BSA R-12 CLX Pro
Richard Saunders gets his hands on the BSA R-12 CLX Pro, a sidelever successor to the fabled R-10 and asks “are we worthy?”
BSA R-12 CLX Pro
Established in 1861, few companies can claim the heritage of Birmingham Small Arms, or BSA as the company is better known. In fact, I’d bet the vast majority of airgunners of a certain age have at one time owned or at least shot a BSA rifle. The trouble is that when you’ve been around for that long and have brought out so many iconic models, releasing an air rifle that is better than the one that went before gets harder each time. It’s that tricky second album conundrum.
The challenge is even greater when a rifle’s predecessor is already considered to be one of the best and is a favourite with thousands of shooters. So I’d imagine that first meeting in BSA Towers when the company’s top brass told its engineers to come up with a successor to the fabled R-10 was a bit of a moment.
Many months, possibly years, later BSA has given us the R-12 CLX Pro, available as a Standard rifle and Super Carbine. And the early general consensus seems to be that it is indeed a worthy heir.
Hindsight is the stick to which we tie the clever flag. And looking back, it is no surprise that BSA would launch a sidelever sporting rifle to succeed R-10. Released last year, its Ultra CLX introduced a new safety catch and magazine as well as a monobloc construction. If that wasn’t enough of a clue, the limited 160th anniversary edition had a sidelever instead of a bolt action.
So yes, the Ultra CLX gave us a few hints. However, the reality is that the BSA R-12 CLX Pro is a brand new flagship rifle in its own right; compared with the R-10, just about every major mechanical component save trigger and trigger guard is new.
Maker: BSA, England (bsaguns.co.uk)
Model: BSA R-12 CLX Pro
Price: £1,265 (Black Pepper Laminate – tested) £1,215 (Walnut)
Type: Precharged Pneumatic (PCP)
Calibre: .177 and .22
Overall length: 940mm (Super Carbine). 102cm (Standard rifle)
Barrel length: 320mm (Super Carbine). 390mm (Standard rifle)
Weight: 3.6 kgs (Super Carbine). 3.8 kgs (Standard rifle)
Trigger: Two-stage adjustable post and shoe match-style
Power: 11.5 ft-lb
Stock options on the BSA R-12 CLX Pro
A thumbhole stock was introduced with the R-10 TH – though whether the ‘TH’ stands for ‘thumbhole’ or the 10th anniversary of the launch of the R-10 is still up for debate. I suspect it’s a convenient, clever, double meaning. Either way, the BSA R-12 CLX Pro follows suit and offers the choice between either an ambidextrous Walnut or Black Pepper laminate handle. BSA isn’t saying just yet whether more laminate options will follow, but I’m guessing they will.
Amongst many things, BSA and its stock-making partner Minelli are regarded as producing some of the most handsome handles out there. The BSA R-12 CLX Pro is no different. Plenty of swoops and swirls make it unmistakably a BSA. It has a lot going on, but everything fits together without making the rifle appear fussy.
It’s not just about looks though. A shoulder pad that moves in three directions and a black soft-touch cheekpiece that adjusts for height combine to deliver perfect scope/eye alignment and shoulder fit.
In addition, BSA has thoughtfully saved you the stress of drilling into that lovely stock by providing a couple of sling swivel studs as standard.
The thumbhole is generous for the biggest hands and gives access to a pistol grip that is contoured to channel your thumb and trigger finger, and has graduated chequering that not only provides plenty of grip but looks great too. At the top of the grip a couple of shallow scoops encourage a thumb-up grip, while below there are a tasteful spacer and dark cap.
Another dark cap at the tip of the forend is flared slightly to accept the air bottle. And the transition between the trigger area to the forend, which is embellished with more patches of chequering on the sides and below, is marked with a subtle angled ridge.
The manometer is still located on the underside and divided into yellow, green and red sections, providing a clear indication as to how far you have moved from the recommended 230 bar maximum.
However, rather than the R-10’s plastic bung, the fill port on the BSA R-12 CLX Pro is protected by a nifty magnetic cover. Filling with air is as undramatic as you’d want it to be, although I had to rotate the probe minutely once or twice in order to achieve a proper seal.
Measuring 660mm, the stock has a trigger pull of around 370mm. Overall, the Super Carbine model on test here runs out at 940mm long. Without a scope, the laminate version weighs 3.6kg, with a point of balance roughly 450mm from the butt just forward of the magazine.
Features and function of the BSA R-12 CLX Pro
At its heart, the block on the BSA R-12 CLX Pro is made from a single piece of alloy. That may not be the most eye-catching of features, but it is significant in the ongoing battle all PCP air rifles have in the war against air pressure.
Two hundred and thirty bar is an awful lot to keep under control and the fewer the number of components joined together that have to rely on seals and O-rings to keep all that air where it needs to be, the better.
Aside from fewer potential leak points, a monobloc adds rigidity to the action and reduces stress points, all of which aid accuracy.
More obvious is the rotary safety catch design which is located at the bottom of the rear of the action, nestled in a scoop in the stock. Positioned well away from the trigger, the catch was a well-received introduction on the Ultra. With the switch in the upright position, the rifle is safe. Pushing it to the left reveals a red dot to indicate you are now live.
Although it is significantly different to the R-10 in many ways, perhaps the most obvious change between them on taking a casual glance is the sidelever action, which is located on the right-hand side and is not reversible for left-handers.
Its operation is smooth yet mechanical, and it provides the shooter with a tactile connection to the BSA R-12 CLX Pro’s inner workings. The drop-down handle has a number of fine vertical lines and rotates to follow your finger as you move the lever forward and back.
An innovation that I can imagine has got legal departments at other manufacturers rushing to check patents is the ‘rifle cocked’ indicator – a white bar forward of the sidelever that turns red to tell you the rifle is in a live state. Very neat.
The magazine is another component that, although familiar to Ultra CLX owners, is new on the R-12 compared with the R-10. You get two mags, red for .22 and blue for .177, the only calibres currently available incidentally. Each takes 12 pellets, and made from alloy, have a quality feel to them. They are loaded by turning the inner rotor against a spring and dropping pellets into each chamber as it is exposed.
Inserted from the left side only, there is no reliance, unlike the R-10, on a retaining catch. Simply open the sidelever, pop in the magazine, close up and you’re locked and loaded. Looking down the rifle, there’s a shot indicator that will count you down from 12 to one to let you know when it’s time to reload.
The trigger is one of the few components taken from the R-10. That’s not a criticism though. Far from it, as the trigger on both the R-10 and R-12 is one of the best around. The two-stage match-style post and shoe design is fully adjustable for length and weight of pull, as well as the angle of the shoe.
Another carryover from the R-10 is the fact that the magazine is housed entirely within the block. As a result, the dovetail rail – BSA has doggedly persisted with 13mm – is single and uninterrupted at 153mm long.
This means you can not only fit just about any size of scope and achieve good eye relief, but you don’t have to worry about it clearing the magazine.
Also unchanged is the R-12 CLX Pro’s barrel. In Standard rifle length format, it’s 390mm long, giving an overall length of 102cm. With its 320mm barrel, the Super Carbine comes in at 940mm.
It comes as no big surprise that it is cold hammer-forged – a process, which as the name implies, involves inserting a mandrel into a blank barrel and then hammering it from all angles to imprint the rifling pattern. The end result is a barrel that has consistent groove dimensions and is envied the world over.
BSA’s Customer Configurable Shroud (CCS) system is also a feature that’s been carried over from earlier models. In Standard format, the BSA R-12 CLX Pro has a full-length shroud and an 80mm silencer. However, removing the shroud – a process that will take just a minute or two – reveals the bare barrel beneath to which the silencer can be reattached.
I’ll be honest and say that to the naked ear, I didn’t notice much difference shroud on or off, but if you like the looks of a bare barrel, or if you intend using a very large objective lens scope, you can still get low to the barrel without having to increase the height of your mounts.
Power and performance of the BSA R-12 CLX Pro
With the standard 288cc aluminium air bottle, BSA says you can expect as many as 260 .22 shots from a 230 bar fill in the Super Carbine and 190 shots in .177. Thanks to its longer barrel, those figures increase to a claimed 280 and 250 respectively with the Standard rifle.
According to BSA, a 400cc air bottle option is available and will provide more shots. I haven’t seen or tested the BSA R-12 CLX Pro in that configuration but I’m not sure how the aesthetics would work, especially on the shorter-barrelled Super Carbine.
We all know that some manufacturers are prone to erring on the side of generosity when it comes to shot counts, and there’s no separate gauge to tell you how low you can drain the air supply until you run off the regulator. However, having pumped well over 200 shots through our .22 calibre Super Carbine test rifle I’d have to say there were still a fair few more shots left in the tank.
What was more impressive was the consistency of those shots. Spend any time browsing an online forum and it won’t take long before a keyboard warrior is condemning the qualities of the regulator in the R-10. For sure, it had its problems, but personally, my R-10 Mk2 and R-10 SE have never given me any issues.
Be reassured that the regulator in the BSA R-12 CLX Pro is a completely new in-house design and was subjected to more than 50,000 continuous shots during the testing process. Based on my time with the rifle on the range it looks like BSA has fixed whatever gremlin was previously lurking, as 10-shot test strings revealed a variance of 2ft/sec – yes, that’s all it was – and an average power output of 11.5 ft-lb.
More importantly, but no doubt as a result of the R-12 CLX Pro’s rather commendable consistency, its accuracy at normal airgun ranges was outstanding. Zeroed at 30m, the rifle punched one-hole groups that would be covered by a 5p piece. At 40m, the grouping did open up slightly, but could still be covered by a 10p piece.
Unsurprisingly, the R-12 CLX Pro showed a preference for BSA’s own brand Gold Star pellets which weigh a relatively light 14.66gr. Results with Air Arms Diabolo Field, JSB Hades and JSB Exact pellets were almost as good – suggesting it was gifted with an unfussy barrel – but the Gold Stars still had the edge.
Thanks to the stock’s adjustment and the genius of Minelli’s ergonomic design, the BSA R-12 CLX Pro is not only one of the most comfortable rifles I’ve shot, but one of the most pointable too. Sitting at a bench is never a true test, but all those attributes meant the rifle was just as easy to use in the field.
The let-off on the trigger is almost telepathic and the firing cycle has a purposeful snap to it, making it seemingly easy to place pellet after pellet exactly where you want.
In fact, my biggest issue ending up being my own complacency as it seemed I only had to point the BSA R-12 CLX Pro in the general direction and it would do the rest.
I love the R-10 and have two of them, and I’ve said that the bolt action is one of the best I’ve ever used. However, against the current crop of PCP rifles there’s no getting away from the fact the R-10 is looking a little dated. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.
Yes, the BSA R-12 CLX Pro looks similar to the R-10, especially the TH model. But when you start stacking up the new features and innovations – the regulator, safety catch, magazine, monobloc and rifle live indicator, you realise just how much BSA has taken the concept forward.
When you put the rifle to your shoulder, pull back that sidelever and squeeze the trigger, the power delivery and accuracy are familiar and every bit a BSA.