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BSA XL Tactical air rifle in .22

I tested the Standard Lightning XL a while back and was suitably impressed with its build quality as well as accuracy and power but more especially the price...

I tested the Standard Lightning XL a while back and was suitably impressed with its build quality as well as accuracy and power but more especially the price. As a no nonsense self contained power source spring air rifle the BSA XL just works and offers simple operator service and day long fun whether just plinking or rabbit shooting.

The design of the XL was a marked improvement on the old and out dated Lightning design and this was largely due to the new stock configuration. Once again the stock arrangements on this new XL Tactical is what really makes this model stand out.

I liked the old stock design with high cheek piece and generous proportions although the beech and matt varnish finish with very large checkered panels were less attractive. Not wishing to sit on their laurels BSA have done it again with not just a revamped stock but a totally new design and material of construction. As with the centrefire rifle market, many shooters favour the synthetic stock material of plastic or fibreglass to ensure a stable bedding platform and longevity in the field. The airgun market was slow to catch on and although bedding issues may not be a mandatory requirement on this level of air gun, looks and hard wearing capabilities certainly are.
The stock is not just a recast synthetic version of the old design. Instead BSA have taken the change to mean just that change and what a radical design it is too. I love it, it not only makes you really look hard at the XL, always a good sales tactic, but the design is very comfortable and really makes you want to take it out and shoot it.

The stock is moulded in two halves of high-density polymer plastic and then bonded together. This is not a hollow design and thus has a good weight and feel to it. It feels solid and capable of taking a few knocks whilst out hunting and will be impervious to the weather.

The colour is charcoal black with crinkle finish that looks really smart and aids in grip although there are three separate panels of heavier stippling that act as checkering alternatives to the forend. The pistol grip too has a wrap round slightly raised stippled finish which complements the forend. This is not radical by any means but the overall design certainly is, BSA have bought the XL bang out to date in terms of styling. There is that air of futuristic styling to the rifle, which in this case, handles as well as it looks. The shallow tapered forend is slim but perfectly good enough for a good hold and finishes in a semi Schnabbel tip. The trigger guard is all-inclusive to the bottom of the stock and flows naturally into the pistol grip that is very up straight in stature. I like this as the hand is positioned with out strain and the trigger finger naturally falls on the trigger blade. There is thumb rest on the left hand side for conventional shooting styles but if you like to shoot with the thumb up behind the receiver then the cut away in the stock and rear receiver block will please you. The check piece comes rakishly sweeping high out of the pistol grip top and forms a high perfectly aligned without cast support so that scope viewing is comfortable. This is a right hand designed stock as there is a bias to the right sided cheek piece and rolled over top section and palm swell on the right side of the pistol grip. The bottom portion of the stock has been scalloped away up into the body of the rear portion that removes excess weight and adds to the overall design. This culminates in a solid black rubber ventilated recoil pad with the BSA logo pressed neatly into the rear left side portion of the stock. Not with standing this level of detail BSA have also include a Q/D sling swivel stud as std, so us hunters can utilise a sling without the hassle of having to drill your own holes. It is a great design with practical use and hardwearing characteristics and it has a very good visual impact.

The rest of the XL is largely unchanged and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
The compact receiver and barrel dimensions is one of the reasons that the XL and this form Tactical are popular. Youngsters and sad 40 somethings can use it with out straining themselves. The overall finish is good, as you would expect with nice deep blueing to the metal parts.
The safety is situated on the left rear of the receiver and forms a plastic tipped silent arrangement. It is manual in operation and in its forward position the rifle is ready to fire and in its back position the XL Tactical is safe. It’s a simple arrangement that works fine.

The trigger is adjustable and of two-stage design, i.e. there is a small take up of the first stage before the trigger pressure is reached. Set at the factory the trigger was a bit heavy, probably 5 pounds plus with quite a bit of creep. You can adjust this out with the Allen keys provided with the rifle but I left it and after a few tins of pellets the trigger actually smoothed out a bit any way.

The scope is the capable Maxi grip rail that gives a full 6 inches of dovetailed grip for your scope mounting, however long scopes will over hang the break barrel design, so choose carefully. There is a built in recoil stud to stop excess rear movement of your scope mounts but the overall firing cycle is quick and smooth and so I can not see any real problems in this area. The barrel is only 10 inches long and is cold hammered with a rifling twist of 1 in 19 inches with particular detail paid to proper crowning. This helps in achieving optimum accuracy although you can not see the effort BSA have gone to as the muzzle is covered by the integral sound moderator. This is over 11 inches long and 1-inch diameter and covers most of the barrel and can not be taken off, so do not try. There is the second Q/D sling swivel attached to its underside that completes the sling mounting arrangement. The moderator serves as two functions, one the large cavernous interior certainly mutes any muzzle report well and secondly it is a bloody good cocking aid. Not that the XL Tactical is hard to cock but a sharp tap to the mod opens up the breech and then is completed by a smooth and short cocking action until the trigger sear is engaged. Pop a pellet into the barrel and close up again and you are away, simple.

On the range and in the field the XL is a joy. I like simple one shot spring powered air guns, they require a bit of user input to achieve the best results After about 250 rounds the entire action and cocking all smoothed out even more and I started the pellet tests. The XL Tactical was really not that fussy to pellet type although a medium or lighter weight pellets shot better.  Field Target Trophies flew along at 578.9fps and gave 11.58ft/lbs energy with good accuracy at 30 yards of 0.5 inches or less. Best accuracy actually went to the Air Arms Field pellets with 0.4 inch 30 yard groups and 560.2fps velocity and 11.32ft/lbs energy levels. In fact all pellets tested worked fine and depending on your application and range and intended quarry its up to you to choose your perfect match.
Interestingly BSA make the XL Tactical in three calibres, .177, .22 and .25. I own an old XL in .22 and I really fancy this new Tactical version in .177 or that big old lumbering .25 slug does sound appealing. Regardless of calibre choice BSA yet again have improved on what was already a good rifle, marketed £200 the price is right on the button and the newly styled and synthetic stock is going to really appeal to shooters, its got me hooked. As usual many thanks to Ivan Mathers from C.H.Westons Brighton 01273 733832 for supplying the rifle for test.

Technical Specifications
Manufacturer BSA Guns
Action Break Barrel
Type Spring Piston
Calibre .177, .22 or .25
Weight 6.1 lbs
Overall Length 37.75 inches
Barrel Length 10 inches
Safety Manual operation
Trigger Adjustable Two Stage
Stock Sporter, Synthetic
Sights Scope Rail, Maxi Grip
Price £200

All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates

User Comments
  • I HAVE OWNED THE TAC 1.77 FOR 2 MONTHS NOW AND CAN'T FAULT IT ONE BIT SO I BOUGHT THE 2.2 FOR MORE IMPACT BUT WAS PUT OFF BY SEEING THE PELLETS FLYING OUT THE END OF THE BARREL LOVE THE 1.77 THOUGH

    Comment by: butch     Posted on: 28 Apr 2010 at 06:18 PM

  • Just thought I'd share my experience of purchasing a new BSA Lightning XL air rifle....

    I had been reading the mags and seen the XL tactical and the wood stocked XL's and thought Ooh, I like them.
    Can't make my mind up which, So off to my local dealer who had both in stock in my preferred .177 flavour.
    Whilst demonstrating them the poor dealer finds the wood stocked won't cock properly...so that makes the choice for me and the deal is done on the tactical...

    Anyway I get it home and find that the stock has a horrible long dent in it behind the safety.
    None of the review models had this,So I think this isn't right...

    Not only that, but the breech has not been finished at all which makes it impossible to seat pellets with your thumb and leaves about 0.5 to 1mm of skirt sticking out and looses 1-2ft/lb unless you seat the pellets into the rifling (laughably BSA Storm pellets are the worst )

    So a quick call to the dealer gets an apology and the promise of another gun...
    The replacement rifle arrived today and guess what same long dent which is obviously now a poor cover-up for a mould modification for the safety catch postion on either or both the ultra or scorpion rifles and to add insult to injury a chunk of blueing is missing on the top of the main cylinder just behind the breech (no-one will notice it there eh?)

    So thats 3 guns all unsaleable - to say I'm disappointed in what Gamo have done to what was a great company is an understatement, rather than BSA having a positive influence on Gamo - its quite the opposite it seems - I wanted to buy the gun but if Gamo think I'll accept unsightly marks like that in a plastic stock - think again my friends -I wouldn't if it was a wood stock, why would the synthetic one be any different and by the wat Senor Gamo the best rifling in the world is wasted if you can't be bothered to finish the breech properly

    Thankfully the dealer was excellent and refunded me without a quibble...not exactly what I was expecting given the glowing praise the rifle has recieved in the airgun press (perhaps rifles should be tested at random from the shops rather than supplied for test by the manufacturer...)

    Comment by: H J Smith     Posted on: 17 May 2010 at 01:10 AM

  • I appreciate your comments as I have been seriously considering a new xl tactical BUT NOT NOW!!!!!

    Does anybody know when gamo took over production of this rifle - serial number range would be useful so if I do find one for sale 2nd hand I'll know who made it.

    If not an xl tactical then what? I want a compact springer because I really can't be doing the pcp thing and cost is a consideration too. I've got .22 rimfire rifles on open ticket but sometimes only an air rifle is suitable.

    Comment by: JCL     Posted on: 07 Aug 2010 at 01:20 PM

  • hi there, iv had my xl tactical now for just over a year. really nice gun to use if you are moving about lots, it's not so good if you are doing shot's over 50 yrd's i use a air arms tx200 for that.

    no gamo didn't take over on the xl, the only problem iv had is it will not hold zero, i have sent it back to be looked at but iv had a very good time with it and hopefully it will be sent back perfect again.

    Comment by: MB     Posted on: 12 Sep 2010 at 02:28 AM

  • To MB,
    Yes...Gamo did take over manufacture of the XL and XL tactical. Hence why they are such an awful rifle to fire these days. The old XL and standard lightnings were serious pest control tools but Gamo, being a Spanish manufacturer have turned them into little more than slightly over low budget plinking guns. They are twangy on firing and have a nasty habit of kicking more than a comparitive HW or Air Arms springer. Im really dissapointed with the way BSA have headed since Gamo took over the firm..their PCP's are safe bets as they are still made here by the best...however avoid BSA springers like the plague..unless Gamo/BSA would like to send me one to trial and prove otherwise? But i doubt it.

    You'd have thought maybe them buying BSA out would cause a bit of that Great British Airgun manufacturing knowhow (after all we ARE the best in the world at making air guns) would rub off on Gamo, but none of it. They really have ruined a legacy that was the BSA Lightning/XL/XL Tactical.

    Comment by: Ronnie     Posted on: 19 Sep 2010 at 05:16 AM

  • try a ruger air hawk now thats a bad gun.

    Comment by: mark walton     Posted on: 22 Sep 2010 at 12:56 AM

  • Got my BSA XL taxtical a few weeks ago. Tried 3 different scopes, in all 3 cases the shots are all over the target at 30 yards, no grouping at all. Cant make sense of it. I get far better accuracy from my son's old Cometa mod. 50. Please help, any suggetsions?

    Comment by: Zack     Posted on: 01 Feb 2011 at 09:16 AM

  • Some of the main causes of poor grouping are normally; 1. Action loose in stock 2.incompatible pellets 3.Poor scope mounting. 4. inconsistent power output (internal fault) or problems with the barrel (usually the muzzle crown or incorrectly fitted muzzle brake/moderaor). 5. User input.

    As you are getting better results with a Cometa 50, we can rule out 5.

    So first check that the action is not loose in the stock. If so carefully tighten it up.

    If that doesn't work try using a number of different pellet brands (make sure that you try at least one of the following brands; FT Trophy or Air Arms Field or Crosman Premiers as these are all usually consistent).

    If none of these work, move onto problem 3. Try lightly marking the scope and mount with Tippex typing fluid or a similar non-permanent marker, then see if the scope is moving in the mounts after a few shots (it can either move back or forward, or turn in the mounts). If this is happening, remove the scope, degrease the scope tube and inside of the mounts, remount the scope correctly.

    If this doesn't work, you probably have a problem with the spring/piston/seals etc. or the barrel, in which case it is best to take the rifle back to the seller.

    Comment by: Pat Farey     Posted on: 01 Feb 2011 at 11:58 PM

  • I have a bsa xl tactical, and love it. The accuracy is second to none up to a range of 30 yds plus, to continuously upgrade is in my nature. But i have been in the field with mates who have pcp rifles, o2, and other springers. And i can honestly say that the tactical impresses all. I cannot justify an upgrade. Dont need to.

    Comment by: HEDGEHUNTER02     Posted on: 18 Mar 2011 at 10:27 PM

  • Sorry. Forgot to mention the pellets that marry perfectly with this rifle. They are the premier ultra magnum. I use nothing else. Domed, hollow point or pointed for long range in medium winds. Hope this helps.

    Comment by: HEDGEHUNTER02     Posted on: 30 Mar 2011 at 09:49 PM

  • Hi Hedgehunter

    I've used Crosman Premiers for years and have never found them wanting, but I've not tried Crosman Premier Ultra Magnums, although I have heard good things about them - I'll get some in and try them.

    Comment by: Pat Farey     Posted on: 31 Mar 2011 at 11:49 AM

  • Good for you Pat. Dont what rifle you use. But for the bsa tactical they are ace. I only take a shot if i know its a kill. Head. Or square in the back. I only shoot corvids. Mainly the black and white villains of the bird world that are called, MAGPIES....

    Comment by: HEDGEHUNTER02     Posted on: 01 Apr 2011 at 10:09 PM

  • I finally got my accuracy soughted on my tactical xl, very impressive. I have encountered another problem, on loading the rifle I heard a cracking sound near the end of the cocking procedure. I stripped the rifle to invesigate the problem and found a damaged plastic shaft on the inside of the spring. This plastic shaft appears to be attaced to a washer/stopper at the bottom end of the spring. Why would this part be made from plastic? most other air rifles have steel ones. Any suggestions on how to repair this?

    Comment by: Zack     Posted on: 20 Apr 2011 at 09:19 PM

  • The part you are referring to is the spring guide and these are often made of low friction plastic like Delrin. They shouldn't take any pressure and it's unusual that it should break. As you already have the rifle stripped, just buy a replacement guide from your local BSA dealer or John Knibbs International (www.airgunspares.com)

    Steel guides are used in some rifles, so if you would prefer you could accurately measure your broken guide and see if you can get a steel one to the same spec - but it would have to be an exact replacement. When re-assembling the rifle, SPARSELY use a good quality airgun grease (molybdenum based) to lightly lubricate the spring.

    Comment by: Pat Farey     Posted on: 21 Apr 2011 at 12:21 AM

  • Broken spring guide on BSA tactical xl: unfortunately I'm a mining engineer working in Burkina faso. I will not return home for at least another 8 weeks. I'm missing out on a rabbit hunt next week. I need to replace the spring guide before then. I can possibly find a temporary replacement for the mean while from older air rifles available here, can anyone help with an accurate length of the guide. Diameter is ok as I still have the broken sections.

    Comment by: Zack     Posted on: 21 Apr 2011 at 08:28 PM

  • I own a .25 BSA under lever loader not too sure what it is could you tell me? Also it's had a new spring, piston head washer and barrel seal washer, the piston itself was all polished but at 25-30 yards its shooting at a very inconsistant accuracy. Is there a pellet you can recomend or something else i should be looking at? I have tried many .25 pellets but most seem much too tight a fit and in one or two cases have had to cock the gun a few times before the pellet was fired. Any help will be most appriciated.

    Comment by: Connor     Posted on: 07 Sep 2011 at 08:09 PM

  • If your rifle has a tap-loading breech that operates by flicking a metal handle up, then it is probably am Airsporter, if it has a rolling breech (that operates from side-to-side) it is a Superstar or a Polaris (although I don't know if the latter were made in .25).

    The reason that the pellets are tight in the bore is probably that they are continental (H&N, RWS etc.) which are slightly bigger (I think they are approx 6.5mm) than British made .25 pellets (approx 6.35mm). BSA make their own barrels and they are more suited to British pellets such as Milbro Rhino, Marksman No.3 or BSA's own Pylarm .25.

    Alternatively you can get a pellet sizer from T R Robb which you can use to 'size-down' any .25/6.5mm pellet to fit your barrel.

    Comment by: pat farey     Posted on: 08 Sep 2011 at 12:32 PM

  • The Bsa lightning xl tactical is in my opinion the best tactical air rifle out there. It comes with swivels and bsa surpressor. It is a very good hunter which i have killed many rats rabbits pigeon and crows. I would reccomend this gun to anyone looking to hunt.

    Comment by: george F     Posted on: 22 Aug 2012 at 07:45 PM

  • Bought one the other day... and find it very hard to cock - have the bruises to prove it! . But shoots well... off the shelf average 9.5 ftl/lbs

    Comment by: Richard     Posted on: 15 Sep 2012 at 10:03 AM

  • After having an original lighting about 10 years ago, I bought a used XL Tactical from a large BSA dealer a couple of weeks ago. - It was not shooting groups well - I discovered the barrel wobbled side to side about 8-10mm !

    Took it back. Bought a new one. Out of the 6 lightning XL's at the shop every one had side to side barrel movement. - I chose the one with least!

    Found it was not shooting groups - so had it chronographed at another shop.
    9.1 ft/lbs.

    Took it back - got a refund. I've have since checked lightnings in two other shops - All have slight movement in the barrels!

    Have since bought a used hw95 and it just exudes quality - like silk compared to cotton!

    Comment by: Jake Hodes     Posted on: 30 Oct 2012 at 06:15 PM

  • My father has a tactical,he complained that the scope was inaccurate and I tried it on a very old Diane ( I think ) a knackeredand old thing really.i was grooping within an inch at 60 ft with it but with the tactical couldn't group within two inches,pretty bad really ,my old meteor would of put it to shame.I think surpressors don't help with accuracy though ,any views?

    Comment by: Jarrod     Posted on: 12 Apr 2014 at 09:57 PM

  • BSA barrels are usually very good, so try some different pellets, you should find one it groups well with.

    Comment by: Troll Hunter     Posted on: 22 Apr 2014 at 12:38 AM

  • This review of the BSA Lightening XL Tactical .22 did not mention the loud noise. I'm a novice age over 50, I have fired .177 a few years ago and don't have enough experience of this rifle yet to give an opinion on its quality. On the range this rifle was louder than a couple of others which had no apparent silencer. This is my only disappointment so far. What do others think?

    Comment by: Jim Newman     Posted on: 28 Apr 2014 at 10:43 AM

  • I've used these rifles before and didn't find them particularly noisy.

    Maybe the rifle is 'dieselling' i.e burning oil during the firing cycle, which results in a loud crack. This can be caused by incorrectly lubricated pellets.

    Are the pellets you are using straight from the tin, or have you used any form of lubricant on them?

    I'm not trying to blame you by the way, just thinking out loud!

    Comment by: Troll Hunter     Posted on: 28 Apr 2014 at 11:13 PM

  • Troll, thanks for your response. The pellets are straight from the tin, Gamo Pro Hunter. I was so disappointed with this rifle, I tried to return it to TAL in Christchurch. I had fired only about 10 rounds at the local range but the manager said that because I had fired it they would not refund. Thanks for your interest.
    Jim.

    Comment by: Jim Newman     Posted on: 04 May 2014 at 07:49 PM

  • If you haven't added any lube to the pellets, you may have just been burning off a little lubricant that was in the gun from when it was made and will probably quieten down when it's gone. If I were you I'd buy some Air Arms Field or H&N Field Target Trophy pellets and see what the accuracy is like.

    Comment by: Troll Hunter     Posted on: 04 May 2014 at 08:30 PM

  • The good news is that these rifles are now made in Birmingham again,
    accuracy and quality are now back to the high standards of the good old days. My .177 XL Tactical is really earning its keep in the world of pest control, I have a SAK Air rifle silencer fitted to the end of the barrel which adds that little of extra silence when needed. All in all its worked out well for me.

    Comment by: R man     Posted on: 03 Oct 2014 at 06:07 PM

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BSA XL Tactical air rifle in .22
BSA XL Tactical air rifle in .22
BSA XL Tactical air rifle in .22
BSA XL Tactical air rifle in .22
BSA XL Tactical air rifle in .22
BSA XL Tactical air rifle in .22
BSA XL Tactical air rifle in .22
BSA XL Tactical air rifle in .22
BSA XL Tactical air rifle in .22
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