Field-ready outfits and limited editions are very much in vogue – so why not blend the two concepts into one package? Nigel Allen gets his hands on gun number 001 of just 150 Scorpion RS Platinums – a low-run combo collaboration between BSA and Ronnie Sunshines…
With a new franchise store having just opened in Newton Abbot, Devon, Ronnie Sunshines is arguably the UK’s fastest-growing airgun chain. As was clear when we recently went behind the counter to find out a little more (Talking Shop, Summer 2015 Edition), they’re certainly dedicated to providing airgunners with something a bit special, whether that’s choice, service, advice or price. So it’s hardly surprising that they’ve launched a rifle branded with their name – and this highly proactive British retailer has chosen one of the biggest Brit marques of all as the chassis.
They’ve collaborated with BSA Guns to deliver the Scorpion RS Platinum – a connoisseur’s variant of BSA’s best-selling bolt-action Scorpion PCP which not only brings in elements of BSA’s flagship Gold Star SE, but all the ingredients needed to get straight into the shooting. For your £799, the bespoked RS Platinum comes complete with a BSA Optics 4-12×44 Essencial scope, BSA VC Silencer, spare magazine and BSA deluxe padded gunslip. Oh, and as it‘s limited to a production run of just 150 guns, you also get the serial number of your choice (subject to availability), along with a personalised nameplate!
While there’s no guessing as to what the RS suffix stands for, the Platinum moniker of the collector’s edition Beeza represents a beautiful blend of chromium-plated bling, specifically to the trigger blade, guard, swivel eyelets and ported muzzle brake. Together with the bolt and ‘silver bits’ on the adjustable butt, it’s a perfect complement to the rifle’s dark theme that’s emphasised by the Minelli-made, laminate stock.
Dubbed Monsoon by its creator, the laminate is a mixture of dark and very dark greys. It’s much denser in tone than the Black Pepper laminate pattern option of the Gold Star SE, but otherwise the stock of the RS Platinum is nigh-on identical to Beeza’s flagship, elevating it way above the handle of the standard Scorpion SE model.
In fact, the only thing ‘missing’ from the RS Platinum’s stock is the Gold Star’s ‘hamster’ – the underbelly add-on that assists in knock-down silhouette shooting sports. In its place, however, is a nameplate, beautifully anodised in a gunmetal finish. Initially, supplied as a blank, upon taking ownership of an RS Platinum, you email Ronnie Sunshines with your unique lettering… and they return a new plate suitably engraved.
My test sample – no 001/150 – came engraved with the name Thomas Shelby which, I’m told, relates to the fictional character from the TV series about Brummie gangland activities, Peaky Blinders. Effectively it’s homage to the rifle’s Birmingham birthplace – although 001 actually belongs to ‘Mr Ronnie Sunshine’ himself.
As far as the other 149 rifles go, recognition of both BSA and Ronnie Sunshines is indicated by laser etchings on the left side of the breech, while the rifle’s individual serial number is shown on the right, where the RS and Platinum markings are also depicted.
While both the standard Scorpion SE and Gold Star SE woodwork (if you can call it ‘standard’!) comes with a stippled grip, the RS Platinum’s is devoid of any hold-enhancing surface textures. But such are the ergonomics of the girth and rake of the pistol grip area, I didn’t find this a hindrance and, of course, the rifle’s woodwork is fully ambidextrous, even if the bolt falls to the right and the manual safety rocker switch is to the left.
Like the Gold Star SE, the RS Platinum’s butt-stock is multi-adjustable, changes being made by inserting a 3mm hex key through unobtrusive holes on the right side to slacken off/tighten grubscrews which hold the cheekpiece and butt pad pillars in place.
For eye/scope alignment, the cheekpiece can be height-adjusted, and there’s also provision to move your eye left and right if you remove the section and reset the screws that hold the wood in its lateral plane. As for shoulder fit, the pull length can be adjusted with the hex key, and a 5mm hex key can then be used to raise or lower the curved rubber pad. It only took a couple of minutes to get the rifle feeling like it had been tailor-made for me.
In fact, I rather like the Gold Star-style stock of the RS Platinum – not having a hamster seemed to make it feel much less cumbersome; quicker to swing on target and easier to hold regardless of your stance. Indeed, the forend, with its swollen mid-section and sweeping curves, is extremely shooter-friendly, feeling a very natural extension of the individually tailored rear end.
Although the Scorpion’s action isn’t regulated like the Gold Star SE’s, BSA’s fast-strike hammer system certainly gives you the next best thing – and you can see how flat the Scorpion RS Platinum’s power curve is with Webley AccuPell FT .22s in the graph above.
BSA recommend a 232BAR starting pressure to get the claimed 100-shots-per-charge output, but as I know many will find that quite demanding on both bottle capacity and manual pumping, I was also pleased to see how many shots the rifle gave between 200BAR and its refill pressure of 85BAR – around 90 if you’re counting.
And although the 130 shots between fill-ups way exceeded the manufacturer’s 100-shot claim, you can see from the graph that the first couple of magazines were a little down on power; I‘d suggest 215BAR is about the right fill pressure for the test rifle. Indeed, if number 001 were my rifle, I’d probably fill it to 200BAR. This would give it enough juice for 90 very consistent shots, with a very long 60-shot ‘sweet spot’, where the velocity variation appears to be at its least.
Charging is via a plug-in push-probe, which is supplied (1/8in BSP thread). The inlet port is at the front of the cylinder, under the rifle’s muzzle, where you’ll also find a small gauge. So small, I’d probably have complained were it not for the fact that it’s colour-coded – green is good! I’ve no issues with the system, though – fuss-free and the port is protected from dirt ingress by simply rotating the pull-off cover.
Speaking of the muzzle, the RS Platinum has a chromed ported muzzle that’s very eye-catching, although it’s slightly irrelevant if you’re into hunting, where it’ll be too reflective for stealthy stalking. However, hunters get the option to screw it off and fit the supplied silencer to the 1/2in UNF-threaded muzzle – a BSA VC no less. This silencer comes with a variable choke – a small insert for .177 calibre barrels – although I didn’t fit it as rifle no. 001/150 is a .22. While the VC certainly added some length, it didn’t upset the rifle’s balance – and it pretty much entirely muted the rifle’s report. (I didn’t realise what a crack the ported muzzle had until I screwed on the VC!)
Of course, BSA’s cold hammer-forged barrels are legendary, but the RS Platinum’s goes one better than the Scorpion’s in that it’s the enhanced version – the ECHF ‘championship’ bore that’s normally reserved for the Gold Star SE’s action. While BSA remain tight-lipped over what the enhancements are, I certainly got the impression that the RS Platinum wasn’t in the least bit pellet-fussy (provided the ammo was decent in the first place).
With 30-yard targets seemingly offering no challenge whatsoever to the rifle’s delightful trigger and recoil-free firing cycle, I fitted a bipod to the front eyelet swivel and moved my test targets out to 60 yards – way further than my normal testing distances, especially for a sub-12ft/lb gun in .22 calibre. Some of my JSB-made brands (batches that are now quite old) put in exceptionally tight groups at this range, as did Webley AccuPell FT – and I even enjoyed a rather fruitful session on a couple of 40mm-kill knockdowns placed at 75 yards!
Such accuracy isn’t just down to the barrel and pellet, but the shot consistency, trigger, firing cycle, gunfit and the lack of wind, of course – however, special mention must also be made of the latest incarnation of BSA’s rotary magazine which sits within the breech block and is removed/inserted from the left courtesy of a sliding magazine latch.
I’ve tested a few Beeza multi-shots with these now – which feature a blue 10-shot rotor in .177 and red in .22, with the .25’s 8-shot being black. While I’ll still throw in caveats that you must remember not to load them into the breech upside down – and to watch out for double-loading – they clearly play a very important role in the rifle’s ability to group exceptionally tightly at distance.
Self-actuating when you draw back the Bolas bolt, the inner rotor is numbered to indicate how many shots remain and there’s a small window in the outer cassette that shows white when you’re empty. Made from a high-impact polymer, the new mags definitely index more smoothly, and the accuracy results prove that they also perfectly align each chamber with the breech before the return of the bolt probe pushes them into the rifling.
In the RS Platinum’s case, shot placement is also aided by a rather nice telly that’s thrown into the bargain – a BSA Optics 4-12×44 that sports P/A (down to 10 yards), finger-adjustable turrets, quick-focus eyepiece and a mil-dot 30/30 reticle with four dots on each strand of the thin wires. It fits by a double-screw, two-piece mount set which you’ll have no problem fixing to the RS’ breech as it offers 183mm of uninterrupted dovetail real estate.
I’ve seen a few combo packages in the past where the scope is a poor relation, but Ronnie Sunshines has chosen well. The sight picture is bright, sharp and clear – and when you’ve got a rifle as capable as the RS Platinum underneath, that’s exactly what you want when pushing the range boundaries.
Actually, although this is a limited edition special, and is certainly good enough to hang up as a wall piece, I’d say that the Scorpion RS Platinum is more for your connoisseur of fine sporting rifles than collector of fine display guns. Sure it looks great, but it shoots like the top-end Beeza that it really is, and it would be a crying shame not to enjoy it to its full potential; it’s been designed to be shot, not looked at!
At £799 complete with everything you could ever need to enable it (and you) to perform, it’s certainly affordable enough for the non-collecting, everyday airgunner – though I’m sure there will still be the odd collector who’ll want one just for the very fact that it’s the first-ever limited edition from Ronnie Sunshines. Quite literally, this is a rifle that’s got anyone’s name on it…