Liv­ing the Dream 2

Gary Wain con­cludes his visit to BSA head­quar­ters – and com­pletes the Cadet quest

Airgun World - - Contents -

Sec­ond part of Gary Wain’s dream visit to the BSA fac­tory

We left off last month at the end of my visit to the BSA on Ar­moury road Birm­ing­ham, hav­ing had a won­der­ful tour of the fac­tory and all of the fan­tas­tic tra­di­tional en­gi­neer­ing that the com­pany still em­ploy. I met the fac­tory shop floor man­ager, Mr Dave Wil­liams who, by now, will be en­joy­ing a well-de­served re­tire­ment, but at the time of my visit, he was cer­tainly the man in charge of the whole shop floor.

BSA have been around for a good while, and los­ing some­one like Dave and all of his knowl­edge, skills and abil­i­ties would be some­thing of a cat­a­clysmic loss, but BSA have been down this road many times be­fore and so have spent time se­lect­ing, train­ing and ed­u­cat­ing his suc­ces­sor – Mark Walker. Hav­ing met Dave on my first visit, and been im­pressed by the depth of his knowl­edge, I was no less im­pressed by Mark’s knowl­edge and en­thu­si­asm. I was also hon­oured to meet BSA’s new­est ap­pren­tice – the young and still pink-handed, Alex Markham. This young man has worked hard and earned the op­por­tu­nity he’s been given, and I’m sure he’ll make the most of it.


At the out­set of the BSA visit, all Paul had in mind was to take his beloved BSA Cadet ri­fle back to the fac­tory that had cre­ated it. It had been Paul’s ri­fle for many years, and his fa­ther’s be­fore him. In ru­ral Lin­colnshire, that ri­fle had spent many a day propped up be­side the kitchen door, wait­ing for its chance to take a rat away from the chick­ens, or pro­vide some game for the ta­ble. All Paul wanted to do was to bring it home, open the gun slip and say, “This is where you’re from, lit­tle chap.”

How­ever, on see­ing Paul’s Cadet, and hear­ing the story be­hind it, Jon Hat­ton had other ideas, and this is where I be­came more in­volved than I should have – after all, it was none of my busi­ness.

Rather than just have the ri­fle visit its place of birth, Jon of­fered to re­store it, to bring it back to its for­mer glory, and although I was sup­port­ive to BSA restor­ing the Cadet in­ter­nally, I was hor­ri­fied at the thought of los­ing all those years of patina and char­ac­ter. After all, if you re­move 70 years of use, it’s

“you’ll agree that BSA, and Richard in par­tic­u­lar, has worked won­ders”

go­ing to take an­other 70 years to re­cre­ate. So, with all this in mind, I ten­ta­tively voiced my con­cerns and thoughts to both Paul and Jon be­fore de­part­ing, leav­ing Paul’s ri­fle in Jon’s ca­pa­ble hands.


Fast for­ward to June of 2018, when Paul told me that he’d re­ceived a mes­sage to say that his beloved Cadet Ma­jor ri­fle was ready. This is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of BSA’s turn­around time for ser­vic­ing and main­te­nance, though. They very much have their fin­ger on the pulse in re­gard to more usual un­der­tak­ings, and should you be re­turn­ing your ri­fle for a war­ranty re­pair, then you can ex­pect a much more agree­able turn­around time, but Paul’s ri­fle was a spe­cial project.

After an early start and a brief stop for the manda­tory ba­con roll, our sec­ond trip over to Birm­ing­ham saw us ar­rive at the now fa­mil­iar fac­tory on Ar­moury Road. We were greeted by Jon and in­tro­duced to Richard Shake­speare. Paul was par­tic­u­larly keen to meet Richard be­cause it was he who had been en­trusted with the work, and he was even more keen to be re­united with his Cadet, and to learn the na­ture of work un­der­taken.

While stand­ing at his work-bench, Richard in­formed us that he had first com­pletely stripped the gun and as­sessed the state of it to de­ter­mine the work re­quired. The next step was to re­move su­per­fi­cial and deep rust from all of the metal parts and then the in­di­vid­ual metal com­po­nents were cleaned and pre­pared for re­fin­ish­ing, or re-blue­ing. The orig­i­nal BSA logo had long since been oblit­er­ated through rust, pit­ting and years of use, so the top of the ac­tion was placed into the laser-etcher to have the BSA logo and word­ing re­freshed.

Once the aes­thet­ics of the gun’s metal parts had been re-es­tab­lished, it was time to ad­dress its func­tion­al­ity. Richard’s ini­tial as­sess­ment of the Cadet had in­di­cated that it would need a re­place­ment breech seal and pis­ton seal, and these aren’t off-the-shelf parts for an air­gun of this vin­tage, so Richard made them by cut­ting and trim­ming the ap­pro­pri­ate shape from an old leather belt that he just hap­pened to have ly­ing around. The Cadet was then treated to a new main spring, and all parts were given a fi­nal clean and oil­ing be­fore re­assem­bly. Once as­sem­bled, the ri­fle was

taken over to the in­door test fa­cil­ity where it was put through its paces and checked for func­tion­al­ity, power and ac­cu­racy.


The next part of the ri­fle to be worked on was the stock, and it’s this that I was most con­cerned about. I wor­ried that BSA would re­move all the years of dirt and grime, all the lit­tle dinks and scratches, and re­turn it, gleam­ing new with many lay­ers glis­ten­ing stock oil. Don’t mis­sun­der­stand me; there are many air­gun­ners in our won­der­ful com­mu­nity who have done ster­ling work re­viv­ing the look of old guns. There’s noth­ing at all wrong with re­fin­ish­ing a stock that’s a bit beaten up – per­haps one that’s met with a con­crete-re­lated in­jury, but I felt that this par­tic­u­lar BSA would look best with the stock un­touched. As it turned out, nei­ther I nor Paul, who is after all the owner of the Cadet, had any­thing to worry about. Not only had Richard worked won­ders with the in­ner work­ings, but he had also cho­sen to give the stock a light go­ing over, be­fore treat­ing it to a few coats of lin­seed oil to pro­tect the in­grained patina.

So was Paul pleased to get his beloved Cadet Ma­jor back? Was he happy with the work? You bet he was, and we think you’ll agree that BSA, and Richard in par­tic­u­lar, has worked won­ders. The over­all ef­fect is sim­ply stun­ning.


I must point out that this sort of thing is not within the day-to-day scope of the fac­tory, although BSA will un­der­take war­ranty re­pair and ser­vic­ing work as part of the nor­mal busi­ness of the fac­tory, of course. Paul recog­nised that this trans­for­ma­tion ob­vi­ously falls out­side the scope of their nor­mal work, and was very keen to pay for the won­der­ful job that been per­formed on his beloved Cadet, but Jon de­clined to take pay­ment for this spe­cial project.

“It was such a joy to hear the story of the ri­fle, and to see it come home with its owner,” he said.

Paul is a gen­er­ous man and in­sisted in­stead on mak­ing a do­na­tion to a char­ity of BSA’s choos­ing – the Birm­ing­ham Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal.

So, that con­cludes the fan­tas­tic time I spent with BSA, and I’d like to thank Jon and his team once again, for their kind hos­pi­tal­ity.

“What’s that Paul? You want to do some pel­let test­ing?”

The re­tir­ing mas­ter, Dave Wil­liams, and the young ap­pren­tice, Alex Markham.

Richard Shake­speare re­unites Paul with his re­fur­bished Cadet Ma­jor.

Laser-etch­ing on the top of the ac­tion to re­fresh the BSA logo and word­ing.

The new shop floor man­ager, Mark Walker, con­tin­ues BSA’s high stan­dards.

Just look at those shut lines.

BSA kept the char­ac­ter and patina whilst adding pro­tec­tion.

Fully ser­viced, the lit­tle ri­fle felt oh so sweet.

We think Paul might be pleased with the end re­sult.

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