The history of British airgun manufacturer BSA Guns is certainly a chequered one with the company forced to cope with a variety of fortunes – highs and lows – since its formation 152 years ago. Stan Piecha reports.
The future of BSA Guns, a world-famous Birmingham, England-based concern, burns brighter than ever and its continued growth in an era when some rivals are struggling to maintain sales, let alone improve them, can be summed up in one word… excellence.
For that is what the entire company’s workforce strives to provide, whether it is in the research and creativity that goes into all its models, the quality of the finished product or the customer service, which exceeds industry standards.
Assured of quality
The quality and unique craftsmanship that goes into every BSA model is something that is recognised globally but where it has recently set a new yardstick for the industry is the speed that it can service a gun and have it back with the owner.
Thanks to the Product Evaluation Centre that BSA set up 12 months ago, any rifle sent in for service or repair will be returned within four days.
Simon Moore, BSA’s managing director, told Gun Trade World: “We take great pride in having a very big quality-assurance department and product-evaluation centre. It is our goal to have a rifle repaired, tested and returned in four days and the reasoning behind the speed is simple – it allows the customer to have their rifle back for the weekend when it is most likely to be needed. This service is industry leading in the UK and none of our competitors can get near to it.
“Striving to provide the finest service also extends to our dealers, where our aim is to have any orders shipped out within 48 hours. The philosophy behind that is to show we are easy to do business with and that we support and can make life easier for the dealer network and international distributors.”
Success and saviours
Since being formed in 1861 BSA has notched up several ground-breaking milestones, ranging from supplying 100,000 rifles for the War Office in 1906, producing a staggering 10,000 rifles a week in 1914 to meet the demand of World War I, making its first break-barrel air rifle in 1933 and, two years later, supplying more than 50 per cent of the small arms used by British forces in World War II.
After the war, it continued being a leading maker of air rifles, gold-medal-winning .22 target rifles and shotguns but in the 1980s sales dwindled and in 1986 it went into liquidation and was taken over by Gamo – Europe’s largest maker of air rifles and pellets – a move which these days is a huge help to BSA.
Simon adds: “Gamo saved the BSA brand, the factory and its workforce. Our advantage now is that Gamo has a massive international distribution network that we can tap into. It is the reason we are able to export our guns to 65 countries.
“We also have access to its R&D facilities and, because I sit on a couple of the group’s committees, we can help influence Gamo designs. It’s a great partnership and we think of ourselves very much as a centre of excellence.
“How well things are going is reflected in our sales. For the first three months of this year our sales in the UK are up 60 per cent compared with the same period last year.
“Our exports in 2012 doubled from the previous year, and this year we have a distribution deal to supply BSA PCPs into the USA at a level the company has never seen before.
“It’s a very exciting time at BSA Guns, not only for our core market in the UK but also in the export sector. We have worked extremely hard to develop a range of PCP rifles not to mention a comprehensive customer-service package to ensure we meet the demands of the USA and other international markets.”
British and proud
BSA’s rifles retail for between £165 and £780 in the UK. Major selling points are that all BSA PCP guns are made in Britain and the fact that all BSA guns use its acclaimed cold-forged steel barrels, made in the 45,000 sq ft factory in Birmingham.
BSA barrels are produced from a solid bar of special steel, which is deep-hole drilled on specialist machines to ensure the bore is straight and has a superior surface finish ready for cold swaging – a method which BSA believes produces the ultimate air rifle barrel
The attention to detail in the production of each rifle – along with its unrivalled after-sales service – is the reason all of its models continue to be in great demand.
It currently offers three main core PCP models – the R10, Scorpion SE and Ultra SE – which come in varying stock options and calibres of .177, .22 and .25.
In the spring range there are five models so, whether someone wants a rifle for plinking, hunting or field targets, they are catered for.
But the latest model – the Buccaneer – was a huge talking point at the recent IWA show and looks destined to be a must-have piece of equipment.
It has been designed specifically for the export market where it should be well received thanks to its increased power and higher shot count – a unique combination.
The company’s flagship weapon continues to be the R10 and this has been given a masterful face-lift with two new stock versions – a black edition and a woodland one.
Simon adds: “I am immensely proud of what we are producing and the way our models are being received. We also intend to push the optics side of things more. Traditionally BSA optics have been seen as an add-on but, in the past few years, they have been developed as a third brand, which internationally has been very successful.
“When you look at the new models, the quality we continue to provide, our customer service and the backing we have from Gamo the future looks very bright… and exciting.”
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