techniques until you find what works for you. Sometimes the only thing that works is the hand.

  7. Thank you Paul,

    What a great subject airgun for a wonderfully done Guest Blog!
    I can only imagine how i would have felt as a child unwrapping something of such obvious craftsmanship on a birthday or other occasion; my kind (even if it is a springer) of a youth airgun.

    Well done!


  8. Paul
    Nice report and nice gun. The more reports I see the more I want something like your gun. The oldest I have right now is my FWB 300s. (Thanks RidgeRunner) 🙂

    I bet that’s a fun plinking gun. From what you describe it sounds like they actually engineered it as a plinking gun.

    One question. How is the cocking effort?

    And almost forgot. Definitely would like to see reports on your other gun’s.

    Maybe one day the stars will align and I’ll end up with a old one some day. I just really don’t know what I’m after. Maybe the right one will find me. 🙂

  9. Happy Mother’s Day to all the shooting Moms!
    Also, to all the Moms who teach or allow their children to learn to shoot; may you also be doubly blessed!


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