Gun test: BSA R-10 SE Super Carbine

Mike Morton checks out the BSA R-10 SE Super Carbine to discover whether this refined little rifle offers the shooter both function and form.

BSA’s R-10 has been with us for around a decade now, and the Birmingham gun-maker has hit the nail on the head when it comes to choice.

This regulated rifle is currently being offered in two barrel lengths and four stock options, the rifle on test here being the SE Super Carbine in a Black Pepper laminate stock.

The Super Carbine has a 30cm (12in) barrel, reducing the gun’s overall length to 94cm (37in). The Standard model, in contrast, has a 38.5cm (15in) barrel and measures 102cm (40in) end to end.

There’s a minor weight saving too, with the Super Carbine weighing in at 3.1kg (6.13lb) compared with the 3.2kg (7.4lb) of its big brother, but shooters choosing the carbine will probably do so primarily for its more compact proportions.


Key Specs:

MAKER: BSA Guns (www.bsaguns.co.uk)

PRICE: £879 for Black Pepper, £829 for Walnut, Realtree Xtra Camo and Black Edition

MODEL: R-10 SE Super Carbine

TYPE: PCP

CALIBRE: .177 (on test), .22 and .25

ACTION: Bolt-action PCP

MAGAZINE: Multi-shot (10 shots for .177 and .22, eight shots for .25)

OVERALL LENGTH: 94cm (37in)

BARREL LENGTH: 30cm (12in)

WEIGHT: 3.1kg (6.13lb)

STOCK: Ambidextrous sporter

SIGHTS: Scope only, dovetail rail

LENGTH OF PULL: 36cm (14in)

TRIGGER: Two-stage, adjustable

TRIGGER-PULL: 1lb 7oz

SAFETY: Manual, resettable

MUZZLE ENERGY: 11.1ft-lb


Wearing the Black Pepper stock, the high-end Super Carbine has a recommended retail price of £879, while the gun is also available with Walnut, Realtree Xtra Camo and Black Edition handles for £829.

Whichever stock you go for, the rifle comes with a moderator, barrel shroud, two magazines, a push-fit filler probe and a removable dust cover. I have a full-length R-10 SE in .22 calibre and have been shooting it on a regular basis for the past two years. It’s a great gun, and has been with me through thick and thin.

While I think it’s fair to say I know the standard R-10 pretty well, I wondered what shooting the Super Carbine would be like. It was time to find out.

 

LAMINATE STOCK

The Black Pepper laminate stock is made by Minelli, and the example on the test gun displays a pleasing combination of blacks, browns and greys. While the aesthetics box gets ticked from the outset, the stock offers plenty of functionality too. The adjustable butt pad has a ridged pattern and is made of a very pliable and grippy material.

It also has a more pronounced curve than some other designs, keeping it locked firmly in your shoulder pocket. The stock is ambidextrous, with a pronounced cheekpiece on both sides.

Although it’s not adjustable, I found the height of the comb to be just right when shooting this gun with a couple of scopes of medium objective lens sizes. Nevertheless, it would have been great to have had an adjustable comb too. The pistol grip itself is fairly steep, which in my opinion greatly assists comfort as it removes any muscular strain from the wrist, and ends in an elegant cap and spacer.

The grip is big enough for people with large hands, while still remaining comfortable for those like me who have smaller hands. In keeping with the ambidextrous nature of the stock, there’s a wide central thumb shelf for those who prefer the thumb-up grip.

Alternatively, you can just rest your thumb alongside the grip, or use the conventional sporter hold instead. The forend features a sweeping scallop on either side, which not only adds to the rifle’s good looks, but provides a distinctive hold for your leading hand.

Neither the pistol grip nor forend feature any chequering, but the forend offers such a fi rm anchor point that you probably won’t miss it. Still, chequering would have been a nice touch. The stock ends in a semi-Schnabel tip where it meets the buddy bottle, with the tip and spacer matching those of the grip.

As elegant as the stock is, it’s been designed for fi eld use, and comes already fitted with sling swivel studs, which saves the need to break out the drill to fit your own.

 

FEATURES AND FUNCTION

The magazine release catch must be pushed fully forward whenever a magazine is being removed or inserted into the action

Out of the box, the rifle comes fitted with a barrel shroud and moderator, but these are optional – and adaptable. Instead of being attached directly to the barrel, the moderator screws into the shroud. BSA refers to this system as the Customer Configurable Shroud and it means you can configure your gun three ways.

First, you can leave it as it comes, with both the shroud and moderator fitted. Secondly, if you don’t want the shroud, this can be removed, and a special collar fitted instead that mates with the non-standard fitting of the supplied moderator. But the barrel itself has also been threaded – this time with a standard half-inch UNF thread – so the third option is to shoot the rifle with a regular moderator screwed directly to the barrel.

I tinkered at length with the various options, and shot the gun with several different moderators. I preferred shooting the Super Carbine in BSA’s out-of-the-box configuration as I felt this boosted both the gun’s sound-deadening qualities and its accuracy. Of course you may well prefer the R-10 without the shroud, or with a different moderator, and it’s good to have that choice.

The moderator, shroud and chunky bolt handle all have a distinctive textured semi-matt black finish, which is in keeping with the semi-matt finish of the action. The barrel itself, should you choose to remove the shroud, is blued steel, so do make sure to keep it free of sweat and fingerprints, and protect it with a thin layer of gun oil.

When you see the yellow dot appear in the indicator window, you know you have one more shot left to take

The R-10 is a bolt-action rifle, with the magazine being inserted from the left. It’s held in place with a catch that must be pushed forwards to release the mag when it’s being inserted or removed, and clicked backwards to both secure the magazine and centre it to the breech.

The mag also features a small nub that engages with a side plate on the right-hand side of the action to ensure everything is properly aligned. If the magazine hasn’t been inserted correctly, it simply won’t function, which avoids any risk of mangling the pellets between the mag and the breech.

BSA magazines are low-profile and do not interfere with the dovetail rail when they’re inserted into the action. This makes scope-mounting a breeze because the mounts can be positioned anywhere on the rail, optimising eye relief, and there’s no way the magazine can foul the scope tube either.

With a scope fitted, centre of balance is just forward of the trigger guard. I tried fitting long and short scopes, with the point of balance being neutral for both.

At the rear end of the rifle you’ll find a height adjustable butt pad and an ambidextrous semi-Monte Carlo-style cheekpiece

BSA’s multi-shot magazines hold 10 pellets in .177 and .22, and eight pellets in .25 calibre. The rotor is numbered accordingly, and is also colour-coded: blue for .177, red for .22 and black for .25. BSA has upgraded its magazine several times over the years, with the latest incarnation being the best yet in terms of smooth operation and flawless function.

The magazine features a metal faceplate and a high-impact polymer base. There are some nice little details which may go largely unnoticed, but are nevertheless very helpful, such as a finger groove in the back plate so you can more easily remove the magazine – and the rotor is knurled, which helps you align the chamber to the faceplate when you’re loading in a pellet.

When you do load up, the last pellet to be fired is inserted first. The rotor features a little yellow dot that can be seen through a cut-out in the faceplate: this is the last round indicator. With one pellet inserted, turn the rotor anti-clockwise and hold it under gentle spring tension while you load the second.

Once that pellet has been inserted you can relax your finger tension on the rotor. Repeat the process for all 10 pellets (or eight in the case of .25 calibre), and you’ll see the number ‘10’ appear on top of the rotor. The rotor counts down for each shot taken, and when you see the yellow dot appear in the faceplate window you know you have just the one shot remaining.

As previously mentioned, I’ve been shooting the full-length rifle variant of the R-10 in .22 for the past couple of years, and the magazines haven’t let me down once. So it was a welcome case of history repeating itself with the mags that were supplied with the .177 Super Carbine.

The R-10 SE comes equipped with a very capable moderator that screws directly to the shroud, rather than the barrel

A good magazine system needs to be backed up by a good trigger, and the Super Carbine didn’t disappoint. First-stage travel is preset by the factory, but the length of second-stage release and the amount of trigger-pull can be adjusted by the shooter, as can the angle and height of the trigger blade, without the need to remove the rifle from its stock.

As usual, I tested the Super Carbine with its factory trigger settings and was pleased with what I found. First-stage travel was quite long, but was nevertheless clean, coming to a definite stop, while second-stage let-off was predictable and crisp, with trigger-pull coming in at a hunting-friendly 1lb 7oz.

The lever-style safety catch is located on the left-hand side of the action and can be set to ‘fire’ or ‘safe’ whether or not the rifle is cocked. It makes an audible click when it’s set to safe, but is silent when it’s pushed forward to fire – the sort of feature that hunters will really appreciate.

The buddy bottle can be filled to a maximum working pressure of 232 bar, from which I consistently achieved 115 precise shots. You’ll get an even higher shot count if you choose the bigger .22 or .25 calibre models, but anything over 100 is plenty for me.

 

PERFORMANCE AND PRECISION

BSA’s cold hammer-forged barrels have a reputation for being good performers, and this one was no exception. I was pleased to see the barrel was relatively unfussy, shooting a wide variety of pellets quite well. But there were two pellets in particular that I tested that shot very well, these being the H&N Baracuda FT and Predator Polymag Shorts.

At 30 yards, my standard zero range, the Super Carbine delivered five-shot groups measuring 6mm centre-to-centre with the Polymag Shorts. But the Baracuda FTs performed even better, with group size shrinking to just 3.8mm centreto-centre.

The bolt is chunky enough to make it easy to grab hold of in the field, but not so huge that it gets in the way

Back at 40 yards, the results were similarly impressive with these pellets, with the average group size now expanding to 16.2mm, but still fitting underneath a five pence piece, the diameter of which is 18mm – and that’s well within acceptable hunting parameters.

Shooting the rifle over the chrono revealed similarly impressive results, with an average muzzle velocity of 713.7 feet per second and a variation of just 5.6 feet per second over a 10-shot string. Muzzle energy with the 9.8 grain pellets was 11.1ft-lb. Some rifles are capable of some stunningly accurate results at short to medium distances, but a pedigree hunting rifle has to be able to remain accurate out to ethical airgun ranges.

Being shorter than the standard R-10, which I usually prefer shooting prone, the Super Carbine was a real joy to shoot from a variety of positions, including kneeling. This is one of my favourite shooting stances, as it’s slightly quicker to come on aim.

But the Super Carbine is equally happy with a bipod underneath the forend too, making this R-10 an excellent contender for a mixed hunt where you may want to go roving or static, and shoot anything from offhand or prone. Carbine? Super!


The Airgun Shooter Verdict:

Look & feel: 8

Stock: 8

Build quality: 9

Sighting up: 10

Cocking: 9

Loading: 9

Trigger: 9

Handling: 9

Accuracy: 9

Value: 8

Overall score: 88


 

“The R-10 SE Super Carbine is a fast-handling, consistent and accurate little rifle that’s easy to use and reliable in operation. It may be built like a tank, but it looks like a supermodel, and those same good looks and great barrel are the icing on an already tasty cake”

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