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Gun test: BSA R-10 SE Super Carbine

PUBLISHED: 16:33 18 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:52 18 January 2017

Awkward shots are assisted by the R10's easy pointability

Awkward shots are assisted by the R10's easy pointability

Archant

Terry Doe confirms his choice of ‘best BSA ever’

The Birmingham Small Arms Company played a significant part in my development. For the impossibly-keen teenage hunter version of me, owning a BSA Airsporter was one of life’s early milestones. I worked all summer on a farm to put the money together for that iconic, spring-piston, underlever rifle and I owned it for over 20 years. We put untold amounts of vermin in the bag, mainly with the assistance of open sights, even when lamping, and there was a time when I truly believed airgun technology could go no further.

Yet the R-10 SE Super Carbine is my personal nomination for the best BSA ever made, a title previously held by the very same model in its non-SE version. It is, in my view, the finest of its kind, and given the prestigious 155-year history of BSA, that’s quite a statement.

This rifle is a full-on, pre-charged pneumatic sporter, featuring a front-mounted, buddy bottle air supply, a fully-regulated action, 10 shots as fast as you can crank the bolt, and one of the best triggers ever fitted to a hunting rifle.

Note the daylight between the scope's objective bell and the barrel shroud, plus the uninterrupted scope mounting railNote the daylight between the scope's objective bell and the barrel shroud, plus the uninterrupted scope mounting rail

Then there’s the new Realtree Xtra Green Camo finish on the Italian-made, ambidextrous Minelli stock. Now add the latest – and according to BSA, greatest – regulator, which gives a reported 10% increase in shots for the sub-12 ft.lbs. versions, and that supplied CCS (‘Customer Configurable Shroud’) silencer system that I already know works an absolute treat. Last is the 4-way adjustable butt pad that does so much to assist gun fit, and therefore overall user-efficiency. Not a bad line-up.

Before any shooting can be done, the R-10 SE’s 200cc buddy bottle must be charged to 232 bar with compressed air, via a manual pump or divers’ air tank, using the plug-in adaptor supplied. Although small by modern standards, that detachable bottle holds sufficient compression for 250 shots in .22 and 190 in .177.

That trigger has always been excellent, and the modern version is just about perfectThat trigger has always been excellent, and the modern version is just about perfect

The main boast from Birmingham is that the new regulator is even more efficient, reliable and just plain marvellous than the previous one. It’s my job to explore those claims – oh joy, cue the two-hour chrono’ testing session.

With the R-10 SE primed and ready to deliver its new efficiency, all I have to do is load one of the two supplied, 10-shot magazines with, in this case, some .22 Air Arms Diabolo Field pellets. Loading the magazine is a simple matter of holding it with the head of the central fixing screw facing you and dropping pellets, nose-first, into each available chamber. Rotating the mag’s pellet-carrying inner wheel anti-clockwise as you load tensions the magazine’s inner drive-spring and the rotation stops when the 10th chamber is loaded.

This process takes far more effort to describe than to carry out, and I assure even you technophobes out there that running the R-10’s fast-reload system is simplicity itself. Making a cup of tea is complicated in comparison.

All you need to cater for the R10's simple needsAll you need to cater for the R10's simple needs

For me, one of the most practical features of this rifle is that its magazine sits low in the action block and doesn’t break into the scope mounting rail. This not only grants the owner use of the entire scope rail, but allows the fitting of a lower specification, one-piece mount for ultimate eye-scope alignment and stability. Now let’s not be silly and pretend that a recoilless PCP will put any strain on a reasonable sight mount during normal use, but that super-solid, single-piece clamp does bring total peace of mind during the rough, and occasionally tumble, of the hunting field.

The test rifle came fitted with a BSA Optics 3-9 x 50 in a one-piece, medium-height mount. There’s still almost 3mm clearance between the scope’s objective bell and the R-10’s barrel shroud, but if room was too tight that CCS shroud can be removed in minutes, leaving the VC silencer attached to do its work. Personally, I can never see me removing that shroud to accommodate a larger scope. Looks matter far more than most of us are prepared to admit, and that shroud is a major part of the SE’s overall aesthetic. Besides, a 50mm front lens is plenty big enough for any hunter.

A couple of 'between the rain' groups. Still conditions will see these tighten but the potential is clearA couple of 'between the rain' groups. Still conditions will see these tighten but the potential is clear

As is traditional, when accuracy-testing time rolled around, it was chucking it down, so I retreated to the comparative shelter of a friendly wood and concentrated on the R-10’s handling and ergonomics.

Blatting fallen and tree-based chestnuts in a simulated hunting style soon had me loosened up and working in harmony with the rifle’s balance. With the scope mounted as it was, the balance point falls 50mm from the front of the trigger guard and in use that makes the R-10’s handling fast, direct and almost effortless.

I prefer the dedicated right-hand stock, as ambi’ handles will always incorporate a degree of compromise, but this is a sporter that sits happily in my oversize hands. I’d definitely have a discreet palm shelf fitted by a clever person, so I could ‘hang’ a relaxed trigger hand from it, which would allow me to make the most of that superb trigger.

50 shots into the session and the needle has dropped back slightly from where it started at the line below 232 bar50 shots into the session and the needle has dropped back slightly from where it started at the line below 232 bar

But I have to declare my disgruntlement with the fitted forward sling stud (in disagreement with my esteemed colleague, Phill Price). It gets in the way of my supporting hand and that diverts my attention for a nano-second. Slings are fine things, but I’d prefer a set of flush-mounted studs, if such a mounting were possible.

As soon as the weather broke, I rested the R-10 SE on various lumps of sturdy timber and punched as much reliable paper as I could. Paper never lies – every shot will be recorded exactly as you and your rifle delivered it, be it good, bad or disastrous.

The very latest hair curler and wadding sound suppression technology works a treat inside the R10 SE's shroudThe very latest hair curler and wadding sound suppression technology works a treat inside the R10 SE's shroud

The R-10’s excellent trigger contributes much to this rifle’s performance and it’s all positive. This trigger’s been around in one form or another since the days of the SuperTen and it has its roots in the Gamo match rifle. Take the time to set it up perfectly, and you’ll have a real accuracy ally. Full marks, BSA.

At a full 45 yards, the .22 calibre R-10 SE will place its pellets in 22mm diameter clusters. I proved it nine times before rain stopped play. At 25 yards, the required ‘ragged single-holer’ appeared before my approving eyes, and even my mate, Tod, who is usually a spectacularly useless shot with an air rifle, put together a couple of sub-inch groups at 40 yards.

The first thing I discovered from my eye-gougingly tedious chrono’ sessions was that the factory stated 232 bar charging pressure wasn’t the optimum starting point for the test rifle. Granted, there wasn’t that much in it, and my favoured 225 bar fill only gave me an uplift from 11.2 to 11.4 ft.lbs. for the first shot, compared to a 232 bar charge, but that’s what I’d go for. I always rely more on the gauge on my air tank, rather than the one fitted to the rifle, but on the on-board clock that optimum charge settled one white line before the 232 mark.

Pinky at the balance point. This rifle's handling is truly excellent and that 4-way adjustable butt pad does a proper jobPinky at the balance point. This rifle's handling is truly excellent and that 4-way adjustable butt pad does a proper job

This is a regulated rifle and with unsorted pellets maintains a steady feed of shots, which varied by 13 f.p.s. from shot one to 100. I didn’t quite make the factory’s stated 250 shots per charge, but my 221 ‘perfect’ ones from my preferred lower charging pressure is a ridiculous number, anyway, especially from a 200cc reservoir. BSA has the output of this rifle well and truly sorted.

This really is my all-time favourite BSA airgun, and it fires my enthusiasm just like that wonderful Airsporter of mine all those years ago.

Price: £799 (scope £92.30)

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: BSA Guns

Model: R-10 SE Super Carbine

Country of origin: UK/Italy

Type: Pre-charged, multi-shot, sporter

Calibre: .22, .177, .25

Cocking/loading: Bolt-action, via 10-shot, removable, rotary, 10-shot magazine. (2 supplied)

Trigger: 2-stage, multi-adjustable

Stock type: Ambidextrous hardwood covered in Realtree X-tra Green cammo

Weight: 3.4kg (7.5lbs)

Length: 968mm (38ins)

Barrel: 300mm (12ins)

Fill pressure: Max 232 bar

Shots per charge: 221 in .22 (test rifle charged to 225 bar), 190 in .177 (claimed)

Variation over 100 shots: 13 fps for .22 on test

Average energy: 11.4 ft.lbs.

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