BSA Lightning XLT
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- Last updated: 27/01/2017
Relatively recently BSA upgraded virtually all their air rifles – springer, gas-ram and PCP powered – and gave them an ‘SE’ denotation. Some, such as the XLT, or as it’s often known, the ‘Tactical’ model of Lightning, also received these upgrades, but in my opinion didn’t seem to be given the attention it deserved, particularly when you consider the stock was altered quite dramatically. As I’ve previously tested the XL Tactical before the upgrade I not only felt it long overdue I tested the ‘XLT’ model, but also give it the coverage it deserves before it’s eventually superseded. That may sound strange, but let me explain: as we moved into 2015, BSA informed me they’d eventually be changing this model, offering it in a different stock design. Possibly by the time you read this its successor will have been shown to the public. However, the company also stated there was still good stocks (no pun intended) of this particular model and many retailers in particular will still have them on their racks. In that respect judge for yourself if you feel you should grab one during this period of change.
Immediately noticeable is that the High Impact Polymer stock has now forgone the original’s dedicated right-hand roll over cheekpiece, replaced by a fully ambidextrous jobbie. This newly configured relatively high and very well-defined cheekpiece finishes at the shoulder with a very generously sized ventilated black rubber buttpad. The neck is slim while the very steep drop down pistol grip is quite thick set. This palm swell giving the trigger hand a very good hold and by way of offering extra grip there are large raised ‘textured’ panels set either side of the handle and three set either side of the forend. A generous thumbshelf is also incorporated into the design to allow for a ‘thumbs-up’ hold. BSA have also proudly moulded in their piled arms logo towards the base either side of the butt section and the rifle now also has a sling swivel study ready fitted under the butt section. The forend is relatively slim and tapers quite sharply upwards to end in a semi-Schnabel tip.
As this is a scope-only rifle, no prizes for guessing that BSA has retained the Maxi-Grip scope rail they fit to many mechanical action air rifles in their stable. That rail and rubber cushion design is kind on any scope, but later, upon firing the XLT, it became obvious recoil isn’t an issue, so more so the raised nature of this ‘unit’ helps the action be suitable for optics both large and small. However, as I feel a more general spec hunting optic to be the optimum companion to this rifle, I opted to fit the sensibly sized Hawke Airmax 4-12x40AO in medium height mounts.
The cocking stroke was super smooth and made easy as the full-bodied yet relatively slim silencer makes for a handy cocking aid. Once in the cocked position you can clearly see the large wedge-shape détente lock and chunky breech seal that after direct pellet loading – after being returned to the closed position – lock everything up with a very solid and secure feel.
The test rifle was in .22 calibre so I set a sensible 25 yard zero, even though in the right hands the rifle is capable of kill-zone accuracy at ranges far exceeding that, but in most cases this is the sort of rifle where you’ll be taking on quarry at ranges from approximately 12 to 30 yards. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding and from a stable shooting position using H&N Field Target ammo I was soon able to print ½ inch groups at my set zero.
Other features that impress (besides the stock design) are the slim full-length integral sound moderator and the very responsive 2-stage adjustable trigger unit. As for the former, it’s quite a dominating feature of the rifle as it almost fully shrouds the 10 inch tube and upon firing does a very fine job of taming muzzle report. If you need even more sound suppression, what initially appears to be the stylish rounded muzzle of the silencer is in fact a removable end cap. Once unscrewed it reveals a ½ inch UNF male thread which, of course, will accept a wide variety of off-the-shelf cans. However do take into consideration the extra length a secondary moderator would add to the gun and, in my opinion, for the minimal amount of extra sound suppression one would give you’ll equally lose out on the rifles inherent compact handling attributes.
The 2-stage adjustable trigger unit was originally specifically designed for the XL series of springers and here on the XLT it gives the shooter a very high level of shot control. Straight from the box a gentle squeeze of the nicely curved metal trigger blade showed it breaks crisp and cleanly without a hint of creep. It also has a very practical and user-friendly manual safety lever positioned above and to the right of the unit.
BSA has put a lot of time and effort into developing a very fine roster of air rifles, of which the Lightning XLT is a prime example. It handles superbly, has a super-smooth cocking and firing cycle with very low muzzle report, little recoil and is extremely accurate. With all those favourable attributes I’m sure many will agree that the current BSA Lightning XLT is one of, if not the finest spring powered air rifle BSA has ever produced to date. And no matter what we might see in the future, this is without doubt going to be a very hard act to follow. Thanks to T & J. J McAvoy Ltd (01257 426 129 www. guns.gb.com) for supplying the rifle on test.
PRICE: SRP £319
CONTACT: BSA Guns Ltd, 0121 772 8543, www.bsaguns.co.uk
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