BSA Improved Models B and D
Improved Mod D (1912) serial no. 50338
With thanks to Trevor M for these pics of this Sporting pattern IMD. He says of this rifle:
<b>"1912 Improved Model D, serial number 50338, caliber .22. Overall length 45.5” 1 hole trigger block.
A 21a aperture rearsight fitted on wood behind trigger block (single aperture) - (21b has triple hole) and normal rearsight.
Full pistol grip 141/4” chequered and oiled stock with steel butt plate. Cast trigger guard with adjusting screw.
Late pattern breech plug with small peg and locating index plunger and spring.
Clear IMD markings on air chamber - THE B.S.A. AIR RIFLE (IMPROVED MODEL D) THE BIRMINGHAM SMALL ARMS CO. LTD. ENGLAND SOLE MANUFACTURERS.
Piled arms trademark and 2 LOAD behind rearsight over pellet hole. Rearsight stamped RD460143. Side button release lever Pat 25783/10 on lever. Parker Hale foresight protector fitted. Narrow serrated trigger.
Marked PATD 3/4/06 on cocking lever. RD 479972 stamped under barrel. Side of tap plate stamped PATENT 8246/06.
New pair of springs and new piston washer. A powerful, consistent, elegant and accurate air rifle. VGWO&C.
Made March-Sept 1912, despatched April-Sept 1912."</b>
Improved Mod D Sporting (1912) serial no. 50665
This straight hand stocked rifle has lost its original side button lever catch block (which fixes to the underside of the barrel to receive the cocking lever) and a replacement has been made up. It's a little too long, meaning the lever doesn't quite close up parallel to the barrel.
BSA Improved model D in Canada
With thanks to Lakey.
Here is a fine B.S.A Improved model D that made its way to Canada. It features a straight hand stock, and has the second pattern bayonet cocking lever with strengthening fillets. It also features a BSA no.12 peep sight mounted into a milled out section of the trigger block. It has a number 10 rearsight, and so these attributes date this gun during the period early 1908 (serial number approx 19000) to October 1911 , when the side button cocking lever was introduced.
photo courtesy of Murray Gardner
Improved Mod D (1910) serial no. 30077
With thanks to Eddie.
This is an Improved model D from 1910/11 (shown despatched between February 1910, and May 1911). It has one or two interesting features, not least being the very good quality, and highly figured stock;
The gun also has a factory fitted no. 12 Aperture rearsight. These are a substantial unit, fitted by machining a pocket into the trigger block, and secured by a crossways pivot pin, with tension in the upright position being supplied by a flat spring. The eyepiece has a small "jib" spring insert in the side, which bears on the frame, thus keeping elevation settings constant once set. This model of sight is far more positive and secure than the stock mounted 21a as shown elsewhere, but has the slight disadvantage of not being adjustable for windage, so this adjustment has to be done on the foresight if needed. On any old BSA fitted with this sight, care must be taken to ensure the trigger guard screws (and all others) are secure, as a loose trigger block (or stock bolt) will adversely affect accuracy.
Sight in upright position;
Sight folded down;
Sight from above shown up to reveal main tension spring;
The foresight is also different from standard, being a combination hooded barleycorn / blade model 20 unit.
The rifle also has it's normal N0. 10 back sight, which can be used in conjunction with the foresight if required;
For some reason...a combination I would imagine of a very good bore, plus the long sight base provided by these "target" sights, this gun is the most accurate pre-war BSA I own. I use it in competitions, and at home for plinking, and it will shoot one hole groups with ease at 10-15 yards, and still perform well out past 35 yards...
Although I have a small collection of these "collectable" guns, they are all without exception used as often as possible, and If you are visiting this site and thinking "these are nice old antiques which would display well", you should also know that even though they are often over 100 years old, once checked and overhauled if needed (always a wise precaution) they are fine shooting, usable, precision guns that can still usually out-perform the person holding it!
Improved Mod D (1911-12) serial no. 47194
With thanks to Lakey.
Here is a nice example of an Improved model D Air Rifle in 'Standard' or 'Ordinary' length of 43 1/4", in No.1 Bore (.177)
The rifle is fitted with the No.12 aperture sight, which slots into its own milled out recess in the trigger block of the rifle.
The details of this rifles production batch are -
Period of Manufacture - Dec 1911-Feb 1912
Period of dispatch - Dec 1911-Oct 1913
The rifle is fitted with a walnut pistolhand stock featuring fine hand cut chequering at the pistolgrip and a metal butt plate
Another wonderful feature of this rifle is that the end of the pistol grip is marked with a retailers stamp for William Chalkley of Winchester in Hampshire. Chalkley was a fine taxidermist and also had a large hardware shop in the square in the centre of town. This rifle would have been sold from the hardware store.
In the picture above you can make out 'W Chalkley- Winchester'printed on the end of the pistolgrip
Here are left and righthand views of the triggerblock area, showing the serial number on the lefthand side, and the position of the No.12 sight on the trigger block (more about that later)
Here are two views of the trigger and trigger guard, with the trigger adjustment screw going through the front of the triggerguard. A small spanner was supplier with each rifle in order to adjust the trigger pull before locking off the screw with the small locking nut. Notice the fine trigger with the three deep grooves cut into its front surface for grip.The trigger guard is a cast component, and the back edge is formed into a round peg which locates into the triggerblock.
The famous legend 'BSA Air Rifle (Improved Model D)'was stamped into the cylinder of the gun. It now states that BSA were sole manufacturers of this rifle
Now we have several views of the breech area of the rifle. The BSA logo of the 'piled arms' can be seen between the load hole and the rearsight,and unfortunately sometime in the past some previous owner has knocked some dents into the metal around the load hole. The loading tap is secured by a keyhole shaped plate on the lefthand side of the breech, and the screws on this rifle are in fine condition.Notice the large headed screw on the righthand side of the breech. This is the pivot screw for the side button cocking lever.
Here are two views of the end of the side button cocking lever.
This rifle comes from a special batch of rifles. Here is what John Knibbs has to say about this particular batch of guns
Serial Number Range = 47030-47529
"All Standard (ie 43 1/4") .177 & .22. First recorded side button catch. Majority despatched Jan-Feb 1912"
So this rifle is one of the very first guns to be fitted with the MkII side button cocking levers. (Any older guns encountered with the MkII side button levers will have had their bayonet cocking levers replaced with new side button levers)
This rifle is fitted with the No.10 rearsight (standard rearsight for the Improved Model D rifle). You will notice that the sight has been bashed in the past as both sides of the elevation bar have been bent. The elevation bar is quite a thin guage bit of metal,so given the obvious damage to its corners, we are lucky that the bar hasnt fractured at the base of the deep 'V'
Sadly, as you can see from this picture, the foresight has lost its bead. The BSA foresight was quite a fragile area, and rifles are often encountered by collectors with the foresight bead missing. BSA designed several foresight protectors, which were an optional extra that could be fitted to try and protect the fragile bead.Rifles that are missing their foresight beads have slight tendency to shoot high at the given ranges marked on the rearsight.
One of the highlights of this rifle is that fact that it is fitted with the uncommon No.12 aperture sight fitted into the triggerblock of the gun. These sights could be purchased as an optional extra from BSA in several ways
(1) The sight could be ordered with the rifle at the time of purchase
(2) It could be retro fitted to a rifle with normal open sights - this would involve buying the sight and a new triggerblock. The new trigger block could either then be fitted at home DIY style or fitted by the local gunsmith
(3) Your gun could be returned to BSA for the No.12 sight to be fitted where they would mill out the guns existing trigger block to accept the sight.
Here are some pricing options (taken from a 1911 BSA booklet)
(a) Complete with new trigger block ..........................5/3 each
(small allowance made for old triggerblock ,if in good condition)
(b)When fitted at works to customers own rifle................6/- each
(c)When supplied on a new rifle with normal sights ...........4/6 extra
(d)when supplied on new rifle without open backsight..........3/- extra
The No.12 sight had plenty of elevation adjustment, by sliding the eyepiece up or down, but no windage adjustment - so any windage adjustment had to be made by moving the foresight right or left.
And two more shots of it in the folded position
Finally here is a shot of a large inspection marked stamped into the trigger block close to the trigger guard
Finally I hope you have enjoyed the pictures
Improved Mod D (1912) serial no. 50603
Thanks to Tony for permission to use these pics. It's a nice old 1912 mod D with a 21a peep sight and a rare foresight protector too.
From John Knibbs, the batch this rifle was part of is 50530-51029; period of manufacture July/Sept 1912; Period of despatch July 1912/ July 1913; Description of batch: all Standard length .177 and .22 models. Most despatched Sept-Oct 1912
Improved Mod D (1912) serial no. 50414
This lovely straight-hand stocked Improved mod D, in .22 cal, was once the property of the famous US collector Myron Kasok, whose collection was sold off in 2003 after his death. At that time it had a later pattern stock but has since been paired with an age-appropriate replacement. Apparently the rifle went from the UK to the US and then to New Zealand via Australia!
With gratitude, as ever, to Trevor Morris for permission to use these excellent pics.
The blurb Trevor uses on his Flickr site is:
<b>1912 BSA Improved Model D Sporting Pattern sn 50414
45 1/2" .22 calibre BSA Improved Model D Sporting pattern with 14 1/4" straight grip walnut stock and steel butt plate. Late pattern breech plug with small locating index plunger and spring. Side button lever release stamped Pat 25783/10. Rearsight stamped RD460143. Retaining plate stamped PATENT 8246-06 and PATD 3/4/06 under the cocking lever. Under the barrel is stamped RD479972 and closer to the breech end the number 795 which corresponds with the number on the end of the loading tap.
Made: March - September 1912, despatch period April - September 1912</b>
Improved Mod D Sporting (1910) serial no. 31493
This 'Sporting' pattern (45 inch) .22 cal Improved mod D has had quite a hard life, but has been kept in service due to the ingenuity of former owners. The front sight has a rather novel block pillar, with a fine bead screwed into the top. The rear sight blade and adjuster wheel are missing.
The cocking link has a hardened pin embedded at the end where it makes contact with the piston - to replace the original shoe. This fix seems to work well. I understand this was a known weak point of the vintage BSAs, but serious wear only occurred when the shoe end of the link wasn't properly lubricated.
The cocking lever catch block is a homemade replacement. This also does the job perfectly although it's a little too high and doesn't allow the lever to sit parallel to the barrel.
The straight hand stock is apparently not original to this rifle. It has the later type of stock bolt cover plug rather than a steel buttplate, which would be correct for a rifle of this age.
Improved Mod B (1907-8) serial no. 18720
John Knibbs says this rifle was part of a batch made between September 1907 and January 1908
and despatched between September 1907 and November 1908. He reports that the batch included
Standard and Light pattern Improved Mod 'B's and the first mod 'D'.
At a glance the inscription on the cylinder appears to read 'D' but a closer look shows it to
be a 'B' (well, I'm 99% sure it does, anyway!).
Improved Mod D (1911-12) serial no. 48899 (cased)
With many thanks to Matt for this impressive gallery of pics of his superb cased
Standard pattern Mod D, with sidelever catch cocking lever.
Note in particular the original "No.3" baize-lined BSA pine box, the factory-fitted
sling eyes, and the No. 20 folding sporting/target front sight. It also has a No. 8
peep sight that looks to have been very professionally fitted to the stock. The
cut-outs to allow it to fold flush against the stock's comb are very neat indeed.
Improved Model B (1907) serial no. 17741
With thanks to Eddie.
A gun in very good mechanical order, and retaining the original spring steel rear sight tensioner which is so often missing. Also has a period sight protector. Original BSA stamped spring set was in the gun when acquired. (this was a flea market find).
The finish was original in parts with minimal pitting,but had gone grey in areas, and this has been treated with Tetra bluing solution soaked in wire wool which was applied over all areas and has the effect of darkening light areas whilst leaving original areas pretty much alone.
Crisp trade mark stamping;
Improved Mod D (1906-7) serial no. 12163
At first glance this rifle seems to be out of sequence and therefore probably a 'bitsa' (with parts from more than one gun). But John Knibbs points out that while it was manufactured in a batch between December 1906 and February 1907, along with 5th batch BSAs, there were also "Improved models" in the batch and the rifles were despatched between December 1906 and April 1908. One was even apparently despatched in July 1913!
Rifles from this batch were still leaving the factory well after the first Improved Mod Ds were in circulation - Mr Knibbs says the IMDs were first despatched in a batch that left the factory from September 1907.
So although this rifle has features (ie. the breech plug locking mechanism) of much earlier BSAs, this is perhaps not inconsistent with having "Improved Model D" inscribed on its cylinder - as you might think given that the serial number precedes even the Improved Model Bs by a couple of thousand rifles.
The above is just one possible explanation for the puzzling anomalies present in this rifle. It may be wrong.
With thanks to a collector friend for letting me take these pics.
Improved Mod D (1911-12) serial no. 40641
Thanks to John M for these pics. In .177 cal. Note the No 21a Aperture sight. It also has factory fitted sling eyes to barrel, trigger guard and stock.
John Knibbs says it was made between March-May 1911 and despatched from the factory between March 1911 and Jan 1012, with most despatched in May 1911. (Thanks to Eric)
Improved Model B (1907) serial no. 16936
With thanks to Kevin for these pics of this very interesting (.177 cal) air rifle.
It bears the stamps of C Company of the Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment, which was officially formed in 1881 when the 100th [Prince of Wales's Royal Canadian] and the 109th Regiments of Foot [Bombay Infantry] were amalgamated... The Leinsters were disbanded in 1922 once the Irish Free State was established.
What do we know for certain about this air rifle? We know the rifle was made in July-September 1907 (according to John Knibbs) and despatched from the factory soon afterwards.
From the pictures we know it was sold in Calcutta. We know that the 2nd battalion of the Leinster regiment was sent to Calcutta in 1907, where it remained for some considerable time.
The small '2' stamped on the butt before 'Lein Regt' could well refer to this 2nd battalion.
There is mention of a 'C Company' of the regiment's 2nd battalion, which was sent to the West Indies in 1898, on this website:
Also (thanks to Google Books), in <i>The History of the Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment - Volume 1 By Lieut-Col Frederick Whitton</i>, the author mentions that after the deployment in the West Indies, followed by the Boer War in South Africa, the 2nd battalion returned, via Madras, to Calcutta in 1907.
From 1907, apart from some light duty preventing civil unrest (by striking white engine drivers at Asansol, north of Calcutta - most of them ex-servicemen), the battalion remained in India and (in 1909?) they were deployed to the Punjab for two years, before returning to Ireland before WW1.
Whitton describes snipe shooting, race meetings and other activities in some detail after the return to Calcutta, but unfortunately doesn't mention air rifle shooting (at least in the selected pages viewable in Google Books). He mentions that the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Kitchener, was in Calcutta at the same time.
During this period of relative leisure, it seems entirely plausible that the BSA air rifle formed part of the battalion's R&R. Or perhaps, as John M has suggested, it was used for pest control.
Given the craze for bell target shooting ongoing in England at the time (although many of the soldiers would have been recruited in Ireland), it perhaps wouldn't be surprising if officers posted to India were aware of the popularity of the sport and thought it healthy to encourage it in the ranks.
The 1st battalion of the Leinster Regiment was in Ireland and England, after returning for nine years from South Africa in 1902. In 1911 it was deployed to India and at the same time, the 2nd battalion returned to Cork in Ireland.
The 1st battalion also had a C Company, pictured here in about 1909:
<i>Taken from the website of The Leinster Regiment Association</i>
The retailer: Walter Locke and Co. was a well known gunmaker, based in Calcutta and with branches in other cities in what was then India.
A quick internet search throws up these pics of its premises at 4 Esplanade Row, Calcutta:
and Lahore (now Pakistan):
Here are scans from a 1923 Walter Locke catalogue (thanks to John M) which show the company continued to import BSAs between the wars (and bizarrely offered them in 'straight-hand' or 'pistol-hand' stocks, although these patterns were discontinued before WW1!):
Improved Model B (1908) serial no. 16775
With thanks to Tim of www.timdysonairguns.co.uk for these pics. His blurb for this rifle follows.
A rare BSA “Improved Model B” No 1 Bore (.177 Calibre) Air Rifle.
Serial Number 16775 which dates it to circa 1908.
This model has the straight hand stock which is hand checkered with the BSA piled arms trade mark to the left of the stock. The top of the cylinder is stamped “The BSA Air Rifle (improved model B, The Birmingham small arms company limited. sole manufacturers” The tap port plate is stamped “P.Pat 8246/06?. The underside of the under lever is stamped “Lincoln Jeffries Patent”. The under lever is the earlier pattern without the side fences.
This particular rifle is in very good original condition and retains most of its original blueing. It has worn in areas to a brown smooth patina but is mainly still dark grey/black colour. The stock which features a metal butt plate is also original with no splits or cracks. The rear sight looks to be non original but is a period one with a flip down element for differing distance shooting. The foresight is original. The rifle is fully functioning cocks and fires with no issues.
A good example of a scarce BSA Air Rifle
Improved Mod D (1913-14) serial no. S66792
With thanks to Dave for these pics. John Knibbs says this rifle was made between January 1913 and December 1914, with most despatches in Spring 1913.
The date places this example very close to the dividing line between the Improved Model 'D' and the Standard Model 2. It has all the improvements of the later model but was obviously produced before the identifying name change and before cylinder etching replaced roll stamping.
(With thanks to Lakey for the above description).
Improved Model D (1913-14) serial no. S69099
With thanks to John M for these pics of this extraordinary 'target' model, which is the highest serial number recorded for a rifle with a cylinder stamped "Improved Model D" - soon after this rifle was produced BSA switched to cylinder etching and changed the name to "The BSA Standard Air Rifle".
Note the no. 19 combination target foresight, the no.8 peep sight and that the no.21a sight was fitted backwards!
According to John Knibbs, the period of manufacture was June 1913-February 1914. It was despatched between June 1913-September 1915. Most of this batch were despatched in mid-1913. (Thanks to Eric)
Improved Mod D (1909-10) serial no. 26765
With thanks to a collector friend for letting me take these pics.