Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle
Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle.

This report covers:

• First up — Crosman Premier lite pellets
• H&N Baracuda Match pellets — 4.53mm head
• The hold
• Air Arms Falcon pellets
• Back to Premier lite pellets
• What now?
• Final observation

Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the Diana 34P air rifle I’m testing. While this has been a conventional test for those interested in the Diana 34, it’s also a precursor to the next part of The great pellet comparison test. I needed a baselined powerful pellet rifle to test the accuracy of premium pellets against bargain pellets. When I finish that test, I’ll write a summary of what’s been learned about the differences between premium and bargain pellets.

But, right now, we’re concentrating on this Diana 34P. We just want to see how well it can do at 25 yards with the best pellets. I went back and read the previous tests of this rifle and started the test by mounting a scope.

This rifle is a drooper, and I don’t have a UTG Drooper scope base on hand, so I used a prototype UTG drooper scope base that was left over from the work I did with Leapers when they developed the base. It has some droop, but I forgot that this rifle is the champion of all droopers. At 20 yards, it shoots 21 inches low! So, even with the drooper mount base, the rifle still shot 7 inches low at 25 yards. I do have other prototype bases with even greater droop, but they looked so severe that I thought I could get away with this one. Nope!

Anyway, I just proceeded with the test and shot at one bull while the pellets hit the bull below. In one instance I missed the bull altogether, but the group was still recorded.

First up — Crosman Premier lite pellets
The first pellet I tested was the Crosman 7.9-grain Premier lite. In past tests, this was the best pellet in this rifle, so I figured it was a good place to start.

The first group of 10 pellets at 25 yards measures 0.848 inches. But look at the group, and you’ll see that 8 of those pellets landed in a much smaller 0.442-inch group. You’ll have to trust me when I tell you that I called both stray shots. I didn’t know they were going to be fliers; but before each shot, I felt some tension in my off hand. I know that sounds like a cop-out — and perhaps it is — but when you see the other groups, I think you’ll see a pattern.

01-15-15-01-Diana-RWS-34P-breakbarrel-air-rifle-Premier-group-25-yards Pre,ier group 25 yards
Ten Premier lite pellets went into 0.848 inches at 25 yards, but 8 of them are in 0.442 inches.

H&N Baracuda Match pellets — 4.53mm head
I’ll come back to Premier lites in a bit, but the next pellet I tried was the H&N Baracuda Match with a 4.53mm head. No particular reason for choosing this one over the other head sizes that are available. It’s just the biggest, so I gave it a try.

The first 10 pellets didn’t seem to want to group, and I was just about to write off this pellet when I tried a different hold. I’ll describe that now, because I want to record it.

The hold
I’d been holding the rifle with a classic artillery hold — with my off hand back near the triggerguard. While that’s a good hold for this rifle, look at what happened to the Premier group — how I threw 2 shots just by not relaxing all the way. Or, at least that’s what I thought. So, after I fired 8 shots with the Baracudas, I slid my off hand forward until it was about 2 inches up the cocking slot. That stabilized the rifle greatly! It was no longer muzzle-heavy, and the muzzle wasn’t moving around. I didn’t have to fight to keep the crosshairs high enough on the target.

Those 2 shots went into the same hole, so I switched to a fresh bull and shot a second group. This one turned out to be the best group of the session. It measured 0.572 inches between centers for all 10 shots at 25 yards. I’m writing this detail of the hold more for myself for future reference, since I plan to come back to this rifle in the pellet comparison test.

01-15-15-01-Diana-RWS-34P-breakbarrel-air-rifle-Premier-group-25-yards Baracuda Match 4.53mm head group 25 yards
Ten H&N Baracuda Match pellets with 4.53mm heads made this 0.572-inch group at 25 yards. No fliers here!

The secret of this alternate way of holding the rifle is how it really steadies the gun. Couple that with the 24-oz. trigger, and I get a perfect shot every time.

Air Arms Falcon pellets
I tried Air Arms Falcon pellets with 4.52mm heads next. Ten of them went into 0.727 inches. While that’s not bad, the group looks rather open to me. Five of the pellets are in one hole, and the other 5 are scattered up and to the left. A group like this tells me I almost have the hold right, but not quite. If this was the only pellet that gave good results I would spend more time with it; but with those Baracuda Match pellets already in the bag, I didn’t have to.

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle Falcon 25-yards
Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets with 4.52mm heads went into 0.727 inches at 25 yards. While this is a small group and there are 5 pellets in the lower hole, this entire group is too open for me. I could spend more time trying to find the right hold to tighten up this pellet, but I already have the H&N Baracuda Match pellets in the bag.

Back to Premier lite pellets
This new hold was so successful that I wanted to see if it would work for Premier lites, as well. Was this the magic hold that would eliminate those 2 fliers? Well, after 6 shots I had an open group that measures 0.796 inches, and no 2 pellets were in the same hole! It seems that Premier lites want the classic artillery hold, and Baracuda Match pellets want the off hand slid forward. That seems odd, but I’m never completely surprised by anything a spring-piston rifle wants to do. They have minds of their own, and each one is unique unto itself.

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle Premier lite alternate hold 25-yards
When I slid my off hand forward, these 6 Premier lites scattered everywhere! This “group” measures 0.796 inches between centers. It’s clear the rifle does not want to be held this way with this pellet.

What now?
Now, I have the Diana 34P baselined and ready for the pellet comparison test. In fact, I already have the results with premium pellets, as I’m going with the group made by the H&N Baracuda Match with the 4.53mm heads. The next thing I’ll do is shoot this rifle with all of the bargain pellets and compare how it does against today’s results.

Because I’ve used 2 different holds for today’s test, I guess I have to also test each pellet that way; but I will find a way to do it that doesn’t take a lot of time. I have an idea formulating. I’ll shoot 5 shots with one hold and if it isn’t extremely small, I’ll switch to the other hold and try that for another 10 shots. I promise I’ll do my best to get the smallest groups this rifle can produce with all the bargain pellets.

Final observation
This is my last formal look at the RWS Diana 34P rifle, and I think I should say a few things. First — I have watched this rifle evolve over the past 30 years from a bargain basement breakbarrel into what I believe to be the best value on the market today. Yes, that statement means for the money, because a TX200 Mark III and a Walther LGV can outshoot a 34 out of the box. But I remember when the 34 was just an entry-level air rifle. It has certainly changed over the years.

The rifle I’m testing has an obsolete Air Venturi tuning kit in it. While you can’t buy that kit anymore, there are others on the internet for this popular rifle. It shoots like a finely tuned air rifle that costs at least double what you pay to buy the gun new. If you’re thinking about which spring rifle to buy next, you won’t make a mistake buying one of these!

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 3

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle
Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle.

This report covers:

• Introduction
• Diana 34 history
• 34P was used as a testbed
• Velocity with Premier lite pellets
• H&N Baracuda Match pellets
• Air Arms Falcon pellets
• Trigger-pull
• Cocking effort
• Final comment

This is Part 2 of an update on the Diana 34P air rifle. I’ve already reported extensively on this rifle, both in its factory trim, in this 4-part report, and again, when I tuned it several years ago with the Air Venturi Pro-Guide Spring Retainer System, (see Part 5 of the series on the Air-Venturi Pro-Guide Spring Retainer System). That system is no longer available, but it’s in the gun we’re testing today.

This will be an update on this rifle by itself, but I’ll soon use it, again, in Part 6 of The great pellet comparison test. Before I do that, though, I wanted to familiarize our new readers with the performance of this tuned air rifle. After this report, I’ll be doing a traditional accuracy test to find one or two best premium pellets that will go against all those bargain pellets in the test.

Diana 34 history
I’ve often said in this blog that a Diana model 34 air rifle is the best inexpensive air rifle on the market. I know it’s far from the cheapest, so here’s what I mean by that. Back in the 1980s and ’90s, the Diana 34 wasn’t the rifle it is today. The powerplant was very buzzy, and the trigger left a lot to be desired. The rifle was selling for $90 in those days and RW USA, the U.S. importer of Diana airguns, used the 34 as their entry-level gun in a long line of models they were selling.

There was the upscale model 36 that had some nicer features, such as a better stock and sights, and the model 38 that featured a checkered walnut stock. At the heart of all 3 rifles, though, was the same powerplant. For several years, it was confusing to buy a Diana air rifle. You wanted the best you could afford, but the top-of-the-line model 38 had the same buzzy powerplant as the entry-level 34. The metal was finished better and, of course, the stock was much better looking. But, when the shot went off, you were back to a basic gun because the insides of all 3 models were all the same.

This story would be great if I could tell you that Diana changed everything overnight, but it didn’t happen that way. What I’m about to tell you took place over more than a decade as models shifted around and were eventually dropped from the catalog. First to go was the expensive model 38, whose walnut stock was kept for a special version of the model 36. The regular model 36 had a beech stock that was shaped nicely, in contrast to the 34 stock that looked like it had been melted.

As the models were changing, the insides of all versions were also changing. Tolerances were getting tighter, and the trigger was evolving. This went largely unnoticed by many, including me, until one day in 2007 when I chanced to test the Diana 34P (it was called the Panther at the time, but the name was changed to just the 34P). I remembered my model 34 from 1990 that was so rough around the edges; so, when I shot the much-improved 34P in the test, I was surprised that most of the buzzing had disappeared and the trigger was much improved.

34P was used as a testbed
I liked that rifle (which is the one I’m testing today) so much that I convinced Pyramyd Air to let me keep it on a long-term loan so I could do more tests, using it as a base rifle. The UTG Drooper scope base was developed on this very rifle. And that is why the UTG base for the Diana 34 has such a pronounced droop! This particular rifle hits 21 inches below where the scope looks when no corrective base is installed!

As an aside, I did not come up with the idea for the drooper base. I was in a meeting with Leapers at the SHOT Show about a base that would fit all Diana rifles but would not bear against the large-head screw at the rear of their base. Back in the old days, shooters thought that screw was a perfect way to anchor a scope mount from moving. I cannot tell you how many hundreds of screw heads were sheared off! I did 2 of them, myself!

So, the scope base I was proposing to Leapers that day was just to fix that problem. My buddy, Mac, came up with the idea of correcting the droop at the same time. When he said it, I recognized that it was what had been missing from my proposal! I worked with Leapers’ engineers throughout the the next year, and the result was the UTG Drooper base.

I note with irony that the airgun manufacturer, Diana, who had ignored my pleas to correct their barrel drooping problem with certain air rifles, finally changed the bases on all their rifles, so the UTG base would no longer fit about 5 years after it came on the market. Oh, well! There are still hundreds of thousands of Diana rifles made before the recent change, and the UTG Drooper Base is the best way to correct the drooping problem on them.

During this same period of years, the Air Venturi Pro-Guide Spring Retainer System came out, and the 34P was a perfect candidate for installation. The Pro-Guide was a drop-in system that tightened the tolerances in the powerplant and boosted velocity at the same time. Mine has been in this rifle for 6 years. Although I haven’t shot it that much (I never get as much shooting of the guns I enjoy), it’s been shot enough to be broken in.

Today, I’m baselining the gun’s performance for you. When we get to Part 6 of the pellet accuracy test, you’ll be able to check back to this report to find out about the rifle that was used.

Velocity with Premier lite pellets
I began testing velocity with our standard candle — the Crosman 7.9-grain Premier lite. Not only is this the pellet I try to always use in velocity tests, it also happens to be accurate in this particular rifle based on my past tests!

Today, the Premier lite averaged 937 f.p.s. in this Diana 34P as it is tuned. The spread was large, ranging from a low of 923 f.p.s. to a high of 958 f.p.s. That’s a total of 35 f.p.s. — a little on the high side for a tuned air rifle. At the average velocity, this pellet produced 15.41 foot-pounds of energy.

H&N Baracuda Match pellets
Next up was the H&N Baracuda Match. Because Pyramyd Air recently sent me some of these with larger head sizes, I decided to test the 4.52mm head in the 34P. They averaged 782 f.p.s., and the spread went from a low of 771 to a high of 792 f.p.s. That’s just 21 f.p.s. and is more like what I hoped for. At this velocity, the pellet produces 14.47 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

I must comment that the 34P as it’s now tuned is very smooth-shooting. There’s some recoil, but a light hold (which is needed for accuracy with a powerful breakbarrel anyway) negates that. However, when I loaded the H&N Baracuda Match, the firing behavior became smoother. Some of the recoil seemed to go away, as well. I can’t wait to try this pellet on paper at 25 yards!

Air Arms Falcon pellets
The last pellet I tested was the 7.33-grain Air Arms Falcon dome that’s been doing so well recently in my accuracy tests. This one has a 4.52mm head, also. Falcons averaged 930 f.p.s. in the 34P, which came as a real surprise to me. They’re lighter than the Premier lites, and I expected them to be over 1,000 f.p.s.; but as you can see, that didn’t happen.

The spread went from a low of 913 to a high of 941 f.p.s., which is 28 f.p.s. In this tuned rifle, they vary more than the much heavier Baracuda Match. Even though the head is large, these Falcons fit the Diana’s breech easier than the other 2 pellets. They were almost loose, but not quite.

At the average velocity, Falcons produced 14.08 foot-pounds of energy, which is below even the heavy Baracuda Match pellets. I don’t know whether or not they’ll be accurate in this rifle. We’ll have to wait and see.

Since this is a Part 2, I did a trigger-pull test for you, as well. The rifle has a T06 trigger that was installed and tested back in 2011. It’s set to 2 stages that are very clear and separate. Stage 2 breaks crisply at 1 lb., 8 oz. (24 oz.). It’s not a TX200 trigger, but it’s pretty darned nice — certainly nicer than the trigger on any powerful spring rifle in this price range!

Cocking effort
The rifle, as it’s now tuned, cocks with but 28 lbs. of effort. However, it does feel like more than that. I have the barrel pivot joint adjusted extremely tight, and I think I’ve added some resistance to the cocking effort. It feels like over 30 lbs. to me. I will say that the cocking effort is incredibly smooth. Most breakbarrels have either some grinding as the barrel breaks down, or there will be hesitation or a sudden increase in the force required at some point. This rifle has none of that. It is what it as — all the way through the cocking stroke.

Final comment
The last thing I will say is that this rifle, with its special tune, is no longer a stock 34P. I don’t want anyone to think that it is. Back when this drop-in tune was available from Pyramyd Air, I think it was selling for around $100, or slightly more. A clever home tuner could do what this kit has done just by tightening all the tolerances in the powerplant, but I don’t want anyone to think that a factory 34P is as smooth as this one. I realize that none of you can feel how smooth this rifle is; but I’ll be commenting on it in the future, and I don’t want to confuse anyone.

On the same note, all 34Ps should be about as accurate as this one. Each rifle will vary, but they’re all quite accurate –and tunes do not increase the accuracy of the gun. They make them more pleasant to shoot. And a 34P comes with the T06 trigger today, where I had to install the one that’s in this rifle. So, I think the 34P is still the best spring gun bargain on the market.

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 2
Part 3

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle
Diana’s 34P breakbarrel is a tremendous value in a spring-piston air rifle.

This report covers:

• Meet my little friend
• Is it Diana or RWS?
• The rifle
• Trigger
• Air Venturi Pro Guide
• 34P with Air Venturi Pro Guide installed

Meet my little friend
Meet my little friend, the Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle. I own lots of airguns, but this one has been on loan from Pyramyd Air for several years for multiple purposes. For starters, this is the very rifle that was used to develop the UTG Droop-Compensating scope base. I don’t mean one like it — this is the actual rifle I used! So, when I tell people that a new Diana 34P can hit the target as much as 21 inches below the aim point at 20 yards when the scope is level, this rifle was used to determine that.

This is also one of the rifles that was used to test the now-obsolete Air Venturi Pro-Guide spring kit. And this rifle is the one that was used to compare the Diana T05 trigger to the T06 trigger. So, it’s been used for a lot of behind-the-scenes testing for this blog.

Today, I want to re-introduce the rifle to you because I’m about to start using it as a test instrument. I have a lot of reasons for doing this. First, how many times have I said that something was just as good as a Diana 34, or that the Diana 34 is the standard in its price range? Lots of times, I’m sure. But how many of our newer readers know how good that is? It’s time we looked at the standard once again.

Next, there are rifles like Ruger’s Air Hawk that people say are copies of the Diana RWS 34. Are they really that close? In all respects? We shall see. I still owe you a 25-yard test of the Air Hawk.

And also, there are other tests I want to do. Like testing new pellets. I can use my Beeman R8 to test pellets, and you veteran readers know it to be a real tackdriver, or I can use my TX200 Mark III. But I’ve done that a lot. Bring out a new pellet and I might say, “Let’s see how it does in a TX200!” Well, most pellets do well in a TX200. That’s just the way it is. But the Diana 34 is a more democratic air rifle — first because it’s a breakbarrel springer, but also because it’s still priced under $300. Heck, I can remember a time in the 1990s when they sold for $90 — and people complained they were too expensive even then!

Is it Diana or RWS?
Diana of Germany is the manufacturer of this rifle. RWS USA imports it into this country. So, it’s really a Diana rifle; but because so many people are used to calling it an RWS, we also include that name in the title. Outside the U.S., it’s probably better known as just a Diana, though RWS in Germany does export them to a number of other countries around the world.

The rifle is a breakbarrel springer in .177 caliber, and this one has the Air Venturi Pro Guide spring kit installed. I’ll tell you more about that a little later in this report.

The rifle
The rifle weighs 7.75 lbs. and is 46 inches long. It’s a big air rifle, but it doesn’t feel too large when you hold it. The “P” model comes with a black synthetic stock. While I usually prefer wood over synthetic, on this rifle I’ll take the synthetic. The wood they put on rifles in this price range is usually pretty plain, plus the synthetic is both stronger and more resistant to water. Also, this stock has sharp checkering diamonds that really help you hold the gun.

The cocking effort measures 32 lbs. on my bathroom scale. The stroke is smooth with no sudden build-up of effort. The breech has a ball-bearing detent that makes the barrel easy to break open but holds the breech tight during firing. Diana has used this type of breech for at least the past 75 years, and it’s a proven technology.

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle breech detent
The detent is Diana’s famous ball bearing. The barrel opens and closes smoothly, yet remains closed when the rifle’s shot.

Unfortunately, when I tested the cocking effort years ago, I broke the front fiberoptic element that has only the protection of a sheet metal hood. That doesn’t matter to me, because whenever I shoot the rifle it’s scoped. Diana ships the rifle with the hood over the front sight, and I recommend you leave it on to protect the front element.

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle front sight
Leave the hood on the front sight to protect the fiberoptic tube.

The T06 trigger that’s in the rifle is 2-stages with a long first stage (my preference) and a let-off of 1 lb., 5 oz. Stage 2 is a little indistinct on my test rifle, but it’s positive enough that the rifle remains under my control at all times. I don’t find the T06 trigger to be better or worse than the T05 trigger; because it has a metal blade, most shooters seem to prefer it.

When the rifle is cocked, the safety comes on automatically. The switch is located in the center of the end cap, making the 34 a 100 percent ambidextrous air rifle.

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle safety
The safety comes on automatically when the rifle’s cocked.

Air Venturi Pro Guide
Okay, now I’ll tell you about the Air Venturi Pro Guide that’s installed in the rifle. I know you can no longer buy this kit, but it does show what a lightly tuned Diana 34 is capable of. You could get to the same point with other tunes, so you don’t have to feel that you can’t have the same thing. And the factory rifle is pretty close to this in power, though it does buzz a little.

The Air Venturi Pro Guide is not currently available, but it was a special mainspring and guides that smoothed the gun’s powerplant with a slight velocity increase. I installed a Pro Guide in the 34P in Part 5 of the Pro Guide report. The first 4 parts of that report were done on a Diana 48 sidelever, so only Part 5 refers to the 34P.

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle Pro Guide kit
The Air Venturi Pro Guide kit consisted of a new mainspring, a rear spring guide that fit outside the mainspring (bottom in this picture) a new piston seal and top hat (front spring guide).

Diana RWS 34P breakbarrel air rifle Pro Guide front spring guide
The front spring guide slips inside the stock piston. It fits inside the mainspring so tight that it can’t be easily removed. This takes all vibration from the gun but leaves the power.

With the Pro Guide in the gun, the firing behavior is solid and free from vibration. There’s just a solid “thunk” that connotes a tuned spring rifle.

34P with Air Venturi Pro Guide installed
The rifle last averaged 825 f.p.s. with H&N Baracudas, 936 f.p.s. with Crosman Premier lites and 1021 f.p.s. with RWS Hobbys. That was right after the Pro Guide was installed, and the rifle hasn’t been shot a lot since then. So I thought I’d test it with those pellets, again, just to see where it is today.

Today, the rifle averages 781 f.p.s. with H&N Baracudas, 943f.p.s. with Premier lites and 1023 f.p.s. with RWS Hobbys. There was a big velocity drop with the Baracudas, but an increase with the Premier lites. Baracuda pellets have changed many times in the past several years, so that result is suspect. I may have used the same pellet by name, but the size and weight might have changed. The Hobbys are within 1 f.p.s. of each other. I would say the rifle is shooting about where it was before, but it’s calmed down and settled into its long-term power band.

Now you’ve been introduced to my Diana 34P. When you see it in tests in the future, this is the rifle I’ll be shooting. We’ll look at accuracy next, and then I want to use this rifle to test several pellets for you.

What’s for Christmas? Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

I know the Christmas holiday is a long way off, but this year it comes upon us faster than usual. Thanksgiving will be very late this year (November 28), and since that day traditionally kicks off the Christmas shopping season, many people will be jammed because of too little time left. So, I’m starting my Christmas shopping blog a couple weeks early.

Stocking stuffers/small, neat gifts

Things in this category are gifts that don’t cost a lot but will have great meaning to airgunners. Some of them are things that shooters won’t buy for themselves.

Leapers UTG pellet & BB trapLeapers UTG pellet & BB trap
The Leapers UTG pellet & BB trap is the best trap for BBs, and it also works for lower-velocity pellet guns. I used to tout Crosman’s model 850 pellet/BB trap. Well, they removed it from the market and replaced it with a model 852 trap that they say is only good for pellets. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between the Leapers and Crosman traps, except the Leapers trap is a few dollars more. How’s that for a switch?

But Leapers does recommend their trap for BBs, plus they sell replacement ballistic curtains for just a few dollars for the inevitable time when you shoot through them.

I’ve been using a Leapers trap for the past 4 months, and I do plan on reporting on it; but if you want the absolute best BB/pellet trap you can get, this is it!

Winchester Airgun Target Cube for BBs and pellets
For about half the money the Leapers trap costs, the Winchester Airgun Target Cube for BBs and pellets is a good BB trap that also works for pellets. I’ve reported on this trap in many reports on BB guns and even for some pellet guns. My trap now has several thousand shots in it, and the styrofoam is starting to flake off when hit, but it’s still useable.

The beauty of this trap is that it’s completely quiet. So, you get the same response as though you are shooting at an Air Venturi Quiet Pellet Trap, but at a greatly reduced price. The trap can take hits up to higher velocities because it has a steel plate embedded inside, but I recommend using it for lower-velocity BB guns and pellet guns.

Gamo squirrel field target
As long as we’re looking at things to shoot at, don’t forget the Gamo squirrel field target. This is a fine field target for low-powered airguns that prodiuce less than 12 foot-pounds of energy. It gives you something to shoot at in the yard, and the kill-zone reducers allow you to change the target as your shooting improves.

I don’t recommend this target for a club or for match use, but for informal field target practice it is perfect. It costs half of what a stronger field target costs.

Gifts under $50

This category is for those gifts that cost a little more but still represent a wonderful value to most airgunners.

Beeman P17 air pistolBeeman P17
My first pick is the Beeman P17 pistol. This single-stroke pneumatic air pistol is accurate, has a wonderful trigger and is quiet enough for shooting inside the home. Some find pumping it a little hard, so consider that; and there are reports that some guns have pump problems that allow the compressed air to leak out. I haven’t run into one that had a problem yet, but there’s a simple fix all over the internet, so don’t let that dissuade you.

S&W M&P 45 BB and pellet pistol
The S&W M&P pistol is a great buy for under $50. It’s a BB pistol I’ve reviewed and found to be an exceptional value. It’s accurate for a BB pistol, and it looks and feels like the firearm it copies. And it also shoots pellets! What a great buy for so little money! [Note from B.B.: This pistol was below $50 when this report was written and edited, but the price increased before it was published. I left it here because it’s such a nice gun, but it now costs over $50.]

Colt Defender BB pistol
I found the Colt Defender BB pistol to be a wonderful BB pistol when I reviewed it.

Gifts under $100

Let’s look at some gifts for under $100. These are things airgunners probably want but may not remember to ask for — so you need to ask them.

Champion Heavy Duty trap
The Champion Heavy-Duty trap should be an essential part of every airgunner’s equipment. They will only need one of these, and it’ll last for the rest of their lives. My own trap is close to 20 years old and must have half a million shots on it, but it still works like new! It can take rounds from a .22 long rifle and still not dent or blemish, so you know no smallbore air rifle can possibly hurt it.

Crosman 1077
The Crosman 1077 CO2 rifle is Crosman’s homage to the Ruger 1022. And, like that famous rimfire, the 1077 has become a classic in its own right. It’s a fun plinker, and the stiff double-action trigger (this rifle is really a revolver) lightens and smooths with use. It’s also surprisingly accurate — way beyond what the price indicates.

Umarex Morph 3XUmarex Morph 3X CO2 gun
The Umarex Morph 3X CO2 gun isn’t for everyone; but if your shooter likes gadgets, it might be for him. It gets its name from the way it changes from a BB pistol to a BB carbine. It also has adjustable power that compliments the barrel length options. Just seeing what it can be made to do will occupy a lot of time.

Umarex Steel Storm
If your shooter likes full-auto, consider giving him the Umarex Steel Storm. Although it’s a pistol and doesn’t have a shoulder stock, the Steel Storm is quite accurate with BBs in the semiautomatic mode. It’s a very affordable BB automatic, although it’s limited to 6-round bursts in full-auto.

Gifts a little over $100

Instead of giving you a list with price breaks from zero to infinity, I’m doing this in a more rational way. This is the way people shop — or at least they should shop. There are a couple items for a little over $100 that make wonderful gifts, but they don’t belong in an under $300 category. You’ll see what I mean when you look at them.

Dan Wesson BB revolverDan Wesson BB revolver
I really enjoyed testing the Dan Wesson BB revolver. It’s a CO2 revolver that functions just like the firearm it copies. They come in barrel lengths of 2-1/2 inches, 4 inches, 6 inches and the one I like the best — the 8-inch barrel. Loading is very realistic, and the accuracy is quite good. Read about it here.

Air Venturi Bronco
You knew I had to put the Air Venturi Bronco on the list. For $130, it’s the best value you can find in a spring-piston airgun. The stocks are now stained a darker brown color, so those who didn’t like the blonde stock will now get their wish. It’s great for older youth as well as adults. A wonderful all-day plinker!

If your shooter wants a full-auto BB gun, I think the Electronic Burst of Steel (EBOS) from Umarex has no equal. It’s accurate, powerful, reliable and everything works as it should. Yes, it’s over $100, but it’s worth it! You can read about it here.

Gifts under $300

This category is much harder to pick for because so much personal taste is involved. But this is my blog, so I get to pick ’em!

Diana RWS 34P
I really like the Diana 34P imported by RWS USA. I don’t care for the 34P Compact because the shorter barrel makes it harder to cock. I like the standard 34P. I also dislike its fiberoptic sights, but most people will scope their rifle, so that doesn’t really matter.

Diana has made vast improvements in the model 34 over the years, and I think it has evolved into the best value for the money. If you want power and accuracy at a bargain price, the Diana 34P is for you. If you want a wood stock, get the regular Diana 34. It’s still under $300.

Benjamin Discovery + hand pumpBenjamin Discovery
The best deal around in a precharged rifle has got to be the Benjamin Discovery. It also requires a way to put pressurized air into the gun, and that can be either a hand pump or a scuba tank, so this gift may also entail additional items for your shooter. It’s a big decision, but the Discovery is really the easiest way to get into precharged airguns. And if you do decide to get a Discovery, know that there is a package deal that includes both the rifle and hand pump at a significant savings. Of course it takes you out of the under $300 category.

Gifts without limit

I’m not going to list the most expensive things here. I’m just going to list the few things that I would recommend that are more than $300.

Beeman P1 pistolBeeman P1 pistol
For your handgunner, I recommend the Beeman P1 pistol. This spring-piston pistol is a wonderful target gun for everything short of full-blown 10-meter competition. It features 2 power levels and a wonderfully adjustable trigger. At the time of publication, this pistol is selling for $460.

Benjamin Marauder
Then we come to the Benjamin Marauder precharged air rifle. It comes in .177, .22 and .25 calibers. It’s very quiet, has a wonderfully adjustable trigger, is quite accurate and has more adjustability than many European air rifles costing over a thousand dollars. As this is published, the Marauder sells for $470, which has to be the best PCP value around.

AirForce Talon SS
The Talon SS from AirForce Airguns is a stunningly accurate PCP that allows the user to change calibers as well as barrel lengths in minutes. It isn’t one rifle — it’s a whole shooting system! It was the first PCP to use a shroud to reduce the muzzle report, and it was one of the first to offer adjustable power. This is the kind of airgun a shooter joins with in a serious way because it can be so many different things. At the time of publication, the Talon SS retailed for $575.

Air Arms TX200 Mark III
The last gift I will put on today’s list is the always-popular Air Arms TX200 Mark III. It would be difficult to think of a finer gift for an airgunner. Even the inveterate PCP owner needs one of these, just to know how high the spring-piston bar can be raised. Beazer — feel free to chime in, being a new TX200 owner and all.

Now that I’ve given you my list, I expect to hear from you on those things I failed to mention. I’ll come back and do a second list in a week or so, and I’ll consider all that you say. There are gifts I intentionally left off this report, but I also want to hear what you guys think.

Remember, the 2013 Christmas season will be brief because of how late Thanksgiving is this year. No matter if you’re a gift-giver or a hopeful gift recipient, the time to act is right now. And if you thought of buying one of the last Sheridan Blue Streaks (because Crosman has stopped making them), the opportunity is quickly disappearing. Pyramyd Air is sold out at present but will get a final shipment of this venerable multi-pump around Dec. 6. If you want one, pre-order it. Cause once they’re in stock, they’ll vaporize pretty quickly.

The new best airguns for the money: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Blog reader Kevin Lentz asked for this report; but as soon as he posted his request, it was seconded by a couple other readers. The first time I did a report with this title was way back in 2007, and that was a four-parter. This time, I’ll hold it to just two parts to save some time, because there are a lot of new models coming out at this time of year. Kevin revised the categories just a little and I went with his suggestions.

Guns under $150: Air rifles
A couple guns that used to be in this category have fallen off the list, in my opinion. They did so due to major changes in product quality. Even at this low level, a gun has to shine to make the list.

Crosman’s 1077 is a wonderful 12-shot CO2 repeater. It’s accurate, reliable and a lot of fun to shoot. This budget rifle is accurate enough to benefit from a scope.

The Crosman M4-177 multi-pump is another wonderful value for the price. It’s accurate, has a tactical look and is very rugged. As a bonus, this is a five-shot repeater!

The Gamo Lady Recon makes the list for its accuracy, ease of operation and the fact that it comes with open sights. The plain Recon doesn’t have open sights and misses the list for the lack. This is a lot of youth air rifle for the money, but I suppose only girls will like it because of the pink color.

Stoeger’s X5 makes the list for accuracy and build quality. The one drawback with this one is the heavy trigger. But if you get past that, this is a lot of airgun for the money.

Daisy’s Powerline 953 TargetPro is a budget version of that company’s 853 target rifle. Though it lacks the Lothar Walther barrel, the 953 manages to do quite well with its domestic barrel. It’s a great way to get into target shooting without spending a bundle.

Buy the Daisy Avanti Champion 499 only if you like hitting what you shoot at. Billed as the world’s most accurate BB gun and the only gun used in the International BB Gun Championships (because nothing else can compete with it), the 499 is every target shooter’s dream. Sure, it’s a BB gun, but one that will put 10 shots inside Roosevelt’s head on a dime offhand at 5 yards.

And the winner among air rifles in this price range is the Air Venturi Bronco. It is, without question, the most accurate pellet rifle under $150, and it has the best trigger of the category as well.

What can I say? I love this air rifle.

Guns under $150: Air pistols
For informal target shooting, you can’t do any better than Beeman’s P17 single-stroke pistol. It’s a Chinese-made copy of the German-made Beeman P3 that costs many times more, yet the P17 holds its own on power and accuracy. A few of them have been known to have reliability issues; but if you oil yours with Pellgunoil, I think you’ll get past that. I’ve owned two, and both were perfect.

There used to be several different models of this next gun to choose from, but the last one standing is the Crosman 357W. A pellet revolver for under $50, this CO2-powered gun has inspired shooters for decades. It has the accuracy you want and ease of operation, plus it’s a pellet revolver!

Another super buy is the Crosman 2240 .22-caliber single-shot pistol. This gun is the direct descendant of Crosman pistols dating all the way back to the 1940s. It’s accurate, powerful and a wonderful value.

The Crosman 1377C is a classic multi-pump air pistol selling for half the price of most other pump guns. It has the power and accuracy to hold its own against challengers selling at more than twice the price. Plus, it’s the basis of many hobby airgunners’ projects.

The Makarov BB pistol is the best BB pistol in this or any other price category. It’s accurate, reliable and extremely realistic. If you like to hit what you shoot at and want to shoot BBs, this is the gun to buy!

If you want a fun, realistic BB revolver, they don’t get any better than the Dan Wesson BB revolver. I’ve linked to the 8-inch barreled gun, but all the barrel lengths and finishes cost the same and provide the same great service.

Guns $150-250: Air rifles
Not as many guns in this price category, because I hold them to a higher standard. With guns like the Bronco and the Beeman P17 out there, most higher-priced guns can’t deliver.

Hatsan recently decided to go it alone in the U.S., but I haven’t had a chance to test anything they offer. Back when they were making guns for whatever conglomerate financial organization owned Webley at the time, who knows what craziness they were forced to make? So, they should be given the chance to make and sell good guns on their own. Time will tell, but this year I have no information, so they didn’t make the list.

With all the product-cheapening that’s been going on, it’s been difficult to see that the Diana RWS 34P has progressively morphed into a fine air rifle. The barrel got better, the trigger did the same and the powerplant went from a cheap buzzy nightmare in the 1980s to a dream gun in 2012. Diana avoided the Gamo pitfall of going to more power, and, instead, they concentrated on giving us a great rifle with reasonable power and splendid accuracy. You do need to use the artillery hold to get it, though. This one deserves credit for being a wonderful air rifle. When I list the 34P, I’m actually including all 34 rifles.

Guns $150-250: Air pistols
Same thing goes for air pistols as for rifles. Too much competition from the lower-price category and not enough innovation and quality in this one.

I can’t say enough good things about the Smith & Wesson 586 4-inch CO2 revolver. It’s a “real” gun! Get one if you like fine double- and single-action triggers, smooth revolver actions plus stunning accuracy. The realism cannot be faulted. Same thing goes for the 6-inch barreled gun.

Some of you may remember my story about telling the then-president of Crosman why airgunners would drop $150 on a handgun he sold for $39.95. Well, he left the company, and the new management decided to build these modified guns themselves! The Crosman 2300S is one such gun. It’s based on the 2240 frame, but has a boatload of high-value appointments that are just what most airgunners want. Can’t beat it for the price.

I’m going to include the Daisy Avanti 747 Triumph Match, which is somewhat quirky and more than a little clunky, but it’s the lowest-cost real target pistol available. The Lothar Walther barrel is what makes it rank above the nearly identical 717. And, Daisy, could you please give this gun a couple more names? I can still pronounce it without taking a breath.

What’s this? I put the Beeman P17 on this list for under $150 and I’m also putting the Beeman P3 on the same list? Yep. This one is good, too. Better trigger than the P17 and just as accurate and powerful. Want a better gun? Get a P3.

Well, that’s my list. You might ask me what the criteria were to make the list. Simple. These are the airguns I can recommend and not hear anything bad about them. That doesn’t mean that everyone likes all of them. It means that the guns, themselves, don’t have any bad habits or features that make people mad at me for recommending them. Next time, I’ll do a $250-500 list and an unlimited one. You think I was picky today? Just wait.

A note from Edith: This is a G-rated site
Recently, I’ve noticed some acronyms creeping in that aren’t G-rated. If you have a budding young airgunner that you’ve encouraged to read the blog and the comments, do you want to have to explain to him what those initials mean? Probably not, so it’s best if we don’t use those colorful words/acronyms in our comments.

Also, when symbols have to replace letters in a word because the word is offensive, please don’t use that word…with or without symbols. I appreciate your help in keeping Airgun Academy a G-rated site and a place where airgunners of every age can comfortably ask questions and grow to love the shooting sports.

BSA Comet breakbarrel air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Before we start, I wanted to let you know that there are two new videos on Airgun Academy. We’ve started a series on airgun maintenance. Episode 27 is about properly maintaining pneumatics, and episode 28 is CO2 gun maintenance.

It’s medium-sized and lightweight. The velocity in .177 is 825 f.p.s. The BSA Comet is a different air rifle.

Before I start today’s report I’d like to say a couple words about yesterday’s test of some non-lead pellets. There were several early comments that ranged from observationa that an FWB 150 will shoot anything accurately to why don’t I test these pellets in a more real-world type of rifle? Those comments, as well as my own curiosity, will probably drive me to fashion some sort of test that is more encompassing than what I did yesterday.

I’m leaning away from the test that uses the more common type of pellet rifle, simply because it’s endless. And, what would we learn — except that some guns do well with non-lead pellets while others don’t? If I can set up a controlled test where I test the same pellets at two or even three power levels in the same gun using the same barrel, then we might learn something useful.

It seemed to me that perhaps these non-lead pellets perform well at lower velocities, but from my past experience they don’t do as well at higher velocities. Is that true? Many readers seem to think so. I have a way to find out. I can set up my Whiscombe rifle in .177 caliber to shoot the subject pellets at very low velocity, then at a medium velocity and, if they’re still grouping okay, perhaps bumping them up to supersonic. That can all be done in the exact same barrel, which is the benefit of using the Whiscombe. I have air transfer port limiters that control the velocity of the rifle. If you recall, my Whiscombe came to me with a 12 foot-pound limiter installed, and I freaked out until learning about the limiter and the reasoning behind it. That’s discussed back in 2006, in Part 2 of the Whiscombe report.

I’m aware that a test like this will not be of interest to everyone. As always, I’ll serialize it and put some space between the reports. It seems to me that we might be able to really learn something important this way, and I’d like to pursue it. Okay, that’s all that was on my mind. Let’s move on to today’s report.

I’ll tell you exactly why I chose to test the BSA Comet (serial number CD-398513-09). It was the velocity. This is a .177 breakbarrel spring rifle that sells for over $300, so what velocity would you expect it to have? Over 1,000 f.p.s., right?

“Me too,” seems to be the most popular slogan in the world of consumer goods today. Once the market is defined, every manufacturer rushes to make the same product and sell it for less. If they can’t do that, they pack it with “features” that justify the extra expense. Not so for the BSA Comet.

In a forest of 1,000 f.p.s. air rifles, here’s one that touts 825 f.p.s. Are they out of their minds? Or are they marching to the beat of a different drummer? Only a thorough test will reveal which is the case. At this time the Comet is available only in .177 caliber.

Like the others?
In many respects the Comet is a cookie cut from the same sheet of dough as all other modern breakbarrels. It has a synthetic stock, the metal is not finished bright (excuse me, sir, that’s a hunter matte finish) and it has the requisite green and red adjustable fiberoptic sights that guarantee minute-of-pop-can accuracy.

One look at the rifle tells you that it probably wasn’t made in the United Kingdom. Look at the Gamo-style trigger for starters. Oh, and do the words, “Made for BSA” lasered on the right side of the action sound a little non-specific to you?

Okay, we know that the Spanish airgun maker Gamo owns BSA. It’s not much of a stretch to think that the Comet was made in Spain for BSA. That’s not bad because Gamo has come a long way in the past decade. They’ve upgraded their airguns to the point that they’re very nearly on par with German guns at the lower end of the cost spectrum.

BSA also has the reputation of making some of the finest barrels in the world. They’re on par with Lothar Walther when they want to be, and their barrels have ended up in some very expensive top-end airguns.

Here’s what I hope. I hope the Comet is a diamond in disguise. I hope that the lower muzzle velocity and the (possibly) BSA barrel combine to make this one heck of a good shooter. At this price, they’re $100 more than the RWS Diana 34, so the rifle needs to be accurate, smooth and have a decent, adjustable trigger. These are things I’ll be looking for in this evaluation.

The rifle
The Comet is lightweight, at 5.9 lbs without a scope, and it’s medium-sized, at 42.5 inches overall. Given its power, could it be positioned against the Beeman R7? This is all speculation, and only thorough testing will reveal what the Comet is really like. I’m curious to discover this rifle’s secrets, if it has any.

The shape of the stock and location of controls such as the safety make the Comet a 100 percent ambidextrous rifle. The breakbarrel design lends itself to that. Looking underneath the stock, I was surprised to see a two-piece articulated cocking link. That means the cocking slot in the stock can be shorter, which helps reduce vibration.

The triggerguard is cast into the stock as one piece, and there are side panels on either side of the forearm that remind me of many Gamo rifles. I know the forearm screws are located beneath those panels because I’ve already had them off the gun.

The breech seal is located on the end of the spring tube instead of the rear of the barrel. That shouldn’t make any difference in the performance, but it’s worth noting.

The pull of the stock is 13.75 inches, which is compact. The 17.5-inch barrel offsets that a little. It also biases the weight forward for a muzzle-heavy balance.

The trigger is two-stage and adjustable for engagement. I will find out what that means in Part 2. The manual safety blade is located in front of the trigger and is pulled back to set and pushed forward to release. The safety blocks the trigger blade from moving and can be set and released whether or not the gun is cocked.

There is no denying the Gamo heritage when you look at the Comet’s trigger.

I had to remove the stock to adjust the trigger because the one adjustment screw is not conveniently placed. Once the action was out of the stock I could see that this trigger is changed and improved from the Gamo triggers of a decade ago. I’ll show pictures next time.

These’s no mention of the force required to cock the Comet, but I’ll measure it in Part 2. I shot the rifle a couple times just to familiarize myself with its operation and can observe that it cocks easily enough.

An 11mm dovetail is cut directly into the top of the spring tube, and there’s an appropriate hole at the rear to accept a vertical scope stop pin. But BSA has a reputation for having some of the widest dovetails on the market, sometimes pushing 14mm, so I’ll look at that when I mount a scope for you.

First impression
I like the smaller size, lighter weight and lower power of this breakbarrel. If it also producea some good groups, we may have something here.

One more observation. In the few (10?) times I’ve fired the rifle, it seems to be dieseling pretty aggressively. I think a break-in period may be necessary before good performance can be realized.

Comparing the T05 trigger to the T06: Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

RWS Diana 34 Panther
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Pro-Guide spring retainer system for RWS Diana rifles: Part 5 — The RWS Diana 34 Panther
Part 5

I’m testing the T06 trigger today using the accuracy test as a means to evaluate the operation of the trigger. The object is not to see how accurate this RWS Diana model 34P is. We already know that from tests run long ago. But as I try to shoot groups with the gun, I can get the feel of the new trigger better than any other method. So, today is about a trigger and not about this air rifle.

Of course, I’ve already used the trigger a lot in the velocity testing I did a couple days ago. Now, however, I’ll be holding tight on a small target, and any aberration in the trigger will come though loud and clear. This is where the rubber meets the road!

New BKL adjustable mount
I’m also testing the new BKL adjustable scope mount at the same time, and the next report will be exclusively about that. I showed you the new mount in Part 1, but what I didn’t show you was the bubble level that’s attached to the left side of the mount base.

The optional BKL bubble level is mounted on the left side of the new BKL adjustable scope mount. This view shows the rear of the mount raised up to compensate for this rifle’s barrel droop.

With this level attached, I can sight with one eye and watch the bubble with the other. I can’t see both at the same time, which is why a scope with an internal bubble level would be so desirable, but at least I don’t have to move my head to see the bubble like you do with some other levels. I’ll be reporting on it when I cover the mount in the next report.

Back to the accuracy test
I learned in the past that this rifle really likes 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers, so instead of fooling around with many different pellets, I selected just these pellets for the test. That way I could forget about trying to make the rifle shoot well and concentrate on the trigger.

Ten Crosman Premier lites went into this 0.443-inch group at 25 yards. It’s a little larger than Roosevelt’s head on the dime but smaller than the entire coin.

Though I’m only showing you a single 10-shot group, I shot much more than that. I probably shot 50 shots for today’s test, on top of about 20 the day before when I was checking out and adjusting the new mount. With all this testing, I became very familiar with the T06 trigger.

How the T06 trigger differs from the T05
The T06 operates differently than the T05 did. The T05 stopped cleanly at stage two and held there until the instant the sear released. There was no feeling of movement once stage two was engaged.

The T06 also stops cleanly at stage two, but as you continue to pull you can feel the trigger moving through the stage. Normally this is called creep, but it is absolutely smooth with no pauses or hesitations, and it doesn’t fit the popular definition for trigger creep. In fact, this movement becomes entirely predictable and something a shooter can learn to live with.

Something else about the stage-two pull on the T06 — on most triggers, when you pause part way through stage two, back off and then return to it again, as much of it that was pulled through is still gone. You’ve advanced the trigger or shortened the stage-two pull, whichever you prefer. Not so on the T06.

Because the Diana 34P requires so much technique (the artillery hold) to shoot accurately, I found myself stopping several times before the trigger released to take another breath. When I did that, naturally I relaxed my trigger finger as well. Then, I had to settle myself again before returning to the trigger. What I found when I got back on the trigger was that it had reset itself to the start point. The full trigger-pull was restored. This is what I want all triggers to do, because anything else means an unpredictable trigger that could release before I’m ready. From that standpoint, the T06 is a very nice trigger. The T05 didn’t have the problem of pulling part way through stage two, so of course it always acted like it had just been set whenever you came back to it as well.

The bottom line
Diana has made a change with the T06 trigger. In my observation, it isn’t any better or worse than the T05; it’s just different. If you want a metal trigger blade, the T06 has it. If you want adjustments, the T06 has more of them. I wasn’t able to eliminate the travel in stage two, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I spent all of 30 minutes adjusting the unit. Someone who is willing to put in more time can probably discover secrets that I didn’t find.

The bottom line as far as I see it is the T06 trigger is now here and the T05 is a thing of the past. I alerted you to the difference between the T05 and T06 pistons, so you know they go together and a T01 trigger can also use the same piston as the T05.

The new trigger is nice and predictable. It has the features I’ve mentioned, and they all work well. If you wind up with one on your next Diana airgun you should be satisfied with it. But if you currently own a T01 or a T05 trigger, I wouldn’t plan to change it.