A Buccaneer Tale
After 37 years, John Milewski reintroduces the remarkable BSA Buccaneer
Part one of John Milewski’s rediscovery of the BSA Buccaneer
Irecently took a newly acquired BSA Buccaneer with me to the range and the attention the rifle received from long-standing members who had never seen one before reminded me of what a revolutionary design this was.
During the 1970s, BSA made ‘hybrid’ models from their existing range on more than one occasion. For instance, the inspiration for the Scorpion pistol was the BSA Meteor and the pistol was largely a cut-down version of the rifle, with a shortened barrel and air cylinder fitted to a plastic stock. The full-size Mercury took the air cylinder of the Airsporter and break-barrel action of the Meteor to produce a full-power ‘break-barrel Airsporter’.
By far the most radical adaptation was the Buccaneer. This rifle used the air cylinder and trigger from the Scorpion pistol, a Mercury barrel and a new thumbhole synthetic stock to produce a rifle intended for juniors, but which was also equally suitable for informal use by adults. Airgun World announced the arrival of the Buccaneer in the November 1977 issue and an advert from Don Gray’s of Chatham in the same issue priced the Buccaneer at £26.50. However, it was not until August 1981 that the rifle was tested in this magazine for the first time by Geoff Boxall. I therefore think that after a gap of 37 years, it’s about time the Buccaneer was evaluated once again. At 35½ inches long and weighing 6lbs, the rifle was intended for the younger shooter but strangely, it had a pull length (distance between heel of butt and trigger) of a whisker under 15 inches. Now, this fits six-footers like me perfectly, but would have been a little long for shorter teenagers. The thumbhole stock was described as a new concept on air rifles by BSA and allowed for a comfortable hold on the rifle’s pistol grip. With its pistol length air cylinder, the jaws of the breech sit a little in front of the trigger guard and not further forward as one would expect. Overall, the rifle balances well and with much of the weight toward the rear, feels muzzle light on aim. I found the quicker I acquired a target and released the shot, the less I wobbled in the aim.
A MATCH-TYPE TRIGGER
Releasing the shot is a delight due to the ‘match’ feel of the rifle’s trigger. BSA used a spring-loaded hammer to knock the cocked sear out of engagement to allow the piston to run forward. This system enables a very light load to be set on the sear, resulting in a crisp and light pull indeed. BSA advertising from 1977 explained the trigger was based on the same principle as that used on the company’s Martini International match rifle, which had been popular with small-bore shooters for decades. On early rifles, the safety catch was set automatically upon cocking, whilst on later rifles, this was changed to a manual setting.
The brown moulded stock was made from durable high-impact polyurethane and included pressed chequering. A roll-over cheek piece helped right-handed shooters to line up their face with the specially designed 5-power Mark 9 BSA telescope sight and was low enough to allow comfortable use of the open sights, too. Left-handers could also use the rifle because the cheek piece was not unduly prominent.
EXCELLENT OPEN SIGHTS
A further ‘match’ feature was the open sighting
system, which utilised the standard BSA rearsight of the time. Rather than being fixed to the rifle’s breech, the sight was moved to the rear of the air cylinder and immediately in front of the aiming eye. A large aperture provided enough light to enter the eye to centre the foresight comfortably during aiming. The foresight was the standard ramp-mounted reversible bead and blade. Additional elevation adjustments could be carried out on the foresight by raising or lowering it before fixing the required setting by means of a securing screw.
BSA advertised muzzle velocity for the Buccaneer at 400 fps in .22 and 510 fps in .177. I initially tested a .22 model that was in pristine condition and probably fired only a handful of times since it left the factory. As the rifle had not been fully run in, it only achieved an average 380 fps muzzle velocity with H&N Trophies and sadly, failed to group particularly well, even at six yards. I then evaluated a .177 model that was also in fine condition, but did show minor signs of use. This rifle achieved a slightly better than advertised consistent 517 fps with 1980s Eley Wasps, and 534 fps with Excite flatheads. This relatively low power makes the rifle ideal for indoor use. I have a couple of inch-wide bell targets on my indoor range and the Buccaneer consistently rang these after I initially zeroed the sights at six yards. Outdoors, it proved capable of placing shots with a 40mm bell target aperture placed 10 metres away, as well as mangling tins and apples on sticks up to 20 yards away.
The Buccaneer story did not quite end in 1983 because the rifle was briefly resurrected in 1985, as we shall see in the next instalment. Until then, happy collecting!
The overall lines of the Buccaneer are loosely military. Today, we’d call it tactical!ABOUT TIME
Original BSA advertising for the Buccaneer. Just look at how long the pull length is for the junior shooter!
The Buccaneer fully cocked.
BSA produced this special 5 x 15 Mark 9 ‘scope for the Buccaneer. They are rarely encountered today.
Unlike the auto safety on the Scorpion pistol, the Buccaneer’s is manual. An anti-bear trap prevents the sear releasing during the cocking process.
The fully adjustable aperture rearsight helps to acquire a very clear sight picture.