Hatsan Hercules QE .45 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Hatsan Hercules 45
Hatsan Hercules QE .45 caliber big bore rifle.

This report covers:

  • Big gun!
  • Description
  • .45 bullets and “pellets”
  • 1000 cc reservoir capacity
  • Onboard air gauge
  • 250 bar fill
  • Adjustable stock
  • Adjustable trigger
  • Barrel
  • Sights
  • I shot the Hercules
  • Sound
  • Evaluation

Big gun!

I’m starting a report on the Hatsan Hercules QE .45 big bore air rifle. First let me observe that this rifle is BIG. And I mean big in all ways. It’s 48.4 inches long and weighs 13 pounds before a scope is attached. I was surprised by that number, so I put it on a balance beam scale, and the rifle I am testing came to exactly 13 lbs.

The Hercules rifles come in the following calibers: .22, .25, .30, .357 and .45. Some of the specifications like magazine capacity differ by caliber (the .22 magazine holds 14 pellets), but the length and weight remain the same throughout the range.

Description

The .45 Hercules is a 7-shot bolt-action repeater. Unlike any big bore air rifle I have tested in the past, it only accepts “pellets” made specifically for it — though I do plan to investigate that. I have some 160-grain .45 bullets that were made for Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS), when they want to keep the recoil to a minimum. They do seem to fit in the magazine, so we shall see. If they work, they will be an option.

.45 bullets and “pellets”

Hatsan 169-grain “pellets” are actually solid lead bullets that are unlubricated, which is correct for an airgun. They resemble the CAS bullets mentioned above, except the package says they are 0.454-inches in diameter. That is not a firearm bore diameter today, though it was a century ago. I measured them with a dial caliber and they came out exactly 0.454-inches. The CAS bullets are 0.4525-inches, so they may not fit the bore very well. However, shooters who cast their own bullets can leave them unsized and they will probably be right on.

Hatsan Hercules 45 bullets
Other than being sized differently and lubricated, the CAS bullets on the right look identical to the Hatsan “pellets” on the left.

Pyramyd Air sells an Air Venturi “pellet” that’s 166 grains. It’s a semi-wadcutter so it might fit the mag, but it’s sized 0.457, which is a little too large for the bore. I don’t know whether it will fit or not. I will test the Hercules with the “pellets” Hatsan sent me and also with the CAS bullets.

1000 cc reservoir capacity

The Hercules has two air reservoirs — one in the forearm and the other in the butt. Together they hold 1,000 cc of air, which I believe is the record for a big bore. Obviously you won’t want to fill this one with a hand pump! The Pyramyd Air description even says that.

That reservoir under the forearm (actually just a plastic shield) makes the forearm feels extremely wide. In every dimension the Hercules makes me feel like I have picked up daddy’s gun. Thank goodness there is a Picatinny rail on the underside of the forearm, where a bipod can be mounted. There are also sling swivels permanently attached to the rifle when it comes from the box.

Onboard air gauge

There is an air gauge built into the underside of the gun. With it you can watch the status of the fill, which with a big bore is very important, because they go through air pretty fast.

The standard Hatsan fill probe fills the rifle, but there is a spring-loaded cover in the right side of the receiver to keep dust and dirt out. That’s a great feature.

250 bar fill

The Hercules fills to 250 bar, which is 3,626 psi. I think you will have to have a carbon fiber air tank to fill this rifle, and if you get the .45, I think that tank needs to be as big as you can get. That’s why I linked to the 98 cubic foot tank, which is the one I plan using when I test the rifle at the range.

Adjustable stock

The pull measures 14-3/4-inches as it comes, and the stock pull can be adjusted out an additional inch for larger shooters. The buttpad also adjusts up and down and rotates slightly to get the right eye alignment with the scope. There are also two different combs to adjust the height of the face on the stock. My assessment is the Hercules will fit bigger shooters best, and for them there are many ways to dial the fit in to suit your needs. I don’t think smaller shooters (those under 5 feet 8 inches with 32-inch arms or less) are going to fit this rifle as well

Adjustable trigger

There are two trigger adjustments. One is for something the manual calls “travel,” which I believe means the length of the first stage pull. The trigger definitely is two stage and stage two should never have movement in it. The other adjustment controls the weight of the letoff. Since this is a big bore I will not try these adjustments until I go to the range.

The safety is manual, giving the shooter complete control of the rifle. That’s how every airgun should be designed.

Barrel

The barrel is 23 inches long, but it’s shrouded because this is a Quiet Energy rifle. The shroud sticks out beyond the muzzle by another 5-3/4-inches. The shroud isn’t baffled, but it is packed with sound deadening material.

Sights

The Hercules does not have open sights. Some kind of optical sight needs to be mounted. The top of the receiver is both an 11mm and a a Weaver/Picatinny dovetail. Weaver and Picatinny rails differ in the width of their cross slots. Weaver slots are 3.5mm and Picatinney slots are 5mm. This rail will accept both.

I shot the Hercules

At the 2017 Texas airgun show I had the opportunity to shoot a .45 Hercules a few times at silhouette targets 100 yards away. That opportunity afforded me an advanced look at the rifle. I noticed that I could see the bullet in flight and it looked like it was traveling in the low 700 f.p.s. range to me. The rifle is rated at 810 f.p.s. with 256 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. I don’t know what bullet produced those numbers. I shot it 3-4 times and someone had shot it before me, so I think there will be at least a magazine’s worth of shots on a fill — maybe more. And, I can tell you from that brief exposure that the Hercules .45 is not that loud.

Sound

Pyramyd rates the discharge noise at a 4 on their 5-point scale. As I recall when I shot it back in August, it wasn’t that loud for a big bore. It’s no backyard airgun for the suburbs, but I don’t think you will need hearing protection when shooting outdoors.

Evaluation

The Hercules is a very different airgun and, as a big bore, it’s different from anything I have ever tested. This should be fun.

63 thoughts on “Hatsan Hercules QE .45 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 1


  1. B.B.,

    Now that’s a Big Rifle. 13 pounds and a little over 4 feet long. Aptly named Hercules because if you are going to carry one around you are going to need the muscles.

    Siraniko

    PS. Section Onboard air gauge
    First sentence of the Second paragraph, “The standard Hatsan fiull (fill) probe …”


  2. G’day BB
    “On the other hand, while it might be very desirable if a big bore elephant rifle were extremely heavy (around 20 pounds for example) to help moderate its ferocious recoil, a rifle that heavy very quickly becomes a burden to carry in the field and handles with ponderous slowness. It’s just too heavy for general purposes. Sadly, 12 to 13 pounds probably represent the maximum practical weight of even a very powerful rifle for most hunters”….by Chuck Hawks.
    With a big scope and bipod it certainly qualifies as a heavy “big game” rifle.
    Cheers Bob


  3. Very interesting. This will be a fun one to watch progress. Hat’s off to Hatsan for adding thoughtful features. All of the adjustability at the back is super nice. The shroud? looks to be like the Marauder in which the outer tube unscrews from the breech to expose the barrel and the muzzle end looks to have a cap that unscrews. From B.B.’s description though, it does not appear to have baffles like the M-rod. Wow!,.. on the weight. Long LOP is nice and adjustable to boot. Mine are all 15 1/4~15 3/4″.

    Good day to one and all,.. Chris




      • B.B.,

        Sorry for my bad manners. Thank you for thinking of me and yes,.. a picture would be nice.

        A quick re-read after work caught 13# (before) scoping. Add 2# for a big scope. I give Hatsan a lot of props,.. quite often,.. on being innovative,.. but I think they got it wrong on the weight on this one. The adjustability of the rear, from what I assume is a slip on over a tank,… I think is very innovative.

        Chris



          • GF1,

            I don’t know. I think that if I was into long range and power, a Texan would be high on the list weighing in at a pre-scoped 7.6# with a bunch more power in .45. 100 yards and .25 is probably my wallet’s and common sense/sensibility limits. Then again,.. both of those have been known to “go out the window” on occasion. 😉


            • Chris
              Trust me. Really weight helps bench resting.

              Every time I hear about this weight thing with a air gun. It reminds me of the USA feild target team. One of the team members uses a modified Diana 54 Air King that has been modified into a bullpup. And again if memory serves me right. That gun was above 13 pounds ready to shoot.

              I really think this Hercules gun will perform. Weight and legnth should be a friend to the shooter. I could be wrong about all of this. But what I have seen it helps when bench resting.


              • GF1,

                Well then,.. that settles it! If a little more weight is good,.. then more HAS to be better (secret modders code) right? I have a 4 foot piece of 8″x8″ treated lumber in the shed. I figure that ought to be good for an added 40#. Add 10# for the M-rod and I ought to have a 100 yard “ringer”,.. right?. Now,… do I use Gorilla tape?,.. or perhaps some ratchet straps? Silicone? What “hold” will I use? How will I carry my new killer creation? These are questions that MUST be answered!!!!

                🙂 ,…. out’a here. aka: Da’ Grazz Hoppa


                • Chris
                  You got to build you one of those roll around carts and mount it on it.

                  You wheel it into position and aim it at your target. Don’t block the wheels though. Then tie you a string to the trigger and pull strait back.

                  Maybe that would be the ultimate artillery hold.
                  😉


  4. BB,

    Very aptly named air rifle. Who else would be able to lug this air rifle around all day? I thought my HM1000X was heavy.

    It will be interesting to see what this will do at 100 yards.


    • R.R.,

      If it shoots a .45 caliber “pellet” out of the muzzle at around 700 fps, how much energy will it have after traveling 100 yards? I ask because I assume these will be purchased to hunt medium-sized game. How much penetration might there be at that distance through thick hide, muscle, and bone?

      Michael



      • Michael,

        My HM1000X pitches a .357 81 grain pellet downrange with enough force that it still has about 60 FPE at 100 yards. This pop gun will have considerable force. My concern will be accuracy. Mine will produce a one inch CTC five shot group at 100 yards. Let’s wait and see what this thing will do.



          • GF1,

            All of the above.

            These air rifles are pretty much the cream. This company is an offshoot of Theoben. This rifle is factory tuned to shoot the JSB pellet with accuracy being the goal. It will produce more power, but that can be detrimental to accuracy.


            • RR
              And the velocity thing is probably the big ticket.

              I see that with my multi-pump guns. You find that right velocity and it seems they tighten right up. Well for the most part anyway.


        • RR,

          Do that (repeated basis) and maybe even some target pictures and I would have to give that gun of yours (the model) a REAL serious look. No joking. Dead serious.

          I got 13/16″ with 7 of 10 at 100 with the .25 M-rod ONE time and have never done it since. 2 1/2″ to 3 1/2″ for 8 on average,.. which I hear ain’t half bad as 100 goes.

          Looking forwards to when you can shoot it a bunch more and let us know how it does.


  5. B.B.,

    I don’t need to add another comment about this air rifle’s weight, but perhaps the heft is not entirely bad. Folks always describe the benefits of PCP’s lack of recoil (although they of course must recoil, physics and all) compared to springers. But I’ve watched videos of really big big bores shoving the shooter backwards as if they were large caliber firearms. Maybe a fully-dressed 15 pound Hercules will have less of that.

    Michael


  6. Wow, should be interesting! I am really looking forward to this series. While the price range is quite different, would you include your thoughts on how you feel this compares with what I think is the industry standard big bore, the Bulldog? A bit apples and oranges but up till now the Bulldog has been the only big bore I’ve seriously considered. Not that I need a big bore, but that’s just between you and me!

    Also noticed that PA does list .177 as an option, but I would have to ask anyone choosing that “WHY?!”


  7. Off topic, but could one of the PA web gurus look into why the blog is not pulling Gravatar avatars into the blog? It really does help me follow some of the discussion threads better. Also, I’ve developed a lot of respect for some of my fellow readers who know way more than I do and sometimes look for their comments specifically and the avatar helps. Thanks, B.B. and friends!




      • B.B.
        I have had an issue for a while now regarding the “comments RSS”. I have it bookmarked to my favorites toolbar. I open the feed to view the unread comments and I click on ones colored blue which have not yet been viewed. I normally open the comment in a new tab so I don’t lose my place. When I do that I am often not presented with the comment I clicked on but further up the comments. Then I have to make note of the time stamp and scroll down the page until I find that time stamp. Sometimes it works correctly but most often not. I don’t know if this is something the other posters have experience or not. I try to keep up with all of the comments posted everyday.
        Geo


        • Hi Geo,

          For me following the feed works fine, from time to time when I open in a new tab it takes me to the wrong place but I find if I close that tab and re-open from the feed I land in the right place. Give that a try.

          Mike


          • Mike
            Nope, that doesn’t work for me either. Sometimes I land on the right comment and then most often, not. It may have to do with the fact that I use Firefox as my browser. It wasn’t always like this though so something has changed from a few months ago when it was working correctly.


  8. The dual opposed tanks reminds me of a old idea I had. A spring in the front and a spring in the buttstock. Both coming together to propel the pellet. Alla Whiscombe style. I thought a rack and pinion could compress both springs with one lever. Probably not practicable or possible.


    • Coduece,

      I can imagine it could be done. It would have to remain a steel dream though. Although I can imagine that the weight would also help minimize the recoil (about 12 pounds based on the estimated weight of two Tx MkIII actions), the distance traveled by both pistons before they meet and propel the pellet would mean a longer lock time. That would be a bow fit for Hercules to cock.

      Siraniko


      • Siraniko,
        The days of seeking more power from springers seems to have peaked with the advent of pcp airguns. That was just an old idea I had still rattling around. And yes that was my thought too due to rack and pinions not giving good mechanical advantage I would suggest naming the gun Atlas.


    • How about this? 1 cock for one spring and another to cock the second spring. Option to shoot on either 1 spring or 2. Timing might be interesting to release sears at exactly the same time.
      Would also work for a side by side like the old big game guns. Might need 2 triggers for that.

      Silver Eagle


      • Yes I definitely think there are different ways to do this. Initially I thought by having them directly opposed and the columns of air rushing together there might be a beneficial affect. And also the trigger system it would probably have to borrow from a bull pup design only with two sears to disengage. It’s all mental floss.


  9. The Hercules is an interesting piece of technology with some good features.

    I like that it comes with sling mounts and supports a variety of accessory mounting configurations. Bonus that there is an extra magazine and that the magazines are of a simple, robust design that mounts in the receiver rather that sticking out the top and interfering with the scope mounting.

    As best as I could determine, the Hercules is unregulated which IMHO is a major deficiency for a rifle that gulps large amounts of air at every shot. I am curious what the velocity spread would be over a whole fill and how many useable shots there are.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Hank


  10. My only other thought is there is quite a bit of front tank exposed, and with a gun this heavy dropping it could have some potentially serious consequences. Although I’m sure smarter people than I have thought this through and drop tested it.


  11. A general question if I may ask…

    My (limited) perspective is that air rifles (.177 to .25 and maybe .30 caliber) are ideal for target shooting, plinking, pest control and small to medium (raccoon) sized game and they are economical to shoot.

    What is the attraction of these big bore air rifles?

    Agreed that big bores air rifles can be used to take large game but why not just use a powder burner? At 225 FPE the .45 caliber Hercules has 1/8th the FPE of a 30-30 and 1/12th of a 30-06.

    Just curious what the advantage or application is for these larger calibers, there is obviously a market for them.

    Thanks in advance,

    Hank


    • Hank,

      Good question. What’s the attraction of a big bore?

      First, I think it’s just the fact that it can be done. You can push a heavy bullet using just air. That fascinates some people, including me.

      As far as the power goes — don’t compare big bore air rifles to firearms. Compare them to bows, because they work the same way. They kill through blood loss — not hydrostatic shock.

      Why do some hunters use a flintlock when a centerfire rifle is better in many ways? Same reason — because they can and because it works.

      B.B.



      • Right – the WOW factor. 🙂

        I can see that. Have to admit that casting my own bullets for a big bore would be a lot of fun. Guess I am looking for a way to justify the cost of one of these brutes.

        …hmmm, I have a Hastings 12 GA fully rifled barrel (about .610 caliber), could rig up a valve and hook it to my scuba tank to make a test bed. This has possibilities 🙂

        Have a great day BB.

        Hank


    • Hank
      If one is located in an area where firearms would not be allowed because of the proximity of houses and buildings, one of these big bore airguns would be an ideal alternative, similar to a crossbow. There is a nice little wooded lot behind my house which has houses on all four side within 500 feet. I would be very uncomfortable with someone out there with a firearm hunting deer whereas an airgun would be safe to use in most cases. One would still have to be mindful of the background though. I don’t think most people know that a 30-06 could kill someone three miles away if the trajectory was just right.


      • Geo791,

        That is a good point. A powder burner bullet will carry its energy a long way where an air rifle bullet/pellet has a shorter range. We have areas where deer hunting is limited to shotguns or archery equipment for that exact reason.


  12. Seems like you could put a swivel mount on this one and mount it in the bow of your boat 🙂 If you had a wooden rowboat, you could tell people that it was a model of Lewis’s air gun. They might believe you 🙂


  13. The 11mm. / P-W rail is interesting. The 11mm. would only allow partial clamp contact due to the notches. Maybe OK on a PCP, but beware if this design shows up on a powerful springer and you plan to use 11mm. rings. My single straps are 3/4″ wide and my 2 straps are 1″ wide. All 4 screws per cap. All P/W type.


    • Chris
      I’m pretty sure this gun BB is reviewing is going to have some serious push when it fires.

      Yep a different recoil than a springer. But I think I would still go with the Picatinny and Weaver ring for the scope on this gun.

      And about the shroud. I had a Hatsan 44 QE. It used the wadding type baffle that BB is talking about with this gun BB is testing. The QE I had was quiet. Mine was a .177 so a different discharge shot pressure compared to today’s test gun. But still it did do a good job of keeping it quiet.

      Also I just wanted to bring this up real quick before I forget. Today’s test gun does remind me alot of a FX model dual air bottle big bore they have that people use in long range bench rest competition.


    • Correction on the ring comment,… the M-rod and Maximus are sporting 11mm rings and the LGU and TX200 are sporting P/W type atop drooper mounts. The Benjamin 11mm rails are cut much deeper and far superior in my opinion.


  14. Tom:
    Just an insignificant correction to your list of calibers that the Hercules comes in.
    In addition to those stated in your review, it also comes in .177 caliber (or at least it used to?).
    I know this for a fact as, being an obsessive compulsive purchaser of many airguns, I own the Hercules in all six calibers – .177, .22, .25, .30, .35, and .45!
    ~ deerflyguy


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