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- Last updated: 30/01/2017
When I first tested the original BSA Lightning, I remember thinking (after shooting a few rounds to zero the rifle) that BSA were onto a winner. The rifle is based on the company’s Supersport action but that rifle itself was and still is a superb value for money hunter. Realising most hunters scope up from the off, BSA dispensed with the open sights and fitted a silencer, meaning you had a compact carbine, silenced, and with the Maxi-Grip scope rail fitted as standard. Not surprisingly at the time the rifle quickly became a ‘best seller.’
It was after recently testing the Webley Stingray II XS that I couldn’t help make ‘mental notes’, almost comparisons between the two, so what better time than now to fully test one.
Many versions of this rifle have come along since its first incarnation, the Lightning Deluxe now being amongst my favoured compact springers of this ilk, despite the Lightning XL Tactical (Synthetic Stock) still having a place in my armoury.
BSA are no different from many other companies in relation to them paying more attention to the stocks of their air rifles, virtually across the board. These vary from being little more than ‘cosmetic flourishes’ whilst others are major design changes. In relation to the Lightning, chequering is applied at both forend and grip in two sets of stylish panels on either side of the rifle at those areas. Though ‘part cosmetic’ the layout and quality of the chequering certainly aids grip and in turn gives better gun control. The basic design of the stock remains pretty much the same, however, though the comb is quite low, the cheekpiece itself is nicely sized for a comfortable head to wood meeting. The beech wood used for the stock is nicely grained and finished with a rich, dark brown stain and a ventilated black rubber butt pad. The nicely contoured forend is slim and quite lengthy in comparison to the action. This helps the rifle have an inherent ‘correct’ balance that enables the rifle to handle exceptionally well.
SST and Maxi-Grip
‘SST’ (Silent Spring Technology) is used in all BSA springers. Also, internally it has an even more improved internal ‘spring dampening’ system which again is used on all their spring powered rifles.
Cocking is smooth and the lock up is very solid due to the upgraded design at the breech détente. As soon as I first began shooting the rifle to zero it, I was immediately impressed with the incredible smoothness of the firing cycle and lack of recoil. It hardly nudges in the shoulder on firing and the lock time is super quick.
A feature that has survived many other changes is the Maxi-Grip scope rail. This is an ingenious ‘cushioned’ mount block for the scope to sit on, offering the shooter plenty in terms of performance and function. Using a raised metal scope rail set on a rubber buffer between air cylinder and the scope rail results in the optic mounted being effectively cushioned from recoil. Though recoil is a trait of all springers, it’s not an issue at all on the Lightning. However, another benefit this rail offers it that it slightly elevates the mounted optic away from the main body of the rifle. This allows for larger objective lens scopes to be fitted in medium height mounts without effecting your head position for sighting through the scope. Personally, I’ve used medium length 50mm objective scopes to tiny compacts on this rifle and as long as the front of the scope doesn’t hinder cocking, I’ve found handling never seems to be affected whatever the optic onboard.
I chose to use the Hawke Airmax 2 – 7 X 32AO scope set in single screw low mounts as it’s very well suited to the Lightning’s overall size of 37.5” from butt to muzzle making this a true compact hunting carbine.
The trigger is set in the familiar BSA trademark ‘rolling wave’ trigger guard, but the unit has completely changed from the original that also had the rather cheap looking bent metal safety lever set to the right of the action. Wisely BSA has seen fit to install the new trigger units found on later incarnations, in other words the same as found on the ‘XL’ variants.
The 2-stage, adjustable unit now boasts a nicely curved metal trigger blade with a rounded inner profile which offers a very nice feel for taking up the pressure of the first stage before squeezing through to take the shot. The safety now has a much more finger friendly serrated plastic capped top. It moves forward to put on fire and rocks very positively back to put the rifle on safe with the direction of use and the letters ‘F’ and ‘S’ denoting the mode the safety is set to, clearly etched on the air cylinder above and behind the lever.
Still Going Strong
When setting a 25-yd zero, the subdued recoil and low muzzle report reminded me just why I like this rifle. The ¾” groups at the set zero made by the .22 calibre test rifle were just as impressive. BSA have also upgraded the silencer, as a dull ‘thock’ is the only sound heard on firing and it also doubles up as a useful cocking aid.
The BSA Lightning is a very predictable and easy rifle to shoot, has excellent accuracy potential with handling properties to boot. Shooters of my acquaintance say they prefer the Volumetric silencer version and that’s a major reason they’ve stayed faithful to it.
Personally, I like all versions of the Lightning, but even now the original with its up-dates and modifications isn’t showing its age or looking out of place against the competition.