by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Breakbarrel repeaters
- So, what’s new?
- Outside the rifle
- Pellet feed
- Cocking effort
Once more I’ll remind you that I am suspending the historical reports for awhile to catch up on several things I have been putting off. There are also many new airguns I want to test. Some tests of complex guns like the Air Venturi Seneca Aspen PCP have taken me many more than the usual three reports, and this has led to the current situation. The history section will be back soon, I promise.
Today I start looking at the Hatsan Speedfire Vortex multi-shot rifle. It’s a breakbarrel spring-piston gun that uses a gas spring (this one is a contained unit that Hatsan properly calls a gas piston) for the powerplant. It comes in both .177 (12 shots) and .22 (10 shots), and I am testing the .22.
Repeating breakbarrels are not new. They have been around since before World War II, so, close to eight decades. I’m talking about air rifles like the Haenel Model 5 repeater that I reported on in 2009. And then El Gamo (just Gamo today) made several breakbarrel repeaters in the 1960s.
The pre-war Haenel model 5 has a circular magazine holding 18 pellets.
This mechanism feeds the pellets from the magazine into the barrel. This one lacks the pawl that makes it operate when the barrel is broken down.
So, what’s new?
What is new is the fact that the modern crop of breakbarrel repeaters are reliable. They feed pellets without jamming or damaging them. That we did not have before. This success is due to the self-contained circular magazine that goes in the system to replace the hinky feeding mechanisms of the past. I guess the Gamo Swarm Maxxim was the first one we saw. I reported on the Gamo Swarm Maxxim in 2017, and it worked perfectly throughout my tests.
At the 2019 SHOT Show I noticed there were several other breakbarrel repeaters that had just come out or are scheduled to come out this year. So, like the price-point PCPs of 2018, the breakbarrel repeaters are now the flavor of the month or year. Which brings us to the test rifle.
The Speedfire weighs 6.6 lbs., unscoped, and an Optima 3-9X40 scope with rings is included. The rifle also has TruGlo fiberoptic open sights. The rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation, but is such an integral part of the pellet feeding mechanism that removing it wouldn’t give any advantage, so it stays put. The front sight flips up for use or folds flat when you don’t need it.
Outside the rifle
The outside of the rifle is mostly synthetic. Other than the spring tube there isn’t a lot of metal to be seen. The plastic is textured but not rough. The rubber buttpad is very grippy, which I like.
The forearm and pistol grip are slim. The pull is 14.375-inches long. The rifle balances well and is slightly muzzle heavy. The butt sounds solid.
Pellet feed mechanism
I guess the pellet feed mechanism is the big story. A 10-shot (in the case of the .22) circular magazine sits vertically and in line with the breech. When the barrel is broken the mechanism pushes a pellet straight forward into the breech. And of course that is what has to happen, but until you watch it in action, you may have a hard time understanding how it is possible. And, an automatic feed brings up a lot of questions.
1. Is it possible to double-feed pellets by breaking the barrel down a second time?
Yes. You aren’t really cocking the gun the second time because the gas piston is already cocked, but each time you break open the barrel all the way and close it again another pellet is fed into the breech.
2. Can the magazine be loaded into the rifle the wrong way?
No. Each magazine is keyed to the rifle and only fits one way.
3. Can the rifle be dry-fired when the magazine is empty?
Yes. The magazine has a white line on the red pellet drum that shows when the magazine is empty. It’s the shooter’s job to watch for that, because the gun will keep on cocking and firing though there is nothing to shoot.
4. Can the rifle be loaded singly?
Sort of. The magazine is an integral part of the loading process and must be involved. If you want to load the magazine with just one pellet, it is very easy to do. Just remove the magazine and only load a single pellet. That’s very easy. I have already done it. But know that to load into the breech, the pellet has to be in the magazine.
5. Is the safety automatic?
Yes. Otherwise the rifle would be cocked, loaded and ready to fire the moment the barrel is closed.
6. Can the safety also be set manually?
7. If I load the magazine into the rifle after cocking will it still shoot a pellet?
No. The magazine has to be in place as the barrel is broken open to load a pellet into the breech.
The Speedfire has the Quattro trigger that adjusts for the pull weight of stage one, the point of second stage engagement and the second stage pull. I will no doubt adjust it for you as I test. I can tell you at this time that the trigger feels pretty good.
The Speedfire is rated at 20 foot-pounds in .177 caliber and 21 foot-pounds in .22 on the Pyramyd Air website. The manual rates them at 18 foot-pounds for the .177 and 20 foot-pounds for the .22. Either way they make for good hunting rifles, as long as they are accurate. We shall see.
Gas springs and pistons used to be a harbinger of hard cocking, but that has changed. Hatsan says the Speedfire cocks with 30 pounds of force and the few times I’ve shot it so far I have to say that’s about right. Of course I’ll measure it for you.
I plan to test the rifle for accuracy at 10 meters with the open sights and with the scope at 25 yards. Naturally I will install the scope and comment on its position, relative to my head on the stock, because of the height of the feed mechanism. I basically want to know whether the Speedfire is convenient/comfortable to shoot.
I am not a fan of breakbarrel rifles that repeat. Most of that stems from seeing them fail in the past. This new batch seem to work very well and if they are accurate too — why not?
Now don’t start harping on me, but Hatsan also sent me a Proxima rifle, which is another breakbarrel repeater to test. Like I said, I have a lot of things to test for you. The Proxima has been out since the start of 2018, but I haven’t tested it yet.
I know there is a lot of interest in breakbarrel repeaters among our readership, so my goal is to test each of these that I see this year as if I was making the purchase decision.