Bar­gain Hunter

Jamie Chan­dler shows us that you don’t need lots of money to own a great sport­ing ri­fle

Air Gunner - - Hunting -

It’s easy for those of us fully im­mersed in air­guns and shoot­ing to for­get that when we talk of a bar­gain PCP at £ 500, or a fan­tas­tic springer at £ 300, it still re­quires the per­son read­ing to have that to fork out in the first place. For myr­iad rea­sons, of­ten just when you think you have enough in the piggy bank, you don’t. The boiler/car/kids and any­thing else can come along and loosen your grip on your hard- saved shekels, leav­ing that qual­ity dream ri­fle out of reach.

That said, what if I told you that if you don’t sign up to a £ 35 per month gym mem­ber­ship this year and just start jog­ging, forego a cou­ple of take­aways and cut back on one fam­ily cin­ema trip and go climb trees in the woods in­stead, you could take that around £100 saved in just one month and end up with an ex­cel­lent, hunt­ing ready air ri­fle and scope. Too good to be true? No, it’s not – and I can prove it be­cause I’ve just done it.

I was of­fered a 14- year- old BSA Light­ning XL by a guy in my vil­lage for £ 50. He had bought it new, shot some rats in his chicken coop then left it un­der a wardrobe in his house, for­got­ten about it and now had no use for it. The Light­ning was dusty with a few pin­head blobs of sur­face rust, and a cou­ple of dings and scratches. This started me think­ing that per­haps it was pos­si­ble to put to­gether a rea­son­able hunt­ing combo for around £100, so I sac­ri­ficed a Chi­nese and bot­tle of wine and bought it.

I’m in no way tech­ni­cally gifted and for my own peace of mind, I wanted to en­sure that the Light­ning was up to par, so sent it away to Air Gun­ner

reader and highly knowl­edge­able air­gun tuner and re­storer, Richard Nash at DVS Ch­ester­field. Richard gave it a once- over for me and very kindly wrote the fol­low­ing, ex­plain­ing what he did to check the Light­ning XL was ready and ca­pa­ble of join­ing me in the field:


‘I’m a big fan of the BSA Light­ning as a po­ten­tially ex­cel­lent choice of a light­weight hunt­ing tool, which is also rel­a­tively sim­ple to work on. When re­ceiv­ing a ri­fle, like Jamie’s Light­ning, I al­ways start in the same way, first check­ing that it’s not loaded. This ob­vi­ous first check is a great chance for a vis­ual in­spec­tion, which can tell me a lot about the ri­fle’s life. For ex­am­ple, is there dam­age to the stock, stock screws, breech or se­ri­ous rust is­sues along the ac­tion? This can be a great in­di­ca­tor of how well a ri­fle has been cared for and any po­ten­tial bodged ‘im­prove­ments’ to be pre­pared for in­ter­nally. No tell- tale signs of in­ter­fer­ence or any­thing more than cos­metic scratches were vis­i­ble on this ex­am­ple, so it looked like a straight­for­ward ser­vice was in or­der.

I tested the ri­fle over a chrony to con­firm it was le­gal, how con­sis­tently the ri­fle was fir­ing and how it felt and sounded –a ny graunch­ing or twangs from the spring on cock­ing or fir­ing. Whilst test­ing the ri­fle, I also checked the breech and breech seal and that the bar­rel was straight and true. I then re­moved the stock and did an­other vis­ual in­spec­tion of the ex­ter­nals un­der­neath, look­ing for dust, de­bris, rust or ob­vi­ous signs of dam­age. The ri­fle was then stripped down and parts cleaned for a more thor­ough check for wear and tear, dam­age and to as­sess which parts, if any, needed re­plac­ing. It is vi­tal that the spring is straight and has no cracks, breaks or sharp edges and the pis­ton seal is clean with no flat spots or dam­age.

I have to say that al­though ne­glected, Jamie’s bar­gain Light­ning XL was not in bad shape. It was un­der­pow­ered for a hunter and could do with a clean, but cer­tainly noth­ing that couldn’t be fixed at min­i­mum cost. I wasn’t try­ing to tune the

“al­though ne­glected, Jamie’s bar­gain Light­ning XL was not in bad shape”

Light­ning; adding a be­spoke top hat, spring, spring guide, trig­ger tune etc., of­ten re­quested by many of my clients with springers be­cause this would have added siz­able ex­tra cost to the project. I was just en­sur­ing for Jamie that it was up to the min­i­mum spec’ I would ex­pect for a hunt­ing springer. With a bit of con­fi­dence, some sim­ple tools and in­struc­tion, this ba­sic strip down, check, pol­ish and re­lube can be done at home.

Be­fore re­assem­bly I lightly greased the pis­ton body spring and spring guide us­ing molyb­de­num grease to en­sure smooth move­ment. Once all parts were re­assem­bled, the ac­tion went back in the stock and the power was tested again over the chrony. I am fas­tid­i­ous about this, so I weigh the pel­lets to en­sure that they are the same weight. I usu­ally fire 20- 40 shots to power check, record­ing each shot to gauge the up­per and lower lim­its, which gives you an ac­cu­rate av­er­age read­ing. Whilst the le­gal limit is 12 ft.lbs., I have found a spring ri­fle shoot­ing con­sis­tently be­tween 10.5 and 11.3 ft.lbs. is far smoother through the fir­ing cy­cle, and more

than enough to en­sure the clean dis­patch of quarry – 10.5 - 11.3 ft.lbs. also en­sures no wor­ries in the fu­ture of any spring creep risk­ing go­ing over the le­gal limit as it beds in.

Jamie’s Light­ning was now av­er­ag­ing 10.5 ft.lbs. with a 6 feet per sec­ond spread over a 20- shot string, which I was very happy with and so I sent it back down south’.


On get­ting the ri­fle back, I was chuffed with the dif­fer­ence Richard’s hand­i­work had made. It’s fair to say, it was bet­ter than many new ri­fles I’ve fired at five times the price. Clearly, whilst a 14- year- old air­gun can be brought up to date, I wanted to en­sure that the op­tics were as good as I could get within my bud­get, so scoured the In­ter­net and found a Hawke 2-7 x 32 AO mil- dot scope, new for £ 59.99 in a sale. A bar­gain price for qual­ity, re­coil proof op­tics and X 7 is all the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion I use when hunt­ing. The ‘bang up to date’ glass gave me ex­cep­tional clar­ity even in dark wood­land 45 min­utes af­ter sun­down. Af­ter only need­ing five clicks left to zero and 200 prac­tice shots nail­ing 5p size groups out to 35 yards, I was ready to take my first foray into the field with my bar­gain bang stick, on a squir­rel hunt.

Time spent in the woods is never wasted time, but frus­trat­ingly, due to a com­bi­na­tion of me ar­riv­ing later than planned, a group of mil­i­tant ram­blers tres­pass­ing, and fi­nally, a lady des­per­ate to find her miss­ing dog, all in a pri­vate 10- acre wood­land, my first trip out with the Light­ning XL ended in a blank. I saw two fluffy- tailed in­vaders, but couldn’t get a shot off. That said, to prove this ri­fle is as good as I say, I’ll be us­ing it as my main hunter over the next few months and you can see for your­selves how I get on.

My bar­gain was a bit of ‘right place, right time’, but with gun auc­tions up and down the coun­try in Fe­bru­ary and March, and their cat­a­logues ad­ver­tis­ing top- end springers and scopes with es­ti­mates around the same as my set- up, if you are suf­fer­ing from the no ri­fle blues, now could be the time to start to turn that ‘no bang frown’ on its head!

“I’ll be us­ing it as my main hunter over the next few months and you can see for your­selves how I get on”

ABOVE: The Hawke 2 7 x 32 AO scope was a per­fect part­ner

BE­LOW RIGHT: Richard tests the Light­ning XL over his chrono­graph

BE­LOW LEFT: The start of a strip down can prove very re­veal­ing

ABOVE: The Light­ning XL was cov­ered in dust, with dinks and sur­face rust, but could it be re­vived?

RIGHT: The group be­low the 5p showed the full po­ten­tial of this bar­gain combo

ABOVE: Stealth was not on my side!

BE­LOW: Some high-end springer com­bos in an auc­tion cat­a­logue with es­ti­mates less than £ 150

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