BKL is back.
Who is BKL?
They burst on the scene in 1998 as a new American maker of airgun scope mounts and rings. Their rings were good-looking and unique in one respect-BKL claimed they would hold a scope on a recoiling spring-piston air rifle by clamping pressure, alone. That's where I came in.
I was publishing The Airgun Letter at the time BKL started making that claim, and I was contacted to test their best mount. It failed to hold a scope in place on a light-recoiling spring rifle, the Slavia 631, so I wrote in the December, 1999 issue that the new mount was for CO2 and pneumatic guns. I tested the mount by marking both the rifle and the mount with liquid paper, a white non-permanent marking substance, and after just 30 shots movement was seen.
However on pneumatics and C[O.sub.2] guns that don't recoil appreciably, the BKL mounts were fine. No scope stop is required on those.
A groundswell of support for BKL emerged on the internet, and soon I heard from shooters claiming they were using the mounts on springers with no movement. I retested the mount on another spring rifle, a Beeman R9 I was tuning. The R9 has more recoil than the Slavia, but still not bad. I tightened the scope base clamp screws so tight the rifle's mainspring was starting to bind inside the squashed spring tube, and the scope still moved.
And that was the last time I was asked to test them. BKL continued to add products to their line and the popularity of the line continued to grow. Then they brought out their six-screw model 260, the mount that delivered the ultimate in clamping pressure. It became one of their most popular models.
What happened to them?
A couple years ago it became apparent that BKL was having problems shipping product to dealers. Several dealers I know had huge backorders, but were unable to get product when they needed it.
Finally BKL closed their doors. They left a large and faithful customer base that loved their rings and mounts and just wanted to buy more. Used BKL mounts started appearing on the classified websites-homage to the popularity that refused to die. Scope mounts are not usually sold on these sites, except for BKL.
Last year rumors of their re-emergence started circulating and I was fortunate to know what was happening. Auto-Numatic Corp, the parent company that owns AirForce Airguns. was negotiating to purchase the company and all their designs. That purchase took place in December, 2008, and BKL mounts were shown in the AirForce booth at the 2009 SHOT Show.
After moving the remaining inventory to their Ft. Worth plant and setting up production tooling to make the BKL line again, the new owners built up inventory before approaching their dealer network. They wanted to ensure that any large orders for product could be met with zero delays.
Scope rings are pretty basic products. There's not a lot of innovation that can be applied to them--is there? Well, the folks at BKL felt there was, and they proceeded to design scope rings that perform differently than the rest. Let's look at how they differ. I will show you a cross section of a BKL scope ring and ask you to spot the significant difference between it and any other scope ring.
I bet you saw it. The post on the BKL ring has cutouts where the other ring is solid. And, when you think of the clamping force applied by tightening the screws at the base of the mount, you will realize that the "legs" on the BKL mount are free to flex inward just a little. Other scope mounts don't flex at all in this area. Tightening the screws just puts greater pressure on a separate base clamp jaw.
The BKL mount does not have a separate clamp jaw. Both of the base legs are pulled together as the screws are tightened. The clamping pressure comes from those two legs being drawn together. But that's not the only difference between BKL and all other mounts.
A lot of the time a BKL mount will not even fit the 11mm dovetails on the airgun, because its clamps are too close together. If and : when this happens it's really a good thing for the person mounting the scope, because it means the mount will clamp the dovetail tightly before any screw pressure is applied. Every mount has another hole or set of holes that the clamp screws can be installed in. That hole or holes is not to tighten the legs, but rather to spread them apart!
Broad tolerance issues
Mount makers cannot control how wide airgun manufacturers cut their dovetails that we nominally refer to as 11mm, but Dan Bechtel, the founder of B Square, and I conducted a year-long study in the mid-1990s to determine the actual widths of 11mm scope dovetails from as many manufacturers as we could. We found them to vary anywhere from 9.5mm to 13.5 mm. That's a very broad range for something that's supposed to be 11mm.
Different mount makers address this variance in different ways. Some make mounts that are specific to certain models of guns with dovetails of a known width. Other companies make separate base clamps that are reversible, so one side fits the narrow dovetails and the other side fits the wider dovetails. These mounts and rings do work, but most of the time they lean sideways, causing concern with many of their customers.
BKL does it differently. They make a standard size base clamp and provide the means to spread the clamp if the need arises.
Fits 3/8 dovetails, too!
Some foreign scope mount makers sell scope mounts to fit both 11mm and 3/8" dovetails. A true 11mm is .43307" in length, And a true 3/8" is .375". While those dimensions sound very different, in fact they are only a fraction of an inch apart, and, since the true sizes are almost never applied to manufactured items, they can be almost identical. Three-eights of an inch is 9.525mm.
It is in the best interests of scope mount manufacturers to fudge a little smaller on the 11mm side and a little larger on the 3/8" side, and before you know it, one mount fits all. That brings millions of .22 rimfires, Whose scope dovetails are nominally 3/8" into the same market for these mounts. No company is going to overlook that!
BKL found a size of jaw separation that allows them to fit most of the smaller and larger dovetails with a single mount base. They made the same screws that tighten the base clamps together also work in other holes to spread then apart, so the mounts also fit on very undersized dovetails.
Besides rings, BKL also offers riser bases that clamp to the narrow airgun and rimfires dovetails, but offer a Weaver-style base for Weaver rings. So airgunners who want the security of a Weaver-style ring can get it even if their rifle does not have the scope stop built in.
Who forgets a scope stop?
For many years airgun manufacturers were scrupulous in providing scope stops on all their spring-piston rifles. As unbelievable as it sounds, however, Starting in the late 1990s, some companies began introducing spring guns without any scope stop provisions.
The British firm of Webley & Scott offered several models of breakbarrel springers without scope stops for several years before they ceased making airguns altogether in the United Kingdom in 2006. So there are thousands of finely-crafted spring guns like the Birmingham-made Webley Tomahawk and Longbow with no sights and absolutely no provisions for keeping a scope mount in place. A mount like the BKL is their only hope.
Now that Chinese factories dictate airgun design to many manufacturers, we are seeing many more spring rifles without scope stops. So BKL has a growing market, as long as it really can hold those scopes. And the new company will concentrate on that, first of all.
The factory that now makes these mounts is heavily invested in modern CNC machinery that produces parts to critical tolerances time after time. If anyone can make a mount to hold a scope on a recoiling rifle with clamping pressure alone, these guys are the guys to do it. I will be testing several BKL mounts in the months ahead for this capability and I plan to write a feature article report on my findings.
They currently have traditional one and two-piece ring/mount sets for both 1-inch and the larger 30mm scope tubes. They also sell riser bases for those who need some extra height for their scopes. And they have cantilevered rings that extend either forward or back, to give the shooter a much broader range of mounting solutions.
The new BKL
By the time you read this column, BKL mounts should be available through traditional airgun retail channels. Their website went live in late June 2009, and they started taking direct orders off that site, as they quietly ramped up production to meet what is sure to be a large demand. Because these mounts also work on rimfires, you can expect to find them in the catalogs of the large sporting goods distributors, as well as in the better brick-and-mortar gun stores before long.
For more information, you can visit their website at www.bkltech. com. They will sell to you directly at email@example.com. Dealers can get information by calling 877-255-2001 weekdays between 8 and 5, Central.
My thanks to BKL for supplying sample mounts for testing, along with their trade show sample board for photography.
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|Title Annotation:||BKL scope and mounts are again available in the market|
|Date:||Oct 20, 2009|
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