The Ultra CLX 160 Commemorative Edition marks the latest milestone in the history of BSA Guns, and Mat Manning reckons it does the iconic British brand proud
Getting the formula right with limited edition airguns is no easy task. Some end up looking like gaudy versions of a proven favourite, some are beautiful to look at but don’t cut it in the practicality stakes and others are little more than a dressed-up excuse for an inflated price tag.
The Ultra CLX 160 Commemorative Edition from BSA Guns, produced to mark the 160th year of the British company’s proud history, is a lesson to any gunmaker contemplating a special model.
Its styling is classy enough to turn heads without looking overdone. It is subtly embellished to mark an occasion, it is an absolute dream to shoot and, very significantly, it is sensibly priced.
In short, it is a credit to BSA, and any of those shooters who are lucky enough to own one will be buying a beautiful airgun that shoots like a thoroughbred.
BSA clearly put a lot of thought into this project, and the Ultra CLX 160 Commemorative Edition has been kitted out with features that enhance not only its looks, but also its performance.
The big leap from the standard CLX, which is excellent in its own right, is the addition of a sidelever action and an elegant black pepper laminate stock – both make it an even better gun to own and shoot.
This exclusive edition of the Ultra CLX is limited to a run of 160 guns in .177 and .22. It retails for £999, and you get a lot of extras, including a 3-9×50 scope and mounts, a BSA silencer, premium BSA pellets, a hard case, and a certificate of authenticity signed by BSA Guns MD Simon Moore.
BSA Ultra CLX 160 review – key specs
MAKER: BSA Guns, Birmingham (bsaguns.co.uk)
MODEL: BSA Ultra CLX 160 Commemorative Edition
TYPE: Limited edition multi-shot PCP
CALIBRE: .177 (tested) and .22
OVERALL LENGTH: 800mm
LENGTH OF PULL: 355mm
BARREL LENGTH: 318mm
WEIGHT: 2.7kg (without scope)
TRIGGER: Two-stage fully adjustable
POWER: 11.4ft-lb on model tested
FEATURES: Limited edition airgun supplied with scope, mounts, pellets, hard case and signed certificate of authenticity
The handle is made by gunstock supremo Minelli. The classy grey tones of the laminate are stylish enough to grab attention on the range, but not too flashy for the field.
There is also a very nice etching on the underside of the pistol grip.
Apart from looking good, this stock also functions very well. It has a high cheekpiece, which ensures good eye alignment, and comes supplied with quick-release studs already fitted – so you don’t have to take a drill to it.
The butt section is finished with a soft pad, and the pistol grip is contoured just right to set you up for the trigger.
The pistol grip and fore-end are both adorned with grippy patches of very neat stippling, which look lovely and feel great in the hand.
Above all, the stock makes for a comfortable fit and certainly enhances the CLX’s shootability.
The Ultra is renowned for being a compact airgun, and that remains the case with this edition. It weighs in at 2.7kg and measures about 800mm from end to end with the supplied muzzle brake in place, and a bit more with the silencer on.
Length of pull is around 355mm, which suited me just fine.
Typical of all BSAs, this airgun is solidly made and finish is excellent. The action on this edition even features some subtle embellishment to mark its very special pedigree.
The muzzle brake came fitted, but I quickly swapped that out for the supplied silencer, which looks great and does its job of sound suppression very effectively.
All Ultra CLXs boast a new monobloc chassis and are equipped with a dovetail scope rail and a magazine that sits comfortably beneath it rather than getting in the way of scope mounting.
Features and functionality
The magazine is BSA’s pellet-friendly design, which increases capacity to 12 in both .177 and .22 calibres.
Colour-coded blue for .177 and red for .22, it features an easy-grip rotor and has a countdown window so you know which shot you’re on. Pull back the sidelever and the magazine can be extracted from the left.
Loading it is simplicity; just push pellets in nose-first from the back, turning the inner rotor as you go to increase the spring tension.
Adding a sidelever action to the Ultra has given a huge boost to the shooting experience – I always liked the bolt action, but this refinement takes it to another level.
It’s in just the right place, features a slick, rotating dropdown handle and delivers fast, silky-smooth cocking and loading. The mechanism is smooth to operate, but manages to feel reassuringly positive at the same time.
Just as impressive is the trigger unit, which puts countless more expensive airguns to shame. It is a fully adjustable two-stage unit, and you can even tweak the positioning and angle of the match-type blade. The trigger on the review gun was excellent straight out of the box; its deep first stage coming to a clearly defined stop followed by a remarkably crisp and predictable second-stage break that enabled me to release shots very instinctively.
The standard Ultra CLX features a new safety catch mechanism, thoughtfully located at the rear of the action, just in front of the stock’s thumb cradle.
The gun is safe when the switch is up and in the central position, and you just thumb it down to the left when you’re ready to shoot. You get the same version on this model, only it’s colour-coded to match the magazine – blue in the case of the .177 featured here.
Performance and precision
The new CLX configuration means that the sleek little cylinder holds enough air for 60 full-power shots in .177 calibre and over 70 in .22 from a full 232 bar fill.
That’s more than enough for most outings, and is very impressive for such a compact and elegant airgun.
Refilling with air is a simple task with the CLX. The inlet is protected by a collar at the front of the cylinder which keeps dirt out of the internals.
Give that collar a turn to reveal the inlet, push in the supplied probe and you’re good to start filling. Air level is displayed on the clearly marked gauge at the front of the cylinder.
I have said before that I don’t like gauges that require me to look down from the muzzle to read them, but this one has been designed with a wide field of view so you can check it from a safer sideways angle.
Chrono testing with the supplied 10.49 grain BSA Black Star hollowpoint pellets revealed a healthy muzzle energy of 11.4ft/lb with a variation within seven feet per second over a string of 10 shots.
The review gun shot very well with this ammo, but shot even better with BSA’s 8.64 grain Gold Star domed pellets, consistently grouping within 10mm centre-to-centre at 30m and printing ragged single-hole groups at 40m when shooting from a bench in calm conditions.
Because the Ultra CLX 160 Commemorative Edition is so well designed, it also shoots very well in less controlled conditions.
Its proportions and balance make for a steady hold whether taking prone, kneeling, sitting or standing shots, and the combination of its consistent power output, excellent trigger and BSA’s famous cold hammer-forged barrel make it quite an easy gun to shoot well.
The addition of sidelever action adds to the fun factor when you want to topple targets quickly, and hunters will appreciate its rapid reloading. Live quarry shooters will also love the fact that the supplied BSA silencer hushes down the muzzle report to a muted spit.
I think that the BSA Ultra CLX 160 Commemorative Edition is a great package – not only is it an excellent and very handsome airgun, you also get all those extras.
There is only one thing I would change, and that is to swap the supplied one-piece mount for a two-piece, which would be better suited to a compact PCP.
Above all, this package offers a chance to own a piece of BSA’s rich history, which makes it extra special for shooters like me who have grown up with this iconic brand.
I am already a big fan of the BSA Ultra and, despite all its majesty, this version stays true to its roots and remains a real shooter’s airgun – it simply demands to be shot, and buying one to lock away as a pretty keepsake would be sacrilege.
I just hope that the very limited run of this exclusive air rifle package hasn’t been completely snaffled up by the time you get to read this.