Diana R-22 in .22 LR – The comeback of the Diana rimfire rifle after 30 years: our test on the shooting range

The bolt handle and safety lever are easily accessible
The bolt handle and safety lever are easily accessible, but only for right-handers. A left-handed action version is not available.

Apart from the fact that even boxing legends like Muhammad Ali, the Klitschko brothers and most recently Mike Tyson were able to refute this "They can never come back" mantra without any problems, it apparently doesn't apply to other areas of life either. At Diana, for example, the traditional company founded in Rastatt in 1890 that today develops new ideas and launches products on the market under the umbrella of German Sport Guns. Unfortunately, Diana already had to close its once renowned rimfire rifles division in 1988 for reasons of rationalization with the 820 model series.
Today, Florian Hasler is at the helm at Diana (as at GSG) as Managing Director Technology. The mechanical engineer and former successful large-caliber rifle shooter already worked for Blaser, Keppeler & Fritz and then again in management positions for the L&O group of companies, which in addition to Diana and GSG also includes Blaser, Mauser and J.P. Sauer & Sohn.
Even though he no longer wants to compete in the "Formula One" of match rifles with the Diana brand, Florian Hasler wants to build good, reliable guns for the demanding recreational shooter. He said so and sent two examples of the new Diana R-22 bolt-action rifles, which are available in .22 LR. (like the test rifles), .22 Winchester Magnum or .17 HMR calibers. So these are the first Diana rimfire rifles after a good three decades of creative hiatus. The original basic R-22 rifle was manufactured by GSG years ago for Webley & Scott – a British gun company founded in 1790 – under the product name "Xocet”.
"But we have now eliminated some of the Xocet's weak points for the Diana R-22," assures Hasler during the preliminary interview. The barrel, receiver, and trigger of the R-22 have been revised, and the fore-end has been given a short Picatinny lower rail for attaching a bipod – all in all, a promising basis for our test.

Magazine and cartridges in front of the Diana R-22.
Ten cartridges fit in the R-22 magazine (one is included, unit price: 39 euros), plus one in the chamber. From left standing, one cartridge each of the available calibers .22 WMR and .17 HMR, and lying the cartridges in the test rifle in .22 LR.

The technology of the new Diana R-22 models

The Picatinny rail for scope mounting on top of the receiver allowed this core component of the bolt-action rifle to be stiffened. This compensates for the lateral loads that can occur when the shooter rapidly cycles the ten-shooter, although the bolt handle also fits very snugly and can be pulled back close to the barrel axis. The 10-round magazine sits in the stock slightly tilted to the rear in front of the trigger guard and slid out well in the test even when empty after a short press on the magazine release. In terms of width, the magazine is already designed for the longer alternative calibers .22 WMR and .17 HMR, and the .22 cartridges are supported at the rear by a spacer.

The bolt of the Diana R-22

The bolt, which is only 5.3”/135 mm long overall, locks at the rear with the rear edge of the bolt handle and an opposite lug that engages in a recess in the receiver. When the firing pin is cocked, a red marking ring protrudes from the rear of the bolt. Like the bolt knob, the forward-swiveling safety lever was given a non-slip checkering – milled lines on the lever, a cross pattern on the knob. The action was easy to strip for cleaning: it is not a metal puzzle and can be disassembled on the first try.

Diana R-22 
The adjustment screw is behind the trigger guard. The bolt of the Diana R-22 locks at the rear.

The R-22 double stage trigger

The R-22 double stage trigger, whose predecessor was still reprimanded in the Webley model for having too high a pull weight of 88 oz/2.5 kg, received special attention at the Diana factory. The previously skeletonized plastic trigger has been replaced by a metal one that curves far to the rear and is easily reached by shorter trigger fingers. According to Florian Hasler, the trigger comes from the factory at 31-7 oz/900 grams; the trigger of the test rifles released at just under 35.2 oz/1000 grams and broke as glass. A screw located behind the trigger guard also allows for individual adjustment up to about 45.8 oz/1300 grams.

Diana R-22 stock and barrel

The all-weather polymer stock, neatly joined together from two longitudinal halves, is now no longer black, but in OD (Olive Dark) Green, according to the most common use. It fits both right-handed and left-handed shooters and features a square cutout under the buttstock to bring the stock closer to the rib cage when firing. On the fore-end, the lower face is nice and flat and straight, which is ideal for benchrest shooting. An important difference between the two versions, Classic and Carbon, becomes apparent when disassembling (two 5-mm Allen screws): the thinner 16-mm Classic barrel requires a plastic insert that sits in the stock, while the cylindrical barrel of the 20-euro more expensive version, with its 22-mm diameter, perfectly sits in the stock. The hammered barrels have a suppressor thread at the muzzle and on top of it thread protector matching the barrel diameter. Unlike actions with clamped barrels, the barrels are otherwise free-floating. Even the carbon jacket, which weighs just under 2.1 oz/60 g, is only supported by the receiver.

The R-22 Carbon with thicker barrel jacket in the front
Identical except for the barrels: the Diana R-22 Classic in the rear, the R-22 Carbon with thicker barrel jacket in the front.

Diana R-22: all specs, versions and prices

Diana R-22
R-22 OD-Green Classic: 379 euro (MSRP)
R-22 OD-Green Carbon: 399 euro (MSRP)
.22 LR (also .22 WMR and .17 HMR)
Magazine Capacity: 
10 + 1 rounds
Overall Length: 
Classic: 37.32”/948 mm
Carbon: 38”/953 mm
Barrel Length: 
19”/485 mm, 6 grooves
Twist Rate: 
1:16" (406 mm)
Trigger Pull Weight: 
35.2 oz/1.000 g
120 oz/3400 g
Left/Right Version: 
Bolt-action repeating rifle, hammered barrel, all-weather polymer stock in OD Green, rubber buttplate. One 10-round magazine. Picatinny rails (receiver, fore-end). Barrel thread ½" x 20 UNF with thread protector. R-22 OD-Green Carbon version: carbon fiber barrel jacket.

Test: with the Diana R-22 on the shooting range

Shoot with Diana's R-22.
The R-22 can be easily and quickly cycled even with a red dot (Romeo MSR). The mount would allow you to see any iron sights.

Diana technical director Florian Hasler also provided the proof of accuracy himself with the R-22 – 15 mm (Eley Tenex) and 18 mm (RWS Rifle Match) groupings could be shot from a benchrest support and with match riflescope at 50 and 100 meters.
You can use any type of rimfire ammunition with bolt action rifles anyway, since the cartridge energy does not have to cycle anything compared to semi-automatic rifles. The behavior when aiming, for which the all4shooters.com testers then mounted a red dot sight, was also without reproach. The rifles, which are just under a meter long, can be swung quickly and safely with a net weight of 91.7 oz/2600 grams each and an estimated kilo more with a scope. The cheekpieces are raised for scope or red dot use, while iron sights are missing.
Diana had sent along two SIG Sauer scopes, but they turned out to be more expensive than the basic rifles: the Whiskey 3 2-7x32 with illuminated reticle (MSRP 249 euro) and the Sierra 3 BDX 4.5-14x50 equipped with a 30 mm tube (MSRP 899 euro). The all4shooters.com's own mounts, one of which is a MAK Milmont monoblock mount, could also be securely attached to the short rails. Fast follow-up shots on pop-up targets went without a hitch, and the new triggers are certainly the most effective improvement to the Xocet action. Workmanship was excellent, no processing marks anywhere on metal or plastic – only the laser engraving on the left side of the receiver turned out to be a bit shallow.

New R-22 rimfire rifle from Diana: test conclusion

For less than 400 euros, the Diana R-22 is a well-engineered, reliable rimfire bolt-action rifle, whose siblings in the more hunting-oriented calibers .22 WMR and .17 HMR should find equally enthusiastic customers. The test rifles, in turn, are also suitable for the sporting bolt-action disciplines. Especially if you want to get a taste of shooting with rimfire rifles without spending a lot of money.

For more information on the rimfire rifles from Diana please visit the German Sport Guns website.

This article is also available in this language: