What’s The Best $400 Break Barrel Air Rifle?
With the recent launch of the new Diana 34 EMS, this is a good time to answer the question “What’s the best $400 break barrel air rifle in the market today?”
Using HAM’s structured, consistent test review methodology, we can take three of the top choices for a breakbarrel and compare how they performed on test. They are as follows (in alphabetical order):
- Beeman R9 – $400 with wood stock. HAM Gold Award, score 90%.
- Diana 34 EMS – $380 with wood stock. HAM Gold Award, score 91%.
- SIG SAUER ASP20 – $430 with wood stock. HAM Gold Award, score 89%.
Each is available in .177 caliber and .22 cal. Additionally, the Beeman can be had in .20 caliber to special order. Both the SIG and the Diana are available with synthetic stocks at slightly lower prices. The SIG is made in the USA, the Diana and Beeman are German-made. The Beeman is actually manufactured by Weihrauch under a long-standing agreement.
Below. The SIG has the most radical appearance.
All three air rifles have been reviewed by HAM in .177 caliber with wood stocks. As we can see, they’re all HAM Gold Award winners and have just about the same review scores. The prices are very similar. So which is “the best $400 break barrel air rifle” really is going to depend on what YOU want from a new springer.
BUY FROM AIRGUN DEPOT
Diana 34 EMS .177 Cal Wood
BUY FROM PYRAMYD AIR
Beeman R9 Air Rifle 0.177
BUY FROM AIRGUN DEPOT
SIG Sauer ASP20, Beech
Let’s look at some of the ways you can make your choice…
SPEED AND POWER.
This is where most shooters focus first. How fast does it shoot?
Below. The Beeman has traditional, classic, yet stylish lines.
Here, honors are with the ASP20. Shooting 8.64 Grain H&N Field Target Trophy pellets, the HAM test gun registered a Muzzle Velocity of 1,035 FPS. That makes a Muzzle Energy of 20.59 Ft/Lbs.
That’s very strong for a breakbarrel air rifle. That 1,000+ FPS actually might be too fast for some shooters’ preferences. But it does give the best power for hunting use. (Other testing indicates that the .22 cal version is even stronger).
The Diana makes second place in this group with 893 FPS from the same Field Target Trophy pellets. That’s 15.30 Ft/Lbs of Muzzle Energy.
Third here is the Beeman with 857 FPs, 14.09 Ft/Lbs.
So, while all these guns deliver good speed and power, the ASP20 will be the hunter’s best $400 break barrel air rifle. Target shooters and plinkers may prefer the slower speeds of the 34EMS and R9, however.
Here’s another big one!
HAM testing found that all three can give great accuracy. Of course, ANY break barrel air rifle requires consistency, experience and skill to deliver its best results.
Below. We found the Beeman R9 very accurate with a wide variety of pellets.
However, the HAM tests show that the Beeman was generally the most accurate in HAM testing. It was also more accurate with the widest variety of our standard test pellets. Second was the Diana and then the SIG.
The Beeman performed best with H&N Field Target Trophy pellets. heavy 10.34 Grain H&N Baracuda Match pellets were the preference of the Diana, while the SIG preferred JSB Exact 8.44 Grain fodder.
This “slower is more accurate than faster” result mirrors that of the extensive HAM analysis of Muzzle Velocity and accuracy for air rifles. So it’s not a complete surprise.
TRIGGER AND COCKING.
Here’s another key decision point for making your choice of the best $400 break barrel air rifle! Again things are very close. By breakbarrel standards, all these guns cock with a relatively low amount of effort.
Below. Cocking the ASP20.
In HAM testing, the Diana 34 EMS required the lowest cocking force with a requirement of 30 Lbs. The ASP20 required a little more – 32 Lbs. The Beeman took 35 Lbs. All cocked smoothly and easily.
They also all have great triggers…
The lowest average trigger pull weight was recorded by the Diana with just 1 Lb 2 Oz. That’s a remarkably light trigger pull for any breakbarrel air rifle. The SIG weighed-in with a pull weight of 2 Lbs 1 Oz, while the Beeman required an average of 2Lb 12 Oz.
Note that these trigger pull weights are all as received “straight out of the box”. All have adjustable triggers and so the user could make changes as required. SIG provides the security of limits to trigger adjustment – you can’t go wrong with this one. However the Diana and Beeman triggers require more attention in adjustment to keep them operating safely.
Of course, that elusive quality of “feel” is a key ingredient to any trigger. Here Weihrauch’s outstanding Rekord trigger fitted to the R9 is likely to be most shooters’ first choice. The T06 Diana trigger would be second.
Below. The HAM Team loves the Rekord trigger of the R9.
There’s nothing wrong with the SIG trigger, however the profile of the trigger blade and general “feel” requires some accommodation for many shooters.
The two German-manufactured guns have automatic safeties. The SIG is alone in this comparison in having a manual safety.
Weight is a two-edged sword for break barrel air rifles. More makes the gun heavier to carry and hold. But it can also absorb recoil, improving accuracy if the shooter is strong enough to hold it steadily.
Below, the SIG is the heaviest of the group.
In this company, the ASP20 is the heaviest. The “bare” gun – without scope – weighs-in at around 8 Lbs 8 Oz. Wood – being a natural product – will cause the exact weight of any of these guns to vary slightly between individual examples.
The Diana weighs 7 Lbs 6 Oz and the R9 come-in at just about an ounce less.
The additional weight of the SIG is roughly compatible to it’s power increase over the other two guns. So, again, it’s not a surprising result.
If you want open sights fitted to the gun, the Diana is the clear favorite. It has a variety of interchangeable “iron sights”. The Beeman has conventional, windage- and elevation-adjustable open sights. However the SIG has none: it’s a scope or nothing!
Although all our selections for best $400 break barrel air rifle are quality products from manufacturers with a reputation for quality, warranty coverage is often an important decision factor. Here the Beeman scores with its “limited lifetime” warranty. SIG provides 5-years of coverage. Diana trails with just 2 years warranty.
All of these models rated very similarly in HAM’s subjective testing of sound levels. The SIG is fitted with a built-in silencer, while the others are not. However the Diana has a threaded muzzle, making it possible to add a silencer where and if legal. If “backyard friendly” shooting is your priority, that may well give the nod to the 34 EMS.
Below. The Diana combines classic looks with uncommon versatility.
Diana also scores with it’s unprecedented versatility. In addition to the open sight choices, it also offers interchangeable barrels and the choice of an easy upgrade from spring/piston to gas ram operation. It’s good to have choices and Diana gives you more of these than any other breakbarrel air rifle in the market today.
Finally there’s looks and “feel”. If you like traditional styling it’s a clear choice between the Beeman and Diana. The Beeman has extensive checkering on the stock, there’s none on the Diana. That may make the difference!
The SIG if for those who prefer a more contemporary look – although the 34 EMS can be had with a radically-different black synthetic stock.
As for “feel”, handling, balance – overall “shootability”, that’s a very tough call. The HAM Team rated the Beeman and Diana equal – slightly ahead of the SIG. But it’s close. If you’re lucky enough to handle each gun before buying, it may come down to your own preferences based on arm length and balance point…
It’s your choice! All of these are excellent quality products from reputable manufacturers. The best $400 break barrel air rifle is the one YOU prefer from this selection.
Have fun choosing!