Hatsan Hercules QE .45 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

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

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Magazine problem
  • Relative size
  • .Magazine works fine
  • Filling
  • Lots of shots
  • Hatsan bullets
  • Power
  • Cocking
  • Useful power?
  • Cowboy Action bullets
  • Use of air
  • Trigger pull
  • Evaluation so far

Today I will test the velocity and power of the new Hatsan Hercules .45 caliber big bore air rifle. Because this is a big bore, I have to take it to a range to test the velocity. No shooting big bores inside my office!

Magazine problem

I actually had the rifle out for testing a couple weeks ago, but at that time I was unable to load any of the bullets Hatsan provided into one of the 7-round circular magazines. That ended that test. I was actually testing three other things that day, so I didn’t spend any time looking into the problem, but after talking to Hatsan about it online I tried the other magazine that came with the rifle and it worked fine. Apparently I just got one bad magazine.

Relative size

I took a picture of me holding the Hercules while I was out the first time because several people asked about the relative size of the 13-lb. rifle. I told you the weight last time but didn’t have a way of showing the size. I hope this helps.

Tom holds Hercules
This picture shows the relative size of the Hercules. I am 5’11”.

Magazine works fine

The other 7-round circular magazine works fine. The bullets press in tight, but smooth. They go in on the side of the magazine that has a short projection in its center. That is the back of the mag.

Hercules magazine
Once I found the mag that accepted the Hatsan bullets, loading went well.

Filling

I do have a complaint about the fill port that’s located on the right side of the rifle. It is covered by a spring-loaded shutter to keep dirt out. That’s good, but the shutter is under so much tension that I was not able to open it to insert the fill probe. I had to use a pocket knife to pry back the shutter to insert the probe. When I wanted to remove the probe I had to pry the shutter back again with my knife, or it would snap into an o-ring groove (shown in the picture) and stay there until I pried it back with my knife.

Hercules fill port
The fill port is covered by a spring-loaded shutter (arrow) that has to be pried open to insert the probe. When you remove the probe the shutter snaps into the o-ring grooves until it is pried back.

Lots of shots

You may recall that the Hercules gets filled to 250 bar (3,626 psi) and holds 1,000 cc of air, so there are plenty of shots available. In fact, I believe it holds the record for the most shots on one fill of all big bore air rifles. I was not able to test the total number of shots on one fill because Hatsan sent me just one box of bullets (45 bullets in a box), but I did get a good idea of the power curve that will help us determine how many shots pretty close.

Hatsan bullets

The first string I shot was with Hatsan bullets. You will recall from Part 1 that they weigh 169 grains and are sized 0.454-inches in diameter. The magazine holds 7 rounds, but I had several that didn’t register through the chronograph, so I ended up with an 8-shot string from the results of two 7-shot strings. I refilled the rifle after each magazine in today’s test, but discovered that it was still holding 2,800 psi after 7 shots, so there were probably another 7 shots on each fill — at least. However, the velocities I am reporting are all from the first 7 shots after the fill.

The start screen of the chronograph had to be placed 8 feet from the muzzle. The blast of air that was condensing to vapor at the muzzle was setting off the start screen when I tried to shoot any closer.

Power

Eight shots with Hatsan bullets averaged 764 f.p.s. Given the weight of the bullet, that works out to 219.09 foot pounds at the muzzle. The low was 749 f.p.s. and the high was 775 f.p.s. If I was to shoot another 7 shots on the same fill I think most of the 14 shots, if not all, would be above 700 f.p.s.

Cocking

The Hercules is a sidelever. The lever is located on the right side of the action and comfortably far forward. It takes a good amount of effort to cock the rifle. I tested this on my bathroom scale and got between 60 and 65 lbs. of effort required to cock the gun. The scale needle bounced around too much to be more accurate than that. I know it is over 60 lbs. for certain. Cocking also advances the magazine, which happens near the end of the stroke and feels like the hardest part of the cocking stroke.

I also noticed this hard cocking when I shot the Hercules at the Texas Airgun Show this year. At the time I thought I was fighting a powerful striker spring, but now I think it’s the mechanism that advances the circular mag. I also think it will break in to some extent as the rifle is used, so a couple pound reduction may be possible.

Hercules magazine
The 7-shot magazine sticks out to the right. Rotation is clockwise from the shooter’s perspective. The arrow points to the front of the cocking lever.

Useful power?

Two-hundred plus foot-pounds is sufficient for larger small game like coyotes and javalinas. As long as the accuracy is there I think the Hercules would work well. It will also drop a feral hog, but I would have a large-caliber sidearm for backup, just in case. Feral pigs can be nasty!

Cowboy Action bullets

If you are going to shoot a .45 Hercules you are going to want to shoot it a lot. Let’s face it — there aren’t many repeating big bores on the market and none that hold 7 rounds. Those Hatsan bullets are a bit pricy, at over $30 for a quantity of 45 (not sold by Pyramyd Air). Pyramyd Air has a .45-caliber semi-wadcutter that weighs 166 grains and looks similar to the Hatsan bullet. These are ten dollars less for 50 bullets, but they are sized to 0.457-inches and I don’t know if they will fit. However, you really want to go crazy, the Cowboy Action Shooters (CAS) bullet makers have several similar bullets that sell for under $50 for 500.

I happened to have a small supply of CAS bullets on hand. They are sized 0.4525-inches, so no telling how accurate they are (until I test them), but I wanted to see what the velocity is. I have even fewer of these bullets, so the test was limited to just 7 rounds, of which 5 registered on the chronograph. You may wonder why I can’t hit the skyscreens, but the Hercules has no sights, so I’m hipshooting it through the chronograph skyscreens.

Hercules CAS bullets
Except for the lubrication and the slightly different size, these Cowboy Action Shooting bullets are identical to the Hatsan bullets.

Those five shots averaged 776 f.p.s. These bullets weigh 160 grains, so they generate 213.99 foot-pounds at 8 feet from the muzzle. The low was 760 and the high was 788 f.p.s., and again this was on a full fill.

Use of air

I said you get a lot of shots on one fill of the Hercules, and indeed you do. Just remember — every time you fill this rifle its reservoir holds 1,000 cc of air! By the end of this test — just 21 shots — my 98 cubic foot carbon fiber tank had dropped from full to 3,500 psi. Plan on using a lot of air!

Trigger pull

To offset the heavy cocking, the Hercules has a fairly light and crisp single-stage trigger. I measured the break at 6 lbs. But I was restraining the cocking lever with my other hand to not discharge air while measuring it, so it’s probably lighter.

Evaluation so far

The Hatsan Hercules is a unique big bore air rifle — that’s for sure! It’s large and heavy, but it’s also a 7-shot repeater. I don’t like the shutter over the fill port, but the trigger is quite nice.

I will be very curious to see how we do in the accuracy test. At the Texas show I fired a magazine’s worth of shots and was connecting at 100 yards, but the targets were large silhouettes. I am excited to see just how accurate it is when I have the rifle all to myself.

42 thoughts on “Hatsan Hercules QE .45 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 2

  1. 60 to 65 lbs of cocking effort? I do chinups with my 180 lbs weight so my arm and back muscles are probably strong enough, but I am not certain the 2 or 3 fingers that would fit on the cocking lever are strong enough or that my pain tolerance for such a high force upon such a small area is high enough.


  2. BB
    Two questions.

    Did the gun have a heavy push when it fires?

    And just for reference. Did you test how many pounds it took to cock the AirForce Texan. Curious now after hearing what the Hercules cocked like.


  3. BB,

    That is definitely a big honker. I have been considering another big bore, but I was thinking of something a little lighter. I know this will grab some people, but I do not see one making reservations at RidgeRunner’s Home For Wayward Airguns.


  4. I read this almost every day, but I don’t usually have much to say. But if you guys want a laugh this morning, when I first read this
    “I was not able to test the total number of shots on one fill because Hatsan sent me just one box of bullets (45 bullets in a box)…”
    the first thought through my head was that he had more than 45 shots on a fill. That’s amazing! 🙂

    Hey, it’s early.


    • Cap,

      No, I don’t think there are that many, but there are a lot. How many depends on your criteria. Some shoot until the sound of the discharge changes. They will get the most shots. Some shot until the f.p.s. spread gets to a certain point. Their count will be less. And some shoot until the groups start growing. They get the fewest of all.

      B.B.


      • BB,
        After a cup of coffee or two I would have known that there wouldn’t be nearly that many, especially if you wanted to hit anything. I just had a laugh at myself and wanted to share it.

        Thanks for the blog BB, I always enjoy it.



  5. B.B.,

    I’m glad you included the photo of you shouldering the Hercules. It makes the rifle look more attractive than do the photos of it simply floating, without any real world context. It still is clearly big!

    169 grain bullets coming out of the muzzle at 764 fps. Hmmm. 219 foot-pounds is a lot of power, but I wonder how much deformation there would be with a solid projectile at that velocity. I wonder the same thing about air rifles like Hatsan’s 135 in .30, with a muzzle velocity of 550 fps. with a 44 grain pellet.

    I’m not a hunter, but in the field, might a 105 grain bullet leaving the muzzle at 975 fps. produce a more deadly wound?

    Michael


  6. Since you mentioned airguns and feral hog hunting, I watched an interesting YouTube video last weekend:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jejT_DOIgO4

    This guy used a GAMO Whisper in .22 caliber to harvest two pigs with humane brain shots. He also limited his shots to about 20 yards, but no further. One does not need a large bore airgun to dispatch these intrusive species. HMMMMMM. Bacon and BBQ ribs will be on the menu.

    Bob


    • Bob,

      Gamo has done an incredible and irreversible discredit to the airgun community by showing wild pigs being killed with smallbore airguns. Would you hunt wild pigs with a .22 short? Well, the airguns they used are less than half as powerful.

      Gamo will never recover their image of a sporting goods company.

      B.B.



      • I agree even a .22 short will not always penetrate a full sized hogs scull from one foot away. My Dad accidently loaded a short one time when we were slaughtering a good size pig. The pig did not even react. Long rifle .22 worked in those controlled conditions but would not be appropriate for hunting in my opinion.

        Don


  7. BB,

    Will you be leaving the lube on the CAS bullets? Also, in the section “Magazine works fine” I think you meant ” short projection” rather than “short projecting”.


  8. BB,

    As much as you dislike probes to start with , I’m guessing you were just about fuming when that cover wouldn’t let you take the probe out. As often as this gun will require filling, that could become a real aggravation in a hurry!!


  9. B.B.

    Enjoyable write up as usual ☺. Makes it clear why I will always like all my DAQs…KISS

    Have an idea on a way to add sights to this beast if you don’t want to scope it. I trust you have BUIS on your AR; well although it would be a relatively short sight radious they would be better than “shooting-from-the-hip!”

    shootski


  10. There are some wild hogs that have climbed up 900 feet elevation from the nearest creek, and are rooting around near my home. Figured I ought to be equipped if I see one.

    Found a six pound, 37″ long bolt action carbine rifle. All steel and walnut, costs about half what the Hatsan does, develops over 1,500 FPE, and the ammo is 20 cents a round. Of course, it is a firearm (CZ527M in 7.62 x 39) Of course this BLOG is about airguns, but I cannot see much reason to buy this big heavy thang if you are mainly hunting.

    Perhaps if you can’t legally buy a firearm? Just want the challenge (handicap) of the various limitations?


  11. Thanks for the picture of you holding the gun BB. It still looks to big for more than bench shooting. Of course I woudn’t buy it in .45, more likely .25, or .357 for long range target shooting. It ould be nice to see if the .357 version can reach out like the Texan of the same caliber can with the same accuracy. It’s a shame about the cocking weight as well. I’ve shot a Texan and agree it is easier than an FWB800.



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