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BS GRT Lightning XL SE

BS GRT Lightning XL SE

BSA has made an effort to revamp their product range in the last couple of years, and their current line-up of pre-charged and the traditional-spring powered rifles, reflects this. Several models now feature gas-rams too, giving further appeal, in an increasingly competitive market. On test is the GRT Lightning XL SE, and with a rather tasty Italian-made stock, fitted as standard. A closer look reveals that these guns are so much more than styling!


Gas Ram Technology (GRT) replaces the main spring with a gas strut; cocking the rifle compresses a sealed chamber of Nitrogen. Fire and the gas rapidly expands, driving the piston forwards, to compress the air to propel the pellet. Clever stuff, and with the original Theoben patents now expired, many manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon to bring out their own versions. So why go gas-ram? With no mainspring to resonate, and wear out, the firing cycle should be smoother and sweeter. Having shot several variants, I’m well aware that increased subtlety and sophistication doesn’t automatically follow.

Traditional finish

‘Sleek yet compact’, is a good description, with that carbine barrel housed within a full-length shroud/moderator. All the metalwork is well finished, in a chemical blue to a good standard, the moderator has a subtle matt finish, which is practical in the field! The cylinder end cap and trigger blade are plastic, and well-shaped and finished, with neither looking out of place, or detracting from the feel and quality!

BSA deserve credit for not only the quality of the wood used for the beech stock, but for that superb configuration. Produced in Italy by Minelli, their domination of the higher end airgun scene is testament to the standard of workmanship. They win many contracts due to their capacity for high unit volumes, yet no one can deny their quality! In the case of this GRT Lightning, the contours cleverly mirror that of BSA’s R10 PCP, and with the signature ‘flared wave’ passing through the forend, a tasteful profile is assured. Mouth watering it may be, but handling is also enhanced by such features, and with a generous thumb shelf, set to the rear of a well-proportioned pistol grip, this model can boast ergonomic credentials, despite being ambidextrous. In short, this is one of the best factory sporter stocks currently available!

Slick action

Fitting a scope is a stress-free experience, since BSA fit this model with a raised rail, fit for purpose. 10mm of extra height is afforded, which may or may not be of use, but the rail itself is nicely machined and finished. Break the barrel and complete the cocking stroke, and the super refined feel immediately becomes apparent. In fact, my test rifle was easily as smooth in operation, as Theoben’s original design; and that, believe me, is praise indeed!

An articulated cocking linkage helps the cause, but the slick mechanics can’t fail to impress. Cocking a gas-ram, for those unfamiliar, sees progressive resistance on the downwards stroke, yet technique, including a positive ‘all-in-one’ sweeping motion, really does minimise the overall effort!

Blown away

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BSA have recently upgraded the trigger mechanism on this model! With a super light first stage, and a nice broad blade helping to spread the load, a precise and perfectly predictable final release is the result. For the record, the safety catch, positioned on the right-hand side of the action, is manually operated, and the GRT can’t be de-cocked.

As for the firing cycle, this gas-ram GRT simply blows its spring-powered cousin out of the water. I’ve never been a great fan of the standard Lightning XL, finding it fairly harsh and a little too lively in the shoulder, compared to many of its rivals. The GRT is a completely different animal, being quiet, super slick, and with minimal recoil. The gas-ram makes for an incredibly fast lock time too, which is the holy grail for some.

Of course, an honest appraisal must acknowledge the slightly low energy levels recorded on test, and at 9 ft/lbs, this particular model is a bit underpowered. But the famous adage stands; that power isn’t everything, and it is quite simply nothing without accuracy. On that latter score, this GRT Lightning didn’t disappoint.

Marvellous moments

In testing, I had one of those marvellous moments when you just can’t quite believe how good the results are. Walking towards the target to check the group, I looked like some shots may have missed their mark altogether! Until it became clear that the first 5-shot group I had produced had torn a single ragged hole, that could literally support the .22 pellet!

On a negative note, it should be noted that the moderator did work slightly loose during my tests, but after a quick check over with an Allen key, it stayed tight thereafter. The fact that it can be easily removed is a handy feature mind you, especially when bad weather has resulted in an ingress of water. Being able to thoroughly dry out components always helps in the battle against rust.


As for my overall thoughts; having no resonance and spring twang to contend with, can make for a subtler shooting experience, and here it scores. As mentioned, I’ve shot several gas-ram models from a variety of manufacturers, and few have shaped up as impressively as this BSA. It’s no cheap option, but for a great handling, slick shooting sporter, boasting a selfcontained power source, this GRT Lightning XL SE must be up for consideration.


  • BS GRT Lightning XL SE - image {image:count}

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  • BS GRT Lightning XL SE - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • BS GRT Lightning XL SE - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • BS GRT Lightning XL SE - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge


  • Model: BS GRT Lightning XL SE
  • Type : Break-barrel sporter
  • Calibre: .22 on test/.177 avail
  • Weight: 6.6 lbs
  • Length: 37.5”
  • Barrel: 14.5”
  • Stock : Beech sporter
  • Power Source : Gas-ram
  • Trigger: 2-stage adjustable
  • Velocity: Air Arms pellets (10 shot string) High 507fps Low 498 Ave 503 Spread 9fps
  • Energy : 9ft/lbs on test / 11ft/lbs + specified by manufacturer
  • Price : £360 approx
  • Contact : BSA Guns; www.bsaguns.co.uk