Mike Morton takes a look at the BSA Silver Star – a target rifle with a split personality that offers two very different ways to shoot.
It’s no secret that competition shooters will perform at their best when their gun has been properly set up for their chosen activity – and for someone who shoots different types of target discipline, that can often mean having more than one rifle.
The BSA Silver Star is a target rifle that can certainly be configured to shoot one specific way, but it can easily be adjusted to tackle a totally different type of competition as well.
In order to achieve this, it’s been made available in two formats, six foot pounds and 12 foot pounds, both offering different sighting options and both versions costing £699.
The rifle on test here is the six foot pound model, which comes with diopter sights, while the 12 foot pound variant is intended to be fitted with a scope. However, you can use an optic with the six foot pound model as well – or a diopter on the 12 for that matter – because both sighting systems use a dovetail rail.
MAKER: BSA (www.bsaguns.co.uk)
MODEL: Silver Star
ACTION: Single shot ambidextrous straight-pull
OVERALL LENGTH: 89cm (35”)
BARREL LENGTH: 45.7cm (18”)
STOCK: Ambidextrous beech
SIGHTS: Diopter or scope
LENGTH OF PULL: 30.5cm (12”) to 39.4cm (15.5”)
TRIGGER: Two-stage, adjustable
TRIGGER-PULL: 1lb 11oz (771g)
SAFETY: Manual, resettable
MUZZLE ENERGY: 5.3 ft-lb
Gun fit is a vital ingredient to successful shooting, and the ambidextrous stained beech stock on the Silver Star offers plenty of adjustment to help achieve this.
The butt pad and cheekpiece are both adjustable for height, so you can achieve good head and eye alignment behind your choice of sights. Diopter sights sit far higher than regular iron sights, so this level of adjustment is a real benefit on the six foot pound model as well as the scoped version.
Another very welcome addition is the ability to extend the butt pad, altering length of pull from 30.5cm (12”) to 39.4cm (15.5”) and anywhere in between. The rubbery material of the pad itself feels far softer and grippier than most regular pads, while the black wooden cheekpiece is smooth and comfortable against your face.
The drop-down pistol grip has a near-vertical rake for maximum control, and although there’s no dedicated thumb shelf, the Silver Star can easily be shot thumb-up both left- and right-handed. One thing I wasn’t so keen on was the design of the trigger guard, because the guard was in constant contact with the middle finger of my shooting hand.
The guard features some cut-outs to allow tool access for stock removal and trigger adjustment, but the edges are quite sharp. If this rifle was mine, I’d spend a few minutes smoothing everything down with some wet and dry paper.
Panels of chequering have been applied to both sides of the pistol grip and the flat-bottomed forend. A rail has been inset into the forend for the attachment of a sling for use in competitions where one is allowed, such as Sporter Air Rifle events in the prone and kneeling positions.
With the sights fitted, which we’ll come to in a moment, the Silver Star has a completely neutral point of balance immediately in front of the trigger guard, which is a definite plus point.
FEATURES AND FUNCTION
In six foot pound format, the Silver Star comes with the rear diopter and a corresponding front element known as a globe sight that sits inside a tunnel. Elevation and windage adjustments are made by turning the relevant dials on the rear unit. These physically move the aperture within the diopter sight.
If this is your first time using one of these sights, you may be surprised by the precision of the adjustments. Only a very fine movement is made on target with each click compared with a telescopic sight, so you can really fine-tune your point of aim and point of impact.
Fitting the sight is simple, as the rear diopter clamps onto a regular dovetail rail, and the globe sight screws in place onto a small muzzle mount. BSA provides a set of different globe elements so you can choose the size that best suits your needs depending on your set range, the size of the target and of course your own personal preference.
Diopter sights offer no magnification because there is no magnifying lens to look through, but are extremely accurate as the brain and eye naturally work together to place a circle within a circle – these being the target, globe sight and rear aperture of the diopter.
As previously mentioned, if you’ve bought one variant of the Silver Star but want to shoot it a different way, don’t worry, because you can customise your rifle in either configuration.
The muzzle energy is determined by the air cylinder you are using, not the action of the rifle, and additional air cylinders at either power level are available for £119. The diopter sight can also be bought separately for £105 if you chose the 12 foot pound model to begin with.
Changing an air cylinder can be a bit off a faff with some PCPs, requiring you to bleed off any remaining air before the cylinder can be removed, but BSA has come up with a very clever valve system which results in no loss of air.
While you would normally expect to have to waste any remaining air before unscrewing the cylinder, the Silver Star’s cylinder can be unscrewed at any stage – full, half-full or empty – without any problems.
In theory you could be shooting at 20 or 25 yards using the 12 foot pound cylinder, then swap to the six and shoot a 10M competition. I only had the one cylinder to experiment with, but did unscrew it from full and then refit it, and can confirm the self-sealing valve really works as there was absolutely no loss of air.
PERFORMANCE AND PRECISION
The Silver Star has a straight-pull action, with a T-handle being used to cock the rifle, which vaguely resembles the charging handle on AR-15-style rifles, and can be operated with either hand. Being a single-shot rifle, the action has an integrated pellet tray with a deep channel into which the pellet is placed, keeping it nice and secure as it is seated into the breech.
The rifle has a sliding safety catch on the left-hand side of the action that works by blocking trigger movement, and this can be applied or disengaged at any time.
The trigger blade has a ribbed face with a gentle curve, and can be adjusted for angle and height. Being right-handed, I canted the blade slightly off to the right. First-stage travel was long and light on the review gun, with the second stage breaking relatively cleanly with just a hint of creep.
Trigger-pull was 1lb 11oz (771 grams) as it came out of the box. Some target air disciplines such as Three-Position Rifle (3P) insist on a minimum of 500 grams, so there is plenty of room to adjust it down if you want to make your trigger a little lighter, but I left well alone as the results turned out so well.
This rifle promised great things when it was put over my Shooting Chrony F1 chronograph using eight grain QYS wadcutter match pellets. A 10-shot string of weighed pellets showed a spread of just 3.4 feet per second and a muzzle energy of 5.33 foot pounds – more than adequate for this rifle’s intended use.
Accuracy was spot-on. My competition days of taking standing unsupported shot are long gone due to a mixture of lack of practice and lack of talent, but nevertheless I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to shoot the Silver Star this way.
But a far fairer test of what the rifle is capable of was carried out with me kneeling while resting my leading hand on a barricade. At 10 yards, the six foot pound variant’s intended maximum competition distance, the Silver Star was happy to deliver repeated five-shot groups barely larger than one pellet’s width.
So we’ve established that the Silver Star is an accurate target rifle. But what if you’re not a target shooter? Well – and this might sound like heresy to some shooters – I had more than a few happy plinking sessions trying my hand shooting spinners and knockdowns with it, and that was with the diopter sight still sitting on top.
Keep it at six foot pounds, add a scope, and you’ve got yourself a regular garden gun as well. The Silver Star may be a capable target rifle, but it’s more versatile than you might think. Let your imagination run wild!