Hunting squirrels with the BSA Defiant
- Credit: Archant
Jamie Chandler discovers a newfound love for the majestic ‘Defiant’ bullpup from BSA
At the Great British Shooting Show in February, I was chatting to the guys on the BSA stand and made a rather bold play to borrow their new R10 TH. It was everything I love in a hunting rifle; beautiful flowing lines, fully adjustable, yet handsome with bang up-to-the-minute internals, full length, deadly accurate and stunning to look at. Sadly, the one on show was the only one in existence and still in pre-production, so as an alternative, they offered me a go on the range with their bullpup, the Defiant. I have never liked bullpups, but suppressed my inner disapproval and politely took up their offer.
When I was offered the rifle at the range, imagine my joy based on the above to discover that it was the tactical stock version, again, really not a fan. I shot ten annoyingly enjoyable shots with it from a rest, and cheerfully agreed to try it in the field, although I'm not sure my phobia of bullpups was hidden well enough and my thanks didn't sound entirely genuine.
At home on my makeshift garden range, the .22 Defiant proved deadly accurate, and complemented with Air Arms Field diablos in 5.52 it was grouping 10 shots in a hole big enough for two pellets, so accuracy was going to be no issue, but nor should it with any modern PCP. What I also became aware of, much to my instinctive horror, was that I liked how it felt. The tactical stock was actually easy to grip, which is very important for me so that my lead hand doesn't slip. The balance in the shoulder was further back than I am used to, but it made the Defiant's hold on aim superb, especially in my most used, seated shooting position. It fitted really well, not like what I was used to, but really well, nonetheless.
The Defiant's first day of field trials coincided with a booking from a Netherlands-based client, Eric, who was keen, along with pigeon-shooting and deer-stalking, to try airgun hunting some squirrels because it's completely banned in his country.
As I unbagged the rifle, Eric looked at me quizzically.
"Are we hunting squirrels, or going to war?" he asked, jokingly.
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I kept my own preconceptions to myself and ran him through how the Defiant worked. Eric loved the fast-load biathlon bolt, the speed at which the gun mounted, and he also was really impressed by the feel. The only negative we agreed, was the position of the safety. Set so far back, the safety was a pain to flick on and off as you were about to take the shot - not a real issue with practice, but still a point to note. By the end of my intro, Eric was getting his eye in and a few fun shots between us, we were really enjoying shooting the Defiant with all preconceived prejudices beginning to melt.
Eric and I headed for the stunning winter woodland with no real plan other than to sit it out and ambush squirrels over two favoured pheasant feeders, which I had been keeping an eye on. Eric walked in front as we stalked the 500 yards into position, with the Defiant at the ready, and I followed with a video camera to capture Eric's squirrel trophy on film.
We reached the first feeder and chose to get behind some trees 25 yards away, got comfy and waited. I've spoken before of the trance-like state I can take myself to and literally lose an hour, tuning my senses into the woodland and nothing else. On the other hand, if I'm with a client, whose enjoyment is my responsibility, it's the opposite. Every quarryless minute feels like an eternity, and every twitch the client makes I read as unbridled boredom, the waiting is agonising.
Luckily, within 20 minutes two squirrels appeared, one crashing through the leaves on the ground and the other in a tree, both coming in from cover and at least 60 yards away. Eric sat up slowly and started to track the first grey through the scope. I could see him tensing to take the shot as the squirrel came in to 40 yards, and had to whisper, 'Leave it! Let it come in.' A 40-yard shot is well within the capability of the deadly Defiant, but with clients you have to be careful, so I was looking for a shot as near on zero as possible.
A few minutes later I saw Eric reach for the safety, spin slightly to the left and let off a shot, followed by a tell-tale headshot 'crack'. He then turned back to the feeder, working the biathlon bolt like a pro, not coming off aim and holding for a second to let another shot off. This time there was a resounding metallic clunk, as pellet met feeder spring and the squirrel dashed for cover in the trees. He turned to me with a massive smile and explained that the second squirrel had gone wide and then suddenly appeared on a branch about 25 yards out as the first reached the feeder. Eric was truly elated with his fast-fire opportunities and full of praise for the Defiant's quick handling. We went to collect his prize then moved on through the wood in search of more, but sadly, that was the only opportunity we had. We could see squirrels, but not get on them, and with the day running away with us, I had to get Eric out on a high seat after a muntjac. I left him, agreeing to meet up after last light, and headed to a roosting wood a mile away with the Defiant, after some dinner for me.
I waited patiently, sitting about 30 yards from a favoured oak in the wood, and was rewarded 20 minutes later when five pigeons fixed wings and came straight to the tree. I had been dozing and hadn't followed them in with rifle raised, my normal style, so from my 'not perfect' cover, I had to raise the rifle slowly, to get on aim without being spotted. The stubby stature of the gun made this easy, and thanks to the matte stock and barrel, preventing shine, I had the rifle up and on aim before the winged pie fillers had any clue of my presence. I squeezed the trigger through the first stage, felt the second break as cleanly as a perfect wave, and sent the pellet straight to target, folding the pigeon and dropping it with a neck shot. The shot was lower than I'd wanted, but the result was the same. I cycled the bolt and resumed my wait.
The roost was much quieter than usual, but with the last tinges of dusk, three latecomers dived straight in to the oak, settling near where the first had landed. Again, the Defiant was up and on aim with no sense of being tracked by my quarry. The glass-like break of the trigger sent another pellet toward its prey and with a flutter, the pigeon crashed to the floor. I collected my prizes, chuffed to have bagged a brace when pickings had been so sparse.
I headed off to meet Eric and it appeared that I'd had the the better evening. Eric had seen plenty of roe, but only one muntjac that he couldn't get a shot at, but hey, that's hunting. We discussed the merits of the Defiant and I was almost annoyed to hear myself going back on many preconceptions. This bullpup was perfectly balanced, quick and deadly. The tactical stock was great at displacing sun glare, and the biathlon bolt was simply a revelation. In short, both Eric and I loved it. I'm really having to change my thought process on bullpups and now agree that the Defiant could certainly have a place in my cabinet, and I'll be honestly sad to give it back.
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