BSA GRT Lightning SE
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- Last updated: 25/10/2017
When BSA launched the original version of the Lightning, which was quite a bland looking but practical lightweight springer carbine over a decade ago, it was an instant hit with the mechanical action hunting fraternity. Fast handling, no frills, solid break-barrel action, accurate and came supplied ready fitted with the highly capable Volumetric silencer. Since then, we’ve had many variants, which have seen it go through various up-grades modifications and ‘style’ changes.
The latter being more recent when BSA decided to give over design and manufacture of their furniture in their SE range to Italian stock supremoes Minelli! Ergonomically, they now handle far better and even more of a bonus is they look more appealing cosmetically.
When Theoben’s patent on their ‘gas-ram’ ran out, many US and UK gun manufacturers seized upon this technology and incorporated it into their own products.
Unsurprisingly, one of our finest airgun manufacturers (BSA) decided to launch a model powered with what they termed GRT (Gas Ram Technology). So, at last, this brings me to the model on test, the BSA GRT Lightning SE. There’s also an XL variant available, in both beech and black stock options. The internals and certain other key features on these rifles are modified to be in-line with the company’s ‘XL’ range, so in effect you could say the GRT Lightning SE tested here is the most basic of all the gassers BSA produce.
The ambidextrous beech stock is now a stylish and well-proportioned piece of furniture. The butt section is cleverly configured to give an ergonomic feel for both head positioning and ease of shouldering. The relatively high and distinctive cheekpiece is complimented by a slim neck (with shallow rake) plus pistol grip with a full palm swell. A thumbshelf/rest is crafted in the ideal position atop the slim neck, plus, a generous thick black vented rubber butt pad helps the rifle tuck neatly into the shoulder.
In contrast, the forend is short and slim, with a rounded underside and smooth forward taper. To aid grip, the company has crafted three panels of deep-cut chequering on either side, plus two large single panels also adorn each side of the pistol grip. As many shooters realise, the stock is of paramount importance to its inherent handling and balance characteristics. In that respect, I can’t think of one BSA airgun that isn’t complimented as it should be by its furniture and the BSA GRT Lightning SE is certainly no exception.
On cocking the Lightning, you immediately feel the reassuring build quality that BSA is renowned for. The in-house manufactured hammer-forged barrel needs a ‘tap’ on the back to break the detent lock and it’s at this point you appreciate the chunky Volumetric silencer lending itself to be used as a useful cocking aid, giving as it does, extra leverage
The cocking stroke is smooth and progressively takes a bit of heft before the end of travel where it locks in the open position, but this is common to many gas-ram powered air rifles. When open, once again the build quality can’t fail to impress by the large, wedge-shaped detent lock unit, plus the quality of the machining of the breech jaws, barrel and neat deep-set barrel seal. Once a pellet is thumbed into the tube, it can be swung back to the closed position, whereupon it locks up securely once again thanks to that generously sized stainlesssteel detent catch and bar lock mech.
For scope mounting, BSA uses their patented and highly acclaimed Maxi-Grip Scope Rail. In my opinion, this is a feature that always deserves credit, as it ensures recoil on firing does not transfer to the optic fitted. The idea and design of this unit is quite simple; sandwiched between the cylinder outer wall and the raised scope rail is a layer of rubber. Due to it being in this position, it’s a superb ‘buffer’ acting in a comparable manner as a shock absorber you might say.
Due to this feature fitment, I didn’t feel the need to use a Sportsmatch UK Dampa- Mount, a design that uses a similar ‘buffer’ but integral in what outwardly appears to be just a regular one-piece scope mount. In fact, where possible, I’d usually use a ‘Dampa’ to attach an optic to a gas-ram powered rifle, as the recoil can be what I’ve often termed in the past as quite snappy, which can be a cause of scope creep. Experience has shown that BSA’s solution does the job just as well, which is a testament to the ethos and design behind this feature.
However, the Maxi-Grip Scope Rail does not have to work too hard, as the GRT system only gives a slight nudge in the shoulder on firing, showing that BSA’s Gas Ram Technology is a fine and efficient alternative powerplant. Also, the Volumetric silencer does a superb job of keeping muzzle report low; combined, these all help to produce an appealing air rifle for those looking for such a hunter.
Another praiseworthy feature is that BSA is one of the few companies who still manufacture their own barrels. These ‘cold hammer forged’ tubes now being established and recognised as being amongst the finest fitted to any production, sporting air rifle!
It’d be true to say, the major selling point of the Lightning base design are ease of use, light weight, plus its stylish yet highly practical compact dimensions. This design extends to the handling, which for a compact carbine is probably as near perfect as possible. The overall balance is virtually unaffected by whatever size scope you decide to fit. For test, I decided to use a no-nonsense much used AGS 3 – 9 x 40AO specifications optic in medium height mounts.
The completely redesigned, 2-stage adjustable trigger unit is a precise mechanism, having a distinctive curved metal blade that certainly helps the general feel. It’s also good to see a workmanlike and practical ‘lever-style’ manual safety with finger friendly plastic ‘head’ cap positioned rear right on the compression cylinder.
In use, the unit breaks crisply and cleanly with hardly (if any) measurable amount of creep. Level of adjustment is good and hunters will soon find a first stage and second stage pull through that suits. In fact, the trigger is a definite standout feature and one that allows the shooter to fully control and use the accuracy potential the rifle is capable of.
Accuracy is superb, after setting zero for 25 yards for the .22 calibre test rifle I was soon back to getting into the swing of the gas-ram’s familiar shooting cycle! Soon, I was achieving ragged ½”, one- hole groups at zero and without question pushing out 40 yards the rifle soon proved it could deliver kill-zone accuracy at this range regularly producing 1” groupings.
Designed for the hunter, the lightweight BSA GRT Lightning SE sure as hell proves it as soon as you start to use it. No worries over handling, as true to its name, it comes up as fast as any comparable carbine to the shoulder and has a solid reliable feel when you’re locked on aim. Gently squeezing the trigger and the carbine nudges the shoulder with very low recoil and muzzle report on firing, plus having a high level of accuracy potential. The muzzle report being effectively reduced by the chunky Volumetric silencer that BSA supplies as standard with the rifle. In a sentence: The BSA GRT Lightning SE is a superb carbine and if looking to try the alternative ‘strut’ unit – you might well be smitten by the low recoil, faster lock time and accurate consistency such a unit offers.
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