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Airgun Review: BSA Scorpion SE

BSA redefined hunting air rifles with the launch of the BSA Scorpion SE in 2011, by improving on an already popular Scorpion air rifle. I purchased my BSA Scorpion in 2012, unfortunately for me and the rifle it only ever got used once for some back-yard plinking. The Scorpion SE was just too nice of an airgun to take out of the gun safe, or even out of the house. Its sleek action yet curvaceous stock design meant I treated the airgun more like an ornament than a hunting tool and due to very little use I quickly traded it in. BSA decided to launch the R10-Mk2 around the same time, and after replacing the Scorpion SE with the R10-Mk2, at the time the R10 became my go to airgun.

 

BSA Scopron

 

Recently I was asked by GUNSTAR to write a small bio about myself, so you the readers would be able to put a face to the name. I was also on the lookout for a new air rifle, so I nipped to my local RFD, who have since ceased trading. Entwistle Guns, gunsmiths and retailers who have served me exceptionally well since I was a little boy. It saddens me to see another shooting related enterprise disappear, especially one so dear to me, but I digress. It was at the store where I noticed the BSA Scorpion SE and thought about how I hadn’t truly experienced the airgun or worked through its strengths and weaknesses. It's no secret I like BSA guns, I like their simplicity in design, ease of operation and 150 years of English gunsmithing success - most of all I like the feeling of being a part of England's long standing shooting heritage.

 

I purchased a nice new Scorpion SE and opted not to purchase the extra bits and bobs, like a scope, gun bag or case. I was however given a tin of RWS Superdomes for free, and I’m not one to turn a free gift down.

 

Side view of the scorpion

 

Unboxing

After getting the rifle home, I unboxed it and put aside the gun lock, the user manual, pre-shot test card and warranty information card; the extra bits that seem to come as standard from most UK manufacturers. The air rifle also came with a fill probe and one .177 self-indexing blue rotary magazine, BSA had also supplied me with a small bag that contained a tube of Molykote Grease an allen key and a couple of replacement O rings for the fill valve.

I removed my Hawke Vantage 6-24x50 scope from my trusty BSA Ultra and then mounted it onto the Scorpion SE. For testing purposes I opted not to use the side wheel or sun shade. I picked up a new tin of JSB Exact Diablo .177 pellets (4.53, 8.44grn) for testing purposes, as the JSB pellets have proved to be accurate through many other BSA air rifles I’d tested before.

 

spare parts package self-indexing rotary magazine

 

Range Time

On the range the air rifle was quickly zeroed to 30 yards, the 24 magnification on the scope allowed me to zoom right in on the card and adjust the crosshairs to exactly where I wanted them for a perfect zero. I continued shooting my favourite 4 Duck Magnetic Knock Down target that I’d set out at 30 yards for around half an hour until I was convinced the Scorpion SE was shooting as accurately as it could be with my pellet choice. Having shot mostly 1 inch groups at 30 yards, I moved my paper target out to 50 yards and then prepared myself for the first shot. Laying in the grass in the prone position was comfortable, the grass in front of me however had grown considerably since my last visit and I was being careful to ensure any shot pellets where not being influenced by ricochets off blades of grass in front of me. After taking the first shot, I missed the 140mm x 140mm pellet trap target completely and heard the pellet land in the grass some distance behind it.

I repeated the shooting process, first shooting three mildots to the right of the target, presuming the pellet was being influenced by the slight right to left blowing breeze, but after 10 shots with different hold under and hold over positions, I failed to hit the target. I shifted my aim to three mildots to the left of the target, then began with one mildot hold over and continued shooting increasing my holdover until finally hitting the target at four mildots holdover, and three mildots to the left. I decided not to re-adjust my crosshairs, instead continued to try and find the most effective aim point to hit the bullseye on the card. After another 20 or so shots I found my effective aimpoint was four mildots holdover and two and a half mildots to the left. I was now achieving two inch groups at 50 yards, and the harder I tried to reduce the group size the more frustrated with the shooting I became.

I began thinking that maybe there was something wrong with the air rifle, but before giving up on a day's shooting, I shifted my attention to the large steel plate set out at 75 yards. Aiming at the centre of the plate on a lower 12x magnification I took the first shot and spotted the pellet or the remains the pellet bounce off the plate, leaving a small shiny silver mark on the black painted face of the steel plate. I continued to shoot at the steel plate for another 10 or 12 shots before realising the pellets where drifting in on a steep arc from left to right. I concluded there was either something wrong with my scope set up, or the barrel, but I also began to suspect the rifle was shooting at a lower yet consistent ft/lbs muzzle energy level, if I had to hazard a guess I’d say it was around 9 - 10ft/lbs.

I took a few more shots and was convinced I’d not set the scope up correctly, or in fact the scope was set up correctly on the mounts for my BSA Ultra and not for the Scorpion SE. Without a plumb line I couldn’t be sure the vertical crosshair was truly vertical, and I suspected it wasn’t.

I got up to pack away my kit, when I spotted a rabbit near the fence just 40 yards to the right of me, it was quietly chewing away in the tall grass. I quickly knelt down, pulling out my single shot tray from my pocket and switching it into the Scorpion SE, removing the multi-shot magazine, which I dropped in the grass in front of me. I loaded a pellet and slowly and quietly cocked the rifle before taking aim. The rabbit was clearly visible in my crosshairs and so I pulled away, standing up pointing the rifle muzzle to the ground. I shot out the pellet and watched the rabbit hop through my fence into my wood, it was its lucky day.

 

ray shooting in the woods

 

Fixing The Problem

I wasn’t in the mood to continue shooting the Scorpion SE for any longer than I had to, I‘d already spent a couple hours of the morning laying in the grass frustrated, but I knew I could salvage the day If I returned home and substituted the Scorpion SE for something else.

When arriving home, I had a bit of early lunch with my sons, who began going on about taking a trip to the beach, so I agreed, but only after I’d had a chance to work out what was going on with the Scorpion SE. In my makeshift tool shop, I removed the scope from the mounts and pushed them together on the scope rail to check if the scope was being influenced by a cant caused by uneven scope mounts and I was right - the mounts where slightly uneven. I switched the mounts round and rotated them respectively to see if I could get them to line up, but I couldn’t. I then decided to check the power output of the air rifle with my trusty Combro Chronograph. My previous assumptions had been correct; the muzzle energy output was a mere 9.8ft/lbs, not too low but not suitable for me to shoot out to 75 yards. Fortunately for me I was quickly able to correct this, adjusting the rifles power up to 11.4ft/lbs just where I preferred it.

I decided now would be a good time to test the consistency of the air rifle as I had all the equipment needed to do so in front of me: my rifle rest, pellets, and the chronograph. I refilled the Scorpion SE to 232bar as per the manufacturers recommendations and began shooting the JSB Exact Diablo .177 pellets into my pellet trap, whilst recording the shot by shot results, illustrated in the graph and chart below:

 

shot power graph

 

The rifle appeared to have a shallow shot curve, and I chose to shoot as many shots as I could before the power dropped off. I noted the sweet spot of 40 shots as illustrated above between 200 and 140bar. A sweet spot is quite common in an unregulated air rifle. Happy with the results, I turned to the internet and my favourite auction site for some new scope mounts. I purchased some Sportsmatch mounts and these would be delivered as stated within 5 days of purchase. I’d already decided a day out to the beach with the kids was now on the cards, hence shooting the Scorpion SE again would have to wait until the mounts arrived. Who says England doesn’t have great beaches? If you’re ever in the Northwest, why not pop into Blackpool or Lytham St-Annes for some sun and ice-cream.

Whilst on the internet auction site, I was distracted by a recommendation in the form of a longer air cylinder that was being manufactured by Carl at Airtech Rifles. I’ve spoken with Carl in the past and I was already familiar with his products, so I decided to take the plunge and buy a longer air cylinder, 405mm in length to match a spare BSA R10 Mk2 barrel shroud I had in storage.

 

A Few Days Later

Fortunately for me both items arrived on the same day, and having received the well-packaged products I quickly drained down my Scorpion SE of air and fitted the new parts with ease. The Scorpion was looking more like an over and under shotgun now, and was also front heavy, but this didn’t bother me as much as it would other shooters, as most of my shooting with it would be from a seated or prone position. I mounted the scope on the new Sportsmatch mounts, which where a lot sturdier and robust compared to the generic mounts I was previously using. The mounts fit and align correctly and the scope rested on them perfectly. I lightly fastened everything together and positioned the scope to achieve the correct eye relief before adjusting it perfectly on a vertically positioned plumb line at 15 yards in the rear garden. With all the bolts and screws fixed down correctly I managed to zero the rifle in my rear garden at 15 yards, and was achieving single hole groups after 4 zeroing shots.

 

the scorpion in action

 

Returning to the woods, I quickly adjusted the zero to 30 yards with eight rotational clicks to the right on my vertical turret and six clicks up on my horizontal turret. I reloaded and shot out one complete magazine achieving one 10mm hole at 30 yards.

75 yards shooting required a bit more patience and with virtually no wind, the accuracy I achieved was even more impressive, having shot a one and a half inch group I knew the adjustments I’d made to the scope had fixed the problems I’d previously experienced, so I settled in for a nice relaxing days shoot.

Impressively enough I was able to reduce the group sizes as the day went on, the Scorpion SE hit the mark time and time again, and the air cylinder Carl from Airtech Rifles sent me had increased the air rifles shot count from 90 good shots to 200 good shots. Carl had also informed me that if I was to fit an aftermarket regulator the shot count would increase further.

 

BSA Scorpion SE - Technical Information

Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) has pretty much standardised the design of their PCP airguns, with the exceptions of the R10 and the Defiant. Parts are more or less interchangeable on their Ultra and Scorpion models, and it hasn’t been difficult for airgun enthusiasts to amalgamate the two and create what’s known in the BSA fan world as the Scultra, an air rifle crossed between an Ultra and a Scorpion.

The Scorpion however encompasses the best of both the Ultra and the obsolete BSA Hornet, with improvements to internal valving and hammer mechanisms and with the introduction of an onboard manometer, which is in the right place I’ll add.

The all too familiar action of the BSA Scorpion is sleek and stylish, and why would BSA change it? The action can be cocked from a rear bolt. Pulling on the rear bolt and releasing the front magazine retaining pin allows the user to remove the new and improved self-indexing multi-shot magazine.  Putting a loaded magazine into the action from the left allows the user to re-engage the locking pin and then push home the bolt, which in turn loads a pellet directly into the breach of the barrel. The action is also fitted with a safety switch, that can easily be operated by the user with his/her thumb, pulling the switch back puts the rifle in safe mode and pushing it forward removes the safety allowing the rifle to be fired. The action has some proud bold white laser etching, with the name, calibre, serial number and max fill pressure clearly printed. The action also has a machined 11mm dovetail rail on top, and allows plenty of room for scope mount positioning.

 

stock view right - scorpionrear lever view - scorpionstock view left - scorpion

 

In front of the action is BSA’s match grade cold hammer forged factory blued finished barrel - this is still produced at their factory in Birmingham, England. The barrel is truly free floating, so there won't be any outside influences on accuracy. The barrel also has a detachable stylish muzzle break, which when screwed off reveals a standard ½ inch UNF thread, allowing the user to attach an additional silencer to the air rifle if required. Click on the link below to see the barrel manufacturing process.

 

http://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/dzy46io1fv

 

Under the barrel is the factory blued air reservoir; this can be filled by unscrewing the end cap on the business end of the air rifle and attaching the supplied fill valve. The reservoir also has a manometer fitted to it and this can be seen through the port hole in the underside of the stock.

 

barrel options  - screwedbarrel options - unscrewed

 

The curvy yet sleek beech ambidextrous stock is manufactured by Minelli of Italy. Italian made Minelli stocks have now become the standard on most airguns. The stock comes complete with a rubberised butt pad, ambidextrous cheek piece and BSA have opted to replace the standard grip checkering with a stipple effect, the pattern looks and feels great. Additional stock options BSA offer are soft touch camo, walnut or black synthetic.

Forward of the pistol grip is the BSA trigger guard - this now allows the user to adjust the trigger through the slit in the guard, eliminating the need to remove the guard or the action from the stock to carry out adjustments like before. The trigger is two-stage adjustable and I must admit, I didn’t adjust it after purchasing the rifle as I seldom do. I like testing rifles, whenever possible, as they came from the factory.

 

trigger view of scorpionmanometer

 

BSA Scorpion Pro’s

 

  • High Shot Count (standard rifle).

  • Multi-shot action with interchangeable single-shot adapter (supplied separately).

  • Barrel cut for ½ inch UNF thread compatible silencer.

  • Well balanced and accurate.

  • Easy to adjust and maintain.

  • Fitted with an onboard manometer to keep an eye on fill pressure.

  • The multi-shot magazine works flawlessly and is numbered to allow the user to keep an eye on shot count.

  • Two-stage adjustable trigger.

  • Ambidextrous Stock.

  • Suitable for hunting, plinking, target shooting and pest control.

 

BSA Scorpion Con’s

 

  • The air rifle is heavy when scoped and is in need of factory fitted sling studs.

  • My particular rifle was under-powered; however, I was able to sort this out within minutes of realising this, but could be an issue for someone who isn't as technically minded as I am. Note To Our Readers: Any alterations to the rifle will void the manufacturer's warranty.

  • The air rifle could do with a spare magazine and single shot loader as standard.

  • Although the stock is ambidextrous, the bolt, the safety switch or the magazine port cannot be adjusted to suit a left-handed user, unless a dedicated left-hand option is ordered direct from the retailer.

 


BSA Scorpion SE Technical Specifications

Model & Manufacturer

BSA Guns Limited UK – BSA Scorpion SE.

Air Gun Type

Rear Bolt Action

Available Calibre Variants

.177, .22, .25

Weight (Unscoped)

3.5kg / 7.7lbs

Length

925mm (36.5 Inches)

Barrel Type

Cold Hammer Forged

Available (Stock Options)

Beech

Walnut

Soft Touch Camo

Black Synthetic

Trigger Type

Two Stage Adjustable

Power Plant

Pre-Charged Pneumatic (Compressed Air)

Maximum Fill Pressure

232 Bar

Shot Count .22 (As Stated by Manufacturer)

110

Shot Count .177 (As Stated by Manufacturer)

90

Accuracy (Variation in Ft/sec over 40 shots)

4 ft/sec

Muzzle Energy

9.4 ft/lbs (out of box) Adjusted to 11.4ft/lbs

Recommended Retail Price

£569.00

Manufacturers Web Site

WWW.BSAGUNS.CO.UK

 

To conclude, if the BSA Scorpion SE was perfect out of the box I’d be scoring it 10/10 if it wasn’t for the power issue. But because of this the scorpion gets an 8/10 score out of the box. Following my minor power adjustment, I now score the rifle 10/10. The score would likely have been lower if I wasn’t able to rectify the power issue myself. I can see how a low-powered air rifle would frustrate someone who wasn’t as technically minded as me, as they would’ve needed to send it back to the manufacturer for tuning instead. I ruined my own first morning out with the Scorpion SE, in my haste to get out I didn’t perform all the usual checks, i.e. fitting the scope correctly, chrono-ing the rifle, checking the parts, taking alternative pellets with me etc.. and it cost me a rabbit.

The BSA Scorpion SE doesn’t need the R10 shroud or the extra-long cylinder, these are items I fitted because I was interested in doing so and it allowed to make my rifle unique to my taste.

Do they improve an already great air rifle? Yes they do - the air cylinder increases shot count and the shroud with additional internal baffles helps reduce the muzzle report of the rifle. Do the additional parts increase accuracy? No they don’t - I'm afraid only practice can do that for us.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article, as always shoot straight and shoot safe.

 
Ray Hussain
Airgun Expert and Enthusiast
Published on 2019-05-20