Break-barrel springers offer an affordable passport to airgun shooting – and Mat Manning reckons the BSA Supersport SE is up there with the best
Maker: BSA Guns, www.bsaguns.co.uk
Model: Supersport SE
Type: Spring-powered break-barrel
Barrel length: 47cm
Overall length: 109cm
Calibre: .177 and .22 (tested)
Weight: 3.2kg (without scope)
Length of pull: 352mm
Safety: Manual, resettable
Power: 11.2ft lb
Gun shop racks seem to be awash with spring-powered airguns in the £200-to-£300 price bracket these days. The quality of these entry-level offerings varies greatly, and my advice to anyone looking to buy their first serious air rifle is to focus on functionality rather than falling for unnecessary gimmicks.
BSA’s Supersport SE is an affordable air rifle that definitely puts performance at the top of the list. The latest version of this no-frills break-barrel builds upon the Birmingham gunmaker’s heritage of fine spring-powered air rifles, and the result is something very impressive. Its looks are distinctly traditional and it boasts no elaborate extras – and there’s something very reassuring about that in a market that seems to be increasingly, and unnecessarily, infiltrated by guns that are crammed with all manner of whimsical features.
The Supersport SE may lean towards the value end of the market, but it’s not a gun for smaller shooters. Tipping the scales at over 3kg without a scope and mounts fitted, it’s quite a hefty piece of kit. And, at 109cm long, it’s also pretty long.
Despite its size, the Supersport SE is a well-proportioned and handsome airgun. It’s styled along the lines of a classic sporter, and its beech stock features some very nice graining.
That ambidextrous stock may look quite basic, but it’s been very cleverly designed, and makes for an extremely comfortable and well-balanced hold. The pistol grip only has a shallow rake, but I still found that it set me up well for the trigger, and I really like the little thumb scallop that provides a nice cradle for shooters who, like me, prefer to shoot thumb-up.
The long and relatively slim forend section of the stock is adorned with panels of chequering on either side, as is the pistol grip. It’s not the sharpest chequering I’ve ever seen, but it is clean and certainly enhances grip. All four panels are skip-chequered and framed with a neat double border – apart from improving hold, they also bring a real boost to the gun’s overall aesthetics.
Although the rifle’s relatively low cheekpiece appears to have been designed with open sights in mind, it’s high enough to achieve good eye alignment with a scope, as long as you steer clear of really high mounts. The butt end of the handle is neatly finished with a cushioned rubber recoil pad – it makes the Supersport nice to shoulder, but it doesn’t have a lot of work to do because the recoil is surprisingly modest.
The Supersport SE may be a no-frills break-barrel, but its build quality is exceptionally good. It’s a tidily engineered airgun and, although the finish of the metalwork will never rival that seen on high-end spring guns, it exceeds the standard that I’d expect to find at this price point.
And, while this airgun’s line-up of features is refreshingly free from superfluous gimmicks, it does boast BSA’s world-famous cold-hammer-forged barrel – a carefully crafted spout that’s renowned for its accuracy. The front element of the open sights sits at the forward end of the barrel. Attached by a screw, it’s easily removed should you want to fit a scope and replace it with a silencer.
The plastic ‘post and notch’ open sights are of the fibre-optic variety and they really do glow in most light conditions. Adjustment dials on the green rear element, which is also removable, allow compensation for windage and elevation, and turn with positive clicks, which makes for straightforward zeroing. A word of caution concerning the red front element, though. The fibre-optic sighting piece can be slotted on and off, and the design of its fixture means that it will shift to either side if knocked. That movement will result in the certain loss of zero, so I’d be inclined to fasten it with a spot of glue to prevent that.
I’ve learned through experience to manage my expectations when it comes to triggers on sub-£300 airguns, but the two-stage set-up on the Supersport SE wouldn’t feel out of place on a gun costing twice the price. Even straight from the box, this one had a fairly long, light first stage, with a clear stop, before a very positive let-off with no creep at all. Some may find the mechanism a touch heavy, but after using it, I reckon it’s just about perfect for a spring-powered airgun.
There’s a manual safety catch positioned towards the rear of the action. It’s very basic, but I can’t fault it for operation or positioning. You push it backwards to make the gun safe, and nudge it forwards when you want to shoot.
PERFORMANCE AND ACCURACY
Cocking the Supersport SE does take a fair amount of strain, but then it is churning out power levels close to the 12ft lb UK legal limit. It is a very smooth cocking stroke, though, and it’s assisted by the leverage of that long barrel. Just remember to keep your fingers well back along the forend so they don’t get pinched beneath the barrel as it comes down.
As you’d expect with a break-barrel design, loading is direct to the breech. Swing the barrel back up and it snaps into an extremely secure lock-up. It really is rock-solid and I can’t see it getting slack in a very long time.
The firing cycle on the .22 calibre test gun was very smooth, with comparatively little felt recoil. A little bit of weight is no bad thing in a spring-powered airgun, and the Supersport’s heft helps to absorb what little kick there is.
Consequently, the Supersport SE is a real joy to shoot. The fast target acquisition facilitated by its open sights makes for fun plinking sessions, but this airgun is easily accurate enough to justify splashing out on a scope for more serious shooting. Fitting a scope is no problem at all, as there’s a long dovetail rail which even features a hole to accept a recoil arrestor pin or screw.
And it’s when you start shooting with the added precision of a telescopic sight that you appreciate just what an accurate airgun this is. The smooth firing cycle, well-designed handle and predictable trigger combine with that cold hammer-forged barrel to produce an exceptional result. I’m only an average shot but, shooting from a bench, I was able to print half-inch groups at 25m – and I’ll take that from any springer.
The Supersport SE is an airgun with the punch and precision to tackle live quarry as well as providing great fun on the plinking range – and it’s built to keep on doing that year after year, and with minimal maintenance.