Diana Panther 31 Professional Compact
Will Mark Camoccio need to tame the Diana Panther 31 Professional?
Diana airguns have been a household name for years, and with their German heritage it comes as no surprise that they hold something of a reputation for both engineering integrity and reliability.
The range really has diversified over the years, and with the current line-up now including some bolder additions alongside more established favourites, this illustrious company is clearly looking to the future.
My test rifle (or more accurately ‘carbine’) on show here is the Diana Panther 31 Professional Compact. Rather a mouthful admittedly, but the number of model options available is partly to blame. A standard Panther Model 31 exists which comes fitted with open sights, but for the Professional version, the sights are dropped, and a chunky barrel weight is fitted in their place.
The Model 31 Panther takes the form of a conventional break barrel, spring/piston action, fitted within a black composite stock. The ‘Professional’ variants come in two barrel lengths, with my example, the ‘Compact’ sporting a 15.6inch carbine barrel; whilst a 19.5inch full length rifle option is also available.
What makes this carbine really stand out is the intriguingly different balance and weight distribution. That large tube on the front may look like a silencer, but is in fact a chunky barrel weight that covers the actual barrel to within half an inch of the tip, once it’s slid into position. Significant weight then lies at the muzzle, and with the rest of the action of a solid construction, the resultant centre of balance registers at the front tip of the fore-end chequering. That’s around eight inches further forward than accepted wisdom dictates, but I for one found the rifle just wanted to sit on the target as a result.
A straw poll at my club revealed rather more mixed reaction to the handling characteristics, so personal taste and preferences will clearly play a part in this model’s fortunes.
The barrel weight is removed via two grub screws that simply grip the barrel. I couldn’t wait to remove it, expecting the carbine to feel significantly lighter and lose that strangely dense feel. However, significant weight remains, with the composite stock itself adding its fair share, and solid over-engineered components clearly doing the rest.
That stock, whilst being composite, is actually very slickly presented, with exceptionally sharp chequering included in the moulding. Near parallel edges form a subtle taper to the forend, to give an extremely sleek purposeful profile.
Lack of a raised cheek-piece is a curious omission, however, whilst the solid rubber butt pad is functional rather than comforting.
All the metalwork on this rifle is treated to a pleasant matt finish, which obviously makes sense in any hunting scenario - apparently achieved by blasting with glass beads, according to Diana’s marketing blurb.
A bolt-on scope mounting rail is fitted (similar in style to BSA’s Maxigrip system), which guarantees positive dovetails equal to the task of securing a scope mount.
Cat on the range
Trigger wise, Diana’s reputation gets called into question, with the inclusion of a plastic blade disappointing to say the least. With some give in the blade itself, and a small amount of creep, the unit is never going to be super crisp, yet in use, it’s still better than many and passable given the reasonable breaking pressure. Plastic blades are fine on an ultra-light match unit fitted to a pneumatic, but the sheer poundage to hold back (inherent in the spring-piston system) dictates a more robust set-up.
An Achilles heal of any break-barrel system can often lie in the integrity of the breech lock-up, but here Diana show their aces, with a solid design that takes some breaking open for a start! I found I had to jolt the rifle open over the knee, and its areas such as this that make the Professional an adults’ rifle from the outset.
Cocking effort in itself was fairly easy, yet the power of this test rifle was a tad lower than expected, with RWS’ own Superfield pellets and JSB (Daystate FT) returning 10.3ft/lbs and 9.6ft/lbs respectively. This will inevitably creep up as the action beds in with use. Consistency was fractionally better with the more snug fitting Daystate pellets - a fact ignored by the barrel once the accuracy tests began. Over 30yds, half inch groups were possible with Superfield; just shading the Daystate FT’s.
On firing, the action did feel rather harsh, although the mainspring appeared to be running dry on inspection through the cocking slot, so a correct lubrication regime might improve things somewhat.
One point of interest was that changes in shooting position seemed to affect the point of impact (POI) quite markedly. For example, with the rifle zeroed from the over-arm FT position, then shot from a kneeling position at 30yds, the POI (point of impact) would alter by over 1inch. This is a characteristic that affects all spring powered rifles to a greater or lesser degree, and with the level of change in the POI dependent upon several factors, such as barrel length, recoil etc., it’s certainly something to bear in mind.
In short, the Panther Professional has a rugged and durable, workhorse feel about it, and with Diana’s reputation, it certainly comes from pedigree stock. But whether that’s enough in todays competitive market remains to be seen.
Bear in mind the effort to break the barrel, and that rather unorthodox weight distribution, and this is definitely a case of try before you buy!
|Model||Panther 31 Professional Compact|
|Manufacturer||Diana (Mayer and Grammelspacher)|
|Country of Origin||Germany|
|Type||Break barrel sporter|
|Calibre||.177 on test (.22 available)|
|Velocity||RWS Superfield pellets/Daystate FT pellets
High 754fps/High 720fps
Low 720fps/Low 699fps
Ave 740fps/Ave 715fps
Vari 34fps over 10shot string/ Vari 21fps
|Options||Longer rifle version (with 19.5inch barrel)|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates