by B.B. Pelletier
Announcement: Here’s this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 gift card.
Today’s report begins with a bucketload of irony.
I told you about acquiring this BSF S70 breakbarrel air rifle at the Malvern airgun show about a month ago, Today, I’ll start a three-part report on it. Those of you who are interested in BSF air rifles might also wish to read the report on the BSF 55N I did three years ago.
The BSF S70 was the deluxe version of the BSF 55-series of spring-piston air rifles. It’s the grandfather of the Beeman R9.
BSF stands for Bayerische Sportwaffenfabrik (Bavarian Sporting Arms Manufacturer). They operated in Erlangen, Germany, until some time in the late 1980s, when they closed down and sold their tools, parts and equipment to Weihrauch. The extreme irony of that fact is that I was stationed in Erlangen for nearly four years in the mid-1970s, during which time Robert Beeman of America got me interested in precision adult airguns after I found and bought a Diana model 10 target pistol in Rothenberg ob der Tauber, a walled historic city I visited often. The fact that I lived in the same city where BSF airguns were made did not dawn on me until I began writing about airguns in the 1990s.
I actually saw a used BSF S-20 air pistol for sale in my favorite antique shop in Nuremberg (talk about leading a horse to water!) and passed on it because it looked to me as if old Hans had taken a breakbarrel air rifle and cut it down to fit into a pistol stock. Of course, that was actually what happened, only “old Hans” was a group of engineers at BSF. Today, I own a BSF S-20 Match pistol, as well. That report can be found here.
Back to the main story. So, three years ago I’m at the 2008 Little Rock Airgun Expo, poised to buy this beautiful BSF S70 rifle, and a young man swoops in and buys it out from under me. If you follow the link I provided, scroll down to the final two paragraphs and read the lamentations of a collector who has just lost a treasure. It’s under the title “The one that got away.” I didn’t tell the story about having the money for the gun back then because I guess I didn’t want to feel worse about it than I did. Read those paragraphs; you’ll understand.
Time has a way of bringing change, however; and though I’ve never been very patient, there are situations where I can’t do anything but wait. Like last year, when I missed the first Malvern show because I was in the hospital. The owner of this S70 went to that show, also trying to sell his gun but he didn’t connect with anybody.
Oh, here’s another important point. He’s not 14 anymore. He’s now 17, a lot larger and the look in his eye tells me he’s interested in things other than airguns.
I, on the other hand, am a wizened, shriveled-up old raisin with little to look forward to but the dust of my fast-fading dreams. Oh, and I also have a little extra money to spend. In other words, I’m the perfect airgun collector. On the other hand, Don Juan is focused on his next tank of four-dollar gas.
He came by our table at this year’s show and Mac, remembering how I had whined about this rifle, transfixed the youth with several of his engaging but pointless stories until I could return. Ten minutes later, I became the next owner of this nearly new vintage German breakbarrel.
But wait — there’s more!
However, the irony in this tale doesn’t even end there. After Weihrauch bought BSF in the late 1980s, the first thing they did was assemble the parts they had just purchased into new models of airguns. For example, they took the S70, found a way to put a Rekord trigger in it and re-named it the Marksman model 70. How about that? After Beeman shooed Marksman out of the high-end airgun business, they changed the name once more to the Beeman R-10 to please their No. 1 U.S. customer.
I am taking extraordinary license with this story, because Hans Weihrauch, Jr., didn’t tell it to me. I pieced it together over many years of collecting catalogs and connecting the dots. If I’ve made some erroneous assumptions, I apologize, but my main point still stands — that BSF was absorbed into Weihrauch and some of their guns eventually morphed into some Beeman R-series guns. I’m not saying that the BSF S70 parts will interchange with those of the Beeman R-10, or that you can remove an S70 trigger and drop a Rekord in its place, but if you had the parts to build 5,000 rifles, you would find a way. How’s THAT for a lead-in?
The BSF S70 general description
This is what used to be considered a large air rifle in its day, but in the shadow of the Walther Talon Magnum and the Benjamin Trail NP XL, it’s more medium-sized today.
The rifle is just less than 43-1/2 inches long with a 19-inch barrel, and it weighs 7 lbs., 4 oz. That puts it into the same physical category as the Beeman R9, which descended from the R10, so the bloodline still runs strong.
The beech stock is stained medium brown with impressed checkering on the forearm and pistol grip. A plain dark-brown rubber buttpad is separated from the buttstock by a white line spacer. The overall shape of the stock with its Monte Carlo butt, straight comb and raised cheekpiece is very American.
There’s no plastic on the gun anywhere, and all the barreled action parts are finished in a deep semi-gloss black. The finish on this particular gun is as close to 100 percent as it gets. The two pieces of aluminum I can find on the gun, besides the optional Williams sporting aperture sight, are the trigger blade and the scope base.
My rifle has no factory-installed sporting rear sight. Instead, it has a Williams aperture sight that was obviously made for this model. I searched in both the Air Rifle Headquarters catalogs and the early Beeman catalogs to see if either of them offered this sight, but neither did. At least, they don’t show a picture of it anywhere. While searching, I did discover that when Beeman sold the S70 in the company’s first few years of operation, it was actually marked as the BSF 55D. They mention in the description that the same gun is called the S70 in Europe. There’s a bit of trivia for you serious collectors.
My rifle came with this beautiful Williams aperture rear sight that fits the receiver profile perfectly.
The front sight is a tall post and bead surrounded by a huge sheetmetal globe that’s removable. Most sporting BSF rifles and pistols have this same globe.
The trigger on the S70 is two-stage and adjustable for release weight. In both the ARH and Beeman catalogs, they describe it as “wearing-in” over time, but I would put a caveat on that. What this trigger actually does is get lighter and smoother the more it is used. Older Gamo sporting triggers and the triggers in vintage Webley airguns did the same thing with one important difference. They eventually settled into a fine pull, where the BSF triggers do not. They keep right on wearing-in until they become unsafe. When that happens, it’s possible to adjust them back to a safe level, but usually the unsuspecting owner will just let the trigger go, thinking it’s getting real nice — until the gun fires on its own. You’ve now been warned by the man who has a pellet hole in his office ceiling.
Turn the screw toward the + to increase trigger-pull.
One other curious thing about BSF triggers is that they’re all made from multiple plates of steel sandwiched together. Then, the metal parts are formed to their final shape. It is a construction method that obviously reduces the cost of materials, but it works far better than it sounds or appears.
Instead of using one piece of steel, they sandwiched four thinner plates together to make the same part. It looks crude but works surprisingly well.
I may have a straight European airgun because there is no importer’s name anywhere on it. However, Air Rifle Headquarters didn’t put their name on either the BSF S20 Match pistol or the BSF S55 rifle I have. Since I have the boxes they both came in as well as some of the sales paperwork, I know their pedigrees. This could be an ARH gun, however, I don’t think it is because there’s a German Freimark on the left side of the baseblock. The letter “F” inside a pentagon signifies the gun is limited to a power level of below 7.5 joules, making it legal to own as an airgun in Germany.
The letter “F” inside the pentagon is the German Freimark, designating this airgun as having less than 7.5 joules of muzzle energy. It’s put only on airguns that meet this legal definition.
If this is a real Freimark gun, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise, the velocity of light .177 pellets should be in the high 500 to almost 600 foot-second range. If it were an airgun made for the unrestricted U.S. market, the velocity would be closer to 800 f.p.s. with the same pellets. A Freimark gun will have the piston stroke shortened, because simply changing mainsprings does not limit power that much.
Either way, I still love the gun, though the heavy cocking effort won’t be as much fun if the velocity doesn’t match. My BSF S55N rifle averages 773 f.p.s. with RWS Hobby pellets, which is about where it should be for a rifle intended for the U.S. That rifle does not have a Freimark. Knowing what sticklers the Germans are for marking things correctly, I’d be willing to bet this is a lower-powered rifle. I haven’t chronographed it, yet, so I’m just as curious as you are right now.
A second unusual thing is something I’ve seen many times before, but maybe it’ll be new to you. When World War II ended and the Allies divided Germany into different sectors, they named them East and West Germany. From that time forward until 1990, there was no Germany per se; there was East Germany or West Germany. I’m not dredging up bad memories to insult anyone here, but you do need to know that there were two distinct countries.
The items manufactured in those countries had to reflect where they were made. The stamps that said Made in Germany before the war were no longer correct. In many instances, the word West was simply added after the country name for West German goods, so the stamping would read Made in Germany West. If you examine these stamp marks on various articles, you even see that the word West has been added after the main stamp was produced because it doesn’t appear the same as the other letters in the stamp. And, so it is on this rifle.
The word “WEST” is clearly different than the rest of the stamp. It was added later.
The company was founded in 1935 and continued after the war until the remains were sold to Weihrauch in the late 1980s, so they would have used a Made in Germany stamp before the war. The gun exporter Wischo, also based in Erlangen, put their name on many of the guns that were exported, in the same way that RWS does with Dianawerke airguns. The Wischo name is missing from this one, leading me to conclude that the rifle was made for the German market. That makes the Freimark correct.
Articulated cocking link
Instead of a single steel link between the barrel and piston, the S70 has a two-piece link that’s hinged toward the front. That allows the link to be long but the cocking slot in the forearm to be short. A short cocking slot helps dampen any spring vibration, making the rifle seem smoother than it would if the cocking slot were long.
This two-piece articulated cocking link allows the stock’s cocking slot to be short, thus reducing vibration.
At this point, I believe that what I have is a German-power BSF S70. I also believe that fact is what has preserved the rifle in near-new condition for all these years. According to the latest Blue Book of Airguns, 9th Edition, my rifle probably shoots around 600 f.p.s., where a U.S.-spec. rifle would shoot near or even over 800 f.p.s. We’ll all find out together in Part 2.