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The BSA SPORTSMAN & SUPERSPORT RIFLES


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These rifles do not, strictly speaking, come under the remit of this website. However, they represent such a significant part of British, and particularly BSA, small-bore rifle history that we could not fairly dismiss them without comment. We have already afforded space to three other notable BSA sporting .22 calibre rifles, including the earlier BSA slide-action or "pump-action" repeating rifles and the semi-automatic BSA Armatic rifle, and must cover the more prolific production of the Sportsman range. The third example is mentioned in a following paragraph.

The first 'Sportsman' rifle, introduced in 1947, was single shot, and effectively a Model No.3 rifle with modifications to the bolt-action, which rifle dated back to 1939.

The single-shot Sportsman model shown here has had the pressed steel barrel-mounted "V"-notch open rear-sight removed, and a Parker-Hale Model 16 aperture sight fitted to the receiver, and a PH FS22 tunnel fore-sight added.

It has obviously been converted for target shooting, which conversion has resulted in something of a 'poor man's BSA Century, perhaps showing a degree of foresight of another kind.

It is worth noting that the BSA Ralock semi-automatic sporting rifle, with its unusual radial action, was itself introduced in the last quarter of 1947. This was a busy year for the Birmingham Small Arms Company post-war; indeed it also saw the introduction of a new target rifle, the Model 12/15, which was a metamorphosis of the much earlier 'famous' Model 12 and pre-war Model 15 rifles.

Progression of the Sportsman range was unusually rapid. The Sportsman Five repeating model came onto the market but one year later, in 1948; this was the five-round box-magazine version.

Plans to increase ammunition capacity must have been on the drawing-board from day one, probably in view of the competition from the U.S.A., because the Sportsman Ten, with its tubular magazine under the barrel à la the ubiquitous Winchester, came into the fray just one year on, in 1949.

It took only until the following year for the tubular magazine capacity to be increased by fifty percent, with the supercession of the Sportsman Ten by the Sportsman Fifteen.

 

John Knibbs, in his comprehensive book of BSA civilian rifle production*, describes the Sportsman Fifteen as "perhaps the most successful .22 calibre sporting rifle ever produced by BSA".

He quotes the total production figures for the various models as follows:

Sportsman Single: 33,434 between 1947 and 1955

Sportsman Five: 58,534 between 1948 and 1955

Sportsman Ten: 9,854 between 1949 and 1950

Sportsman Fifteen: 53,247 between 1950 and 1955**

Supersport Five: 7,197 between 1955 and 1967

 

John Knibb's book is to be recommended to those who wish to research in greater detail, including engineering design, and particularly with respect to serial numbers and their relationship to production dates.

Click image for the full original size drawing of the Supersport Five

 

An approximate guide to the date of manufacture of a Sportsman or Supersport rifle

is afforded by the table below.

 

DATA TABLE - BSA SPORTSMAN .22 RIMFIRE RIFLES
BSA RIFLE MODEL
DATES of MANUFACTURE
SERIAL No.. PREFIX
Sportsman Single-Shot Bolt Action
1947 - 1950
J
Sportsman Single-Shot Bolt Action
1953 - 1955
J
Sportsman Single-Shot Bolt Action
1950 - 1951
JA
Sportsman Single-Shot Bolt Action
1951 - 1952
JB
Sportsman Single-Shot Bolt Action
1952
JC
Sportsman Single-Shot Bolt Action
1952 - 1955
JD
Sportsman FIVE Bolt Action
1950 - 1952
KA
Sportsman FIVE Bolt Action
1951
KB
Sportsman FIVE Bolt Action
1951 - 1952
KC
Sportsman FIVE Bolt Action
1951 - 1955
KD
Sportsman TEN Bolt Action
1949 - 1950
L
Sportsman FIFTEEN Bolt Action
1950 - 1954
LA
Sportsman FIFTEEN Bolt Action
1951
LB
Sportsman FIFTEEN Bolt Action
1951
LC
Sportsman FIFTEEN Bolt Action
1951
LD
Sportsman FIFTEEN Bolt Action
1951 - 1955
LE
Supersport FIVE Bolt Action
1955
S
Supersport FIVE Bolt Action
1955 - 1958
SA
Supersport FIVE Bolt Action
1955 - 1966
SB
Supersport FIVE Bolt Action
1966 - 1967
SC

 

* "BSA - The Golden Century" .............. see Bibliography

** Compare this figure with the total production of the Model 12/15 target rifle at 18,662 in the 8


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