Mark Camoccio gets back to the basics of airgun sport with the refreshingly uncomplicated Diana Model 280.
Complicated… expensive… overly demanding… air rifle shooting never used to be like this, and if you’re new to the sport, I’ll forgive you for taking one look at all that electronic power delivery, pre-charged paraphernalia, regulator gobbledegook, and running to the nearest basket weaving club.
Sometimes a breath of fresh air is needed, to remind us all about the simple pleasures still available in certain quarters of the airgun market. So fear not; for the rifle on test here represents an exact antithesis of the technological ‘superguns’ currently in vogue.
On test here is one of the new breed of spring-powered models from the world famous Diana brand, and let me nail my colours to the mast early on this one… it’s rather good.
In short, the Model 280 is a traditional break- barrel, spring powered airgun, which offers a slim-line package, yet full power output. Whilst its diminutive profile may belie its undoubted capabilities, time spent on the range soon demonstrates just what this rifle is all about; which I’ll come to later.
Scaled down elegance is a good place to start, and with that ultra sleek woodwork instantly catching the eye, first impressions are nothing but favourable. Open sights come fitted as standard too with this model, whilst an alternative specification in the form of the 280 Pro is also available with a silencer/ barrel weight fitted in place of the sights, for those who prefer that route.
Back to our model here, and the open sights are of the rather snazzy fibre optic variety. With a bright red fore-sight bead showing between two bright green dots on the rear-sight, the image is really distinctive and precise. Fibre optics work on the principle of making use of all available ambient light, with the result that the accentuated sight picture appears to glow, naturally guiding the eye as it does so. Since the theory is now well established, they must represent a welcome addition to any sporting tool - especially one such as this which can be more easily handled by shooters of a smaller stature.
Finish and fit
Finish is up to Diana’s usual standard, and that means a superb even coating of chemical blueing applied to all the metalwork. Contrasting nicely with this is that wonderfully sleek sporter stock. Again, finish is exemplary, with an even lacquer applied, which, on my test sample, still managed to let the natural beauty of the beech grain pattern show through.
The panels of chequering on the grip and fore-end, are both stylish and extremely effective. Presumably laser applied, the end result has satisfyingly deep cut diamonds, which look and feel right. The neat, rounded fore-end is sublime in the hold, and coupled with a nicely shaped butt pad, basic handling is just about spot-on.
One criticism which is often levelled at this type of standard stocked rifle is that the cheek piece is too low, since it is designed in tandem with the open sights. In the case of this Model 280, and despite coming with those fibre optics sights fitted, I can honestly say that scope alignment seemed fine. If a scope is to be fitted, then it should be noted at this stage, that the plastic fore-sight housing/assembly can be easily removed, once the single Allen screw has been slackened off. Likewise, two small screws keep the rear-sight in place, rendering removal a simple task; so a more uncluttered sightline can be achieved when necessary.
Fitting the glassware in the first place, incidentally, is made all the more easy with the inclusion of a chunky raised scope rail. Whilst admittedly offering a relatively short purchase area, a fairly modest sized scope needs to be fitted in any case. This is due to the usual restrictions of most break-barrel actions, where the scope can’t foul the breech as the barrel/ breech assembly swings through its normal arc. That said, I managed to fit a fairly chunky MTC Viper in place, for the purposes of the test, and this worked out fine.
A little effort required
Breaking the barrel open on this 280 can be quite awkward at first due to the particularly solid breech lock-up détente. It’s more a matter of technique though, and until it loosens up, just gently breaking over the knee seemed to be the way to go. Likewise, cocking effort is significant, but if a positive all-in-one sweeping motion is adopted, the 280 becomes a pleasant and highly rewarding rifle to shoot.
Previous Diana’s have slightly irritated with the inclusion of plastic trigger blades; spoiling otherwise well engineered rifles. No such problem here though, since the latest models to leave the Mayer and Grammelspacher factory now sport the new T06 metal spec trigger. Firstly - about time too! Secondly - Diana need congratulating for a great piece of design work. With a broad neatly ridged surface on the blade, and a clean breaking, relatively light release, this 2-stage unit really aids performance, and must go some way to explaining the impressive down range results.
By the way, if the profile of the metalwork/action of this Model 280 looks familiar, that’s because several Far Eastern outfits have long been copying Diana’s best efforts. On closer inspection of course, those impostors just don’t compare for that final classy finish. Where they really fall short though, is where it matters most – at the target down range.
Barrel quality is so often the big decider, and with German tubes dominating the market, Diana should always be expected to perform well. As it turned out, this 280 really showed its pedigree, yet range results weren’t without the odd surprise.
The chronograph revealed an impressively consistent action with a variety of pellets; with 11.5 ft/lbs energy the norm with the majority of brands used. My usual favourite of JSB produced Air Arms Diabolo Field’s raised an eyebrow, as they came in low on power, and then failed to group well past thirty yards. My batch are proven in competition, so it was a classic example of how some brands just don’t suit a particular barrel.
RUAG Ammotec, the main importers for Diana, also happen to cover the RWS pellet labels, and with a sample of the latest Superdome’s submitted along with this rifle, it was quite apt that they should come out on top. Genuine quarter inch groups (ctc) at 30yds with the Domes made me sit up and take notice, whilst around 3/4inch at 45yds hammered home the point - namely that this rifle can do the business with the right ammo.
So what we have here in the Diana Model 280, is a hard hitting, ultra sleek, super accurate sporter, that can definitely multi-task. Ladies and juniors will appreciate the dimensions, though the cocking/breech area may be a little challenging. As a lightweight hunting tool though, the 280 excels, and if the accuracy of my test rifle is anything to go by, HFT shoots are well within the remit too.
|Manufacturer||Mayer & Grammelspacher|
|Type||Break-barrel spring powered|
|Calibre||.177 on test, .22 available|
|Trigger||T06 2-Stage unit|
|Performance||Using RWS Superdome and using RWS Superfield pellets|
|Average Spread||12fps ; 16fps
|Average Energy||11.5ft/lbs; 10.9ft/lbs
|Options||280 Pro version (with barrel weight in place of sights)
|Contact||RUAG Ammotec Tel. 01579 362319|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates