The RWS Model 34 P

Monday, August 8, 2011

Every once in a while, you’ll see on the Yellow Forum a topic centering around the topic: “What would be the best survival air rifle?”

I always read these forum threads with great interest because the topic of survival in the wilds has always fascinated me. I remember reading the tale of a group of young men who made an exceptional canoe passage on a Canadian river in high northern latitudes. The passage of the full length of this particular river had never been done before; they had a limited time window in the arctic summer, and they would be beyond communication and beyond outside help, completely on their own. As I recall, they had some accidents, lost some of their supplies, and scarcity of food became an issue.

As I read the account, I began to wonder: if I had to select an airgun to take with me on such a trip – one that would be suitable for collecting food – what would it be?

A while back in this blog, I came up with a list of characteristics that I would like to see in a survival airgun. Looking back at it, I have decided to modify some of my thinking, and I have noted the changes in italics.

1. Portability. That means either a pistol or a rifle than can be readily broken down or at least a rifle that is not overly heavy.
2. Self-contained.

3. Sufficient power for taking small game.

4. Stealthy report to minimize scaring game.

5. Easy to shoot well. Spring-piston powerplants are the hardest to shoot well because of their whiplash forward and back recoil. Multi-stroke pneumatics are easy to shoot well.

6. Reliability. Airguns dealers tell me that springers are the most reliable powerplant. You can usually put at least a couple of thousand rounds through one before a rebuild is needed, and some are far more reliable. Further, springers tend to be “fail soft,” that is, you can break a mainspring, burn a piston seal, and many springers will continue to launch pellets, albeit much less efficiently. By contrast, some multi-stroke pneumatics can fail in storage simply because the seals dry out or lose flexibility.

7. Ease of maintenance. Spring piston powerplants typically require a spring compressor for assembly and disassembly. MSPs usually can be taken apart with hand tools. Also, a high level of weather resistance.

You’ll notice that some of these characteristics are at odds with each other, so you have to make your gun selection based on what’s most important to you.

A couple of weeks ago, the folks at UmarexUSA sent me an air rifle that would make my short list for a survival airgun – the RWS Model 34 P.

The 34 P, a variant of the classic Model 34 breakbarrel air rifle, stretches 46 inches from end to end and weighs just 7.7 lbs with its fiber-optic iron sights. At the aft end of the buttstock is a black plastic butt pad with “Diana” (the name of the German manufacturer) and some horizontal ridges molded into it. Moving forward, the entire stock – buttstock, forestock, and trigger guard – is molded of an all-weather engineering polymer that has a very fine-grain pebble finish. At the pistol grip and foregrip, there are high-profile ridges molded into the polymer that do an admirable job of providing grip.

The red fiber optic front sight.The green fiber optic rear sight.

The molded trigger guard houses the new metal TO6 trigger which is adjustable only for length of first-stage travel. Underneath the forestock is a long slot that provides clearance for the linkage when cocking the 34 P. At the end of the barrel, a molded polymer muzzlebrake serves as a mount for a globe-type front sight which houses a red fiber optic rod. The sight “hood” has slots in it that allow sunlight to reach and illuminate the optic fiber. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find the notch-type rear sight which has green fiber optics on either side of the notch. The result is that the correct sight picture will show one green dot on either side of a red dot. Moving further back, you’ll find a dovetail for mounting a scope and, at the extreme aft end of the receiver, a push-pull resettable safety.

To ready the 34 P at the muzzle break and crank the barrel down and back until it latches. This will take about 30 lbs. of effort. Stuff a pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Take aim at your target, take aim at your target, and squeeze the trigger. On the sample that I tested, the first stage came out at about 1 lb. 9 oz. At 2 lb. 4.6 oz., the shot went down range with alacrity – the 34 P was launching .177 caliber 7.9 gr. Crosman Premier Light pellets at 905 fps. With a scope mounted, I was able to put 5 JSB Exact pellets into a group at 30 yards that you could easily cover with a dime.

In the end, I find the RWS Model 34 P to be a worthy candidate for a survival air rifle. It is highly weather resistant, the fiber optics sights are easy to see and provide an excellent sight picture, and the accuracy is commendable.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott




  1. Joel says:

    No argument, the Diana 34 platform is terrific. I have both a D-34 and a D-34P, and they are outstanding spring-piston guns.

    But I have to disagree on its suitability as a “survival” airgun. Spring piston guns are already the most difficult to shoot accurately, because of the aforementioned whiplash, but the 34P is for all intents and purposes a MAGNUM springer – even if it may not be rated as powerful as some other spring-piston guns – and it is stocked with a lightweight polymer that only exaggerates the felt recoil and torque.

    Add to this the barrel-droop problem. Diana 34’s and many other break barrel models suffer from this condition, making them harder to scope without specialty bases. Even with a droop compensating mount, though, you still have a problem with recoil breaking scopes, unless they are seriously well-engineered AND constructed (which don’t always go hand-in-hand). The issues here – droop compensation, quality scope – add up to more cost up front.

    As to field-serviceability, there is the inevitable breakage of the mainspring to worry about. Even the absolute best springs break after several thousand shots, maybe several tens-of-thousands, admittedly, but the threat is there. Finding an appropriate replacement spring when you are already existing in a “survival” condition seems to be a virtually non-existent possibility.

    My recommendation has been and remains a mult-stroke pneumatic gun, preferably in .22 caliber (or at the very least .20) for the greater downrange kinetic energy.
    Airguns like the Benjamin 392 (or Sheridan Blue Streak and similar) are inexpensive, easily maintained, have no felt recoil (so don’t require a bespoke or specialty scope), and are powerful enough for small game. (To be fair to the .177 choices in the market, even the comparatively humble Crosman 2100 is, in my opinion, a more likely candidate for “survival” than most spring-piston guns…)

    A scoped 392 – I will stick with this as my example – weighs a good deal less than a scoped D-34, even the synthetic stocked D-34P. If you are creeping about the woods for hours looking for food, that weight will tell volumes.

    Most MSP guns are easily resealed and don’t require special tools (= spring compressor) to disassemble. (One obvious exception is the Daisy 880, which is a little tricky to get back together…)

    I admit, scoping a 392 or Blue Streak can be challenging, as most models do not have scope dovetails machined into the receiver ( in addition to a 1971 Blue Streak and a modern Crosman 392, I also own a Benjamin 392 SE which uses the modern Crosman “extended steel breech” instead of the traditional Benj/Sher breech…). But even a traditional Benji can be fitted with intermounts and a low-power pistol scope mounted forward on the barrel in the “scout configuration”, and it benefits greatly from this treatment.

    I know everyone has their own biases and prejudices concerning the ultimate airgun powerplant and layout, but when considering airguns strictly as survival tools, these are my arguments.


    1. Greg says:

      Joel your arguments are unsound. I have a new Diana TO6. Firstly if this gun has barrel droop then all air rifles do. I even photographed and used graphing software to project a perfect straightline from receiver through to barrel. I’ve had a few airguns and this one is extremely well made. Secondly it’s an air rifle so a scope is nice but unless you are shooting mice at 30+ metres not essential. Springers are extremely reliable and accurate. The only time you have an accuracy problem is if you try and rest a springer on something hard or as I read somewhere, some idiot had a springer in a vice and couldn’t understand why there was a problem! If used correctly I cannot imagine ever needing to change the spring (then again some idiots walk around with springers loaded). How you can even put a Benjamin or a Crosman in the same bracket as a Diana is laughable. It’s like comparing a VW to a Ferrari. I like the concept of pneumatic but they get a zero for reliability and if you get a seal leak then it’s game over. (I disagree this is a simple home maintenance job and you assuming there is a handy hardware store nearby) Also due to pressure variances you can have varying accuracy with each shot. I’ve taken a few rabbits with Diana already with open sights. If you really know your gun you don’t even need sights. Point shooting is surprisingly accurate for short to medium ranges. Finally your comments re. “inevitable breakage of the main spring”. This is simply nonsense. I can can only surmise you work for Crosman or Benjamin with this comment. I have fired thousands if not tens of thousands of rounds through my air rifles. How on earth does a main spring break? I’ve never heard of that in my life. I repeat. Nonsense. What will fail in a pneumatic is the pressure chamber. Guarenteed. In a nutshell it’s not about predjudices just facts.

  2. Bob Todrick says:

    The airgun of choice for me, out of my collection (arguably, not a huge one) is also the least expensive.
    I’d have to go with my B3-3 (the BAM AK lookalike).
    With the stock folded it’s a little over two feet.
    On the one hand it isn’t the finest finished gun I have (not by a long shot), but I’ve taken more than a few rabbits at 30yds with the open sights. I don’t know if I got a ‘good’ one or not, but when I’m having a good day I can put 10 shots in a 4″ circle at 30yds with the open sights offhand. I’ve tried it with a scope and I can knock that easily down to 2″ at 30yds.
    And with the stock folded it can be easily strapped to the side of my backpack.
    It ain’t pretty, but it works.

  3. Peter Zimmerman says:

    Think I would dispense with that twangy main spring and just go with something a bit heavier than 4.5 mm. An FWB-602 would feel right, ESP if you could change barrel. OTOH the British rob ably have a perfect choice, some where.

    Then to ammo. Cheap and small, so dont be chintzy. Light and heavy domes. A couple tins of top match grade and soume Hobbys – You’ll want practice pells and ones for beginners.

    Not exactly nice to say so, but you need a tin of hollow points that you can dope with poison; man size doses.

    Finally, don’t forget to have at LEAST 3 complete sets of all possible ” replaceable” seals and gaskets + 2 each of any model specific special tools.

    This gun should have “match grade resu lts with very little work and not require mastery
    of the Artillery hold.

    It’s about how long your kids will live. better to spend too much on cutes3&&

    Hope you never need such a piece of kit. Iif you’d do need it, make sure you already. Know how to hit your target on the first xp

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      I am intrigued by your suggestion of single-stroke match rifle. But if you go up in caliber, you’ll also go up in pellet weight, which means a drop in velocity unless you do something to the powerplant. Maybe I’m wrong, but I have the sense that the FWB602 is pretty well optimized already. It might be interesting to see how much hunting you could do with an FWB602 in unmodified form.

      Thanks for your comments.

  4. nyhunter says:

    uncle jock,
    i’m inclined to agree with you. years ago i lived in the woods(catskills0 for two years. while not a 34p. i used a diana 36 to keep myself and my dog fed. i used it almost daily with never a problem. that gun was stolen some years later i’d give anything to have it back.

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Thanks for your comments!

  5. Gabe says:

    Mr. Elliot: In my humble opinion I would agree with your choice, with the small but significant difference being the caliber. in .22 the 34 (at least mine) settled at 660 fps with 14.3. It was an amazingly accurate and quiet springer. It has taken squirrels at 40/45 yards, rabbits out to 35 yards and also various crows out to 50 yards. I am sure that with necessity being the driving force it could well be used to headshot turkeys as well as other waterfowl (please spare me the hunting ethics comment… i am aware of the unsportingness of my comment, but feeding my family comes first).The gun in my opinion should be used at close range to maximize your chance for supper, so I would limit it to 25 yards and use it with the open sights. my other change maybe would be using a wood stock which would be cut and hinged for shortening the gun, as well as a shortened (no more than 10 inches) barrel with a decent recrown, and a drilled shroud for increased grip while cocking it.
    my choice instead would be a 1377 with a .22 barrel (14 inches), and a small 4x rifle scope. using the taco hold i can get pellets inside the butt of a can at 40 yards over and over. that is decent hunting accuracy for little critters. leave the open sights in case you damage the scope. that lenght of barrel gives me 510 fps with crosman prems. 14.3 gr at 10 pumps. the seals are practically indestructible as long as it is used once on a while. You may boild some rabbit or squirrel fatty tissue and use it to drip it in the seal in case that it dries up. That stuff stays gooey for a long time (use it to flex leather boots in cold weather to avoid cracks). The whole package is small enough to fit in a back pack or strap it to the side of a duffel bag. you may also use the spot inside the grips to store some fishing line, 2 small hooks, a razor blade and a book of matches. You also may store pellets organized inside a plastic straw. Then seal the ends and glue them inside the pumping foregrip.
    just some ideas that have worked for me…

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Thanks so much for your interesting and well-thought-out comments!

      If you check out this blog and scroll down to the “Kip Carbine,” you’ll see something along the lines of what you’ve been thinking about.

  6. Paul R. Canting says:

    Hi Jock:

    First of all Merry Christmas & Happy New Year……

    I have a question, I already have a Field Target, Hunter Field Target rifle
    (Beeman HW97K Blue) and I am loooking for a backup rifle because I am sending my rifle for a tune up, I change the spring & piston for a Vortek, PG2-HW97 Tuning kit-12 ft/lb. Do you think, besides the RWS 34 Pro Compact, do you think that can I use a RWS 34 clasic but instead of compo…stock a wood stock?, I’m asking you because I know that you test drive both rifles.

    I really like the clasic look of the Diana RWS 34, besides it is a bit less heavy in relation to the RWS 34 Pro Compact and the cocking effort for the 34 is a bit easier, but please give me the insight and your personal opinion.

    I will wait for your reply.

    Your friend from Puerto Rico….

    Paul Roger Canting

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Either RWS 34 model will work as a back up gun. Go for the classic model if you like its looks best.

  7. Paul R. Canting says:

    Hi Jock:

    I forgot, I like this rifle so much that I am thinking to purchase two of them, can I use this rifle for hunting?, and I don’t know if you have the complete data but what would be the max effective rnge for hunting in a .22 cal?

    Thanks for your opinion and imput…



    1. Jock Elliott says:


      I’m not sure what the maximum effective range might be; it depends in part on what you intend to hunt. I would guess you should be able to hunt small game out to about 40 yards with careful shot placement. Remember, maximum effective range is dictated not just by the power of the air rifle, but the range at which you can consistently hit a vital zone on the game you are hunting.

  8. J says:


    I have enjoyed using this rifle for over a year now, but through accident the front sight has broken off. I’m having a little trouble tracking down where to find a replacement. Any tips? thanks!

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