Hatsan 135 QE Vortex 30 Caliber Review

Forums Springers, Pumpers, C02, & Vintage Hatsan 135 QE Vortex 30 Caliber Review

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    bettega
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    Member

    There has been some discussion about this air rifle and many reviews on the website but after having owned one for almost a year and shot over a thousand pellets through it I thought I could give a longer term perspective. You already know all the pros and cons. It’s very powerful, does a lot of damage, allows you to harvest bigger game without going through the trouble of PCP and if the shooter does their part can be accurate for minute of rabbit out to 50-60 yards or even beyond.

    My first impressions was that while the shooting of this rifle was not noisy at all, maybe somewhat more than a BB gun, the owner has to prepare for a loud pellet strike. Thanks to the Quiet Energy barrel with an integrated suppressor there is no report whatsoever, you just hear the gas ram slamming and not that loudly but remember that even at 50 yards the residual 20+ ftlbs of energy make for a decent thump against your target. Softer targets like piles of old books, cardboard boxes full of scrap papers are more conducive to quiet shooting than harder ones such as household items or improvised backstops made of plastic or wood. As the reader can surmise the high power means cocking requires a fair amount of force but if you participate in other shooting sports, any kind of physical activities or something like archery the shooter should have the arm strength to shoot repeatedly. I rarely shoot more than 20 minutes in a row but I do other things like archery and at this power level you’re not as concerned about throwing a hailstorm of repeater lead fire because each individual pellet, at lest in arigun terms, constitutes a veritable heavy metal hailstorm for the same reason you would not shoot 44 magnum all day. Well, some people can, but most will not and that’s not what this gun was made, it was created for serious hunting and in that way works beautifully. Comments have been made about every hour of shooting this rifle equating to an hour in the gym and I would handily agree. At nearly 10lbs of weight with about 50lb of cocking force you can make yourself quite sore quickly, working up a sweat. While definitely not a rifle for younger, smaller framed shooters or people with limited upper body strength, with time it provides a nice cross training to other physical activities in which  is healthy to engage. Just saying, while this is not an all day plinking gun and more of a focused hunting tool, if the shooter lacks the strength to cock this rifle a few times it probably means you’re out of shape.

    On a more positive note the cocking smooths out over time and feels less than the stated resistance after your first tin of pellets or so. Compared to other rifles that have 30 ftlbs of muzzle energy such as the Benjamin Trail NP XL the Hatsan feels smoother and easier. Eventually the rifle seems to make noises and encounter resistance when cocking, which was disconcerting since I read people returning their rifle. Since I have oils like Slip 2000 or Crosman break barrel/PCP lubricant (but *not* Pellgunoil as it will dissolve the gasket!) I tried drenching all the joints at various states of cocking for a day or two. Once the gas ram cocks you can open the rifle and just leave it partially cocked and cycle these parts back and fort allowing you to get in as much as possible to saturate them with oil. When this was completed I found the rifle to stop making noise and it cocked as nicely as ever. After over a thousand pellets I have to say I am shooting the gun fairly regularly especially now that it’s cold since my CO2’s don’t perform well and I am completely satisfied in every element with its operation

    The other mechanics of the gun are also decent for the money, especially the trigger. One problem the break barrel and gas ram design creates it the need for a higher weight trigger because of the forces involved. It’s not like you can take it to a gunsmith or install a lighter spring, that tension is there for a reason. It is possible to somewhat decrease the effort of pulling the trigger by gripping the gun with all your fingers wrapping around so that your index finger will not pull straight back but somewhat upwards, this will reduce the force by 1/2 a pound or more because you are working in the same direction as the trigger and not creating a vector in a different direction which is what happens when you pull straight back. While ~7lbs is not bad and both the length of stage and tensions of the 2 stage trigger can be somewhat adjusted, they don’t make that much of a difference and by design you will never get a very light, competition friendly pull. Given this is a hunting gun first and foremost, it’s not a bad thing and keeps things safe. As far as safety the gun never worried me about unintended discharges, is easy to carry safely through the woods and the safety engages automatically with every cocking. If I do have one complaint about the gun the safety switch feels cheap and plasticky like those General Motor dash controls of the 80’s and 90’s. Remember your girlfriend’s old 1992 Pontiac Grand Am where the turn signal stalk or air conditioning controls felt like they were going to fall off every time you used them? Since the rest of the gun feels so well polished this is a slight sore but I thought I would mention it hoping maybe the manufacturer can improve it on future models as it seems such an easy thing to remedy. 

    Over time the fit and finish has held up mostly well  because I always treat my guns with kid gloves but the few dings the stock or finish received did leave marks. The gun looks and feels like something that costs more than it is but ~$300 is not a lot of money to pay for a fairly decent gun of any kind and some shortcuts were made in this regard so the low price makes the relative fragility of the finish easy to accept because other corners were definitely not cut. On the other hand it has held up far better than my Benjamin break barrels whose finish or stock will get another ding or scratch every time you look at the gun. So while not in the league of the real premium airguns, at least it looks like a premium one if it does not quite hold up like one. 

    The weight of the gun is well balanced and while it gets tiring to lug around and aim, the dynamics can be improved by adjusting the scope eye relief, raising the cheek piece and fitting the stock to your shoulder. While whipping around the gun and cocking or loading it makes its heft felt even more so with a scope, at least during the firing cycle you feel the gun to be nearly weightless as you press it against your face and shoulder.

    For a gun of this power the recoil is not that bad either. When looking through a scope the recoil is enough that it changes where you’re pointing the gun enough that you have a hard time seeing where the pellet might have hit if you are trying to sight in a scope or calculate windage or elevation at a target of uncertain range. By adjusting the parameters for a better fit the felt recoil is lessened. It’s not enough to make one flinch, say slightly more than shooting .556 in the firearm world but enough to notice if you’re the type of buyer to whom this gun appeals, likely those used to lower power springers or CO2 guns. On the other hand other magnums in this price range such as the Benjamin NP XL series are far more harsh and unpleasant. Considering the money and the power, the recoil is slightly, but only a tick more than what you’d want in an airgun as a satisfying thump reminding you that you’re shooting something very strong, especially after making adjustments. I did purchase a nice scope that was airgun rated and well over a thousand pellets have not had a problem.

    Shooting the gun is hold sensitive but not nearly as much as other magnum springers I have tried including the similarly priced NP XL. Do look up what an “artillery hold” is. It does improve accuracy with this gun but you can at least hit things with it if you’re not perfectly consistent unlike other magnums which want to jump out of your arms every time you shoot them. Accuracy out of the box allowed me to consistently hit soda cans at 25-30 yards with the first few shots and with time I can now hit individual duplo blocks or shotgun shell husks at that range or somewhat farther. There definitely is a break in period but it’s not terribly long and while there are more accurate guns out there the biggest factor is the very low velocity of the pellets. While the 44 or 50 grain pellets have similar ballistics and similar points of impact at all but the closest or farthest ranges (under 15 or beyond 50), the 44 grain allow a little less rainbow trajectory and would be my choice for hunting especially in an environment where the range to target is unknown.

    I must strongly emphasize the rainbow trajectory of this gun, it’s a low velocity, heavy projectile thumper that bears many similarities to the 45-70 relying on momentum and large projectile diameter to do its damage. For this reason, while the open sights work well when sighted in at 25 yards requiring estimating a point of impact about 6 inches higher at 50 yards, a scope and a program such as chairgunpro are essential to score hits on smaller targets with certainty. Both the 44 and 50 grain pellets have similar trajectories though the 44 grain seems to make for better accuracy because of a slightly flatter trajectory; it’s not enough to need to sight in the rifle with either pellet. Remember that the pressures and velocities of this gun are insufficient to stabilize a full diameter bullet or round ball and the skirt bearing projectiles help the pellet grip the barrel and obtain stability so right now there are really only 3 projectile choices but that’s not a bad thing because they all work well. If you need more power or ability than this then you need a strong PCP like the Sumatra 2500 or a rimfire.

    Once you know how to estimate range and compensate the trajectory making lethal hits on small game sized targets is feasible up to 60-70 yards and beyond. Assuming the hunter is ethical in their practices and selects game of appropriate size so capable is the Hatsan 135 30 caliber that the biggest limitation will be the shooter not the gun. Despite all the discussions about the backyard or indoor friendly nature of air rifles this beast would benefit greatly from a trip to a controlled indoor range where you can calculate the points of impact yourself knowing the exact distances without worrying about wind drift and see the trajectory in action yourself. It’s one thing to see those ballistic curves on a graph, another to plot them yourself with pellets and getting used to calculating range. When going back to my 22LR’s shooting CCI quiets or tuned CO2 rifles both producing 700fps or more the use of a scope makes all the difference at helping both calculate range with mil dots and then honing in on your target. If  I bought this gun to hunt small game I would most definitely recommend a scope and plenty of practice for this reason in the interest of being as humane as possible.

    Hunting is this gun’s primary mission and here there are no disappointments. If the shooter does their part practicing shooting, getting familiar with the capability and trajectory of the pellet, you will have as much small game on your hands as you can shoot. You don’t need to be picky about shot placement which is why you would want this rifle, any halfway decent shot such as a head shot almost anywhere (I said *almost*) near the brain or any chest or front shoulder shot will drop rabbits or squirrels in their tracks. The bigger pellet makes a huge hole and forcibly flips those critters over as if they got smacked with a real 22LR, almost like some hand of God bringing meat to your table and pests away from your garden (maybe both!). Rabbits, Raccoons all fall with one shot very easily but the gun is accurate enough to take out smaller invasive birds as well as field mice. The whole reason this gun was created, other than because they could, is to extend the range and size of the game that someone can harvest without the desire or ability to pay for PCP. In terms of staying economical for this purpose, other than the higher cost of pellets the acquisition costs qualify favorably.

    The other fun thing you can do with this air rifle is to have a blast destroying things that you would otherwise throw away. Do you remember when you were about 4-5 years old and had that “destructive” phase where you tended to break your toys? Have your children gone through that phase? Well now thanks to this air rifle you can relive those days in a trash pre-disposal program where you modify household items prior to disposal one pellet strike at a time. Keyboards, old laptops, printers, clay pigeons, styrofoam containers, old boxes, plastic bottles, old radios, duplos, you name it and the big kid in you can rain destruction on whatever you wish. Games with older or teenage children can abound such as versions of battleship where you and your friends, other relatives or children (assuming they are able to fire this gun safely and accurately) build “ships” for each other to shoot to destruction or sinking; let your imagination be the guide. 

    As a comparison I also own a Benjamin NP XL in 25 caliber and the Hatsan is worlds better in every category. Be it refinement, trigger, quietness, accuracy, hold sensitivity, balance, weight, cocking effort, accuracy and ease of precision. The Hatsan 135 costs more or less the same and is better every way. The Hatsan also comes with open sights which are not available in some guns and while the Benjamin comes standard with a fairly nice Centerpoint scope, this offering is fragile and oftentimes fails quickly due to the recoil ending up with an optic that cannot hold zero. Indeed there are guns that might be even nicer shooting than the Hatsan but when considering the power nothing in this price range comes close. 

    A prospective buyer would benefit from knowing that criticism of the shorter barrel length against other smaller bore springers is misplaced. Because there is only so much power that can be packed with a given cocking force, in this case 50 pounds of resistance to make 30 ft lbs, there is only so much volume in the barrel that will allow the pellet to keep accelerating. All projectile weapons have a point of diminishing returns be they firearms or airguns because the principle of expanding air dictates that once enough volume is occupied by higher pressure air that is suddenly released, the pressure drop can only push so far until its push can no longer can make up for the projectile’s friction against the barrel. When this length is reached the projectile starts to slow down. For example this is seen in the firearm world, with the 327 Federal Magnum revolver cartridge obtaining higher velocities in a 5.5 inch barrel than with a longer 7.5 inch barrel. It makes sense if you compare the Hatsan 135 QE 30 cal to a Benjamin NP XL 25 cal. The latter has a longer barrel but the volume is the same because a 25 cylinder bore has less volume for a given length. Both guns have 50lbs of force to cock and both guns produce 30 ftlbs of energy meaning the volume of expansion is the same. If Hatsan increased the cocking force to say 60lbs which would make this gun inaccessible to almost everyone, then you might be able to get 36 ftlbs from a somewhat longer barrel but suffice to say they know what they are doing and the gun is sized right for its powerplant and intended use. 

    If you already own PCP or rimfire there is practically no need for this gun and this review is not for you. The only exception is if you perhaps are going to travel to an area where firearms will be restricted and you wish to do shooting that requires the highest power level possible for which this gun is made but you don’t wish to bring your own air. Another possibility is going camping, obviously a tank is going to run out and pose more storage problems in terms of space although in that sense you could probably get away with bringing a 22 and using quieter types of ammo and this would be more efficient but as range opens, less accurate than the Hatsan. The biggest drawback for the 22 rimfire is using lower power ammo like CCI’s 22LR quiet or 22 short CB’s offering 50 and 30 ft lbs, respectively the gun is easier to shoot for most people but the groups will open up quickly and if the shooter is capable of handling it the Hatsan will be more accurate beyond 25 yards. Do keep in mind some 22LR rifles absolutely cannot shoot the lower velocity quiet loads at all with any accuracy such as the Savage Rascal and in that case the Hatsan would be a better choice if quiet pest control, hunting or outdoor shooting that approaches rimfire potential is desired. Those most likely to want or need this gun will be in a position to want to stretch what they can do with CO2 or break barrel rifles without resorting to rimfire or PCP.

    If you have pest problems or hunting desires that you would normally use a rimfire but want something less powerful with less of a chance of a damaging richochet or something that comes suppressed without requiring the ATF paperwork this gun is for you. A top example would be a landowner, particularly a farmer with pest problems who does not wish to bother his livestock with loud noises. Another example would be someone in the aforementioned situations that lives in a state where real firearms and the ability to make them quiet is far more regulated or downright impossible or does not wish to go through the paperwork such as Massachusetts, California or New York State where airguns are over the counter and not regulated. Airgun hunting laws do vary but even if some recreational shooting is what you want if you want something inexpensive and don’t want to bother with real guns, the Hatsan 135 QE Vortex in 30 caliber is as strong as it gets. I love my Hatsan 135 Vortex QE 30 caliber because it’s as powerful as an airgun can get without going to PCP, helps me harvest the biggest game as far away as this level of airgun without having to gorimfire or PCP will allow, it is more accurate than equivalently powerful thus quiet rimfire loads and is a hoot of fun to shoot as its refined enough to tame the factors that render a break barrel ungainly.  The  Hatsan 135 Vortex QE works well for me, but it’s really a niche product. This should not be your first or second or thrid airgun. If you’re looking this direction, you probably already own, or should own something to the tune of your first  BB gun, a multi pump, a CO2 or two and maybe a lower power more gentle, refined or even inexpensive break barrel like a Gamo, Beeman or Crosman/Benjamin first. 

    My recommendation is that if you want one, you should buy and you’ll love it, you’ve done the research and your expectations will be met or exceeded provided you do your part and have sufficient upper body strength. On the other hand if you have to ask “why” then you probably answered your own question and don’t need or appreciate this gun because you have other options in the high power world that are quiet like real guns, a state that allows suppressors, PCP’s or you’re not after harvesting game or wanting to showcase this kind of power in any way. Even then, on that notion, there is one video that might very well conclusively answer the question for a magnum springer or gas piston break barrel that I would encourage anyone seriously considering this gun. PCP’s are mostly better, but have one major drawback because air is a way more finite  and thus limiting resource than almost any other factor: 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cnWqCb7SEI  

    Enjoy!

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    lacey1948
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    I have been considering a 135 .30 but your very thorough review has caused me to take pause, thank you. I seem to fall into a couple of your concern categories. #1 I am 68 with not so good anymore upper body strength. I do no struggle with my trail np xl but it is a hard pull for me. #2 I have only had/have two airguns , Benjiman trail np xl 1100 .22 cal and  hatsan mod 95 .177. Yep I think you might have stopped me from making a sizeable $ mistake, thanks again.
    Ron

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    lacey1948
    Participant
    Member

    I have been considering a 135 .30 but your very thorough review has caused me to take pause, thank you. I seem to fall into a couple of your concern categories. #1 I am 68 with not so good anymore upper body strength. I do no struggle with my trail np xl but it is a hard pull for me. #2 I have only had/have two airguns , Benjiman trail np xl 1100 .22 cal and  hatsan mod 95 .177. Yep I think you might have stopped me from making a sizeable $ mistake, thanks again.
    Ron

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