Part one of reader Steve Francis’ attempt to restore a severely neglected BSA Airsporter
Always up for a challenge – reader, Steve Francis, rescues a sick BSA Airsporter
In 2012, at the age of 51, I wanted to get back into airgunning, so I joined my local club –Norwich Air Rifle and Hunter Field Target Club. I bought a new HW100, and this was soon followed by a second-hand HW97 and an HW80 that needing tuning, so after a bit of research I fitted a V-mach kit and the fettling seed was sown.
A year or so later, a friend called me to say he knew a chap who wanted to get rid of a MK2 HW77 his daughter had owned. It had been in his loft for 15 years and was in need of restoration, so the deal was done. This rifle had been seriously abused and needed a lot of work; the barrel was bent and loose in the breech, and it needed a total re-blue – to list just a few requirements.
During my hunt for someone to do the re-blueing, I was put in touch with a retired gentleman – Trevor – who lives not five minutes from me, and he agreed to do the job after I’d done the majority of the prep work required. I was full of questions for Trevor. He uses the traditional method of ‘rust bluing’, and he told me that his first attempt had been at the age of 15. Since then he has been perfecting this method and has undertaken extensive research on the subject. Anyway, Trevor asked if I would be interested in learning this technique because he wanted to pass on some of his knowledge, and so I have become his apprentice, so to speak, practising on bits of steel with varying results.
UP FOR A CHALLENGE
In the spring of last year, I was doing some plumbing work for someone I know. I’d finished the work and was trying to find him outside when I wandered into an old outbuilding and there, leaning against the wall, was a very rusty and sorry-looking air rifle that I didn’t recognise. I asked my friend if he wanted it, and he told me that it had been there for several years, so I was welcome to take it. It was an Airsporter, and had definitely seen better days.
I started the process of stripping down the rifle; the stock was past saving and had to be cut away to reveal the rear stock bolt which needed several soakings with penetrating oil in the attempt to get it free, and I ended up heating it to remove it.
I visited Trevor to get his thoughts on what I had taken on. He told me that he definitely wouldn’t want to tackle this as a project, and that if I did, I was in for a lot of hard work, time and effort to get any result. I wasn’t deterred in any way and was up for the challenge.
Removal of the trigger block was relatively easy, thanks to a suitably sized bar and a few clouts with hammer. Thankfully, the internals were caked in grease and in reasonable condition given the state of the rifle’s exterior. This was probably helped by the muzzle being blocked by debris and bird droppings!
Next was the tap removal and this required several applications of heat and a lot of careful hammer blows, but eventually it came free and surprisingly, the internal surfaces were in pretty good condition.
On to the rear sight; this was in very poor condition, but again, with heat and perseverance I did eventually manage to get it to flip up and down – followed by removal once I worked out which way it came out of the dovetail housing.
The back block was next and this is where I came to the first problem that stopped my progress. I’d applied plenty of heat whilst unsuccessfully trying to remove the trigger adjustment screw and I was out of ideas for
“surprisingly, the serial number has survived; ‘GE1070’ dates it as 1965-67”
what to try next. As luck would have it, I was talking to one of the members of my HFT club and he told me to ring a chap he knew. Roger Moy had years of experience of fixing air rifles, and he could find a solution to most problems.
A few days later, I was on my to Roger’s house, only a 15 minute drive away from mine. Roger is semi-retired, but still works part-time fettling and repairing air rifles for a nearby shop. I had taken along the complete stripped rifle and explained my problem with the trigger screw. He had a good look and after applying several applications of oil, he managed to get the screw moving, but was unable to wind it out. He explained that the heat I’d applied had most probably melted a little nylon strand that prevents the screw from moving during use. I saw his vast experience come forward for the first time as he took out a box full of different sized Allen keys, purchased from car boot sales.
Allen keys are made from high-quality steel. Roger cut the bent part off a chosen key and ground the end into a blade to fit the screw head perfectly. He then fitted this hand-made tool into the chuck of his pillar drill. The back block was secured into a drill vice, with the screw head facing upward, and as I held the vice, Roger lowered the drill head until the tool blade engaged into the screw slot. By hand, with a clockwise/anti-clockwise motion on the chuck, he gently worked the screw backward and forward until it started to move freely. With a smile on his face, he then wound it out of the block without damage to the screw or the block. “How’s that boy? I never give up,” he said.
I spent a couple of hours talking with Roger, gaining invaluable advice and he showed me how to remove and reset the back block, bush and cup assembly so that everything lines up correctly when reassembled.
The back block was made of aluminium and had suffered from extensive water damage, but I was able to bring the top, exposed part to a reasonable finish – I left the reminder untouched because I sent it off for bead blasting, followed by powder coating which I hoped would disguise some of the blemishes. The finish achieved was as I expected; some of the pitting on the trigger guard was still visible, but I was happy with the result overall, and surprisingly, the serial number has survived; ‘GE1070’ dates it as 1965-67 and .22 calibre.
I couldn’t wait to get on with the reassembly. See how it went next month!
The stock was beyond saving, but I was determined to rescue this rifle.
Basic tools, plus a ton of elbow grease, versus years of neglect.
Would it even be possible to get this working again?
Parts after first rusting. The restoration program was working. Now for the rebuid.
‘In a bit of a state’? Yes, you could say that!
Weld repair to deep pit prior to refinishing
It took an incredible amount of work to get to this stage.