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.


RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2


The RWS Diana 54 recoilless air rifle, also called the Air King, is big, beautiful, powerful and accurate.

Today, we’ll test the RWS Diana model 54 Air King for accuracy. Before I show you the targets, however, let me mention a couple of things.

Some observations
First, I shot this rifle for today’s test rested directly on a sandbag. There was no artillery hold. As I mentioned in the earlier reports, the Air King anti-recoil system acts like an artillery hold and is able to do so perfectly. There’s no reason to rest this gun on the palm of your hand. That’s not because the rifle is recoilless, but rather because of how the rifle handles recoil.

In the 54, the action slides in the stock when the gun fires. It always slides the same distance and always contacts the same points within the stock, so the system acts like a perfect artillery hold. A rifle having a different anti-recoil system like the Giss contra-piston system, for example, doesn’t work the same way and does need to be held in the artillery hold for best accuracy; but those guns that use the sledge system — like this one and a few FWB target rifles — do not.

Next I want to comment on the trigger. The one I’m testing is a T05 and very nice. It has a positive two-stage pull with a crisp second-stage let-off. It does have a plastic trigger blade, but that isn’t important because it isn’t one of the wearing parts within the trigger assembly. Everything that wears is steel and properly hardened.

The one detractor of this trigger is that the blade is too curved. A straighter blade would feel better. I am going to test the new T06 trigger soon, and I’m going to scrutinize it closely because it has a long way to go to be better than the T05.

Finally, I used a prototype UTG scope base with a lot of built-in droop to mount the CenterPoint 3-9x40AO scope on the test rifle, and it STILL shot low. So, a lot of droop is still present in Diana guns, and it still needs to be addressed with a drooper mount. I did find that the UTG base sped up the scope-mounting process, turning a half-hour job into a 10-minute task. The scope I used is an older one and doesn’t have the illuminated reticle of the scope I linked to here.

The UTG scope base does raise the scope quite high, but the high comb on the 54 was able to elevate my face to the exit pupil. I could have easily used a scope with a 56mm objective lens and still had clearance for the scope over the spring tube.

Accuracy
Because I am still recovering from a hernia operation, I shot only a single 10-shot group with each pellet tested. Ten-shot groups really require a lot of cocking, and this sidelever isn’t the easiest gun to cock. The distance was 25 yards, and all groups contain 10 shots.

The first pellet I tested was the venerable 14.3-grain Crosman Premier, which is well-known as one of the best for this .22 caliber rifle. They fit the breech easily but were not loose. And the gun buzzed a lot when firing them.


Nine of the ten pellets made a group measuring 0.518 inches between centers. But pellet six strayed outside this neat little hole to enlarge the group to 0.929 inches between centers. It wasn’t a called flyer, it just went outside the group for no reason I can explain.

After the Premiers, I loaded 10 JSB Exact 15.8-grain domes, which are often even better than Premiers in some airguns.


Ten JSB Exact 15.8-grain domes made this group, which measures 0.613 inches between centers.

Finally, I tried some Predator Polymag pellets that everyone likes to use for hunting. They fit the 54 breech very tight, but went in without a lot of forcing. They expand well on small game and are especially effective in .22 caliber.


Ten JSB Predator Polymag pellets made this 0.975-inch group at 25 yards.

Well, there you have it. I think if I were to shoot additional groups of Premiers, most 10-shot groups would look like that first 9-shot group. Because I didn’t season the bore with each new pellet, I think I would have gotten slightly better groups if I had.

Ten shots into a half-inch at 25 yards is not to be sneezed at, though I really thought I would do better. I was thinking I could get half-inch groups out at 35 yards from this rifle. It might still be possible, but I think I’ve demonstrated that the 54 is an air rifle to be reckoned with.


RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


The RWS Diana 54 recoilless air rifle, also called the Air King, is big, beautiful, powerful and accurate.

There’s certainly a lot of interest in this RWS Diana model 54 Air King rifle. We heard from many readers, including some surprises. We also saw a lot of interest among those who have considered buying the rifle but have not yet taken the plunge. Also, I heard a few disturbing things.

Light-duty barrel?
The first disturbing thing I heard was a question about whether the 54 really does have a “light-duty” barrel. Since I never raised that issue in this report I have to assume the reader read it on one of the forums. The RWS Diana 54 does not have a light-duty barrel, but I think I know where this comes from. The rifle has a metal jacket surrounding the barrel, and if it’s removed the true barrel does look out of proportion with the large proportions of the rest of the airgun. But it isn’t too thin for the job it’s asked to do. In fact, it’s a normal barrel diameter, but that fat metal jacket makes it appear thin in comparison. Since you don’t cock the rifle with the barrel, it’s plenty strong.

One tip Mac wants me to pass along to all of you is that the barrel jacket must be absolutely tight to have good accuracy. If it gets loose, accuracy goes away. When people fool with the front sight, the barrel jacket sometimes gets loose. The jacket on the test rifle is as tight as can be, so we should see some good groups.

Two-stage trigger?
This is another concern that was raised. Yes, the trigger is two-stage. Whether it’s a T01, a T05 or the new T06, when it finally comes out. They’re all two-stage triggers. But some owners don’t like two-stage triggers, so they adjust the first stage out. You can do that and if you do, what remains is just a single stage.

You need to read the trigger adjustment instructions in the manual for your rifle, or go online to the library of manuals on the Pyramyd Air website. Here is the page with trigger adjustments. The trigger can be adjusted to be crisp and even, if you take the time to read the manual and follow the instructions.

Is the rifle too heavy?
The 54 is a large, heavy air rifle. It’s not the gun to tote around in the woods all day. It’s more of a take-it-to where-you-want-to-shoot gun. I have a lot of firearms in my collection that are like that. The M1 Garand isn’t a rifle to carry all day unless you have to, nor is the Ballard, nor my Remington Rolling Block. These are all too heavy to lug around, but when the time comes to hit the target, these are the best rifles to have. I think the 54 is like that, too.

Before you decide to buy a 54, think about how you intend using it. If you want tight groups at 50 yards, this is one of the best spring rifles you can buy. But if you want to shoot 500 rounds in a lazy afternoon, get an Air Venturi Bronco or a TF39 from Tech Force.

Bent cocking link?
Finally, here’s a complaint from a long time ago, but one that is still valid today. A reader wrote that the cocking link of his RWS Diana sidelever rifle (could have been a 48, 52 or 54) was bent when he got it. We went back and forth on this blog for days about it. A new link was ordered and I believe installed. All, for naught.

The cocking link is flexible and is supposed to be bent! Besides linking the sidelever to the sliding compression chamber, the link also acts as a spring that flexes when the lever is closed. It pops over center and maintains force to keep the sidelever pressed tight against the side of the rifle. In other words, it’s designed to look bent and to do exactly what it does. So, keep outa da mechanism! Just cock, load and shoot.

Cocking effort
Unlike the RWS Diana 48 sidelever, the 54 cocking mechanism has one additional function to accomplish. It has to lever the entire barreled action forward to set the rifle in position for recoilless operation. Whatever force that takes must be added to the regular cocking effort needed to make the gun ready to shoot. I found the test rifle cocked with 33 lbs. of force, which is exactly as advertised. Levering the action in the stock at the end of the cocking stroke dropped the effort back to 30 lbs., so in this case, the rifle doesn’t need any additional effort. You simply have to pull the lever back a little farther with this model.

Velocity with Premiers
The test rifle is a .22 caliber and Crosman Premiers averaged 827 f.p.s. for 10 shots. The velocity went from a low of 824 to a high of 833 f.p.s., so a total spread of 9 f.p.s. That’s tight for a springer. At the average velocity, this 14.3-grain pellet generates 21.72 foot pounds.

JSB Exact 14.3-grain pellets
The JSB Exact Jumbo Express pellet weighs 14.3 grains, also, but it’s pure lead, unlike the Premier. That usually means it’ll be faster, but in the test rifle that wasn’t the case. This pellet averaged 794 f.p.s. and the total spread was 22 f.p.s., from 781 to 803 f.p.s. The average velocity generated 20.02 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

RWS Hobbys
The last pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby. This is a light lead pellet that weighs 11.9 grains. Normally, the lighter pellets generate higher muzzle energy in spring guns and these averaged 872 f.p.s., with a spread of 9 f.p.s., ranging from 867 to 876 f.p.s. At the average velocity, they generated 20.10 foot-pounds, so the norm didn’t hold this time. The heavier Premiers were also the most powerful pellets tried in the test rifle.

Overall observations
Thus far, this rifle is behaving very well on the test. It’s broken-in but not tuned in any way. What I got is also what you can expect from a rifle after it’s been broken in.

The firing behavior is buzzy, though recoilless. I would like to get rid of that buzz, but if I do it with lubricants I will lose about 2-3 foot-pounds. A better way would be to machine some tighter-fitting parts to eliminate the vibration. Since I don’t have the tools to do that, I’d have to pay to get it done. I don’t think I’m going to shoot this rifle enough to justify a professional tune. I’ll just put up with the buzz and let things remain where they are.


FWB 150: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


The FWB 150 is a classic target rifle from the past. It’s also the father of the FWB 300.

Today, I’ll get to play with an old classic. This is our second look at the FWB 150, so of course we’re looking at velocity. As I told you in Part 1, this rifle was rebuilt by Randy Bimrose, so we can expect it to perform like a new rifle.

The other day I was interviewing Robert Beeman for the May podcast, and I asked him which modern airgun was his favorite. He said he couldn’t pick just one, which makes him a true airgunner in my book, but the four guns he said he would not want to do without are the Beeman R1, the Beeman P1 pistol, the Beeman R7 that he liked to shoot just because it was so light and easy, and the FWB 300. When he talked about the 300, you could hear the smile in his voice. He went on and on about the recoilless sensation and the trigger that’s so light that you “think it off.” It was reassuring to hear a man who has owned most of the airguns in the world talk about the ones he didn’t want to part with — one of them being the offspring of today’s rifle.

Since the last report, I’ve attended the airgun show in Malvern, Arkansas, where this year Scott Pilkington brought dozens of target rifles that had been purchased from clubs. Among them were many FWB 300s and one or two 150s. The availability of an affordable version of this rifle or one much like it has never been better than right now.

Firing behavior
The 150 isn’t really recoilless in the same sense that the RWS Diana model 54 Air King I reported on yesterday is not recoilless. The shooter doesn’t feel the recoil because the barreled action is separate from the stock and moves on rails under recoil that the shooter cannot feel. The FWB 150, being just a fraction as powerful as the Diana 54 moves very little. Because of this, we say these rifles are recoilless, but I want to differentiate this kind of recoilless operation from a true recoilless action, like a Diana 75, which uses the Giss contra-recoil dual piston system, or the Whiscombe’s dual opposing piston system — both really do not recoil at all.

The next observation is that this particular rifle has no buzz to it. Despite the 150’s reputation for being a bit buzzier than the 300S, which has dual counter-wound mainsprings, the rifle I’m testing today is very calm when it fires. Randy Bimrose did put a new mainspring in the gun, so maybe that’s what did it. Whatever the cause might be, I find this 150 quite smooth and calm to fire.

Trigger
I tried to measure the trigger-pull for you, but my RCBS analog trigger-pull gauge doesn’t go that low. By interpolation, I can say that it’s around 6 oz., but that’s as close as I can get. It’s certainly very light. Now, on to today’s testing.

H&N Match Pistol
The first pellet tried was the H&N Match Pistol. This is a light pellet, weighing about 7.6 grains, so it’s no surprise that it averaged 615 f.p.s. That’s faster than a modern 10-meter rifle would shoot, but these old vintage springers always were the magnums of the competition-type rifles. The spread ranged from 613 to 620 f.p.s., so only seven f.p.s. for the whole string. That’s tight for a springer. These pellets fit the bore very well and felt like a pellet I should shoot for accuracy.

H&N Match Rifle
The next pellet I tried was the H&N Match Rifle pellet. They weigh about 8.2 grains and should be somewhat slower. In this rifle, they averaged 606 f.p.s. Sure, that’s slower, but not as much as I anticipated. They ranged from 598 to 610 f.p.s., so a total spread of just 12 f.p.s.

RWS R-10 Match Pistol
Next, I tried the RWS R-10 Match Pistol pellet, which weighs only 7 grains. They averaged 627 f.p.s. and went from a low of 621 to a high of 633 f.p.s. That’s another 12 foot-second spread.

RWS Hobby
The final pellet I tested was the RWS Hobby, which can usually be counted on to be the fastest lead pellet in any gun. They didn’t disappoint here, either, averaging 661 f.p.s., or 34 f.p.s. faster than the R-10 Match Pistol pellet of the same weight. These pellets ranged in speed from a low of 654 f.p.s. to a high of 668, so the total spread was 14 f.p.s.

Conclusions
I said at the beginning that the 150 should shoot like a new gun, having just been rebuilt. Well, the velocities I recorded certainly support that. While I know there are airgunners who look at velocity first when evaluating all airguns, the 150 isn’t one you want to do that with. It’s a target gun, pure and simple. It’s designed to stack them all in a tight little hole and nothing else. So anything beyond about 575 f.p.s. is wasted. However, the gun doesn’t suffer for it. It’s just as smooth and slick as can be and you don’t notice any drawbacks from the power.

The consistent velocity and smooth shooting behavior are both evidence that the rebuild was successful. That’s why I didn’t attempt it myself, even though the owner’s manual does give step-by-step instructions on how to dismantle the action.

We’ll take a look at accuracy next. Some time in the future, I’ll do a similar report on my FWB 300S and link back to this series for comparison. When all is said and done, I’ll link all the vintage 10-meter spring rifle tests so you can evaluate them together.


RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier


The RWS Diana 54 recoilless air rifle, also called the Air King, is big, beautiful, powerful and accurate.

Recent interest among our readers in the Beeman P1 pistol has given me cause to revisit some of the other classic airguns I’ve tested in the past. If the guns are still available for sale, I’m taking a look at the old reports to see if they stand up to our current standards. Today’s rifle, the RWS Diana model 54 recoilless rifle, was the first classic airgun to be considered, though it did struggle with the Beeman R1 to get there. I read the old reports on this classic recoilless spring-piston air rifle and was surprised to see how different they are from what I do today. It’s time for an update.

RWS Diana 54
This rifle is made by Mayer & Grammelspracher Dianawerk, an airgun manufacturer located in Rastatt, Germany. The gun is imported into the U.S. by RWS USA, which is where the RWS name comes into the picture. The model 54 is a recoilless version of the Diana sidelever rifle action. I’ll have more to say about the recoilless system at the end of this report, but now let’s look at some general information on all the Diana sidelevers.

When the 1,000 f.p.s. “barrier” was broken for the first time by a .177 caliber Beeman R1, I thought we’d gone as far as we could go in terms of velocity. That was in 1981. After a few more years, though, Diana brought out their model 48 and 52, which were sidelever rifles that advertised 1,100 f.p.s. in .177 caliber. And, they really could do it! At that point, all bets were off and the power race was on.

But the recoilless model 54 waited until 1993 to come to market. When it did come out, however, it made a big splash, because not only could you break the sound barrier, you could now do so with a rifle that also handled sweet, like a Feinwerkbau 300. That fact fascinated many airgunners of the day, but not me. You see, I didn’t believe it at the time. I’ll come back to that.

The rifle
The first impression everyone gets of a model 54 is how large it is. Both the 48 and 52 have somewhat slender stocks, but the 54 is mounted in a fat, rounded stock that conveys the impression of great size. Weighing well over 9 lbs., it dwarfs most contemporary magnum centerfire rifles. The next thing you notice is the checkering. It wraps around the forearm and conveys great quality. The pistol grip is also checkered with the same sharp impressed diamonds (pressed into the wood by heat and a metal die). As far as ambidexterity goes, the cheekpiece is only on the left side of the butt, and the cocking lever cannot be moved, but other than that this rifle is reasonably ambidextrous.

The wood has a medium-brown stain and a satin finish. The inletting and fit is very good. Because of the anti-recoil system Diana used, the action cannot be tightly fitted to the stock. The buttpad is a black rubber that’s separated from the stock with a white line spacer. All major metal parts are finished semi-shiny. There are some plastic finishing touches on the rifle here and there, but it’s mostly a wood and metal airgun. Most of the metal you can touch is steel.

The trigger
The 54 trigger is both crisp and adjustable. When the rifle’s cocked, the safety automatically comes on. It sticks straight out the back of the spring tube and can be taken off with the thumb of your firing hand as you grip the rifle to shoot.

While a Diana trigger is not in the same category as a Rekord or Air Arms trigger, it’s still very good and can be adjusted to a crisp, light release. It’s certainly far ahead of other spring-gun triggers that have many aftermarket upgrades. Once you get it adjusted to suit your needs, it should serve you well for as long as you own the rifle.

Sights
Diana sights have always been good and so are the current ones. The front sight is a post attached to an inclined ramp that’s cast into the muzzle piece. It allows the front sight to be raised (lowering the shot) and lowered. The rear sight is a click-adjustable open notch that offers a choice of four different notch shapes. As open sights go, this is a good one, but very few U.S. owners will use it.

As powerful and accurate as the 54 is, it begs to be scoped. It certainly does if you want the absolute best performance the rifle can give. Now that the UTG scope base exists, nothing could be easier than mounting a scope to this rifle. Because many of the sidelever rifles do have some barrel droop, I recommend using the scope base that’s made for this particular model. Even if it raises the impact of your shots higher than you need, no harm is done. No one ever needs a negative adjustment range on their scope, so any downward adjustment below the sight in impact point is wasted. But a scope that has to be adjusted too high is the death of accuracy.

Power
With all the power that’s available, I feel the 54 is ideal for .22 caliber. However, because it’s recoilless, it also works in .177 caliber, as long as you use heavier pellets that are accurate. Personally, though, the .22 is my pick, and the rifle I’m testing is a .22.

Recoilless?
No, the RWS Diana 54 is not actually recoilless. Neither is the Feinwerkbau 150 nor the 300 target rifle. What they do is isolate the shooter from the recoil by allowing the barreled action of the gun to slide backwards in the stock when it fires. Because of this, rifles like these apply a perfect artillery hold on their own and you can hold them like you hold Winchester .30-30s and still do remarkably well. Because you are not restraining the rifle from recoiling when you do.

When the rifle is cocked, it sets itself up to counter the piston’s movement. When the piston takes off, the rifle moves backwards in the stock on steel rails that are hidden from sight. This is called the sledge anti-recoil system and it works remarkably well. It also means you can rest a 54 directly on sandbags and get superior accuracy, because the stock does all the work.

This system works so well that shooters are surprised by the accuracy of the rifle the first time they shoot it. All that’s happening is the rifle is executing a perfect artillery hold, instead of the shooter having to perfect his technique. Since I’m one of the converts, this is something I know about. Until I first shot a 54, I didn’t see how it could be anything more than a glorified 52 that didn’t recoil. But I was missing the greater benefit of a consistent artillery hold. I actually out-shot my TX200 with a Diana 54; and ever since discovering that, I’ve been trying to spread the word.

In an ironic twist of fate, there once was a semi-recoilless version of the TX200, but I owned one and tested many others and can report that they were not well-executed. They were no more accurate than the straight TX200, plus they took a bunch more effort to cock. The Diana 54, in sharp contrast, got everything right and is the airgun it should be.

This report might potentially go longer than three parts if enough ancillary testing needs to be done. You readers will tell me what you’d like to see.


Feinwerkbau 150: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald

A couple months ago I told you that I lucked into another FWB 124 during a transaction at a gun store. The salesman owned it, but the seals had finally failed, as all original 124 seals will do. So, I bought that gun and resealed it as a report for you. Well, one of our readers happened to mention in passing that he had recently acquired an FWB 150 target rifle, but he really wanted a sporter to keep the squirrel population down. His gun was in good condition except that, like the 124, its seals had finally rotted.

I took the initiative and contacted the reader, asking if he would like to trade for an FWB 124. After I resealed it, it would be a fine gun again. With a modern seal, he would probably never have to worry about fixing it again. I reported on the results of that job in part 15 of the 124 report that has become the longest report I’ve ever done. Not only are modern seals made from everlasting material, but I installed a Maccari mainspring in the rifle that will probably last for the next 20 years. So, I hope the reader was happy with his new rifle, because I sure am pleased with the 150 he sent me.


FWB 150

A Feinwerkbau 150 is worth more than a 124 any day of the week, but this 150 also needed a reseal, so the first thing I did after examining it was send the action to Randy Bimrose in California. Randy is well-known for rebuilding 150s and 300s. He turned around the job in about three or four weeks. What he did was replace all seals, including the piston ring. That ring serves as the piston seal for the rifle. It’s supposed to be everlasting, but as long as he was inside and the cost was low, why not do it too? He also replaced the single mainspring.

Randy found a couple of washers missing, so he replaced them, as well. I probably wouldn’t have known they were missing, and the rifle might have still worked without them, but I’m glad he found them for me. Randy’s job, including return shipping, ran just under $200, so figure on that price for overhauling one of these recoilless sidelever target rifles. That expense was what leveled the trade I did with the customer. He got a working gun that had just been sealed, and I had to bear the expense of overhauling the rifle I got from him.

The FWB 150
The FWB 150 is a sidelever spring-piston rifle that uses a sledge system to allow the action to recoil inside the stock to counter the piston’s motion. The action slides rearward a fraction of an inch on steel rails when the gun fires, but the stock doesn’t move. Technically, the rifle does recoil, but the shooter doesn’t feel it, and the rifle behaves like it was held by the artillery hold. The result is greater accuracy but with a slight annoying feeling of the action coming back at you. You feel that in your sighting eye, when the rubber eyecup slides back.

The 150 is an evolution of the FWB 110, which is essentially the same rifle without the sledge anti-recoil system. A 110 is a rare model and highly coveted today because not many were made. A 150 is not rare, but they are very coveted, as well, for reasons that I will share with you in all three parts of this report. The first reason is the shape of the stock, which is a blend of both target and sporter. The 150 stock is sexier, to use a descriptive term, than a stock found on an FWB 300S, which is the older brother of this rifle.

There’s an older FWB 300 model that has no suffix, but it’s encountered less often. It’s basically a 150 with a few changes, though it has the same stock and single mainspring. The 300S is the more common 300-series rifle and is also much more common than the 150.


FWB 150 on top and the 300S below. This photo shows the difference in the shape of the two stocks. The 300S stock is much more angular and target-like. The 150 is more rounded and generally sportier.

From Daisy
Most, if not all, of the 150s that came into the U.S were branded with the Daisy name, as were many of the FWB 300-series guns. Daisy was always into target shooting and this was brought in at a time when the 853 single-stroke wasn’t even a gleam in an engineer’s eye.

The 150 has a single mainspring, like most spring-piston air rifles. The later 300S has two mainsprings. One is inside the other, and they’re wound in opposite directions. That’s supposed to cancel the torque of the spring when it decompresses at firing. I don’t notice the torque, but a serious competitor probably does.

The cocking arm, which is a sidelever on this rifle, doesn’t have a lock on the lever latch like the later FWB 300S. But the rifle cocks just as easily and the lever stays tight against the stock when not in use, so this isn’t a problem.


The sidelever has a latch but no locking tab. Note the Daisy brand on the receiver.


The sidelever on the FWB 300 has a locking tab.

Fatal flaws in the 150
Well, you already know about the seals, but there’s one more fatal flaw a 150 or 300 is likely to have. That would be a stock that’s cracked at the wrist. Feinwerkbau aligned the grain of the wood with the barrel, so it was very weak at the vertical grip, and probably more than half the rifles are broken there. The crack will always run from the front of the grip to the back and the fix is to screw and glue the stock together.

This flaw is so common that you should expect to see it. Look carefully at every 150 or 300 stock that comes your way and be prepared to use the crack as a bargaining chip. Don’t shy away from buying the rifle because of the crack, though. Most of the stocks I’ve seen with repairs were more solid than ones that had never been cracked in the first place. I lucked out in this regard, because my stock is whole.

The later 300S has two mainsprings. One is inside the other, and they’re wound in opposite directions.

Maybe one more thing to consider when buying one of these oldies is that many of them are missing the sights. Those vintage sights can cost almost as much as a rifle, so be sure to get them or have a fallback plan. The AirForce 10-meter sights would be one such plan.

Sights
Speaking of sights, this rifle did come with the correct target sights, plus an Anschütz add-on filtered rear aperture. I’ll show you the sights and all the related stuff in the accuracy report

Stock
The 150 stock is a target-type stock, as I’ve mentioned, but it is by no means as formal as the stock on the 300S. However, it does have an accessory rail that Victor will appreciate. The grip is more like a sporter grip and is most assuredly a right-hand-only affair, as is the butt. The wood FWB used is just one grade up from pallet wood and not good enough for cheap furniture. There are as many knots in the blond stock of this rifle as can be found on most Chinese sporters.


Notice the knot in the cheekpiece. This butt has several of them.


The Feinwerkbau 300S has a much nicer grade of wood. Note the sharper angles and steeper pistol grip, too.

Heavy!
A 150 with the barrel weight, which I haven’t mentioned yet, weighs at least 9.5 lbs. It’s longer than a 300S and heavier at the muzzle. Some are like me and feel it’s stabler because of this, but those who dislike muzzle heaviness don’t care for it.

Is the 150 longer than the 300S? You betcha! It actually has a longer receiver, as you can see below.


Clearly, the FWB 150 at the top is the longer rifle. Not only is the stock longer, the entire action is longer than the 300S below.

That’s as far as I’m going today. There are many more things to show, but they’ll have to wait for the next parts of this report.

I’d sure like to hear from 150 owners and even 110 owners on this report. Tell us your feelings about this classic target rifle.


Testing 4 vintage 10-meter air rifles

by B.B. Pelletier

Well it’s Friday again, and it’s time to have some fun. When I tested the TF 79 competition air rifle, I mentioned that I also shot several vintage 10-meter rifles the same day, just to make sure I was still able to shoot a good group. Well, we heard from a lot of readers who apparently like these oldsters just as much as I do, so I thought I would take today and report on how they all did.

I’ve owned most of the better-known classic 10-meter target air rifles over the years, but I didn’t hold onto them because I was always chasing some other dream. Long-range accuracy or big-bore prowess were always competing with these quiet target rifles, and there’s only a finite amount of money to go around. So, over the years I’ve both shot and given up some real vintage beauties.

A couple years ago, I decided that I had to always have at least one vintage 10-meter target rifle on hand at all times for when those assignments — like testing target pellets — came along. At the Little Rock airgun expo, I searched for an HW55 — a rifle that I knew from experience would be right for the job. Well, there was one in my price range. What I didn’t know at the time was that it was a very rare version of the HW55 that not too many collectors have ever seen. It was the HW55 SF, the only HW55 ever made without the positive barrel latch on the left side of the action. In reality, it’s just an HW50 with a target sight, but Weihrauch had marked the barrel as an HW55, and I was able to find a listing for the model in a vintage catalog from Air Rifle Headquarters. Technically, it’s a 55, even without the barrel latch, because the manufacturer says it is.

I’ve owned most of the better-known classic 10-meter target air rifles over the years

That rifle sparked a renewed interest in vintage 10-meter target rifles; and over the course of the next two years, another four guns have come into my possession. They are, in order of acquisition, a Walther LGV Olympia, an HW55 Custom Match, an FWB 300S and, most recently, an FWB 150. The 150 is off to the airgunsmith getting overhauled right now, but the other three are on hand and are part of today’s testing.

From the comments I received, I knew that I would not only have to report on how these guns shoot, but also on their particular weaknesses, because many of you seem to want to acquire one for yourselves. Today’s report is not meant to be a detailed report on each of the rifles. There is no time for that here. I’ve already reported on the HW55 SF and the Walther LGV Olympia in separate reports that you can read, so there are only the FWB 300, HW55 CM and the FWB 150 yet to get their own three-part evaluations at some time in the future.

I’ll shoot four of the five target rifles for you to compare their accuracy against what you’ve seen from the TF79, not to mention the Crosman Challenger PCP and the AirForce Edge. Be sure to read the reports on the Crosman Challenger PCP and the AirForce Edge, too. And, also, please know that Crosman made another target rifle called the Crosman Challenger 2000 that was a CO2 rifle with a Benjamin 397 barrel. That rifle was never as accurate as the Challenger PCP, but you can easily get confused by the similar-sounding names.

The HW55 SF
As I mentioned, this was the airgun that kicked off my renewed interest in vintage 10-meter target rifles. As you can see in the picture, it’s just a simple breakbarrel that happens to have a target sight. In its day, which was around 1968, Weihrauch was making the finest breakbarrel rifles they ever produced, so there’s a lot to this rifle that you won’t see in an airgun made today.


The HW55 SF was an unexpected find. It was supposed to be a work-a-day test-bed rifle. Instead, it rekindled old interests.

Also, because this is a model 55 in the eyes of the manufacturer, they installed the special target version of the Rekord trigger. While the standard Rekord trigger is something to behold, the target version has a much lighter trigger return spring and can be set to release safely at just ounces of breaking pressure. So there’s not much difference in feel or performance between this trigger and the one found on the FWB 300.


Nearly all HW55 rifles have this locking lever for the barrel on the left side of the gun. It’s the most easily recognized feature of this model.


Only the rare HW55 SF is without a barrel-locking lever. The baseblock is marked “HW55.”


Five Hobbys made this incredibly tight target with the HW55 SF.


Five H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets made this somewhat mediocre target.

So, the old 55 likes inexpensive RWS Hobby pellets, too. What a plus! Sometimes, that’s exactly how it goes. I also shot RWS R10 Heavy pellets, but they weren’t as accurate as the H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets. The rifle is a bit buzzy when it fires, which I don’t like. But the accuracy is almost too good to do anything to the powerplant except use it as it is.

The two weaknesses an old HW55 can have are a bent mainspring and worn seals. The early seals were leather and can be handmade by the owner, but later guns used the synthetic HW50 seals that seem to last a long time. If the breech seal is synthetic, there’s a good chance the piston seal will be, too.

Walther LGV Olympia
The next rifle I tested was the Walther LGV Olympia. This old classic was one I bought from collector Tom Strayhorn, at what I thought was a super price. Tom sold it so low because of some finish loss on the forearm, but color me purple if that matters one iota! I’m a shooter. While I like a good-looking air rifle, if it shoots well it can look like a dog. Besides, I don’t think this one looks that bad! Finally, there’s a real advantage to my low standards!


Isn’t the Walther LGV Olympia a gorgeous air rifle?

The LGV has a beautiful firing behavior. It’s smooth and free from vibration. I like the way the heavy rifle cocks, as well. It’s so smooth that it’s like watching a bank vault door operate. The trigger is the equal of the HW55 target trigger.


A sort of mediocre group of RWS R10 Match Heavy pellets from the LGV.


This target was shot back in January of this year. It’s the same R10 Heavy pellet and the same rifle. I just did better that day.

The Walther LGV series guns have two flaws. First, they tend to crack their stocks at the pistol grip where the wood grain is aligned wrong for strength. Second, all of them were made with seals that crumble in time, but the replacement seals of today seem to last forever. So, check on the grip and seals before buying. Most airgunsmiths can work on an LGV because it isn’t too intricate.

HW55 Custom Match
This is a rifle that deserves a complete three-part report of its own. Although I’ve owned it for several months, I haven’t shot it that much. I know I got some good groups from it in the past, but to tell the truth, it was the ugly stepsister in this test. The firing behavior is harsh and jarring — not at all what I expect from an HW55. It feels like the rifle was tuned by someone who only wanted power. I think I need to open it up and calm it down.


The HW55 CM represents the finest technological advance of the entire series of rifles.

I have so much to say about the HW55 CM because it represents Weihrauch’s high-water mark with the 55-series rifles. Even rarer than the Tyroleans that everyone covets, the CM was around for only a very few years at the end of the half-century-long production run of the HW55. It was the finest “buggy whip” they ever made, though my rifle needed some fixin’ to get to that point.


An embarrassing target! These H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets should have grouped in less than half this space. I really need to tune this rifle to reduce the harsh firing cycle. I also shot the gun with the R10 pellets but won’t show it because it’s even worse than this one.

Compared to the other rifles, the 55 CM feels thin and spindly. It has the thinnest barrel of all; in this crowd of heavyweights, it’s a definite pipsqueak. The lower-grade 55 SF feels so much more substantial. Of course, that’s not how it’s supposed to be, and I think the harsh firing behavior is causing me to project bad feelings on the rifle. I really need to calm it down. When I do a separate report, I’ll tune the rifle and hopefully get it shooting like it should. If I can’t, this one will have to hit the road.

The 55 CM has the same flaws as the other 55 rifles. Mine has a leather breech seal, so I assume the piston seal is also leather.

FWB 300S
The last vintage rifle is the one all the others are always compared to — the venerable FWB 300S sidelever target rifle. It features a sledge anti-recoil system in which the powerplant slides a fraction of an inch on steel rails in the stock when the gun fires. The shooter senses only the slight rearward movement of the rear sight, but absolutely no recoil.


Feinwerkbau’s 300S is the standard against which all vintage target rifles are compared.

This is another rifle that will get a separate three-part report sometime in the future. I got it from Mac at the Roanoke airgun show last fall. Bought it for cash right off the table after looking at it for one whole day.


Five R10 Match heavy pellets gave this somewhat open, yet well-centered group from the FWB 300S.


This group of 5 H&N Finale Match Rifle pellets shows the fine pedigree of the 300S.

This rifle shoots good groups in spite of the person on the trigger. You almost can’t make it do otherwise. Together with the LGV Olympia, it’s the easiest 10-meter spring rifle to cock. I can’t wait to see what the FWB 150 feels like because this one has prepared me for a winner!

The FWB 300S is real prone to break at the wrist. And the seals will wear out. In this case, the No. 1 repair station in the U.S. is Randy Bimrose. I wouldn’t use anyone else.

The bottom line
I had a wonderful time shooting these four veteran target rifles. Each has its own personality and feel, but they all were at one time the best air rifles in the world.

It’s very relaxing shooting these old guns, because I don’t have to work hard to get good results. The lower velocity comes with reduced recoil and lower noise that makes the whole experience one worth repeating many times.

If I were to pick winners at this point, the FWB 300S would be the overall leader, followed by the LGV Olympia as the best breakbarrel.