BSF S54 Match rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSF S54
BSF S54 target rifle.

Part 1
Part 2

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • The test
  • RWS Hobby
  • Resting on the sandbag
  • Artillery hold off hand extended
  • Discussion
  • Adjusted the rear sight
  • Falcon pellets
  • Sig Match Ballistic Alloy
  • JSB Exact RS domes
  • H&N Finale Match High Speed target pellet
  • Something extra
  • Summary

Today we look at the accuracy of the BSF S54 Match rifle. Now, while this rifle is called a Match rifle and did come with a large aperture sight, it’s not a serious match rifle and never was. Sometimes I have guys ask me questions like, “Could it be used in a match?” and I have to answer, “Yes” but they don’t let me finish by saying, “… but it will never win!” You see, some guys are so enraptured by the design of the S54 Match (and that huge rear aperture!) that they want it to be a real match rifle. Other guys own one and don’t want to spend the money for something different. The bottom line is — The BSF S54 Match rifle is not for formal competition! I think you will see that today.

The test

I shot from 10 meters and used both the artillery hold and a sandbag rest. I will tell you which I did for each target.

The rear sight doesn’t adjust easily, plus the adjustments are coarse, so I only adjusted once and then stopped. I will tell you as we go.

I shot 5-shot groups for the most part. Because this is an underlever and also a taploader it takes a long time to get ready for each shot. I told myself if a pellet seemed to show promise I would shoot a 10-shot group, and that happened one time. Let’s get started.

RWS Hobby

I had tested the rifle in 2015, so I looked at those targets as a starting point. That test suggested two pellets that were good, so I selected one of them — the RWS Hobby. I shot this first target using the artillery hold with my off hand back by the triggerguard. Five pellets went into 0.673-inches at 10 meters — hardly a good group!

Hobby group 1
This first group of 5 RWS Hobbys was shot at 10 meters using the artillery hold, with the off hand back by the triggerguard. The group measures 0.673-inches between centers.

Okay, that wasn’t as good as I had hoped. Maybe the rifle wants to rest on the bag, so I tried that next. Same Hobby pellet was shot.

Resting on the sandbag

This time 5 Hobbys went into 0.702-inches at 10 meters They are close to the same place, but a little lower. From the looks of this group, resting on the sandbag is not the way to go.

Hobby group 2
Resting the rifle on the sandbag doesn’t seem to be right, either. Five Hobbys are in 0.702-inches between centers at 10 meters.

Artillery hold off hand extended

Still shooting Hobby pellets I tried another version of the artillery hold for the third group. My off hand is out by the rear of the cocking slot. This time the group was a little smaller, with 5 shots going into 0.539-inches at 10 meters. It’s still not a good group, though it is the best group of Hobbys so far. This is how I will shoot the rest of the test, unless I tell you otherwise.

Hobby group 3
When I held my off hand under the rear of the cocking slot things tightened just a little. Five Hobbys are in 0.539-inches at 10 meters.

Discussion

In 2015 I put five Hobbys into a 0.408-inch group at 10 meters. Today I’m struggling to group them in a tenth of an inch larger. I know I’m human, but this is more than I expected. However — I had a total retina detachment in my sighting eye since that first group. I have also had my natural lenses removed from both eyes during cataract surgery, and what’s in there now are man-made lenses. Maybe I’m doing the best I can. Or maybe this was just not my day. More groups might tell us.

Adjusted the rear sight

The first three groups were a little low, so I elevated the rear sight leaf. It goes up in steps and I added just one step this time.

Falcon pellets

The next group was shot with Falcon domed pellets from Air Arms. I shot with the artillery hold with my off hand at the back of the cocking slot. These 5 pellets went high above the bull, and in line with the center. Five pellets went into 0.71-inches at 10 meters. The group is vertical and not very good.

Falcon group
Five Falcon pellets went into 0.71-inches at 10 meters.

Well, raising the rear sight didn’t seem to help. So I put it back to where it was.

Sig Match Ballistic Alloy

I was really looking forward to trying Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets in the rifle, because in the velocity test they only had a spread of 6 f.p.s. I felt sure they would be accurate. But they weren’t. Five went into 0.792-inches at 10 meters — the largest group to this point in the test and ultimately the largest in the entire test. They also shot considerably lower, as you can see. But faster projectiles nearly always shoot lower than slower ones, due to the lack of recoil influence. They are out the barrel before the muzzle has a chance to rise. And I am still shooting with the artillery hold.

Sig group
Five Sig Match Ballistic Alloy pellets went into 0.792-inches at 10 meters. This is the largest group of the test.

JSB Exact RS domes

The next pellet I tested was the JSB Exact RS dome. They are often quite accurate in lower-powered airguns, and, while the S54 isn’t exactly weak, it isn’t a magnum, either. Five of these went into 0.718-inches at 10 meters, which is no big thing, except 4 of them are in 0.30-inches. That IS a big thing. Had I finally found the right pellet? Artillery hold used for this pellet.

JSB RS group
Five JSB Exact RS pellets are not so good, at 0.718 inches at ten meters, but 4 of them in just three tenths of an inch are!

Now that I thought I was onto something, I had to try these pellets again. So this time I rested the rifle directly on the sandbag, instead of using the artillery hold. This time five JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.583-inches at 10 meters. It’s not a screamer, but for this rifle, the way I’m shooting it today, it’s not that bad. At least they are all together!

JSB RS group 2
When the rifle was laid directly on the sandbag, 5 JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.583-inches at 10 meters.

At this point I was starting to get tired, because the S54 isn’t an easy rifle to shoot. There are a lot of steps to get it ready, plus the cocking effort is over 30 pounds. But there was one more thing I wanted to try. Remember the H&N Finale Match High Speed pellet that varied in velocity by 55 f.p.s. in Part 2? I even said at the time that it was, “…too much to hope for any accuracy. Maybe at 10 meters; I’ll have to see.” It was now time to find out.

H&N Finale Match High Speed target pellet

I knew by this point in the test that the artillery hold with the off hand out by the rear of the cocking slot was giving the best results, so that’s how I held the rifle for this group. Five pellets went into 0.232-inches at 10 meters. Well, you can just forget what I said about my eyes — I can still shoot!

H&&N Finale Match High Speed group
Five H&N Finale Match High Speed pellets went into 0.232-inches at 10 meters. That’s about as tight as the S54 can shoot.

I wanted to do something more with the Finale Match pellet. I was tired from all the concentration, but I shot one final group with these pellets. Same artillery hold, only this time I fired 10 rounds at the same bull. I expected the group to be larger because I shot twice as many shots. But if the Finale Match was a good pellet it would stand out. And it did! Ten pellets went into 0.489-inches at 10 meters. That’s the second-smallest group of this test; smaller than any other 5-shot group. Ladies and gentlemen, we have the pellet!

H&&N Finale Match High Speed group 2
Ten H&N Finale Match High Sped pellets made this 0.489-inch group at 10 meters.

Something extra

I didn’t tell you but for this test I put aluminum tape on the back of all my targets today, to keep the pellet holes open and round. I can tell you that it really works! My thanks to whoever suggested it.

Summary

Well, I have become reacquainted with an old friend in this series. The BSF S54 Match rifle is certainly a different kind of airgun to shoot. Now I think I would like to go inside, to see what I can do to tame the vibration. There is plenty of spare velocity, so I’m not concerned about that. I’m thinking I’ll use Tune in a Tube, since I know exactly what it will do. Stay tuned!

34 thoughts on “BSF S54 Match rifle: Part 3

  1. “I had a total retina detachment in my sighting eye since that first group.”

    B.B.,
    Please don’t jeopardize your health on our account.
    Everyone here appreciates all you do for the sport of airgunning;
    but we’d also like to see you keep at it for a long time into the future. =>
    More power to you on that 0.232″ group!
    I love it when old classics like this can perform like that.
    Take care & God bless,
    dave



  2. B.B.,

    Nice shooting on the last group. Looking forwards to the tear down at some point in the future. I do suppose you could just squirt some in or apply some TIAT through the cocking slot, which I think is the normally intended technique for the average person.

    I think it was Hank that had the alum. tape idea. Now you have something in your back pocket for serious group shooting, even at 25 and 50 yards. I use std. duct as you know and is a big improvement over nothing. Everyone should at least try it one time.

    Good Day to you and to all,………. Chris



  3. Tom, am really enjoying this series! The 54 is one of the most unique air rifles of all time. I used to own a very nice 54 Bayern in .22 cal and really regret parting with it. I’ll look forward to future installments of this series.

    For a period in the 1960’s, long-range air rifle target shooting at 50 yards or so had a brief run of popularity in the US, sort of a precursor of today’s field target. For what it’s worth, the BSF 54 and HW 35 were the “it” guns to have for that competition.

    If you will please email me offline, I have some supplemental info that may interest you.


  4. Todays 10 meter air rifle competition requires that a 4.5 mm pellet contact a 0.5 mm bullseye. to score a 10. Top shooters come pretty close to hitting all 60 shots, standing offhand (using special clothing to create a statue-like stance). That’s a 5 mm (1.97 in) grouping, or 1.7 MOA. The rifles are obviously more accurate than that. It would be interesting to see a test that showed the typical results from a modern 10M gun, rested, with the optimal pellet.

    Field target shooters shoot over a wider set of distances on a course, but the toughest shots (for me) were always the 3/8 inch close-in targets. At 11 yards, you must put that pellet clean inside the steel aperture – compared to punching a hole in paper, the possibility of a “split” (the pellet contacts the edge, and may not drop the target) effectively makes it harder. I make that more like a 0.2 inch group (1.7 MOA) to score that target every time.

    So, as you say, this isn’t really a competition gun, but your 0.23 in (2.0 MOA) group is in the ballpark. As we always see, the “right” pellets really affect the results. I wonder, were all these pellets the same nominal head size?



    • Jerry

      H&N Finale Match pellets have consistent head diameters in my experience. They measure within plus or minus .01 mm or better. Have not used the specific H&N pellet in BB’s test. The word Match means what it should to H&N.

      Readers may or may not agree and I would be curious to know.

      Deck


      • Decksniper,

        My opinion,… since you asked,…. you (or anyone) will never know without sorting. I am glad that they have done well for you. The JSB’s have always preformed best for me. I have not done any extensive sorting with anything other than JSB’s. Since they did the best after multiple tests,… I focused on just them, trying to make the best,… a wee bit better.

        The whole sorting bit can be a bit of a bottomless pit. Then, after all that time/work,… can I shoot well enough to discern any/the differences?

        My 2 cents,….. Chris 🙂


        • Chris

          Appreciate your input. We are of like mind about going overboard on sorting. Pelletgage sorting helped narrow my pellet purchases to those that both performed and were reasonably in tolerance for head size. The Pelletgages are worth buying for this reason alone. I do still sort the Premiers in the brown box because a couple of my rifles demand them yet there are outliers that need culling. I also check maybe a dozen pellets in new tins to assure the measurements are okay.

          Thanks
          Deck


  5. BB
    I do believe Hank suggested the foil tape. And I believe it came about when I was trying to pattern some of that bird shot load I was messing with in the hpa QB79 and the multiple steel bb’s like a shot gun. The aluminum foil showed the pattern nice. So I tryed aluminum foil behind my target paper and it worked better than the duct tape I use. Then that’s when Hank came up with the aluminum foil tape I think.

    Well it was something along those lines anyway. But yep the aluminum foil or tape works nice behind a target for cleaning up the pellet holes.

    Glad you tryed it though.

    And for anyone interested pretty soon I will have some info on the Hatsan .25 caliber Edge with the Vortex air ram I got last week. Been shooting it with the scope that came with it and the open sights and my trusty Tasco red dot sight. And I have been shooting 5 different pellets of various weights and they are 3 different brands.

    I’ll say now though. I’m getting better results with one of the pellets than I thought the gun would do. And kind of surprised what one it is. But still got a little more shooting to do with it to see if it changes with it getting broke in.


  6. B.B.,
    Cool old rifles like this make me nostalgic for “the good old days.”
    Witness this article here:
    http://www.rifleman.org.uk/Air-rifles.htm
    I believe the first few paragraphs have some inaccurate information,
    but I was struck by the picture of the young school boys posing with their air rifles.
    I wish more schools had such pictures today to promote the good aspects of shooting!
    However, it also makes me wonder how many of them went on to fight in WWI.
    For those of them that did, I’m sure their air rifle training served them well.
    Keep up the great work,
    dave


    • Dave,

      I was reading an article earlier this week that said more and more schools are forming shooting teams, not just with airguns but also firearms. Some states such as the People’s Democratic Republic of New York are trying to outlaw such. Sad.


      • “Some states such as the People’s Democratic Republic of New York are trying to outlaw such.”

        That is sad…

        “…more and more schools are forming shooting teams, not just with airguns but also firearms.”

        …but that is hopeful; thanks for the info! =>


  7. BB, I was referring to the head size they claim (nominal) being all the same. Seems to me that sometimes the wadcutters are just labelled 4.5 mm. But, all those you tested were same nominal size?

    And Deck, I believe I have checked one tin of the H&N Final pellets, and it was indeed consistent, and close to the nominal size. I have used mostly AA and JSB, and they seem to have consistency these days, but are consistently smaller than nominal in the 4.52 size, anyway.


    • Jerry

      Head size label descriptions are not often the size I am able to measure with Pelletgages. You are well aware that there is more than one way to test. I shake the gage lightly to see if a pellet goes in. That may not be the best way but I am consistent. Labels can be off a good bit. But I don’t care providing pellets in the tin are all the same. I do want the size to be within .005 mm of whatever the norm is. Just to be clear, if the norm head diameter in a lot is on the fence between 4.50 and 4.49 mm I expect a very large majority of the lot to measure between 4.495 and 4.505 mm.

      Thanks
      Deck



  8. B.B. Maybe the target practice will help with eyes? I used to squint, one eye closed, but now, its both eyes open, and I think that exercise improved my eye strength. But I also wonder if JSB et al slips in some iffy stock in my tin of ammo. Sometimes, near the end of a tin, the groups open allot. Not always, just sometimes. Cant easily account for it, sometimes I dont concentrate as much for each shot,but there ya go, who knows. I figured out how to lower my regulators output by arranging the bellvilles so that at least several shims are required for a given output, vs. arranging them so that only one shim is used. The bellvilles can be grouped in different gauge si arranged


    • blue
      This is going to contradict what you say.

      I have found the opposite.

      I have found the last part of the tin of JSB pellets to be better. Matter of fact I have stopped shooting from that tin when that happens.

      I have saved them in the past then came back to them. And they indeed group good.

      I thought it might be from me getting warmed up and shooting better. But in reality you would think a person would be getting tired out if they was shooting for awhile. Which I do.

      So who knows what the better or worse groups or from on a particular part of a tin.

      But I will say this. Even the JSB pellets that didn’t group as well in that particular part of the tin still did very well. In other words not a significant amount of change in group size.

      How about you. Did you notice a big difference or just some difference in group size in the different spots of the tin of JSB’s?


  9. The bellvilles can be grouped in differant gauges too, to make it more complicated.
    The spread is too high still, I will try to cut the spead from 40fps over 40 shots, by half.
    It was nice to switch back to the Bandit and its easier spring system, stepped it down from 10 shots on a 2.3k fill, 785,807,785, 15 shots 700, 725, 700. I need to replace the pistol scope i lent to my brother to put on his Chaser.
    Keep up the good work. Rob


  10. Sorry to hear about the retina detachment; mine happened 12/15/17 while under my MGB enjoying a wrenching experience, bleeding the clutch system. According to the surgeon, that had nothing to do with the detachment, said “nearsighted people have thinner than normal retinas, more prone to tearing.” At least it did not happen to the better eye, the right one. Have had cataract surgery in the injured eye recently, and things are much improved; believe the shooting skills are still adequate. FM shall see…no pun intended.

    Your shooting is fine, B.B.; believe sighting exercises are good for the eyes. Use them or lose them.



  11. BB et al,

    There has been much misuse or at least misunderstanding of the term “Match”, such as in this particular rifle’s name. It is most often used in marketing buzzword bingo. The marketeers know that when the uninformed hear the word “Match”, the Olympics come to mind. It is frequently used when the marketeers are describing a trigger, hoping the buyer will think that it can be adjusted to an almost imperceptible first stage with a crisp second stage break of a mere few ounces.

    The truth is there are very few sproingers that have a crisp breaking trigger and you can expect to pay a good price for those. The sad part is that there is no excuse. It has been worked out many years ago in many variations. I have three antique air rifles that are direct sear (single stage) that though they do not have four ounce pulls all break nice and clean when pulled. A two stage trigger should be really easy to make clean. Ask BB what he thinks of that trigger on the Edge.

    TCFKAC knows how to build a crisp trigger, so why do they not put it on their sproingers? Cost? Yes, that may be the major issue but I frequently purchase sproingers that are more expensive than their top tier sproingers. I do not own a TCFKAC sproinger even though I know how to improve their triggers because to purchase such would give them the idea that I approve of their product.

    I wish to take this moment to apologize for this rant. It did not start out that way, but I could not stop myself.


    • RR,

      Not disagreeing with anything you said,… but there (has) to be some different dynamics when the sear is holding back a main spring in a springer (or) just a hammer spring in a PCP/Co2/Multi-Single pump. Like you said though,.. well done, has long been done,.. and we wonder why we do not see it more?

      Acquire, understand, copy, prove,…… improve.

      Chris


      • Chris,

        One of the secrets to a direct sear is the mating angles. If there is a slight back slope it allows the two surfaces to move more freely against one another than if they are a straight 90 degree mating. Also the amount of engagement can affect such along with the smoothness of the sear surfaces.


        • RR,

          Convex surface to convex surface mating? Not flat to flat, but rounded to rounded? A bit confused as to your use of “back slope”. Any reduction in surface to surface contact would seem to be a benefit. Geometry would seem to play heavily into the equation as well.

          Chris


          • Chris,

            I had not thought of that, but that would likely help also.

            By back slope I was thinking of the angle in relation to the piston/compression chamber. 90 degrees would be perpendicular to the compression tube. A back slope angle as I was thinking would be an angle greater than 90 degrees on the piston contact surface, sloping slightly backwards toward the rear. The trigger would have an angle on the mating surface matching this with a slight slope toward the front.

            When engaged the two surfaces would be parallel to each other but at an angle that would encourage movement when under stress more than 90 degrees would. Clear as mud?


          • Chris,

            Yes, a sproinger usually does have more pressure on the sear than most other airguns. A true two stage trigger can greatly alleviate this, assuming it is designed properly. The trigger from TCFKAC has a 7+ pound second stage pull with a good bit of travel before release. Garbage.


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