by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
My rifle is actually a BSA Super Meteor.
It would be an understatement to say there was a lot of interest in the BSA Super Meteor I got at the Roanoke airgun show. And in the discussion that followed, I learned a lot about this rifle that is now in its seventh design iteration.
First of all, the experts agree that the Meteors — Marks I and II and possibly the Mark III — are the best ones. Certainly, both I and II are. My Mark IV, on the other hand, is characteristic of BSA’s lowest days, when quality went out the window — at least to hear some readers tell it.
I don’t have a Mark I or II to compare with, so all my observations have to be based on this one gun. When I tried to fire it for the first time, it sounded horrible — as if it was broken.
Well, it turns out that it was broken! Today, I’ll show you the step-by-step process of disassembling this air rifle, and I’ll finish the story tomorrow with the damage I found and what I intend doing about it.
I’ve never liked disassembling BSA and Webley spring rifles because of how they go together. I suppose that if I did it all the time, it would seem simple; but compared to a Weihrauch, Air Arms or even a Diana, these two brands seem to be harder to separate. They seem to be designed for production — not for maintenance. At least, that’s my impression.
Having said that, however, I was surprised how easily this rifle did come apart. It was very straightforward and never gave me a bit of trouble. Like I said — I don’t have as much experience disassembling BSAs or Webleys.
All my photography today was done with a flash, so please excuse the poor exposures of some of the parts. I’ve made sure you can see what’s important, and I’ll direct your attention to it in the text…but these are not as good as my normal photos.
Step 1. Remove the stock
The stock comes off with two screws on the forearm and one on the triggerguard. Once out of the stock, it was easy to see why the forearm screws had pulled apart the action forks. They’re screwed directly into them instead of being attached farther back on the spring tube. This is a weakness in the design. Also, each screw was missing a stock spacer that keeps it from pulling on the action forks.
The forearm screws attach directly to the action forks. When they’re screwed tight, they tend to pull the forks apart — especially when they’re missing their spacers. Note the barrel pivot pin above the flange with the threaded hole.
When I removed the stock, I could finally see the trigger adjustment screw. It obviously adjusts the sear contact area, so be very careful when you adjust it!
With the action out of the stock, you gain access to the trigger adjustment screw.
Step 2. Remove the trigger parts
In the Meteor, the trigger housing is welded to the spring tube. So, it stays on the rifle, but the trigger parts have to come out to remove the piston, which is held by the sear on its side, rather than with a center rod. The trigger parts are held inside the housing by 2 pins, although it looks like 3 pins at first. One of those pins is a rivet and does not come out of the gun.
Trigger parts are held in by only 2 pins. The small pin above the curved trigger blade is pushed out from left to right, releasing the blade; then, the large silver pin at the top left is pushed out to release the rest of the trigger parts. The rivet at the right side of the housing stays where it is.
Normally, when faced with pins like these, I get a pin punch set, but I found that the trigger blade pin was loose enough to remove with just finger pressure, alone, and the large silver pin came out by pushing on it with a combination of my finger and a ballpoint pen! The large silver pin in my rifle appears to be a captive pin that remains with the trigger housing. The trigger was completely dry, which surprised me because it came apart so easily.
You have to take the trigger parts out because they’re being pushed up by the trigger spring to block the piston. The trigger pushes on the sear, which bears on the edge of the piston, so it has to be removed to allow the piston to clear the spring tube.
Once the large silver pin is removed, you can pull the trigger parts out of the housing. They consist of the trigger blade and the sear, plus a bent spring that puts upward pressure on the sear when the parts are pinned inside the trigger housing. The trigger blade contains the adjustment screw plus nylon bearings on both sides to keep it from wobbling when installed. It’s more sophisticated than it looks from the outside of the gun. Also, I can tell by the minimal wear patterns that both the trigger blade and the sear are at least surface-hardened. My guess is that they’re case-hardened.
The trigger parts consist of the sear, trigger blade and trigger spring. The pin shown here is the same one that was removed to take the trigger blade from the housing. The white oval on the trigger is a nylon bearing that takes up any side-to-side wobble, plus it helps hold the adjustment screw in place.
Here’s the trigger housing with the parts removed. The large silver pin appears to be captive in my rifle. You can also see the rivet that never comes out. Notice how dry the mainspring is!
I noticed how very dry all the parts were. I was beginning to suspect that this gun had never been apart since it left the factory. Of course, without a complete disassembly, it was impossible to tell for sure; but I would have expected to find some lubrication on some parts. At this point, there was no lubrication on anything, and all the of the parts were dry, dusty and lightly corroded.
Step 3. Remove the mainspring retention pin and the mainspring
Step 3 is where you can make a very big mistake. With many airguns, the one or two cross pins on the side of the spring tube hold the mainspring and its guide in the rifle. The Meteor has a single pin, but it isn’t held in the rifle in the same way that other cross pins are held. Instead, this single pin is keyed to the spring guide. If you try to drive it out with a pin punch, you’ll ruin the pin and probably ruin the spring tube as well.
Here you can see the mainspring retention pin. Its function is similar to all retention pins in other spring-piston air rifles, but this one has a secret. It’s keyed into the spring guide. Until you take tension off the spring, this pin cannot be taken out of the rifle. If you try to take it out with a pin punch before taking tension off the mainspring, you can damage parts.
To get the pin out, you must take spring tension off it by pressing the mainspring in and away from the pin, then press the pin out of the gun from left to right. It will press out with finger pressure just as easily as the trigger pins did, once the spring tension is taken off. You need to make a special tool to take off the spring tension. I was able to make this tool with a part I bought at a local hardware store for less than 60 cents.
The tool does not have to be strong. It only has to put about 90 to 110 lbs. of force on the spring guide. I had my choice of steel, aluminum or plastic parts to work with, and I chose plastic so it would be easier to work. I bought a 4-inch PVC pipe riser made for a yard sprinkler system. I knew this would be easy to work with a Dremel tool. I brought it home, measured the work to be done and made the cuts on the pipe with an abrasive wheel. The total work time was about 20 minutes. I now had a tool that would span the cross pin and push on the base of the mainspring guide.
In about 20 minutes, I made a tool from a 4-inch sprinkler PVC pipe. It isn’t beautiful, but it worked the first time and looks like it’ll hold up for dozens more jobs like this.
I’d intended to use the spring compressor with this tool; but after I saw how easily it worked, I decided I could use it outside the compressor. All I did was put the tool around the pin and pressed down on the barreled action, taking all the spring tension off the pin. It was then very easy to press the pin out of the gun with just my finger.
Here you can see how the cross pin is retained by the base of the spring guide. You can also see the small amount of tension that’s on the mainspring of this rifle when the pin is installed. It was easy to take the cross pin out and take the tension off the mainspring without a compressor.
Then, I could remove the mainspring and spring guide from the rifle. Once they were out, I saw there was no lubrication on any of these parts, nor was there any on the inside of the rifle. I was pretty certain at this point that the rifle had never been apart; or, if it had, that someone had intentionally dried off every part before assembly.
The mainspring looks pretty good. I rolled it on the table and couldn’t see any significant canting. I believe I’ll use this mainspring when the rifle’s rebuilt.
The mainspring looks pretty good, but it’s bone dry.
Step 4. Remove the barrel
It was time to take out the piston. On this gun, the piston is connected to the cocking linkage in such a way that the barrel has to first be removed from the spring tube to disengage the cocking linkage from the side of the piston. The Meteor has a pin (instead of a bolt) as a barrel pivot. Like all the other pins on this rifle, this pin was only tight enough to hold the parts in position. I could move it with my finger. I broke the barrel open to take all tension off the pin (from the detent), then pushed it out from left to the right.
The barrel pivot pin has been started by finger pressure, alone. No pin in this rifle has needed a pin punch for removal. To get the pin all the way out requires a push from a screwdriver.
With the pin out, the barrel pulls away from the spring tube, and the cocking link can be removed from the piston. The piston can now be removed from the rifle.
Step 5. Remove the piston
Once the cocking link is out of the piston, it’s time to slide the piston out of the spring tube. Everything was so dry on this rifle that the piston had to be coaxed out of the gun by levering it with screwdrivers through the cocking slot. When it was out of the gun, I discovered that the piston head wasn’t attached! It’s still inside the tube at this point! No wonder the gun fired so violently!
The piston is missing its head. It passes through the hole on the end of the piston and is held in place by a circlip, which is missing.
That would normally be all you have to do to strip a Meteor, but I still have to get the piston head out of the gun. I suspect it’s going to tell me a lot about why the gun failed like it did.
This is turning into a long report, so I’ll finish it tomorrow.