The Diana Model 27
Though the airgun is still most popular at the entry level, many an
adult gun rack holds at least one pellet rifle that recalls many
cherished memories. Today's airgun development has resulted in
many different pellets and means of propulsion. There are gas ram
models and pre-charged pneumatics. These vie with old favorites
such as the pump-up pneumatic, CO2 and spring piston.
Selecting from such a growing variety
can be absorbing. Those of us who tend to accumulate a medley of
guns and novel ammo want to be good shots with them all.
However, it is a hard fact of life that any time you change guns,
calibers, or pellets, you are demanding that the brain remember details
of different trajectories, ranges, trigger pulls and other
characteristics. That is a profusion of requirements.
Nonetheless, happiness may be a
battery of sporting/plinking guns, or, more sparingly, a single, proven
A form of idle torment I sometimes
play is to ask myself, "If constrained to keep only one gun, which
would it be?" The exercise helps me define my values.
A: Decide on one - pistol or
rifle? I feel the rifle would be more useful and
gratifying. Especially if age or other influence is degrading
one's level of steadiness. The pistol would be the choice only if
storage space or physical handling limitations were the top priorities.
B: Should the rifle be 177 or 22
caliber? To the less initiated, let me say this is the most
provocative question in airgundom. Before I get vilified for
sitting on the 22 caliber side of the fence, I declare that I can be
happy shooting either caliber. But most of my air rifles are 22
caliber. The reasons for this are: (1) Better plinking
effectiveness (my primary use); (2) Larger pellets are easier to
handle (load); (3) the availability of 22 caliber cleaning
equipment; (4) Given airgun designs are always more efficient in
22 caliber (per absolute authorities messrs. Webley and Scott);
(5)Some airguns are only made in 22 caliber only, or 22 in the first
production run (mostly US manufacturers); (6) A lifetime (?)
supply of premium 22 caliber pellets already on hand; (7)
Accuracy to equal 177 caliber.
The foregoing statement on accuracy
may sound like heresy to those sold on the 177 caliber supremacy, but
remember we are talking about sporting, not match, guns. m Some years
ago, in a extensive study numerous 177 caliber rifles and like 22
caliber rifles (of British, German and Swiss manufacture) were machine
rest tested using available brands of pellets (British, German,
Japanese and US).
disconcertingly to 177 proponents, the two best groups were achieved in
22 caliber. Both groups were fired using round head pellets - the
Eley Wasp and the Milbro Caledonian.
Let's look at pellets first. In
any caliber, not all guns shoot all brands of pellets exactly the same
way. Some guns can be quite finicky, performing their best with
only one or two similar brands. Other guns many do well with many
brands Possible combinations abound.
One should prove his particular gun
with a diversity of pellet types, because to the knowing airgunner
second to importance to the gun itself is the pellet ammunition.
A shooter may be surprised by how well he can do with "plain-Jane"
pellets that prove to be well-suited to a individual gun.
Here are a few more pellet facts to
ponder: (A) Any airgun can only shoot as well as the ammo that is
feed into it. The pellets should look uniform and
undamaged. Avoid bend, misshapen pellets and tins with lead flake
debris. (B) When experimenting with different brands of
pellet, be aware that point-of-impact usually shifts with each
kind. Keep from playing with sights, possibly blaming the gun and
wondering what happened to your zero. Also, realize we are at the
mercy of the pellet manufacturers. Batches of pellets
differ. (C) Despite the airgun's low power being the very essence
of it's safety and usefulness, there pervades a fascination with power
and/or penetration. In recent years, sporting interests have
focused on pellets with points, indentations, rings and even hybrid
composites. Frankly, the basic round-nose Diabolo pellet is still
a winner. Reinvented as an ultra-accurate round-head called the
Field Target Special, this pellet is sweeping the silhouette and field
Claims are made that "grooves" on the
skirt of a Diabolo pellet are for guidance, stability, or
accuracy. Actually, the striations on pellet skits, when used,
are only part of the manufacturing process.
Other popular misconceptions exist
when it comes to the air-rifles three basic means of propulsion -
pneumatic (pump-up), CO2 and spring piston (cocked by the barrel,
underlever or sidelever). There are quick to advise which is
"best." The sensible answer is that they are all successfully
produced and marketed. Each has advantages that appeal to certain
people for valid reasons.
Modern materials and manufacturing
methods have largely dispelled old cliches about failure-prone delicate
valves and mainspring fatigue or breakage.
By far, the intelligent care one gives
his airgun is what determines the gun's useful life. To
thoroughly read, and understand and abide by manufacturer's simple
directions is much more important than most new owners realize.
The man that regularly over-pumps his pneumatic for "a little more
power" asks for trouble. Too much and/or to frequent oiling can
be ruinous, especially with the wrong or haphazardly-chosen
lubricant. Inducing diesel action in spring guns for more power
is also damaging, as is dry-firing without a pellet to supply the
necessary piston deceleration.
Oftentimes, airgunners decry pumping
the pneumatic as too much work. In fact this is only true when
administering the final, sometimes formidable, pumps for a full power
shot. Popular US multi-stroke pneumatic rifles are most useful
and so designed to produce their best accuracy at their four or five
pump level. In that prudent range of power, they are fully
enjoyable and satisfying.
A Benjamin model 312 was my earliest
serious air rifle, lasting more years than I care to remember.
Embryonic modifications consisted of adding Benjamin's #273 peep sight
and lengthening the stock. I marveled at the bronze barrel
rifling and how well the gun could shoot.
Another pneumatic jewel is my Crosman
"Pumpmaster" Model 1400. A descendant of the model 140 (.22) and
Model 147 (.177), the 22 caliber Model 1400 boasts adjustable trigger
and bolt handle action in place of the sliding breech cover found on
A final thought on pump-up airgun
longevity - don't loan your gun to brawny friends bent on converting it
into a big game rifle.
In the early 1960s, Robert Law of Air
Rifle Headquarters (now defunct) pioneered the sales of adult European
spring piston airguns in the US. With a single, fairly stiff
cocking stroke, these guns compared to the then-available CO2 and
pneumatic guns. Some of my favorite spring rifles are from that
era. They are relatively light, ample-powered, and I can use them
by the hour without undue fatigue.
I have misgivings about the current
trend to increase power and weight of spring rifles. To me, the
cocking effort of some of these dreadnoughts simply is not worth the
added muzzle velocity.
In my collection, I have pet guns,
several of which could serve me as an "only" gun. I will detail a
particular spring gun's features that are probably reasons for it's
six-decade production run.
The venerable German Diana 27, made by
Dianawerk, Mayer & Gramelspacher CO., has found its way to the US
under many names, such as Original, Hy-Score, Peerless, Beeman's
Original, Geco, Winchester and RWS.
One can hardly recognize an antique
Model 27, vintage 1925. it has no wooden forearm and quite
But through the years, though it
remained plain in appearance (no swivels, high comb, checkering, etc.),
this handy "in-betweener" embodied mechanical refinements handed
down from top-dollar Dianawerk guns. For example the 27's
adjustable, crisp, two stage trigger distinguished itself as excellent
by any standard. Diana made generous use of ball bearings, with
less reliance on lubricants to achieve low friction pressure points.
A good example of this was in the
mainspring release mechanism, where the notched spring piston shaft is
ordinarily held cocked by a large claw. Here, Diana utilized a
clutch consisting of annularly-positioned bearings around the grooved
piston shaft. In another example, an often copied Diana method of
barrel-cocking action lock-up is to use a spring-loaded, large captive
ball instead of the typical chisel-shaped detent.
Long ago in his landmark airgun
encyclopedia, the late W.H.B Smith pronounced the model 27 an
exceptional buy in the Diana line. Another man who appreciated
the gun was S.E. Laszlo, founder and for many years the head of
Hy-Score Arms. His advertisement of the model 27 (Hy-Score
807) customarily described it as "hard hitting," "classic beauty,"
"real work-horse," and "best buy."
My specimen of the model 27 carries
the Winchester (Model 427) name. Whenever I look at the
large Winchester signature, I can't help but paraphrase an old slogan,
"Gee, Ladd, it's a Winchester!"
For a few years, Winchester sold ten
different Diana models, and obviously their quality criteria was of the
highest order. This gun came impeccably detailed and packaged,
with bright multi-grooved rifling, clean sharp with no faded lands at
the muzzle from crowning, precise chamber size, finish and chamfer, and
high polish blue.
The heart of any barrel-cocking design
is the juncture where barrel meets the standing breech of the
receiver. Here, the Model 27 had large chafing washers within
each side, allowing a rub-free open and close barrel movement, while
maintaining a zero end-play clearance. The cocking rod, which
normally is the connecting link between barrel and piston underside for
cocking, had a machined box-lock joint at the barrel end. This
joint was not riveted or pinned as usually done. It was bolted
for easy removal should the need arise.
The hardwood, walnut colored stock was
well finished and had slender proportions that was easily
adaptable to juniors and women, right or left hand. However, the
42 inch overall gun length and 5 1/2 to 6 pound weight does not
feel toy-like in the hands of a man. With just a hint of barrel
heaviness, shooting off-hand and handling is pleasurable.
Despite my lessening visual acuity,
none of my rifles are scoped. I relish the utter simplicity,
handiness and challenge. Hence, the quality of factory iron
sights is all-important to me. Obviously, for utmost stability,
accuracy and reliability , barrel-cocking makers put both sights on the
The Model 27's rear sight is used on
many other Diana guns and is one of the best, if not the best, open
rear sights furnished as original equipment. It is click-adjustable
with large knobs for elevation and windage. There are white line
graduations for windage.
A precise, permanently attached
aperture plate insert is instantly selectable for a shallow or deep
"U," or a square notch. The Model 27's hood covered, pointed post
front sight is non-interchangable, but does not sit so high above the
bore as do the changeable insert types. Thus, I like the 27's
advantageous lower sight line.
This gun has been an all-around tack
driver and reliable garden rodent eliminator. Coating the
mainspring with a thixotropic silicone compound about twenty years ago
has provided long-term smooth firing behavior and consistent power.
If my enthusiasm for the 27 has
stirred any buyer interest, I am sorry to say that after 61 years of
production, the Model 27 lastly appeared in the 1986 RWS catalog.
An Alternate? Be of good cheer,
there are a lot of beauties to choose from out there. But
remember, the fun is much the same whether the pellet is spurted by CO2
gas, compressed air, or even spring-generated air charge. And
always, hitting the mark is what's important, not if the pellet is
plain, fancy, large, small or driven supersonic.
When your spirits, the time, the place
and your gun are all in tune, the relationship can be euphoric.
Ladd Fanta Jan, 1992
Ladd Fanta was a early pioneer in
airguns back in the sixties through the eighties. While some of
the info in his old articles is dated, the wisdom in his thoughts about
caliber choice and the laws of diminishing returns in spring gun design
I still hold to today.
Hope you enjoyed it!