by Tom Gaylord
Play day for me, again! I get to show you my new/old BSF 55N.
You already know this is a small air rifle, yet a very powerful one for its day. The secret? A long-stroke piston provides more power by compressing more air. The drawback of such a design is a longer dwell time while the piston races down the compression chamber. Some shooters think that makes the gun more difficult to shoot accurately, but that’s where the artillery hold really shines. It doesn’t care about dwell time or anything else.
Let’s look at the rifle
BSF rifles can usually be identified by two swaged grooves at the end of the compression/spring cylinder. These are a mechanical way of attaching the cylinder end – the part that holds the air transfer port. The metal is polished and blued, but finish was never the strongest suit of BSF. They look fine, but don’t compare to the finish on guns like Webley and BSA.
A BSF trigger is a marvel of manufacturing. One look at how it’s made and most of you would swear that the gun is nothing but junk. I know I did. The sear is actually made from thin steel plates riveted together to form a solid piece. In the days before CNC machining became affordable, this was a way of making steel parts cheaply.
But it WORKS! Oh, how it works! Robert Law said these triggers are rough to begin with, but they eventually wear in to very smooth. That sounds like hype, but it’s the truth. The rifle I bought was well-used for about 30 years by its owner, whose brother told me he remembers shooting it as a kid. Now, the trigger is soooooo smoooooooth! When I cocked and loaded the gun for the first time, the trigger was set so light that the gun fired when I closed the barrel, so now I have a hole in the ceiling of my office. Thankfully I was pointing the muzzle in a safe direction when it happened!
I immediately adjusted the trigger to have greater sear contact. I also read in an ARH catalog that you should never adjust a BSF 55/70 trigger too light or this is exactly what will happen. The trigger adjustment worked as the markings indicate, and now I have a safe rifle with a delightful two-stage trigger that breaks with 2 lbs., 6 ozs. of pressure.
The BSF 55N was one of the first rifles to break the 800 f.p.s. barrier. In those days (late 1960s to late 1970s), 800 f.p.s. was a really big deal. Now, my gun was returned to ARH for maintenance in 1980, and it got a new mainspring and piston seal, but no mention of accurization. ARH advertised the velocity of this model at 738 f.p.s. as they sold it (shooting .177 H&N Finale Match pellets) and 770 f.p.s. after accurization. That was back in 1972, when my rifle was sold. By 1979, the velocity was up to 770 for the basic gun and 840-854 after accurization, again with an H&N match pellet.
My rifle averages 756 f.p.s. with H&N Finale Match, and holds that velocity within 10 f.p.s. It goes 763 with Gamo Match and 773 with RWS Hobbies – the lightest pure-lead pellet available for testing. Both of those are also very stable. Switching over to the trick pellets, it ranges between 846 and 891 with Gamo Raptors. Crosman Silver Bear hollowpoints deliver velocities from 991 f.p.s. to 1018. Now, who you gonna believe?
You’re going to believe the RWS Hobbys and put aside the foolishness of these ultra-light trick pellets, because if you don’t, I have a supply of 3-grain plastic pellets that can take the number even higher. This is airgunning, not who has the highest number. It matters what we can hit, not some meaningless number that can’t do anything. Sorry about the soapbox, but just imagine what would have happened if lightweight pellets had been available back in the 1970s.
Next time I’ll show some more detail of the rifle and we’ll see how she shoots.
35 thoughts on “BSF 55N – Part 2”
Great rifle you got there. I like the foreward sling attachment into the wood rather than the typical barrel band.
Couple questions about it:
Does the front swivel stud also anchor the action to the stock?
Was the HW 50’s cocking linkage based on BSF’s?
They look really similar.
I liked your soap box, and I agree with it completely. Your airgun can have all the power in the world, but what good is it if you can’t hit your target? Shot placement is far more important than power. When i used to work in the gun shop, I would tell my customers that when looking for a gun they need to find the one that has just enough power to do what is needed, yet is still more accurate than the shooter.
on a side note, although I believe that accuracy is more important than energy, it is still better to have too much power rather than not enough.
The BSF stock has a short cocking slot. It gets away with that because it has a two-piece articulated cocking link. The BSF wasn’t first with this. In fact Weihrauch was using them back in the 1950s, with the HW 55 and the 35. I will talk about this type of link in the next installment.
The front sling swivel screw doesn ‘t anchor the stock. That’s a separate screw.
I am doing research for an article on loading down popular military cartridges for this very reason. I have a beaut for the 6.5 Swede that was published in Shotgun News back in 2000. Now I’m working on the 7.5 Swiss, which is another bad kicker. After that, the 7.62x54R Mosin round. Great rifles but they’ll kick your teeth out. Then the .30-06, which should be pretty much the same load, and finally the .303 British, though that one is already fairly soft.
My feeling is, if I can hit what I’m aiming at with 1,000 foot-pounds, who needs bragging rights? I’ll shoot that rifle more and be a better shots as a result.
It good to see somethings beside wine and cheese get better with age. Would like to see more detail on the mounting of the sling.
I. too, am a fan of reduced loads in older military bolt action rifles. High power loads aren’t exactly necessary in order to travel 100 yards and through a sheet of paper. My favorite is a Schmidt-Rubin K31 in 7.5 Swiss. It is positively delightful to shoot with reduced loads using fast burning powders and moderately heavy cast lead bullets. It easily holds minute-of-pop-can at 100 yards with the issue sights. After 100 rounds, the worst fatigue comes from walking downrange to replace shot-out targets. In the end, I shoot for the enjoyment of it, and this particular practice pegs the meter for me. Thanks for the reminder to get my old Swiss friend out to the range, now that the weather is starting to cooperate. Good luck with your reduced power project. I know you’ll enjoy it.
– Jim in KS
enjoy your 1000 foot pounds while you can if you hunt grizzly bears!
i mad a profile so if you click on my name you can learn all about me.
B.B. Off topic: A while back you mentioned that to remove the aluminum scope rail on the Gamo CFX one had to remove the 3 hex screws plus the end cap. How is the end cap removed?
Nice-looking sling you’ve got there. I want to get sling swivels installed so that I can try prone-shooting with the B30.
On the subject of military cartridges, I was suprised to find that most commercial factory 30 .06 ammo is too hot for the M1 and that the military surplus is slower. Do you know of any factory ammo that does work? I’ve heard that Black Hills Gold with a 155 gr. bullet is okay.
henry, where’s your link?
I thought you all might like to hear how PA has stepped in to help with the B30. Upon hearing that my replacement has bad sights, they personally test-fired a new gun to show that the sights are good and told me that they will test-fire my next one before sending it out. And they are sending a prepaid shipping label for the exchange. What a customer service tour-de-force.
Will do. It’s a good part of the stock story, anyway.
Jim in KS,
How ironic that you like the 7.5 Swiss and today I went to the range hoping to test my new reduced load for mine. Forgot to take the rifle, though, so it was more difficult than planned.
How could I forget? I was also testing two other big bore airguns with different fill situations, so it got lost in the jumble.
I wouldn’t use 1000 foot-pounds on a grizzly, but a whitetail is easily killed by half that.
I don’t remember saying that. I took a scope rail off a Whisper. Did I also take one off a CF-X?
Military .30-06 is too hot for the Garand? Never heard that. I know commercial ammo, while not too hot (pressure too high) has the wrong pressure curve (pressure rises too fast). It can bend the operating rod.
I reload all my Garand ammo with IMR 4831 – the same as the government.
I actually like the looks of that BSF — not frilly at all. I’m afraid, though, that if you hadn’t identified the piece (or shown the Deutsch), somebody would have declared it a “clunk”:).
I like it, too. I find the older I get the more I like simple things with classic lines.
I too love shooting the old military rifles. My 6.5 sweedish mauser is a joy to shoot. That rifle and my Garand might be the only rifles I shoot well with open sights at 100 yards. About 10 years ago I blew the chance of buying a Johnson that was converted to 7×57. I wish I had that chance again.
I will look up some loads that were really good with the 6.5.
JoeG from Jersey
B.B. This is where you removed the CFX aluminum scope rail and end cap:
How is the end cap removed?
I have 2 Mosin 7.62x 54r’s. One M44 from the Izhmash arsenal and one 91/30 from the Tula arsenal. The 91/30 is a sweet gun with an almost new barrel. I like full power ammo with both, although with it’s short barrel, the M44 is pretty noisy and throws a lot of flame. I’ve always worn a coat when shooting them so I don’t get beat up too much. I also have two 8mm Mausers that I enjoy. The hardest part is figuring out which one to take to the range.
The end cap on the CFX just slides off once the action is out of the stock. To do that you need to remove the rear triggerguard screw and the two front screws that are under the forearm grip pads (they pry off).
Not sure why you’d need to remove that endcap though..
I meant to say that the military surplus is fine for the Garand but the factory ammo is not. I guess “hot” was not used in the correct technical sense, but the damage takes place like you said. I’m not ready to handload yet, but I’ll keep that powder in mind as I examine the factory ammo. I hear that the Greek surplus sold by the CMP and elsewhere is really fine stuff, almost match grade and only about 30 cents a round. Apparently, the Greeks really loved their Garands.
i have an m44. Its a blast… literally (4 foot flame with $.03 ammo). I got the gun and a life time supply of ammo (880 rounds) for like $150. Not bad ehh! I got to shoot it before buying it (rare).
henry, found you profile the way you said. That wasn’t exactly an autobiography, but it was interesting to see.
Thyatt Johnson may not have been converted to 7X57. Chile and maybe Brazil had them made in that caliber.
My best load for the 6.5X55 is 19.5 grains of 2400 behind a 120-grain boattail. I shoot the M38 and this groups under two inches at 100 yards with iron sights. If you have the rifle, bump it to 20 grains.
The end cap of the CF-X just falls off. I took it off to slide the scope mount off the dovetails that run to the end of the tube.
BB, In the .303 British and some of the others with .311 dia. and larger bores , try the lead HBWC used for the .32 SW long. I load them using around 7.0grs of unique and seat them out a little depending on the gun. I don’t seat them flush with the case mouth,or so that they are below the case’s neck area inside the case. These make great small game loads with very good accuracy out to 50 yds or so. I’ve used them to kill starlings and they cut nice round holes in targets. I got this load idea from the writer C.E. Harris who wrote about using the .32 Taurus HBWC wadcutters in small game loads, in the American Rifleman magazine years ago.
I’ll give it a try.
About a year ago you helped me identify a used air rifle I purchased as a BSF 55 sold under the Marksman name. I have not been able to find much information on it so this report has been very helpful. I have two questions. First, the rifle has a rekord trigger, and does not have the two groves on the compression chamber you showed in the picture. Would this indicate it is one of the later units made with more Weihrauch than BSF parts? Second, the scope rail is similar to the Diana rifles with no provisions for a stop. Would the solution you are working on for the RWS Diana products be appropriate for this rifle when it becomes available?
Well I found my record book.Back in ’91 for the 6.5×55 swiss I was loading the Hornady 160 RN with 41 gr of IMR 4350 in NORMA brass for average velocity of 2325 FPS (thats the rifle). That was a gr. below max in the 4th edition of the Hornady manual. The NORMA factory load with the 139 gr. bullet gave me an avg of 2775 Fps.
In the Garand I was shooting Hornady 165 gr BTSP and Sierra matchking 165 BTHP with 48 gr. of IMR 3031 at 2690 FPS.
Im glad I kept notes. I am a numbers geek. Velocity was tested with the PACT Professional Chronograph. Looking at the dates in the book makes me wonder where all this free time has gone. I need to get to the range more often.
If I remember, this Johnson was marked for 30 cal. but the hole looked small. So I brought it to the gunsmith and had it checked. Sure enough it was 7×57 which I found odd that it was not re-marked. The rifle belonged to my former boss a retired Lt. Col of USMC and a member of the Frozin Chosin; who let me hold onto it for about a month so I could take it to the range. I felt honored opening the gun case at the range, most people have never even seen one. I had to pass on buying it, I did not have the extra cash at the time and I did not want to low ball him on the offer. Well he said he would hold onto it for me whenever I was ready just let him know. Well sadly he passed away from cancer 2 years ago, I was with him a few weeks before he passed, but could not bring myself to ask him about the Johnson.
On a positive note I have his M1 Garand; and a Mauser 98 in 8×57; and these two rifles will always remind me of this great man I will forever admire.
Sorry for the long trip down memory lane.
JoeG in Jersey
You have either a Marksman 55 or a Marksman 70. They did switch to Weihrauch compression tubes so the Rekord trigger would fit. Look for a number stamped into the rifle somewhere like on the flat of the base blocki (where the barrel is installed). What you have is like an R10, but I think yours is heavier.
The scope rail is the old BSF rail that I will show in detail in the next installment. There is a tiny Allen screw at the left rear of this ramp. You are supposed to unscrew it part way and let the left side of the rear scope ring bump up against it. Mine is missing, but I’ll search though my old scope mounts for a replacement.
The Diana method of scope mounting will also work, and the BSF is also supposed to have a droop problem. I’ve never tested one with a scope, but the ARH catalog has a lot to say about how difficult it is to scope this gun.
Your gun was only made for a very few years before Weihrauch transformed it into the R10.
You can always talk the old stuff with me. Four years ago I got a gorgeous Enfield No. 4. I held off shooting it because I had heard the .303 is a kicker, but quite the opposite, It is a oussycat. And accurate at the short distances I like to shoot. If you don’t yet have a No. 4 Enfield, I recommend it highly. Get a nice one.
I also have a Mitchel’s Mauser – one of the Yugo models they sold several years ago. That one will kick my teeth out! I gotta develop a softer load for it.
Before Navy Arms moved to WV they were in North Jersey. I would go there once a month at least to see what was new. Or I should say old. My last purchase was an Enfild I beleive a #4 and was converted to 308Win (7.62 NATO). I bought it in ’98 and still need to shoot it. I always wanted one in .303.
The funny thing I learned, it seems that all the old bolt actions kicked like mules. I guess stock design was not a high priority.
The hardest kicking I have is a custom 45/70 built on a Mauser 98 action with a Bishop stock. I had the bright idea too see just how far I could load it. I stopped just short of 458 Win Mag. specs. With no signs of excessive pressure I stopped because of the beating I received every time I pulled that trigger. But it was fun on a Woodchuck hunt.
I have a T/C Contender with a 14″ 44 Mag Barrel and scope. One winter a shooting buddy and I were at the range in 14 degree weather. After his first 3 shots he looked over at me and said “I could have more fun slamming my hands in a car door.” That was sending a 200 grain JHP out the muzzel at 1800 FPS.
The good ol days.
BB and All, Sorry for the lengthy OT post…
About $250- $275 and you’ll be set to reload. That’s for the equipment and brass, primers, powder and bullets. I use a Lee 4 hole turret press and Lee die sets. I got them in a set from Midway (ordered everything online), and added a Redding trickler, and a Lee Autoprime. Already had calipers and picked up the vibratory case cleaner, media, polish, case lube and case length cutters later. All the reloading info (recipes) you can ever want is online at the powder manufacturer’s sites for free! Specifics on how to reload can also be found there and many other places on the net. If you get into this, just take it slow and pay attention to the details. We don’t want to hear that you got hurt or damaged a nice gun! Any of us reloaders are happy to answer any questions you might have, and there are truly “NO STUPID QUESTIONS” regarding reloading. For me, reloading is economical (I paid for the equipment in the first 2 months in savings on .44 Rem Mags alone). It’s also satisfying to see how accurate your ammo turns out (I’ve cut groups in half over factory stuff). And it’s relaxing. Give it a try! If you don’t like it, you can always sell the equipment and recoup some of the money. Hope that helps push you over the edge into another aspect of this fascinating hobby!
I didn’t get to shoot my Mosin M44 before buying it, but after going through a dozen of them at the shop I got lucky! My M44 is pretty accurate, but I think a guy would have a difficult time trying to snipe with it. That huge flash would give you away like an aircraft beacon!
You make a fair point regarding muzzle flash and sniping. If i remember correctly bb has the longer version and said the flash was minimal. a funny story about my Mosin… The front sight was bent WAY off (3 to 4 feet off at 50 yards). So i pull out the leatherman and bend it “back”. It was spot on (within 3 inches). Dumb luck i guess! I was shooting my friends .303 british from WWI and i have to say its accuracy is superior to my M44’s accuracy.
If i were to build a gun all by myself out of handy material it would turn out something like an M44.
Did you know that the bayonet on the M44 is illegal? This is because the wound it makes cant be stitched (due to the 4 groove shape of the “blade”). The bayonet it great for finishing bears (not serious for those who don’t know me – I’m not serious much)….. but seriously, they are illegal in some states where other style of bayonet ARE legal. thats a Snapple fact (not serious, again).