Dickens opened his "Tale of two Cities" with these phrases to illustrate how close the extremes can be.
Black and White, Light and Darkness, Love and Hate, extremes that sometimes meet..
Irony in its purest form, but also a basic fact of life
I have written my side of the story exactly as I recollect it, and respect that the other side recollected something slightly different.
That's life, we're all different, we share some things, we even may "commune" in some selected areas of the human existence, but we are never the same.
And that is good, that is well. RESPECT for the "otherness" of the other is what is needed in this world.
Luckily, we, airgunners, have a bit more of that respect than other "strains" of humans.
Possibly it is the fact that the REAL adversary is the environment. We do not look to overpower the wind with huge MV's and BC's greater than 1, we strive to KNOW our gun and pellet, and to "be one" with the conditions.
I find in that a very "Zen" attitude, worthy of any Kyūdō archer.
Having said that, I am pleased to include here the text by Tim Higgins, a very special friend that understands the harsh realities of being "slightly" different than the rest of the world. With utmost respect, I yield the floor to "Higgy"
In 1980, I was 13 years old and had the great fortune of being introduced to the world of fine German air rifles. It was a Feinwerkbau 124, purchased new by my brother in-law which sunk her claws into me, and I would never think about pellet rifles in the same light again. A new appreciation was born, and I had an immediate love for the finery of spring guns. Like most young and impetuous boys, I had more energy than money and I certainly lacked the means necessary to fund my own quality air rifle.
I would have to be content shooting the 124 when I was lucky enough to have the chance and trust me when I say it was never enough.
I remember marveling at the deluxe stock with raised Monte Carlo cheek piece and wondering about how much better I could shoot if I could just take advantage of that technology. If only that wooden pillow thing were on the other side of the stock, surely, I could outshoot my brother in-law, and everyone else for that matter.
It's funny what you think in your adolescence, and funny how you remember it. It did make an impression on me. The rifle was clearly made for someone that shoots differently than I did, and though I tried shooting right-handed it felt like wearing a left footed shoe on my right hand and I hated it. Though the presence and placement of the cheek piece on the 124 was probably insignificant to my accuracy, it would be a recurring theme in my equipment choices for the next 40 years.
I'd rather under promise and over deliver than the other way around.
How's that for a play on words?
With the nagging want of a 75 so strong and the scarcity of a left-handed version so prevalent, there was only one thing to do. Spend way too much money on a right-handed, non-functioning, missing parts, walnut model 75 HV in dire need of refinishing! Seems like the logical next step does it not!? Well, to me it did. I purchased a 75 HV, on an internet auction site, with the faint hope that perhaps a breach seal was all it needed, and I would be ready for Olympic training.
Okay, maybe not the Olympics but certainly my basement ten-meter range and to impress the boys in the Stray Pellets group. It was immediately clear that a simple repair was not going to revive this work of art and though I've tinkered and toiled with many a springer, and airguns in general, I was not equipped or knowledgeable enough to dismantle and rebuild the Giss system of the D75. Thankfully, I know a few people who are.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that my plan was to refinish the stock, pay whatever I have to for a diopter set, front sight insert, and send the rifle to Airgunwerks for a total rebuild!
After all, I’m in this deep so why not keep digging...
In all fairness, after handling the HV for a while, there was no second guessing that the rifle deserved every bit of time and effort about to go into this restoration, all the while knowing I was working on a rifle that would never fit me well. Like the legendary Pygmalion, the project became much more about THE rifle rather than MY rifle and I would be happy to own such a work of art regardless of its dexterous affiliation.
As always, when you throw enough time and money at a job it gets completed. The 75 was rebuilt, refinished, missing parts were replaced, and it shot like a dream, especially for a right handed shooter... Yes, you guessed it, I now wanted a left-handed 75 more than ever. I had tasted the fruit and it was sweet! Just imagine if I had the advantages of that wooden pillow thing but on the other side of the stock, I could surely out-shoot my brother in-law and everybody else for that matter!
Some things never change...
Upon completion of this restoration, I found myself staring at my 75 more than shooting it. So much so that I made a remark in a forum post about just how purposely handed the Diana 75 really is. With its beautifully sculpted trigger hand grip with palm swell, and a butt pad that provides what I would call cast on or cast off depending on if it is a left or right-handed rifle. I mentioned that I may even sell my 75 to pursue, yet again, a left-hand version. Enter our humble host, Hector.
Mr. Medina sent me a message about an excellent left-handed rifle his lefty shooting wife used and the prospects of a possible trade for my 75HV. I was quite familiar with the rifle and though it is an outstanding Steyr ten-meter beauty, it would be a bit redundant in my collection and Man!... I really just wanted a left-handed 75.
Hector’s world travels and Diana/Germany connections were not lost on me and gave me an idea. I inquired about the possibility of Hector acquiring a left-handed stock from Germany and I would buy it or trade it for my right-handed stock. Well, Hector is a man of action more so than of words and the next message I receive from him is that he is pursuing the purchase of a true left-handed 75 in good working order from a seller in Germany! The following message I receive is that Hector, with the help of his friends in Germany, had purchased and picked up the rifle, verified its proper function, and shipped it to CCA! Hector and I made a mutual and gentlemanly agreement and both rifles found new homes. Hector went well out of his way to acquire a model 75 in full left-hand action and stock and he now owns my right-handed model 75 HV. I could not be more pleased with the outcome and now I find myself not only staring at this beautiful work of art but shooting it too.
Pygmalion now had a Galatea!
It is true that patience is a virtue, but it takes many good and moral qualities to be virtuous. Compassion, generosity, integrity, fairness, and prudence are all examples of virtues. I experienced all these qualities in just one transaction with Hector and to say that I am grateful to him is an understatement. Hector achieved in four weeks what I had been trying to do for four years.
The airgun community is full of great people, great equipment, and great times. I suggest you avail yourself of all three. And for goodness sake, talk to people in the airgun community. Years of searching did not find my favorite rifle, but a few friendly conversations did.
With appreciation, and kind regards,
Being married to a left-handed shooter, and playing golf left-handed myself, I can understand the "Angst" of being left handed and having to shoot a right handed gun.
Now, most left-handed persons have become so inured to the fact that the world is right-handed that they don't grieve too much.
When looking for the first rifle to give to my, then, girlfriend. I came across the HW95, that for some strange reason had the safety button on the "correct" (to consciously avoid the term "right") side for left-handed shooters.
The stock was reasonably ambidextrous and her "engagement rifle" (as she calls it) was a success. Furthermore, I created a monster because she was the one that would insist we go out pesting for grackles over the weekends, LOL!
When we started shooting FT competitively, and after she changed over to a DIANA 54, she beat the heck out of me more than a few times.
Then she decided to be a mother and shooting was over for a time. Hopefully, it is one of those things we can do later as a family, when the kids get to be at least 7 and 6. BTW, Sofia, my little one shows some signs of being left-handed prone already. No worries, Daddy understands.
All this to tell you how "attuned" I am to the plight of the left-handed shooter.
I know that not all manufacturers are so attuned. Many offer rifles ONLY for the right-handed shooter, and some stocks are so aggresively right-handed as to make them unusable for the lefties (just look at a Weatherby stock of the 70's with "Roll-over MonteCarlo" and you will see what I mean.
One NOTABLE exception was the 60's DIANA branded Match rifles from Mayer & Grammelspacher.
The 60 has no barrel latch, so it is easier to shoot fluidly, but I prefer to have the barrel latch.
Then came the 65, the last of the "sporter stocks" in Match rifles. This one was sort of a "metisse" in the sense that though Right-Handed guns HAD a right-handed "Wundhammer" swell, Left-Handed stocks could be had (as above), and if that was an expense the shooter didn’t want to go to, the stock was still VERY left handed friendly.
It is still my favourite "Match gun", even over my Steyrs.
Then came the 66, and that was an all-out Match gun with angular "Teutonic" stock, it was still a break barrel and so, the obtainability of left-handed stocks cured the problem for the lefties.
The wide distribution and acceptance of the Olympic Match airgun brought forth the 75. A sidelever with the "Giss" action, like its predecessors, but this time, the lever itself defined the "handedness" of the rifle.
But, back to airguns. The 75 NEEDED a "mirror image" rifle to allow proper, ergonomic, operation by left handers.
Let's face it: Olympic Match is not about marksmanship; it is about ergonomics. How the gun fits the shooter is more important than how the gun shoots (within limits, of course).
Yes, it has to shoot within a specific range of precision and accuracy (2 mm’s deviation in any direction is max allowable deviation), but modern ammunition and modern barrels actually make it pretty easy to achieve "Match" quality performance from many platforms; in a vise.
Put a badly designed rifle in a top shooter's hands and it will not be "Golden" material.
Put an excellently designed rifle, even if it just barely meets the "Olympic Match" criteria, and you have a rifle that will win gold medal after gold medal.
And so, the 75 "LinksSystem" was born. An EXACT mirror image of the right-handed gun. Yes, most parts interchange and are common to both versions, but there is a fair amount of parts that are EXCLUSIVE to either handed version.
If you consider how expensive this is for everyone, including the manufacturer, you realize that it is an EXCEPTION to the rule.
Fairly recently, Steyr was the first to recognize that and start producing actions that can be converted to right or left-handed versions of themselves. In the past, actions have been either right or left-handed.
A few Emails later and the first left-handed rifle actions in MANY years came into being, that followed by the truly ambidextrous synthetic stock created the first true opportunity for left-handed shooters to shoot in comfort form their "strong side".
From experience I know the disappointment that comes to the left-handed shooter when he/she shoulders for the first time a "wrong-handed" stock/action.
It is the moment of hope and the moment of disillusion, the moment of light and the moment of darkness, the moment of reason and the moment of terror.
So, when a well esteemed member of the "German Gate" forum decided to mention that he was willing to let go his right handed DIANA 75 RH version because he could not shoot it as well as he thought he should be able, I decided to try to alleviate his situation.
We exchanged a few EMails; the first option offered was to exchange his DIANA 75 HV for a left-handed Steyr CO2 Match rifle in pristine condition, but he is a spring-piston shooter through and through and he denied. Second attempt was to try to obtain a truly left-handed version of the DIANA 75 for him, we could then exchange guns and, if both of us were happy, we would reach an agreement.
As luck goes ('Synchronicity' a well know writer would call it), a left-handed version popped up for sale in Germany from a very special source.
North Germany, even, and it was for sale ONLY on a personal pick-up basis.
In normal conditions, that would have been an impossible target to shoot at BUT, "I knew a guy", LOL!
On an established line of credit DIANA airguns itself took interest in the operation and set a young aide to conduct it. An offer was made on the auction site with a generous limit set.
We won the auction and the young aide picked up the gun in person. I am told that the owner was marveled at the fact that the original manufacturer had taken an interest in “his” gun and lamented that he had not contacted the company first, as the gun had some historical significance (more on that later).
In any event, the owner was happy that the gun was sufficiently appreciated to be destined to be exported to a foreign country where an article would be written about it. And he congratulated himself on taking care of a gun that, for all intent and purposes, had been declared "surplus".
So, here it is, in your honor and with our thanks, Herr Kaufmann (not the real name but in German Kaufmann means "trader/merchant"). Your gun has found a new home in "Amerika" where it will be well taken care of, shot often, loved much, and displayed as one of the pinnacles of spring-piston airgun manufacturing.
After all the appropriate paperwork was filled and permissions obtained for the export/transport, the gun started its trip.
And then it arrived in the US.
As I notified Mr. Higgins, I could feel that he was indeed pleased with the opportunity.
Because he had to travel, he sent his RH versions straight-away, and so, I took advantage of having BOTH guns and proceeded to take a suite of pictures, which have been interspersed throughout this article.
As you can see, it is TRULY a mirror image.
If you note in the pictures, though the stock on the LH version is not the "commercial" stock, being somewhat austere, it is fully functional and has all the adjustments needed, just not as pretty.
And then there are these "BKA" markings and number, ¿What do they mean?
Well, here is the kicker:
The Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) is the German Federal Criminal Police, something closely related in function and authority to our own FBI.
¿How would you feel if you found an airgun with "FBI" markings?
I am sure that there is no better home in this world for this specific gun than Mr. Higgins' home. His work in the RH 75 HV stock is absolutely flawless and I am very happy to have played a small part in the history of this gun.
Like Old Soldiers, glorious guns never die ... and with the participation of good airgunners, hopefully they will never fade away either.
There will be more chapters in this gun's story in the future thanks to the loving passion of a few good men, who established a chain of brotherhood across languages, continents, oceans, and years.
And THAT is part of the magic of airguns.
Keep well and shoot straight!