The Diana Oktoberfest Gewehr and German Shooting Galleries

My acquaintance with air guns stretches deep into my childhood; though I was not allowed to own a BB gun (inset Christmas Story quote here) all of my friends did, and with woods flanking our suburban neighborhood on two sides and a swamp on the third many a happy hour was whiled away with various sorts of BB-guns and pellet rifles. Pellet rifles were reserved for hunting and Daisy BB guns for backyard plinking. One favorite backyard sport was to clip the stems of dandelions just below the flower from ten feet or so, and I got quite good at this.

Proper spring-piston break-barrels were not yet common in the US so the Crossman 760 Power Master was ubiquitous, but Benjamin multi-pump pneumatics were highly desirable and the Sheridan 5mm was the King of the Hill.

When I was stationed in Germany in the army I was introduced to the likes of Feinwerkebau and Diana top-breaks which were on another level entirely; single stroke top-breaks as or even more powerful than ten pumps on a Sheridan? Yes please!

I wound up buying a Webley hurricane air pistol with a scope in a German shop and introduced myself to a farmer near my post. I asked if he would mind if I shot rabbits along his hedgerows? Why no, he would not mind even a little! He encouraged me to do so and said I should bring any I shot back to the farmhouse. This was a sprawling, ancient brick structure with a thatched rood and the barn attached to one end as a wing of the home.

Two things: in rural Germany a ‘hedgerow’ was not a neatly trimmed line of bushes, it was a strip of forest about 50 feet wide. These divided the fields, providing a windbreak among other things. the second thing is that while it didn’t occur to me at the time what I was doing was illegal poaching. Oops.

So many a Saturday I got up early and trooped out to the farm and wandered the hedgerows shooting bunnies. This was valuable pest control for the farmer, whose name was Heinz. In the afternoon I would take the bunnies to the farmhouse and present them to him. His wife Burgette(?) would clean and dress them, then fry them up while Heinz and I drank beer and appfelcorn and conversed in a mix of bad German and bad English. Then his wife would serve us up fried rabbit and jaegersalat and I would return to my room at the Gasthaus to drop off the Webley, then either return to the post or meet my friends downstairs in the bar. Good times.

Volksfests were also a good time, and there were several locally throughout the year culminating in Oktoberfest which was amazing. Naturally we gravitated to the shooting galleries that were always a feature at these events, and the proprietors quickly came to know us on sight and in some cases by name. I was an experienced hunter and an Expert Marksman, and hitting the tiny moving steel targets from ten feet away was child’s play. My friends were also very good shots so we’d always depart with an armful of prizes to be distributed to random children or pretty frauleins and several bottles of the cheap sparkling wine that were the top prize.

On one occasion in Olsterholz-Scharmbeck, the village nearest the post we approached a familiar gallery and they were very busy. Spotting us the owner summoned us to the corner of the booth and slipped us a couple of bottles of wine, asking us to come back when he wasn’t busy so we could draw a crowd. We were happy to oblige and did so, quickly drawing in the desired crown. Smart man!

The rifles used at these booths were a bolt-action spring-air repeater that fired 4.4mm lead BBs, which would smash entirely flat against the steel targets and drop without really ricocheting. Useful in the confines of the gallery I’m sure! This morning I got to thinking about those times and all of the fun we had and as had occurred to me several times in the intervening decades I thought that I’d rather like to have one of those gallery rifles. But I have never seen one in the US and had no idea who made them. This made it rather difficult to track them down.

I posted about this on Facebook and my friend Lia came up with the answer- these were the Diana Model 30 Gallery Rifle. Further searches indicated that these were all but unobtainable in the US, though they were rather common in Europe. Then I discovered these guns had been reintroduced as the Oktoberfestgewerh. These are fortunately chambered for the common 4.5mm rather than the rare (in the US) 4.4mm lead BBs.

Owing to the omission of the internal shot counters these are a good bit less spendy than the old model; Pyramid Air has them for $169! I am so going to get one. Not right now; my business is still in the throes of the post-holiday winter slowdown. But soon.

With a muzzle velocity in the 350-400 fps. range this will make a fine backyard plinker and general garden gun. Not to mention sparking fond memories from the halcyon days of my largely misspent youth. Plus I think it would look awesome with a Mannlicher stock.

Something to look forward to anyway.

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 4 February 2024

The Modern Pistol- What Does That Even Mean?

The Glock 17 is entering it’s fourth decade, but it remains a modern pistol. Indeed, it established the template for the modern-standard pistol; polymer frame, striker-fired, passive safeties only. The bulk of new pistols being introduced and carried are of this pattern, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Glock 17 is perhaps the finest basic-issue service pistol made to date.

Yet new models and variants of ‘legacy’ pistol designs continue to be introduced, and new variations on those themes like the 2011 remain popular. In the face of ‘Glock Perfection’ why is this so?

It has something to do with Glock; it’s the forefather of the modern defensive pistol but that’s not what it was made for; it was designed as a military service pistol. That has a lot of ramifications for it’s design philosophy. Let’s talk for a moment about Military Service Pistols (MSPs.) We’re not going to delve into their function as a badge of rank or their role in special operations and applications, but rather their role among the rank and file.

The first and foremost thing about an MSP is that it is literally the least important weapon in a military organization’s arsenal. It will have zero influence on the outcome of a conflict and may never even be used. You have MSPs because it’s better than not having them; there are persons that could potentially find themselves in harm’s way even though their job does not involve combat. Such people are almost certainly screwed, but a pistol is at least arguably better than nothing. On rare occasions in warfare they have made a difference in individual survival but even those instances are very rare indeed.

This means you aren’t going to invest a lot of time training people to use them. You train them enough to decrease the likelihood that they will shoot themselves or others unintentionally and can be reasonably expected to hit a target. You want the pistol to be reliable of course; it’s unlikely to be needed and probably won’t help if it is needed but you do want t to work. Since personnel will have minimal training it also needs to be as fool-proof as possible. This is a monumental task because fools are so damn clever.

If at all possible it should be lightweight. Modern soldiers have to hump enough crap around already, and support personnel don’t need it getting in the way. IOW it needs to pose as little inconvenience as possible in terms of training, manual of arms and weight. If it’s too heavy and gets in the way soldiers won’t carry it if you don’t force them to.

Most military forces carry pistols in a protective holster and policy is not to chamber a round until you need to. Of course soldiers will disregard this in combat, so it needs to be safe when carried in its issued holster with a round chambered.

The Glock 17 was masterfully designed to meet the requirements of an MSP. The trigger is mechanically safe and with even modest training it’s unlikely to be pulled by accident. Insert magazine, rack the slide and it’s ready to go. No safeties to disengage, no extraneous features or controls. In operation only a revolver is arguably simpler. It is, as an MSP needs to be, an ‘Any Idiot’ weapon. It is deliberately, consciously and very thoughtfully designed to be the Lowest Common Denominator. This is not to say it isn’t a good pistol; it’s an excellent pistol and superbly suited to its role.

Naturally as the Military goes, so go the police. Their needs are broadly similar and by and large a good military pistol will be a good police pistol for many of the same reasons. Police get more training and are more likely to employ their pistol in the line of duty, but even so it’s still a matter of the lowest common denominator. And as the Police go so go civilians.

I mean, if the professionals use them they must be the best, right? Well, yes and at the same time very much no. An MSP represents the best compromise the military could find between cost, being functional and being idiot-proof. It is very much not the best possible civilian arm. This is why there is an absolutely huge aftermarket for the Glock and its ilk. The first thing a lot of people do when they get one is to start modifying it. Improved trigger, improved texture on the grips, better sights. The lowest-common-denominator is probably fine, but civilians want better than ‘fine.’

This is where other sorts of guns and updated legacy designs come in. A civilian might be uneasy with the point-and-click nature of a Glock. A safety or a double-action trigger might be more comfortable for them. They might want performance that is difficult to wring out of a MSP. The 2011-pattern isn’t popular because ‘Two World Wars!’ It is popular because it has excellent ergonomics, a vastly better trigger and for putting precise hits on target it’s ‘Cheat Mode.’ This can be very appealing to civilians, for whom the pistol represents not merely a Last Act Of Defiance or a working tool; it is a comfort and potentially a lifeline in a chaotic and uncertain world. That’s before we even address the issues of recreational use and intangibles like pride of ownership and personalization.

Is a 2011 a ‘Modern Gun’ despite being based on a 120 year-old design? I would argue that it is.

Yes, such pistols require more training than an MSP but that’s fine. Much of that training can be done ‘dry’ and costs nothing. It’s also fun to shoot a pistol, work on your skills and personalize a firearm. Much as we might want to pretend we’re focused Urban Operators there is a very large element of hobby interest in our guns. There is nothing wrong with that.

To use a car analogy most of us can adequately serve our needs with a very basic vehicle. Maybe a base-model Toyota Corolla will adequately serve your day-to-day needs, but if you are inexplicably drafted into running it in an autocross it would not be anyone’s preferred tool and you are not likely to win. A base-model Corolla is a fine car but it must be said, it’s not fun.

Modern ‘clones’ of the Glock offer better triggers, improved ergonomics and a feature-set that better matches modern perceptions of what is needed in a civilian pistol. Looks cooler too.

I don’t like the word ‘obsolete’ in this context. A gun that varies from the modern norm is not necessarily obsolete as such, even if the design is old. With their dominance in high-performance competition and increasing use by police and special service operators can we really call a 2011 obsolete? Sure we can. People say stupid things all of the time.

The CZ P-01 is a NATO certified service pistol. Old-Fashioned? Not a ‘modern pistol?’ It’s almost two decades newer than the Glock 17, and even the pistol it’s based on is only 5-6 years newer than the Glock.

Likewise the venerable Beretta Model 92 platform. Modern iterations of the gun offer performance that can be far superior to an unmodified ‘modern’ pistol while maintaining acceptable reliability. Many of the features of legacy designs lend themselves to superior performance in real world uses, not just in direst extreme but also in the more common, more likely uses as a competition or range pistol.

So, want to tell me you are thoughtless and/or ignorant without saying so? Tell me that a pistol is ‘not modern’ or relevant because it isn’t a polymer-framed striker-fired pistol. I’ll get the message loud and clear.

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 23 January 2024

.22 CB Long- Quiet Pest Control and Plinking

.22 Rimfire was among the first mass-produced self-contained metallic cartridges and has been used in various incarnations for over 180 years. These days the most common cartridge in use is .22 LR, but .22 Short is still readily available and .22 CB Short and Long are also still in production.

Standard .22 LR in various loads is used for everything from precision shooting to small game hunting to personal defense. But sometimes even the humble .22 LR is too much for some jobs and places. These little bullets can be lethal at greater distances than you might believe and can ricochet with dangerous effect. They are also loud and can be disturbing to nearby neighbors. This can be an instance where .22 CB, Short or Long, can be useful.

CB loads use a 29gr. bullet over a reduced powder charge; they do not have the power to cycle a semi-automatic pistol or rifle. They work fine in revolvers and single-shot pistols but can be rather loud. From a rifle with a 20-24″ barrel they are very quiet indeed; from my old Western Field bolt-action with a 24″ barrel it’s actually quieter than my spring-piston air rifle but delivers significantly more power. From the 20″ barrel of my Remington Model 4 it’s comparable to the air-gun.

I tested two types of CB Long ammo, but only the CCI is currently in production so the Remington is listed because I might as well; you might run across some just as I did. I fired 10 rounds of each type over my Caldwell chronograph.

Manual repeaters like bolt-actions or pump-actions like this Winchester Model 1906 can be ideal for dealing with yard and garden pests using wither shot shells of CB Long or Short ammunition.

The Remington claimed a 30gr. Bullet at 720 fps. The actual results from the 24″ barrel:

623 fps.- 26 ft./lbs. with an Extreme Spread of 112 fps.

The current-production CCI lists a 29 gr. bullet at 710 fps. and fared a bit better from the 24″ barrel:

730 fps.- 35 ft./lbs. with an Extreme Spread of 49 fps.

That’s pretty modest, but don’t be fooled. These aren’t toys and can produce serious, even lethal injuries though they are dramatically less likely to do so than standard .22 LR loads, or to ricochet with lethal results. You still need to be careful and maintain the rules of firearms safety and safe handling standards. They are a great deal less dangerous when employed against vermin or for casual backyard plinking but never forget that they cannot be taken lightly.

They are pretty ideal for use in a ‘garden gun,’ they are quiet but adequately powerful to deal with pests but with a reduced danger of unintentional damage or injury

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 27 December 2023