The ed­i­tor looks at a lesser known break-bar­rel from the BSA springer range

Air Gunner - - CONTENTS -

Phill Prices takes a look at a Light­ning XL SE - a break-bar­rel springer from BSA

When­ever we run our reader sur­veys, we get a good num­ber of peo­ple ask­ing for more ar­ti­cles on spring- pis­ton ri­fles, or ‘proper air­guns’, as they call them. As clever and var­ied as pre- charged pneu­matic ( PCP) ri­fles are, lots of peo­ple don’t like them. Cold, soul­less shoot­ing ma­chines, they say! I’ll con­fess to lik­ing them, but I also have a soft spot for a good old springer as well. I also have a soft spot for BSAs, which were the stuff of dreams when I was a lit­tle boy. I had a pal who owned a Me­teor be­fore I ever owned an air­gun, and the oc­ca­sional shot he let me take would be the high­light of my week.

BSA has a large range of springers and gas- rams these days, the Light­ning XL SE as the flag­ship, but what about its less well- known sta­ble­mate, the Light­ning SE? It costs a few pounds less, but me­chan­i­cally it’s just the same. The ac­tion, in­ter­nals, trig­ger and even the cold ham­mer-forged bar­rel, proudly made in Birm­ing­ham, are the same, so what are the dif­fer­ences? The stock is slightly less fancy and it uses BSA’s vol­u­met­ric si­lencer rather than the long, full- bar­rel si­lencer of the XL, but it’s still a quiet ri­fle. In terms of per­for­mance, it’s no sur­prise then that they’re iden­ti­cal.


This is about as con­ven­tional a springer as you could hope for, and as sim­ple as can be to use. A light tap on the bar­rel un­locks the breech, af­ter which a good firm pull is needed to cock the ac­tion. This is be­cause the bar­rel has been short­ened to make the ri­fle more com­pact and ma­noeu­vrable, but even with the si­lencer fit­ted it’s just 14” long and so lacks the lever­age of longer bar­rels. As much as it might be ba­sic, it’s clear that some very so­phis­ti­cated work has been done on the in­ter­nals. As you pull the bar­rel down, there are no springy­type noises at all, and it cocks much more like a gas- ram than an old-fash­ioned ri­fle. This tells me that spring guides and ‘ top hat’ type spac­ers have been to con­trol the spring’s move­ment, which is what’s done by tuning com­pa­nies to make your gun sound and feel bet­ter.

On fir­ing I again won­dered if this was a gas- ram be­cause it shoots with a smooth, firm thud, again with no spring noise to be felt or heard. It shoots im­pres­sively well and feels much more like a tuned ri­fle than one straight from the box. I’m also guess­ing that there’s a pis­ton sleeve fit­ted be­cause there was no diesel­ing that I could no­tice at all. Diesel­ing is caused by over-

lu­bri­ca­tion or spring grease get­ting through the cock­ing slot in the pis­ton and work­ing its way in front of the pis­ton where it ig­nites in the hot, high- pres­sure air upon fir­ing.


An­other clue that there was no diesel­ing oc­cur­ring was the con­sis­tency from shot to shot. Over 20 shots with Air Arms Field Di­ablo .22s straight from the tin, I got a low ve­loc­ity of 566 to a high of 574, and re­mem­ber that the ri­fle has only fired about 100 pel­lets, so was nowhere near run in, which is very im­pres­sive and speaks of top- class en­gi­neer­ing and cor­rect assem­bly/lu­bri­ca­tion. That ve­loc­ity means around 11.5 ft.lbs., just about ideal in my eyes. It’s also an ac­cu­rate springer, which is of course, one of the most im­por­tant qual­i­ties of any gun. At 25 yards I was able to get con­sis­tent ½” to ¾” groups, which makes it an hon­est hunt­ing gun at that range. Cor­rect springer tech­nique was the key to that, along­side proper trig­ger con­trol.


The trig­ger is a two- stage unit and the sec­ond stage is pretty heavy and long. This then re­quires us to sep­a­rate press­ing the trig­ger from grip­ping the stock, be­cause like all spring- pow­ered ri­fles, the Light­ning per­forms most con­sis­tently when gripped very lightly. In these days of ridicu­lous lit­i­ga­tion, it’s only to be ex­pected that man­u­fac­tur­ers will set their trig­gers on the heavy side of safe, which is why we buy guns with ad­justable trig­gers. Be­fore we get into this, I have to of­fer the fol­low­ing ad­vice. If you don’t pos­sess the skills to ad­just a mech­a­nism with se­ri­ous con­se­quences, leave it alone. If you haven’t read the man­u­fac­turer’s in­struc­tion man­ual, leave the trig­ger alone. How­ever, if you have a brain and can take in­struc­tions, set­ting the trig­ger to a more us­able weight isn’t too hard. By sim­ply fol­low­ing the in­struc­tions, I was quickly able to set the trig­ger more to my taste and the ri­fle im­me­di­ately be­came more en­joy­able.

This com­pact yet chunky ri­fle has the right feel, and shoots well to back that up. It’s a solid choice for the hunter who prefers a break- bar­rel over an un­der­lever and only needs a scope, mounts and some pel­lets to be ready to go, and yes, it is a proper air­gun!

BELOW: This is a very hand­some gun in the tra­di­tional mould

ABOVE RIGHT: Just a quick ad­just­ment of this crosshead screw made the trig­ger much bet­ter

LEFT: Seat­ing pel­lets is made easy by the min­i­mal breech block

ABOVE LEFT: I found the fit and han­dling much to my lik­ing

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