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Education / Training BSA Scorpion air pistol: Parts 1 and 2

BSA Scorpion air pistol: Parts 1 and 2

by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSA Scorpion
BSA Scorpion.

This report covers:

• Brief history of the BSA Scorpion pistol
• Description
• Velocity test
• Trigger
• Sights
• Cocking effort
• Evaluation so far

Brief history of the BSA Scorpion pistol
When I first started reading about airguns in the 1970s, things were similar to today. There were always some models I couldn’t get, or guns that I had missed getting when they were new. I didn’t find out about them soon enough. It created a feeling of inferiority — as if I’d missed the party and could tell it had been a good one by the wreckage that remained.

One of the airguns I missed out on was the BSA Scorpion. BSA has never been represented very well in the U.S. anyway, and the Scorpion pistol was one of those elusive airguns I never seemed to connect with.

One of the stories told about Scorpions was they were actually breakbarrel rifle actions that had been shortened and put into a pistol stock. Like the BSF S20 pistol, you can look at a Scorpion and figure that out for yourself, even if no one told you. And, because they were made from small rifles, the very first Scorpions were supposed to exceed the 6 foot-pound power limit the UK placed on air pistols of that time. They were supposed to shoot faster than 600 f.p.s. in .177 caliber. Supposedly, the UK Home Office (the UK equivalent to the U.S. State Department) requested that BSA lower the output power of the Scorpion because of this.

I can’t tell you if any of this is fact, rumor or urban legend — but it’s true that the Scorpion is a powerful spring-piston air pistol. In its day it was one of the top 3, with the BSF S20 pistol and the Webley Hurricane pistol being the other 2.

BSA Scorpion BSF S20 Webley Hiurricane
The big three air pistols of the 1970s are (top to bottom) BSA Scorpion, BSF S20 Match and Webley Hurricane. The Webley seems dwarfed by the other two, though it’s considered to be a large air pistol in its own right. Isn’t it interesting that all three pistols have a hooded front sight?

The Scorpion is related to the Meteor rifle that we’ve already looked at, though most of the internal parts are not interchangeable. The powerplant is of a similar size. The spring tube is very wide — 1.245 inches outside diameter, compared to 1.024 inches for the BSF.

The Scorpion I’m showing today was found at a gun show about 2 months ago from a dealer who didn’t want it because it’s an airgun. I traded him a firearm he could use. The pistol is like-new in the box and has the original BSA inspection certificate, the cocking aid and the removable front sight hood. It’s the very first version of the Scorpion, as designated by the prefix letters PA in the serial number. That puts its production between 1972 and 1985.

My Scorpion is a .177 caliber, but it was also produced in .22 caliber. The second variation of the gun started in 1985 and ended in 1994, when the gun was terminated. The Mark II versions have scope grooves cut into the spring tube, but my Mark I has then too, as well as a fully adjustable rear sight. I think mine must be a late Mark I that was made as the company transitioned to the Mark II.

The Scorpion is a large air pistol. It measures 15-3/4 inches overall without the cocking aid installed and a whopping 18-1/4 inches when the plastic aid is on the gun. The barrel is 8 inches of that length. The pistol weighs 56 oz., which is right up there with the heavyweights.

BSA Scorpion cocking aid mounted
The plastioc cocking aid slips over the muzzle and around the front sight base.

Where the equally large BSF S20 doesn’t recoil as much as you would expect from its size, and the smaller Webley Hurricane is actually a pussycat, the Scorpion lets you know it has power when the sear releases. It doesn’t jump in recoil like Walther LP 53. It just pulses in your hand strongly enough that you know something has happened. There’s a fair amount of high-speed vibration, but not a lot of spring twang.

The barreled action is entirely blued steel, but the trigger blade is made of the same black plastic as the one-piece stock/grip. The grip favors right-handed shooters, as it has a thumbrest cast into the left side. The angle is very ergonomic, making the pistol point like a Luger.

The Scorpion’s single-stage trigger is adjustable via an Allen screw buried deep inside the plastic trigger blade. Access appears to be through a thin slot in the plastic triggerguard, but the slot is too thin for the right wrench, so the action has to come out of the stock — which is not a small operation! The only adjustment is the pull weight and mine is fine, so I’m going to leave it alone.

BSA Scorpion trigger adjustment
The slot in the triggerguard isn’t wide enough for the Allen wrench to pass through. The stock must be removed to adjust the trigger.

The safety comes on automatically every time the pistol is cocked. A lever on the left side behind the trigger blade is pushed down to release it before firing. This is a 2-handed operation that cannot be done by the shooting hand, alone.

The trigger is single-stage and breaks cleanly at 3 lbs., 12 oz, despite the inspection certificate showing that it left the factory at 5 lbs. The previous owner may have adjusted it.

The front sight has a removable sheet metal hood that must be removed to store the pistol in the factory box. The front post is both tall and square at the top.

The rear sight adjusts in both directions with click detents that are almost too soft to hear or feel. There are numbers on the elevation wheel for reference and a scale on the windage, so you know where you are and where you’re going. The rear notch also has two small screws that allow the entire notch to slide up for more elevation.

BSA Scorpion rear sight
Looking down on the rear sight we can see the elevation wheel, the windage knob and the two slotted screws that hold the notch plate in place. This sight has a lot of adjustability!

Velocity test
I’m going to do something different in this velocity test. I’ll test the Scorpion, the BSF S20 Match and the Webley Hurricane side-by-side for comparison purposes.

Velocity table

Cocking effort
All these old spring pistols take some muscle to cock, and the Scorpion it right at the top. With the cocking aid installed, it registered 35 lbs. on my bathroom scale. That is at the upper limit of vintage air pistols.

Evaluation so far
The Scorpion is certainly an interesting air pistol. Its vintage design and features come though loud and clear when you examine one. Cocking is heavy. The trigger is nice and crisp. I hope the pistol is accurate, though accuracy with one of these fine older air pistols isn’t always the criterion for hanging onto them.

56 thoughts on “BSA Scorpion air pistol: Parts 1 and 2”

  1. Man that is a big pistol. And sorry but I would have to drill that slot out to accept a wrench to adjust the trigger.

    I just adjusted the trigger on my Hatsan more to the way I like my triggers. A long light first stage that is about 2/3rds. of the full travel with just a slightly heavier second stage that breaks with just a bit more pressure. Its now adjusted like my Marauders. Definitely made the Hatsan QE a better shooting gun.

    And it looks like them light AA Falcons are going to win again in the accuracy department with that FPS spread. I have been using the heavier pellets in my 2240 HPA conversion. Maybe the Falcons would work nice? I think I will add them to the list with the .177 metal mags for my Hatsan and Mrod the next time I make a order.

  2. This looks like a fine old gun, and its interesting that the new breakbarrel pistol look so similar, yet I had never seen an old one like this outside of that old Oklahoma I fixed up. Im modding a pc77 and giving serious thought to rebuying a trailnp pistol, but all this has taken the brakes when I saw the new ruger impact 22 at the wall fart! If it runs like the airhawks it should be a shooter, nice stock too. Heard anything about this one?

    • Oh, and there are now ruger impact hollowpoint pellets, which are…. .177? A new .22 and matching pellets that don’t fit? Somebody doesn’t pay attention ordering stock. They are weird, a flat rimmed head with a smaller lump in the middle with a micro scopic hollow in it, very soft, very ugly rough lead.

      • RDNA
        Didn’t you say you were messing with the Crosman pumpers. The 1377 I thought you said if I’m remembering right. What do you think about how smooth it shoots compared to the springer’s if you don’t mind me asking if that is what you have. And what about the accuracy. Remember I’m getting old and confused. Maybe I’m thinking about something else.

    • RifleDNA,
      Did you catch that Oklahoma parts gun I sent you from GB? I can’t remember what was wrong with it but it had the barrel catch that yours was missing and it was still very cheap.


  3. Those are indeed awfully big pistols. With the exception of the Hurricane, they dwarf my Izzy. You are rekindling my desire for a LIncoln Jefferies, a Diana Model 10 and a Webley Premier.

  4. Just an observation. I followed the link to the Walther LP53, which inevitably led the the legendary Walther L52 non controversy…
    Thanks for the laugh early in the morning!
    It always cracks me up when someone (with clear obsessive/compulsive tendencies) tries to prove a negative. It reminds me of the fellow who sold the charms to keep elephants away and could prove how well the charm worked because “there weren’t no elephants around here.”

  5. I was lucky enough to find two Scorpions in org. boxes one in.177 & .22 with a bell target,
    oil bottle,cocking aid.It also came with a scope mounting aid.In the box were the current air
    gun laws of the Uk,Stating penalties if misused etc.
    I remember reading in the Beeman catalog the the UK goverment did request BSA to lower
    the power limit of them.also there were pellet samples with the guns.
    The blog stated they were hard to cock but their power seemed to be worth the effort.
    I think with the lighter pellets available today,one could get 650/700 with them.
    I also became aware of UK fpe law and I couldn’t believe it that with all the Fire arm laws
    they would at least have 20 lbs. rifle and at least eight lbs. pistol.That’s socialism for you”

  6. B.B.

    The Scorpion looks much like my Norica 83. My gun is also 15 inches in length, 07 in. Barrel, 38m.m. piston stroke. The cocking force is also 35 lbs. What puzzles me is that I should be getting similar velocities, but it only averages 375 fps with Gamo 7.56 gr Pro Magnums. It is well lubed & I got the piston seal as lean as possible. Just can’t figure it out. Would sure appreciate some advice Sir. It is a well made gun too. Thanks.


      • B.B.

        I think you are spot on Sir. That explains it. My gun has a leather piston seal. So its obviously the piston design here. The Scorpion is light years ahead. I feel much better now! Thanks.


        • Errol,

          Although the Norica 83 looks similar to the BSA Scorpion that’s where the similarities end.

          A Norica is not a BSA. The quality of the BSA airguns from the era prior to Gamo taking over BSA (the era of the Scorpion) is top shelf.

          The BSA Scorpion pistol was also used to create the BSA Shadow, BSA Buccaneer and BSA Trooper.

          I had an early BSA Scorpion, mid 70’s, and it was very pellet fussy and wore me out cocking and therefor limited shooting sessions. Come to find out they had tapered chambers. Some pellets that shot ok would just fall in when loading. Mine was .22 caliber and shot H & N wadcutters best out to 25 yards.


  7. If I remember right wasn’t this pistol listed in the Air Rifle Headquarters catalogs back in the day. I’m pretty sure I saw it in there before.

    And even with that cocking aid I bet its still pretty hard to cock at 35lbs. I bet you would have some calluses on your hand after a day of shooting this pistol.

    And I think I remember that there was a stock that could be put on the pistol that made it into a little carbine rifle. Maybe I’m thinking of another pistol though.

  8. Ah, this is what I need to motivate me to get organized in my new place and get my shooting room in order. Wulfraed, thanks for the advice about lighting. I am trying to digest and also to see what I am actually capable of doing. The ceramic replacement part deals exactly with the sort of fire hazard I’m concerned about, but that and attaching a reflector and drilling holes in the lamp would be really pushing it for me. I like the idea of buying something that is ready to go. The photography idea is really appealing. Here I could get into the photography realm that has such a close relationship with shooting. And I like very much how the lights are turned away from the target to bounce off an umbrella. That would protect the lights in the bargain. Another solution is a hobby floor lamp that is supposed to be extra bright. It has a panel with a magnifying glass built into it, but the key point for me is that it is supposed to be extra bright for embroidery and such. Comments are that the LED lights have a slightly bluish cast. Would that adversely affect the shooting? I don’t know if an LED set-up is more or less sturdy than a standard bulb. But borrowing from another comment, I could put the light up close to the target where it needs to be and at more of an angle to minimize the risk of bounce back. Then I could be placed in a dimmer area behind and take advantage of the contrast.

    The move went surprisingly well. My guys were running back and forth between the truck and my place, and I was favorably impressed with the productivity of the American worker. It was a little surprising since they were paid by the hour, and the speed seemed to be working against their interest. Oddly enough, the guys said that I was relatively organized with all my stuff in cardboard boxes, thanks to online shopping. I can only imagine the usual scenario with people dragging stuff in trash bags. The detritus in the dumpsters is amazing in this moving season, and there is a fair amount of activity there at night with unlighted pick up trucks.

    The experience also gave me a greater appreciation of Duskwight’s move in three days. Unbelievable. I now see that this is only possible by living an organized life every day. This cannot be faked and pulled together at the last minute. My own priorities were pretty evident. All the guns and ammo, sporting equipment and certain books were transported with military precision, but as for the rest of it…. I also got to thinking about rentals and management generally and my mind ranged to extremes. Bad as my last manager was, she doesn’t compare to a couple who were reported as the worst managers on the planet located in the Bay Area. To remove undesirable tenants, they were attacking the walls with drills and jackhammers while the tenants were in residence. They fled the country to avoid prosecution but were extradited and the prosecutor described them as insane. Such a shame that these people prey on the timid and the unprepared. Donald Sterling the slumlord apparently evicted elderly indigent women. What if these types of managers came up against Duskwight or Wulfraed?! I see some kind of ingenious mechanical retaliation like something out of Home Alone. Maybe it could be some kind of giant beartrap set inside the front door. He he. Worth a movie.


  9. Buldawg,
    I don’t remember where I asked but I’ll ask again here.Would you like me to send you the old broken spring outta my QB-36 to cut down for use in your Pionier? I also have a collection of plumbing seals that may help with your 2240, if you have the right size hole punch. I could put it in the same envelope you sent me and shipping would be a little cheaper than you paid due to the 3″ that broke off it. If so let me know.
    Where are you at with the Pionier now?I hope it turns out well for you!


    • Reb
      I saw where you asked the question and answered it , but also do not remember what glog it was on.
      The spring from the 36 and b3s are twice the diameter of the pioneer 3s so there is no way it is going to fit in to the piston, but thanks for the offer because if it would fit I would use it.

      I have some trick up my sleeve for making it a little more powerful hopefully, right now I am deep into getting my 2240 hi-pac 22 cal backing working order and also so it will stay that way at 3K psi.
      Just another day in the never ending world of endless pursuit of perfection.


  10. My favorite pistol! Guys, the BSA Scorpion is a great pistol. It is made with a solid steel action. The plastic grip doesn’t work well with me being left handed but I manage fine. It is easy to cock the Scorpion once you figure out that you grab the barrel with one hand and the pistol grip with the other and use your chest muscles to push your arms together and cock the pistol. It is a much easier movement for me than cocking a P1. I mount a cheap pistol scope on my Scorpions. I shoot them with two hands with the off hand holding the weight and the trigger hand lightly holding the pistol. When I was shooting mine a lot I could hit a 2″ spinner at 25-30 yards pretty consistently. The Scorpion is not as powerful as the P1. I have always wondered if the bushing (about 3/8″ long) behind the piston seal was used to shorten the swept volume of the Scorpion to make it legal in the UK. I have a copy of a “strip” article from one of the British airgun magazines that shows how to disassemble and reassemble the Scorpion. BB, I will send you a copy.

    I have a rough user .177 and a like new in box 22 caliber pistol similar to the one BB has. I also have the Flat metal wire stock that BSA sold for the pistols.

    BB, let me know if you need the parts you sent me back.

    David Enoch

    • David,

      I don’t need the parts. I had this pistol already when I sent them.

      This pistol puts a smile on my face when I shoot it. I also cock it like you do and you are right — once you learn the technique it isn’t that hard. Certainly nowhere near as hard as pumping a Walther LPIII target pistol that takes the same 35 lbs.

      Was I right that the bottom of the pistol grip has to be removed to attach the stock?

      I am bringing my Shamal to the airgun show for you to see.

      • To install the butt stock you remove the plastic cap on the bottom of the pistol grip. The stock has a long screw with it that screws up inside the pistol grip. The butt stock is totally useless to me. It is not at the right angle and it moves side to side. It is nothing like as neat or functional as a P1 butt stock which really transforms the P1. I will try to remember to bring the butt stock to the gun show. I am looking forward to seeing your Shamal.

        Will Pyramyd AIR bring pellets to the show? I need some CHP pellets for my Shamal.

        David Enoch

  11. Just as a suggestion for photography and coincidently, target range lighting.
    Umbrellas certainly can work well, not to mention the various photo reflectors sold (expensively) by and for the trade to achieve that attractive diffused effect.
    But to those budget challenged, a trip to your local Goodwill/Salvation Army/St Vincent de Paul or whatever your local equivalent thrift store may be can be a big benefit. You’re going to be looking for the (at one time ubiquitous) home movie/slide projection screen which not only is highly reflective and diffuse but also usually comes with its own tripod. One rarely pays more than 10 bucks or so for one.
    You’re on your own for a light source, but bouncing a (usually) somewhat unattractive point source off a slide screen will almost always convert it to a bright yet diffused (and much more attractive) illumination of …just about anything.
    Don’t forget the Saturday early morning cruise of your local garage/tag/estate sales.

  12. I’ve been working on my offhand shooting since I got the QB-36 back together and although wobbly I have been able to get 5 for 5 on my 2″ rimfire target 20 yards through the bathroom window with both it and my 953 on a regular basis,both with 4x scopes. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to pull off the 5 for 5 at 60 yards on the 2″ again but that’s where I was with my 392 with open sights and that’s my goal for rehabilitation of my left arm. 1/3 of the way there!


  13. The BSA hand-cannon. This is a gun we all wanted when a lot younger, though I remember trying to use one at age 14 (under strict adult supervision as required for air pistols until one reached the magic 16) and could barely cock the thing. Later of course it got easier, but never easier to shoot! I still find it a beast, more fun than practical. Will be very interested in the accuracy test on this one!

    • OLiver and BB
      I must have had a much more lenient father than you guys as I was out hunting on my own at 8 years old with a 12 gauge shotgun that I bought with my own money. My father was a avid bird hunter and I was with him on every hunting trip from the time I was 4 years old with our English pointer Rusty at our side. By the time I was 6 I was carrying my dads Remington 1100 20 featherweight shotgun while he used his Winchester 16 gauge double barrel. So at eight after four years of hunting with him faithfully when we moved to Cocoa Beach FL and on a canal that had access to the thousands islands of the intercoastal waterway, He allowed me to buy my first real gun a Remington 1100 12 gauge from my grandfathers sporting goods store in West Virginia for 180 bucks that I had earned myself. I had already been hunting in the fields behind my house in Massachusetts with my crosman 1400 22 pellet gun for 2 years by my self every chance I could get.

      I just wonder what the authorities would do with something like that happening today and I still have all ten fingers and never shot myself or any of my friends that were out hunting with me at the same age as me,

      This is not the same world it used to be.


      • buldawg
        Ain’t it amazing how so much different it is now days compared to when we were kids. I use to walk the railroad tracks that are across the street from my house and rabbit hunt with a shot gun when we were kids. We are about a mile from town but if I did that tomorrow I would probably have swat and all those other authorities all over the place. You just can’t have no fun anymore.

        • Gunfun
          It seems you and me are the only ones who were allowed to be out alone with guns at a very early age and have lived to tell others about it. I just thought that was the way it was for every 8 year old back then and that it was no big deal to be allowed to do those kind of fun and enjoyable activities. It appears you still have all your fingers and toes and never shot any of your buddies that were out doing the same things with you.

          That is what troubles me the most about the world we have right now because back then our gov’t was not spying and snooping into every little aspect of our live like they do know and the pride and respect for our country was something everyone shared in and felt in every thing they did is this country. it showed in every product or service that was part of or made in this country and know its just make it as cheap and quickly as possible or do only the very least that is required to make the public think they are getting something of high quality and value for their hard earned dollar.

          We have been in a downward spiral for 20 plus years now like the pennies you drop in those cone shaped games at malls and stores and we are at the point that the penny is about to fall out of the cone and into the pit never to be seen again.


  14. At 15 3/4 inches it really is a hand cannon, at 18 with the cocking aid it’s a carbine. I’ll take the little guy for the little guy. Cool old air guns B.B., thanks.

  15. Way off topic. I am interested in buying a TX 200.I checked out Paul Capello’s review and it only runs for 5:04 minutes, then it stops. What’s up with that? I know the TX is a great rifle and well worth purchasing, I just wanted to see the full review. Thanks, Toby.

  16. I remember these well, big old thing that hurt your hand, the only good thing that came from the hefty old Scorpion was the BSA Buccaneer, which was a Scorpion action with a 12″ barrel and an ABS thumbhole stock and made a fine youth rifle.
    The 22 was much beloved of those who rabbited with ferrets and nets (do you even do that in the states?) as it would happily despatch one at point blank range., mind you, so would my tuned Webley Tempest and it wasn’t such a killer to use (you always lost the cocking aid)
    They are actually capable of pretty good accuracy, certainly half inch groups at 15 yards, though never in my hands, I stink with a pistol.

  17. I’ve just bought a 2.2 Scorpion today from the local gun shop. For some reason it’s one of the few 70’s air pistols I haven’t owned. If I’d have known what they felt like to shoot I’d have had one years ago! I think it’s much better to shot than the HW45 or the Diana 240 magnum. I used to have a Colt Python and a factory custom 45 back in the day when you could have a licence if you were a member of a gun club in the UK. I always fancied a 44 Auto Mag because it looked like a big hefty piece of kit (a mans gun) for some daft reason the Scorpion reminds me of how I imagined the Auto Mag to feel although sadly I never got to fire one, or even see one in the flesh. I only paid £65 for the Scorpion, I think I got a bargain! It seems to like 5.6 Wasps from a power point of view and the accuracy seems to be brilliant. Fantastic blog! Love it!

  18. Hello.iv owened a bsa.22 scorpion air pistol since i was 10 .which makes it 1970-1972 as i dont know of my dad got it new.iv also got a tub of pellets .77 -.22. In the same old tub
    Are you interested or know anyone. Thanks adam.

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