Hatsan Hercules QE .45 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 1
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Big gun!
- .45 bullets and “pellets”
- 1000 cc reservoir capacity
- Onboard air gauge
- 250 bar fill
- Adjustable stock
- Adjustable trigger
- I shot the Hercules
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.