Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve been curious about the BSA Lightning XL Tactical ever since I laid eyes on it the first time. I mean, who wouldn’t be? This is one cool looking airgun.
First, there’s that highly sculptured synthetic stock, which the BSA factory website describes as “super-durable, all-weather, synthetic stock . . .” and further: “super-tough, totally stable, hi-impact polymer, warm to the touch and completely weatherproof.” All I know is that it has more swoops and curves than your average airgun, and it provokes in me the same kind of visceral reaction as the first time I saw an E-type Jaguar.
If that weren’t enough, at the other end — the business end — of the XL Tactical there’s this great honking Mondo silencer which stretches 10 inches long and is roughly 7/8-inch in diameter. It is truly a colossal silencer. Dare I say it? A Massive Moderator!
One of the things I’ve observed about American airgunners is that they tend to be crazy, mad nuts about silencers. Why? I suspect it is the “forbidden fruit syndrome,” that is, they crave most what they can’t have. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) regulates the possession of silencers for firearms. But here’s the thing: the pertinent Federal regulation is written in such a way that if you have a silencer that could be detached from your airgun and could be attached to a firearm, you must register it and pay a fee to legally possess it. Otherwise, if you are caught with such a silencer without the proper registration, you could be in Deep Trouble.
The BSA Lightning XL Tactical, however, neatly gets around this. Here’s how: the bull barrel silencer, or moderator, as some call it, is permanently attached to the barrel. You can’t remove it without destroying it. As a result, there is no chance of mounting it on a firearm and therefore no chance of running afoul of BATF. (The fact that spring-piston air rifles are generally pretty darned quiet doesn’t enter into it; the bull barrel moderator is just plain visually impressive.)
Let’s take a stroll around the XL Tactical which stretches 37.5 inches overall and weighs 6.6 pounds. At the back end, you’ll find a thick rubber recoil pad. Just ahead of that is a BSA logo molded into the buttstock and a stud below that for mounting a shoulder sling. The buttstock is indented underneath, and the cheek is clearly prominent on the left side of the stock with a nearly sharp edge on the right side.
The forward edge of the pistol grip is nearly vertical, and you’ll find a palm swell and an indentation for resting your thumb on the right side of the stock. There is even an indentation on the right side of the receiver cap that mates with the stock indentation. Moving forward, the trigger guard is molded into the stock. The trigger inside the guard is adjustable for second stage pull weight. There is a screw just aft of the trigger that helps to secure the action in the stock. Moving forward, the forestock has a cocking slot built into it, and there are two screws, one on either side of the stock, that hold the action in the stock.
Moving forward again, you’ll find the bull barrel moderator with another stud for attaching a sling. The moderator, or silencer, allegedly contains high-tech baffles, but I wasn’t able to look inside to see. Moving aft, you’ll discover the breech (this is a break-barrel springer; crank the barrel down to cock the action). Moving back again, there’s a rubber-mounted, anti-shock scope mounting rail with an anti-recoil lug at the aft end. Just below the scope rail, on the right side is a two-position safety lever: push it forward to fire, pull it back to put the XL Tactical on SAFE.
That’s it. The XL Tactical is a very simple air rifle. At the same time, it looks both purposeful and swoopy at the same time. If it doesn’t turn some heads at the range, start checking to see who has a pulse.
But, as the old hotrodder said: “show is one thing; go is another.” In my book, radical looks don’t mean a thing if they aren’t accompanied by worthy performance.
So, how does the XL Tactical shoot? We’ll find out next time.
‘Til then, aim true and shoot straight.