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