Although its motorcycles are legendary, BSA, or Birmingham Small Arms has always been at its core a gun company. Formed in 1861, it won its first government contract in 1864 and despite some ups and downs, the company has been a pillar of the gun industry ever since. Its operations were critical to the WW1 and WW2 war efforts, making 1.25 million Lee Enfield .303 rifles, over half a million .303 Browning machine guns and 60,000 7.92mm BESA machine guns. Since 1985 it has been owned by Spanish company Gamo which sensibly elected to keep the BSA brand which today encompasses some of the best spring, gas ram and pre-charged pneumatic air rifles available. For more about BSA’s history see: https://www.bsaguns.co.uk/about/history.aspx.
BSA air rifle history
Air rifles have always been at the heart of BSA, the company having introduced the Lincoln Jeffries model in 1905, surpassing 10,000 units just two years later. In 1933 the company introduced its first break barrel rifle. The legendary Airsporter model was launched 15 years later followed by the Meteor, the first air rifle to accommodate a telescopic sight just over a decade later.
BSA Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP) air rifle models
BSA R10 TH
The handsome R10 TH was launched in 2019 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the BSA R10 pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifle. Designed by Minelli, the walnut thumbhole stock combines traditional lines such as chequering and rosewood caps to the forend and pistol grip with more modern features like an adjustable soft-touch cheek piece and multi-adjustable shoulder pad.
The 280cc steel air bottle is larger than that of other R10 models and, combined with the regulated action, offers significantly more shots as a result. BSA claims 340 shots in .22 and 280 in .177 calibre from a 232 bar fill which is achieved by inserting the supplied filler probe under the stock next to the pressure gauge. Available as both a rifle and super-carbine, the R10 TH has all the usual features associated with BSA’s SE rifles, including a smooth bolt action which operates a 10 shot cartridge type magazine, two of which are supplied. In addition, the R10 TH features BSA’s CCS configurable shroud system which enables the rifle to be used with or without the barrel shroud but with the supplied silencer.
With BSA’s renowned cold hammer forged barrel and a fully adjustable match style trigger, the BSA R10 TH is available with a power output of 12 ft. lbs. as standard and is capable of high levels of accuracy and consistency.
Best suited to:
The BSA R10 TH will perform admirably both in the field and in competition and on the range.
BSA Silver Star
The BSA Silver Star is designed for competition users and combines many features more commonly found on more expensive rifles with some of its own unique and thoughtful design touches.
Available only in .177 calibre, the Silver Star is capable of high levels of accuracy thanks to its cold hammer forged barrel and two stage fully adjustable match trigger. The ambidextrous beech stock is designed for competition functionality although patches of laser cut chequering on the forend and pistol grip add some aesthetic appeal. A height adjustable cheekpiece and multi-adjustable shoulder pad enables the shooter to achieve the perfect set up, not only in terms of eye-alignment and length of pull, but to activate BSA’s ‘T’ bolt straight pull single shot action.
Whilst focusing on the needs of competition shooters, BSA’s has ensured the Silver Star is also versatile as its detachable air cylinder can be ordered pre-set to either six ft. lbs., making it ideal for shorter distance disciplines, or 12 ft. lbs. for those who shoot at longer range. The cylinders are interchangeable, allowing the shooter to swap between the two power levels having purchased a second cylinder. Filling for both is achieved by inserting the supplied probe into a quick fill port at the front of the cylinder.
Six ft. lbs. specification rifles are supplied with a dioptre sight whilst the 12 ft. lbs. option does not, based on the assumption shooters will prefer to fit a telescopic sight instead.
Best suited to:
The Silver Star is intended as a target competition rifle although the 12 ft. lbs. version would be more than capable of dealing with small game and vermin.
Although BSA was relatively late to the bullpup scene, its Defiant model represents a significant step for the company. The result of what it says is its most exhaustive research and development investment to date, the Defiant is not only BSA’s first bullpup but its first side lever rifle as well.
Despite these innovations, the Defiant also features many of the elements that are synonymous with the rest of the marque’s line-up, such as a cold hammer forged barrel, regulated action, integrated shroud and silencer and two polymer 10-shot magazines that are numbered to show how many shots remain. The rifle also comes in a high quality lockable synthetic hard case.
The side lever itself is sprung and pleasantly weighted with the cocking handle half way down the gun – none of the finger in the ear contortions associated with many bullpups here. There are three ambidextrous stock options made by Minelli – walnut, Black Soft Touch and Black Pepper Laminate – all of which feature a height adjustable shoulder pad, large cut out pistol grip and panels of chequering.
At just 780mm long and available only as a 12 ft. lbs. rifle, BSA claims a shot count of 120 in .22 and 110 in .177 from a 232 bar fill which is achieved by inserting a quick fill probe into a port at the front of the cylinder next to the pressure gauge.
Eye alignment can be an issue with many bullpups, and like many similar guns, the scope sits high up on the rifle on a raised dovetail rail. However, a soft touch cheek piece is not only comfortable, but sets the shooter up well to access a scope.
The combination of a 470mm cold hammer forged barrel, a fully adjustable two-stage trigger and regulated action mean the Defiant is capable of high levels of accuracy.
Best suited to:
Like most bullpups, the Defiant is intended to appeal to those for whom aesthetic appeal is a key requirement. That’s not to say the Defiant doesn’t perform either. Its dimensions make it ideal for use in confined spaces such as hides, vehicles and farm buildings, making it an excellent hunting option.
BSA Gold Star SE
Alongside the BSA Silver Star, the Gold Star SE is aimed mainly at competition shooters, although with the ability to use a 10-shot magazine as well as a single shot function, it makes a more than competent hunting rifle as well.
The Gold Star SE is based on BSA’s tried and tested regulated bolt action which at 12 ft. lbs. delivers a claimed 90 shots in .22 and 75 in .177 from a 232 bar fill which is achieved by inserting the provided quick fill probe into a port at the front of the cylinder by the pressure gauge.
In addition to an enhanced cold hammer forged barrel, which is supplied with an air stripper, and fully adjustable two-stage match trigger, the Gold Star SE’s stock hints at its competition pedigree. Available in walnut and two laminate options – Black Pepper and Red, White and Blue – the stock has a multi-directional shoulder pad as well as an adjustable cheek piece and palm rest.
Best suited to:
BSA has designed the Gold Star SE for those who want to compete in HFT and FT competitions but also use their rifles to hunt with.
H3 - BSA R10 SE
One of the best-selling PCP air rifles on the market, the R10 SE is the third iteration, not including the anniversary R10 TH model, in more than a decade and is offered in a range of power options up to 30 ft. lbs. With a re-engineered regulator, BSA claims the SE model, which is available as both a rifle and super-carbine, offers 25 percent more shots than the mk2 – 250 shots in .22 and . 25 calibres and 190 in .177 at 12 ft. lbs. from a 232 bar fill which is achieved by inserting a supplied quick fill adapter into a port at the front of the forend by the pressure gauge.
With four different stock options – walnut, Realtree Xtra Camo, soft touch Black Edition and Black Pepper laminate – the R10 SE is a handsome rifle. The stocks all feature a multi-directional adjustable shoulder pad and high cheek piece to provide good eye alignment, and all are available with left-hand options.
Thanks to a cold hammer forged barrel, regulated action and adjustable two-stage match trigger, it is also a more than competent performer. The bolt-action is lightly sprung and operates a 10-shot magazine (eight in .25 calibre), two of which are supplied. In addition, the R10 SE features BSA’s Customer Configurable Shroud – a system that allows the rifle to be used without the shroud but with the silencer.
Best suited to:
The BSA R10 SE’s classic sporter hunting lines hint at what the rifle is intended for. That said, the combination of a cold hammer forged barrel, match adjustable trigger and regulated action makes it a more than competent HFT and FT competition gun.
BSA Scorpion SE
At just 880mm long and 6.8 lbs, the BSA Scorpion is designed as a lightweight and compact hunting rifle you can carry all day in the field. Based on BSA’s trusted platform of a cold hammer forged barrel, 10-shot (eight in .25 calibre) bolt action and adjustable two-stage match trigger, it is an extremely solid and competitively priced performer in a range of power options up to 30 ft. lbs.
Unlike the R10 SE, the action is not regulated and a 232 bar fill will deliver 100 shots in .22 and .25 calibres and 65 in .177 at 12 ft. lbs. which is more than adequate for a hunting rifle. Unlike many other rifles in the BSA line up, the Scorpion’s ambidextrous stock is not adjustable, although it is available in Beech, Realtree Xtra Camo, Woodland and soft touch Black Tactical.
Best suited to:
The BSA Scorpion is an extremely competent mid-priced hunting rifle. The cold hammer forged barrel is not shrouded, but the supplied muzzle break can be removed to fit a silencer.
BSA Scorpion Cadet
Developed specifically for the British Military Cadet Force as a training weapon, the aptly named Scorpio Cadet is a 6.5 ft. lbs. target rifle designed specifically for three position, 10 metre competition use.
Available only in .177 calibre with a camo pattern ambidextrous synthetic stock, the rifle has an adjustable shoulder pad and is supplied with front and rear dioptre sights as standard. The unregulated bolt action provides a claimed 180 shots from 232 bar fill and can be used both as a single shot rifle or with BSA’s 10-shot magazine system.
Best suited to:
Although suitable for adults as well, the Scorpion Cadet is primarily designed for junior target shooters at short range.
BSA Ultra SE
Launched in 2005, the BSA Ultra is one of the company’s most successful PCP rifle ranges. The current model, the Ultra SE was released in 2012 and although it is not regulated, its compact and lightweight proportions make it a superb, full-powered hunting rifle. At just 820mm long and well-under six pounds, it excels as a rifle for stalking and using in confined spaces such as hides, vehicles and around farm buildings.
Available in an attractive Beech stock as well as a number of different colours including Black Tactical and camouflage, the Ultra SE delivers a claimed 50 shots in .22 and .25 and 40 in .177 from a 232 bar fill. Whilst that’s more than enough for hunting, the lack of a regulator means fewer will be available in the ‘sweet spot’ of the power curve.
Best suited to:
Consider the BSA Ultra SE as a hunting rifle best suited to carrying long distances in the field and using in confined spaces.
BSA Ultra XL
As the ‘XL’ suggests, this is an enhanced version of BSA’s famous Ultra. The most striking difference is the distinctive ambidextrous walnut thumbhole stock that also features an adjustable cheek piece but a solid shoulder pad. Other enhancements include an increased shot count – BSA claims 80 shots in .22 and 60 in .177 at 12 ft. lbs. with a 232 bar fill. There is no .25 option.
While many other features remain the same – the cold hammer forged barrel, 10-shot bolt-operated magazine and unregulated action, the trigger on the Ultra XL is a single stage unit, albeit one that is fully adjustable.
Best suited to:
Although slightly longer and heavier at 900mm and 7.3 pounds, the Ultra SE is still a superb rifle for juniors and an extremely capable hunting rifle. The adjustable stock means it is also capable of being used in competition.
BSA Ultra JSR
At just 690mm and five pounds, it’s plain to see that BSA has designed this rifle with junior shooters in mind. Indeed, ‘JSR’ stands for Junior Stock Rifle and the company says it is the first PCP rifle to have been made specifically for youngsters and smaller shooters. That said, the company has thoughtfully ensured that as those youngsters grow up, the stock can be swapped out for a full size Ultra SE synthetic handle.
Other than its proportions, the Ultra JSR is a fully featured rifle, albeit rated at six ft. lbs. At that power, the non-regulated action is claimed to deliver a respectable 120 shots in both .22 and .177 calibres from a 232 bar fill and uses BSA’s tried and tested bolt-operated 10-shot magazine system.
Best suited to:
The Ultra JSR is aimed squarely at junior and smaller shooters as a plinker and for informal target shooting.
BSA Spring Powered and Gas Ram Powered Air Rifles
BSA Lightning SE / BSA GRT Lightning SE
Although it made some of the best underlever spring rifles in years gone by, BSA’s focus now is on break barrel actions. The Lightning SE features a 370mm, carbine length cold hammer forged barrel and comes in at 100cm long overall. BSA’s ‘Volumetric’ silencer is fitted as standard. In addition to reducing muzzle blast, it provides a handy cocking handle.
Available in .177 and .22 calibres and a range of power outputs up to 18 ft. lbs., the Lightning SE has an attractive ambidextrous sporting design beech stock that features attractive chequering panels on the pistol grip and forend. Although the stock is not adjustable, a high comb provides good eye alignment for scopes mounted on the dovetail rail and there is a ventilated shoulder pad.
The two stage trigger is crisp and predictable nonetheless and makes the most of the Lightning SE’s accuracy potential for hunting and pest control work.
The GRT Lightning SE gas ram is identical in every aspect other than it used a sealed gas compartment rather than a spring.
Best suited to:
The Lightning SE/GRT Lightning SE is a superb mid-ranged spring or gas ram powered break barrel and is more than capable of dealing with small game and vermin as well as back garden plinking and informal target shooting.
BSA Lightning XL SE / BSA GRT Lightning XL/SE
The Lightning XL SE differs from the standard SE model in that it has a full length barrel silencer and is available with an ambidextrous soft touch black stock as well as the handsome beech handle. Both have panels of chequering on the pistol grip and forend and a ventilated shoulder pad. In addition, the two stage adjustable trigger is uprated and the rifle is a little shorter overall at 950mm with a 370mm carbine length barrel.
The GRT Lightning XL SE is a gas ram version of the spring powered rifle and identical in every other way.
Best suited to:
Ideal for hunting small game and vermin as well as back garden plinking and informal target shooting.
BSA Supersport SE / BSA Supersport SE GRT
The spring powered Supersport SE and its gas ram counterpart, the Supersport SE GRT is an affordable rifle designed with vermin control and hunting in mind. Available in .177 and .22 calibres in power levels up to 18 ft. lbs., the rifles have a full length 470mm cold hammer forged barrel but are a comparatively compact 950mm long overall.
The Supersport SE/GRT is supplied with open sights as well as a dovetail rail to accommodate a scope. The ambidextrous beech stock has a ventilated shoulder pad and chequering on the pistol grip and forend.
Best suited to:
The Supersport SE and Supersport SE GRT are excellent affordable rifles for vermin control, back garden plinking and informal target shooting.
The Meteor brand was first introduced in 1959 and was the first air rifle designed to accommodate a telescopic sight. There have been many iterations since then, the latest being the Evo which, unlike most of its predecessors is a full power rifle with options up to 18 ft. lbs. In both .177 and .22 calibres. Measuring 112cm with a 360mm cold hammer forged barrel, the Evo weighs just 6.6 pounds unscoped. Other key features include an optional integrated Silentium silencer, open sights in addition to a dovetail scope rail, and a safety mechanism designed to prevent the action firing whilst the barrel is broken.
The ambidextrous beech stock has a ventilated shoulder pad and attractive chequering on the pistol grip and forend.
Best suited to:
Like most other BSA break barrels, the Meteor Evo is accurate and plenty powerful enough to take on small game and vermin but also makes a great rifle for informal target shooting.
BSA Comet Evo
Although aimed at the budget end of the market, BSA says the Comet Evo is available in a range of power outputs up to 18 ft. lbs. in both .177 and .22 calibres (export from the UK only). The black synthetic stock is durable and features chequering on the pistol grip and forend. The rifle comes with open sights as standard, as well as a dovetail rail for a scope. BSA’s integrated Silentium silencer is an option.
Best suited to:
Like its Meteor Evo stablemate, the Comet Evo is easily capable of taking on small game and vermin at short to medium ranges where its durable stock will withstand most battles against fences, gates and barbed wire. It also makes and excellent plinker and informal target rifle.
Which BSA air rifle is for me?
BSA’s range is one of the widest on the market covering PCP, spring and gas powered models to suit just about budget and shooting discipline from target shooting and hunting to back garden plinking. Its PCP range includes both buddy bottle and air cylinder rifles, single shot and multi-shot options and traditional rifle and bullpup designs with plenty of stock options on all models.
Best BSA air rifle alternatives
When it comes to PCPs, BSA’s main competition comes from other established brands like Air Arms, Brocock, Daystate, FX and Weihrauch. Spring rifle competitors include from Weihrauch, Walther and Air Arms.When it comes to gas ram rifles, the only viable option to consider is the Weihrauch HW90.
BSA markets a range of pellets which it says have been produced specifically for its barrels. Whilst it is true that many rifles perform better with some pellets than others, many other non-BSA pellets work just fine in BSA rifles as well.
The BSA range comprises:
- Blue Star. A hybrid pellet that combines a pointed and wadcutter design and is available in .177 (8.02 grains) and .22 (18.21) grains
- Red Star. A medium crowned design which, like the Blue Star, is slightly heavier than average at 8.02 grains in .177 and 18.21 grains in .22
- Interceptor. BSA suggests this pellet is best suited to close to medium range hunting where the hollow point design will be most impactful. Weights are 7.87 grains in .177 and 15.43 grains in .22.
- Elite. A traditional round head pellet weighing 7.56 grains in .177 and 15.34 grains in .22.
- Storm. Best described as semi-pointed or blunt-pointed, these pellets are available in .177 (7.56 grains) and .22 (15.43 grains.
- Pylarm. Round head pellets designed for .25 calibre rifles. At 21.6 grains they are relatively light and deliver higher velocity than many other .25 pellets as a result.
BSA air rifle parts and spares
Parts and spares are readily for every make of BSA air rifle. John Knibbs International (www.airgunspares.com) is a specialist and is able to supply most parts for even the oldest BSA models. The company has a historic connection to BSA and is a great source of information and assistance.
BSA air rifle serial numbers
John Knibbs International is an encyclopaedic source of BSA serial numbers. Check out http://www.airgunspares.com/store/content/87/BSA/.
BSA antique air rifles
With a rich history going back to its first air rifle in 1905, marketed under the Lincoln Jeffries name, there are a great many antique BSA rifles, most of which are highly collectable.
BSA discussion forums and social media
There are plenty of online discussion forums and social media sites on which BSA air rifles are a popular topic of discussion. Take a look at:
BSA air rifle FAQs
Where are BSA air rifles made?
BSA Air rifles are manufactured in Birmingham, UK.
Do BSA make left handed air rifles?
Many BSA air rifles are made with ambidextrous stocks. For those that are not, a left handed factory option is available.
How much is my BSA air rifle worth?
Generally speaking, like most other air rifles, current BSA models are worth about two-thirds of their ‘as new’ price. Older, no longer made rifles are very collectable and price vary according to the model and rarity, ranging from a few hundred pounds to well over a thousand pounds.
How to determine how old a BAS air rifle is?
The resource to check is http://www.airgunspares.com/store/content/87/BSA/.
How to service a BSA air rifle?
Unless you are experienced and competent as a gunsmith, servicing most PCP rifles is best left to professionals and the BSA range is no exception. Some seals and ‘O’ rings are easy to replace, but if you’re in any doubt, seek professional advice. Spring rifles are easy to work on, but again, seek help from a professional if you are not sure.
How to clean a BSA air rifle?
As with any air rifle, an occasional wipe down of the metal parts with gun oil is advisable, as is wiping the wood with a damp cloth and some stock wax or oil every now and then. It is also advisable to clean the barrel to remove any build up of lead. The frequency this needs to be done varies from rifle to rifle, however, any unexplained decrease in accuracy often indicates its time. Note that some amount of lead in the barrel is desirable and it may be necessary to fire a few shots after cleaning to get back to previous levels of accuracy. The best cleaning methods involve using a pull through kit or to fire oil soaked felt pellets through the barrel.
What is the best BSA air rifle?
Many a good nature argument has focused on this question. Over the years BSA has been associated with many leading air rifles of the time. The Airsporter was considered one of the best underlever spring guns, and today the R10 is viewed by many as a top PCP air rifle. With such a broad range covering many different styles and purposes, BSA is able to cater to most needs with a good quality product.