BSF S54 underlever: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSF S54
BSF S54 Match air rifle

Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Cream of the crop
  • Description
  • Three versions

Sometimes, I go looking for things to write about for this blog. Other times, they find me. Today, I’ll start a review on a gun that fits the latter category — the BSF S54 underlever. It began at the 2013 Roanoke airgun show — the last ever held in that location and the first show I attended without my late friend, Earl “Mac” McDonald. That was the show where I picked up the Benjamin Discovery that I reviewed for you in the Disco Double report. I also found the BSA Meteor Mark IV that I rebuilt extensively for you in another report. And, I found the Falke model 70 that I also reviewed for you. So, that show was pivotal for this blog.

I also saw another airgun at that show that I didn’t act upon because — well, my gosh — I can’t have them all! At least, that’s what my wife, Edith, has trained me to say. That one was a beautiful BSF S54 underlever in .177 caliber. I won’t say more about it because that’s the subject gun.

It was on Larry Hannusch’s table, like so many other beautiful airguns I wanted. Larry is a fellow Texan who makes most of the airgun shows, so it was no surprise when I saw the gun again the next year at the Findlay show. This time, I started wanting it so much that I offered Larry a trade. That offer continued when we met again at last year’s Texas airgun show, and I started offering Larry certain trade items. He politely declined, telling me how much he had in the gun and that he was actually losing money by selling it as cheaply as he was.

Well, we met again at this year’s 2015 Malvern airgun show, where I actually managed to sell some airguns. I raised enough money to pay Larry the extremely fair price he was asking, and the BSF S54 underlever became mine. Now, I’ll show it to you.

Cream of the crop

BSF had a broad range of spring-piston air rifles, and I’ve owned many of them. I reported on the S55N several years ago, and followed that with a report on the S70. The S70 was also the rifle with which I ended the barrel-bending report.

What you don’t know, however, is that I once owned a BSF S54 Match rifle. I covered it in The Airgun letter many years ago; but it was a tired .22 caliber that wasn’t really suited to shooting at targets, and I eventually got tired of it and traded it away. This new S54 Match I’m reporting on today is in like-new condition. I even have the original hang tag that was on the gun when it was sold! Larry feels this gun was never actually sold; or, if it was, the owner never used it at all. I agree. Apart from one compression dent in the stock, the gun looks entirely new.

The S54 Match was the pinnacle of the guns BSF made. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I lived for 3-1/2 years in the same town where their plant was located — Erlangen, Germany. And Germany was where I began my adult fascination with airguns. If that isn’t ironic, I don’t know what is.

Description

The S54 Match is a massive air rifle. It measures 45.50 inches overall with a 13.75-inch pull. The barrel is 19 inches long, and the rifle weighs 8.75 lbs. The walnut stock (yes, walnut on the Match model) is thick in all dimensions. There are two hand-checkered panels on the forearm and another two on the pistol grip. The butt has a Monte Carlo comb and a raised cheekpiece.

Three versions

There were at least 3 variations of the S54 — a Standard, a Bayern (which has an upgraded stock) and finally the Match model that I have. The Match model came with a huge rear aperture sight that has been removed on my gun. The aperture is in a metal disk that’s roughly the size of a 1970s satellite dish. It looks very cool, though the accuracy of the rifle hardly warrants it. It also has an adjustable sporting rear sight, which mine still has. There are at least two variations of the aluminum buttplate. Mine is slightly curved with the company logo on the back, and there’s also a Swiss hooked buttplate that’s found on some Match models.

BSF S54 rear sight
Rear-sight is a sporting sight BSF used on a lot of their guns.

BSF S54 front sight
Front sight hood off.

It’s an underlever that loads through a manual loading tap. After cocking the rifle and returning the lever, you open the tap and drop in a .177-caliber pellet head first. Then, close the tap and you’re ready to fire.

BSF S54 loading tap open
Loading tap.

The front sight has interchangeable inserts, but not the kind we’re familiar with. These are three-dimension posts and other shapes that slide into a dovetail and lock from the front. A sheet metal hood covers the sight.

The trigger is adjustable for pull and has a reputation for breaking in. It gets so smooth after several thousand shots that it must be adjusted stiffer or it’ll go off on its own. A hole in the ceiling of my office from my S55N attests to the truth of that!

BSF S54 cocked
Underlever down.

BSF S54 hang tag front
Hang tag.

BSF S54 hang tag serial
Hang tag with serial number.

That’s all I’m going to say at this time. I’ll go through the S54 Match very thoroughly for you, because I know many of you will be interested.

54 thoughts on “BSF S54 underlever: Part 1

  1. Yep I would like to have this gun. The fixed barrel underlever guns have become interesting to me.

    Love the tap loader. And was trying to see if it had some dovetails for mounting a scope. But nothing in your pictures. I looked at the 55n you have linked and it showed the rear dovetail but the catalog said that most guns wouldn’t accept a scope. Is that true for this gun also?

    And the tag is cool. I try to keep all the papers and tags and manuals in the box the gun was shipped in. For just incase the gun is sold.

    Can’t wait to hear more about this one.


    • GF1,
      Well, technically you could mount a scope on it using the aperture sight mounts, but why? A scope really would not buy you that much more accuracy. The air rifle will not be that powerful. It was made for 10 – 25 yards (or meters if you are on the Continent). I would be much more interested in finding a set of original aperture sights to finish it off right.


      • RR
        Always worried about accuracy. But main reason for a scope is for my old eyes.

        A scope just makes it easier for me to shoot. Plus with a scope I can see where the pellet hits without running out to the target. Well unless I use a old scope to look through like a spotting scope.


        • GF1,
          Unfortunately, I understand, however some are just not meant to be scoped. I would not consider a scope on my BSA. This old girl deserves to have an original peep on her.


          • RR
            Not even if you could find a old vintage scope to put on it?

            I think that would be real cool to see a vintage air rifle and scope paired up together. Even if they weren’t from the same time period.

            Hey wait a minute. You had that bug buster scope on that 1976 FWB 300s I got from you. Its obvious its not from the same era as your BSA (1904 wasn’t it) but still considered vintage now.

            I think one of those old small tube scopes with the elevation and windage adjustments in the scope rings would look good on the gun BB is reviewing. Of course if it would fit on that short dovetail.


    • GF1,

      The rifle has a raised dovetail that’s designed for a rear peep sight. You can see it in the picture of the full rifle. If a scope were used it would need to be short, because the raised base is short.

      B.B.


  2. That “loading tap” is a real mind blower !!! Very much like an industrial ball valve. How unique.
    Have other airguns employed this method?
    Does the compression chamber slide as in a TX,..or,..does only the piston move?

    While I doubt BB will be tearing this one down, I would love to see all the details and interactions between the tap, barrel, breech seal and compresson chamber.

    I could see the aluminum butt plate being a benifit as it would slide on clothing, making it easier to fine tune butt to shoulder contact.



    • Chris, as you can see the loading tap is simply a metal cylinder which fits across the end of the receiver, with a hole drilled across it to accept the pellet. The tap rotates exacly 90 degrees, i.e. open to load, close to align the hole with the transfer port and barrel bore. A simple, strong, and effective design.

      The mechanism was first applied to modern spring-piston airguns by Mr. Lincoln Jeffries in Birmingham, England, around 1900–a revolutionary innovation that produced a high-quality, fixed-barrel springer design for the first time. He licensed the design to BSA, whose rifles (and their various copies, especially in Germany) were the best air rifles available until WW2. Almost all makers had tap-loaders as their top-of-the-line models.

      Famous post-WW2 tap-loaders include the Falke 80 and 90, Diana 50, Webley Mk 3, BSA Airsporter, and of course the BSF S54. Again, each was their maker’s top model.

      Tap-loaders do NOT have any sort of resilient breech seal. Sealing is provided by the close metal-to-metal fit of the tap alone. Taps obviously had to be fit very closely to do this and align properly, and were typically hand-lapped to fit each individual rifle.

      Tap-loaders are very safe designs as well. Cocking and loading are completely separate operations, i.e. no sticking your fingers into an open “sprung” mechanism to get the pellet in there!

      And when the tap is open, airflow from cylinder to barrel is physically completely blocked. With the tap open, you can carry the gun cocked and loaded without the slightest danger of accidental discharge or “slamming” the piston; then rotate it closed and you are ready to fire.


      • Hey Mike!

        You still have your fine BSF S54 that you found on Brads years ago? If I remember correctly, yours was almost like new too and the owners name was attached to the gun via a brass plate? Wonder why owners didn’t shoot these fine instruments more…

        kevin


      • MDriskill,

        Thank you for that very detailed reply. From the wealth of information you provided, I immediatly went to the Blue Book to look for you. In under 20 seconds,…yup.

        New to airguns but do have a TX in .22. Auctions, in person, interest me. Yet to go to one to buy an airgun, but want to.

        I really need to look at the Blue Book more. I will be on the look out for “tap” loaders.

        Thank you ever so much once again,….Chris


    • Chris, the picture linked below shows a mechanically similar gun, a Webley Mk 3, dismantled. You can see the loading tap and its operating lever just above the breech area. It’s obvious how simple the mechanism is, though one very dependent on precise fits as already mentioned.

      A loading tap actually works very similarly to an in-line gas valve–if you have natural gas in your house, you’ve probably used one! 🙂 And it is very interesting to note, that Mr. Jeffries’s airgun shop in Birmingham, was not far from a place that made gas fittings!

      http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v734/kyofu2/webley/mk3-2_guts.jpg


      • MDriskill,

        Thank you once again. Truely, pictures are worth a thousand words.

        And yes, “precise” fitting fits this design feature very well. Amazing !

        Chris


  3. BB,
    That is one awesome looking air rifle you got there! I missed that one at the show. I was probably focused on my BSA. That sure would look nice hanging on my wall. 😉



  4. BB, I am utterly and totally envious that you talked Mr. Hannusch out of this one! I too have picked it up and salivated on it at more than one show, LOL…at least I can take comfort in the fact that it has found the best possible home.

    You mentioned the BSF 55 N in your report. The S54 had a very similar receiver and trigger to the full-size BSF barrel-cockers of the day (models 55, 60, and 70), so it was able to share both the standard finger-groove beech stock, and upgraded slender checkered walnut stock, that were used on those guns. Thus there were two sporting variants of the S54, in addition to the deluxe “Bayern” and “Match.”

    The BSF lineup was revamped in the years before the company was bought by Weihrauch, and their rifles–including the S54–received some rather odd-looking beech stocks with “squared up” styling. Air Rifle Specialists in New York imported a few of these unusual-looking examples to the US.

    I will very much look forward to reading more about this beauty.





        • Hey Mike,

          Thanks for the great info the other day about the missing Rekord trigger pin. I knew there had to be some reason using that pin would help a bit. Makes sense about the noise of the piston hook slamming the inside of the comp tube. I have been putting that pin in on the Rekords I have gone over.

          It seems sort of lazy of Weihrauch to omit it. I can’t imagine it saves them money.

          Thanks again,
          Mark N


  5. B.b.
    I have used premier lites in my magnum springers for years and wonder if my bores need attention. I have jbs bore Brite finish compound. Will this work to recondition the bores? What would you recommend? Thanks


  6. B.B.,

    It is a beautiful, old rifle. The best kind. Look forward to reading more about it.

    Will shooting heavy pellets damage a spring-piston rifle? I have been told that shooting heavy-for-bore pellets will damage the seals and spring on a spring-piston gun. Too much pressure, maybe? I don’t remember any of your writings addressing this idea, and am curious about your thoughts and readers’ experiences.

    RB


    • RB,
      My personal experience is that too light a pellet is likely to cause damage because of a lack of sufficient back pressure to help cushion the piston. I have noticed the firing cycle become twangy and sharp. With too heavy a pellet there is too much back pressure and the piston will “bounce” noticeably.

      Will either cause damage? I would think too light would more likely do such as you are approaching a dry fire state. Try different weight pellets and your air rifle will let you know what it prefers.


      • RR
        I agree. I believe a heavier pellet helps make a cushion of air for the piston seal to stop on as the pellet starts moving.

        And just like you said. Its a no go to dryfire a springer. So a lite pellet could be a problem depending on how lite and how much power the gun is making.

        I would think a 7 grn pellet shot from a 460 magnum or similar guns could cause problems. Maybe not. But I do believe that a heavier pellet is better in more than one way.



    • RB,

      I don’t think heavy pellets hurt springers. Some say they cause the mainspring to kink, but I’ve never seen it.

      I will probably shoot pellets with thin skirts in this one, because the loading tap needs to blow the skirt out for sealing the bore. Target pellets I think.

      B.B.



  7. B.B.,

    That is one stunning air rifle. The metalwork looks amazing in particular.

    It reminds me of my Diana Model 50 / Winchester Model 450, although I imagine this has a bit more power.

    Michael


  8. Interesting that today’s blog is on a vintage rifle.

    Sunday night I got a call from a friend who advised me that he had decided to sell his FWB 300SU!

    I have been wanting a FWB 300 since I first saw one on the front of a Beeman catalogue about 35 years ago. The rifle is in excellent condition and was professionally refurbished (new springs and piston seals) last year.

    Needless to say it didn’t take me long to close the deal and I should have my new vintage springer hand in a week. Think the 300 is going to be a fine companion to the 124 – bonus is that they both prefer the JSB 8.44 pellets. Going to be a long week! 🙂

    Vana2


    • Vana2
      I believe you will like it. And same for me in the old catalogs.

      I have wanted from back in the early 70’s and finally got one a while back from RidgeRunner.

      And I have to say I totally love the gun. Its got one of my Hawke 1/2 mildot varmint scopes on it. And I should add that my particular gun loves the JSB exact 10.34’s.

      You will have to tell what you think about it when you get to shoot it.


  9. Hi GF1,

    I am pretty excited about this rifle. It has a Hawke Sport HD IR 3-9X40 AO scope on it so it should be ideal for the 10 to 25-30 yards that I plan on using it for mini-sniping.

    I want to mount a scope on my FWB 603 for mini-sniping but I need some time to devise a new breech locking mechanism to replace the loading gate that would interfere with the scope. That will probably turn into a winter project.

    My friend is pretty thorough when he does his pellet testing and he recommends the 8.44s. I definitely plan on trying the JSB 10.34s to see if they improve the groups at longer ranges in breeze conditions.

    What kinda ranges are still giving you three-quarter inch groups?

    Will get back to you after I shoot a can or two of pellets through it – that shouldn’t take long! 🙂

    Vana2


    • Vana2
      RidgeRunner runner did a rebuild on the one I have. It ha the two short springs that are wound opposite ways. Plus I did a few of my tricks to it also.

      But it is getting better and better the more I shoot it. I only feed it the 10.34 JSB’s. I don’t like switching pellets after I find a pellet that works like I want. I tryed liter pellets when I first got it but with no luck at all.

      Mine will get easy .750″ groups at 35 yards and under a inch at 50 yards if the wind is calm.

      What I like about the gun is thats is very easy to shoot and cock. And that you don’t feel the gun move with the slide recoil system. And you’ll love the trigger. If you have shot a gun with a better trigger than the FWB 300 trigger I want to know about.

      But it is a enjoyable gun to shoot.


      • Hi GF1

        Sounds like you have a real nice shooter in your FWB 300!

        I just checked the tracking numbers and the rifle should arrive by Friday – bonus is that this is my Friday off. 🙂

        I have a FWB 100 pistol and a FWB 603 10 meter SSP match guns that have real fine triggers so the 300 is facing some stiff competition. The trigger on my HW 100 is exceptionally nice as well.

        Caught up all my projects for this summer so that leaves fishing and shooting.

        Talk with you later.

        Vana2


        • Vana2
          Well I have never shot any of those guns so you will for sure have to let me know how the trigger is on your 300 compared to them.

          And I just ordered a Hatsan 200s carbine in .25 caliber from PA today. Its a fixed barrel underlever springer. I should get it by Friday. And I got a 3 day weekend starting Friday too.

          For some reason I’m finding myself to be more and more excited for the weekends to get here. 🙂


  10. Unfortunately, there is truth to the fact that you cannot have them all. I’ve reached the stage where I simply cannot shoot all of my guns in a reasonable time frame. There is a zero-sum effect where more guns would just take away time and ammo from guns that I already have which I have lavished great care upon. I am actually working hard even to justify my current collection with a variety of strategems. I can’t go out to shoot the firearms anything like as often as my airguns. But the wisdom is that the really top shooters spend more time dry firing than they do actually shooting. This is not advisable for the spring guns that I shoot most often, but it is ideal firearms with snap caps to protect the firing pins. So my shooting ability might even be increased more than had I shot my airguns an equivalent number of times.

    And one can get creative. I have bought the best books I can find on tactical shooting with rifle and pistol and am now dodging around the house, practicing the techniques. They are as complex as martial arts techniques and more fun. This is also a chance to get more cool Leapers equipment. My UTG combined flashlight and laser for my Saiga arrives together. Why have an assault type weapon if you cannot gear it up completely? And in the process I am completing my experiment in accessorizing the AK platform equivalent to the AR. I have also received my Leapers rubber eyeshade to ensure proper eye relief from by BugBuster. My Tacticool factor is now through the roof! However, what did I find when I mounted it (quite an interesting piece of gear) but that my natural eye-relief is almost exactly right. Here’s further confirmation that my scope problems were all in loose rings or my error and had nothing to do with the scope itself or the gun.

    My next project is to learn the manual of arms with all the surplus rifles. There’s a way to get to know your gun. Not only is it historical, but I suspect that like martial arts techniques for staff weapons, all the movements are designed to get you accustomed to the weight and dimensions of the gun. Still, as the guns increase, there are inevitable limits to the use you can make of them. I suppose there is joy just in possession but that leads to Floyd Mayweather with a garage full of world-class cars that he never drives.

    Matt61


  11. B.B.,

    Maybe it’s the photo or maybe it’s me but the fore stock looks shorter to me than I would expect on a rifle of this size.
    Am I seeing things? I suspect it’s the cocking levers. It’s a beautiful gun. I look forward to the accuracy tests.

    G&G



      • B.B.,

        Yes, I know that about target rifles but due to the size of the rifle I keep forgetting it’s a target rifle despite the fact you said it was several times. Incidentally, as a target rifle is there any specific reason they made this one so large or is that info still to come? I am now curious about the power of this rifle as a target gun. Any idea when this was built?

        G&G

        G&G


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