AirHeads Special – BSA Guns factory tour
AirHeads Special – BSA Guns factory tour, Welcome to this Airheads Special, I’m in Birmingham
at one of the great success stories of the British gun trade Birmingham, Small, Arms. I should be wearing a Stetson because what
I’m about to look at is deep hole drilling, with plenty of oil and producing 18,000 barrels
a year. Our tour guide today probably knows more about
barrel production than anyone else in the world. Dave Williams has worked at BSA for
45 years, he’s seen the company go through many changes but one thing has remained a
constant and that’s the quality of the steel and what he weaves out of it. There seems to be a long way to go from what
you have in your hands there to that black thing down there? Well this one is obviously a finished PCP
and this is the raw material that we get in what we start with. There’s no holes through
it no cones on it, so to start the process off that’s how it comes in. It moves onto what we call a capstan, which
is this machine here where we put a lead on the one end for the entrance of the barrel
into the swathing machine and the other end which is the true end where all the choke
is and everything is for the deep hole drilling side. The deep hole driller does exactly that, it
creates the bore, no twist just smooth. The drills spin one way the barrels the other.
This means the effective revs increase and increase the accuracy of the cut. This is the bit in the barrels life where
it has to be at it’s most accurate really? Yep, this part where the small shampfer is
always within 2 – 3000th of an inch, the other end we keep within 5000th of an inch. In terms of what that does to a pellet down
range what difference does a 1000th make over 50 yards? Over 50 yards it might be an inch so it could
make quite a bit of difference but when it goes onto the next process we straighten it..after
the swagging so we straighten it so we take any imperfections out. And there’s a little bit of testing at the
end? There’s alot of testing.!!!! Next is the swagging machine, this is where
the barrels get a real hammering, literally! What we have to do is thread the barrel over
the end of the mandrill which has all the 12 grooves in, wind the mandrill into the
centre of the hammers so when the barrel passes through and over the top of the mandrill with
the rotation it’ll give us the twist we require which is one in 19 inches. So this is the hammer we are talking about
here, it’s quite heavy. That bashes your barrel 4,000 times. The pummeling stretches the steel making it
too hot to handle. It stretches it by around an inch or 25 millimeters
which ever you like to call it these days but we still work on this machine in English. This is the stuff that comes out of the twist
in your barrels. The barrels themselves are taken away for grinding and the barrels destined
for springer airguns have blocks braised to them. Four barrels a day are taken to the
vice for testing with that old engineer’s favourite, a lump hammer. That’s a terrible thing you’ve done there
Dave. Well it is really – it’s alot of money down
the drain just to prove the barrel is OK and welded OK. Now he has knocked the barrels black and blue,
the survivors go off to a room full of dodgy-sounding chemicals, this method of protecting your
barrels has been in use for hundreds of years. Now Dave is going to show me the new blue
and it’s black! The one on my right which is this one which
I’m moving is off the new process and the one on the left is the blue-ing process from
the old method. Can you see much difference apart from the shine? We’re still in the experimental
stage testing it all out, we will put it out on field tests see what people think. This is an example of how a traditional company
like BSA is using technology to push forward the development of it’s air rifles. Dave is
part of the old guard so what does he see in his crystal ball? I’m coming to the end of my time now here
but I’d like to come back in say 10, 20 years time to see if it has changed and whether
people do think this is still as good as what I think it is. There are still firms in England
and abroad still using cold force swagging and I don’t think it can be beaten. This is the machine that made the Mk4 Meteor.
BSA made more than a million of those airguns. It has a history going back over 150 years… We’ve been promised a look at some of the
latest airguns on the market, tell me Simon is that it? This is it, this is a 1895 Martini Henry.
That’s not the latest! No, not that latest no.. but it’s our piled
arms signature with the three rifles on the badge. That is that. Absolutely, yes. So where was this used?
This was used in the Boer War. The Boer War!
Magnificent! Say the line, say the line… Colin?
Colin say the line… “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors
off” No not ..you’re only supposed to blow the
bloody doors off.. Zulu’s sir thousands of them!
Zulu’s sir thousands of them!…the famous, famous line…
Can I do the other line? Absolutely yes.
This used to have a bayonet attached to it on the side.
Yes, we don’t have bayonets unfortunately. You’re an airgun company you’re not supposed
to have bayonets. In twist, withdraw.
Absolutely. Bit more aggression…ARGGGGHHHH So this is not the latest. No but it’s part
of our heritage. A wonderful specimen really of what we did and obviously transitions through
the years of what we do now. And it’s a .450 you could shoot an elephant
with this, right let’s move forward a few years what else have you got? Not so much maybe ten or so years ago but
we’ve got a very first spring unit, this is a Lincoln Jeffries.
This is an airgun!? This is an airgun, which is under cocking
spring. You’ve got a single shot. Put the pellet in there.
Absolutely. As I say this was a Lincoln Jeffries design built under licence and this model
is around 1906, 1907. So an Edwardian gentleman’s sparrow shooter.
That sort of idea. Yes, absolutely.
And he would have bought it as fun thing or for his son, Little Lord Fauntleroy.
Moving on from there…. Moving forward we’ve got. Oh look at that,
First World War, 303, the smellie . The Smellie, absolutely. As I say, this is in absolute
pristine condition. This one has not ever left the factory. Really? Oh yes. Fully working
but it is obviously a unique model. I’ve always been impressed of the sights on
this. The iron sights. Yes about 1916-17 this one was manufactured. So that lifts up their.
That lifts up and you drop this down. Push that one in. Push that one in sorry, yes,
you know more than me. That’s it, there we go and you’ve got fine adjustment here on
the side. Magnificent. It really, really is a lovely piece of work. It’s absolutely standard
British Tommy Atkins rifle. Absolutely. The Great War rifle. Absolutely beautiful.
Right, next one please. Next one. Moving forward a few more years at least fifty years this
is a Meteor. A lot of people have got Meteor. We started with a mark 1, we are currently
on the mark7, this is a mark5 so this is probably, I would say, late eighties, early ninties.
Right, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, You have sold a million of these didn’t
you. Yes. An incredible amount, yes. Absolutely extraordinary. Why was it so popular? Just
because it was very accurate, it was a very good price and quality. People could trust
the BSA Brand. It was a very, very good price and fathers and grandfathers passed it on
and that is how its gone through. The bit that has always impressed me is the simplicity.
Absolutely straight forward. Simple lines. Beech stock, nothing that could go wrong with
this. Nice weight. Lovely. Okay, last one on the list. We started moving
to PCP’s and we have got – well, you say move into PCP’s but they had barely been invented
by the time this came out. Yes, this is probably an early BSA Sportsman. It is actually cutaway.
You can actually see the workings of it. A bit of a demo really. Now what really excites
you is the paperwork isn’t it? Yes. There is more evidence of the sort of craftsmanship
this workshop has been responsible for. You see the date here is the 12 of November
1945. Obviously highlighted secret, so obviously top level secret before it went into any kind
of production to the naval and you can see here, development for close range naval service.
A 2 pound gun, quick fire. What does this tell you? Well what I find
fascinating is the fact that the drawing media itself is a linen material which is waxed
on. And that would have been wheeled right past
where we are standing here. Absolutely.
From half scale diagrams to the full scale real thing. Nick here, is making the Buccaneer
Airgun. A BSA Gun for export. Right, follow me!
Here’s the action and here is where they put together the last of your perfect BSA rifle.
A trigger, a bolt and over here what about a lovely stock. The last thing you get is
this – the out of box experience. Look at that. And as part of that process, there’s
quite a lot more testing. Colin, you get the barrels and the actions
here don’t you. Do you get every single one? We do see every barrel that is fitted to every
gun that we assemble. And what do you do once you get them in here.
This particular stage is used for grouping, velocity and just general any power issues
whatsoever that might occur, whether it be a low power, high power gun. We just set everything
to a factory standard. Setting of a 12 foot power or a high power gun. So it’s all using
the same process to shoot each gun. So, nothing changes. Every gun gets treated exactly the
same. The guns on this rack, the Martini Henry,
the .303 SLE, the Meteor between them represents three million sales for BSA over the last
one hundred and fifty years. Let’s see what they have got coming up ion the near future.
This is a world exclusive, this is BSA’s first HFT rifle, and it’s flying the flag for the
British company. Simon, that is a James Bond rifle. It’s something
that we’re very excited about. It’s our first venture into the field of HFT hunter field
target. We think it’s the natural progression for the brand, for the product to finally
get into that position with an out of the box standard factory built rifle. As you can
see, it is a pretty descent looking bit of kit.
What has it got that makes it HFT? It is our standard self-regulating Scorpion SE action
and we have made it in a single shot and in .177 specifically for the HFT scene, but the
key feature is the stock that we’ve designed in collaboration with our stock manufacturer,
Manelli. This is a bit of a one off. What will I pay for it? It is going to be somewhere
around about the twelve, eleven hundred pound mark and that is a sensible price point for
such a competition rifle. Are we going to see it soon?
Yes it is actually going to be previewed at the world HFT competition which is in Kelmarsh
over the weekend of the Easter break. The R10 is BSA’s flagship PCP model, this
together with the launch of the Ultra SE has dramatically increased the companies market
share. However, the biggest impact has been on the international market where there sales
has increased by more than 80 percent due to the Buccaneer. Last year with the introduction
of some new stock options with camoflague and with a black tactical look we almost doubled
the sales of the R10 in the UK. That itself led to our overall sales being up by about
31 percent but internationally we grew by 83 percent last year. Specifically with a
couple of models that we have designed that aimed at the slightly different requirements
of the international market. BSA is a company with a fascinating past and
is now working hard to create an exciting future. Not only is our discerning customer
looking for a good performing technical rifle but they are also asking for a thing of beauty
and I believe we are able to deliver all of those key points which from the sales growth
that we saw last year I believe makes us Britain’s leading gun manufacturer.
There is plenty more in the BSA’s pipeline but that’s for another day. We’re back next week and this has been an
airheads special. Please hit the subscribe button or go to our website and sign up for
our newsletter. I am going to settle back with a bottle of BSA Special Ale brewed, like
this airgun, in Birmingham. I like components, because they are elegant.
Meet this nice add-on. We go behind the scenes of the BSA factory in Birmingham, UK, this week. We watch the process of making both PCP and springer airguns, including BSA’s superb, high-tech barrel making and testing, the assembly, right through to the finished product. We see rifles they have made, from the Martini-Henrys used at Rorke’s Drift, the Great War Rifle, Second World War naval artillery, the Meteor, the new Buccaneer and we watch the unveiling of the PCP beauty that’s destined for the HFT circuit. We get access that few have had to one of the titans of airgun manufacturing.
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