BSF S54 underlever: Part 3
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
BSF S54 Match air rifle
This report covers:
- Rear sight adjustment
- Accuracy testing
- First group
- Group two
- Group three
- Conclusion and a shocker
Today, we start examining the accuracy of the BSF S54 Match rifle I’ve been testing for you. As you’ll remember, this rifle has already surprised me by being a lot more powerful than I expected. Many years ago, I owned a .22-caliber S54 that had target sights. I don’t think it was the Match model, but the action was the same as this one, except for the caliber. That gun wasn’t nearly as powerful as this one, which is what lead me to underestimate what this one would do. Apparently, I have an almost-new rifle whose action hasn’t even been broken-in yet.
Rear sight adjustment
I was asked by a reader if the sporting rear sight is adjustable; and, of course, it is. But the adjustment for windage is a crude one. You loosen a screw that holds the rear notch blade and slide the blade sideways in its holder. While the amount of movement doesn’t look like much, the rifle is remarkably well-centered as it comes to you, so this adjustment really does work. It’s just a clunky method that’s imprecise to do.
The rear sight adjusts for windage by loosening the screw and sliding the plate with the notch to one side or the other. It’s imprecise, but does work well with the rifle. Notice that there’s a v-notch on the bottom of the plate.
The rear sight is at the end of a long leaf. Elevation is adjusted by a sliding bar on an inclined ramp. I found the steps too large for precise adjustments on targets at 10 meters, but of course this sight isn’t intended for targets. It’s a sporting sight that was just put on the S54 Match out of long-standing convention. The peep sight that my rifle lacks is the real rear sight meant for this rifle.
I tell you this because you will see by the targets that I could not get my groups centered. Of course, I spent only a few minutes adjusting the rear sight. With more time spent, I’m sure I could have gotten things closer to the center of the bull.
I had absolutely no idea of which pellet to use in this rifle, so I started with what I knew — which is the fact that this rifle is a taploader and will probably do best shooting pellets with thinner skirts. The skirts need to be expanded by the air blast to seal most of the air behind the pellet, and the loading tap creates a challenge in that respect. If the pellet was already inside the bore when the gun fired, things would be different, but it’s starting its flight inside a tapered loading tap and has to jump from there into the rifling. It’s pretty important to seal as much air behind the pellet as possible so the velocity is both stable and respectable. I’ve found that the RWS Superpoint pellet works well in this capacity.
I decided to start by shooting with the rifle rested directly on a sandbag, because that position is more stable than holding it with the artillery hold. The S54 is still a fairly weak spring powerplant whose firing cycle is pretty smooth, so there was a good chance I would get away with it. After getting okay results on the first target, I stuck with that method throughout the test.
I shot at 10-meter air rifle targets at a distance of 10 meters, so that was very familiar. The S54 has a post-and-bead front sight that isn’t conducive to shooting paper targets, but I used a 6 o’clock hold anyway and it seemed to work. More on that in a bit, but first I need to tell you that I put transparent packing tape on the backs of the targets to get good holes and learned that it doesn’t work as good as just shooting the plain target. One of my first Superpoints landed below the tape and cut a nice hole, while the other 9 landed where the tape was and were less well formed. I’m not going to tape these targets anymore, because the results just don’t warrant it.
The first shot hit the target at the correct height but left of center. I didn’t adjust the sights, but after the first 3 shots I checked the target again and saw that the pellets were all going to the same place. Then I settled in and finished the first 10-shot group. Ten Superpoints went into 0.838 inches at 10 meters. I didn’t know if that was good or bad for this rifle, but at least they all went to the same place.
I decided to leave the sights where they were for the time being. Since I was on target with the Superpoints, I figured the next pellet would be okay, as well.
The second group was shot with RWS Hobby pellets. They tended to go to almost the same place as the Superpoints, but were just slightly lower on the paper. Ten pellets went into a 0.408-inch group at 10 meters. That was a lot better than the first group and more like what I was hoping for. And these were just Hobby pellets!
After this group I adjusted the rear sight both to the right and higher. Then, I shot a confirmation shot that showed the pellet striking the target higher and too far to the right. I left the sight adjusted this way.
For the final group, I selected the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellet. These come in different head sizes, and the tin label said the heads are 4.50mm. Ten pellets landed in a group that measured 0.528 inches between centers. One pellet did not land in the main group, and it made a slightly oblong hole, which leads me to think these pellets are not flying straight on their axes.
Ten H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets went into 0.528 inches between centers at 10 meters. Notice that lone hole on the bottom right seems a bit oblong. This might not be the right pellet for the rifle.
Conclusion and a shocker
I was finished with this test at this point. As I was putting away the rifle, I happened to touch the front sight and noticed that the entire sight is loose! Then, I remembered why I got rid of the other BSF S54 rifle that I’d owned many years ago. The sights on this rifle are not designed to hold still. They’re the worst kind of sights to put on a target gun. Not only are they difficult to change (I’m referring to the front sight), they can never be fully solid as designed. The sight base is held on the gun by a straight cross pin, and the hood is held on by a second cross pin. The result is a wobbly sight. It’s possible to upset the pins to lock down the front sight; but that involves damaging the pins or the sight parts, and most collectors do not want to do that. I certainly don’t!
The front sight is held by a single cross pin that’s impossible to stabilize without damaging the sight or pin.
I then remembered that the sporting rear sight on my .22-caliber S54 was also loose. So, I checked this one and, sure enough, the rear sight sleeve that wraps around the barrel is a little loose on this gun, as well. It’s also held on by a cross pin. Even when brand new, it cannot be as tight as it needs to be.
The BSF S54 is a nice vintage air rifle that can look like a target rifle all it wants. In reality, the design of the sights makes it useless for real target shooting. It never was a contender — even back in the 1950s and ’60s when competitors were rifles like the Walther LG55 and the HW55. BSF put a peep sight the size of a satellite dish on a gun that’s a plinker at best.
That said, I’m keeping the rifle for its historical value. We’ll see it in another test when I mount a quality dot sight that bypasses both the front and rear sights and gives us a better picture of what this vintage springer can really do.