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BSA Lightning XL SE

BSA Lightning XL SE

It’s no secret I love the BSA Lightning design, I have a well used and abused .25 XL Tactical which shoots on the money every time and refuses to die despite my abuse. It’s a tried and tested design and is just as ‘at home’ plinking in the garden as it is irradiating rats from around the farm yard and toppling hooded crows in Scotland. Also the price is right, it’s accurate, easy to cock and consistent with the proper choice of pellets. The new version i.e. XL SE has had a makeover regarding stock design, here tested in beech wood, and its actually made a good rifle great in my view.

As a no nonsense springer that anyone can use and rely on it’s a great looking rifle in a very practical but up to date sporter trim. The stock has been revamped with some great styling and you still have the integral silencer and Maxi grip scope mounts as standard.

Barrel and Action

Action wise the spring piston design is pretty conventional but the overall stroke and cocking is smooth without any faltering, but BSA offer a really good scope mounting system as standard. The Maxi grip rail that gives a full 6 inches of dovetailed grip for your scope mounting also has a built in recoil stud to stop excess rear movement of your scope mounts yet this rifle’s overall firing cycle is quick and smooth.  The barrel is only 10 inches long and is cold hammered with a rifling twist of 1 in 19 inches with the muzzle properly crowned - which makes such a difference. This achieves optimum accuracy although it is all covered by the integral sound moderator. This is over 11 inches long and 1inch in diameter and covers most of the barrel and cannot be taken off. This has two functions; 1/ the large interior certainly mutes any muzzle report well, and 2/ it makes cocking the Lightning very easy.

To cock you just sharply tap the moderator opening up the breech and then complete the stroke with a smooth action until the trigger sear is engaged. Pop in a pellet into the barrel and close up again and you are away, simple. It’s a tight seal and consistently delivers power and accuracy as one would expect.


The woodwork is just what you want from a sporter stock, looks great and better still handles really well, adding confidence so you can achieve some impressive groups on targets.

Beech wood is used and has a matt lacquer finish with the typical ventilated all black rubber recoil pad. What is different is the more scalloped form of the XLSE that has a high comb slant higher to the rear which incorporates a sweeping cheekpiece to both sides. This enables an almost ambidextrous field use, even if you are right handed as sometimes you need to take a shot from the other shoulder so as not to reveal yourself. The forend too is elegant with a tapered and recessed portion adorned with twin cut skip line checkering, duplicated on the pistol grip but in one larger single panel with a nice thumb rest also. Oddly though the sling swivel studs are repositioned the rear one is still on the butt but the front stud now resides on the underneath of the forend and not on the silencer shroud. Personally I prefer it on the silencer, it’s in the way on the stock and makes the rifle sit high on the shoulder.

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Trigger and Safety

The plastic tipped safety is situated on the left and rear of the receiver. It is manual in operation and in its forward position the rifle is ready to fire and in its back position the XL is safe. It’s a simple arrangement that works fine and easily accessible even in the dark when lamping.

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 4.5pounds with a small amount of creep but breaks cleanly.  You can adjust this with the Allen keys provided with the rifle but I left it ‘as is’. 

The trigger guard is a slow looping band of steel which is a bit tight when you have gloves on but looks really nice and works well.

The XL was not at all pellet fussy and a nice smooth shooting rifle to use with the silencer really muting down any muzzle report but did prefer the more domed pellet designs.

Muzzle velocity wise was nice and consistent with four pellets standing out in particular, the Accupell, Air Arms Fields, Bisley Superfields and FTT. But the two former proved to be the best accuracy at 30 yards. The Accupells shooting 595fps and 11.2ft/lbs energy shot 0.65 inch groups at 30 yards. The FTT shot 0.75 inch groups for five pellets with a velocity 584fps and 11.4 ft/lbs. Although the Superfields had a healthy velocity of 581fps and 11.3ft/lbs energy accuracy was poor at 1.25 inches so a no go in this rifle. The Air Arms Fields are bang on 11.0 ft/lbs and 557fps shot 0.75 inch groups but in truth any of these pellets would be a good hunting choice dependent on your own preference.

The Lightning’s size, weight and really good handling characteristics makes it a ‘get the job done’ sort of rifle but with the latest stock you can still admire its looks also.


Great rifle for the price honestly, what more do you want, those Accupells, Lazapells, Air Arms Fields or FTT pellets were on the money with velocity and energy with less than 10-15fps variation on the A A Fields and Accupells, which is amazing on a springer. The action is smooth but there was a little twang from the spring even after the run in period, but what the heck it shoots so well. That slim line integral sound moderator muffles the muzzle report to nothing except the pellet striking your quarry.

I would change the front sling swivel stud position but really this is a great first, second or seasoned air rifle hunters rifle and best of all the price at around £323 is very good.

  • BSA Lightning XL SE - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • BSA Lightning XL SE - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • BSA Lightning XL SE - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • BSA Lightning XL SE - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • BSA Lightning XL SE - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge


  • Point that’s not been mentioned here, the Maxigrip rail is 13mm, not 11mm standard. If you haven’t got 13mm mounts your scope is sitting at an angle, you’ll get creep straight away and if it doesn’t drop off the rail it will kill your scope pretty swiftly. Mine is in .177 and it loves JSB Exact. Great rifle, comfortable and accurate.

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    13 Sep 2019 at 05:26 AM
  • I also have a BSA Lightning XL .22 Tactical, it’s a fantastic little rifle great around the farm for rats I am a bit bemused tho as to why the scopes on some of the other owners rifles have been destroyed, I only say this as my rifle has a new Hawke panarama scope fitted to it I have just replaced the original scope which also was a Hawke but an early Eclipse model only replaced because it was looking a bit old now it had been on my gun since 2008 when I bought the rifle.

    I service it once a year it shoots great and out past 40mtrs, and mine has hardly any recoil to it at all, infact a while ago my friend and I put our rifles side by side on a pillow( his is a .177 HW77 we loaded and just laid the rifle on the pillow firing the rifles at the same time unshouldered so just laying on the pillow mine hardly moved but his went backwards about 4".

    So love my little beeza it shoots great handles great I even bought a wood stock for it as in the pictures above every now and then change over to the wood for a bit of tastiness.

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    Paul smith
    03 May 2017 at 10:36 PM
  • Generally in agreement with the other reviews. I have just bought a second hand one in excellent condition. It is a nice looking and nice handling rifle BUT it seems to be prone to destroying scopes due to the sheer 'whack' on discharge. I have binned a Nikko Stirling Mountmaster AO after 1000 rounds due to the lenses and reticule becoming loose resulting in it being impossible to either zero or hold focus. Now using a Hawke Red Dot 30 and less than 500 shots have resulted in the battery compartment/brightness adjuster working loose! Any suggestions for an indestructible scope very welcome........! The only other gripe is the cheap engineering using simple drift pins to secure both the barrel to the cylinder and the cocking arm to the barrel, plus the plastic trigger. How much more would it have cost to have proper bolts and keeper screws in the tradition of Weihrhauch or Feinwerkbau?

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    Terry Whittle
    12 Feb 2015 at 04:15 PM
  • Really impressed with this rifle, was concerned that accuracy would be an issue on the "carbine" type barrel, ive had no problem grouping 1/2 at 30 ish yards, really suprissed me.
    The gun also looks great with proportioned chequering on the woodwork, The 2 stage trigger is adjustable, but ive left it well alone as perfectly happy, only thing I had to do after zeroing was to move the scope mounts further down the rail to be more ergonomically comfortable, and there is plenty of room on the rail for mount travel.
    I have no intention to add a sling to this gun, as with the short barrel it sits very comfortably under the arm.
    Overall this is now the best gun I own, I also have Weihrauch HW97K, and Theoben Sirocco, I find the 97K quite heavy and the Theoben woodwork not as comfortable to aim as the BSA. really proud that my number 1 gun is a BSA.
    I also have a small collection of vintage BSA guns, (BSA Standard, BSA light model and a few comets), these guns still work now the same as the day they were made.

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    Scott Humphries
    14 Nov 2014 at 11:22 AM
  • I recently bought a second hand immaculate .22 XL (sling mount on barrel) fitted with a Hawke 3-9x40 scope for £175, from a local gunsmith, to curtail the growing rabbit population in my garden. I am a .22 rimfire target and sporting shooter of too many years. Guess I was lucky and picked the right gun as I was totally amazed that within an hour spent on sighting in and getting used to the trigger action I was achieving 1/2 groups at 25 yards with a 10 inch barreled air rifle which is the same as I can do with a Ruger 10/22 semi-auto rimfire. This was in an indoor range firing from a sitting position using RWS Superdome pellets. The build quality and woodwork on this rifle is excellent. I think I have just become an air rifle convert. Interested in Mr Potts comments on the domed ammo as I have ordered some pointed pellets (hadn't read this review then) and will let you know the results. One point missed in the article is the ability to still fit a moderator after removing the screwed cap on the barrel making it even quieter.

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    Gordon McKay
    22 Oct 2014 at 01:03 AM
  • After being out of the air rifle scene for over 2 decades I recently purchased a XL SE and after firing off 3 tins of Accupels the twang has now gone and I'm left with a nice clean positive thud.. I did have to adjust the trigger as for me the 2nd stage was just to stiff..
    The lads at the BFTO always comment on what a lovely looking rifle it is..
    My first Nikko Stirling Mountmaster scope fitted to the XL SE only lasted a week before the turrets locked solid, this was changed under warranty and so far the replacement is working fine.
    Very happy with the quality of the stock and the rifle overall has exceeded my expectations.
    Great review :0)

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    M Bamford
    08 Oct 2014 at 08:24 AM