By Pete Wadeson
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
BSA Lightning XL air rifle review: Take a look at the graceful lines and fantastic accuracy produced by this spring-powered air rifle.
BSA Lightning XL Tactical
Calibres: .22 .25 and .177
BSA has risen dramatically to become a major force in both pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifles while still remaining true to its spring-powered roots.
One of the best models in the BSA springer collection has been a leap 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.
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.
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's 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.
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.
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.
BSA has put a lot of time and effort into making this rifle the pinnacle of its type. Incidentally, the rifle 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.
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