Hatsan 135 QE Vortex .30-caliber pellet rifle: Part 5
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- The range
- The test
- Pellet drop
- Predator Polymags
- Shooting form
- JSB Exact 50.15-grain domes
- JSB 44.75-grain domes
- Discussion 2
A lot of time has passed since I did the Part 4 report of the Hatsan 135 QE Vortex .30-caliber pellet rifle. I also linked to the Pyramyd Air Cup, Part 2, because that’s where I got to see and shoot Rich Shar’s highly modified Hatsan 135 that’s also a .30 caliber spring rifle. If you don’t read any of the other previous reports I linked to, read that one, because his rifle is the highest evolution of the one I am testing today. It could probably be made as a custom modification, but given what Rich had to do to build it, I think it would cost more than the original rifle by a significant margin.
Today I take this rifle out to 50 yards for you. While there won’t be a lot of targets to look at, I have a lot to tell you. Let’s get started.
Texas had record rains the week before I tested, and a heavy rain just two days prior to my test. My regular outdoor range is in a low area that floods quickly so I couldn’t go there. Fortunately the good folks at AirForce Airguns have several ranges on their property that they allow me to use. However, even these places that are normally dry were soaked with puddles and mud. So I had to set up to shoot very carefully. When all was said and done I shot today’s test at 47 yards, which was the best I could manage, and I was still in the mud at the bench.
I decided to shoot 5-shot groups because the 135’s cocking effort is just too hard for me. And even that was challenging, as you will read.
I was warned by many shooters to watch out for the pellet drop. The rifle was sighted-in at 25 yards and I was shooting at 47 yards, so I anticipated a 4-inch drop. Wrong! The drop was more like 7 to 8 inches, depending on the pellet. I guess I should have put the scope in a major drooper mount for this test. It was shimmed, but the drop was still so great that there wasn’t enough upward adjustment to compensate.
However, here is the deal. Unless you plan to shoot your .30 caliber breakbarrel at 50 yards all the time, I wouldn’t go to the trouble of a drooper mount. Instead I would limit my shots to 35 yards and less. I almost ran today’s test at 35 yards, because I think the rifle is best-suited to that distance or less. But that would have left many unanswered questions, so I pressed on to 47 yards. I shot at the top bulls and let the pellets drop to the bottom bulls. The groups remain the same, regardless of where they are on the paper.
At 25 yards, Predator Polymags were one of the two best pellets, so I started with them. However, I could not get them to shoot at 47 yards! I shot up an entire target sheet just experimenting with them, using different holds, including resting directly on the sandbag. Finally it dawned on me that I was not using a proper artillery hold. When I started doing that, the groups tightened up. Before I show you the Predator group, though, we need to talk.
I have told you that I was in mud at the shooting bench. Every time I needed to cock the rifle, which was every shot, I had to stand up from the shooting bench and step away a little to make some room to break the barrel. Then I cocked the rifle, which is beyond my ability to do with one hand. Perhaps 20 years ago I could have cocked it one-handed, but it now takes two hands to finish the cocking stroke. That effort, plus getting up and down each time had my heart pumping hard. The crosshairs were moving one and even two inches on target for every shot. I tried every trick I could think of but there was still too much movement. So, some of what you are about to see was me and not the rifle — maybe as much as half.
The best group of Predator Polymags went into 2.822-inches at 47 yards. I’m not happy with the group and I note that there are three shots at the upper left that measure 0.874-inches between centers. I think the rifle is more accurate than I am able to shoot it.
JSB Exact 50.15-grain domes
The second most accurate pellet at 25 yards was the JSB Exact 50.15-grain dome. These tightened up a bit for me. Five went into 1.691-inches between centers at 47 yards. This time I got two groups of two pellets that were each touching, with the last pellet off by itself. This was a more vertical group than the Predators gave me, and again I feel I was partly to blame for the group’s size.
At this point in the test I was getting discouraged. I know when it’s the gun and when it’s me, and most of this was me. The 135 wasn’t getting a fair shake. And speaking of the shakes, the cocking was wearing me out. The last pellet to be tested was coming up next and it was the one that turned in the largest group at 25 yards. What would it do today?
I had to use a perfect artillery hold for this. I noticed several times that I had been pulling the stock into my shoulder, and that was throwing things off, so I watched that carefully this time. As I noted in the past, this rifle is twitchy!
JSB 44.75-grain domes
This time I shot the JSB 44.75-grain dome that dropped below the aimpoint the most of all three pellets — a full 8 inches! The second shot went right next to the first one though, which surprised me. The third shot went higher than the first two, but it was still close. Shot four landed below the first two, so I really concentrated on the last shot. Shot five went into the group with the first two shots and I had the first decent 47-yard 5-shot group from this rifle! The five shots measure 1.267-inches between centers, which was the best group of the day.
Like I said before, I don’t think I would use this rifle at this distance. I certainly would not hunt with it at long range. A small error in range estimation will result in a gross error on target, even if the scope is set up to hit dead on at 50 yards.
At 30 yards and less, though, this rifle will knock Mr. Squirrel right out of his tree! It hits with a heck of a thump, both because of the power and also because of the size of the pellet.
There is a great similarity between shooting this air rifle and what the buffalo hunters did in the American west in the 1870s. They shot at such distances that if their range estimates were off by only a little they could miss their large targets altogether. The learned techniques such as shooting at the dirt at similar distances, at places that were away from the animals, to see where the bullet was striking, before engaging a buff. They laid down on the ground to steady themselves and also to keep the rifle’s report to a minimum. And their range estimation skills were very refined through constant practice.
I was surprised by the performance of the Hatsan 135 in .30 caliber. I initially thought it was just a braggin’ rights airgun, but after shooting it I see that it has a definite purpose for hunting. In my opinion this rifle is not for me, but that’s more because of who I am than what the rifle is.
The Hatsan 135 is well made, smooth shooting and reasonably accurate. On the minus side it’s big, heavy and hard to cock. The pellets are expensive, but nothing hits like a .30. So, if you want one, go for it!