Diana Airguns - Articles
Diana Airguns - Articles
Larry Hannusch on vintage underlevers.
This article is from the Oct/Nov/Dec 1989 issue of American Airgunner and covers underlever
rifles from across Europe, which nicely contextualises Diana's pre-WW2 production alongside
its German and British competitors. Considering when it was written, more than 20 years ago,
the factual content holds up well.
With thanks to the author for permission to reproduce it.
John Milewski AGW Article - Diana 3L Part-1 04/2014.
John Milewski on Diana Model-58 series 2.
John Milewski on Diana Model-42E.
Kurt Pottiez: The Diana Story
To see a range of pre-WW2 Diana catalogues (which the author mentions are the best guide to production in the preceding years due to records being destroyed by war), see here:
The author kindly sent me this article for the Vintage Diana Forum (now merged into this gallery) years ago, in German, but I've only just obtained a full translation of it (my bad).
Kurt worked at M&G for many years, so there's every reason to think it's very accurate. It fills in many of the blanks in the history of this remarkable company.
It was first published in 2009 and of course since then Diana has changed hands, which makes the story of the Mayer family's ownership all the more important.
With thanks to Kurt, Keld and John G.
The different brand names that have been seen on Diana guns...certainly is a rather broad topic!
The actual company name is Mayer & Grammelspacher. "Diana" is their chosen trade name and the factory is called the Dianawerk. The original 1890's trademark, still in use, is one of my very favorites. That lovely lady on your airgun is Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, tossing her bow and arrow to the ground while reverently holding aloft the all-conquering air rifle!
After WW2, Diana's pre-war airgun tooling was sold to an English consortium and moved to Millard Brothers (Milbro) in Lanarkshire, Scotland. (Diana's own 1950's models were all-new designs, adding the great innovation of the ball-sear trigger, though closely based on the prewar models and sharing many model numbers.) Milbro had the rights to the Diana name in Great Britain until well into the 1980's, therefore German Dianas sold there had the brand name "Original."
The famous Stoeger Arms company imported Dianas even before WW2, and resumed thereafter. Guns for Stoeger were branded "Peerless" and used the Diana model numbers.
Winchester sold Diana guns from 1969 to 1975 under their own name. The rifle model numbers simply had a "4" prefix (for example, the Diana model 27 became the Winchester 427), while the models 5 and 6 pistols became the 353 and 363. For some now-forgotten reason, the model 65 match rifle was the exception, with the odd designation Winchester 333.
Hy-Score of New York sold many Diana guns in the postwar decades with their name attached. They had their own model numbers which pretty much had no rhyme or reason! For example the model 25 rifle was the Hy-Score 801, while the closely related model 27 became the Hy-Score 807, and the tiny Diana 15 youth rifle was the Hy-Score 808.
Beeman imported some Dianas in his early years. These actually had the British Original label at first, and were sold as "Beeman Original" guns. Later he added his own brand name and distinct model numbers, but this lasted only a short time. For example the Diana 35 rifle can be seen as the Beeman Original 35, or Beeman model 200.
The brand names Geco and Gecado were used in other foreign markets, which I know very little about. Seems I've heard our friend Trevor say that Geco was often seen in his Down Under neighborhood! Hopefully someone can enlighten us more on those names.
Dynamit Nobel has imported Dianas to the US since the early 1980's, and has used the RWS brand name. Just about all Diana airguns have been sold as RWS models, and there have even been some oddball guns unique to RWS, such as the models 66 and 68 which were variations of the models 36 and 38 rifles with different stocks. RWS has placed their names on many other brands of airgun as well, of course.
For some reason, Diana also uses the RWS name occasionally for unique models in Europe. For example, the first-type Diana 45 rifle, fitted with the odd stock used on the model 35 Super, was sold in Europe as the "RWS 45." In the US, the same designation was for the Diana 45 with its normal stock...
Besides Diana and RWS, previous M&G trademarks include:
+ Beeman (a few US imports in late 1970's and early 80's)
+ Beeman's Original (first Beeman imports were re-stamped UK guns)
+ Condor (not sure, seems to have been used in Europe)
+ Donor (label for a Dutch distributor)
+ Gecado (not sure, often seen in UK Commonwealth nations)
+ Geco (not sure, often seen in UK Commonwealth nations)
+ Hy-Score (US imports of many models by Laszlo of New York)
+ Original (UK-market guns from early 1950's to early 1980's. Milbro in Scotland simultaneously manufactured guns based on pre-war M&G products and had rights to the Diana mark in the UK)
+ Peerless (US imports of models 35 and 50 by Stoeger Arms of New York)
+ Winchester (US imports about 1969 - 75)
RWS also imported other airguns with their logo, including some BSA, Daystate, Air Arms, and Gamo models. But Dianas were always their main stock in trade, with many thousands imported.
Beeman, Hy-Score, and Winchester used different model numbers for the M&G guns they imported. The others generally used the original Diana model numbers.
Geezer adds on the airgunbbs.com:
While the (vast?) majority of M&G guns from 1950-1982 in the U.K. are branded as Originals, it’s not uncommon to find them marked as RWS, Diana, or Gecado.
Once Milbro had foundered, ending the British Diana brand, you definitely saw more new guns over here branded as Diana or RWS.
As for the older ones, I suspect a combination of personal imports in their possessions by those coming home having been posted abroad with the Army, colonial service, etc (at times when an air rifle did not fit, in the mind of a customs officer, in the same category as dirty bomb or heroin), or bulk sales on the international gun market between dealers.
The Diana ball-sear by Mike Driskill
With thanks to Mike. He says:
HOW IT WORKS
1. The inner trigger sleeve (part no. 17) is fixed into position within the receiver, by the two stout cross pins in the action (19 and 20). The three infamous ball bearings (18) sit in holes in this sleeve, which are sized so the balls can move inward and outward a small amount. The spring guide (15) rests on the front of the inner sleeve.
2. The outer trigger sleeve (16) is the heart of the system. It moves backward when the gun is cocked, and flies forward a short distance when the gun is fired. The firing spring (21) which drives this motion is trapped between the two sleeves.
3. The outer sleeve has three recesses arranged around its center. These have two functions:
+ pushing the ball bearings inward when cocking
+ halting the sleeve's forward motion after firing (they strike the rear of the spring guide)
4. The outer sleeve also has a cut-out underneath, engaged by the two spurs on top of the sear (23/2). This is the interaction you feel when pulling the trigger (contrary to what some famous writers have said - the ball bearings have nothing to do with it!).
Several things happen when cocking the action:
+ The mainspring is compressed
+ The rear of the piston contacts the outer sleeve and pushes it backwards
+ The firing spring is compressed
+ The outer sleeve's recesses contact the ball bearings and push them inward
+ The annular groove around the piston stem comes into line with the ball bearings
When the sear engages the outer sleeve's underside recess, all this is locked into place, with the ball bearings in their innermost position, restraining the piston. When you pull the trigger, the firing spring pops the outer sleeve forward, the ball bearings are shoved outward, and the piston is released.
STRIPPING THE TRIGGER
+ The inner parts come out with no need to remove the trigger blade
+ The mainspring is under some tension when the trigger mechanism is in place. A spring compressor is absolutely required to keep things under control
+ Go slowly with the compressor. Put a rag around the back of the receiver as things come out, to catch any wayward bits
+ To disassemble: pull off the sheet metal rear cap; put the gun in the compressor with a little tension on the protruding inner sleeve; drift out the retaining pins; hold the trigger back. Now unwind the compressor and the whole mechanism will follow
+ To re-assemble: "glue" the ball bearings to the inner sleeve with grease; stack both sleeves on the spring guide; drop this assembly into the mainspring; hold the trigger back. Now snug up the compressor
+ Its easiest to insert the firing spring after the sleeves are partially pushed past the rear of the receiver, which will help to restrain it
+ When re-inserting the cross pins, use a slave pin (a punch or similar) to align the sleeves. It usually takes a bit of patient wiggling around
ADJUSTING THE TRIGGER
+ IMPORTANT: the total length of the trigger pull, and the actual pull weight, are fixed! Only the transition point between the first and second stages is adjustable
+ The rear trigger screw (part 23/8) is the actual adjuster. The front screw (23/7) is a lock to keep the adjuster screw from turning
+ The end of the adjuster screw strikes the bottom of the receiver tube when the trigger is pulled. This forms the fulcrum for the second stage of the pull
+ To adjust the trigger, loosen the lock screw, adjust as needed, then re-tighten the lock
+ Turn the adjuster screw in (clockwise) for a longer second stage, or out for a shorter one; work slowly in quarter-turn increments
It is possible to grossly mis-adjust this design. If the adjuster screw is too far out, the pull is "all first stage" (a light spongy action, with no feel for a letoff point). Too far in, it's "all second stage" (a similarly unpredictable, rough heavy action). In other words...when the second stage feels short and crisp - stop!
The models 25D and 27 have the trigger as shown. On the larger models 35 and 50, the same trigger parts are used but they have more room to wiggle around inside the bigger-diameter receiver. For this reason the firing spring has its own little spring guide.
These guns were all made with plastic triggers for a time in the mid-60's (older ones have lovely solid alloy blades; later ones the familiar stamped-metal design). Those omit the locking screw, because the friction of the adjuster screw against the plastic did the same job.
Top to bottom: cross pins, ball bearings, inner sleeve, firing spring, outer sleeve, spring guide. You're looking at the top of the inner sleeve (note slot for the firing spring, and one ball bearing resting in place); and the bottom of the outer sleeve (big angled notch at the rear is where the trigger sear engages).
Another shot of the guts, spring guide in place on the inner sleeve. The gun is a "Winchester 427" (Diana 27) with a broken plastic trigger blade!
Three generations of the ball-sear trigger blade: early solid aluminum, plastic, final stamped metal. Again, all model 27's.