The rite of spring: Fusion vs Lightning SE

Though an increasing number of airgunmakers are launching gas-ram rifles these days, we’re not likely to witness the demise of traditional spring-piston power plant any time soon. High quality spring-guns are still launched regularly – and the latest ‘SE’ incarnation of the popular, Spanish-made BSA Lightning XL was among 2012’s most eagerly-awaited innovations. Here it goes head to head with another mid-price contender – the full-length Fusion from Spanish outfit, Cometa. On paper, this looks set to be a tight contest…

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Both of these rifles are updates of well-established and highly familiar models – so I was expecting it to be business as usual in the visuals department. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the ingenuity on display. Each model features distinctive styling and a host of individual quirks that exude quality – and both guns look well engineered. The Fusion is a serious adult springer, and as a big fan of Cometa, I was also expecting a respectable downrange performance. However, the stunning woodwork from its rival also demands respect from the off.

Cometa Fusion 8/10

BSA Lightning XL SE 9/10

TAKING STOCK

The Cometa’s full-length beech stock is a satisfying piece of design work – if a little traditional – with a right-handed configuration, palm swell and Star model, I was pleased enough with the neatly-defied standard one on my test rifle. Another eye-catching feature is the nicely tapered, angular forend, which offers around 5cm of extra length compared to the Beeza’s.

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All main contact areas are adorned with laser-cut chequering in a distinctive wavy design, which is highly practical as well as cosmetically appealing. Against many rivals, the Fusion would dominate this category – but the BSA’s brand new woodwork comfortably outshines much of its competition in the springer market. The stock has a gloriously stylish and supremely executed design – clearly a statement of intent from BSA – and the sheer functionality on offer here, including a cleverly ambidextrous design, makes the Lightning XL SE almost perfect.

Cometa Fusion 7/10

BSA Lightning XLSE 9/10

Like many upper-end springers, neither comes supplied with open sights, so fitting a scope is essential. For this purpose, the Cometa offers 125mm of dovetail rail, milled from the very end of the cylinder – which is perfectly serviceable for positioning your glassware.

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By contrast, and somewhat unusually, BSA takes a more comprehensive approach, with the inclusion of its chunky scope ramp. This spans 145mm and significantly raises the sight line by around 10mm. However, if you don’t like the alignment, simply remove it (using the supplied star-headed key) – and you can then use the conventional dovetails underneath. These offer almost 200mm of clamping real estate, making the BSA just that little bit more versatile in terms of using a scope – but I can’t find fault with the Fusion’s system, either.

Cometa Fusion 8/10

BSA Lightning XL SE 9/10

COCKING CYCLE

Many break-barrel models these days are tough to ‘break’ – and the Fusion is no exception. It requires a firm jolt over the knee – though once broken, the cocking stroke is very smooth courtesy of the extra leverage afforded by its full-length barrel. The lock-up is solid, too, while the action is a little graunchy – though it did ease up a little with use. An angled breech face is incorporated into the design, so it’s quite important to push your pellets all the way in to the breech. If you don’t, its skirt might get ‘shaved’ or deformed as the breech closes, resulting in a poor air seal that may effect either velocity and consistency.

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Cocking the BSA highlights that these guns are chalk and cheese in this department. The Lightning XL SE breaks open in quite the opposite way to the Cometa – easy at the breech, with a cocking stroke that requires significant effort due to its carbine-length barrel. The action of the test model felt super smooth, though – rather similar to that of a gas-ram, in fact – with a superbly positive lock-up at the breech. The Lightning’s breech face is square-on, and BSA utilises a fatter seal, so a chambered pellet is slightly more protected than on the Fusion.

Cometa Fusion 8/10

BSA Lightning XL SE 8/10

TRIGGER AND SAFETY

Both guns come fairly well equipped in the trigger department – despite sporting plastic trigger blades. The Cometa rifle features a nicely weighted two-stage unit, with a fairly heavy first stage, but a wonderfully light second stage that, though exhibiting some degree of creep, trips fairly consistently. The push tab safety is automatic, but easily pressed to go live.

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BSA, meanwhile, has re-jigged the Lightning’s trigger, and its super-light first stage is sublime. The second stage, however, is still just a little too stubborn for my liking, even after a tweak on the adjustment screw. Its blade is fairly pleasing, though, and the resettable manual safety is another plus point on this satisfactory unit.

Cometa Fusion 8/10

BSA Lightning XL SE 7/10

HANDLING

Handling both of these guns is a highly pleasurable experience – though their in-shoulder characteristics differ greatly. The Cometa is distinctly muzzle heavy, with a centre of balance 135mm forward of the trigger, compared to the Beeza’s 100mm. This suits me perfectly, as I like a rifle to lean toward its muzzle – I find the front-end bias helps anchor the gun on target.

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However, though the BSA concedes to its rival in terms of balance, the configuration of the woodwork is superb, with an ultra-pronounced cheekpiece and concave, shoulder-hugging butt pad. The chunky, contoured forend has a sublime, cosseting feel, while a nicely shaped grip, perfectly located thumb shelf and integral sling swivel eyelets augment the overall impression of quality.

Cometa Fusion 8/10

BSA Lightning XL SE 9/10

OVERALL BUILD

Closer inspection of these revamped favourites reveals the high level of quality on offer here. Both rifles are designed to ‘do the business’ and will appeal to airgunners seeking a host of modern features. The BSA’s woodwork has the edge where configuration is concerned, but there isn’t much to criticise about the Fusion’s furniture, either – though I do have one, minor quibble. The relief around the breech area seems somewhat unneccessary as there’s no rearsight installed. However, the wood-to-metal fit is excellent, as is the overall standard of metal polishing and blueing.

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Cosmetically speaking, the Lightning ranks among the slickest production springers I’ve seen with BSA’s badge on. The small details, such as the cylinder end cap, subtly designed trigger guard, and ubiquitous star socket heads, elevate the standard of the ‘SE’ offering to new heights and deserving of that ‘special’ moniker.

Cometa Fusion 8/10

BSA Lighting XL SE 9/10

CONSISTENCY

The consistency of many modern spring-powered airguns amazes me – even some of the bargain basement fare! Of course, you’d expect a modicum of performance from the mid-market offerings featured here – and that’s certainly what you get, as I found during a session with the chrono. With Air Arms Field pellets, the Fusion posted a 10-shot string with a spread of just 3fps. With Daystate Rangemaster Li, the high/low shift was just 7fps. Phenomenal. And just as remarkable was the BSA’s performance with the same two brands – strings of 9 and 12fps respectively. For off-the-shelf springers, you really can’t grumble about their shot-to-shot consistency.

Cometa Fusion 10/10

BSA Lightning XL SE 9/10

ACCURACY

Given the pedigree and history of these two gunmakers, I had high expectations for both rifles in terms of accuracy – yet I came away slightly disappointed by rather average downrange results. The Cometa Fusion, despite balancing sublimely, returned groups of around 30mm at 30 yards. Given that I’ve shot versions of this gun capable of producing groups half this size, I can only surmise that the barrel was slightly inferior on my test model.

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BSA’s charismatic, revamped Lightning XL SE did manage some 20mm clusters at 30 yards – but most groups were 25mm-plus (with AAF and RangeMaster Lis). Again, this fell short in comparison to an earlier version I’d shot of this model. One thing I noticed during the test: the Beeza’s small, knurled muzzle end cap kept vibrating loose – it needs a rubber O-ring or something to stop this.

Cometa Fusion 5/10

BSA Lightning XL SE 7/10

VALUE FOR MONEY

Within this price bracket, both guns face pretty formidable competition in the form of German airgunmaker Weihrauch – especially when you consider that the HW95 retails for only £20 or so more than the Lightning XL SE. What the supremely accurate HW95 doesn’t possess, though, is woodwork on a par with this BSA Lightning – nor the Beeza’s businesslike silencer. Few rifles can rival the Lightning SE’s stock, certainly in the break-barrel sector.

Cometa’s Fusion, meanwhile, is another slick piece of design, with ornate woodwork and a barrel diffuser included as standard. The air of sophistication and sleekness is typical of this famous Spanish marque – and the Fusion is a rifle that can clearly hold its own within the price sector.

Cometa Fusion 7/10

BSA Lightning XL SE 7/10

FINAL VERDICT

Personal taste always plays a part when making a final choice – but there’s no doubting that these two manufacturers have stood the test of time for a reason. Cometa’s elegant models have evolved over the years, and so, of course, have BSA’s. This latest Lightning is an exquisite piece of design work, and it clinches this head-to-head – due in no small part to that superb woodwork. BSA believe that wood sells when it comes to gun racks – and this is certainly a rifle that’s destined to tempt buyers into parting with their cash.

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However, having shot previous versions of both guns before, I’m disappointed to say that former incarnations were more accurate – a factor I can only put down to possible barrel defects or shortcomings in quality control on both of these test samples.

Cometa Fusion 78/100

BSA Lightning XL SE 83/100

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL – Fusion – Lightning XL SE

MANUFACTURER – Cometa – BSA Guns

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN – Spain – Spain

TYPE – Break-barrel sporter – Break-barrel sporter

ACTION – Spring/piston – Spring/piston

CALIBRE – .177 and .22 (tested) – .177 and .22 (tested)

OVERALL LENGTH – 1,140mm – 952mm

BARREL LENGTH – 470mm – 368mm

WEIGHT – 3.4kg – 3kg

STOCK – Beech sporter – Beech sporter

TRIGGER – Two-stage adjustable – Two-stage adjustable

SAFETY – Automatic – Manual

POWER – 11.8ft/lbs – 11.5ft/lbs

SRP – £279 – £323

CONTACT – John Rothery – BSA Guns

www.bisley-uk.com www.bsaguns.co.uk

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Posted in Air Rifles, Springer, Tests
2 comments on “The rite of spring: Fusion vs Lightning SE
  1. stephen novak says:

    I purchased the lightning SE in December 2012. I have been very disappointed. Both the silencer and stock screws are forever shaking loose. The trigger mechanism has always been very agricultural with a very heavy second stage. The trigger mechanism has now failed with the gun cocked sending a pellet into the ceiling. Potentially very dangerous.

  2. Chris Waite says:

    I am a long term owner of a .177 Cometa

    I am a long term owner of a .177 Cometa Fusion. Out of the box, mine had a horrible, creepy, rough trigger. Some work polishing the mating surfaces turned it into a very nice 2-stage trigger. A more serious problem arose with barrel lock-up. After a bit of use the barrel became too sloppy in the receiver forks. The small set screw to adjust this sheared off and I had to replace it. The mechanism employed by Cometa is poor, a serious design fault. I also had problems with the scope mount moving because of recoil. I found that a standard size stop pin wouldn’t fit the hole in the receiver which was too small in diameter. I had to have a pin machined specially. After replacing the mainspring and piston seal with Maccari items, the firing cycle is smooth and the gun is capable of good accuracy. My verdict is: too many problems to resolve to make it a good shooter – buy a Weihrauch HW instead.

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