The Gun Test: Pint-Sized PCP

Mat Manning assess the BSA Ultra JSR – a junior-sized PCP that’s anything but small when it comes to features and build quality

“After a few outings with the little beeza I can say it’s a very accurate gun.”

Key Specs

Maker: BSA, Birmingham

Web: www.bsaguns.co.uk

Model: Ultra JSR

Type: Multi-shot PCP

Calibre: .177 and .22 (.177 on test)

Cocking:  Rear bolt

Magazine: 10-shot rotary

Fill Pressure:  232bar

Overall Length:  690mm

Barrel Length:  300mm

Weight: 2.3kg (unscoped)

Stock: Junior-sized, ambidextrous, beech

Length of Pull: 292mm

Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable

Safety: Manual, resettable

Power: 5.9ft lb

 

The BSA Ultra has made a name for itself as a super-compact airgun, so most people won’t be surprised to hear that it has now been made even smaller – especially given airgun manufacturers’ fondness for tweaking their products at every possible opportunity.

There’s something very different about the modifications to the latest Ultra variant, though. The Birmingham gunmaker hasn’t scaled down what was already a cracking little PCP just for the sake of bringing a ‘new’ gun to its line-up. The JSR is aimed specifically at young shooters. Those initials stand for Junior Stock Rifle, because this Ultra’s handle is carefully proportioned to suit little hands.

Although it’s intended for youngsters, the JSR does not have a pocket money price tag – its recommended retail price is £369. That’s a significant outlay, but this is a high quality airgun, and BSA’s engineering pedigree can be seen and felt throughout. The price also seems a lot more reasonable when you compare it with the cost of a games console and half a dozen games – and I know what I’d rather my kids were doing.

 

Scaled-Down PCP

JSR stands for Junior Stock Rifle, and the stock of this diminutive airgun has been scaled down specifically to suit smaller hands. Apart from having a shorter length of pull, it has also been made slimmer to improve gun fit

As the name implies, the scaled-down stock is a key difference between this gun and a standard Ultra. The handle is shorter – reducing length of pull down to 292mm – and also slimmer. It’s actually a very good-looking piece of beech woodwork. The ambidextrous handle features neat panels of chequering on either side of the pistol grip and forend, and a nice, high cheekpiece. And, when the young shooter outgrows the JSR stock it can be replaced with the adult-sized version.

Another difference between the JSR and a standard Ultra is its power, which is set at around 6ft lb. The lower power reduces the risk of ricochet, making this airgun very well suited to backyard sessions, and increases the number of shots to more than 120 from a 232bar fill – that’s about three times as many as I get from my 11.5ft lb Ultra SE.

But that reduced power does have a few drawbacks. Pellets fired from the .177-calibre test gun tend to get blown about in the wind, and the lower velocity also results in a more curved trajectory – something that will be even more apparent in .22. Although the test gun was capable of toppling some heavy knockdown targets out to around 30 metres, it did seem to lack clout much beyond that.

The bolt on the JSR cocks and cycles smoothly, but it might be a little stiff for some younger children

I’d love to see a full-power option: it would give young shooters a chance to tackle longer targets as their skill progresses, and would no doubt find a few fans among smaller adult shooters keen to take advantage of its manageable dimensions in the field and on the range.

 

Grown Up Features

Something I really like about the JSR is that it boasts the same features you’d find on the full-size version, including quick-fill charging and a clearly marked pressure gauge sunk into the underside of the stock. You even get BSA’s famous cold hammer-forged barrel, which is threaded to accept a silencer.

The JSR also runs the latest version of BSA’s slick 10-shot magazine, which is held securely in place by the tried and tested retainer clip that’s used on grown-up Ultras. Driven by a rear bolt action, the set-up makes for positive and reliable cocking and reloading. The rotary magazine is numbered so you know how many pellets are left in the mag, and a small white marker signals when you’re on the last one.

This little Beeza also has an exceptionally good two-stage trigger, the blade of which is gently curved and has a rounded front edge. The unit is adjustable but I left the test gun on its factory setting, which was crisp and predictable without feeling too light – just right for young shooters. As with the standard Ultra, there’s a positive safety catch conveniently positioned towards the rear of the action; simply pull it back with your thumb to make the gun safe, then nudge it forwards when you’re ready to shoot.

The pressure gauge is sensibly set into the underside of the stock rather than at the end of the air cylinder, where younger shots might be tempted to put their face in front of the muzzle

One thing you don’t get with the Ultra JSR, however, is a set of open sights. Very few PCPs come equipped with a set of opens, although I do think they help to keep things simple when introducing youngsters to the basics of good shooting technique. That said, this airgun does boast a long scope rail which isn’t interrupted by a protruding magazine, so fitting the necessary telescopic sight is a simple task.

 

On The Range

With its dinky stock, the Ultra JSR weighs just 2.3kg unscoped and measures less than 70cm from butt to muzzle. At more than six feet tall, I don’t exactly measure up when it comes to those extremely compact proportions – it was simply way too small for me. But I’m not easily discoursed so I coupled it with a 4×32 BSA Essencial scope, ignored my usual advice about good gun fit, and proceeded to put several hundred shots through it.

After a few outings with the little Beeza I can vouch for the fact that it’s a very accurate gun. Thanks in no small part to its brilliant barrel, it’s capable of producing one-hole groups over typical airgun ranges in calm conditions.

The little Ultra is equipped with BSA’s cold hammer-forged barrel – a tube that’s renowned for its accuracy. It’s also threaded for a silencer, so backyard plinking won’t annoy the neighbours!

Although I was just about able to shoot this junior-sized PCP, the best way to discover whether or not it ‘does what it says on the tin’ was to put it in the hands of some young shooters. With that in mind I took my son, George, and daughter, Violet, out onto the range and set them to work on a variety of different targets – carried out under my close supervision, of course.

George is 11 years old, and got on very well with the JSR. He was able to cock it on his own and really appreciated having a smaller, lighter gun when it came to shooting freehand. Being fairly tall for his age he did find the length of pull quite short, and it looks as though he will outgrow this diminutive BSA in a short space of time.

Violet is eight years old and found the JSR to be a more or less perfect fit. She wasn’t strong enough to cock the gun on her own (not a serious problem as the law stipulates that she must shoot under close adult supervision) or support its weight to take freehand shots.

Nonetheless, she thoroughly enjoyed shooting it from a rest, and found that it was a great deal easier to topple targets with a PCP than with the child-sized springers to which she is more accustomed.

 

Conclusion

Giving youngsters a positive introduction to airgun shooting is vital to the future of our sport, and the BSA Ultra JSR looks set to do just that. My two kids absolutely relished the opportunity to get their hands on a PCP that’s been designed to fit them properly, and they really didn’t want to put it down.

They also loved the fact that it looks just like their dad’s gun rather than a plastic toy that’s been styled to look futuristic and appeal to some (rather patronisingly) assumed fondness for space-age laser blasters.

 

Verdict? 84/100

Look & Feel: 9

Stock: 8

Build Quality: 9

Scope Up: 9

Charging: 9

Loading: 7

Trigger: 8

Handling: 9

Accuracy: 8

Value: 8

“Some shooters will regard the Ultra JSR as being too expensive for a first airgun – especially when you add a scope and mounts to the equation. In my opinion, though, it’s a fantastic gun for keen young shots to progress onto when they want to enjoy the advantages of a recoilless PCP after cutting their teeth on an affordable springer.”


Also Consider…

Cometa Model 50

A junior-sized spring-powered break-barrel which comes with adjustable open sights to keep things simple, although it has rails to accept scope mounts.

Price: £124.95


Weihrauch HW 30s KIT

This mid-powered break-barrel springer will suit most juniors. It can feature an auto safety catch, Weihrauch’s Rekord trigger unit, and telescope sight and mounts.

Price: £187


Air Arms S200 MK3 Sporter

While not just for juniors, this full-power PCP has a two-stage trigger and a 10-shot conversation kit is available.

Price: £473

 

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