Nobody could have predicted the storm generated by BSA’s first-ever bullpup. Mat Manning puts the Defiant through its paces to see if it lives up to the hype
Maker: BSA Guns, Birmingham
Test gun supplier BSA Guns
Price: £1,049 (Black Soft Touch, Walnut), £1,099 (Black Pepper laminate)
Calibre: .177 and .22 (tested)
Type: Mult-shot bullpup PCP
Overall length: 78cm
Length of Pull: 38cm
Barrel length: 47cm
Weight: 4kg (without scope)
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Safety: Manual, resettable
BSA has been a little slow to jump on the bullpup bandwagon. While many other manufacturers clamoured to churn out stumpy airguns to indulge shooters’ new-found fondness for pint-sized PCPs, the British gunmaker sat back and resisted the urge to follow the fashion simply for fashion’s sake.
Pick up the new Defiant, and it’s clear to see why BSA has taken longer than most to get a bullpup into its line-up. This gun’s no-nonsense aesthetics, handling and performance pretty much confirm that its Birmingham-based design team has spent the past few years keeping an eye on what others had to bring to the party. Having mulled over the competition, BSA has gone on to have a damned good go at ironing out the wrinkles that can make bullpups less than perfect to shoot. The Defiant comes very close to meeting that objective.
The very first thing to strike me about the Defiant was just how small it is. The bullpup configuration always makes for a compact gun, but many still manage to look and feel surprisingly bulky. At 78cm from muzzle to butt, including its silencer, BSA’s bullpup is genuinely stubby, and lends itself brilliantly to shooting in the confines of a hide, inside farm buildings, or from the cab of a 4×4.
Despite being distinctly short, this gun still offers an exceptionally good hold. It tips the scales at a deceptively solid 4kg unscoped, yet handles very well, with much more of a central balance point than your typical bullpup. It also doesn’t feel as slab-sided and top-heavy as a lot of its contemporaries. The scope rail is only about 27mm above the bore of the barrel, which is pretty low when it comes to ’pup configuration, and canting is much less of a problem as a result.
The ambidextrous stock is factory-fitted with sling studs and comes in three options: BSA’s slinky Black Pepper laminate, a sumptuous natural Walnut, and the very functional Black Soft Touch version I was sent for review. It’s a fairly basic-looking handle with clean, simple lines, yet it still does a very good job of connecting shooter and gun. The forend is quite short, but even with my long arms I never found it to be lacking.
The rubberised soft-touch finish provides loads of grip, and that’s further enhanced by a stylised panel of stippling that spans both sides of the forend. The same stippling is present on the very steep pistol grip, which is contoured to really fill the palm. Its aggressive angle makes for brilliant trigger attack, and the large thumbhole cutaway behind it has plenty of room for big hands. There’s a rubberised butt pad and it’s height-adjustable – that’s a nice touch – but I would also have liked to have seen angle adjustment on an ambidextrous gun costing over a grand.
One really nice feature of the stock is the cheekpiece, which is extremely comfortable by bullpup standards. Too many of these guns demand that you push your face against a sharp-angled piece of metal or rest it against an insufficiently sized pad. The Defiant’s generous cheekpiece has a smooth curve and a soft-touch finish, which makes it a pleasure to nestle your face against.
BUILD QUALITY AND FEATURES
BSA has an enviable reputation for producing robust airguns that are built to last. The Defiant is no exception, and its extra weight can certainly be attributed to very solid build quality. This is not a gun that anyone should feel afraid to expose to the rigours of real use.
This bullpup comes fitted with BSA’s famous cold-hammer-forged barrel. This tube is renowned for its reliable accuracy; in the case of the Defiant, it comes with a chunky shroud that’s adorned with a scaled-down version of the acclaimed VC silencer. Shroud and silencer are black-anodised with a stippled finish to eliminate flash and glare. The rear section of the barrel is straddled by the scope mounting rail, which provides plenty of clamping space and, as I’ve mentioned, doesn’t tower too high above the bore.
Rapid loading comes courtesy of a slick spring-assisted sidelever system – a first for BSA and a real triumph. Located just above the pistol grip on the right-hand side of the action, it’s well-positioned for quick reloading while keeping the gun supported with your leading hand. The vertical handle is grooved for improved grip and rotates with your hand for maximum comfort. It’s a very reliable mechanism that draws back to engage with a gratifying ‘click’ before sweeping smoothly forward on the return stroke.
That lever drives the latest version of BSA’s tried-and-tested 10-shot magazine. Reliably kind to pellets, the magazine indexes very precisely, and is held in place by a magnetic setup, which functions very well. Housed in the cheekpiece, the magazine sits sufficiently deep and far enough forward to remain well out of the way of your cheek – another goal to tick off the list for the designers of this neat little bullpup.
The Defiant’s air cylinder sits discreetly beneath the barrel and has a maximum fill pressure of 232 bar. Filling is by means of a quick-fill probe, the inlet for which is revealed by turning the collar at the front of the cylinder. It’s a discreet and very effective cover, which keeps the internals free from dust and grit without affecting the flow of the gun’s lines. There’s a pressure gauge sunk into the very front of the cylinder. I don’t like having to look down the barrel to check on air reserves, but the positioning of the Defiant’s dial is far from unusual.
BSA has been producing regulated airguns for a long time, and the team’s experience in this department has enabled them to squeeze an impressive shot count from the Defiant’s modest air cylinder. The .22 calibre test gun returned more than 110 shots at 11.3ft-lb from a single fill. And they were very consistent shots, with a variation of around 5fps over a string of 50 shots with Air Arms Diabolo Field pellets straight from the tin.
Bullpups have a reputation for falling short in the trigger stakes – a consequence of the extended linkage required to connect the movement of the blade to the rear-set action. BSA’s backroom boffins have done an admirable job of combatting this age-old conundrum with a clever combination of enforced guides and supports, and the result is a trigger that delivers pretty crisp performance for a bullpup.
The first stage on the test gun was quite deep, but there was plenty of feel in the very predictable second stage. The blade on the Defiant’s unit has a rounded front edge and more of a curve than I usually like, but I got on well with it. Having to remove the action from the stock to adjust the trigger is a niggle, but it’s a job most shooters will only do once, if at all.
I am delighted to say that BSA had the good sense to site the Defiant’s safety catch well away from the trigger – way, way back at the rear of the cheekpiece, in fact. Some might argue that it would be better positioned a little further forward, but I think it’s fine. And, as a hunter, I particularly like the fact that the manual safety catch flicks on and off with hardly a sound.
Personally, I’ve yet to fall for the bullpup fashion, but the BSA Defiant has come the closest to converting me. It’s a lovely gun to shoot, and I really enjoyed putting it through its paces on the range and in the field.
BSA’s precision barrels breed confidence, and this one is backed up by very consistent power delivery, a decent trigger and a stock that offers a surprisingly high degree of control and stability whether you’re standing, sitting or kneeling. Those attributes combine to make a very efficient shooting machine, and the Defiant’s ability to slot pellets through the same hole to 30m and beyond makes it a reliable performer, whether you’re punching paper targets or tackling live quarry.
If hunting is your bag, this bullpup’s quiet operation will stand you in good stead when it comes to going undetected by wily pests. The chunky barrel shroud and tapered silencer work together to reduce muzzle report to a subtle ‘pap’, and I certainly appreciated being able to trip the safety catch without making a sound.
The slick sidelever cocking and loading system really adds to the joy of shooting this lovely little bullpup. I’m still flabbergasted by the number of shots that BSA has managed to extract from its cylinder, but I’m glad it did, because this airgun makes it very easy to chomp through pellets.
Priced at £1,049, with a spare magazine, a quick-fill adapter probe and a lined hard case included, the Defiant is nudging towards the high end of the PCP market – but that outlay buys you a quality piece of kit that should last for years. If you’re thinking about adding a solidly built bullpup with easy handling and serious accuracy to your arsenal, the Defiant is more than worthy of consideration.
Look & Feel: 8
Build Quality: 9
“Equipped with a slick sidelever action, precision barrel, regulated firing cycle and impressive trigger mechanism, the diminutive Defiant packs BSA’s world-famous build quality and performance into a super-compact, no-nonsense package. Well worth the wait”