Gun test: BSA Scorpion SE
- Credit: Archant
Will the camo version of this top-class rifle make the editor invisible?
I’ve had camouflage on my mind a lot recently because it’s a subject that always creates debate. Some swear by it and would never hunt without it, whilst others say it’s simply not necessary; fieldcraft and skill are what’s needed to fill your game bag. I’ll put my cards on the table and say I like camo and wear it most of the time when I’m hunting. Maybe it does work or maybe it just gives me more confidence, who knows? As I say, I like it and will continue to wear it, but covering ourselves in camo clothing is one challenge, covering our rifles is another. There are specialist companies that will do the job for us, but that’s a one-way trip. Once the camo is applied, there’s no going back, and the process is quite expensive. What I wanted was a top-class rifle, ready camo-covered.
The ideal compromise was the camouflage stock version of BSA’s lovely Scorpion Se which is one of my favourite pre-charged pneumatic rifles, even without the camo. In fact, I’ll get into trouble for saying this, but I prefer it to the company’s flagship R10 MKII because of the straight tubular air reservoir that allows a slim, sporting-style fore end. I just prefer the handling of this rifle over the buddy bottle gun.
To complete the look, I planned to add some strips of camouflage tape here and there to hide the straight lines of action and the silencer. These would be irregular intentionally, to help break up the straight lines. Next, I wanted to find a ready-camouflaged scope and the good folks at Professional Airgun Optics (PAO) were kind enough sent me a prototype of a 3-9 x 40 that they’ll soon be bringing in. I’ll give you full details of this when the production models arrive. Sadly, the camo covered mounts that came with it had Weaver bases, so I swapped to a set of my favourite SportsMatch black anodised, double-screw ones.
The stock is coated in RealTree Extra Green, which I consider to be an excellent all-round pattern. Clearly it needs to be, because we can have a different pattern on some hats and coats, but we won’t be swapping rifles to suit the changes in seasons! The process used feels the same as the ‘soft-touch’ ones, in that it’s slightly rubbery and offers a pleasant grip all over the surface. This is a good thing on any hunting gun, in my opinion. If the whole surface is coated there can be no chequering or stippling, so the grip of the coating is all the more important. The coating also protects the wood from water and dirt, and a quick wipe over with a cloth is all that’s needed in terms of maintenance.
She’s a looker!
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I don’t know what you think, but I think it looks great! The stock is £20 less expensive than the standard beech option, the tape cost just pennies and the new PAO scope won’t be expensive either, so this is a camo set-up for the working man. The Scorpion is also very good value for money, in my book. Every one I’ve tested was smooth and accurate straight from the box, so I hoped this one would be the same.
Inside the 10-shot bolt action, BSA fits its Fast-Strike hammer system which, in its simplest explanation, uses a lighter hammer with a stiff spring to reduce action time, making for a nice, crisp shot cycle. It’s also efficient, as we can see from the 90 shots in .177 I got from a 232bar fill, despite the diminutive size of the air reservoir. The Scorpion is often referred to as a carbine, but at 41” long with the VC silencer fitted, it’s just a nice size. At this length, it still balances nicely in your hands, whereas guns that are too light or too short just feel odd and seldom point naturally.
The silencer fits directly onto the screw thread cut directly into the barrel, cold hammer forged as only BSA can offer, of course. Their barrels have a reputation the envy of other gunmakers around the world. Another unusual feature of the Scorpion is that the barrel is truly free-floating, unlike many that claim to be so. This means that accuracy cannot be compromised by outside factors, such as movement in the air reservoir as it’s filled. Speaking of which, I adore the fact that the cover that protects the filling port is made from metal, and screws on properly. It feels right to pinch the thread up knowing that the cap just will not fall off somewhere around the farm and get lost. With the cap on, you know that the delicate filler is kept perfectly clean and by extension, the gun’s internal parts too.
Reliable and slick
At the opposite end of the reservoir, we come to the tried and trusted action with its slim, uncluttered lines. This is cycled with the BSA Bolas bolt that rides on a thick, chrome-plated shaft delivering a slick, polished movement. I wonder if the thick shaft reduces the binding that side loads can cause on less substantial bolts. Whatever the answer, this action feels great. It indexes the new generation BSA magazine that I find totally reliable in the field. Loading them requires a bit of a knack, but once you have it they’re easy to use. I’ll get my, by now, traditional moan about the safety being on the wrong side for 80% of people on paper and move on.
The design of the action situates the magazine low, meaning that there’s no cut-out or protrusion to get in the way of scope mounting, which is quite superb. You can mount any scope, red-dot or night-vision device anywhere along the rail, making set-up a breeze. I noted that the dovetail is BSA’s slightly oversized version, but SportsMatch makes mounts specifically to fit, so no worries there.
Where a little money is saved compared to the R10 is the trigger blade, which is a metal casting as opposed to the posh, machined blade in the more expensive rifle. It’s no problem, though, because the material used is very stiff, so no feel has been lost. However, my test gun had a good deal of side-to-side movement in the blade, which made it feel a little cheap, even though it went unnoticed in use. The trigger’s action was very pleasant with a nicely sprung first stage stopping cold against the second, and breaking cleanly from that exact point. It’s no match unit, but a good, honest field unit that can be adjusted to suit almost anybody’s taste and one that I use happily.
Lots of praise is due for the design of the stock, most especially the high cheek piece that gives proper support for scope use. It’s a traditional sporting stock with generally slim dimensions, just as hunting guns should have, handling naturally and pointing instinctively. I did my usual full-power testing, despite my total confidence in the rifle and there were no surprises. Average velocity with my standard test pellet, the Air Arms Field Diablo .177 (8.4grains) was 778fps which calculates to 11.34ft.lbs. This is nicely set to ensure that we stay on the right side of the UK power limit of 12 ft.lbs. Next, I needed to do the accuracy part but for the life of me, I could not find a calm day. I guess I should expect windy winter days, but they’re hopeless for testing duties.
A very wise, old shooting friend once watched me and some other youngsters shooting on a windy day when he gave some sage advice. He said, “You’re learning nothing, other than just how badly the wind affects airgun pellets” and of course, he was right. The best I could do was to find a sheltered 25-yard range and work there. The Scorpion was delivering sub ½” groups, telling me that on a calm day they’d have all been going through the same hole, which is just what I’d expect from this rifle. I’ve never shot an inaccurate modern BSA.
So what would I change to make my dream Scorpion? Firstly, I’d add sling swivel studs, because all my hunting guns have slings attached permanently. Next, I’d love to see an adjustable height cheek piece, because I believe they make a huge difference to consistency and ultimately accuracy. Beyond that, I’m happy with the rifle the way it is. It has many great features, not the least of which is that it comes with two magazines, which adds to the value for money, plus I always have a spare mag’ loaded in my pocket on any hunting trip. Sod’s law always says that you’ll run out of pellets at the very worst moment, and a full mag’ on hand gets you back in the game in seconds.
This is a proper hunting gun that will work well for the majority of us straight from the box. It’s accurate and handles well in field conditions and can be relied upon to deliver the goods. Am I in trouble for saying I prefer it to the company’s flagship R10? I don’t think so, because I know plenty of other people who agree with me. If you must have a huge shots-per-fill count, then choose the R10. If handling and sporting looks are your thing, then the delightful Scorpion will be right up your street.
Manufacturer: BSA Guns
Model: Scorpion SE
Type: Pre-charged pneumatic
Action: Bolt-action, magazine-fed
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Length: 35” (88cm)
Weight: 6.8lbs (3.1kg)
Fill pressure: 232 bar
Shots per fill: (.177) 90
RRP: Camo - £629.00, Beech - £649.00, Tactical - £589.00, Silencer - £49.00, Spare mag - £46.20