Power Pel­lets 2

… John Milewski eval­u­ates the .22 BSA Sport­ing Model from 1909

Airgun World - - Contents -

John Milewski com­pares a .25 BSA with an al­most iden­ti­cal .22

Last month, we took a rare .25 cal­i­bre BSA Im­proved Model D from 1908 to the range and the sheer ki­netic en­ergy of this ‘big bore’ BSA was demon­strated on a wa­ter-filled tin can. At a tad un­der 11 ft.lbs., the tin was launched into the air with quite spec­tac­u­lar force.

So we can see that the .25 works. We also saw the ri­fle was ac­cu­rate, but did re­quire a fair bit of aim­ing off at vary­ing ranges to get the best out of it. This month, we’ll com­pare the re­sults with the .25 against a .22 from 1909 with the same length cylin­der. The ri­fle on test is al­most iden­ti­cal to the .25, other than the cal­i­bre and stock pro­file.

Af­ter start­ing off with H&N FTT pel­lets, I ex­pe­ri­enced tighter groups and less re­coil with Marks­man and set the sights for 6 yards with these pre-war de­signed pel­lets. I com­menced test­ing by tak­ing op­por­tunist shots at a num­ber of tar­gets placed be­tween 6 and 25 yards away. These tar­gets con­sisted of 40 mm discs, ½-inch bells and a few pel­let tin lids on strings. It soon be­came ap­par­ent that vir­tu­ally no aim­ing off was re­quired be­cause the tra­jec­tory of the .22 is flat, out to roughly 25 yards be­fore the pel­lets start to drop a lit­tle. Straight away, we can see why BSA dropped the .25 from their range in favour of the flat­ter shoot­ing .22. Both pro­duce roughly the same power, but the .22 shoots a lot flat­ter. The .25 be­gins to de­scend sub­stan­tially af­ter 30 yards or more, whereas the .22 will still group at 55 yards, al­beit an aper­ture sight and know­ing the ex­act range helps at this ex­treme range.

“pis­tol hand pro­files are pre­ferred by tar­get shoot­ers due to their shape”


As to over­all han­dling, the .25 on test was fit­ted with a straight hand stock, whilst the .22 had a pis­tol hand stock. BSA made a point of stat­ing the .22 was only avail­able with a pis­tol hand stock, whereas other BSAs had the op­tion of a straight hand stock, too. As stocks were in­ter­change­able, straight hand stocks also fit­ted the .22 ac­tion, but are rarely seen fit­ted to these long-cylin­dered ri­fles to­day. Some shoot­ers have a pref­er­ence for one over the other, but I don’t. I like both be­cause ei­ther one can be used suc­cess­fully. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, straight hand stocks might suit shoot­ers with smaller hands, or those re­quir­ing shot­gun-like, fast tar­get ac­qui­si­tion, whilst pis­tol hand pro­files are pre­ferred by tar­get shoot­ers due to their shape of­fer­ing bet­ter

con­trol of the trig­ger. The long-cylin­dered .25 and .22 BSAs on test both felt muz­zle heavy be­cause both ex­ceed 45 inches in over­all length with much of the weight to­wards the muz­zle. This dif­fers to more mod­ern de­signs and many shoot­ers pre­fer the sen­sa­tion of ex­tra weight up front be­cause it helps to keep the ri­fle steady. Match shoot­ers to­day have the op­tion of adding weight to both pis­tols and ri­fles, so the idea is not old hat.

Both ri­fles were fit­ted with iden­ti­cal BSA No 10 back­sights and bead fore­sights. I found both re­quired their back­sights to be set at their low­est set­ting and my prom­i­nent cheek bone tended to re­sult in a lit­tle too much pres­sure against the stock in or­der to view the sights com­fort­ably. BSA ad­dressed this slight short­com­ing by of­fer­ing dif­fer­ent sized fore­sights as the Im­proved Model D de­vel­oped, and on later mod­els a taller fore­sight took some of that cheek pres­sure away by pro­vid­ing more ad­just­ment.


The long-cylin­dered .22 Sport­ing Model re­placed the .25 in 1909 and the lat­ter was .22 was prob­a­bly the right one as the lat­ter is a bet­ter all-round op­tion. With a higher muz­zle ve­loc­ity and re­tain­ing far more ki­netic en­ergy than shorter cylin­dered .177 BSAs, the .22 re­mained pop­u­lar with shoot­ers re­quir­ing a pow­er­ful sport­ing ri­fle. The .22 was pop­u­lar with long-range tar­get shoot­ers too, as cased sets con­sist­ing of aper­ture-sighted ri­fles and their ac­ces­sories at­test to.


I am sure this was not the most tech­ni­cal of tests ever un­der­taken with the two cal­i­bres, but it was cer­tainly one of the most en­joy­able. I found the .22 more ver­sa­tile and ac­cu­rate, just as BSA did over a cen­tury ago. The .25 was a lit­tle pel­let fussy, but cer­tainly ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing good groups with the right pel­let. The punch it packs is wor­thy of the larger cal­i­bre’s myth­i­cal rep­u­ta­tion and if you are for­tu­nate enough to ac­quire one, please trea­sure it be­cause the .25 is a valu­able col­lec­tors’ item as well as a ri­fle that can be suc­cess­fully used on the range.

Fac­tory-cased sets con­sist­ing of tar­get-sighted .22 BSA air ri­fles such as this ex­am­ple were pop­u­lar with long-range air­gun­ners of yes­ter­year.

Orig­i­nal main­springs were stamped with the BSA trade­mark as an in­di­ca­tion of qual­ity. A cut-down Air­sporter spring is a suit­able re­place­ment.

The ‘2’ be­low the se­rial num­ber is short for No 2 and de­notes cal­i­bre on this early BSA .22.

The .22 is ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing sat­is­fy­ing groups at 6 yards from the stand­ing po­si­tion.

At 45¾ inches long, both the .25 BSA and this .22 are long ri­fles, but with most of the weight to­wards the front, they are easy to keep on aim.

As the .22 BSA de­vel­oped, a range of fore­sight heights be­came avail­able, each be­ing marked with a num­ber for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Im­age courtesy of Ed­die Marrian.

This orig­i­nal packet of BSA Ad­der pel­lets is prob­a­bly worth al­most as much as the ri­fle!

The BSA No 10 back­sight was grad­u­ated up to 50 yards, but rarely do the fac­tory in­scrip­tions match the ri­fle’s per­for­mance with mod­ern pel­lets.

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