Gun test: BSA Defiant
PUBLISHED: 15:00 04 July 2018 | UPDATED: 15:00 04 July 2018
After much consideration… BSA has decided to produce a bullpup - and the editor believes it was definitely worth waiting for
Not so long ago, the movers and shakers at BSA’s Birmingham headquarters were doing their best to regard the ongoing mania for pre-charged pneumatic bullpup rifles as ‘just a fad’. BSA is a founding father of our airgun heritage, of course, and with that status comes a ‘traditional’, rather than revolutionary, mindset. The company’s flagship rifles fly the colours of the classic sporter, rather than those of the brash newcomer...or at least that was the case, until the BSA Defiant bullpup was launched earlier this year.
The Defiant is a full-on, pre-charged pneumatic, regulated bullpup, available in three stock options and born of BSA’s global study of what was going on in the airgun marketplace, and specifically what the company needed to do to claim its share of it. With the popularity of the bullpup design showing no sign of waning, BSA finally made the decision to produce one, but on the company’s own terms and with its own identity. Let’s study it, then.
There’s a significant advantage in being late to any production party, in that you get to study what’s gone before and how well, or otherwise, it’s worked. Hindsight is a priceless attribute when designing performance products, and BSA, quite rightly, took full advantage. Plans were drawn up, assessed, reformulated and re-mapped, before metal was cut and prototypes began to emerge. Then, as is the way of airgun development, these were pored over, punished and intensively tested, until the required changes announced themselves. Meanwhile, over in Italy, stockmaking maestros, Minelli, were busy producing the new bullpup’s woodwork, in its walnut, soft-touch hardwood, and the grey laminate option you see here.
The eventual combined result was the Defiant model that made its debut at the British Shooting Show back in February, but the process of refinement hadn’t finished. After hundreds of consultations with members of the public, the shooting press and all sorts of interested parties, it was decided that a slightly lower scope mounting rail would improve the Defiant’s ergonomics, so that was commissioned and incorporated into the sub-12 version. It was one of several good moves from BSA during the development of the Defiant, and now let’s assess the complete package.
Meet the BSA Defiant
This rifle presents as a compact sporter, just 31 inches from the tip of its supplied, specially shortened, VC silencer, to the rear face of its vertically-adjustable, rubber butt pad. An unscoped weight of 9.5lbs brings us directly to a golden rule of new rifle assessment; always get the rifle in your shoulder, and preferably with a scope fitted, before you form any opinions about how it ‘feels’. This is a serious point, so I’ll hammer it home.
Time after time, I see potential purchasers ‘weigh up’ a rifle by holding it in front of them, horizontal, at chest height, and the usual comment goes along the lines of, ‘feels a bit heavy.’ This is like testing the driving position of a new car by sitting in the passenger seat and leaning across to hold the steering wheel. Once the Defiant is in the shoulder, that carefully designed heft earns its keep in stability, rather than demanding a weight penalty. I’ll say it yet again, ultra-light rifles are great for carrying, but they’re not the best option for ultimate accuracy, especially in the hunting field. The Defiant is a hunter, and BSA knows what it’s doing when it comes to weight and balance.
The Defiant’s stock represents a new era for BSA, in that its development was enhanced considerably by the use of 3D printing. Once the initial design is finalised, the 3D printer can be set to work, usually overnight, and there will be a solid synthetic prototype waiting to be assessed, amended and finalised come the start of the next working day. Once everything is agreed upon, the 3D model can be sent to Minelli as the finished item, or very near offer.
I’ve handled all three stock options and I’m mainly a fan of the grey laminate shown in this test, although the oiled walnut definitely looks the part, and the soft-touch version is entirely practical. Without assessing all three side by side in various weather conditions, it’s impossible to advise on all-season handling, but the laminate I’m testing has remained secure in my sweaty and occasionally wet hands, so far.
Efficiency freaks will be overjoyed that the Defiant comes fully regulated as standard. Hand on heart, I’m still not the greatest fan of regulators – mainly because I prefer my technical things to be as uncomplicated as possible - but it has to be said that the best ones really do produce a pleasingly consistent performance.
The Defiant’s reg’ is based on proven BSA technology, enhanced by ‘some significant updates’. That quote was as far as I got on the investigative journalist front, and as ever, there’s no surprise there. All I know for sure is that BSA’s pre-production tests were carried out in comparison to the ‘best regs out there’, and that the company was ‘more than happy’ at the way those tests went. More on this, shortly, but for now let’s continue the tour of the Defiant.
BSA produces its own barrels, and the latest development is the ECHF, or Enhanced Cold Hammer Forged, version, and I had just about as much success extracting the technical data on this as I did with the Defiant’s regulator. I was assured ‘there has been a significant change to the process, and that produced the enhancement.’ Moving on.
The Defiant’s barrel is fully shrouded and tipped with that truncated VC – Variable Calibre – silencer mentioned earlier, where the ‘bore’ of the silencer can be adjusted to produce the best results with the calibre chosen. However, as far as I can tell, none of the rifle’s muzzle blast is vented into the void created by the shroud, and I’ll suggest to BSA that this might be worth looking at if ultimate noise suppression is the intention. As it is, the bonsai VC works well and noise won’t be a problem for anyone hunting with a BSA Defiant.
Trigger design and function
This bullpup has a trigger that performs way beyond its looks. I can already hear certain BSA staff members grinding their traditional teeth at me for saying that, but I won’t take a backward step. The Defiant deserves a sexier-looking trigger and guard, because the rest of the rifle is so visually and ergonomically excellent. In use, the two-stage, adjustable trigger is a delight to use, and the perfectly-engineered push-rod system that connects the blade to the mechanism is a triumph of translation from finger pressure to firing. Custom craftspersons, please get busy and create a Defiant trigger and guard solution.
BSA has, understandably, gone with the tried-and-tested attributes of its removable, rotary, colour-coded, multi-shot magazine, which in the Defiant’s case is secured by a magnet, rather than the usual push-pin arrangement. This works so well and it’s so neat, I think it has to be the future.
Remaining at the rear of the Defiant, there’s a bit of Delrin-based cleverness going on, here. As the Defiant is cocked, a gap is exposed in the action, whereupon closing the lever pushes a Delrin washer forward to expel any particles that might have invaded the system. This rifle has been thoroughly developed, no doubt about it.
Each 232 bar charge yields 110 near-perfect shots from a .177, and 120 from a .22, at a super-consistent – 5 f.p.s. average deviation over 50 shots - 11.4 ft.lbs. The performance of the BSA reg’ was all the more remarkable because I’m testing one of the rifles the company uses as a ‘have a go’ gun at shows. The test Defiant you see here has had over 5000 shots through it, and it remains exactly as it was when BSA first placed it on their public range. Reliability like that could make even me a fan of regulators.
My accuracy returns with the Defiant were exactly what I expected, and precisely what they should be. In partnership with its preferred Air Arms Diabolo Field .22s, the combination of that ECHF barrel and totally sorted action just kept putting ‘em where I pointed ‘em. Anyone using compatible pellets and half-tidy technique can do what I did and print out tiny clusters at every realistic range imaginable. My personal best is currently a 21mm diameter, 10-shot group at 47 yards, with no fliers of any kind. Every pellet landed exactly where I told it to, and that’s all anyone can ask of any airgun. Worth waiting for? You bet it is.
Manufacturer: BSA Guns
Country of origin: UK
Type: Pre-charged, multi-shot, bullpup sporter
Calibre: .22, .177
Loading: Via removable, rotary 10-shot magazine
Trigger: 2-stage, adjustable
Stock type: Ambidextrous thumbhole laminate. Stock also available in oiled walnut and soft-touch versions
Weight: 4.3kg (9.5lbs)
Length: 780mm (31 ins)
Barrel: 457mm (18ins)
Fill pressure: Max 232 bar
Shots per charge: 120 in .22, 110 in .177
Variation over 50 shots: 5 fps for .22 on test
Average energy: 11.4 ft.lbs.