Gun test: BSA Defiant PCP bullpup air rifle

Dave Barham shooting the BSA Defiant air rifle for a test review

Even with a bad back I found this rifle comfortable to shoot - Credit: Archant

Dave Barham tests the breakthrough PCP bullpup air rifle from BSA – the Defiant - and discovers a seriously well-balanced rifle ideal for hunting...

Although this not a new rifle by any means, it is BSA’s one and only bullpup, which was launched almost three years ago. It’s a rifle I’ve been keen to have a go with ever since its launch, but for some reason I’ve only just got round to laying my hands on one.

Close up of the grip on the BSA Defiant

There's no problems with this well designed grip - Credit: Archant

First impressions of the BSA Defiant
There’s something about BSA’s Black Pepper laminate stocks that always excites me. I’m lucky enough to own an R10TH with a BP stock, and I love it. The Defiant, as you would expect from a bullpup rifle has an extremely well-designed, ergonomic stock, and for me it ticks all the boxes with all the right bits in all the right places. 

If you check out the stippling on the main grip, it has been done in such a way as to leave three tiny gaps lower down, where your bottom two fingers are placed, and after shooting this rifle for few days it kind of felt like braille on those two fingers – to the point where I could pick the rifle up with my eyes closed and know instantly that my hand was in the right place each and every time. The same goes for the stippling on the fore end of the stock, which also has a broken effect. Incidentally, there are three stock options available – the Black Pepper, Walnut or Synthetic.

The first thing I noticed was just how small it is; 780mm from butt to the end of the silencer makes this ‘pup the perfect tool for tight spots, so it’s a winner for me as far as hunting is concerned. Whether you’re shooting rabbits from the window of a vehicle, manoeuvring around a barn full of machinery in search of rats, hunting roosting pigeons from a hide, or just wandering around dense woodland in search of squirrels, this is the perfect rifle for the job.

Close up of side lever system on the BSA Defiant

The side lever system is super smooth - Credit: Archant

BSA Defiant features
As you would expect from a British rifle manufacturer with such a high pedigree, the Defiant is packed full of features. For a start, it’s extremely well balanced, and the scope rail is just 26mm above the barrel, which goes a long way to making the set-up feel even more compact. 

The next thing that strikes you as you raise the rifle to shoot is the soft touch cheekpiece, which has a gentle round edge. This makes it ambidextrous and extremely comfortable. There’s also an adjustable rubber butt pad to aid fit. There are also factory-fitted metal studs fore and aft to house a sling or attach a bipod.

I really like the barrel configuration on the Defiant. It features BSA’s renowned ECHF (Enhanced Cold-Hammer-Forged) barrel, which is housed underneath a removable shroud. This configuration is extremely popular with BSA rifle owners and it is used on a multitude of their rifles. Me, I like to keep the shroud on. I think it makes the rifle look a bit more ‘beefy’, but it also houses the silencer and acts in some part to silencing the entire barrel, plus it is matte-finished, which also helps to reduce glare and flash from the sun when out in a hunting situation.

BSA has really thought out their sidelever option on this rifle – most of the other rifles in their extensive range are bolt action, but this one has a really chunky, well-engineered lever. It’s spring-assisted, so pulling it back to cock the rifle is smooth and effortless – in fact, you can cock the rifle whilst holding the fore grip with one hand, again perfect in a hunting situation. The handle of the lever itself is a separate entity and is fully floating and free to rotate as you pull the lever back – it also has bands of stippling for added grip. All in all, it’s a very clever piece of design, and I’m sitting here wondering if they’re ever going to add it to any of the other rifles in their stable.

Close up of the indexed rotary mag on the BSA Defiant

BSA's indexed rotary mag's are very 'pellet friendly' - Credit: Archant

BSA Defiant mags and filling
The Defiant uses BSA’s 10-shot mag’s in both the .177 and .22 models. Loading the mag’s is easy; simply drop your pellet in, rotate the inner drum one stop and drop in another pellet until it’s full. These mag’s are indexed and rotor numbered, also featuring a ‘last shot’ indicator, so you know exactly where you are during a busy hunting expedition. The manual safety is a lever type and situated on the right-hand side to the rear of the cheekpiece. 

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The trigger is two-stage and is also adjustable – it’s a tried and tested BSA configuration that is lovely to use, with a really clean break. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but this trigger is unlike many others found on bullpups, which require extended linkage to the action at the rear of the rifle. As is often the case from a factory-set rifle, the first-stage pull is quite long, but it transitions to the second stage predictably, and it’s pretty much identical to my R10TH – a configuration that I like to shoot. It is adjustable, but you have to remove the stock in order to do so.

The air cylinder sits directly underneath the barrel and can be filled to 232 bar. It utilises BSA’s quick-fill probe, and the fill port is cleverly housed underneath a rotating shroud at the end of the cylinder – which prevents any dust and water getting inside. Simply twist the shroud to reveal the port, plug the probe in, fill, remove and twist it closed again. You’ll find the pressure gauge immediately in front of this shroud.
The Defiant features the BSA improved regulator system, which makes for consistent shots as well as extended shot counts. You get a good 120 shots from the .22 model and around 110 shots from a .177, more than enough for a couple of hectic hunting sessions. I should also mention that it comes supplied in a hard, lockable case with a fill probe and two magazines.

Close up of stippled grip on fore-end of the BSA Defiant

I love the stippling on the fore grip - Credit: Archant

BSA Defiant field test
Having now tested a wide range of bullpups, I can confidently say that the Defiant is right up there among the best I have used. I wouldn’t think twice about taking this rifle out into the field – it’s perfectly designed for the job. 

It may seem a little ‘weighty’ at 9lbs without the scope fitted, but it’s a very well balanced 9lbs and you don’t feel it after prolonged use.

Having been laid up with a torn muscle in my back for best part of a month, actually getting out and shooting this rifle was pleasantly easy. I was expecting to be in pain after each solid-hour session, but to my delight I wasn’t – testament again to the impressive balance.

If you like your bullpups then this is certainly one to look at, especially if you’re a hunter like me. 

Close up of barrel shroud being removed on the BSA Defiant

The barrel shroud can be removed - Credit: Archant

TECH SPECS
Model: Defiant
Manufacturer: BSA
Type: Pre-charged, multi-shot
Max Fill Pressure: 232 bar
Stock Material: Black Pepper laminate, synthetic or walnut
Stock Type: Ambidextrous
Cocking: Sidelever
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Calibres: .177, .22 and .25
Safety: Manual
Overall Length: 780mm (31in)
Barrel Length: 470mm (15.5in)
Magazine Capacity: .177 and .22, 10 shots
Weight: 9lbs (4.1kg)
Shot Capacity: .22, around 120, .177, around 110
Variation (10 shots): 7fps
Average Energy: 11.4 ft.lbs.
Website: www.bsaguns.co.uk 
Price: £1,099 (on test), £1,049 Walnut or Synthetic
 

Close up of manual safety on the BSA Defiant

This manual safety is situated at the rear of the cheekpiece - Credit: Archant


BSA