Diana 54 AirKing Pro Air Rifle Review .177 Caliber
October 24, 2021
Supplied by Diana
Accurate with many pellets
Not completely recoilless
Loud with light pellets
VALUE FOR MONEY
At a Street Price of $740, the Diana 54 AirKing Pro is near the top end of the pack for a spring/piston air rifle. Also it’s far from a new design, the Model 54 has been around for many years.
But, as you’ll read, this remains an outstanding air rifle. It’s powerful, the test gun delivered great accuracy with a wide variety of pellets. And it looks beautiful!
If you can bear to do without the red/black laminated stock and will settle for plain beech, the Street Price falls to $660.
So yes – if you’re in the market for a springer – the Diana 54 AirKing Pro is great value for money!
BUY FROM AIRGUNS OF ARIZONA
BUY FROM PYRAMYD AIR
Diana 54 Airking Pro Air Rifle, Laminate 0.177
SPEED AND ACCURACY
The Diana 54 AirKing Pro tested by HAM proved to be both powerful and accurate.
Muzzle Velocity peaked at no less than 1269.01 FPS with the lightest GTO alloy pellets. Maximum velocity with lead pellets was achieved with the 7.0 Grain RWS Hobby pellets.
Underscoring the AirKing’s power, all of the standard HAM test pellets equaled or exceeded 1,000 FPS: the only exception being the heavy – 10.65 Grain – Baracuda Match pellets.
Such Muzzle Velocity numbers produce a high Muzzle Energy that’s around 19 Ft/Lbs for the majority of typical mid-weight lead pellets. This is very strong performance for any spring/piston air rifle in .177 caliber!
|Pellet||Average Muzzle Velocity||Average Muzzle Energy||Accuracy|
|Predator GTO 5.0 Grain||1269.01 FPS||19.67 Ft/Lbs||Very Good.|
|H&N Field Target Trophy Green 5.56 Grain||1240.47 FPS||19.31 Ft/Lbs||Very Good.|
|RWS Hobby 7.0 Grain||1084.38 FPS||18.28 Ft/Lbs||Very Good.|
|Crosman Premier HP 7.9 Grain||1038.53 FPS||18.92 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
|JSB Exact Diabalo 8.44 Grain||997.03 FPS||18.63 Ft/Lbs||Excellent. Best Tested.|
|H&N Field Target Trophy 8.64 Grain||1009.85 FPS||19.54 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
|H&N Baracuda Match 10.65 Grain||854.59 FPS||17.28 Ft/Lbs||Excellent.|
Equally impressive was the ability of the Diana 54 AirKing Pro tested by HAM to provide great accuracy with a wide variety of pellets. This is not a “pellet picky” air rifle. Overall, the best accuracy was achieved using 8.44 Grain JSB Exacts, although others were very close. At 25 Yards, HAM Tester Eric Brewer produced the following great 10-shot group at 25 Yards.
That’s great shooting by Eric and the JSB, Hawke and AirKing combination!
TRIGGER AND COCKING EFFORT
The Diana 54 AirKing Pro is fitted with a two-stage trigger. It’s Diana’s famous T06 unit.
To be clear, the HAM Testers – as always – shot the gun with the trigger as set by the manufacturer. We were happy with it. The pull weight average just 1 Lb 2.9 Oz on the test gun – extremely light for any springer – was consistent and had a clean break. However Eric Brewer – who has much experience with Diana 54s – felt that the sear release could be further improved with a very slight adjustment.
Talking of which…
The Instruction Manual supplied with the gun indicates that a 1.5 mm Allen (hex) wrench can be used to make adjustments to the first stage travel. Sear release and pull weight can be adjusted by similar means, too, it says. However, the gun tested by HAM had slot-head setscrews for all three adjustments. We removed the trigger guard to make this easier to see in the photograph below. Note that this is not a complaint – just an observation!
There’s an automatic safety positioned in traditional Diana style at the rear of the compression chamber. This is about as ambidextrous as you can get and is conveniently located for operation. (Although HAM Publisher Stephen Archer would always prefer a manual safety, its use does become intuitive after a few shots).
The rubber-capped, side-cocking lever is about 15.5 Inches long. It’s easy and comfortable to grasp. However the HAM testers felt that the cocking action – while not objectionable – could be smoother than it was.
As Eric Brewer commented in his test notes, maybe this is something that would become easier with extended use…
But one thing’s for sure. The Diana 54 AirKing Pro is a powerful air rifle. Even with the mechanical advantage built-in to the sidelever cocking mechanism, this is never going to be an airgun that’s light to cock.
Eric’s a pretty tough guy who’s used to shooting Diana sidelevers. But he admitted that the HAM testing session gave him a real workout!
COMPARISON TO MAKERS CLAIMS
Diana makes three primary specification claims for the AirKing Pro in .177 caliber. These are:
- a maximum of 975 FPS with lead pellets
- up to 17.8 Ft/Lbs of Muzzle Energy
- recoilless shooting
The Diana 54 AirKing Pro tested by HAM significantly improved on the first two of these claims when tested, with no sign of power-enhancing “Dieseling” as can often happen with springers when new.
We found RWS Hobby lead pellets shooting at an average of no less than 1084.38 FPS. That’s 100+ FPS above the spec.
The highest Muzzle Energy was delivered using H&N Field Target Trophy pellets. In this case, no less than 19.54 Ft/Lbs was achieved. Again that’s well above the manufacturer’s claim.
As for felt recoil, this was indeed much reduced compared to the similar but “solid” action of the Diana Model 48. However there was still some recoil transmitted to the shooter. It’s definitely more than would be felt by a PCP air rifle of similar power, for example.
The Diana 54 AirKing Pro tested by HAM displayed impressive consistency. In fact, this is probably the most consistent spring/piston air rifle we’ve ever tested!
The trigger pull weight varied imperceptibly from 1 Lb 2.3 Oz to 1 Lb 3.9 Oz. The average was 1 Lb 2.9 Oz, as measured using a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge. That’s perfect for all practical purposes.
As already noted, the Model 54 displayed impressive accuracy across a wide range of pellets. The Diana 54 AirKing Pro also provided the most consistent average Standard Deviation across the whole range of HAM test pellets that we have ever achieved with a spring/piston air rifle.
The Standard Deviation was just 6.33 FPS. That would be an excellent figure for even a top PCP. For a spring/piston air rifle, it’s simply outstanding!
As is the case with most spring/piston air rifles, the Diana 54 AirKing Pro is not fitted with a shroud or moderator. With mid-weight (~ 8 Grain) or heavier lead pellets, noise level was judged to be as expected. That’s fairly loud: marginally backyard-friendly if your neighbors are not too close.
Needless to say, the light alloy pellets caused the gun to sound like a .22 rimfire! Their very high Muzzle Velocities exceeded the Speed of Sound (approximately 1100 FPS) and therefore caused a loud sonic boom. You will not want to try this in your backyard with others around and no ear protection!
This is not a complaint about the AirKing Pro as such. However it’s typical of high-powered .177 caliber air rifles when used with light pellets – even if they are fitted with silencers.
As can be seen from this photograph of the alternative front sight and barrel weight supplied with the gun, neither has any pretensions for sound reduction. Even if they did, it wouldn’t calm the noise level produced with the alloys…
If backyard friendliness is an important issue for you, the .22 caliber model would be a better bet as that would remove the potential for the loud sonic boom when shooting lighter pellets.
SIGHTS AND SCOPE
For this review, the HAM Team installed a Hawke Airmax 30 WSF 4-16 x 50 riflescope. This was mounted onto the AirKing Pro using a solid pair of Hawke Match Ring Mounts.
The scope mounting rail on the Model 54 includes three holes for scope stop pin fitting. We were careful to correctly engage the stop pin in the rear ring and tightened the rings’ clamping screws well, too. The result was a very stable and consistent scope mounting, even though – in keeping with the “classic” nature of the gun, there’s no Picatinny mounting rail.
In spite of the Diana 54’s reputation for fierce action recoil, the scope stayed in position correctly for the whole review period (and more). The Hawke scope also showed no ill effects from the AirKing’s recoil.
Overall, this was a very successful pairing of scope and rifle – in the HAM Team’s opinion. At 13 3/4-Inches long, this scope was about the maximum length that will fit on the gun without interfering with access to the pellet-loading port.
However, if you want to go “old school”, the Diana 54 AirKing Pro is supplied with a set of traditional open sights. The rear sight has click-adjustable elevation and windage correction capability. The front sight provides additional elevation adjustment by including a dovetail-mounted front post that slides along an inclined ramp.
HAM Tester Eric Brewer mounted this front sight assembly for the HAM shooting tests, although Stephen Archer had been using the barrel weight. It’s good to have choices!
Are there fiber optic inserts on these sights? Definitely not! Traditionalists will be happy about this, too.
OK, so the Diana 54 AirKing Pro is heavy. With the Hawke scope mounted, the gun you see here weighs-in at no less than 12 Lbs 7 Oz. So this is an air rifle that requires a strong – and probably also large – shooter. This is not one for kids!
However the weight balances well for off-hand shooting. In some ways the weight even makes the gun easier to shoot as the weight seemed to dampen natural operator wobbles – at least for Stephen Archer.
The 54’s recoil-absorbing sled action definitely works. Compared to the similar but “solid” action of Diana’s Model 48, HAM Tester Eric Brewer definitely felt a marked reduction in recoil. But the Diana 54 AirKing Pro tested by HAM did have some felt recoil. It still felt somewhat stout to the shooters!
As with the cocking action, Eric considered that this recoil was likely to subside as the action beds-in with further use.
The manufacturer does provide a single sling stud in the underside of the stock’s forend. This is to enable a bipod to be fitted for use in prone shooting. Admittedly the HAM Team did not try this – not having a suitable adapter – but we would still expect there to be some jump if the gun were to be fired in this fashion.
The fixed barrel, sidelever action of the Diana 54 AirKing Pro requires the shooter’s fingers to be inside the open, sliding breech to load pellets. This is just as it has always been with every sidelever springer!
Yes, the Model 54 is fitted with a mechanical anti-beartrap mechanism plus automatic cocking lever safety and that automatic trigger safety. However every knowledgeable airgunner ALWAYS loads these guns with his/her arm between the open cocking lever and the body of the gun. This is to provide additional protection should – by some unpredictable mischance – the action suddenly slam forward during loading.
Now the HAM Team has never heard of this happening with a Model 54. But if it did, the result would definitely be immensely painful and likely result in the loss of fingers!
So the Diana 54 AirKing Pro owner MUST learn to load this gun with care and with his/her arm in this “buffer position”. At first it can feel unnatural, but you’ll soon get used to it and do so. If you have any doubts, seek advice from the knowledgeable dealer you purchased the gun from.
APPEARANCE AND FINISH
This one’s easy! I’ve not met an airgunner yet who does not consider the red/black laminate stocked Diana 54 AirKing Pro to be anything less than gorgeous! It’s simply a beautiful design that’s really “made” by that outstanding stock…
The finish of all parts – metal, wood, rubber and plastic (the trigger guard and front sight housing) – is just about perfect. As you would expect from this German-made air rifle…
BUYING AND OWNING
The Diana 54 AirKing Pro is available from online airgun specialists such as Airguns of Arizona and Pyramyd Air. That’s how most people will buy it. As a specialist product, it’s not likely to be found in big box sporting goods stores.
There’s a 2-year warranty provided for the product. While this is better than the previous industry standard 1-year warranty, it’s rather un-competitive in the current environment. Of course, that’s immaterial if warranty coverage is not required…
As highlighted above, it’s important to ensure that – if you fit a scope – it’s not too long to restrict access to the loading port of the Diana 54 AirKing Pro.
And – above all – to be thoughtful and respectful when loading the gun.
The user manual provided with the product is well-illustrated and provides text in English, French, German and Spanish. Unfortunately it does not (yet) cover the installation and use of the adjustable barrel weight that is intended also for use as an aid to (even) better accuracy by reducing barrel harmonics when fired.
However Diana has confirmed to HAM that instructions will be included in future production of this model.
HAM hopes to explore this aspect of the AirKing Pro further in a forthcoming post…
This entire article including scoring, test targets etc is Copyright Hard Air Magazine and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the publisher.