Let’s make lemonade

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Lemons
  • The bigger picture
  • Whodunit?
  • So what?
  • They got better
  • The point?
  • Summary

I was all set to begin telling you about my Beeman 400/Diana 75 today. Yes — my rifle is a Beeman 400. I’ve had people tell me Beeman didn’t sell a 400, but I’ve got one to show you. However — not today.

There is one part of the Diana 75 sidelever recoilless air rifle that I had to discuss with you first and, as I thought about it, this one component is more important than the entire target rifle. So today I tell all of you how to make lemonade. Some of you will make it, some will even set up lemonade stands while others will continue to curse the darkness.

Lemons

The world of airguns is replete with lemons. In 2018 I told you the story of a Benjamin 700 that was practically forced upon me at the 2018 Texas Airgun Show by one of our regular readers — I forget who. The price of $95 was certainly good. But then I had to get it fixed and, by the time that was over, I had three times the money invested in the airgun. By the way, that BB repeater now holds air indefinitely and is looking for a new home.

The Schimel was a new CO2 pistol in 1950. It was unique, in that it was a CO2-powered .22 pistol that shot pellets at 550 f.p.s.! However, unlike Crosman who had been building CO2 guns for decades by 1950, the Schimel was made with high-tech all-new materials. Unfortunately many of them did not withstand the test of time. The metal parts welded to one another through electrolysis, the o-ring seals absorbed gas and locked the gun up tight for hours after the cartridge was empty, the paint flaked off all over the gun and the plastic grip scales shrunk and warped over time.

Schimel
The Schimel looks like a P08 German Luger and my wife, Edith, who saw the air pistol first, always called my 9mm 1914 Erfurt Luger a Schimel. 

The bigger picture

Those guns and others like them were unsatisfactory, but they were nothing compared to the tens of thousands of failures that were foisted upon the airgunning public in the 1960s and ’70s. Companies with solid reputations that we still trust today sold tens (hundreds?) of thousands of premium airguns to unsuspecting customers who only found their Achilles heel a decade later. Their piston seals were made of the wrong synthetic material! That material worked well when it was new and fresh but it hardened in the air and slowly turned into a dark yellowish waxy substance that fell apart in small chunks. I have found bits of brownish-yellow wax in the barrels of dozens of these airguns. Not one of them escaped this fate and in 2021 there isn’t one of them that still has its original seals.

124 perished seals
This FWB 124 pistol seal was white-ish when new. This brand new seal has never been in an airgun. Years of exposure to the atmosphere have turned it brown and dried it out. It does the same thing inside an air rifle.

I wrote about one of these airguns in the 15-part series, A shrine built for a Feinwerkbau 124, back in 2010 and 2011. Yes, the legendary Feinwerkbau put the new bound-to-fail synthetic seals on their iconic 124 (and 121, 125 and 127). That’s tens of thousands of airguns, right there! And yes, I did write a 15-part report about the 124. I also wrote a great many more reports about that model over the years. Many of them have been about replacing the original seals with ones made from modern materials. I have probably resealed 12 to 15 model 124s in my time.

Okay, get angry! Why would such a prestigious airgun manufacturer put something that was bound to fail in their finest products. Let’s see. Perhaps they didn’t know?

Why would Coca-Cola change the formula that made them the world’s leading soft drink producer? Why would NASA skip some of the testing for the Hubble Space Telescope before launching it into orbit? I could go on but the answer is always the same — they didn’t know.

Whodunit?

Now we come to the part of today’s report that explains why I didn’t start presenting the Beeman 400/Diana 75 today. You see — Diana also used this new synthetic material in their piston seals. That makes the following models subject to early failure.

Diana 5 pistol
Diana 6 target pistol
Diana 10 target pistol
Diana 60 target rifle
Diana 65 target rifle
Diana 66 target rifle
Diana model 70 rifle
Diana model 72 target rifle
Diana model 75 target rifle

And the companies that sold these airguns under other names, like Beeman, sold them under different model numbers, as well. But wait — there’s more!

Walther also used this synthetic material in their airguns made during this same timeframe. That made the following models that are prone to early failure.

Walther model 55 target rifle
Walther LGV target rifle
Walther LGR target rifle

I have resealed two LGVs for this problem, and I paid someone else to reseal one because he wouldn’t sell me the parts. I have an LGR that was also resealed.

So what?

BB, you’re painting a dismal picture here! This is why I won’t buy a used airgun.

Well, you do what you think is best, but I am telling you that this has opened up a grand world of opportunity to those who can work with it. You can either complain that the lower 40 acres on your Titusville, Pennsylvania, farm is all full of black sticky muck that clogs your plow or you can arrange to sink an oil well and become a millionaire!

Guys, what BB is telling you is there is a huge stock of wonderful airguns rotting away in closets because they suddenly stopped shooting when the barrel filled up with the brown waxy stuff. They would have been thrown away years ago but the supply of round tuits was temporarily exhausted. It’s hard to hold an FWB 124 or a Diana 72 in your hands and not realize what a diamond it is!

They got better

All those prestigious companies who were bamboozled by the early synthetics (remember, Benjamin Braddock — plastic is the future! {from The Graduate}) learned their lesson and made their seals out of new material that lasts virtually forever. They each went a different way but all of them figured it out, just like General Motors figured out that timing belt gears should not be made out of Nylon!

While “they” were figuring it out, the aftermarket guys also got with the program and better synthetic piston seals began showing up worldwide. So today a 124 that’s no longer being used is a loving puppy that needs to be adopted. I once bought one for $35 — from an airgun dealer! I bought a nice one for $200 a few years back — from a gun dealer who took it on a trade in for a “real” gun. That one I still have.

I even bought a 124 complete action in a deluxe stock at a gun show for $50 a few years ago. But I sold that one to another airgunner who said he had a barrel.

The point?

If you haven’t gotten it by now, bless your heart! What I’m saying is that there are thousands of worthy airguns laying around that are simply in need of a new piston seal. These aren’t cheapies, either. These are good airguns. Just look at the list up above again. But their owners don’t appreciate them anymore.

I bet if there was a pristine 1957 Chevy Bel Air parked out in the street and the For Sale sign said its original 283 original engine was’t running, people would find a way to do something about it! BB Pelletier just told you that there are thousands of them and you just have to look for them.

Look in odd places. Don’t look in the car trader magazines for ’57 Chevys. Everybody looks there. Look behind the body shops and repair shops around town. That’s where the mechanic parked them, waiting for the owner to pay his bill. And he never came back. Sure there is no title, but we are talking about airguns — not cars! Don’t need no title for an FWB 124 or an RWS 75.

Read the ‘spensive Gun Broker ads that say “I don’t know how well this RWS Diana 75 rifle works because I don’t have any pellets to shoot in it.” Sure — we all believe that. So you contact that guy and tell him that a piston seal replacement for a Diana 75 will cost you at least $350 — $250 for the work and parts and $100 for shipping both ways. Tell him you’ll give him $250 for his $575 air rifle, plus $50 to ship it and then, if it does have the bad piston seal problem, you do have to pay the rest to get it fixed. And you come out about even. But if it doesn’t… oh, happy day!

Or, you can fix it yourself. Or, you will luck out and discover that it works fine. Or, the seller will discover that he actually does have some .177 pellets and the gun does, in fact, work. Then you ask him what pellets he has and what velocity the rifle shoots them at and he tells you that he doesn’t have a chronograph. And on and on…

Summary

Now I’ve told you all that is behind the piston seals of a Beeman 400/Diana 75. That means that on Monday you can light just one little candle and stop cursing the darkness.


El Gamo David breakbarrel air rifle: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

El Gamo David
The El Gamo David is a lower-powered breakbarrel from the 1960s or’ 70s.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle
  • Meister 10-shots
  • Air Arms Falcons
  • H&N Finale Match Light
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today we look at the accuracy of the El Gamo David breakbarrel. This little rifle seems to have captured a lot of people’s hearts for some reason. Let’s see if he can do the job.

The test

There is a lot to tell in this section. I shot at 10 meters off a sandbag rest. I discovered in Part 3 that the David likes his pellets seated deep, so that’s what I did today. I used a ballpoint pen to seat every pellet in this test.

I didn’t know whether an artillery hold was best or if I should just rest the rifle directly on the bag. So I devised a way to find out. I’ll talk about it in a minute.

I shot 10-shot groups, except for my first two tests. Let’s get started!

RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle

This is the test I thought up to see which method of holding was best. Before shooting the groups of 10, I shot five pellets with the rifle rested directly on the bag and another five holding it with the artillery hold. The first pellet I shot was the 8.2-grain RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle. The very first shot hit the paper to the right of the bullseye, at 4 o’clock. So I adjusted the rear sight to the left. It only went a short distance, but it’s now as far to the left as it will go.

Then I shot a group of five pellets. Regardless of where they land, they are as far to the left as I can make them. When I looked at the group through the spotting scope I was amazed to see a one-hole group. Later, when I measured it, the distance between the centers of the five pellets is 0.166-inches! That is worthy of a trime!

Meister Rifle rested group
The first shot hit low and to the right. After adjusting the rear sight as far as it would go to the left I put 5 RWS Meisterkugeln Rifle pellets into a 0.166-inch group at ten meters.

Now it was time to see what the artillery hold would do. However, since the David is so light it is very hard to shoot it with a good artillery hold. The trigger pull is heavier than the rifle!

With the best artillery hold I could muster the David put another 5 Meisterkugeln Rifle pellets into a 0.637-inch group at 10 meters. This is actually a 6-shot group, as the 5 shots looked like just 4 through the spotting scope, so I shot a 6th pellet. And it went into the same hole the 5th shot went into. The David wants to shoot!

Meister Rifle artillery hold
The David put 6 Meisterkugeln Rifle pellets into 0.637-inches with shots 5 and six going through the same hole as another pellet.

Obviously the David prefers to be rested on a bag as it shoots, so that’s the way I shot it for the rest of today’s test.

Meister 10-shots

Now that the question of the right hold was answered I decided to shoot 10-shots groups for the remainder of the test. I began with the same Meisterkugeln Rifle wadcutters I had been shooting. Unfortunately the sun picked that time to shine brightly through the window into my eyes and it probably distracted me. Ten Meisters went into 0.85-inches at 10 meters.

Meister Rifle 10-shot group
The David put 10 Meisterkugeln Rifle pellets into this 0.85-inch group at 10 meters.

Notice that this group is not only big, it is also in a different place than the first two groups! It’s much higher on the target. I also have to note that the David jolts when firing this pellet.

Air Arms Falcons

The next pellet I shot was the 7.33-grain Air Arms Falcon dome. If you recall, this pellet shot very smoothly in the David in Part 3.  I expected it to do well in this test, and, as far as accuracy goes, it did. Ten Falcon domes went into 0.567-inches at 10 meters. Now, that’s a group I can live with!

Falcon group
Ten Air Arms Falcon pellets made this 0.567-inch group at 10 meters.

I expected Falcons to shoot smoothly, but they didn’t. They jolted just like the Meisters. Today I was shooting the rifle off a bag rest, where in the velocity test I was holding it in my hands.

The sun was no longer shining in my eyes when this group was fired. And I note that the center of the group is to the left of center in the bull, so the rear sight can be adjusted back a little. This is a good pellet for the David, as is the Meisterkugeln Rifle, I think.

H&N Finale Match Light

The last pellet I tested this day was the H&N Finale Match Light wadcutter. At 10 meters ten of them made a group that measures 0.804-inches between centers. The group looks okay except for the straggler pellet off to the right. The other nine pellets are in 0.648-inches. That’s still on the large side so I think I would stick with the first two pellets for the David.

Finale Light group
Ten H&N Finale Match Light pellets went into this 0.804-inch group at 10 meters.

Discussion

This test has taught me a couple things about the David. First, it’s very accurate. This is an air rifle that’s worth the time to make it shoot smooth and to lighten the trigger.

Next, the David wants its pellets seated deep. And it wants to be rested directly on a sandbag when it shoots.

Finally, as accurate as the David is, I don’t think the heavy trigger helps it. And the jolt it gives when firing is annoying, as well. The David could stand to be stripped and tuned.

Summary

We’re not done with the David. I want to pull it apart next and see if I can get it shooting smoother. That trigger also needs to be lighter. You may not see this rifle again for awhile, but I will come back to it.


Finding that silk purse

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • A break
  • The real story
  • Fell into it
  • Oh, no!
  • The real story
  • Back to the future
  • The lesson
  • More
  • The point
  • Summary

A break

I need a break from punching holes in paper. Been doing a lot of that this week. Today I was all set to test the Slavia 618, but the next test is accuracy and like I said — I want to do something else.

As I was sitting at my computer trying come up with an idea for today, I got messaged that the parts for my .22 rimfire High Standard Sport King pistol had arrived in my mailbox. What’s the story there?

Fell into it

Many years ago I was at one of the last gun shows I ever attended. I had two tables full of guns to sell and one of them was something I had priced at $450. I forget what it was — it was that unimportant to me. But my price was reasonable and there was some interest. One guy came by and asked if I would come over to his table and see if there was anything I would take in trade for it. So I did.

He had a Taurus model 62LA that was new in the box. It was stainless steel, which I don’t like, but it was a slide action (pump) gun, which I do like — or so I thought! I never even picked it up out of the box. I could see it was like new. He saw that I was interested so he offered it to me. It was priced at $300 as I recall and I sort of stalled on that — my gun being priced reasonably at $450. I went back to my table and a few minutes later the guy brought by a High Standard Sport King pistol that he said he would throw in to sweeten the deal. Well, that sounded fine, so I agreed.

Taurus 62LA
How can anyone look at this Taurus 62LA and not realize that it’s a lever gun? I’m living proof that it can be done!

He brought the Taurus box over with the pistol and took his rifle away. My buddy Otho opened the box and looked at the Taurus and says to me, “I didn’t know Taurus made a lever-action .22!”

Oh, no!

A lever action? Oh, no! I had paid so little attention to the rifle when looking at it that I failed to see the lever. I assumed it was a pump. I already owned a Marlin 39A that’s the sweetest lever action .22 ever made and I sure didn’t need another one! Certainly not a shiny silver one! Shazbat!

Otho told me he thought the Taurus might be worth some money, so when we got home he bugged me to look it up on Gun Broker. When I dragged my feet he looked it up himself. It turned out that the Taurus 62LA was the most desirable .22 rifle Taurus ever made and they were bringing $850 on Gun Broker. And they were actually selling at that price! So — I guess I fell into it.

I still have the rifle. It’s still silver and I still don’t like it, but since my information on it was at least 10 years old I looked it up on Gun Broker for this report. Maybe the bottom had fallen out and they were now going for nothing?

No, in May of this year there were 39 bids on one in the same condition as mine, which is almost new in the box. That one sold for $1,681.00. Apparently Taurus only made the rifle one year (2006-2007) and they are quite rare.

The real story

But that’s not the story today. The real story is the other gun — the High Standard Sport King pistol that sweetened the deal. It’s a blued steel handgun and I had high hopes for it. But alas, it didn’t work. The magazine is sticky and doesn’t feed. So I put it aside and thought that I had been on the bad end of a deal once again.

Sport King
High Standard’s Sport King is a fine old semiautomatic .22 pistol.

Back to the future

But my neighbor, Denny the woodworker, has fallen in love with my Ruger Mark II Target Pistol. He has taken it to the range a bunch of times and a pistol that wasn’t clean to begin with started to malfunction. It needed to be cleaned and lubricated. I HATE disassembling that pistol. It comes apart easily but it is a royal bear to assemble — or that was my impression. So, on to You Tube I go and when I “remembered” the assembling problem. It was easy enough to solve. Result, clean pistol that’s lubed up and ready to go, Denny. But on You Tube a guy remarked that he wished that Mark IIs were as easy to assemble as High Standard Sport Kings. Hey! I have one of those!

Long story short I got it out and remembered the sticky mag, so I ordered a good one off Ebay. Then I disassembled the pistol which is dirt-simple to do and found it had a broken firing pin and was missing a firing pin return spring. Another order for the two parts and a week later the pistol is back in business. I fired three long rifle cartridges wiuthout failure. For about $75 I put the “deal sweetener” pistol back in action. And Type 1 High Standard Sport Kings in excellent condition like mine are fetching about $400 and up these days.

Sport King apart
The Sport king comes apart in less than 10 seconds and goes together just as fast. It was designed for that.

The lesson

The lesson is — don’t panic. If you get into a bad deal, sit on it awhile. Not everything that starts out bad ends that way. Remember those two Slavia 618s I got? One has a bent rear sight and the other needs to be rebuilt. But the first one is shooting better than any other 618 I have seen and, if I wasn’t tired of putting holes in paper this week, you’d be reading about it right now.

More

I have more to say. When I go to an airgun show with a single purpose in mind I usually get skunked. Let’s say I am there to find an FWB 124. There are two at the show. One is a deluxe model that’s like new in the box with all the paperwork. The seller is asking $800. The other one is a rusty beater sport model without sights that the seller wants $275 for. In my book, both rifles are a bit too high. But that’s not my point. My point is on another table at the same show a guy has a very nice-looking Hakim that he only wants $150 for. Seventy-five percent of the buyers in the hall are looking for a .30-caliber FX Impact with a 700 mm barrel. They aren’t interested in old pellet rifles and they could care less about that beat-up old Egyptian air rifle with the Arabic writing painted on the stock.

Well, I got skunked on the 124 I came for, but I have the money, so I take the plunge and buy the Hakim. I ask the seller if I can leave it on his table because I still want to walk around the show for a few hours.

About a hour later a guy taps me on the shoulder and asks if I own that Hakim that’s sitting on that table over there. I do and we strike up a conversation. Turns out he brought his deluxe FWB 124 with a scope to the show to see if he could swap it for a nice Hakim. We both walk to his car, I look at the rifle, which is exactly what I want, and we swap — straight across!

But here is the deal. Instead of all of this happening at the one show — wouldn’t that be nice? — it takes three shows over four years. Good things come to those who wait!

The point

My point today is obvious — I hope! Relax on your desires and let the good things come to you. Keep your eyes open for the deal of a lifetime. A friend who was very good at doing this once told me that the deal of a lifetime comes around about every 18 months. I will add that a doorbuster deal happens a lot more frequently and good deals are everywhere. I have to brush them off frequently to keep them from clinging to me!

Summary

Okay, I get it. You are a young man with a young family. You don’t have two spare dollars to rub together. But you are a nice guy who mows the old widow’s lawn every week. She makes you cookies in payment. But one week she asks if you know anything about old guns. You do and she asks if you would like that old rifle that’s up in the attic. Her husband put it up there so the grandkids wouldn’t fool with it and that was ten years ago. She can’t climb the fold-down ladder anymore but you go up and find a dusty Winchester 427 that cleans up to near-mint. Next to it is a Mossberg pump shotgun that she forgot all about. Please take both of them she says — she’ll feel better knowing they are not in her house, but with someone who cares.

What goes around…


Slavia 618 breakbarrel air rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Slavia 618
Slavia 618.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • History
  • Research
  • Model variations
  • What is the Slavia 618?
  • Comparisons
  • Stock
  • Summary

Some of you may have been hoping for Part 2 of the Beeman R10 rifle report today. Well, Part 2 will be the strip-down and installation of the Vortek tuning kit, and I need a couple days to do the work and take the pictures, as well as the writing. So today I’m starting my report on the Slavia 618 breakbarrel pellet rifle.

History

Guess what? Almost nobody knows the history of this air rifle. It has a lot of fans, but nobody seems to know much about it.

The Blue Book of Airguns says it was made in the 1970s — period. But they say the same thing about the Slavia 622. Well, I received one of those as a gift in about 1961 or ’62, so that’s obviously not right.

My rifle from the early 1960s was labeled PIC, for Precise Imports Company. They were one of the U.S. importers of Slavia airguns. Considering when I got mine I believe the 618 and 622 had to have been made in the 1950s. The 1970s as an ending date I don’t dispute.

No doubt there is someone who lives close to the Czech Republic that was formerly Czechoslovakia where the arsenal that made the air rifle is located. It was made at Ceska zbrojovka in Brno. I apologize for not having the correct diacritical glyphs on the cyrillic letters in the names.

Research

I researched a lot of expired auctions to gather any information I could find on this model. I see that around 2010 these air rifles were bringing $20-35. Today most hover at the $75-100 range, with shipping raising that even higher.

Model variations

I bought one 618 off Ebay that was supposed to be in good working order. It is, except the rear sight is bent to one side from what looks like a fall. I was going to leave it alone and just test the rifle, but then a second one popped up for less money. This one was advertised as complete but needing seals. That was also an accurate description, though it needs a little more than just seals. It feels like it is gunked up inside and at least needs a good cleaning. We’ll know more when I open it up.

I will say that the both the wood and metal finishes are poor on both my rifles. The shellac is apparently not long-lasting and the metal rusts easily. Many of the 618s look like this.

I can test the first rifle for velocity, at least. I’m expecting it to be in the low 300s with lightweight pellets. I found velocities from 312 f.p.s. for a tired one shooting Crosman Premier Light pellets to 390 for the same rifle after a rebuild.

What is the Slavia 618?

The Slavia 618 is a small youth-sized breakbarrel air rifle. Several weeks ago when I tested the Diana 23, a similar youth-sized air rifle, a couple readers mentioned how much they enjoy their 618s. That’s why I got these two rifles to test, study and rebuild. I have been hearing about the 618 from readers for many years and decided it was time I investigated for myself. Side-by-side the Diana 23 and the Slavia 618 are very similar. The Diana is a little longer overall, at 35-7/8-inches versus 35-1/4-inches for the 618.

As far as I can tell, the 618 only came in .177 caliber. It was the 622 that was a .22 (only). One reference mentioned that some 618s were rifled and others were not, but I can’t really prove that. Both of mine appear to be rifled.

One of my 618s weighs 3 lbs. 6 oz. Because of the wood stock and one other difference I will tell you about, there will be small weight differences, but all 618s are lightweight.

When I looked at both my rifles I discovered several difference between them. These are differences that would come over a longer production cycle, which is why I think the Blue Book dates of the 1970s fall short. I am assuming that over time the design of a product will be changed to make it less costly to produce. With that assumption in mind, I have labeled one of my rifles as older than the other. Let me explain why.

Comparisons

The rifle I’m calling older has a thicker barrel. It measures 0.502-inches or 12.75mm in diameter at the muzzle. The newer rifle measures 0.468-inches or 11.89mm at the same place. The front sight on the older rifle is a blade sitting in a dovetail. The front sight on the newer rifle is a plain round pin. Since dovetails are more difficult to cut, I think that first one has to be older.

Slavia 618 nuzzles
The muzzle on the right is on what I am calling the older rifle. It’s larger than the muzzle on the left.

Slavia 618 older sight
The front sight on the older rifle is a raised post that’s dovetailed into the barrel.

Slavia 618 newer sight
The front sight on the newer rifle is just a plain round post.

The rear sights on both rifles appear identical, but the sight on the older rifle is spot-welded in two places to the dovetail that slots into the barrel and on the newer rifle it’s welded to the dovetail in just one place. The sight with the single weld is also the one that’s bent, and, looking down from the top it appears the weld may have weakened when it allowed the bend. I plan to try to tap it back straight, but I won’t be surprised if that weld shears off in the process. That sight leaf is also bent upward, so some of the elevation adjustment has been lost.

Slavia 618 bent sight
The rear sight on the newer rifle has a single weld and has been bent to the left.

Slavia 618 straight sight
The older rifle rear sight is straight and has two welds.

Both of my rifles have a leather breech seal, which leads me to believe they both have leather piston seals, as well. In my research I discovered that the 618 also came with an o-ring breech seal and a synthetic piston seal. I bought a synthetic breech and piston seal while awaiting the arrival of both rifles, but now I don’t know that it can be used in either one. Fortunately leather seals should be easy to fabricate.

I also bought two new mainsprings that both rifles probably need. We will see when we open them up.

Neither of my two rifles have a serial number. Some 618s do and others don’t On the 618s that have them, the serial number is stamped into the flat left side of the base block that holds the barrel. I saw serial numbers as high as 150,000+ when I researched the rifle. The serial number may have been required for certain countries to import the rifle, or CZ may have started putting numbers on all its air rifles at some point. Either way it does suggest, along with the leather seals, that my two rifles are older examples.

I saw one other interesting thing in my research. Many of the 618s I saw had two screws at the pivot joint. One was the pivot bolt and the other was a locking screw on the main bolt’s periphery. Both of my rifles have just a single pivot bolt. The other side of the bolt screws into a threaded nut that has two spanner holes for anchoring it when disassembling the rifle.

Slavia 618 two base blocks
As you can see, there is no serial number on either base block. And the pivot bolts have no locking screw. The rear sight on the upper rifle is bent up.

Both my rifles have the model name, number and country of origin stamped into the top rear of the spring tube. These markings run perpendicular to the axis of the spring tube. There are other 618s that have the same markings running along the spring tube’s axis, and in several places I found references to that variation being older.

Slavia 618 writing
Both my rifles have writing that’s perpendicular to the axis of the spring tube.

Both spring tubes on my rifles are plain, but I did find a 618 on the internet that had a short set of grooves at the rear of the tube. They were less than two inches long. The person doing the review thought they were there for mounting a scope but I’m pretty sure they are there for a peep sight.

The compression chamber is made by swaging a solid steel block into the end of a hollow steel tube. The transfer port has been drilled through this block, so once it’s held in by the swages, a spring tube is born.

Stock

All the 618s I found, including the two I own, have a one-piece beechwood stock with finger grooves on both sides of the forearm. I did see one 618 with a custom-made walnut stock and of course our own reader, Vana, made a stock for his 618 out of firewood that he described in a 6-part report.

The buttstock has fine ridges over the central half of the wooden buttplate. The pull is 13-1/2-inches.

Summary

What we have with these two Slavia 618s is the potential for a lot of fun. You readers seem to have created another fan!


The Diana model 50 underlever: Part 6

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Diana 50
Diana model 50 underlever.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sight in
  • RWS Superdomes
  • The trigger
  • RWS Supermags
  • Feel of firing|
  • RWS Hobbys
  • Why shoot only RWS pellets?
  • H&N Baracuda 4.50 mm head
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today I shoot the Diana model 50 underlever with sporting sights from 25 yards. Let’s see what she’ll do!

The test

I shot indoors from 25 yards off a sandbag rest. I used the artillery hold with the rifle rested on my off hand, about 8-9 inches forward of the triggerguard. The Diana 50 is an underlever, and that steel cocking mechanism makes it heavy up front, so this is the most comfortable way to stabilize it. I shot 10-shot groups at 10-meter pistol targets

Sight in

Because I moved the rear sight forward for this test, I had to sight in the rifle again. The first shot was from 12 feet and impacted at the top of my front sight, so I called it good and backed up to 25 yards. I knew the shots would hit higher from back there, but since the first shot hit at 6 o’clock on the bull and this was a pistol target, I reckoned there was plenty of room.

RWS Superdomes

The first pellet I tested was also the sight-in pellet — the RWS Superdome. At 10 meters this pellet did quite well, though it opened up when I shot it at 25 yards with the peep sight. My group of ten from Part 4 measured 1.044-inches between centers.

This time with the sporting sights 10 Superdomes went into 1.994-inches at the same 25 yards. Throw out the pellet that hit to the left of the rest and 9 are in 1.166-inches. So — not much different but not as good as with the peep sight. There were no pulled shots in this test.

Diana 50 Superdome
Ten RWS Superdomes made a 1.994-inch group at 25 yards, with 9 in 1.166-inches.

The trigger

I have to comment on the trigger. I never adjusted it like I said I might and I think I know why. It’s breaking as a single-stage trigger with a light pull. I can feel the trigger blade move, but with those ball bearings there is absolutely no creep (an erratic start and stop in the blade as it is pulled).

I think this trigger is what reader RidgeRunner talks about when he says he likes single-stage triggers. The Webley Senior straight grip pistol I traded to him has the same sort of trigger, only its blade moves a lot farther. This one is almost a target trigger. It’s just enough resistance to let the shooter know what he is doing.  I normally don’t like single-stage triggers, but I do like this one! I’m glad I left it the way it was.

RWS Supermags

The 9.3-grain RWS Supermag wadcutter is a pellet I haven’t tried in this rifle before. So I thought, “What the heck?”

Ten Supermags went into 1.61-inches at 25 yards. But the firing cycle became very loud and deep — much different than with the Superdomes. The shots also landed lower on the paper.

Diana 50 Supermag
Ten RWS Supermags went into 1.61-inches at 25 yards.

Feel of firing

As it is now set up this Diana 50 does not vibrate at the shot. However, the piston must be heavy, because there is a pronounced forward lurch on every shot.

RWS Hobbys

The next pellet I tried was the 7-grain RWS Hobby wadcutter. What a marked difference in the shot cycle they made! Hobbys shot very quiet and smooth. I hoped for a miracle in the accuracy department but alas, 10 pellets went into 1.732-inches at 25 yards.

Diana 50 Hobby
The Diana 50 put 10 RWS Hobby pellets into this 1.732-inch group at 25 yards.

Why shoot only RWS pellets?

I would normally run in some JSBs or pellets from some other manufacturer, so why have I shot three pellets from RWS? I did it because in my experience, Diana airguns — especially the vintage ones like this model 50 — really do well with RWS pellets. However, sometimes you have to step out of the ordinary and try something different.

H&N Baracuda 4.50 mm head

I thought I needed to do something drastic to turn things around. So the final group I shot was 10 H&N Baracudas with 4.50 mm heads. From what I saw with the 9.3-grain Supermags, these 10.65-grain domes are way too heavy for this powerplant, and when I shot the first one it was confirmed. The rifle made a loud sound that almost protested the use of this pellet. So, why did I do it?

I have done this with other vintage Dianas many times. Particularly the .22-caliber Diana 27 seems to love the heavy Baracuda against all odds. It makes no protest and tends to group quite well. But this model 50 is a different proposition altogether. But how did it group?

Ten Baracudas went into 1.451-inches at 25 yards. Five of them are in a very small cluster, but the other five are scattered. The group is nice and round, despite being on the large side. It is the smallest group of the test.

Diana 50 Baracuda
Ten H&N Baracuda domes with 4.50 mm heads went into 1.451-inches at 25 yards.

I think Baracudas have such thick skirts that they are not blowing out in the loading tap and sealing the bore as well as they could. Hobbys, in sharp contrast, seal the bore quite well.

Discussion

I was hoping this test would prove that the Diana 50 is a tackdriver, but I guess that is not to happen under my watch. She is a well-made springer that shows innovation in many places, but she’s not a natural shooter like some other Dianas I have had.

I may not have found the right pellet for this rifle — that’s a forgone conclusion. But I think I have given her a good test, nevertheless.

I will say that the little lube tune I gave the rifle in Part 5, while switching the rear sight, was the best thing I could have done besides leaving that trigger alone.

This underlever is solidly built, well finished and very smartly designed. Just looking at her and holding her makes me feel good.

Summary

That will be it for the Diana 50. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to look this deeply into such a fine spring gun.


With airguns home IS the range! — Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Texas star
Shooting in the back yard can be fun when you have action targets like Sig’s Texas Star.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Can you shoot?
  • What to shoot
  • Quiet!
  • What about air pistols?
  • What about PCP and CO2?
  • Power
  • What to shoot
  • Plenty of action targets
  • Make them yourself
  • Get out

Are you bored out of your gourd with the quarantine restrictions? Have you seen enough TV for two lifetimes. Come on, then. Let’s go outside!

Today we move outside with our Home is the Range airgun shooting. And not into a spacious yard that most of us would like to have — maybe one that abuts a thousand square miles of BLM land. I know some of you have a place like that, but the rest of us live on postage stamps that are bordered by high fences.

Can you shoot?

The first question you need to answer is whether you can legally shoot in your back yard. This varies for every community around the nation, so all I can say is find out the law where you live.

Some communities will allow airguns to shoot as long as their projectiles don’t cross the property line. That is a reasonable law that keeps neighbors safe, and it’s one that I follow. But I take it a step farther. Don’t think of the fence on your property line as a backstop. Shoot into the ground on your property in such a way that any chance ricochets will hit the fence and stop. That means shooting down. If you own an elevated deck, so much the better! That increases your safety, as long as there aren’t large rocks on your property.

I could go farther, but I think I have made my point. As a shooter safety is your responsibility.

What to shoot

This is where it gets dicey. As my late aunt once said, “Common sense isn’t that common.” I will preach to you readers who will understand, but there is a whole world of others who haven’t got a clue. They think just because it’s an airgun it isn’t real and they are too quick to say, “I didn’t know!” There is no reset button for life. As shooters it’s our responsibility to ensure the safety of others around us.

Quiet!

Shoot something that’s quiet. That’s just respectful. I shoot airguns like my Diana 27 that is barely as loud as a coughing mouse, and you should too. I won’t tell you what powerplant to select, but whatever it is, it needs to be quiet.

For today’s report I invited my neighbor, Denny, to plink with me in the back yard. I let him shoot the Diana 27 and I shot a Walther LGV Challenger that I reviewed for you back in 2013. Both rifles are in .22 caliber, which makes loading the pellets easier, and both are mild airguns. Oddly the Diana 27 sounds louder to me in the video than the Walther, even though the Walther shoots the same JSB Exact RS pellet about 100 f.p.s. faster. You will see what that means when you watch the reaction of the target we both shot.

What about air pistols?

The key word to back yard shooting is quiet, so if you have an air pistol that’s quiet, go ahead. A Webley Tempest would be quiet. But since pistols are so easy to point anywhere, you have to control your range all the more. If it’s just you then it’s easy to control, but every other person who shoots increases the chances for an accident. With pistols the accidents can happen before you can see them coming, so find ways to play safe.

What about PCP and CO2?

You can shoot both precharged pneumatics and CO2 guns, as long as they are quiet. For example, a Crosman 1077 is reasonably quiet. So is a Benjamin Fortitude Gen 2. But don’t let quiet be your only concern. Some PCPs can be very quiet and still extremely powerful. Don’t allow quiet operation to overrule safety.

Power

There is no way to set a power limit for what’s safe in the back yard and what’s not, but I would say that staying under 12 foot-pounds for rifles and 6 foot-pounds for pistols is a good place to start. My LGV Challenger is just under 12 foot-pounds and the Diana 27 (Hy Score 427) is about 7 foot-pounds.

What to shoot

This is where it gets good. Indoors I like to shoot at paper targets because they work well with pellet traps and they don’t allow pellets to scatter around the floor. But outdoors is a different story. This is where action targets come into play.

In the video you will notice that Denny and I are both shooting at an Air Arms sight-in target. There is a large paddle at the bottom and, if you can shoot through the hole in the four square paddles in front of it, the rear paddle will spin. Denny hit it with the Diana and moved it a little, but I smacked it on my first shot and sent it spinning. Then I missed and smacked the upper right quadrant of the target, and you got to see how this action target helps you get sighted-in. These used to be popular on field target courses for checking zeros.

Plenty of action targets

But there are plenty of other airgun targets to choose from for this kind of shooting. I prefer the type you can set and forget because they keep on doing their thing without any attention. That allows you to shoot without interruption. One such target is the Air Venturi Rockin’ Rat. When I tested it I discovered that it wants to be hit hard to react. I tried an 8.5 foot-pound Benjamin Wildfire, thinking I would bounce the rat all around, but it just stood there and took it. Hit this one with at least 12 foot-pounds to get a reaction.

Rockin rat
Air Venturi’s Rockin’ Rat just sits there and takes it! Keep your power at or below 20 foot-pounds, and remember that it takes at least 12 foot-pounds to get it moving.

Air Venturi’s Crazy Eights spinner is a game that is resettable when all the paddles have been flipped up. This is another tyoe of a target you don’t need to attend.

Crazy Eights
Air Venturi’s Crazy Eights is a resetting spinner target.

Make them yourself

Of course if you are handy you can make action targets for yourself. We have seen several of them in this blog — from the dueling tree made by reader New To Old Guns to the spinner made by reader Codeuce.

Or — don’t make anything at all. Shoot at feral aluminum soda cans. We talk about that all the time on this blog. They don’t even need to be soda cans. Other beverages come in aluminum cans, too. Weight the cans with stones to hold them in place, or not.

Shoot at plastic Army men! Though if you do shoot at them I recommend you tether each one to a 10-penny nail with fishing line. Otherwise they can be launched into low earth orbit!

Get out

The point is, there is lots to do outdoors with the right pellet guns. Be safe and considerate, but as Crosman says in their ads — Take it Outside!


The Haenel 311 target rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Haenel 311
Haenel 311 target rifle.

Part 1
Part 2

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Air Arms Falcon
  • RWS R10 Match Pistol
  • Qiang Yuan Training
  • Gamo Match
  • Adjust sights
  • H&N Finale Match Light
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today we look at the accuracy of the Haenel 311 target rifle. Let’s get started.

The test

I shot off a sandbag rest at 10 meters. I rested the rifle directly on the bag for the entire test. Only after the test was finished did I check back to my test done in 2011 and discover that I had used the artillery hold on the rifle at that time. So we will see a comparison today, when the rifle is rested directly on the bag.

I shot 5-shot groups so I could test more pellets. At the start I wasn’t too worried about being sighted in, but there came a point in the test when I did adjust the sights. I’ll tell you about it when we get there.

Remember that I wanted to try some pellets that were not available in 2011 when I last tested the 311. So, there will be a couple of those in today’s test.

Air Arms Falcon

The Air Arms Falcon was the only domed pellet I shot in the test. I just did it to warm up the gun more than anything. Five Falcons went into a group that measures 0.466-inches between centers at 10 meters. The group is low and to the right.

Falcon group
The Haenel 311 put Air Arms Falcon pellets went in 0.466-inches at 10 meters.

RWS R10 Match Pistol

Next up were five RWS R10 Match Pistol wadcutters. This is a pellet I did not test in 2011. They climbed higher on the target than the Falcons but were still a bit to the right. Five made a 0.648-inch group.

R10 group
Five RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets made this 0.648-inch group at 10 meters.

Qiang Yuan Training

Next to be tested were five Qiang Yuan Training pellets. This is another pellet that was not available in 2011. These sometimes give surprising results, but not in the 311. At least not on this day. Five went into 0.646-inches at 10 meters. The group looks smaller because the pellet that hit on the lower right target paper that closed up the hole again.

Chinese group
The Haenel 311 put five Chinese Training pellets into a 0.646-inch group.

Gamo Match

Now that both me and the rifle were warmed up I thought it was time to try the Gamo Match pellet. Gene Salvino at Pyramyd Air sent me a tin of them so I could complete this test. The first group was also low and to the right. It measures 0.442-inches between centers. While that is the smallest group so far, it’s much larger than I was expecting for this pellet.

Gamo group 1
The 311 put five Gamo Match pellets into 0.442-inches at 10 meters.

Adjust sights

It was at this point that I decided to adjust the sights to hit closer to the center of the bull. There are no markings on the rear sight to tell you which way to turn the knobs, so I fooled around for a long time and probably shot 15 more shots until I was satisfied. The pellets are hitting high but are fairly well centered. Unfortunately this wore me out.

The next five Gamo Match pellets went into a group that measures 0.528-inches between centers. This is going the wrong way because I’m getting tired.

Gamo group 2
Group two of the Gamo Match pellets measures 0.528-inches between centers.

H&N Finale Match Light

The final group I’ll show was shots with the H&N Finale Match Light pellet.  These were available in 2011. Five of them went into a vertical group measuring 0.375-inches between centers. It’s the smallest group of the test. It’s very well centered but just a little too vertical.

H&N Light group
H&N Match Light pellets turned in the best 10-meter group pf the test. It measures 0.375-inches between centers.

Discussion

I was pretty frustrated by these results. I know the 311 can do better than this. So this is when I went back and read the 2011 report. Lo and behold, I had shot the rifle back then with the artillery hold. Phooey! I mentioned it at the start of today’s report, but it wasn’t until this point in time that I discovered it.

I was now too tired from concentrating to do my best, so I ended the test, but I am not finished with the 311. I will return and shoot it once again, but using the artillery hold this time. I’ll shoot the same pellets as in today’s test. That will give us a good comparison between resting a gun directly on a sandbag versus using the artillery hold. For those spring guns that need the artillery hold, this should be a good test!

Summary

Maybe I just wanted a reason to shoot this rifle again. It sounds like it to me. At any rate, I will return and complete the test of this Haenel 311 at some future time.

But it won’t be next, because I have something very surprising to share with you next. It’s been staring me in the face for many weeks now and I’m really excited to get to test it for you. Wait and see!