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Vintage rifle: Diana Model 30 Sportmodell

13:00 04 November 2016

Even after 80 years, the Model 30 is an accurate performer

Even after 80 years, the Model 30 is an accurate performer

Archant

John Milewski has a piece of history in his hands

Mayer & Grammelspacher introduced the Model 30 during the mid-1930s and used the same ‘Sportmodell’ designation as Haenel did with their bolt-action Model 33 air rifles. Unlike the 4.45mm ball only Haenel repeaters, the Diana Sportmodell was a single-shot, pellet-firing air rifle, purposely designed to resemble the German service rifle of the time, the Mauser K98K.

Britain became a substantial export market for German airguns between the wars, with Diana airguns imported in sizable numbers, but the Model 30 was never advertised and surviving literature is mostly in German.

Fixed barrel

The short cocking lever is simple to manipulateThe short cocking lever is simple to manipulate

With a fixed rifled .177 calibre barrel and pellet loading through a lever-actuated tap, the Model 30 certainly had more potential for accuracy than ball-firing competitors. It is a tribute to the original designers that the same tap and loading level were used on the post-war Model 50, albeit on a larger scale.

There are few minor variations between Model 30 air rifles, which were generally more slender and lighter than the Mauser. Overall length was 105cm and weighed in at 2.5kg.

Both cocking and loading levers were used on post-war Model 50sBoth cocking and loading levers were used on post-war Model 50s

Some early models have a foresight ramp with dovetailed sight, whilst on later rifles there is a foresight collar for the ramp. Early rifles have contoured steel butt plates, replaced with a ribbed, wooden butt plate. A date stamp is usually found on these later butt plates, for example 10.39 for October 1939.

Contemporary adverts promoted the two-stage trigger and wing safety, as well as the loading tap lever, cocking lever and 12-groove, rifled 47 cm barrel. The cocking lever was completely covered by the stock, which resulted in smooth lines very similar to the K98K.

Price increase

The screw adjustable rear sight is a little too close to the aiming eye for my likingThe screw adjustable rear sight is a little too close to the aiming eye for my liking

In May 1935, airgun distributors Gustav Genschow & Co sent a circular to dealers advising them of a price increase affecting the Model 30, which would now cost 25 Reichsmarks trade or 35 Reichsmarks retail. Formations such as the Hitler Youth, or relatives of members, received a discount and would be able to obtain a Model 30 for 32 Reichsmarks.

Some German retailers marked their products with their name, in the same manner as British outlets such as Charles Riggs & Co or AG Parker. Rather than impressing the stock or stamping their name on the airgun, one German retailer, Stahl & Berger of Hamburg, fixed a small, unobtrusive plate under the stock of the Model 30.

This plate tells us this Model 30 was retailed in HamburgThis plate tells us this Model 30 was retailed in Hamburg

During the 1930s, Stahl & Berger sold big-game rifles, shotguns and drillings (combination guns consisting of three barrels in varying calibres). The name has nothing to do with drills, but derives from drei, the German word for ‘three’. The intention was to offer a choice of calibre, dependent on the quarry a hunter might encounter in the field. A typical drilling could consist of a smoothbore shotgun barrel for moving targets, alongside heavier rifled calibres for more precise shot placement.

War stories

The hand guard on a military service rifle such as the Mauser was attached to the fore end above the barrel to protect the supporting hand from a hot barrel during rapid fire. The hand guard on the Model 30 was cosmetic and I know of several examples with cut-down fore ends or absent hand guards.

Ramped foresight - later models had foresights fitted to a muzzle collarRamped foresight - later models had foresights fitted to a muzzle collar

One has been expertly repaired with the restoration becoming apparent only under close examination. A notable collector has suggested this ‘damage’ may have been caused by allied servicemen returning from Germany after World War II, who disassembled their ‘bring backs’ to fit inside their kit bags.

Another collector related a story to me of a serviceman finding a Model 30 in a captured position, previously held by a Hitler Youth unit. I suspect the youths were using higher calibre weapons for fighting though!

Not bad accuracy from the standing position at six yardsNot bad accuracy from the standing position at six yards

Pleasant performer

Accuracy was advertised as unsurpassable at distances up to 30 metres, but no examples of this accuracy were provided. Using a Model 30 from the standing position on a bell target placed 6 yards away resulted in pellet-upon-pellet shot placement, but the light overall weight meant extra concentration was required in order not to jerk the rifle off target.

Muzzle velocity was higher than expected at 583 fps with .177 Hobbies (the rifle was only made in .177) and surprisingly, it did not like Field Target Trophies, which are generally my first choice in vintage airguns. Bisley Magnums grouped well but the Hobbies were the most accurate, when I used the rifle to shoot at a number of 40mm sized FT target kill zones placed between 10 and 30metres away on the club range.

The Model 30 was a trainer for youths in pre-war GermanyThe Model 30 was a trainer for youths in pre-war Germany

The rearsight is placed a little too close to the aiming eye for comfort, but apart from that, the Model 30 is a pleasant rifle to shoot. No wonder that some 80 years after it was made, the rifle is still sought after by collectors.

This fine-quality rifle retains a link to a turbulent period of European social history and is well worth acquiring if the opportunity arises.

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