BSA Meteor: Part 1
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
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.
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.
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.
The name on the spring tube says Meteor. The “Super” designation is not written on the gun.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The synthetic breech seal has flattened over time.
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.
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.
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.
The rear sight has a choice of 2 notches. And the screws allow for a height adjustment.
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.