BSA Meteor: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

BSA Super Meteor
My rifle is actually a BSA Super Meteor.

Of the 3 vintage airguns I acquired at Roanoke, this is the one you readers most wanted to see. And it’s one I have been curious about for two decades. I’ve seen hundreds of them at airgun shows, but every time I picked one up, it screamed “cheap and crappy.” Instead of blued steel, the metal parts are painted, which is an immediate turnoff. But it’s worse than that. I have never seen one of these Meteors that wasn’t loose at the breech, as in wobbling side to side where the barrel breaks. I made a special effort to check each one at Roanoke, and even the newest one in the best condition still wobbled.

On the flip side, I’ve read numerous glowing reports by owners and former owners who love the gun. Our own blog reader Kevin has more than one Meteor in his collection and thinks a lot of them. There must be something to this gun, regardless of my impressions.

Meteor — Mercury — Comet!
As a practicing dyslexic, I’m the first to confuse the names of things when they sound alike, or share a common thread, and this BSA is an example. I have called it by all 3 names in conversation, while meaning just the Meteor by itself. You see, BSA actually made airguns by all 3 names, but the Meteor is the gun we’re looking at.

The Meteor first came to market in 1959 and has matured through 7 Marks, or major design changes. The Mark VII is still being made today. The Blue Book of Airguns lists what they refer to as the “Meteor Super” (it’s actually called a Super Meteor) as a separate model that ran from 1967 through 1973; but in truth, the Super designator was applied to Meteors of several Marks for much longer. They weren’t separate models. They were rifles that had small upgrades of a few parts, with no real change to the powerplant.

Super Meteor
Actually, my rifle is a Super Meteor Mark IV in .177 caliber. They were made from 1973 through 1978 and are identified by the NG letter prefix of the serial number. What makes the rifle a Super is a stock with a slight Monte Carlo profile (stepped comb), a raised cheekpiece, a ventilated, thick, black rubber buttpad and a hooded front sight — although the hood did not come with the gun I bought. It doesn’t say “Super” anywhere on the rifle, and you have to look at the design features to distinguish it from a regular Meteor.

BSA Super Meteor buttstock
The butt has a slight Monte Carlo profile (stepped comb) and a raised cheekpiece. The ventilated black buttpad is the third clue this is a Super Meteor.

BSA Super Meteor tube markings
The name on the spring tube says Meteor. The “Super” designation is not written on the gun.

BSA Super Meteor serial number
The serial number prefix “NG” designates this as a Mark IV .177 Meteor/ Super Meteor, 1973-1978.

Out of curiosity, I did load one pellet and try the gun while writing this report. The discharge was violent, and the pellet never left the breech; so, the gun needs immediate attention. I’ll have to fix it before I can move on to test velocity and accuracy.

Size-wise, this Super Meteor appears and even seems a bit larger than a Diana model 27, though with the overall length of 40-1/4 inches, it’s actually one inch shorter than the 27. It’s the extra-thick stock that disguises the gun’s size. The barrel appears to be 18-1/2 inches long, though it’s backbored at the muzzle by 1.10 inches.

The rifle weighs 5 lbs., 14 oz., though that’s subject to deviate slightly depending on the weight of the “select Scandinavian beech” stock. Holding it reveals it to be light at the muzzle, which I don’t like in a rifle. But it isn’t bad and can certainly be tolerated.

Trigger
The trigger is adjustable, surprisingly enough. A screw behind the blade allows for some kind of adjustment on which I’ll report later. Right now, it’s set up as a single-stage with a crisp let-off of 4 lbs., 11 oz.

BSA Super Meteor trigger adjustment
Behind the trigger blade is the single adjustment screw.

There’s no safety, so it’s possible to fire the gun with the barrel broken open. I did this while restraining the barrel to test the trigger because, as I mentioned, the gun is in no condition to be fired. I really like the absence of a safety.

Barrel
The barrel is rifled, and this one currently looks like 40 miles of rough road. A tactical flashlight reveals lots of dirt and grime. It needs a serious cleaning.

BSA Super Meteor muzzle
The muzzle is backbored 1.10 inches.

The breech seal appears to be a formed synthetic o-ring. If I can find a replacement, I’ll get it. Otherwise, I’ll face this one flat and shim it underneath.

BSA Super Meteor breech seal
The synthetic breech seal has flattened over time.

Sights
The front sight is a steel blade with a bead at the top, pinned to a plastic ramp. The ramp is held to the barrel by a screw that’s under the steel blade. According to John Walter’s book, The Airgun Book, third edition, the front blade is reversible and can also be a square post.

BSA Super Meteor front sight
The front sight blade is supposed to flip and a square post will replace this bead.

The rear sight is adjustable in both directions. It appears to have very fine click detents that may be gunked up with crud because they make almost no sound at present. The entire unit needs to be taken off the rifle, disassembled and cleaned.

BSA Super Meteor rear sight
Rear sight is plastic and steel. Adjusts in both directions.

The rear sight is constructed of plastic and steel parts and has a notch that’s reversible. Right now, the vee notch is installed; but if I reverse the front sight, I’ll also flip the rear to the square notch. I noticed that there’s some vertical movement with this notch, as well, and I’ll use that if I need to. These older sights were things of ingenuity compared to what’s on the market today.

BSA Super Meteor rear sight notch
The rear sight has a choice of 2 notches. And the screws allow for a height adjustment.

Overall evaluation
I have to be open-minded about this rifle because so far it’s turned out to be the turkey I always believed these to be. Fortunately, Hiller’s third edition of Air Rifles has an exploded parts diagram of the Mark IV Super Meteor. Just by looking at it I can see the rifle disassembles in a straightforward way, so that will be the subject of my next report.¬†Hiller also mentions that if the stock screws are over-tightened, they tend to pull the action forks apart, causing looseness at the breech. Apparently, this is a design weakness of the vintage Meteor series.

Once the rifle is apart, we’ll get to see what it needs to put it back into operation. Then, I can order the parts and, after an overhaul, we can progress to shooting.

42 Responses to “BSA Meteor: Part 1”

  • Pop’s SLR Says:

    I am going to have to get myself to an airgun show. I suppose Arkansas will be the nearest one to central Mississippi. I am glad you will be sharing this guns journey with us. Thank you for your time B.B..

    I hope you are rewarded for your efforts with a nice gun.

  • /Dave Says:

    BB,

    If you get tired of this turkey, feel free to send it many way! Looks like a fun one to tinker with!

    /Dave

  • Gunfun1 Says:

    Was the barrel back bored to help protect the crown of the barrel ?
    Although in the picture it looks like the barrel is not crowned.

    • lloyd-ss Says:

      I am curious about that too. I have seen very slight back bores, 0.05 or so, but nothing nearly as deep as that.
      Lloyd-ss

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      GF1,

      From the looks of things I’d say this was the cheap way of avoiding crowing the barrel.

      B.B.

      • Gunfun1 Says:

        I don’t think I have tryed shooting a gun with out a barrel crowned.

        But I guess if the barrel is faced off square and there are no burrs from the facing off.
        I guess a gun barrel wouldn’t need crowned ?
        Or a counter bored barrel like in the case of this gun as long as it was square and burr free.
        It probably could still be accurate I guess.

  • goatboy Says:

    I picked up an old Mk IV Meteor last year, and low and behold it had all the problems you mentioned and more. But i only paid £10 for it so repairing it was fun, also there are many suppliers of every spare part you could possibly need in the UK (Chambers being one of the better ones). The buffer washer between the piston head and body tends to disintegrate and gums up the compression tube, but i have found it one of the easiest air rifles to work on.

    The Trigger guard hooks into the front of the trigger unit and the screw at the rear holds it to the stock and action itself, but with the original BSA mainspring fitted the Trigger is still very pleasant to use. With mine i had to shim the breech as the retaining pin had worn the breech pin hole wider, as well as pressing the forks back together in a vice.

    All in all i did a lot of things and it fires good as new now, i even sanded the remains of the paint off with an eye to cold bluing it. Personally i would recommend this as the perfect first air rifle for any one to repair, so i know you will enjoy working on this one. Have fun and good luck.

    TTFN

    Best wishes, Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe.

  • mikeiniowa Says:

    Give me a shout Tom, have some parts for the rifle…donations excepted????

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Mike,

      You have Meteor parts?

      I will see what’s needed. No need to make donations, though. Thanks for the offer.

      B.B.

  • pete in the Caribbean Says:

    B.B.,
    Looking forward to your report on the tear down and repair-better than a extra large hot fudge sundae with double fudge. Yum!
    Pete

  • Tunnel Engineer Says:

    Project rifle! Yahoooo!

  • Barrika Says:

    I’m curious: what country was it made in?? —thanks

    • Gunfun1 Says:

      TT
      Most definitely can here a difference when you had your back to the camera.

      With out the sight fixture thing on. The gun was quieter. With it on it definitely made a crack when you shot it. That would scare a flock of starlings off for sure.

      And nice picture of the Eagles. And I don’t quite have the place to shoot by my house that you have. But my brothers place looks similar where we shoot. Looks like fun.

  • Mike Says:

    Reports I have read say folks like these guns. Interesting!

    Mike

  • Oliver Says:

    I fear BB that you could not have picked a worse model of the Meteor. The 70s BSAs were generally rubbish, rather like British cars of the time, cheap, poorly made with that awful ‘slab 0” Wood’ stock. The contemporary airsporters suffered from similar faults. BSA continued to insist on using pivot pins at the barrel joint leading to lots of sideways movement.

    The contrast between this and the Mk1 or 2, 60s guns is interesting and all in favour of the earlier rifles, as I think (though cannot be sure) are the later models.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Oliver,

      Yeah, I was afraid that might be the case. I guess the ones I have seen have all been from this timeframe.

      Well, I will fix this beauty up and then look for an earlier model at some show in the future.

      Thanks,

      B.B.

    • kevin Says:

      Oliver,

      Agree with you completely. The mk1 and mkII meteors are wonderful little airguns.

      kevin

  • Matt61 Says:

    What happened with the violent discharge where the pellet did not leave the gun? Sounds like some kind of problem with the seals.

    On a different note, I had fabulous success with Beeman Lasers in my Walther Nighthawk the other night. Maybe these pellets are just a match for the gun, but has anyone else had such good luck with this brand?

    Gunfun1, yes the tough old ladies of the past are part of my thesis on the superiority of our forebears. My Dad said that as a child he once met a distant relation on a farm who was about the size of your old lady. While talking, she casually reached down, picked up a chicken by the neck and gave it such a quick violent twist that the body went flying off…

    TwoTalon, good idea with the electric fence. Gunfun1, the plastic black snakes are psychological brilliance. Those things scare me.

    I personally dislike pranks, but anyone looking for a laugh will want to see this.

    http://uk.movies.yahoo.com/viral-carrie-prank-unleashes-supernatural-powers-in-a-coffee-shop-102417649.html

    Or if you just want to see what people will look like at the Second Coming. No atheists in that room.

    Matt61

    • Gunfun1 Says:

      Matt61
      I watched my grandma and dad both wring chickens necks. Actually kind of crazy when you see it. But I guess it gets the job done quick and humane if you will.

      And I know the scary movies I watch. I watch them to get a laugh. And that was a funny video.

  • BG_Farmer Says:

    BB,
    From the looks of what you’ve got there, I suspect some of the fanatic devotion to the Meteor is group think/peer pressure… I don’t see anything that stands out when put side by side with a B1 or 2, and I think the recent QB18 is much better :). It is old and British, however, so people forgive and even embrace its quarks and can’t get enough of it. Looking forward to being proved wrong by the upcoming test/review, as always; I do understand that I don’t know a lot!

    Do you have any old catalog pictures of what one might have looked like new?

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      BG_Farmer,

      I think Oliver (above) has nailed it. The Meteor Marks I and II (1959- 1968) were the good ones and what I have was made at a time when the quality slipped.

      B.B.

    • J. Says:

      You have shot an un-tuned B-series air-rifle right? I’m not going to say that Tom’s Meteor is going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread since it definitely needs a lot of TLC but saying its comparable to a B-series air-rifle… That’s just harsh.

  • Slinging Lead Says:

    I think they call this thing a meteor because it looks like it was struck with one.

    What a hag. It looks like a 3rd rate chinese rifle that was stored in a box of wet rocks.

    Let’s see what else England was producing during this proud socialist period in its history:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Marina

    Workers of the World unite! LOL

    • Fred DPRoNJ Says:

      What a great game! Britain Bashing. Can I play, too?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSA_Thunderbolt

      Fred DPRoNJ

      • Slinging Lead Says:

        Fred

        Of course you can play! I enthusiastically invite all participants. Take that you filthy limeys!

        However, I must admit that as a Scot, I have a huge head start and possibly a slight bias.

        Now, without a hint of hypocrisy, I will shoot my TX200 as an expression of airgun nirvana.

    • goatboy Says:

      Having owned several Morris Marina’s in my dubious and reckless past, i have to say they were never that bad. They always came to me very cheap, because i think, people were only to glad to get rid of them. They never broke down on me, as i most likely sold them to a scrap yard for a profit by then. And the best thing of all was that the top end was so low you never got hassle of the traffic police. What memories the mighty Morris Marina holds deep in my heart.

      TTFN

      Sir Nigel

      • Slinging Lead Says:

        Nigel

        HA! I love it!

        I am glad that you did not take offense at my ridiculousness. My tongue was firmly planted in my cheek.

        Cheers.

  • Dag Evert Says:

    Seems to me like your gun is a combination of mk4 and mk5?
    I’ve got several super meteors(4 mk3′s, two mk4, and two mk5) and the single piece cocking linkage does not come with that rear sight on any of my guns.

    The rear sight on the gun you’ve got(which seems very similar to the supersport sight) is combined with an articulated two-piece linkage on both my guns who have this rear sight, but your front sight seems to me to be the mk3/4 type?

    I also know that there seems to be some confusion around the mk’s when relating to the super models, can you shed some light on this?

    I have seen three different piston heads as well, so it will be fun to see what you find inside.

    My guns compressionchamber do vary a lot, but the guns with a good compression chamber react very well to fresh seals, new buffer, and JM’s meteor spring on a tight delrin rear guide and delrin tophat. A metal washer should be put in front of the tophat as well. they usually do between 680 and 720fps with 7,9grs pellets when set up like this, but some comp. chambers seal bad and those guns are more “slammy”.
    Some of my guns came with undersize(.244″) barrel pivot pins. I’ve changed them for cut down supersport pins, and squeezed the fork carefully in a vise. Properly adjusted, the lockup is very tight and positive.

    The meteors can be very pleasant shooting, have good triggers, an be quite accurate, when you combine good parts and dont try tp push them beyond their abilities.

    • B.B. Pelletier Says:

      Dag,

      Yes, there is a surprise in store when I show the piston head! I have done some research and the head that I see has fooled many BSA owners over the years. I can’t wait for you to see it.

      I took many detailed photos of the teardown, so you will be able to see the parts in close proximity.

      I never like to push a gun beyond its capability. A good 8 foot-pound gun seems so much better than a horrible 11 foot-pounds gun to me.

      You can send photos to me at

      blogger@pyramydair.com

      There is more to say. but I want to show the gun to everyone first.

      Monday,

      B.B.

  • Dag Evert Says:

    BTW: Mr. Gaylord, I can send you a picture of a group shot at 25meter with a mk3 if you provide me an e-mail address…

  • Dag Evert Says:

    Oh, another thing I didnt notice before now: Your gun has the what I think is the MK5 trigger.

    The holes on the back of the reiciver/tube are for the mk5 meteor cadet peep sight, I dont think those appeared before the mk5.

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