BSA XL Tactical air rifle in .22
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- Last updated: 30/01/2017
I tested the Standard Lightning XL a while back and was suitably impressed with its build quality as well as accuracy and power but more especially the price. As a no nonsense self contained power source spring air rifle the BSA XL just works and offers simple operator service and day long fun whether just plinking or rabbit shooting.
The design of the XL was a marked improvement on the old and out dated Lightning design and this was largely due to the new stock configuration. Once again the stock arrangements on this new XL Tactical is what really makes this model stand out.
I liked the old stock design with high cheek piece and generous proportions although the beech and matt varnish finish with very large checkered panels were less attractive. Not wishing to sit on their laurels BSA have done it again with not just a revamped stock but a totally new design and material of construction. As with the centrefire rifle market, many shooters favour the synthetic stock material of plastic or fibreglass to ensure a stable bedding platform and longevity in the field. The airgun market was slow to catch on and although bedding issues may not be a mandatory requirement on this level of air gun, looks and hard wearing capabilities certainly are.
The stock is not just a recast synthetic version of the old design. Instead BSA have taken the change to mean just that change and what a radical design it is too. I love it, it not only makes you really look hard at the XL, always a good sales tactic, but the design is very comfortable and really makes you want to take it out and shoot it.
The stock is moulded in two halves of high-density polymer plastic and then bonded together. This is not a hollow design and thus has a good weight and feel to it. It feels solid and capable of taking a few knocks whilst out hunting and will be impervious to the weather.
The colour is charcoal black with crinkle finish that looks really smart and aids in grip although there are three separate panels of heavier stippling that act as checkering alternatives to the forend. The pistol grip too has a wrap round slightly raised stippled finish which complements the forend. This is not radical by any means but the overall design certainly is, BSA have bought the XL bang out to date in terms of styling. There is that air of futuristic styling to the rifle, which in this case, handles as well as it looks. The shallow tapered forend is slim but perfectly good enough for a good hold and finishes in a semi Schnabbel tip. The trigger guard is all-inclusive to the bottom of the stock and flows naturally into the pistol grip that is very up straight in stature. I like this as the hand is positioned with out strain and the trigger finger naturally falls on the trigger blade. There is thumb rest on the left hand side for conventional shooting styles but if you like to shoot with the thumb up behind the receiver then the cut away in the stock and rear receiver block will please you. The check piece comes rakishly sweeping high out of the pistol grip top and forms a high perfectly aligned without cast support so that scope viewing is comfortable. This is a right hand designed stock as there is a bias to the right sided cheek piece and rolled over top section and palm swell on the right side of the pistol grip. The bottom portion of the stock has been scalloped away up into the body of the rear portion that removes excess weight and adds to the overall design. This culminates in a solid black rubber ventilated recoil pad with the BSA logo pressed neatly into the rear left side portion of the stock. Not with standing this level of detail BSA have also include a Q/D sling swivel stud as std, so us hunters can utilise a sling without the hassle of having to drill your own holes. It is a great design with practical use and hardwearing characteristics and it has a very good visual impact.
The rest of the XL is largely unchanged and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
The compact receiver and barrel dimensions is one of the reasons that the XL and this form Tactical are popular. Youngsters and sad 40 somethings can use it with out straining themselves. The overall finish is good, as you would expect with nice deep blueing to the metal parts.
The safety is situated on the left rear of the receiver and forms a plastic tipped silent arrangement. It is manual in operation and in its forward position the rifle is ready to fire and in its back position the XL Tactical is safe. It’s a simple arrangement that works fine.
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 bit heavy, probably 5 pounds plus with quite a bit of creep. You can adjust this out with the Allen keys provided with the rifle but I left it and after a few tins of pellets the trigger actually smoothed out a bit any way.
The scope is the capable Maxi grip rail that gives a full 6 inches of dovetailed grip for your scope mounting, however long scopes will over hang the break barrel design, so choose carefully. There is a built in recoil stud to stop excess rear movement of your scope mounts but the overall firing cycle is quick and smooth and so I can not see any real problems in this area. The barrel is only 10 inches long and is cold hammered with a rifling twist of 1 in 19 inches with particular detail paid to proper crowning. This helps in achieving optimum accuracy although you can not see the effort BSA have gone to as the muzzle is covered by the integral sound moderator. This is over 11 inches long and 1-inch diameter and covers most of the barrel and can not be taken off, so do not try. There is the second Q/D sling swivel attached to its underside that completes the sling mounting arrangement. The moderator serves as two functions, one the large cavernous interior certainly mutes any muzzle report well and secondly it is a bloody good cocking aid. Not that the XL Tactical is hard to cock but a sharp tap to the mod opens up the breech and then is completed by a smooth and short cocking action until the trigger sear is engaged. Pop a pellet into the barrel and close up again and you are away, simple.
On the range and in the field the XL is a joy. I like simple one shot spring powered air guns, they require a bit of user input to achieve the best results After about 250 rounds the entire action and cocking all smoothed out even more and I started the pellet tests. The XL Tactical was really not that fussy to pellet type although a medium or lighter weight pellets shot better. Field Target Trophies flew along at 578.9fps and gave 11.58ft/lbs energy with good accuracy at 30 yards of 0.5 inches or less. Best accuracy actually went to the Air Arms Field pellets with 0.4 inch 30 yard groups and 560.2fps velocity and 11.32ft/lbs energy levels. In fact all pellets tested worked fine and depending on your application and range and intended quarry its up to you to choose your perfect match.
Interestingly BSA make the XL Tactical in three calibres, .177, .22 and .25. I own an old XL in .22 and I really fancy this new Tactical version in .177 or that big old lumbering .25 slug does sound appealing. Regardless of calibre choice BSA yet again have improved on what was already a good rifle, marketed £200 the price is right on the button and the newly styled and synthetic stock is going to really appeal to shooters, its got me hooked. As usual many thanks to Ivan Mathers from C.H.Westons Brighton 01273 733832 for supplying the rifle for test.