Part 1.- The guns
The modifications and operations performed in these tests, and described in this article, were safe for the gun in question. No warranty is given nor implied that these modifications will work or are even safe in other guns of the same style, marketed under different brands.
Working with High Pressure Air has its own risks. If the reader is not fully cognizant and familiar with these, he/she should have the work performed by an established and reputable professional.
Thank you Esquire!
Anyway.- To say that this article was long overdue would be the understatement of the year, but truly, there had been no opportunity to do it.
Too many projects and not enough time.
So, when I received an EMail from Tobías Schmidt, Export Sales Manager for DIANA about wanting to shoot the Pyramyd Air Cup with a Stormrider, or two, I thought to myself: "NOW" LOL!
And so it was that we started bouncing ideas back and forth about the consistency of the powerplant, the possibilities of using it in one of the more common division/class in American FT, and it was clear that the challenge was there.
Basically, we had to put together two guns:
800 to 850 fps with a 10.X grs. pellet
Useful shot count of 35-40 shots (at LEAST HALF an FT Match that is usually between 50 and 70 shots).
Stable and capable from a bi-pod.
650 fps with a Kodiak/Baracuda Match pelllet
Useful shot count of at least 30 shots, even though the Gunslynger is a competition to 16 targets, at certain stages of the competition, you may be allowed some misses and still be in the competition, so we needed to allow for that,
Tobias is a left handed shooter, and he had NEVER shot FT before, so good thought had to be given to all aspects: from scope and bipod to folding stool and technique.
From previous tests and trials, we knew that the little carbine was more than capable of delivering UNIFORM and CONSISTENT shots, but we really did not want to risk Tobias' performance on an OEM barrel. And we didn't have too much time, besides, the idea was also to test an aftermarket "accessory" barrel that DIANA plans to manufacture for those that see or feel the need.
Specs for the barrel were drawn and sent to the barrel making facility, and the barrels arrived from Germany already mounted in the test specimens (untouched otherwise than the barrel change) for me to do the final work.
Probably some of you have already seen the excellent pictures posted by Stephen Archer in Hard Air Magazine
So I will not re-post them here. Suffice to say that the barrel is a dual diameter all steel barrel that is a "drop-in" into the Stormrider action.
The air-stripper, however is slightly different. That was made expressly for this exercise and it has a moveable element that allows the shooter to tune the harmonics of different pellets when shooting at different power levels.
That part may be offered in the future, and may be "one half" of a more complete solution that also incorporates the euphemistically called "Lead Dust Collection" function.
As is customary with our Stormriders, we left all the mechanisms alone and concentrated on two aspects:
a) Installing an Altaros regulator, which is a part that will soon be available under the DIANA brand
b) Optimizing the Transfer Port for the pellet and energy level we would be using in each rifle.
Additionally, we needed to change the action to a left hand bolt.
Most of you expect this article to be technical, and I will not disappoint you, at least on this first part.
Here are the specs:
Low pressure side of regulator set to 110 BAR's (remember our custom Stormriders have TWO pressure gauges, one for fill pressure, the other for regulator pressure).
Fill Pressure: 230 BAR's
Transfer port optimized to 2.6 mm's
40 shot JSB 10.3 gr.s Exact string yielded:
Max MV.- 830
min MV.- 819
Average MV.- 822
ES.- 11 fps
SD (sample).- 4
Total Energy delivered at Muzzle: 620 ft-lbs
Low pressure side of regulator set to 150 BAR's
Fill Pressure 250 BAR's (this created some problems we will be discussing later)
Transfer port optimized to 2.7 mm's
40 shot JSB 15.9 grs, Jumbo string yielded:
Max MV.- 678 fps
min MV.- 660 fps
Average MV.- 669
ES.- 18 fps
SD (sample).- 6
Total Energy Delivered at Muzzle: 630 ft-lbs
It is worthy of note that our transfer ports have a very special geometry, you may want to start the process at 0.2 mm's below the numbers given and work from there, re-drilling the TP with numbered drills till you just reach the energy you wan to settle at.
Also note that the total energy delivered is pretty consistent with other experiments we have conducted with this platform:
Accuracy was quite good, this is the FT gun with some wind:
So, the conclusion of the first part of this entry is that the Stormrider is a very capable platform, stable and consistent.
When analyzed rationally, the truth is that the Stormrider is in a class of its own. Other rifles may offer more shots, or more power with a bigger shot count, but when you compare them side by side, the comparisons fade.
Weight, length, efficiency, ease of use (and this includes the DIANA Improved Trigger available in the 2nd and 3rd generation models), etc. most items will go to the Stormrider.
Moreover, when you are being efficient, the sound signature is reduced at the ORIGIN. There is no "spare air" to create noise. Moat of the energy in the air is being used to propel the pellet and guns are pretty quiet without the need for further devices.
Apart from the fact that these little carbines CAN reach the 20 ft-lbs region in real terms, they are the PCP equivalent of the much vaunted HW50 or even then HW30
AND they offer endless possibilities.
As we have always said about these carbines, the most fascinating of the characteristics is the potential they hold.
Perhaps some day in the future we will get into the really high power tunes possible with these little guns, but since those require a bit more than just regulation and optimization of transfer ports, we will need to put our thinking caps on.
Part 2.- Shooting the PAC
You need to start with the fact that it is one of the biggest.
If you need a picture, this is how 104 shooters at a Shooters Meeting look like:
For obvious reasons I was squadded the first day with Tobias.
We had a session of practice at home, where in less than 3 hours, he learned how to bracket, how to aim off for wind, and how to use his reticle for holdovers.
As many of you know, shooting a first FT event is, most of the times, a humbling experience.
It is not easy.
Scores in the single digits are common for first timers and I was somewhat wary of getting Tobias hopes too high.
Add to that the complexities of the shoot itself at Tusco that has some "peculiar marshalling" practices and you are in the region of high uncertainty.
As we started the FT course, he started connecting with paddles, targets started to fall, and it was clear that he was having a great performance (again, remember this was his first time and he had NEVER shot FT before).
And not only did he have a good first day, he improved substantially on the second day to close with a total of 53 points. 60% of the High Score in his Division/Class (88 points for Hunter PCP's 1st place Sean McDaniel).
So, I would say it was a successful shoot for the Stormriders.
Talking about the Gunslynger, the fill pressure selected for the 0.22" cal. gun proved a little too much for the check valve, and the gun developed a leak. Still, Tobias shot the Gunslynger with his FT gun and though he was setup on the first round against Greg Sauve (several times previous winner), he did manage to get quite a few silhouettes down in the short time that the Greg took to clean the field.
We're now in discussions with the maker to see what would be a truly sustainable fill pressure. We are confident that the air tube, valves and the rest of the mechanism are perfectly safe to much higher pressures, but the small items (like ORings) are what determine the reliability of the system, and we do want to keep that as high as possible.
As for me, personally, the PAC was somewhat a repeat of the one a year ago. This time my gun was still stuck in Poland, and I was shooting with a "Backup" gun put together with parts I had around that was showing some erratic behaviors. At the Nationals it was to completely fail and demonstrate why it is better to be a "one gun man". But that is another story.
To cut to the chase: I shot poorly in the FT section, trailing the leader by almost 10 points.
Not good. I need to step up the practice and get used to this gun, because I may never recover mine from the Polish black hole of regulations and crossed responsibilities.
Their dedication to the sport is remarkable and I do hope that we will keep on being good partners for many years to come.
As a final note to the Stormrider: We will conduct some tests comparing the OEM barrels to the DIANA barrels, and some serious thought and consideration will be given to either offer the DIANA barrel as an aftermarket part, or to have it included from the start in the gun.
Stay tuned, some pretty exciting things are yet to come.
Keep well and shoot straight!