BSA Lightning Tactical rifle in .25 calibre
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- Last updated: 13/12/2016
This article is more about the calibre than the rifle. In fact I have reviewed the BSA Lightning many times before and believe it to be the best all round practical hunting airgun on the market today – especially this synthetic stocked Tactical version.
What the .25 calibre offers the hunter is tremendous short range knockdown power. By that I mean that whereas the smaller more common .177 and .22 calibres can over penetrate a rabbit or pigeon, and thus lose some of the energy that should be transferred to the animal, the big old .25 often stays inside the animal and therefore expels all its energy within the vital area, giving a more instantaneous kill. This gives the .25 excellent hunting potential, so long as the range is kept below the 25 yard mark, mainly due to the lower velocity from the outset which gives this heavyweight slug a very curved trajectory.
Because this larger calibre is less popular than the .177 and .22 varieties, there are not as many varieties of .25 pellets on the market. This can be a good and bad thing; primarily it makes testing easier as it cuts down the test regime per pellet, but you have less choice between pellets. This is further exacerbated with the big slug because many .25 barrels are on the tight side, and some European pellets are a real tight fit, so this has an effect on accuracy and velocity.
For this test I sourced seven different .25 pellet types ranging from domed to hollow points and even pointed pellet types. Each pellet was measured at the head and base to ascertain average diameter and then a sample of ten pellets were weighed and the average result taken to gain an accurate weight for calculations of velocity, energy and trajectory. This may seem a little over the top for a rifle that is only to be shot at less then 25 yards, but in a hunting situation I expect total reliability and I do not want any problems that could have been eliminated by means of a little extra care at the testing stage.
One tool that every .25 calibre shooter should purchase is a pellet sizer to ensure correct fit if the pellet is too tight in some bore diameters. There are two types available which both swage a pellet through a metal die to the correct dimensions, one is a large flat cylinder with 20 holes through which pellets are sized, this is available from PCMB (www.pmcb.co.uk) for £25 but has to be specified to the correct size when ordered – so you have to know the exact bore size you require. The other type - which I own - is a T. Robb single pellet sizer which is a little more time consuming but allows you to experiment with bore size then adjust the sizer yourself (by adjusting two bolts), to make every subsequent pellet the same as the first. The advantage of this sizer is that if you bought another .25 calibre with slightly different bore dimensions, you can readjust the sizer to suit.
What was immediately obvious from the pellet selection was the huge difference in weights and diameters, the lightest were the BSA and Rhinos at 19.1 and 19.2 respectively with the heaviest up there at 26.2 and 27.3 for the Pest Controls and Ram Points. The diameters (and lengths too) varied widely and made some of the pellets almost impossible to seat in the barrel correctly, even after the sizing process. The largest were the FTT pellets and the smallest the Rhinos, but what was interesting was that some pellets despite having a large diameter, i.e. the FTT pellets, actually fitted better than some other pellets with smaller diameter heads because of the softer lead used.
So the testing proved really interesting, as with such widely varying measurements choosing a pellet was going to prove a little more difficult than usual.
Only the pellets that proved accurate and with reasonable velocity (above 450fps) where swaged, as swaging the remainder proved fruitless. By passing the pellets through the pellet sizer both BSA Pylarms had a head reduction from 0.249 to 0.248 -not a great amount but sufficient to change the pellets velocity figures. The FTT were also swaged and they had a head reduction from 0.250 to 0.248 and again enhanced velocity figures.
Highest velocity went to the Rhinos whose lighter weight certainly helped. They needed no swaging as they had a lovely fit to the BSA barrel and showed a velocity of 510 fps, resulting in a healthy 11.03 ft/lbs energy figure. They also proved accurate, putting five shots into 0.462 inches at 20 yards. Both the velocity and accuracy data were the best achieved and would be my first choice from this BSA barrel.
Second in line came the BSA Pylarms, a little larger in diameter to the Rhinos having a 0.249 head diameter and after swaging 0.248. This resulted in a nice fit to the BSA barrel and resulted in a velocity from the unswaged pellet of 498 fps and 10.52 ft/lbs. By swaging the Pylarm in the T.Robb sizer the velocity rose to 506 fps with more consistency and a good energy figure of 10.86 ft/lbs. This is a good all round pellet and would be good for hunting, with impressive accuracy of 0.527 inches for five rounds at 20 yards.
Third best were the FTT pellets that had a pre-swaged head diameter of 0.250 and swaged of 0.248. They were made of a slightly softer lead and fitted quite nicely into the barrel. They also had a lighter weight of 19.7 grains and thus gave a 476 fps velocity and 9.9 ft/lbs energy figure. This was not bad and accuracy was good at 0.681 for the unswaged pellets and slightly better at 0.662 inch at 20 yards for the swaged pellets.
Next pellet choices were the heavier types with a marked step up of some 5 grains weight or more. Joint lightest from this selection were the Bisley Superfields and Spitz Kugeln which had head diameters of 0.249 each but were made of hard lead and proved difficult to squarely fit into the BSA barrel. Because of the weight and the poor fit the velocity figures were lack lustre, the Spitz Kugeln had a lowly velocity of 312 fps giving 5.32 ft/lbs of energy and the accuracy at 20 yards was more than 1.5 inches, so not suited to this rifle. The SuperFields too were tight and could only manage 316fps and 5.5ft/lbs energy, with accuracy a little better at 0.852 inches at 20 yards.
Finally the heaviest of the lot, the Ram Points and Pest Controls. The Pest Controls were also tight and and had a weight of 26.2 grains. This meant a weak velocity figure of 293fps and 4.99 ft/lbs energy - although accuracy at 0.773 was actually fine so maybe a good ultra short range round with no danger of over penetration around buildings and barns?
The heaviest were the Ram Points at 27.3 grains and as such it is no surprise that the velocity was the lowest at 268 fps and had a scant 4.36 ft/lbs energy. Accuracy was poor at 1.25” and being tight to load I discounted this pellet for this BSA rifle.
So what have we learned from this? Well first off, pellet sizing hurts your thumb!
But seriously you really need to choose your pellet types correctly for your own gun.
First choice here are the Rhinos or BSA Pylarms. Their lighter weight allows a more realistic velocity figure to engage a target at up to 25 yards without too much drop. It has a healthy plus 10ft/lbs figure coupled with that large surface area that really hammers the punch in.
When I took the Tactical out for some field trials I was really amazed at how that lumbering brick of a pellet actually dispatches game so cleanly. I shot many Jackdaws and when hit squarely in the chest or head they were literally lifted off their feet with the impact as were rabbits and squirrels. There were no exits when chest shot but there was total penetration on most head shots. Where the big .25 pellet wins is if you keep the range short and allow all its energy to transfer into the animal for very quick and humane kills. Increasing the velocity would destroy this ability at close range but would give it more legs for longer shots only, in my view. Zeroed at 20 yards an FTT pellet for example travelling at 476fps will be also be zeroed at 10 yards, useful if a sight height of 2.0 inches is used but at 25 yards you are 1.1 inches low and at 30 yards you are 2.5 inches low. Velocity drops from 476 fps at the muzzle to 381fps at 20 yards and 340fps at 30 yards with energy figures of 9.9, 6.35 and 5.1ft/lbs respectively.
Last but not least, I really like the design and performance of the well priced BSA Tactical rifle. In .25 it will not eclipse the .177, .20 or .22 calibre rifle as your main hunting tool but as a specialised short range pest control tool around buildings and machinery – that you don’t want to damage – for sheer knock down power the big .25 will deliver.