BSA R10 MK2
Mark Camoccio takes a critical look at the revamped MK2 version of the BSA R10
Buddy bottle fed pre-charged pneumatics are extremely popular, and the idea of having a separate air vessel, detachable from the main action has really taken off. Theoben certainly popularised this type of air rifle, when they hit the market with their ground breaking Rapid 7. Understandably eager to muscle in, many manufacturers have launched their own take on the theme, with the main advantage to the shooter being a much higher than average shot count.
I for one, can’t help harbouring reservations with regards to the handling characteristics of these ‘buddy bottle’ rifles, given that the shooter is often required to grip the bottle at the front, in place of the fore-end. This to me seems a mite uncivilized, yet with loyal customers forming an orderly queue, the system clearly has great appeal to many.
BSA have long since staked their claim to a slice of the action in this sector of the market; yet their reputation of late hasn’t been helped by the mixed reception received for their original R10 model. Reliability issues did the rounds, but my test model here is the very latest MK2 version, which sets out to address many of these issues, and the word on the street is that this latest MK2 version is the rifle that the R10 always should have been in the first place – we shall see.
This test is the first time that I have actually got up close and personal, and I have to say that the R10 MK2 is simply an exquisite piece of design work; every bit as delectable in the ‘flesh’ as it is screaming from the advertising.
It’s a point of fact that many buddy bottle fed rifles compound the aforementioned handling issues by the inclusion of a larger than average air bottle - striking a vulgar profile in the process. This BSA manages to undermine my bias against buddies in general, by virtue of its perfectly proportioned front mounted bottle.
Add to the equation that particularly stylish woodwork, and an uncluttered top line, and the result is a highly compact hunting rifle, that really does look the part. Rarely have I felt so drawn to a rifle as I have with this R10, and to use a corny line - ‘to handle it is to want it’. Just taking aim with this model is an experience, and the cosseting, highly functional stock, just feels right from the off.
Distinction comes with that flared ridge running across the fore-end, yet tastefully cut chequering and a high cheek piece, means handling and eye scope alignment are both well catered for. Thumb shelves really aid grip, and with the R10, a supremely comfortable ‘thumb up ‘ position can be adopted; helped in no small part by that subtle palm swell. A rosewood cap and spacer, along with a rosewood schnabel fore-end tip, may not down any more targets, but pride of ownership is enhanced for sure.
Finally, an adjustable well shaped rubber butt pad is fitted to the R10 as standard, so all importantly, this rifle can be finely set to suit the shooter, and not vice versa.
The R10 MK2 specification includes a regulated action courtesy of a John Bowkett designed regulator, a fully shrouded barrel, 10 shot rotary magazine, 2-stage trigger, an adjustable butt pad, and sling swivels as standard. The spec looks good on paper at least, so a closer inspection beckons.
‘Sleek’ best describes the action, and that full length shroud complete with ported muzzle finisher certainly adds to the purposeful look. The barrel is barely over 15inches which is shorter than many rivals, and may well aid lock time figures into the bargain. Finish to the R10 is fairly good, with a nicely blued barrel shroud setting off the action. Small signs of wear to the blacking were already showing on the breech block however, just where the magazine locates into its slot in the block.
Talking of mags, BSA are at pains to point out that a brand new design is now used in these models, and my experience of BSA magazines confirms that this is indeed BSA’s best yet. An enclosed casing sees a metal front plate which allows for each pellet in turn to be chambered securely head first, and with a conveniently wide aperture, the pellet can be fully inserted without needing to be seated with a following pellet. The central drum is rotated until all ten shots are in place. The mag is then ready.
Charging the R10 is different to many ‘buddy bottle’ rifles in that BSA give the shooter the option of removing the bottle itself prior to charging, or simply charging the action with bottle in situ. The first route requires the 200cc bottle to be unscrewed one quarter turn, then the bolt pulled back, cocked, and air fired off repeatedly until the air in the regulator is expended. The bottle can then be fully unscrewed and then attached to the air supply. A bit of a chore, I think you’ll agree.
The second ‘quick fill’ route simply requires the probe adaptor (supplied with the rifle) to be inserted into the inlet valve, just forward of the on-board pressure gauge. The bottle via the action can then be filled to 232bar, the air line bled, and the probe withdrawn. In practise, this system worked well and is a huge advance on the alternative.
Fitting a scope to the R10 incidentally, is easier than many PCP’s courtesy of that continuous, uninterrupted scope rail; a task I could forgo since the rifle came fitted with a nicely compact BSA Essential 3-9x40 model.
This is the time in the proceedings where anything that needs fine setting can be dealt with before zeroing is attempted; such as that adjustable butt pad. One screw at the rear needs to be slackened off and the pad can be set to an optimum height to suit the individual.
Finally, the trigger is an area where some fine adjustment can really pay dividends, and in the case of the R10, BSA offer a semi match unit which is fully adjustable for shoe position, weight of pull, over travel and length of travel, and whilst these aren’t all easily achieved without removing the stock, once set, the trigger should impress.
This latest R10 MK2 just begs to be picked up, and once in the aim, I just couldn’t wait to see what it was capable of.
Over the chronograph, 170 shots were recorded with just over 30fps variation, which is fairly impressive given the wonderfully compact on-board bottle. BSA quote 150 shots and for the record, the total velocity spread would have been the same over 150.
There’s a catch…
Accuracy was next, and to be honest, initial results were not good. Alarm bells rang as I simply couldn’t keep groups to within an inch at 30yds, using .177 DaystateLi pellets. These had proved themselves before, so I suspected the problem lay elsewhere. To my relief, a technical reason emerged, and it brought to light an important aspect to bear in mind when using the R10.
BSA design the rifle with a magazine retaining catch, which sits just to the left of the
base of the barrel shroud. The loading procedure should be as follows: pull back the catch and pull the magazine from the breech block from the left side. Load the mag as mentioned previously and when full, push it back into its home. Then CLOSE the retaining catch. In my haste to get started, I had simply forgotten to close the retaining catch, and since the rifle will still fire, was unaware of my error.
Once the catch was correctly pushed home, surprise, surprise - those Daystate Li’s began printing rather excellent quarter inch groups at 30yds, followed up with sub half inch at 45yds in driving wind; yet the harsh lesson had been learned. In an ideal world, a fail-safe system would prevent the action from firing until that catch had been re-applied, yet admittedly I had failed to follow the intended procedure.
Further idiosyncrasies came to light with the fact that cocking the bolt (that rather gorgeous hand filling Bolas design) just occasionally, cycled the magazine but failed to cock the trigger - with the result that re-cocking the bolt would then load two pellets, one behind the other, into the barrel. This occurred rarely on test, and the adoption of a positive cocking regime is always the best policy in any case, yet the design does allow it to happen. Several PCP’s on the market share this weakness, but any fair assessment of the R10 needs to highlight the fact, I think you’ll agree.
All things considered, this latest R10 is a worthy addition to the world famous BSA stable. OK; there are some minor details that need to be considered, but performance was impressive under the right conditions, and that simply stunning walnut stock means pride of ownership has to be a part of any prospective owners thinking.
With a level of functionality that raises the bar for this type of rifle, it was little wonder that I just found myself making excuses to get out and shoot it. Yes it’s imperfect, but the R10 MK2 is just bursting with character. Couple that with a great spec list and some serious accuracy potential, and I can’t fail to recommend it, as a stylish hunting rifle with attitude.
|Model:||BSA R10 Mk2|
|Type:||Buddy bottle PCP multi-shot rifle|
|Calibre:||.177on test (.22 available)|
|Power Source:||200cc buddy bottle|
|Claimed Shot Count:||.177 = 150shots or .22 = 180shots|
|Average velocity:||790fps with Daystate Li .177 calibre pellets|
|Average Spread:||32fps - over 170 shots|
|Options:||Left hand model|
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