PUBLISHED: 10:37 15 August 2013 | UPDATED: 10:37 15 August 2013
The new Ebony pack from BSA is a bargain, says Matt Clark
I don’t know about you, but I think that everything seems to be going up in price … massively. Take petrol for example. Compared with 2009 when a litre cost around £1, it now costs nearly £1.40.
Before you go thinking the petrol stations are making money hand-over-fist, forecourt sales of petrol have plunged by 20% over five years. I imagine this is largely due to fewer people being in work, more of us being more frugal and the increase in the number of diesels on the road.
Anyway, back to airguns. Many years ago I remember buying my first pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) airgun. It was a big decision to enter the world of PCP because the initial outlay of cash seemed so much. Unlike springers, there was the cost of the pump or air cylinder on top of the cost of a scope, mounts and rifle bag. Yes, I could have taken the scope off my springer and put it on my new Air Arms S200, but then my springer would have been scopeless and virtually useless.
Back in the Day
All those years ago, my new PCP outfit cost me around £500 for a single-shot rifle scope and pump and that was when ‘money was money’ as my father used to say, but I never regretted it.
That was until now! Recently I saw an advert for the BSA Ebony pack for £509. The pack included a BSA Essencial scope, mounts, rifle sling, slip and, most important of all, the famous BSA Ultra multi-shot airgun fresh from its recent redesign. Bargain!
For £509, you could still get a pump with that and come in just over £650, which isn’t much more than I paid for my kit all those years ago and I didn’t even get a gun slip, or sling. Also the S200 I bought was just single-shot, to get a multi-shot would have cost about £150 more. Have some things actually got cheaper over the last few years?
In fairness to Air Arms, and the gunshop I bought my rifle from, I got the cheapest offer around at that time and the S200 gave me fantastic service for eight years, until it was traded in for a rather elegant S410, which I love.
I’m very happy to see that in this time of economic gloom you can still get into PCP airgunning for relatively little. So what do you get for your money? Is the Ebony pack too good to be true?
The BSA Ultra has recently been redesigned. Gone is the unusual two-stage cocking system, which has been replaced by a slick bolt action. The ten-shot magazine has been refined, so there is less risk of a jam and there is a pressure gauge.
I find I really need a pressure gauge because when I first got my S200 I shot it until there wasn’t enough air to force the pellet out of the barrel. I had to make a quick trip to the gunsmith who rodded five jammed pellets from the barrel and warned me to keep a mental note of the shot count. Lesson learned.
However, there is more to the latest BSA Ultra than a new cocking bolt; you also get more shots per fill on the new and improved Beeza. Whereas, on the old rifle you’d get just over 30 shots in .22 calibre, on the new model you get nearer 50 shots.
On the Other Hand
The changes aren’t just mechanical because the stock has also been improved and is fully ambidextrous. I’ve always thought it a shame that they didn’t fit an ambidextrous stock to the old Ultra because the two-stage cocking system on that model didn’t disadvantage left-handers, but the new bolt action system is set up for right-handers. This is just an observation and I’m sure most left-handers manage to shoot rifles with the cocking bolt on the right.
In the Ebony pack, the Ultra comes fitted with a tactical stock and, although as a rule I prefer the more handsome wooden stocks, a synthetic number looks good on an Ultra, which has built a reputation for being a robust little ratter.
However, don’t consign the Ultra to close-quarter vermin control, I see Ultras (albeit the single-shot .177 versions) competing at the highest level at HFT and they have also proved their worth shooting avian quarry and rabbits when I’ve used them in the past.
What makes the Ultra so popular is its compact design. Many younger shooters and lady shooters like it because it is wieldy. I wouldn’t say it’s a light rifle; weighing in around 3kgs (scoped), but because it’s short, the point of balance is at the rear of the rifle, making it ‘feel’ light and easy to hold on aim.
Having said that, the Ultra isn’t just for ladies or youngsters. I’m over six feet tall and the stock fits me well, so it’s worth considering for anyone who wants a wieldy compact sporter. For example, if you are shooting in a hide, having a rifle with a short barrel saves you getting all tangled up with your scrim netting.
To help you carry the rifle around the fields, the Ebony pack comes complete with a sling, and studs already fitted to the rifle. Having them ready fitted is a great help to me because I always flinch at drilling into my stock to fit them in case it splits or I damage it.
Scope and Mounts
The other major accessory included in the Ebony pack is a BSA Essencial EMD 3 – 9 x 40 WR scope. It has a mil-dot reticle, making it ideal for target shooting and hunting and a one-inch, one-piece aluminium scope body. The lenses are multi-coated and deliver maximum light transmission for an ultra-sharp image. I’ve used the predecessor of this scope on my own rifle for many years and I have to say you can’t get better value for money.
Already attached to the scope are the mounts, meaning that all you have to do is bolt the scope onto your Ultra with the hex key provided, to get started.
Thrown in with all this is a gun slip. This is an essential bit of kit because unless you live in the middle of your permission, you are going to need a slip to transfer your airgun safely to the field.
Considering the recommended retail price of the rifle is £519.99, to get an Ultra with scope, mounts, swivels, sling and slip all for £509 makes the Ebony spectacular value, and you can get the kit in .177, .22 or, .25 calibre to suit the shooting you want to do.
It’s heartening to think that you can still get affordable quality in our sport, even when everything else seems to be going up in price.