Archive for April 2011

The Diana 34 Centennial – Anniversary Edition is easy on the eyes.

In the decade or so that I’ve been writing about airguns, I’ve noticed that airgunners, roughly speaking, can be divided into three groups. In no particular order, they are: collectors, customizers, and shooters. Collectors, of course, are the guys who accumulate airguns because they enjoy the craftsmanship of vintage airguns, a particular model, or a particular brand. Customizers are the folks who start with a relatively ordinary airgun, like the Crosman 1377, and then customize it to turn it into something special that is uniquely their own. Shooters are people who first and foremost enjoy launching pellets from their airguns rather than collecting or customizing them.

Why do I mention this? Because when the good folks at Airguns of Arizona suggested that I might like to have a look at the the Diana 34 Centennial – Anniversary Edition, my chief interest in the air rifle was as a shooter. My attitude is: “I don’t care how nice it looks . . . how well does it shoot?” And we’ll get to the answer in just a little while.

The Diana 34 Centennial – Anniversary Edition is a special edition of the popular RWS/Diana Model 34 break barrel air rifle, built to commemorate the 120th Anniversary of Diana (1890-2010). It has an oiled walnut Monte Carlo stock, Scottish checkering, ventilated rubber butt pad, front sights with changeable inserts, anniversary engraving on the stock and receiver, and the TO6 trigger with a gold plated trigger blade.

Available in both .177 and .22, the Centennial weighs 7.5 lbs and measures 45 inches from end to end. At the aft end, there is a ventilated rubber recoil pad, attached to a right-handed walnut stock with a very moderate cheek piece on the left side. I think that a southpaw should be able to shoot this air rifle without much problem.

The Centennial is equipped with the new TO6 trigger, and this one is gold plated.

Moving forward, the pistol grip has checkering on either side, and on the bottom of the pistol grip you’ll find an anniversary medallion embossed into the wood. Ahead of the pistol grip is the black metal trigger guard which surrounds the TO6 metal trigger that has been plated with 24 carat gold.

The slim forestock has checkering on either side and a long slot underneath to provide clearance for the cocking linkage. Ahead of that is the .22 barrel (on the sample I tested) which has a globe front sight mounted on dovetails near the muzzle. At the aft end of the barrel, you’ll find the breech block on top of which is mounted the notch rear sight. Further back on the receiver is a scope rail with two anti-recoil pins. Finally, at the tail end of the receiver is a push-pull safety that is resettable.

To ready the Centennial for shooting, grab the barrel near the end, pull it down and back until it latches. Insert a pellet into the breech end of the barrel and return the barrel to its original position. I estimate the cocking effort to be in the low-30s, around 33-34 lbs. Next, take aim at the target, push in the safety to turn it off, and squeeze the trigger. This is where the new T06 trigger really shines. On the sample that I tested, the first stage requires only 1 lb. 1.3 oz., and at 1 lb. 11 oz., the shot goes downrange. The Centennial launches 14.3 gr. Crosman Premier .22 pellets at about 665 fps, which works out to 14 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

At 30 yards, the Centennial put 5 shots in a group that measured just 5/8 inch edge to edge, which works out to .405 inch center to center. I find that very satisfying accuracy in an air rifle that has a pleasant shot cycle.

In the end, I bought the Centennial – not because it is a nice looking air rifle or that it is collectable or that it is a limited edition model. Instead, it now has a home in my gun safe because I enjoyed shooting it so much.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

If you own a pre-charged pneumatic air rifle or air pistol, you’re going to need a way to fill the air reservoir, which generally means either a SCUBA tank or a high pressure pump.

Today we’ll be talking about FX’s three-stage high pressure hand pump, which is capable of achieving pressures as high as 250 bar (3600 psi).

When you open the box, you’ll see this:
           

If you remove the packing from the foot of the pump, and the manual from under the pump, this is what you’ll see: the main pump tube, the base plate under the handle grips, a zip-seal bag with some loose parts, and a 1/8-inch hose assembly.

          

Here’s how to get the FX pump ready for use.

1. Attach the “foot” to the pump. Grab the main pump tube and turn it upside down so the foot is facing you. Next, Position the base plate of the pump so that the two “wings” of the base plate are on the opposite side of the pump tube from the pressure gauge and so that the holes with the screw holes with the beveled edges are facing you. Position the holes in the base plate over the corresponding holes in the foot of the pump and attach the base plate using the two black allen screws and allen wrench from the plastic parts bag. Make sure the screws are snug.

2. Attach the external moisture trap to the foot of the pump. It screws in the hole just below the pressure gauge and should have a small silver seal on the screw fitting as seen in the picture below. Tighten it gently with a wrench to make sure the connection is snug.

 

             Here’s a picture of the external moisture trap in place:

 

3. Attach the filler hose to the external moisture trap just under the pressure gauge. Tighten it gently with a wrench.

             Here’s how the finished assembly should look:

 

4. Attach the fill adapter for your gun (at the other end of the filler hose) by gently tightening with a wrench. Here is where the fill adapter attaches: 

 

5. Close the knurled brass bleed screw (beneath to the filler hose) by turning it fully clockwise.

6. Connect your airgun to the filler hose.

Now you are ready to pump!

A Word or Two about Pumping Technique

Stand with at least one foot on one of the wings on either side of the pump’s foot.

Pull the pump handle up to the full length of its travel.

Push the pump handle back down. It will move fairly easily for about 2/3-3/4 of its stroke. When the pump reaches that portion of the stroke where the effort rises substantially, lock your elbows and flex your knees. Allow the weight of your body to drive the pump through the rest of the stroke. If you use this technique, you will find it much easier than if you try to drive the pump through its stroke with your arms alone.

Keep an eye on the gauge. It will rise a little bit with each pump. Know ahead of time what your target pressure is. The pump reads in BAR.

When you reach your target pressure, stop pumping, and open the knurled brass bleed screw quickly by turning it counter-clockwise to release the pressure and moisture in the filler hose before detaching your airgun.

According to the excellent manual that comes with the pump: Never operate the pump for over 5 minutes at a time, overheating may occur. Keep hands and other sensitive parts of the body away from the ventilation hole and make sure that other people are not in the way of the ventilation hole when bleeding the moisture trap.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

When I first reviewed the Benjamin Trail NP All Weather (check out here http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2010/05/benjamin-trail-np-all-weather-%e2%80%93-part-i.html and http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2010/05/benjamin-trail-np-all-weather-%e2%80%93-part-ii.html ), you might recall that I found a whole lot to like about this rifle.

“The cocking stroke is one smooth, noiseless glide. It’s like cocking a break barrel springer that has been fully romanced by one of the master spring gun tuners.” And “The recoil is quick and surprisingly smooth, with no torque, twang or vibration. Further, the report is quite subdued, even for a breakbarrel air rifle.”

But the trigger was unusual: “When I first measured the trigger pull with my Lyman digital trigger gauge, I saw the following: at 1 lb 11 oz, the first stage appears to come out of the trigger and there is a hard stop. Then there is a long creepy pull and another hard stop at about 4 lbs 13 oz. Finally, at around 5 lbs, 4 oz, the shot goes off.”

While it is completely possible to shoot accurately with stock trigger, there is definitely room for improvement. So I emailed the nice folks at Airguns of Arizona and asked them to send me one of Steve Woodward’s GTX Generation II aftermarket triggers.

To install the GTX trigger, you’ll need a Phillips screwdriver, a flat blade screwdriver, a pocketknife or an awl, and of course, the GTX trigger. The trigger kit comes with a gold colored replacement trigger, a set of instructions (both sides of a sheet of paper) and a very small allen wrench.

The instructions contain a lot of information, and quite frankly, I found the instructions a bit intimidating. But in reality, the installation process is really quite simple.

To get started, first remove the screws from either side of the forestock.

 

Next, flip the gun upside down and remove the screw in the hole between the trigger guard and the pistol grip.

           

Next, flip the gun right side up and ease the action out of the stock.

Now, rest the action on the bench in front of you with the barrel pointed to the left and the trigger facing away from you. On the trigger assembly, you’ll notice an e-clip around the trigger pivot pin. Insert an awl or the tip of a pocketknife blade into one of the gaps between the e-clip and the pin and push the clip off the pin. Be careful not to lose the e-clip; you’ll need it later.

           

Now you can push the trigger pivot pin down and out of the trigger assembly. With the pin removed, you can slide the trigger out of the trigger housing.

Next, remove the “fat” pin (circled below) from the original trigger.

           

And slide it into the hole indicated below on the GTX trigger.

           

You’re almost ready to install the new trigger, but there are two more steps required. First, unscrew the strut adjustment screw at the back of the trigger housing.

           

Next, with a flat blade screwdriver, push the plastic block that held the strut adjustment screw out through the back of the trigger housing.

           

When the plastic block is removed, the end of the strut will pop up in the trigger housing.

           

Now, you’re ready to slip the GTX trigger into place. This is a two-handed job, since you have to press the trigger in against the spring-loaded strut, and slide the trigger pivot pin back into the trigger housing and through the hole in the GTX trigger. When you get the pivot pin properly reinserted, it will hold the trigger in place.

Now you need to slide the e-clip back in place around the trigger pivot pin. I found I could do this by placing the e-clip behind the pivot pin and gently pushing it forward with a flat bladed screwdriver.

The finished assembly should look like the picture below.

            

Now you are ready to put the action back in the stock. At this point, you can adjust the trigger by using the small allen wrench provided, but I don’t recommend it. I liked the pre-adjusted settings the trigger came with just fine, and I think most shooters will too. If you absolutely insist on fiddling with the adjustment, turning the primary adjustment screw clockwise will shorten and lighten the second stage. If you go too far, it becomes a single-stage trigger.

When you’re ready to shoot the GTX trigger, heed this warning: Don’t even touch the trigger without first pointing the muzzle in a safe direction! The trigger is now so light, smooth, and easy that it is possible to pull right through the second stage while trying to get a feel for it.

I found on my digital trigger gauge that around 1 lb. 2 oz., the first stage comes out of the trigger. At 1 lb. 15 oz., the shot goes down range. That’s light, but it’s very predictable once you become accustomed to it.

The GTX trigger makes a huge improvement to the Benjamin Trail All Weather.  It takes an already enjoyable air rifle and makes it smoother, more enjoyable, and more fun to shoot.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The FX Royale 400 Synthetic from the lefthand side.

To ready the FX Royale 400 for shooting, connect a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump to the foster fitting and charge it to 3,000 psi. Next, load the magazine, the .177 version of which holds 16 pellets.

The quickfill connector and the pressure gauge are housed in a slot under the forearm.

Now this is where life got interesting for Your Humble Correspondent. I looked at the magazine and decided that, since it looked a whole lot like the magazines for the Benjamin Marauder rifles, I already knew how to load it, right? WRONG

I was instantly reminded of that great scene in the movie Jeremiah Johnson in which Bear Claw Chris Lapp instructs Jeremiah in the errors of his ways: “Mountain’s got its own ways . . . Whatever you learned down in the flat will serve you no good up here.”

Likewise, the FX magazine has its own ways, and whatever you (or I) learned about the Marauder magazine will serve you no good.

Here’s the recipe for correctly loading the FX Royale Synthetic magazine: first, rotate the clear plastic face plate counter-clockwise as far as possible. Now, while holding the face plate in position, flip the magazine over so you’re looking at the back side. You’ll see that a port has opened in the back of the magazine. Load a pellet backwards (tail first) into the port. This will lock the spring and keep the inner wheel from turning. Now, flip the magazine over and load the rest of the pellets by dropping them nose-first into the magazine while rotating the transparent cover so that the hole in it opens each of the pellet “bays.” Once you have filled the magazine, rotate the transparent cover back to its original position. Pull the breech lever to the rear of the receiver to move the bolt back. Now slide the magazine into the breech from the right side.

Special note: when mounting a scope on the FX Royale Synthetic, you will need to use high scope mounts to provide clearance for the magazine and allow it to slide fully into the breech.

Now, press the breech lever full forward. This will cause the bolt probe to push a pellet out of the magazine and into the rifling of the barrel. Take aim, flick the safety off, and squeeze the trigger. At 14.4 ounces, the first stage came out of the trigger on the sample I tested. There is a tiny bit of creep to the trigger (I could feel a little movement as I continued to squeeze the trigger), and at 1 pound 4.5 ounces, the shot goes down range. The FX Royale 400 Synthetic launches .177 JSB Exact 8.44 grain pellets at 1094 FPS average and gets120 shots from 210 bar fill with about 20 fps spread.

Thanks to a permanently-mounted moderator, the FX Royale 400 has a very neighbor friendly report.

The report is not dead quiet, but it is very, very subdued: phut. It’s the kind of report that will not disturb game and will not have the neighbors looking out the window wondering who’s shooting.           

The accuracy of the FX Royale Synthetic is delightful. Airguns of Arizona claims their test have shown half-inch groups at 50 yards. I put enough pellets through the same hole at 35 yards to convince me that’s true.

So here’s the bottom line: the FX Royale 400 Synthetic delivers a whole lot of what most serious airgunners crave: a boatload of accuracy, a large number of shots per fill, an excellent trigger, and a supersize serving of airgunning fun.

SPECIAL NOTE: After I completed this review of the FX Royale 400 Synthetic, I found out from Airguns of the Arizona that the rifle they sent me does, indeed, have the new smooth-twist barrel. For more information about this technology, check out: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/FX%20Main.html

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott