BSF 55N - Part 1
by Tom Gaylord
I made a mistake in Friday's report that must be corrected. I reported that I got an FWB 124 up to 960 f.p.s. with a modern tune, and the truth is, the number should have been 860 f.p.s. A reader named Lance caught it and told me he found where I had reported it in The Airgun Letter. Sure enough, in the November 1997 issue, I did a large report on several different tunes for the 124. The winner was a seal and mainspring from Jim Maccari that produced an average of 861 f.p.s. with Crosman 7.9-grain Premiers. In fact, the rifle I tuned from ARH was also mentioned in that report. It averaged 871 f.p.s. after the tune, but because that wasn't part of the overall test, I didn't report that velocity.
I'm sorry for any confusion this mistake may have caused.
Friday's post about accurization was a set-up for today. You may recall the estate sale I directed you to last week. One of the guns was a Whisco 55N, which I bought. Today, I'll tell you more about it.
Herman Wilsker founded the Wischo company, a German exporter of various airguns. Like RWS, Wischo never made anything. They simply put their name on various airguns that were then exported around the world. The company that actually made the rifle we're looking at today was Bayerische Sportwaffenfabrik (Bavarian sporting arms manufacturer) or BSF.
Under my nose
I'm especially interested in BSF because their plant was located in Erlangen, Germany, a neighboring town of Nuremberg. I lived there for four years in the 1970s while stationed with the First Armored Division. Unfortunately, I wasn't aware of adult air rifles until fairly late in my tour, when I purchased a Diana model 10 target pistol. Even then my focus was on the Beeman company, and I just couldn't wait to get back to California so I could drive up the peninsula and visit their store in Santa Rosa. All the while I lived within a few miles of one of Germany's most significant airgun manufacturers. Such is life!
I bought a Beeman
When I returned from Germany in 1978, I got catalogs from both Beeman and eventually from Air Rifle Headquarters. ARH was focused on four major models - the HW35, Diana 45, BSF 55/70 and the Feinwerkbau 124. In 1978, these were the four air rifles that could top 800 f.p.s. with a lighweight .177 pellet. I bought a 124 from the Beeman store and got back into airgunning in a big way.
Why we buy
The FWB was the most modern of the four. The HW 35 was the largest and had the best trigger. The Diana 45 was potentially the most powerful, though it was virtually tied with the smallest and lightest of the four - the BSF 55. I probably wouldn't have bought a 55, because Robert Beeman was really stressing the FWB 124, and I wanted to own the fairest in the land. Anyone who has frozen on guard duty or been on manuvers for months at a time knows the sort of promises people make to themselves, "When I get back."
Years passed, I sold the 124 and nothing more happened. Then my wife suggested I write an airgun newsletter and everything airgun increased in interest. At the Baldwinsville airgun show (in 1998...I think), I bought a BSF 55 and tried to incorporate it into my collection. It was small, lightweight and completely the opposite of the guns I was testing every day, which were powerful spring guns and PCPs. Before long, I said goodbye to it.
The lights came on
About four years ago, however, I had an epiphany at the Roanoke airgun show. Up to that point I had been exposed to exotic airguns of all kinds with no end in sight. Want a genuine Austrian Girandoni? I saw one sell for $3500 at that show. Want a supergrade Sheridan? $400 bought a nice early one. Do you like the S&W 78G - the early one with the adjustable trigger? How many do you want? A guy had about 25 - all new in the box. Want a 1924 Crosman pump gun. I could have bought 15 from the Crosman house-cleaning sale. Do you see what I'm saying?
Well, at this particular Roanoke show I didn't see as many of the good old juicy guns. A lot of new stuff, but not so much of the old. Then I turned around and supergrade Sheridans were suddenly bringing $1500 and a Girandoni may now fetch $80,000! Apparently there was a very large boat that I had somehow missed. I was standing on the dock waving goodbye to the people on board, and then they were gone.
This past January, I saw the Hart estate auction online and another chance to buy a vintage BSF 55N. The N stands for Nussbaum - the German word for walnut. And this particular one had originally been sold by ARH. I bought it without blinking - something I have learned to do as the result of missing lots of boats.
Who's your grandfather?
The 55N is a real carbine-sized breakbarrel rifle. It's only 40.5" long and weighs just 6.5 lbs. It's even shorter than the Diana 27 and just about the same weight. Hold them next to each other, and you'll quickly see that the 55N is larger and beefier. It cocks with just 26 lbs. of force - practically nothing for what was at one time one of the two most powerful spring rifles around! And, the BSF 55 is the grandfather of the Beeman R9!
You heard me right. All those airgunners who say they don't like old airguns would do well to study a few of them, because some of the old guns led the way to the guns they revere today. The BSF 55 is the older brother of the BSF S70. Same action in a nicer, larger stock. When Weihrauch purchased BSF in the late 1980s, they took the S70 and married it to their Rekord trigger, producing what was sold in the U.S. as the Marksman 55 and the Marksman 70. Weihrauch then went a little further and turned the model 70 into the Beeman R10. Oh, oh - maybe they went too far!
And the winner is...
It was decided that the R10 was "too expensive to produce" (and was actually capable of the same power as the much larger, heavier and more expensive R1), so it was redesigned into the R9. From BSF 55/70 to the R10 to the R9. At its heart is a powerplant much smaller and lighter but still capable of the same power as the R1 Supermagnum, to use its full model name.
Are you intrigued? I know I am. Can't wait for part 2, when we'll take a closer look at the rifle!