BSF S54 underlever: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 3

 

BSF S54
BSF S54 Match air rifle

This report covers:

  • Some updates — SILE stock
  • Adjustable trigger
  • Front sight hood
  • Rear peep sight/scope base
  • RWS Superpoint pellets
  • Surprise!
  • Air Arms Falcon pellets
  • RWS Diabolo Basic pellets
  • Cocking effort
  • Trigger-pull
  • What have I learned?

Some updates — SILE stock

Blog readers Kevin Lentz and Mike Driskill asked whether or not the BSF S54 stock had the marking SILE on it. This one does. It’s at the top of the pistol grip, just behind the back of the spring tube.

BSF S54 SILE
The stock is marked “SILE.” Mike Driskill says many of the S54s he has seen have this mark.

Adjustable trigger

I mentioned that the trigger is adjustable. The adjustment directions can be found on the bottom of the triggerguard.

BSF S54 trigger
The + and – signs tell you what you’re doing to the trigger-pull.

Front sight hood

I left the front sight hood out of the full photo of the gun in part 1, so I’m showing it here.

BSF S54 front sight hood
There’s the hood that covers the front sight.

Rear peep sight/scope base

I also mentioned the rear sight base that can be used as a scope base but didn’t show it in detail. Blog reader GunFun 1 asked about it, so I’m showing it today.

BSF S54 rear sight base
This base is for a peep sight, but it’ll work for a scope. The wear at the rear tells us this rifle once had a peep installed.

Today, we’re going to look at the velocity of the rifle. It’s a .177 from 1979 and has both a leather piston seal and a loading tap, so I thought lighter-weight pellets would go in the low 600s. Because of the tap, I have to use pellets with thin skirts, so the air blast can enlarge them while they remain in the tap.

RWS Superpoint pellets

I have very little experience with loading taps on .177-caliber rifles. Most of the taploading rifles I’ve tested over the years have been .22 caliber. Only the BSA Airsporter Stutzen and the BSA Airsporter that Don Robinson built have been .177s. But the .22 Superpoint is my favorite pellet for taploaders of that caliber, so I thought why not test the .177 Superpoint in this rifle. Superpoints are medium weight, so I expected a velocity of around 550-575 f.p.s.

Surprise!

RWS Superpoints averaged 679 f.p.s.! That’s 100 f.p.s. faster than expected. I guess my .22-caliber S54 was more tired than I thought, because it was what I based my expectations on. The lowest velocity I saw with this pellet was 673 f.p.s., and the highest was 691 f.p.s. That made the spread 18 f.p.s., which was also tighter than expected. At the average velocity, this 8.2-grain pellet produced — well, you should know the answer right away. The magic velocity number is 671 f.p.s. — the speed at which the weight of the pellet in grains equals the muzzle energy in foot pounds. So, at 679 f.p.s. this 8.2-grain pellet produces 8.4 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Larry Hannush told me he thought this rifle might never have been sold since it had the original hang tag with the serial number on it when he acquired it. If that’s the case, it may not have had as many as 100 shots in its entire 36-year life! This may be what a buyer could have expected from a BSF S54 back in 1979, although we’re still a couple decades away from the premium pellets that exist today.

Knowing that the piston has a leather seal, I put about 10 drops of silicone chamber oil into the air transfer port several weeks ago, closed it and let it drain back and soak into the leather. There was a faint smell of burned oil with the first 20 shots in today’s test, then I think it stopped. Or maybe I just got used to it — hard to tell. We know that all spring-piston guns in this power class diesel with every shot. Cardew proved that in the 1970s through testing. So, that oil, which keeps the leather seal supple and sealing, has to be replenished often.

Air Arms Falcon pellets

Knowing how powerful the rifle is, I’m better able to predict how fast the next pellet will go. I chose an Air Arms Falcon for my next pellet. At 7.33 grains, I expected them to top 700 f.p.s., although not by much. They averaged 715 f.p.s. and ranged from a low of 703 f.p.s. on the first shot to a high of 725 f.p.s. on shot 10. The spread is 22 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 8.32 foot-pounds.

RWS Diabolo Basic pellets

The last pellet I tested was the RWS Diabolo Basic — a less-expensive wadcutter that weighs the same 7 grains as the RWS Hobby. Normally, I’d shoot Hobbys for my lightweight pellet, but I wanted to change things a bit.

Basics averaged 711 f.p.s., so not even as fast as the slightly heavier Falcons. But they ranged from a low of 697 f.p.s. to a high of 728 f.p.s., so the 31 f.p.s. spread was the largest of all the pellets tested. I think that indicates this pellet isn’t suited to the loading tap. At the average velocity, the Basic pellet generates 7.86 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Cocking effort

The cocking lever requires very little effort through the first half of its arc. Only after the midpoint is passed does the effort start to spike. At the max, the rifle requires 37 lbs. of effort to cock. That is about the same as a broken-in Beeman R1.

But as you cock the lever, the loading tap remains closed. It must be opened by hand to load a pellet. That means that the cocking lever can be returned to the locked position, where it’s out of the way while you load the pellet. This feature makes this kind of spring rifle inherently safer to load, because there’s no danger of a beartrap accident.

But the trigger can be pulled with the lever open and the gun will fire — closing the lever as rapidly as the piston moves forward. So, there’s no protection from unsafe handling, like we find in most modern airguns.

Trigger-pull

The trigger is two-stage. Mine registerd 3 lbs., 3 oz. for stage one and 5 lbs., 6 oz. at the release. I turned the adjustment screw out about 2 turns and dropped the stage two release to 3 lbs., 15 oz. The release is fairly crisp, and I’ve mentioned before that these BSF triggers do break in. So, I’m not going to adjust this one any lighter. Time and use will take care of that.

What have I learned?

This BSF S54 surprised me in a couple ways. The first was its high velocity. I guess these big guns had more going for them than I thought. I knew the S55 and S70 sporters were little powerhouses, and this is the same set of parts, but made to work with a loading tap. I suppose I should have guessed its power better.

I’m used to new BSF triggers, because my S70 came to me with a bent barrel and hadn’t been shot very much. These triggers start out heavy, though not as rough as some others. But with use, they smooth up like a vintage Webley pistol trigger. You feel the trigger blade move but there’s no hesitation, so the release is always smooth.

I’ll be very interested in the level of accuracy this rifle produces. I plan to test it first at 10 meters because it’s a target rifle by design. I’ll keep an eye peeled for a BSF rear aperture match sight to go with the gun. My only concern is that sometimes people with such sights price them as high as entire air rifles, and I won’t pay that much. An AirForce peep sight would be the right height for this rifle, and they’re available for a reasonable price. If the rifle shows potential, I’ll do something about the sights, though I don’t think I’ll scope it.

52 thoughts on “BSF S54 underlever: Part 2

  1. BB– Several years ago I wrote that I had an air rifle marked -made in Italy-, the caliber (.22 in Italian) and a sile marked stock. No one gave me any information. For many years, I often drove past a building in Brooklyn with a Sile sign on it. I could see it from the Bklyn- Queens expressway. Does anyone have any info regarding the Sile company and the air guns that they imported? Ed



      • Matt61,
        I had sent an email to your personal email address on 5/28/15 and have never received a response. At this point, I am wondering if you had received or not. If by chance you had not, I can resend. A reply would be appreciated.

        Bugbuster


  2. Now why don’t more air gun makers put the trigger adjusting directions on the trigger gaurd. I think that is good idea.

    Now I wonder why they don’t do something similar to the Maraders and other Crosman/Benjamin guns on the trigger gaurd. And one step farther on the end caps of their pcp guns for the striker and spring adjustment directions you turn the screws to find the guns.

    That’s just one more thing to help make a air gun to have the one up on other air gun makers.



    • Arrows would be nice but it would be even nicer if Weihrauch made their adjusting screws a little easier to turn. An attempt to adjust the trigger on my HW-30S was abandoned as even with a high quality precisely fitting screwdriver I thought that the end of the screw was going to shear off before it would turn.


      • That`s because Weihrauch has bent the threaded tab to prevent the screw from backing out by itself. If you remove the stock and look at the adjusting screw, you will see what I mean. You can bend this tab yourself if you want to adjust the pull weight.

        -jet1991


  3. B.B.,

    Your macro pictures in today’s article are wonderful. I really appreciate that you strive to not only expand your horizons with Airguns that you willingly share with us but you continue to evolve your photo skills which adds a wonderful dimension to the blog.

    Mac would be very proud.

    kevin


    • Kevin,

      When I write about an old one like today I think it’s important to show as much detail as possible. That triggerguard show was the hardest one I have done in a long time. Those words just don’
      t want to show up!

      B.B.


      • HI B.B. I always wanted that gun Back when Air Rifle Headquarters
        was in business 700 fps was high power in .177,I have an old
        ARH Catalog which shows the BSF hitting a can in water at 700 fps
        ARH and Beeman pushed the .177 using velocity as the main selling point literally dismissing .22 which now thankfully is back again.
        I had a chance to buy one in NYC of all places at Abercrombie And Fitch
        but I didn’t. I lived in the Undemocratic Peoples Non Republic of N.J. then
        and could not order it by mail.
        How beautiful that gun was and the velocity you achieved was great in the
        seventies.I did manage to get the BSF Pistol but I never did manage to get the rifle.


    • Kevin,
      Amen to that. I always marvel at the clarity of B.B.s photos. It helps in no small measure to get what he’s trying to explain. Thats the difference between this Blog & others. Total clarity of explanation & exceptional expertise on the subject.

      Errol


  4. Your statement that all spring guns of a certain power class diesel got me wondering if anyone ever exploited that phenomenon by design – and made a compression ignition, oil powered firearm?


    • DryCreekRob,

      As reader Dom points out, Weihrauch once made their model 35 with an ether injector on the side. It was called the EL54 Barakuda, and H&N developed the Baracuda pellet for it because it was blowing the heads off regular pellets. Here is a short report about it:

      /blog/2006/05/weihrauch-barakuda-el54-ether-injection-air-rifle/

      B.B.


    • I recently did my annual lube on my magnum springer with Crosman chamber oil and decided to chrony the first shot to see what effect dieseling would have on the velocity.
      I set up the chrony at 20yds and loaded a Barracuda match 21.2 gr pellet. The heavy pellet registered 729.5 fps over the chrony which equates to 25.06 ft lbs of energy.
      That result at 20 yds blew me away as I never expected it would be so powerful.

      Pete


  5. DryCreekBob
    Weihrauch exploited this phenomenon with a version of the HW35 that had a small reservoir and tube for alcohol, the name of the model escapes me at the moment, but it wasn’t a great success.


    • Hi Dom and DryCreekBob, the ether injected HW 35 was released as the Barakuda, it was reported to have fired .22 round ball at around 1000 FPS. Rare as hens teeth to boot, not too sure about release date but it was a few years either a bit before or a bit after of 1960.

      Best wishes,

      Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe.


      • From what I’ve read, there were two reasons why the “Barakuda” wasn’t a success. 1. Detonations wreck airguns. 2. You were supposed to use medical ether ampules that were not readily available.

        I guess one also has to wonder how practical it was. Loading glass ampules and crushing them in a chamber sounds like a hassle and I could imagine the shots were quite loud.
        Also, who needs that kind of power, except from hunters?


        • The EL54 Barakuda to give it it’s full title.
          Yes, vigorous exploding Ether detonations as I recall, not a great mix with a leather or synthetic seal.
          That said, the principles are fine, if the piston was heavy enough with piston rings and a small injector off of a model aircraft etc…piston ported, there’s no real reason why you couldn’t make or modify a rifle into working on alcohol or gasoline in this fashion….you would only need a tiny amount of propellent though, the idea differs in as much as it’s the exhaust gasses you want…not the piston shoved back.
          I could imagine a Webley Patriot in .25 modified this way, for 1000fps. It would make quite a handy hunter, even the spring strength would be less critical.


  6. BB,

    It must be quite a thrill to own and operate a (most likely new) piece of history. That would seem rare in and of itself.

    Question,….as I read part 2, and re-read part 1, your mention of a rear peep sight got me to thinking. It would seem that since the gun has a (mid-mounted) rear sight, that the rear 11mm rail would be for a scope only. Is it a common practice to remove a mid-mounted rear sight and replace it with a rear-mounted, rear sight, open or peep ? Or, are mid-mounted sights open and rear mounted more for a peep apllication?

    Or pehaps, mounting a rear peep is simply an alternative for mounting a scope?

    Nice report, Chris


    • Chris,

      Yes, it is extremely common for both a precision peep sight and a sporting rear sight to be attached to the same target rifle. Many oif the finer Schuetzen target rifles have this, and so does my American made Nelson Lewis combination gun that was made in the 1860s.

      /blog/2013/02/nelson-lewis-combination-gun-part-4/

      I even have an ultra-rare sporting rear sight for a Haenel model 311 target rifle.

      /blog/2013/02/nelson-lewis-combination-gun-part-4/

      Rear Part 1 — there is a picture of the sight.

      B.B.


      • BB,

        I’ve been wanting to ask this for a while:

        What do you mean when you mention “Schuetzen” rifles?

        Schütze means “shooter” or “marksman”, so this usage seems weird to me… It’s also next to impossible to google for obvious reasons.

        Stephan



          • BB,

            thanks for the clarification. I’m still a little confused though…

            The thought that somebody might have confused “Stutzen” (=something shortened) and “Schützen” had crossed my mind as well. But clearly, you use the terms with distinct meanings.

            Did you come across this usage of “Schützen” during your time in Germany?

            So far, I gather that they are old, very elaborately made target rifles.

            Were they “match rifles” before anybody called them that? More powerful Zimmerstutzens for longer distances?

            The Tyrolean stock is called “Tirolerschaft” btw and there are “Tiroler Schützen”, but they are mostly about tradition, not about target shooting it seems.

            There are German words that have a slightly different meaning in English. I wonder if this is one of them…

            I hope I’m not wasting your time… I’m a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to language 🙂

            Stephan


            • Stephan,

              I have known about schuetzen rifles since 1963, when my parents gave me a subscription to Guns & Ammo magazine. I looked for schuetzens in Germany , and also for Zimmerstutzen (the 4mm indoor target rifles that look like schuetzens) but I never saw one of them.

              Here is an article I wrote about Zimmertstutzens .

              https://www.pyramydair.com/article/Zimmerstutzen_February_2011/82

              Were schuetzen rifles match rifles? Absolutely. They carry on a tradition of target shooting festivals (Schuetzenfest) that dates back to at least the 15th century, when crossbows were used to knock targets off high poles. The last man to knock off the last piece of the target became the king (Koenig) of the fest. Elaborate medals were awarded and champions gained high status by winning these matches.

              Schuetzen shooting gained very high status in the United States after our Civil War, when the government wanted to train every young man to shoot. They (the Union troops) had been shocked to discover that young men entering military service did not know how to shoot not how to properly manage firearms. The Confederate troops did not suffer the same fate, because most of their boys had been raised on farms and knew firearms very well. So after the war, shooting galleries sprang up in every American village and regional and national championships were held in the highest regard.

              Schuetzen clubs (schuetzenverein) were extremely popular until the end of World War I, when public opinion that resulted from the war put an end to it. Only in a few places like Texas, did the schuetzenverein survive until today.

              I now own one schuetzen rifle. I guess I haven’t reported on it yet, because I am still sorting it out. But one day soon I hope to show it to you.

              Stephan, in case you haven’t noticed, I am a bit obsessive about single shot rifles. Believe me when I say, I would like to write a lot more about them than I do.

              B.B.


              • BB,

                thanks for the very detailed information!

                This is getting more and more interesting. So you actually had “Schuetzen clubs” in the USA?`

                We basically have (at least) two types of clubs.

                1. Schützenvereine. They are very much concerned with tradition, for example the annual “Schützenfest” which is basically a “big party” and also features a shooting contest where people try to hit a wooden bird on a pole. This is probably not the kind of club that would have much interest in the finest target rifles. Beer and precision shooting probably don’t mix 🙂
                I wouldn’t enjoy this at all since I’m not much of a people person 🙂

                2. Schießvereine: Those are sports clubs that focus on the shooting sports (e.g. 10 meter air gun shooting or other shooting disciplines). I’m not sure whether field target clubs call themselves that.
                This is the kind of club that I could see myself joining at some point…

                Interestingly, (1) means “shooters club” and (2) means “shooting club”. Pretty similar in meaning, right?

                Googling for “shooter rifles” makes about as much sense as googling for “driver cars”, but I actually got two hits for “schützengewehr” on eGun:

                http://www.egun.de/market/item.php?id=5495627

                http://www.egun.de/market/item.php?id=5454484

                These are what you’re talking about, right?

                The others are “Scharfschützengewehre” (–>”sharp shooter” –> sniper rifles) or completely different stuff.

                Would it be fair to say that Schützen rifles were the ancestors of modern .22 rimfire (“Kleinkaliber”) match rifles whereas Zimmerstutzens were replaced by modern target airguns?

                Stephan


  7. I just tried to find out what “SILE” means. It’s certainly not a German word.

    There was not much info but some people on co2air.de think that it’s the label of a distributor or dealer, maybe an American one.


    • From search:

      SILE DISTRIBUTORS
      Previous distributor, importer, and previous manufacturer located in New York, NY.
      In addition to distributing a wide variety of firearms and related accessories (including the mfg. of stocks and grips), Sile Distributors also had some firearms “private labeled” to their specifications.

      TE



      • TE: you beat me to it, SILE was located in NY. Sold knives and other stuff, used to have ads in shooting magazines. There was also J.L. Galef and Sons, PIC :Precise Imports Corp., and as mentioned HyScore , who was in Brooklyn, all of them once located in NY city. The sport model S54 was discontinued in 1986.



  8. I feel guilty… I had a target rifle .22LR years ago, and it too was equipped with a peep sight. I removed it to put a scope, and when I sold it, the peep sight was not delivered to its new owner… Now I can see the damage, you end up with a nice rifle with a fine accessory missing. In my case, I lost contact with the buyer, so I use that sight on my Daisy 853 (and I have the original Daisy peep sight in its original box).
    I doesn’t mean I would sell the peep sight for the price of a new rifle.
    And, speaking of sights, it seems that the open rear sight on your BSF has not windage adjustment… if so, it sounds like a bad choice for a target rifle. Am I correct?


    • Fred_BR,

      You described how many peep sights have been separated from their rifles over time. Sometimes the owner just took it off between trips to the range, but the people conducting the estate sale didn’t know that the sight in the drawer belonged to the rifle in the closet.

      The sporting rear sight does have a small amount of sideways adjustability that I will show in the next report.

      B.B.


  9. B.B.,

    Sweet!

    Reading this makes me want to pull out my .177 Diana Model 50 (Winchester 450) and shoot it for a while. I will have to wait for the rainy weather here to stop; however, as I need to chrony it to make sure it’s healthy and not in need of new seals. I wonder about it because it shoots just slightly harshly, and that is supposed to be a smooth shooter. It is also a bit louder than I think it ought to be.

    Michael


  10. I like underlever airguns. I have a B3-1 and a XS46U and both are very accurate and not very hold sensitive. I can shoot my XS46U off a tripod bench rest and shoot cloverleafs at 32 and 40 yards. The the amazing thing is that I shot these groups with a Stoeger 8.18 wadcutter pellets which even grouped well at 50 yards.


  11. To Bulldawg and BB-

    Thanks for the info yesterday, greatly appreciated. I contacted Daisy this morning and asked what exact model was used for the quick kill program. They transferred me to a really nice and knowledgeable guy named Joe and he told me that he thinks it was a modified model 99.

    He did have experience with point shooting and passed along some pointers to me. I grabbed a Red Ryder and ordered an adult stock from Chief AJ.



      • BD- it’s very appreciated. Well, I modded the RR to be as close to the quickkill as possible. Removed the rear site, filed down the plastic front till it was just a nub. When the stock comes in, I’ll put it on.


        • Al
          Sounds like you got it all set to your liking and once you get the new stock it will be a nice quickkill shooter for sure.

          I have very many pellet guns and the Red Ryder and a Daisy 880 BB gun and my two grandkids like shooting the pellet guns I have but almost all ways end up shooting the Red Ryder and 880 the most so they do get used quite often.

          BD


  12. BB or Edith

    Question. I was just talking with Vana2 and mentioned the Hawke 2.5-10 Varmint 1/2 mildot reticle scope to him. He said he didn’t see it listed so I checked. Sure enough not listed on the Pyramyd Air website.

    I told him that the 3-12 power scope was basically the same but with a little higher magnification. And that I had a couple of the 12 magnification models and they were nice scopes also.

    But heres the question. Is the 2.5-10 magnification model not available any more?

    That is my go to scope. I even put one of the 2.5-10 magnification models on that new Savage 93r rimfire rifle I just got. I hope they didn’t discontinue it.



      • Buldawg
        That will be a bummer if they discontinued it. I was just getting ready to get one for my Savage 93r .17hmr that I have also.

        I really like the 1/2 mildot reticle. It gives you more places to pick for a precise aim point at different distances. Plus they got the thickness of the reticle just right.

        I guess the .17hmr would probably benifit from the little higher power 3-12 magnification model but they also cost a little more. Like a $189 for the 3-12 and a $149 for the 2.5-10. But still a good price I suppose for all the right features in all the right places you know.


  13. BB, thanks for another great installment on this beautiful classic air rifle! I am less grateful for the second wave of envy that swept over me as I read it though, LOL…!

    A couple minor points–I appreciate your notes on the inherent safety of the tap-loading systems, a great feature of this design. For what it’s worth, if one opened the tap after cocking the action but before returning the cocking lever to battery, it of course blocks the flow of air between compression chamber and barrel. This makes it impossible to “slam” the piston or “beartrap” the lever, even with an accidental trigger pull.

    It’s exciting to hear the gun’s power is up near original levels. The S54 shared trigger and powerplant with the company’s barrel-cockers (models 60, 70, and famous 55 carbine). Even though tap-loaders will typically lose a little power due to the “lost volume” of both the transfer port and tap behind the pellet, the 54 is still had a reputation as a hard shooter in its day.

    Williams made a sport-type aperture sight specifically for the BSF rail at one time; it was sold by Air Rifle Headquarters in West Virginia, who imported many BSF’s, as an accessory item. The marks on the rear of your sight rail, especially the two little dimples on top corresponding to this sight’s mounting screws, may indicate one of these has been fitted at some point, in lieu of the BSF match diopter sight.


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