By Pete Wadeson
Tuesday, 30 January 2007
BSA Lightning XL Tactical air rifle: We are struck by the graceful lines and fantastic accuracy produced by the latest spring-powered air rifle made by BSA, the Lightning XL Tactical.
BSA Lightning XL Tactical air rifle.
In the past five years, BSA has risen dramatically to become a major force in both pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifles while remaining true to its spring-powered roots.
One of the most recent models in the BSA springer collection has leapt forward in design - the Lightning XL Tactical.
A super base
The Lightning was originally based on the BSA Supersport, the solid and dependable break-barrel that continues to sell well. The original Lightning had a plain wood stock, Volumetric sound moderator and no open sights, but was quickly snapped up by the public to become the company's best-selling springer. It has now received cosmetic and mechanical upgrades ? the original XL version featured a new two-stage trigger unit, newly designed sound moderator and a stock design in wood. The XL Tactical variant takes the progression one step further by producing it with a composite black synthetic stock. An all-weather XL, but with graceful stock contours and star performance to boot.
Making an impact
The XL Tactical stock is moulded from what is termed a high-impact polymer. I think this stock can and will change a lot of shooters' opinions concerning alternative stocks. Before even a glance at the wonderful styling, I must mention that the stock is manufactured to be hard-wearing, lightweight and stable under all weather and temperature conditions, exactly what is wanted from a rifle. Though I like nicely configured and grained wooden stocks, a synthetic moulding, if manufactured with the correct formula of compound, produces a stock that's far better suited to field use.
The XL Tactical has the sweeping curves I would immediately be tempted by in a gunshop. Shoulder it and you may as well open your wallet - this stock is perfect to handle. The right-hand roll-over cheekpiece is quite substantial and the neck is slim, while the pistol grip is thick set and drops at an angle in relation to the previous Lightning stocks. The palm swell really fills out to give the hand a great hold and there is a slight stippling effect at the pistol grip and along the fore-end. This is more a cosmetic touch, as the material the stock is manufactured from is inherently non-slip and feels very secure. Cleverly integrated into the moulding is a thumb channel that puts your thumb in exactly the right position for a thumbs-up shooting style.
It took a few hours of shooting before I realised why the stock was so comfortable and unique to handle - while the rifle can be considered to have a right-hand roll-over design stock, the cheekpiece is dominant, as it swells out to the left forming a lip that ends at its peak laterally centred to the overall build of the rifle. A unique and clever feature, so little wonder that BSA has moulded in its piled arms logo towards the base of the butt.
The sweeping curves lead down to the ventilated rubber butt-pad. The unique styling of those downward curves allows the butt-pad to be positioned to sit where it should for optimum shooter comfort - right in the cleft of your shoulder. The trigger-guard is integrated into the moulding, while the fore-end, which is recessed, tapers forward and is nicely rounded and styled so that any leading handhold position is catered for.
With such a stunning stock, the action has a lot to live up to in the way of complementing and performing from such a superior base. However, as it is BSA, I was full of confidence. The action sits exactly as it should and, combined with the stock, it works in perfect harmony. BSA has created a rifle that handles like a far more expensive springer. The sound moderator is a dominating feature of the action, as it almost fully shrouds the barrel and tapers stylishly to meet the tube at the front of the stock fore-end.
BSA has retained the Maxi-Grip scope rail that it fitted to many of its springers. The rail and rubber cushion design is kind on any scope and on firing test shots I was reassured that no scope was going to get harsh treatment from this air rifle. Of equal importance is the cocking stroke, which is smooth and made all the easier as the sound moderator makes for a handy aid.
I had no hesitation in using a smaller optic - a Simmons 1.5-5X20WA Compact Nightview. I also recommend BSA's own 1.5-4.5X32 CATSEYE compact. However, the XL Tactical could easily take bigger scopes if you would prefer, but with a compact scope it hardly felt like it was carrying any extra weight and the handling remained unimpaired. This is hardly surprising, as the rifle tips the scales at just more than 6.5lb, with a small to medium-sized scope, and measures a snug 37.5in in length.
In .22 calibre I chose to set a 25-yard traditional zero and after testing I was impressed with its potential for accuracy. Without doubt this rifle is capable of kill-zone accuracy at ranges far exceeding the set zero. This is the sort of rifle I would take to use on ranges varying from 12 to 35 yards, making it the perfect tool in the field. Another feature that impressed me and stands out is the newly designed sound moderator. BSA has upgraded the moderator internally, as well as paying attention to external cosmetics - it now has a stylishly rounded end cap at the muzzle and a sling swivel stud integrated into the slim and attractive build. A dull thock is the only report heard on firing, making this possibly the quietest BSA springer I've ever used. Coupled with the low recoil and the scope-mounting facility, this air rifle won't disappoint in the field.
The trigger unit was specifically designed for the XL and is manufactured by a special process of metal injection moulding pioneered by the company. The designers have made the unit so that it allows a carefree squeeze and clean kill shots. This rifle is perfect for the opportunist shooter. Little thought or effort is needed to bring the gun up, and only a gentle squeeze of the adjustable top-quality two-stage unit is required. It also has a manual resettable safety lever positioned above and to the right of the action.
BSA has put a lot of time and effort into making this rifle the pinnacle of its type. Incidentally, the rifle that I had on test was not fitted with a sling swivel at the butt section, but all production rifles do now have one. To sum up, the BSA Lightning XL Tactical is fast-handling, super looking, tough and well-built, as well as being reliable and accurate. Of all the spring-powered air rifles currently on the market, when you consider the price and performance, the BSA Lightning XL Tactical has not only got to be one of the best buys but, in my opinion, the finest spring-powered air rifle BSA has ever produced. This is going to be a hard act to follow.
BSA LIGHTNING XL TACTICAL
Distinctive features: The superb ABS stock design
A break-barrel spring and piston powered sporter
Calibre .22, .25 and .177
Excellent build quality and overall design
Ease of use
Lightweight and fast-handling
Low recoil and muzzle report
Impressive accuracy potential
No left-handed versions available yet
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