by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Hatsan BT65 QE
Hatsan BT65 QE air rifle

This report covers:

• How quiet?
• Stronger pellet trap
• Fills with a probe!
• First pellet — Benjamin domes
• Let’s talk
• You make the call
• Next up — the JSB Exact King pellets
• Beeman Kodiak pellets
• Bullets
• Trigger-pull

How quiet?
I felt like a new airgunner because I didn’t know what to expect from the .25-caliber BT65 QE air rifle. I was planning on taking it to the range the next morning, but if I could shoot it safely in my office without blowing out the windows, I could save some range time that was sorely needed for other tests. It all came down to just how quiet this Quiet Energy precharged pneumatic really was.

I had already tested Hatsan’s reviewed the AT44-10 Long QE and knew that it was very quiet, despite being reasonably powerful. But the BT65 QE is the most powerful smallbore rifle Hatsan makes. In fact, they are basing their big bore airguns on this very powerplant. So, by “quiet” do they mean in comparison to a 30-30, or do they really mean quiet?

I warned Edith what I was about to do, then closed the door to my office and touched off the first shot. Bravely I did not elect to wear hearing protection, because I really needed to know the answer.

While the BT65 is not stealthy, it is quiet. It makes about the same noise as a magnum spring rifle. So you may not want to shoot it in your backyard if your neighbors live close and are touchy; but if nobody’s home, then at 100 yards no one will know you’re shooting. I was able to shoot the entire velocity test in my office without hearing protection.

Stronger pellet trap
I did have to use my beefier pellet trap, though. This is a very strong Homemade pellet trap blog reader Jim Contos shared with us back in 2011. Whenever I shoot an airgun that develops over 30 foot-pounds in my office, this is the trap I use. It’s a quiet trap that’s similar to the Air Venturi Quiet Pellet Trap, and Jim showed us how to make this one for ourselves. The only reason I don’t use it all the time is because it’s smaller than my regular pellet trap.

Fills with a probe!
Before I could shoot the rifle, it had to be filled, which was when I remembered that all Hatsan PCPs fill with a proprietary Hatsan quick-disconnect probe instead of a more standard Foster quick-disconnect coupling. If you only own one precharged airgun, this is no problem, because your fill tank will always be set up for it, but I shoot dozens of different PCPs all the time and most of them now use the Foster quick-disconnect coupling. My fill hose had to be changed over to the Hatsan probe to fill the rifle. Fill pressure is 200 bar (2900 psi) according to the owner’s manual. But the manual also recommends filling to only 190 bar, and I discovered in this test that on my tank’s gauge the needle must stop at 180 bar for the optimum velocity.

First pellet — Benjamin domes
The first pellet I tested was the .25-caliber Benjamin dome. I selected this pellet because past testing showed it to be very accurate — a trait that isn’t shared by all .25-caliber pellets. This one is worth trying.

As I said, the first shot was a quiet surprise. But the reaction on the pellet trap wasn’t that quiet. Dust seal was blasted everywhere, as the quarter-inch pellet ripped in with the power of a .22 short. I wanted to see the power band, so here are the first 24 shots.

Shot   Vel.
1         915
2         919
3         925
4         933
5         919
6         940
7         933
8         946
9         950
10       954
11       964
12       968
13       967
14       960
15       964
16       959
17       955
18       957
19       940
20       943
21       934
22       919
23/24  718 (double feed)

Let’s talk
First observation. This rifle’s bolt has to be pulled back REALLY hard to cock the rifle. If you don’t do it right, you won’t cock the action but you will advance the circular clip, which sets you up for a double-feed. I doubt most men will be able to cock the BT65 while it’s still on their shoulder because this rifle has to be cocked very deliberately. I certainly could not do it. And that’s why shots 23 and 24 were a double-feed. Two pellets were fired at the same time on that shot.

Next, this string shows that the max fill pressure is not 3000 psi (207 bar). I hadn’t found that information in the owner’s manual yet, but the shot string plainly shows that the velocity is on the increase when it starts. That means the valve is partially locked, and the fill pressure has to be lower. After the last shot was fired, the air reservoir on the gun had 1,800 psi remaining.

You make the call
This is why you need a chronograph. Because you need to decide where you want the rifle to start in velocity, you need to know how high to fill it. My guess at this point was about 180 bar, but that’s debatable. Which shots would you want your rifle to have?

I like everything from shots 6 through 21. That is a total of 16 shots on one fill. But if you want to accept a different spread in the string, you’ll have a different number of acceptable shots on the fill. The choice is yours. Just know that you need a chronograph to make the choice.

That doesn’t mean that you must have a chronograph to own a PCP. Plenty of PCP owners don’t have chronographs and do just fine. They use their results on targets shot at long distance to determine where the best shots are. They just don’t know what velocity they’re getting.

If we take my string that starts with shot 6 and use the first 10 velocities, the Benjamin dome averages 955 f.p.s. That means this 27.8-grain pellet produces an average 56.19 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. Hatsan claims 52 foot-pounds for the .25, so they’re being conservative. That 10-shot string varies by 28 f.p.s. from the lowest to the highest.

Next up — the JSB Exact King pellets
Another great .25-caliber pellets is the 25.4-grain JSB Exact King. I shot another string with this one also starting with a 3,000 psi fill to confirm what I suspected about the power curve.

Shot        Vel.
1            915
2            922
3            933
4            936
5            942
6            944
7            952
8            958 (180 bar)
9            961
10          967
11          977
12          984
13          988
14          985
15          990 (158 bar)
16          994
17          990
18          991
19          992
20          980 (148 bar)
21          978
22          964
23/24     DNR (double-feed that didn’t record)

I stopped at shot 23/24 because the rifle was clearly falling off the power curve, and also because it was a double-feed. There might have been 1 or 2 more shots in the string. Do you notice that this string is similar to the first one, but not exactly the same? On this one, the gun comes on the power curve (in my opinion) at shot 8 and falls off at shot 23. That would be the same 16 good shots as with the first pellet, but perhaps I could have shot it a few more times at the end. The reservoir contained an identical 1,800 psi after this string.

If you take the first 10 shots from my chosen string (starting with shot 8 and running through shot 17) with this pellet, the average muzzle velocity is 979 f.p.s. That give us a muzzle energy of 54.07 foot-pounds. Again, the test rifle exceeds the stated muzzle energy.

Beeman Kodiak pellets
Next, I tried the 31-grain Beeman Kodiak pellet. This time I only filled the rifle to 180 bar, so I knew there would be fewer shots. The first shot was a double-feed and shot 3 was below the curve at 906 f.p.s., but shots 4 through 13 registered a low of 920 f.p.s. (shot 13) and a high of 935 f.p.s. (shot 7). This power curve was much steeper and shorter, giving only 10 good shots on a fill. I might have squeaked a couple more out of the gun with this heavy pellet, but the velocity went up and then down again pretty fast.

The 10 shots that I did record gave an average of 927 f.p.s. That works out to a muzzle energy of 58.17 foot-pounds. That will be very close to the maximum this rifle will deliver, for the Kodiak pellet just fits in the circular clip. But I had one more thing to try — a 72-grain bullet that I cast. This bullet is for the 25-20 WCF, but it’s fairly light at a nominal 65 grains. Mine weigh 72 grains because the alloy has more lead and less tin.

Bullets
This bullet does not fit into the rifle’s clip as it drops from the mold, and my bullet sizer only takes it down to 0.258 inches, which is still too large. Perhaps a 0.256 inch bullet might work? Tin Starr bullets is working on a lighter bullet for me to try later. If it works, I’ll test the energy for you.

Trigger-pull
The trigger-pull of the BT65 is clean and crisp. Stage 2 breaks at 2 lbs., 15 oz. out of the box, which is ideal for a sporting air rifle of this power. I adjusted it down to 1 lb., 10 oz, but then stage 2 became less positive. As this release weight is too light for my tastes, I adjusted it back to the factory setting for the rest of the testing.

I think the BT65 lives up to its advertising so far. I can’t wait to see how well it does at 50 yards!