by Tom Gaylord, The Godfather of Airguns™
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Brief history of the BSA Scorpion pistol
• Velocity test
• 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.