BSF S54: a quality underlever of the past

by B.B. Pelletier

Let’s look at an old air rifle that left the world stage several decades ago. The Bayerische Sportwaffen Fabrik (Bavarian Sporting Weapons Manufacturer) or BSF, as it was known, operated for several decades after World War II. They were based in Erlangen, Germany, and the guns they made were approximately equivalent to Dianas, though in some aspects they were the better brand. It was BSF that first broke the 800 f.p.s. barrier with their model 55 breakbarrel. They remained at the forefront of the airgun horsepower races of the late 1970s and early ’80s until the Beeman R1 buried the field. Then, like everyone except Diana, they gave up.


This BSF S54 is a gorgeous underlever sporting air rifle with serious target sights, as well as standard sporting sights. The buttstock is a typical Bavarian style.

BSF S54
The S54 was the top model made by BSF. It wasn’t the most powerful, because quality was not measured in feet per second in its day. Rather, it embodied the finer things of airgun technology such as metal finish, wood, sights and overall smoothness. It was also the largest rifle BSF made, at nearly 47″ overall and 8.8 lbs.! You knew it was a fine rifle just from the finish and the weight. According to the Blue Book of Airguns, the rifle shown here is the Bavaria model S54, and there is also a deluxe version with an American-style butt.

Not that powerful, but smoooooth!
The S54 came in both .177 and .22 calibers. I have seen about six guns in the past 10 years, and all were .22 caliber. I don’t know what to make of that, but apparently the .177 is not as common in the U.S. The rifle was around in 1957 and discontinued in 1986, so it had a long run. I do not know the exact first year it was offered. Cocking was by the underlever, which is not cut from a solid bar, but rather a folded piece of very thick sheet steel. BSF was an innovator in using plate steel to cut the fabrication costs. Their sears, for instance, were not machined from solid stock but punched from many thin sheets of steel that were riveted together! The triggers were stiff and creepy when new, but soon wore into very fine pull weights. This rifle’s trigger breaks fairly clean at less than two pounds.

A taploader
Because the barrel is fixed, the rifle loads through a rotating tap, with a handle located on the left side of the action. Unlike some taploaders, this one is entirely manual – meaning you first cock the rifle, then open the tap by hand. A pellet is dropped nose-first into the tap, which is then rotated closed, making the rifle ready to fire. There is no safety, as such; but, if the tap is open, the rifle cannot shoot.


The loading tap lever is raised, opening the tap for loading. This is done independent of the rifle being cocked. Notice the sporting rear sight.

What’s with that aperture rear sight?
The S54 is not a target rifle by any stretch of the imagination. When it first came out in the 1950s, it might have been good enough to compete against Weihrauch’s model 55, but it would not win too often. In the 1960s, when rifles like the FWB 150 came out, the S54 hadn’t a prayer of competing. Still, the German shooter loves his sport, so BSF offered what has to be one of the coolest-looking retro aperture rear sights ever made! The one on this rifle has a standard sighting disk of about two inches diameter, but I have seen S54 disks that appeared to be a full five inches in diameter! This sight is 100 percent machined steel and exudes an aura of quality.

It may seem strange to have both a target rear sight and a sporting rear sight on the same rifle, but it is very much a German tradition. I have had several German target rifles that also had a sporting sight. I have been told that there are different sports for the sporting sight, but I’ve never been able to confirm that. Maybe the German makers were just adding value.


Rear aperture sight is big, heavy and clicks like a safe lock when adjusted. It screams quality!

Not powerful
The S54 is not a powerful rifle despite its size and weight. A good one shoots medium-weight .22 diabolos at around 525 f.p.s., and I would suppose medium-weight .177 diabolos at around 650, or so. The loading tap is partly responsible for this, as it lengthens the transfer port, which is the passageway through the tap. That lessens the pressure of the air blast that starts the pellet on its way. However, the benefit of less power is a rifle that’s easy to cock – as this one is! The powerplant is a little on the buzzy side, but a clever tuner can get rid of that and make the gun feel like the proverbial bank vault door!

Nor that accurate!
The S54 cannot keep pace with a Crosman 101 pneumatic, which demonstrates that expensive airguns are not always perfect. Again, the loading tap comes into question as it sizes the pellet skirt, which then slips into the barrel that may be a little larger. A good choke at the muzzle might have corrected this. In those days, chokes were not commonly applied to airgun barrels.

How hard are they to find?
Good luck finding one! These rifles don’t tend to move around very much. There may be more of them than the few I’ve seen would indicate, but this is an airgun that owners hold on to. Although the Blue Book lists a 100 percent gun at only $235, I’ve see 80 percent guns change hands for $500! The quality of the gun is its best selling point, so don’t expect to find a deal in a pawn shop or thrift store. Almost everyone immediately recognizes the quality.

The end
BSF went out of business in the late 1980s. Weihrauch bougth their remaining inventory, parts and tools. For many years, Weihrauch sold the models 55 and 70 breakbarrel rifles. Then, they swapped in their Rekord trigger and turned the model 70, which was simply a 55 with a longer barrel, into the Beerman R8. The R8 lasted for several years before the design was made more producible and the R9 was created. So, in a sense, BSF is still with us today!

25 thoughts on “BSF S54: a quality underlever of the past

  1. Hi BB,

    in todays article you mentioned different buttstocks. What is the difference between american-style and bavarian? And furthermore: what are the advantages of a pistol-grip, a “Kaiser”-grip or even a thumbhole? What the hell is a german or bavarian cheek-piece, Monte-Carlo style and english stock etc.?

    So many different questions about one fine piece of wood. Maybe it´s worth a whole post.

    Markus



  2. BB,

    many times I have seen phrases like “Monte-Carlo-stock” etc. and didn´t knew what it meant. Lookin at the associated small pictures showed no real difference to me.
    The word “Schweinsrücken” was translated as a hog roast but I don´t know what it has to do with an airgun.
    I hope you can enlighten me.

    Markus


  3. B.B.

    Great Blog! You mentioned the FWB 150. Will you be doing an article on the FWB 150 soon? The FWB 150 has more power than this S54.

    AW


  4. how do you make an air rifle that was detuned to 460fps shoot at its regular speed.The website said the diana 25 in .22, shoots 400fps but is designed to shoot 700fps.Does it need a new spring.The delta was detuned to 465 like most guns in canada but itsais on the package 525.what do you to get back some power?where can you get springs?


  5. Diana 25???

    WhaT in the world are you talking about?

    Please explain what you mean to say a little more clearly.

    B.B.




  6. i meant that in canada they decrese the power of alot of air rifles to sell them so you dont need a license.Any air rifle over 500 fps is considered a fire arm. How do you restore power.I bought a delta that was detuned to 460fps but the box it came in said it was 525 fps.Is it posible to fix this?


  7. Thank you,

    Two things can cause a decrease of power in a spring rifle, destroking it and a much weaker mainspring. Gamo is not going to use the weaker spring, because if someone were to replace it, the gun would become unlawfull. So I am guessing they have destroked the gun.

    To increase the power you will need to increase the stroke of the piston, in turn increasing its swept volume. The common way to do this is to recut the sear notch in the piston stem, so it can come back farther when cocked. Then you may have to replace the cocking linkage with different parts that will shove the piston farther back to catch the new notch.

    That’s how the airgunsmiths do it.

    B.B.

    B.B.


  8. B.B.

    Here is a bit of interesting info.
    I just received a reply email from Diana of Germany in regards to the Diana model 52. In Germany they have an ”F” version and a “EWB” version. The “F” doesn’t require a license in Germany, but the “EWB” does (same as FAC I guess). The “F” is any .177 cal air rifle shooting at or under 175 meters/second. In the email, I was told that the difference between the “F” and “EWB” version of the Model 52 is just the main spring.

    AW


  9. AW,

    Maybe – and maybe not.

    The German market requires a “Freimarked” airguns. That’s what the F inside the pentagram means. Freimarked guns can develop up to 7.5 Joules (6 foot-pounds).

    But in England, they are allowed up to 12 foot-pounds. In Holland, it’s a maximum of either 500 or 600 f.p.s. (I forget which).

    So the EWB gun may not be a full American power airgun, because the Europeans see things differently than we do.

    I’m not saying that I’m right about this – just that EWB may not be the same as FAC. To delevop much higher power nearly always means a longer piston stroke.

    B.B.


  10. BB,

    I don’t mean to be a pest, but did you ever find out what thread size of FX muzzles are? I keep getting conflicting information. Some say ½”x 20 unf and others ½”x 28. Thank you.


  11. B.B.

    You are correct about the “F” and “EWB” marks, but the point I am trying to make is that, Diana change the power by just changing the main spring (as they told me in the email). You mentioned previously that this makes it too easy for an owner to up the power, so they must change something else. I was just looking for consistency.

    AW


  12. AW,

    Let’s not leave this unfinished. A gun that will shoot up to but not OVER 12 foot-pounds is okay in the UK, which is the world’s largest airgun market. BUT, an airgun that COULD generate 12.5 foot-pounds would be banned from importation by the British Home Office. Oh, it’s more complex than that, to be sure, but for the space I have here, they would actually ban its importation.

    The Brits cracked down on airguns of more than 12 foot-pounds, or those that could EASILY BE MODIFIED to produce more than 12 foot-pounds about a year ago. Until then, everyone gave lip service to the law, but now the Brits are so serious about it that a couple of British airgun companies have either gone under or relocared to the Continent!

    Given the current political climate in the UK, I have to believe that Diana is shipping it’s potentially 22 foot-pound sidelever with a de-stroked piston, because any idiot could tweak it back if they didn’t.

    Mind you, everything I’ve said here is supposition on my part. I don’t actually know these things.

    B.B.


  13. Hello Tom:

    I have inherited a very heavy and long (45 1/4") 0.177 cal BSF air rifle, purchased by a deceased ex-German hunter on a return trip to Germany in mid '80s since he only immigrated to Canada 28 years ago dying this past June. Hard to tell if mine is S54 or not because I cannot find any more meaningful identification #s but BSF is definitely on the stock. It has been modified with 4X Bushnell scope. Gun dealers in Canada tell me it is too powerful and that I require a license. I am willing to sell it as I am only a wildlife "hunter" with huge lenses on ancient Nikon SLRS but I do recognize this is a high quality machine.


  14. The BSF 54 is the only underlever rifle BSF made. If it has an underlever and a loading tap it's a 54.

    There are many kinds of 54s. Too many to get into here. Unfortunately yours has a scope and no sights. The sights add a lot of value.

    B.B.



  15. I have had one of the 1.77 since 1969. Purchased in South Africa. Hunted lion, elephant, buffalo, wildebeest etc. but only killed birds and rats. Great when you are only 9 years old. Try carrying this beast around at that age. It took two of us to to load it. With a good quality german pellet, I could nearly shoot through two vegetable cans. My rifle had a round proctector for the front sight and were interchangeable sizes.
    The rear sight that you are refering to was not common at all. This was where I mounted my scope.


  16. Very interesting post, thanks for publishing.
    I own a BSF S54 in .177 cal serial number under 10.000.
    It is the match version with a slightly different stock, open sights and deliverer with a full metal body scope on it 3-7×20. In Germany airguns arent regulated when they are build before 1972 you don`t need EWB or FAC, the can have full power.
    I shoot the rifle long range on 50m and the power is extreme even on that range. I own a HW80, Air arms TX200MK1 and a lot of old Dianas but the BSF is the only one which kept ability for pest control on long distance. I bought it first hand and the Men told me that the barrel is a bit choked, maybe due that circumstance the rifle so powerful.


  17. Jules-Jublins,

    It is good to hear from an owner of this air rifle. They are hard to find here in the States, but probably not much easier in Germany, now that they are getting so desirable.

    I was not aware of the law about airguns made earlier that 1972, so thank you for that.

    B.B.



  18. Jules-Jublins,

    Your photos look great! You brought out the warmth of the walnut wood.

    I am going to post your photo link on the current blog, where thousands of readers may access it. A rifle that pretty deserves to be seen.

    Thanks, again,

    B.B.


  19. You are welcome B.B. and post the pictures where you want to do.
    I am also a owner of a HW80 with walnut Stock tuned from Venom in England with lazorglide modification in .22 cal.
    I also looking for a Venom called MACH One, look a bit like the TX200 from airarms, but the underlever cocking device is hide in the beech.
    Very powerful nice gun, with dark walnut stock and scottish type of checkering.
    Produced in the 90ths and vbery hard to find nowadays.
    regards jules


  20. Jules,

    Good luck finding a Mach I! I heard from the guy who bought one that only a dozen (12) or less were made. And he paid over two-thousand dollars back when he bought it.

    When the Mach II came out I think Hancock stopped making the mach I.

    B.B.


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