PUBLISHED: 11:22 21 August 2012
I have to confess right from the start that I began this test knowing little about the gun. Truth be told, the R10 has always been the BSA rifle that drew my attention and the other models in the range kind of passed me by, but when I got the offer of a short, synthetic stock, multi-shot in .25 I was keen to try it. This rifle has close-range pest control written all over it, with its carbine length barrel and I, like many others, am intrigued by the performance of .25 pellets. New models of pellet are coming on to the market all the time and I received one just the other day. It’s the White Rhino from that good old British manufacturer Milbro, which is an evolution of the original Rhino. The primary change is that the diameter has been increased to fit modern barrels which are closer to true .25” rather than older British barrels which were .243”. This larger diameter raises the weight from 19 grains to 20. They looked like the good choice.
The Scorpion is a conventional modern pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) with a barrel-over-reservoir configuration. An area where BSA rifles are superior to many other PCPs is that their magazine fits in from the left side and doesn’t interrupt the scope rail along the top of the action. This means that any mounts, including the ultra-strong, one-piece type can be used, eliminating many of the fitting compromises that other guns suffer. That may sound like a small detail, but I assure you it isn’t. On this rifle you can fit any scope, in any position and use the ideal mounts to keep it as low to the barrel as you can. This ensures you have a solid ‘weld’ between your cheek and the stock which helps accuracy and consistency. The set-up on test allowed me to use medium Sportsmatch mounts, despite the large objective size of the Hawke Sport 4-12 x 50. This gave the solid cheek support I was looking for.
The all-metal magazine on test was the latest version, with one obvious change compared to the more common calibres. The big .25 pellets need big chambers, and because of this the rotary cylinder is machined away until you can see the pellets. It holds eight rounds, less than a .22 but that’s just a simple matter of size. With the mag’ filled, you need to cock the bolt and slide a tab forward at the front left of the action. This withdraws a pin that locates the mag’ and is also the pivot point. Slip in the mag’, slide back the tab and finally close the bolt, ready to fire.
Loading the mag’ takes some getting used to, because the pellets can fall straight through the open chamber. This is because, unlike most mags’ of this kind, there’s no ‘O’ ring to grip the pellet as it’s chambered. The technique I used was to rotate the drum to align the chamber, and then place a finger at the back of the mag’ before dropping the pellet in. It’s a bit fiddly, but I soon had the knack, after which I didn’t give it another thought.
There’s a manual safety on the left of the action which can be reached with the thumb of the right hand, but isn’t in the most natural place. You need to move your hand away from the firing position completely to reach it.
The stock is, as mentioned earlier, synthetic, and therefore impervious to the problems caused by water, in the form of rain or vapour. This is how a sporter should be made, in my opinion, as you can get on with hunting, rather than worrying about how pretty a piece of walnut is and if it might get scratched. I was also very impressed to see sling swivel studs fitted as standard. Let’s be honest; every hunter uses a sling and drilling stocks is always a worry, so having them factory fitted is a great plus in my eyes.
Despite its compact appearance, this is a full-size, adult gun and has enough weight to be stable on aim. In fact it has a pleasing chunky feeling about the whole thing. Take the bolt handle for example: it’s all metal, with a substantial ball for grip, and it runs on a thick shaft that’s appears chrome plated for smoothness and wear resistance.
BSA makes its own barrels in-house giving them total quality control and allowing them to choose the diameter and choke dimensions to suit their needs. The .25 barrel is a good case in point. Older British .25 barrels were undersize but BSA wanted to build a gun suited to modern pellets, including European brands, so they made a new tool, and now the barrels are true .25”.
To get to know the rifle, I gathered up a selection of suitable pellets and went to the test range. At 12 ft.lbs. only the lightest pellets will give a workable trajectory so I tested with the aforementioned Milbro White Rhino and the H&N Field Target Trophy, as these weigh 20 grains. At 11.2 ft.lbs this is a velocity of around 500 fps, which is, as I’m sure you know, pretty slow. However, zeroed at 24 yards, the pellet will be no more than ½” below or above the sight line from six yards out to 27 yards. Think about that for a moment; for rats and feral pigeons that covers pretty much the common range those pests will be shot at. Both are quite small and their kill zones are small and soft. They being the head of a pigeon and the head and chest of the rat. They offer little resistance to a pellet, which in turn leads to a small amount of energy being transferred, so the bigger the hole you can make, the more certain the kill. During all of my pellet testing activities, the .25 has been far and away the most effective at imparting energy, giving energy transfer figures of almost three times as much as the best .22. Now that’s impressive! There’s no question that this calibre is king of the hill for this type of hunting.
The rifle is supplied with a pepper-pot-style muzzle brake, but for hunting use it needs a silencer, so I fitted one of BSA’s own Variable Choke models. As the name suggests, it can be changed to suit all calibres including .25, so was the logical choice.
There’s an old saying that the only interesting gun is an accurate gun, and I totally agree with that sentiment. In the past, the .25 guns I’ve tested haven’t really cut the mustard where accuracy was concerned, so I was keen to see what the Scorpion, with its new barrel, could offer. At the range I was blessed with very little wind and it didn’t even rain, which was a shock. I settled the rifle into a new rest I’ve been testing from Deben, which gave excellent support, and set about testing the pellets. BSA advised that they’d been having good results from the H&N Field Target Trophy and sure enough they did well, just ahead of the White Rhino. What surprised me more though, was that the Air Arms Diablo Fields just edged them both in terms of out-and-out accuracy, with one hole groups at 25 yards being the norm. But my choice would be the H&N FTT, as the accuracy was good and because it’s 5.4 grains lighter than the Air Arms, it flies considerably flatter, but in reality the difference between the two was small. I’d happily hunt with either pellet.
To test the trajectory theory, I simply aimed at the centre of each knockdown target from 10 to 25 yards, and as I hoped, each one was flattened with a very satisfying thwack. Theory proven! Just for fun, I then shot at knockdowns right out to 45 yards, and once I had the hold-over worked out, they were no problem at all.
I mentioned at the beginning, I knew little of this rifle before the test, and I can now see that I’ve been missing out. It’s a great little gun with a sweet trigger, good handling and most importantly for me, it’s the first .25 gun I’ve tested that achieves what I call hunting accuracy. I hope to take this into the field and see with my own eyes just what our biggest pellet can to against live quarry. Yes, it will test my stalking skills more than my regular .177, because I won’t shoot beyond 25 yards, but that will just add to the challenge.