A Buc­ca­neer Tale

Af­ter 37 years, John Milewski rein­tro­duces the re­mark­able BSA Buc­ca­neer

Airgun World - - Contents -

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.


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.


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.

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