Classic Gun Spotlight: BSA Firebird

Phoenix from the flames! One PCP that slipped under the radar is the unusual little BSA Firebird, as Jonathan Young explains…

The Firebird was a graceful rifle, with its sleek lines and no visible air chamber

Designer John Bowkett is well-known for his single-stroke pneumatic airguns, but he also worked on early pre-charged designs and was involved with BSA, developing the type of PCPs we now take for granted.

The Firebird is one of the lesser-known PCPs John worked on. This is a fixed-barrel, underlever cocking pre-charged air rifle with a hidden reservoir. Read that again, but slowly – it’s mind-blowing! A small lever is used to cock the action and also open the loading port, which is a little like BSA’s earlier Rb2 rolling breech. A separate buddy bottle was used initially, allowing for quick top-up fills in the field.

Watch that button rise as the gun fills up

Without any dial gauge, there is a safety venting mechanism to prevent overfilling. A protruding fixed outer collar visible on the scope rail protects a moving inner button that rises when a full charge is reached, venting any excess air safely.

A second version allowed direct filling from a pump, while another came with interchangeable barrels in .22 and .177, each of different lengths to control the velocity. There was also a break-barrel model called the Spitfire.

You can top-up the pressure to maintain the sweet spot

Some people claimed these were just springers converted to PCPs, and therefore dismissed them – for some bonkers reason. A slender inline barrel-chamber airgun with no visible reservoir – what’s not to like? Actually, the Firebird and its derivatives hid a lot of inventive secrets internally. Lightweight, accurate and with nice lines, this rifle deserves a closer look – if you can find one!

The Firebird offered light and easy cocking, with an automatic opening of the breech

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Posted in Features, Gear, Vintage

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