Saturday, 17 March 2012


I took a couple of diver's scuba tanks - which  I use for filling my precharged pneumatic air rifles - into the dive centre this morning... and found out something that I never knew. 

One needed to be sent away for a full hydrostatic test; the other was still 'in date' and could be filled there and then. As many PCP owners will know, if you fill up from an air bottle, for that scuba tank to be itself filled with breathing air by a diving centre, it must be 'in test'. 

But this is where things get complicated. Surface-use-only valves only need to be tested every five years (a full, hydrostatic test). Those bottle with valves which could be used underwater for diving - regardless of whether they are or not - need to be tested every two-and-a-half years. The tests alternate between a visual and a hydrostatic test.

How to tell which type of valve you have? Well, if your tank has a gauge pre-fitted to the valve - like this slow-flow 'Jubilee' valve from MDE (below) - it's 'surface-use-only and requires a full hydrostatic test every five years. 
Surface-use-only valve (it's got an integral gauge)

However, if it has not got an integral gauge fitted, like the one below, then even if you tell the diving centre that you've never taken it underwater, they will still treat it as a below-surface valve and, as such, the bottle to which it's attached will need to be tested every two-and-a-half years - visual, hydro, visual, hydro... and so on.
Below-surface valve (no integral gauge)
But here's the thing I learned from my dive centre this morning. If you have a bottle with a below-surface valve, make sure you get it into the dive centre pretty close to its test date when it's due for the visual test - because if you leave it too long after, the dive centre will probably want to give it a full hydrostatic test. This, of course, costs around twice as much!

I learned the hard way. Although my bottle was technically due a two-and-a-half year visual, because I'd left it almost a year - as it was full at 'clockover' date, and because it's only my 3-litre 'emergency' bottle which I rarely use, I'd had no cause to take it in to the dive centre - I got thumped with a £42 bill instead of a £25 bill!

So... I just thought I'd pass this info on. Check your scuba bottle's test expiry date - either etched in the bottle, or on  a sticker - and don't leave it too long afterwards before you decide to take it to your dive centre for its scheduled test! 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Diana 280 - tune-up

The standard length Diana 280 - a rifle which responds well to a tune-up
While I tend to do the majority of my hunting with a PCP these days, I'm still very much a committed springer fan. One of the new rifles that's really tempted me into parting with my cash is the Diana Mod 280 break-barrel; it's very reminiscent of my old Feinwerkbau Sport, being lightweight, well balanced, sleek and with quite a snappy firing cycle. 

Actually, a little too 'snappy' in my favourite, shorter-barrelled 'K' configuration - which, I believe, is a UK-only model. Anyway, that's why I didn't succumb to adding one to my armoury.

Then I met up with keen airgunner, Tony Leach, at this year's British Shooting Show who'd just bought a UK-specced Diana 280K with the intention to tune it up. I know him to be pretty much a dab-hand at getting the best out of springers, so I asked him if he'd let me know how it turned out - which he's now done courtesy of his AirgunTech blog, here.

Having read it, I think I'm probably going to treat myself to a Diana 280 - the 'K', I reckon - and then give it to Tony to work his magic on. Just as I thought when I tested the original Mod. 280 (pictured), it's a lovely little air rifle with a massively huge potential if worked upon.  

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

BSA resumes spring gun production in Birmingham - UPDATE

BSA springers - UK production now not confirmed after all...

Well, BSA are certainly springing us some surprises. No sooner does Martin Lowe, MD of BSA Guns, ring me with the news of spring gun production resuming at their Birmingham factory... than he's replaced as MD by Simon Moore, BSA's former General Manager!

The shock change of personnel at the top was accompanied with a press release from Britain's iconic gunmaker which says, I quote:

'Simon also commented upon the recent communication that BSA Spring Guns are imminently returning to Birmingham. "I rule nothing in nor out at this stage. However, the strategic direction of BSA as a brand is under review. Manufacturing location is not important, technical expertise, and heritage is the key. No decision has been made on the issue at this time."'

I've since spoken with Simon, who refused to be drawn either way regarding the information that the previous incumbent had informed myself (and others within the airgun industry) - but one thing I can confirm is that PCP manufacture looks set to remain in Birmingham. Indeed, Simon says so in the press release:

"Birmingham is the group's 'Centre of Excellence' for PCP design and manufacture, (and will remain so!), as well as a major design authority and provider of engineering knowledge on the group's Spring Guns."

But whatever, I guess it means it's most unlikely that I'll be visiting the BSA factory this month to grab a UK-made Lightning XL after all!