Big Kahuna – The RWS Model 56 TH – Part II

Monday, March 8, 2010

Before we get into the performance of the Model 56, the key thing to remember is that, like the model 54, it is a recoilless spring-piston air rifle. Here’s why that is a Big Deal: when you cock a spring-piston air rifle using the barrel, under lever or side lever, you’re driving back a spring and a piston until it latches, holding it in place like a sprinter in the blocks. When you pull the trigger, the spring and piston rocket forward in the compression tube, creating recoil in the opposite direction. As the spring and piston near the end of the compression tube, they bounce off the wad of compressed air at the end of the tube, creating recoil in the opposite direction. So the spring-piston air rifle recoils first in one direction and then the other.

Now, here’s where it gets really interesting: all this forward-and-back whiplash recoil happens before your carefully aimed shot exits the barrel. That’s why so many shooters have to work really hard to shoot springers well.

The Model 56, however, has a neat trick that helps to tame that recoil and make accurate shooting easier: the entire receiver of the air rifle rides on a sliding rail system. When you cock the Model 56 with the side lever, it drives the receiver forward. When you trigger the shot, the receiver is allowed to slide backwards. The end effect is that the shooter feels much less recoil; it is easier to shoot well, and more of the shock of recoil is transferred to the scope. It also means that you want a high quality scope sitting on top of the Model 56.

When I pulled the Model 56 out of its box and saw the knee-riser design of the stock, I thought this is an air rifle that just begs to be shot in field target competition. So I slapped a scope on it, threw on my SteadyAim Harness and went outside to see what it would do from a sitting position at 35 yards. Since Crosman Premier Heavies had worked well in my Model 54, I tried those.

After a little bit of fooling around, I shot a five-shot at 35 yards that you could cover with a dime. The group measured just .5 inch from edge to edge, which works out to .323 center to center. That’s pretty darn good accuracy at that range. The chronograph revealed that the 56 was launching 10.5 gr. Crosman Premiers at an average of 872 fps. My Lyman digital trigger gauge confirms what my finger could feel: the newly designed trigger is excellent. One pound five ounces takes the first stage out of the trigger; at 1 lb. 8.7 oz, the shot goes off. Sweet!

To say I liked the Model 56 is a gross understatement. My feeling is that, with the 56, Diana has drawn a line in the dirt that says “Here’s what we can do when we decide to build a wicked, gnarly, accurate springer that is second to none.” I would love to see what a really talented field target competitor could do with one of these. I think it could be impressive.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott


  1. srtmat says:

    I was just reading your write up on the RWS 56th and I would like to know what your using for a scope and mount setup.
    Is your setup holding tight and how many rounds do you have through the gun?
    Are you using a scope stop/pins on your mounts?
    Did you notice if your gun had a lot of "barrel droop"? If so how did you compensate?
    I have a .22 cal 56th on back order through you and I'm just trying to get my scope and mount setup figured out.


    Mat O

  2. Jock Elliott says:

    I recommend the RWS one-piece lock down mounts, which are available in both 30 mm and 1 inch. They have dual recoil pins, a clamping bar which is sized to the scope rail, and .025 inches of elevation built in to deal with the barrel "deflection" that is usually found in RWS air rifles. I haven't tried this mount specifically on the 56, but I have tried it on the 54 and the 460 and it seems to work extremely well.

    I would specifically NOT recommend a variable power scope. You'll get the reasons in next week's blog. I would go with the Hawke HK4034 SW10X42IRSF or the MTC Viper 10X44 IRS.

    There are good reasons not to use a variable power scope on a heavily recoiling springer like the 56, which will be made clear in next Monday's blog.

    However, if you have a variable power scope that has worked well for you on an RWS 54, my guess is it will work alright on the 56.

    I hope this helps.

  3. Michael says:

    If this rifle truly shoot at 1100fps then it presumably is shooting over 20FP with heavies. This would not qualify for FT events. Now, if the advertised and true velocity is that far off you may be ok. Thoughts?

  4. Jock Elliott says:


    My Oehler chrony showed 872 average with CPH 10.5 gr. pellets. That's 17.7 fp of energy, well within the FT limit.

    CPHs are also the pellet that delivered that very nice group.

    That works for me!

  5. srtmat says:

    With all this talk on the yellow forums about RWS using Chinese barrels I was curious on how many Lands/Grooves your 56TH barrel has?
    8 or 12?

    It sounds like yours shoots and groups fine but it would be interesting to know if they have changed barrels from the old 54's


    Mat O

  6. Jock Elliott says:


    Short answer: I don't know about the internals of the barrel, and I have already returned the 56 to Airguns of Arizona.

  7. Todd says:

    I just ordered the Model 56 from AOA and planned on fitting it with a Bushnell 3200 3-10 x 40 short action scope using Millet Angle-loc rings. Would this configuration hold up on this rifle? Additionally, can I install swivel studs on this gun for a sling? Thanks for your reply in advance.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I am not familiar with the scope you mention, but I have had good luck with Bushnell Elite scopes in general. I have never seen the mounts you mention, but I can recommend the RWS “Lock Down” mounts. They seem to work very well. Finally, Uncle Mike’s swivel studs ought to screw right into the wood on the 56 for mounting a sling.

  8. Mark says:

    Why not a Variable powered Scope? I was thinking about the Hawke Scopes in 6-24 or 8-32 range, with side focus. I am concerned about loading the pellet with the Scope being in the way. I plan on shooting fly’s when they come in to land on some bits of Hamburg. That’s why the large magnification. I have a Feinwerkbeau 300s mini and it is my favorite pellet rifle. I’m hoping the RWS 56 th is going to take over 1ST place. I used to have a TH 300 with scope that was number one. I’m still shooting the Mini with the Feinwerkbeau peeps, Just can’t see the fly’s. I shoot indoors at 45 feet and outdoors up to 50 yards. I ordered the 56 yesterday and I’m trying to figure out what scope to get for it. I told Robert at AoA that I could put a Bushnell 3-9 power on it for now to get started, but if this gun is as good as I hope it’s going to be, then I want to be able to see where my pellets are hitting without the need for a Spotting Scope.

    Thanks, Mark

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Here’s why I recommend a fixed power scope for the RWs 54 and 56:

  9. Mark says:

    With the added mass of the barrel on the 56, do you think that will tame the recoil enough for a variable power scope? By the way I’m looking for the best fixed power scope. The Leupold 10X40 is one that sounds very good with the Factory parallel adjustment to say 25 yards. The reticle selection is another matter, Mil dot, TMR what ever that is, SR6 or 12, Half mil., Hawke 10×42. I’m looking at all options. Reading many reviews. Do you have a short list of fixed power options?

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      I’m not sure about the added mass of the barrel making enough of a difference. Leupold has an excellent reputation, but I have never used one of their scopes. I’m very keen on the Hawke 10×42.

  10. Mark says:

    I’ve been looking at the Hawke Sidewinder tactical with 1/2 Mil 10X Reticle. looking at the reticle of the sidewinder, on Hawke’s web sight , it looks like a fat line instead of dots and bow ties. How is it when looking threw the Scope?

    Thanks, Mark

  11. Jock Elliott says:


    Try looking here:

    Temporarily, I have the Hawke mounted on another rifle, so I can’t take a picture. I don’t believe it hangs over the loading port. I certainly don’t recall any difficulties loading.

  12. Mark says:


    Have you tried the Sport Match Dampa Mounts? And Would this make it possible to mount a Variable power scope on the 56. I would probably add an additional stop pin to the base.

    Thanks, Mark

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      I haven’t tried the Dampa mounts. The key issue is the amount of shock that is transmitted to the scope with a springer action and a sliding action such as the RWS54 or 56. I suggest talking to the good folks at Airguns of Arizona.

  13. Bob Willman says:

    What high end scope and mounts would be recommened.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Check this out:

      I would recommend the Hawke Sidewinder Tactical 30mm 10X42 with the RWS drooper one-piece mount for use on the RWS 56TH.

  14. dean moser says:

    how good is the muzzle break at quieting the 56th…and do you feel that the 56th is a better rifle than the 54 air king

    1. Jock Elliott says:



      I really can’t tell you how much the muzzle brake quiets the 56TH, simply because I didn’t try it without it. As springers go, the 56TH is fairly subdued, but certainly not dead quiet. Do I think the 56TH is a better air rifle than the 54 air king? Yes, provided you are willing to put up with the additional weight. Both the 54 and 56 are pretty darn good air rifles. Either one will require a heavy-duty fixed power scope.

  15. felipe martinez says:

    porfavor quisiera saver donde puedo practicar tiro al blanco con mi rifle. de aire aqui en phoenix arizona se los agradeceria mucho,grasias!!

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Try your local shooting ranges, your back yard with proper pellet traps, or public land where shooting is allowed.

  16. Shannon says:

    Ordered a model 56 today with scope. I’ve been using a model 52 so I’ll have a good comparison. Can’t wait!

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      I think you’re gonna like it!

  17. Shannon says:

    Got my 56 delivered an within a hour had my first squirrel on the ground. I really like the Clearidge scope.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Glad you are enjoying it.

  18. Shannon says:

    Has anyone ever tried to kill a chicken? I put 3 shots in one an it walked away! I own a pest control so it was “job” I was doing. I’m guessing a head shot would be your best bet for chickens?

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      With an air gun, shot placement is everything. I suggest you try one of the airgun hunting forums for information about successful bird hunting.

  19. azam says:

    i have recently bought a RWS 56TH, but having broken two scopes i finally mounted a Hawke 2.5-10X, with 42 mm lens on a RWS one piece lock down mount. i am an experienced air gunner having owned RWS 34, 35, 45, 54, Weihrauch HW 77 etc. despite having ensured that nothing comes loose and using a bench rest with RWS Meisterkuglen (wadcutters), Crossmen Premiers and JSB Exact (heavys) i always end up throwing periodical 1 to 1.5 inches groups after several sessions of one holers at 15 m. at my wits end, i turn to you for help.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      You didn’t mention what caliber your 56TH is. Have you tried the 10.5 grain Crosman Premiers? That’s what worked for me.

  20. azam says:

    sorry, i forgot to mention that it is in .22 cal, but I wonder if that should prompt such an erratic behavior. i ve noticed similar problem at 40m. some times i do get consistent 1/4 inch groups at this range and at others 1.5 to 2 inchers.

  21. Norton says:

    Just ordered a 56TH in .22. Looking forward to working it out.

  22. Shannon says:

    I’ve had the model 56 for 2 1/2 years and have dropped over 200 squirrels. The best air gun I have ever owned. Extremely accurate!

  23. JACK says:

    Im looking for a Diana rws model 56 with checking on it and want to know were I can buy one. I only found the model 56 at a place called Airguns of Arizona and they said there gun doent have checkering on it. there the only place in the united states I can find it. Can you till me were I can get one. Thanks

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      The best place to ask is Otherwise, I’m not sure how to locate a 56 with checkering.

  24. imran says:

    hi i have a mod 54. a problem that i am facing is that: while corking it i hear a clicking sound from the chamber. its like the spring is touching something and making a continues clicking sound until fully corked. also the corking is not smooth. while pulling the corking lever i can feel some obstruction. however when a bit extra force is used i can complete the corking.
    can someone please tell me what this problem is and also send met video links and instructions on how to fix it. i can seem to find no info online regarding this

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      If I recall correctly, there is an anti-beartrap mechanism in the mod 54 that makes a clicking noise during cocking. Otherwise, contact the vendor where you purchased your mod 54.

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