The editor tries out the BSA Ul­tra, and asks,’ Could this be why BSA don’t make a bullpup?’

Is this the rea­son that BSA doesn’t make a bullpup?

Air Gunner - - Contents -

“It’s a full- power, multi- shot, bolt- ac­tion, which is about as tra­di­tional a build as you could imag­ine”

It seems that bullpups are the flavour of the mo­ment, and al­most ev­ery man­u­fac­turer is adding them to their cat­a­logue, with one very no­tice­able ex­cep­tion. BSA Guns’ man­ag­ing di­rec­tor told me, and I quote, ‘As long as I’m in charge, BSA will never make a bullpup’. I think that clears that one up then! He, like me, doesn’t see the ap­peal or ad­van­tages that oth­ers do in the bullpup idea, but we do see the down­sides. I find them un­nat­u­ral and slow to mount, as well as be­ing topheavy and prone to cant - that’s when you tip the ri­fle to the side, away from the cor­rectly ver­ti­cal po­si­tion, caus­ing in­ac­cu­racy.

Now, let’s be clear about some­thing else. It’s all too clear that I’m in a very small mi­nor­ity be­cause sales of bullpups are go­ing through the roof, but I’m used to swim­ming against the tide of fash­ion, so that’s okay. For those like me, who want a com­pact and handy hunt­ing ri­fle, but don’t want the bullpup com­pro­mises, what are our choices? The first one that comes to mind is from the BSA cat­a­logue: The Ul­tra. It’s a fullpower, multi-shot, bolt-ac­tion, which is about as tra­di­tional a build as you could imag­ine, but with a very short bar­rel (11.8”) and air reservoir. Per­haps this is why BSA sees no need to make a bullpup.

Get shorty

At just 29½” long, it’s as short as most bullpups, and yet comes into

the shoul­der as nat­u­rally as you could wish, and has a fa­mil­iar feel from the sec­ond you take aim. It suf­fers none of the head po­si­tion com­pro­mises that bullpups in­flict, and it’s light and easy to carry. BSA of­fers a choice of stocks, in­clud­ing a dark­stained beech sporter and a semi­com­pe­ti­tion, high-im­pact poly­mer ver­sion in black, and my favourite, dark green, which I con­sider free cam­ou­flage. The syn­thet­ics are tough, strong and weather re­sis­tant, so are right up my street. Also, de­spite be­ing am­bidex­trous, the pis­tol grip of­fers a palm-fill­ing shape that sup­ports the trig­ger hand very well. It’s al­most ver­ti­cal, plac­ing the hand in a re­laxed, nat­u­ral po­si­tion to max­imise trig­ger con­trol. The fin­ish of the stock is just slightly tex­tured, which adds some grip and elim­i­nates re­flec­tions, both valu­able fea­tures for a gun used out in the real world. One un­usual fea­ture of the stock is that it has the trig­ger guard moulded in, elim­i­nat­ing an un­nec­es­sary metal part whilst main­tain­ing full safety.

I know this ri­fle well and that’s one of the rea­sons I wanted it as the base gun for a project gun I’ve been dream­ing up. The har­vest is well un­der way and I have a farmer friend who stores grain that gets hit hard by rats ev­ery year, and this time I want to be ready for them. My dream gun would be light, handy, come to the aim like a fine shot­gun, and it would be in .22, the cal­i­bre I pre­fer for short-range work on soft­bod­ied quarry. Next, it would have a low-mag­ni­fi­ca­tion scope with an il­lu­mi­nated ret­i­cle, mounted as low to the ac­tion as pos­si­ble to make short­range shots in­stinc­tive and fast. On top would be a lamp with a red LED that can be dimmed down to pro­vide just enough light, and no more. Fi­nally, it would shoot a hol­low point or wad­cut­ter pel­let for the ul­ti­mate ter­mi­nal per­for­mance. That’s quite a list!

Su­perb glass

Look­ing for just the right scope, I con­tacted Hawke Sport Op­tics and asked for a 2-7 x 32 AO with il­lu­mi­nated ret­i­cle Van­tage IR, which I could mount low over the ac­tion to min­imise the holdover needed for those close-range rats between 5 and 10 yards. Whilst I was on the phone to them, I also re­quested a Tracer Le­dray F600 gun light sys­tem. This com­pre­hen­sive kit fea­tures a light­weight lamp that can de­liver white, red, green or blue light with no need to dis­man­tle it, or ex­change parts. I also liked its light­weight con­struc­tion that I felt would suit the project.

As ever, I en­trusted the scope

“My dream gun would be light, handy, and come to the aim like a fine shot­gun”

mount­ing du­ties to Sports­match, us­ing their low, 1”, dou­ble-bolt rings for op­ti­mum scope place­ment and ul­tra-re­li­able strength. I’ve used their prod­ucts for over 30 years and have com­plete be­lief in their qual­ity and en­gi­neer­ing. On top of this, they al­ways have just the right mount to suit my needs and with a project gun like this, that means a lot. These su­perb mounts set the Van­tage just 1 3/8” above the bore, the dream set-up for close-range work. At 5 yards I only need a ½” of hold over and the gun shoots al­most flat from 7 to 27 yards, so much so, that any cor­rec­tion for range is un­nec­es­sary.

One of the many things I love about a new project gun is the chance to dive into my im­pos­si­bly vast pel­let col­lec­tion, and select the ones I hope will per­form well in the new ri­fle. At close range, I want the mas­sive im­pact and ex­pan­sion that a hol­low point can de­liver. This, I hope, will an­chor the rats where they stand, en­sur­ing clean kills from ei­ther head or body shots. I know body shots are con­tro­ver­sial, but at close range, with the right .22 pel­let, I’ve found them se­cure.

Which pel­let?

The list in­cluded the BSA In­ter­cep­tor, H& N Hol­low­point, Baracuda Hunter and Hunter Ex­treme, RWS Su­per H-Point, Bis­ley Pest Con­trol and some non-hol­low points in the form of the JSB Preda­tor, and one of my old and most trusted favourites, the RWS Hobby wad­cut­ter. Weights vary hugely in this se­lec­tion and I have to con­fess a pref­er­ence for light­weight pel­lets for their ad­di­tional ve­loc­ity. I also have a the­ory that a light pel­let de­cel­er­ates most quickly on con­tact with the rat, and de­posits max­i­mum en­ergy to the vi­tal or­gans. The re­ceived wis­dom is that heavy pel­lets are best, but I be­lieve that it’s based on the ‘ big­ger is bet­ter’ the­ory rather than on real-world test­ing. My field ex­pe­ri­ence tells me that light pel­lets are bet­ter killers and my prac­ti­cal ex­per­i­ments back that up, so the good old Hobby was look­ing like a top choice.

What mat­ters more than any other bal­lis­tic fac­tor is ac­cu­racy, so my first job was to shoot all these pel­lets on pa­per tar­gets to see which made the neat­est group at 25 yards. I shot from a fully-sup­ported po­si­tion to elim­i­nate as much hu­man er­ror as pos­si­ble and let the ri­fle do the talk­ing. BSA’s world-fa­mous, ham­mer-forged bar­rels are not known for be­ing pel­let fussy, so I ex­pect good groups from many of the pel­lets on of­fer. I con­sider a 20mm group to be the min­i­mum I will ac­cept from a hunt­ing gun, so I would soon see what the Ul­tra was made of.

The worst group at 25 yards was just over an inch, but many of the of the pel­lets printed neat one-hole groups al­low­ing me to select the bal­lis­tics I liked best. As I’d hoped, the ex­cel­lent BSA bar­rel was happy to shoot many of the test pel­lets well. The ri­fle has a clean, smooth fir­ing

“At close range I wanted the mas­sive im­pact and ex­pan­sion that a hol­low point can de­liver”

“My 15- yard rats should be hon­oured to die at the hands of such a ma­chine!”

cy­cle with no ap­pre­cia­ble move­ment at all. There’s a tiny bit of ham­mer spring res­o­nance through the stock, but noth­ing I cared about.

Trig­ger per­for­mance was good straight from the box, mak­ing pre­cise re­lease nat­u­ral and in­stinc­tive. I value a good trig­ger very highly. I’m not one who says this doesn’t mat­ter. For me, it’s a big deal and some­thing that makes a real dif­fer­ence to the ri­fle’s per­for­mance that can be both mea­sured and felt.

Over the chrono­graph with my stan­dard test pel­let, the Air Arms Di­ablo Field, the Ul­tra was stun­ningly con­sis­tent. I hon­estly fail to see how any­body could wish for a bet­ter power plant. Over 30 shots, the Ul­tra var­ied no more than 3fps at the ri­fle’s sweet spot, which is match-ac­cu­rate con­sis­tency. My 15-yard rats should be hon­oured to die at the hands of such a ma­chine! The aver­age ve­loc­ity was 563fps with the 16 grain pel­let, which means 11.25 ft.lbs. so is just about per­fect for my needs. The ve­loc­ity vari­a­tion from one pel­let brand to the next will be catered for at this set­ting, so I know I’ll be safely on the right side of the law.

A big part of my think­ing when de­vel­op­ing this project was that the Ul­tra is an op­ti­mised tra­di­tional ri­fle, not a new-fan­gled com­pro­mise. The per­for­mance was rock solid and I never felt as though I was fight­ing the ri­fle. The con­ven­tional, yet ex­cel­lent stock de­sign, made for in­stinc­tive and un­hin­dered mount­ing, tak­ing my eye straight to the tar­get with­out the need to shuf­fle and strug­gle to get com­fort­able be­fore re­leas­ing the shot. Also, hav­ing the scope just 1 3/8” above the cen­tre line of the bore made close-range shots quick and nat­u­ral, vi­tal fac­tors against such ner­vous and twitchy quarry as rats. Frac­tions of a sec­ond count when try­ing to cull these dam­ag­ing pests.

I’m very happy with this setup, and am prac­tis­ing with the com­bi­na­tion to hone my skills ready for when ratty re­turns from the field to the farm­yard to dine on my friend’s grain. The har­vest has been very poor this year, with low yields per acre hurt­ing the farm’s in­come, so ratty stuff­ing his belly with ex­pen­sive wheat would add in­sult to in­jury. I’ll be wait­ing and if he shows his whiskery face - my su­perb project Ul­tra and I will stop him in his tracks.

Main: My fin­ished project is hand­some and prac­ti­cal

Left: I added a Hugget Belita to save some more length and weight

Be­low: De­spite its light weight, the Ul­tra is sta­ble on aim Be­low in­set: The rounded heel of the pad re­duces snags against your cloth­ing

Above: With grain to eat and hay to live in, this is a 5- star rat ho­tel!

Be­low: A hand- fill­ing palm swell and nearver­ti­cal grip make for a su­perb stock Right: The safety works well but is still on the wrong side for most of us Far right: Look how low I was able to mount the Van­tage. This mat­ters a lot for rat­ting

Above: This is a gun able to take the knocks of the rat- shooter’s life Above in­set: Last year the rats were in the grain 24 hours a day

Be­low: All hunt­ing guns should have sling swivels as stan­dard. Well done BSA!

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