Russel Webb tests the BSA Scorpion PART 1

PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 October 2016

The balance and handling suit me perfectly

The balance and handling suit me perfectly

Archant

Russel Webb begins his time with the Scorpion by fulfilling a boyhood ambition – visiting the BSA factory

When Phill, editor of Air Gunner, arranged for me to have a BSA air rifle on long-term loan, I was excited. When he told me I could pick the rifle up myself from the BSA factory in Birmingham, I was in airgun heaven.

I was soon heading up the M1 to the factory, on Armoury Road. The entrance is unassuming and discreet, but it felt like standing on the threshold of Santa’s Grotto. As the factory is not open to members of the public, I was aware of the privileged position I was in.

I'm a happy man and can't wait to get out huntingI'm a happy man and can't wait to get out hunting

My host for the day was Liza who, over a cup of tea and chocolate digestives, told me about the history of BSA Guns, and the company’s plans for the future. The original Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited was formed in 1861 by a group of master gunsmiths. They adopted the symbol of three crossed rifles as an emblem of their craft, which has since become known worldwide as the ‘Piled Arms’ trademark.

During the First World War, BSA factories were turned over almost entirely to munitions work and produced huge quantities of service rifles, machine guns, military motor cycles and even the world’s first folding bicycle. By the time of the Second World War, BSA controlled a group of over 67 factories, employed 28,000 people and produced more than half of the small arms supplied to Britain’s armed forces. The dedicated workforce paid a high price, though, when the factory at Small Heath was bombed by the Luftwaffe, resulting in more than 50 people losing their lives.

Here we go...Here we go...

High quality

BSA has always concentrated on the production of high-quality sporting arms. For airgun shooters of my generation, the two iconic air rifles everybody wanted were the BSA Meteor and BSA Airsporter. Unfortunately for me, my discovery of alcohol and the opposite sex got in the way of my purchase plans, and I never did get to own either of those BSA air rifles.

The Piled Arms trademark is lazer cut into the stockThe Piled Arms trademark is lazer cut into the stock

But now I would be taking home one of BSA’s PCP air rifles. Initially, my thoughts were focused on the flagship of their range, the BSA R10 Mk 2, because I had been impressed with it when using a club member’s R10 on a recent trip to the Mid Shires Marksmen range at Sandy. However, the success of the R10 has overshadowed another of BSA’s PCPs, the Scorpion SE. This is a shame because after using one for a couple of months, I can honestly say it is an absolutely cracking piece of kit.

Accurate from the box

Applying pressure evenly to the mount bolts protects the scope tubeApplying pressure evenly to the mount bolts protects the scope tube

The Scorpion has been a delight to shoot, both when out hunting or plinking at my club.

The gun has been accurate straight from the box, which I believe is due to it being fitted with a BSA cold-hammer forged barrel. During my tour of the BSA factory, I witnessed the barrels being made and had the manufacturing process explained to me at length. BSA is the only volume manufacturer of air rifles who uses cold-hammer forged barrels, which are more usually found on high-grade sporting guns or military weapons.

I appreciate the precision of the Hawke mountsI appreciate the precision of the Hawke mounts

The tour of the factory ended in the stock room where I got to choose the model of Scorpion I wanted to borrow. I really was like a child in a sweet shop. I’m a traditionalist so I went for one of the wood stock options, beech rather than walnut. I do like the look of walnut stocks – the one fitted to my FX Cyclone is a beautiful piece of wood – but it is just not very practical for an everyday hunting rifle.

When I arrived home later, my wife took one look at me and said, “Russel, if you had a tail it would be wagging,” and I had to agree with her.

My Deben spirit level is a key set up toolMy Deben spirit level is a key set up tool

The decision about which optics to fit to the new rifle was an easy one. It would have to be one of the Hawke scopes as I have a Sidewinder fitted to my FX Cyclone that has never let me down and proved to be excellent value for money. When I visited the Hawke stand at this year’s British Shooting Show, I had the opportunity to look at another of their scopes - the Airmax 30 SF - which uses side-focus parallax adjustment. Hawke designed the scope as a specialist airgun optic for airgun hunters and target shooters, and the AMX reticle features multiple aim points, which are useful for shooting airguns with a loopy trajectory.

Mount up

Using a plumb line makes a big differenceUsing a plumb line makes a big difference

To get the best out of your scope, do not be tempted to buy the cheapest mounts available. Scope mounts are the vital link between your rifle and scope, so it really is not worth compromising the accuracy of your hunting kit for the sake of a few pounds. I used Hawke mounts, which are helpfully supplied with a set of Allen keys, to mount the Airmax to the Scorpion.

It is difficult to describe, but good-quality mounts will have a feel when you handle them, while cheap mounts will feel nasty. As well as good mounts and Allen keys, the other essentials needed to fit a scope to a rifle are a plumb line, spirit level, and a gun vice, or other means to fix the rifle in an upright position. My plumb line cost me £1.50 from a local DIY superstore, and the spirit level to attaches to the scope rail of my rifle cost about £11.00. I use a purpose-made gun vice, not just for mounting a scope, but when cleaning my rifle.

The compact size helps when getting into 'interesting' positionsThe compact size helps when getting into 'interesting' positions

Anyway, having mounted the Airmax scope to the Scorpion, I then took a trip to Pete’s Airgun Farm in Essex to zero my new kit on his indoor range.

I will tell you more about my visit to Pete’s in PART 2, coming soon!

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