For the last two years it seems that the motto of much of the airgun world has been “Bigger means better”, with so many new big bore guns it seems that everyone is rushing to get a gun in .30 caliber or greater to market. Sure the idea of the big bore air rifle is nothing new, custom big bores have been around for a while, and i think we all remember Benjamin’s failed Rogue .357 being touted as the new “it” gun in the airgunning community. However for many of us our introduction to big bores didn’t come till commercially produced guns became widely available a just a few short years ago. For me one of my first introductions to big bores was the Hatsan Carnivore ( you can read my initial review here, in AGD’s Vault) and since then it has been a whirlwind of testing and shooting and I have to say that something about sending large lead projectiles down range using nothing but the power of moving air has never lost its luster.
Flash forward to SHOT Show 2016, I made my way through the show to meet up with our friends at the Hatsan booth. I had been told ahead of time that there were a few things there that I would be excited to see, and I have to say, I was not disappointed. I got a first hand look at Hatsans new lineup of guns, including the Hercules with over 1000 cc’s of on board air, and the new Bull Boss which is essentially a stripped down and lighter version of the Gladius. As I was sitting there talking with the guys in the booth at the bottom of the rack sat what I thought looked like an unassuming break barrel. I noticed right off that it featured a wood stock with adjustable cheek rest that I had not seen before as well as Hatsan’s proven Quiet Energy sound suppression system. I just figured it was an update to an existing gun and didn’t pay it much mind. As Daniel from Hatsan was giving me the rundown on all the new product it wasn’t even on my radar, that was until he explained that it was .30 caliber…yup…a big bore break barrel!
The next obvious question everyone thinks is probably something along the lines of “Okay, so what’s the point? Why would you build a break barrel big bore?” Well, I have to say Daniel’s answer was one that I didn’t really expect but I felt explained the Model 135. .30 cal break barrel perfectly…He just simply said “Because we can.” I knew there was a reason I liked these guys.
Hatsan was great enough to send me their only sample of the Model 135 big bore break barrel for some testing and I have to say that I have been impressed with the gun and what it can do. It was not at all what I expected. I really thought that this gun was going to be a novelty at best. With the limited power of a gas piston power plant, how is a big bore break barrel really feasible as a useful hunting tool? After some testing I have to say that my opinions have changed, so without further ado, let’s delve into all that is the Hatsan model 135 big bore break barrel.
The first thing that you will notice when you pick up the Model 135 is its weight. This thing is hefty. I mean it has some real weight to it. I threw it on my scale and un-scoped this thing weighs in at 9.75 lbs. Some of that weight comes from the fully adjustable hardwood stock but the bulk of it comes from the massive piston and piston housing of the Model 135. The Mod 135 really defines the term “magnum springer”. I actually found the weight to be somewhat helpful when shooting off hand or from a standing and supported position. It really helped the gun settle into my hold and with proper breathing control I was able to get a really steady sight picture, however I could see packing this thing around in the field being somewhat of an ordeal for some shooters. Hatsan has equipped the Model 135 with sling studs and swivels already installed so if you plan on taking it hunting adding a sling is a must. The second thing you notice is the sheer size of this rifle, this thing is big, again the piston and its housing accounts for most of the size, the length of pull is adjustable for smaller shooters, as well as the cheek comb height, but as I said before, with the heft of this gun and its length, it is better suited to bigger framed shooters.
The Model 135 features all the bells and whistles that Hatsan offers. Affixed to the business end is the QE sound suppression system which does a great job taking much of the bark out of the Model 135. I don’t know if it’s the slower moving, larger pellet but I noticed right away shooting on our indoor range that this was one of the quieter Hatsan break barrels that I have tested. It is definitely back yard friendly in the noise department. Its also equipped with Hatsans SAS system which is a proprietary vibration and recoil dampening system that reduced the actual movement of the gun resulting from the piston being released, this helps a lot with accuracy and hold sensitivity, especially with the big piston of the model 135. You’ll also notice the Quattro trigger mechanism is present. This trigger is the standard for almost all Hatsans and is one of my favorite airgun triggers. The 2 stage trigger is fully adjustable for both travel and pull weight and has a very clean and crisp break. Our test model came from the factory with the trigger set at about 4lbs and for the sake of this test we left it unadjusted.
Operating the mod 135 carnivore .30 cal is just like any other break barrel. To cock the rifle place the buttstock against your leg and use your off hand to support the gun, using your strong hand reach up and force the hinged barrel downward by grasping the end of the barrel and pulling down. The cocking force required to compress the piston is substantial though. I would estimate it somewhere in the 50 lbs range. Definitely not for the faint of heart, after a day of testing this gun I could really feel it in my shoulders, it’s quite the workout.
The Hatsan Mod 135 also comes equipped with fiber optic fixed sights and Hatsan’s new and improved combo dovetail/weaver rail. This rail can accept both types of rings allowing for more options when making scope and ring choices. The fiber optic sights are very bright and easy to pick up and get a good sight picture. They are adjustable for both windage and elevation.
Overall, the Model 135 is a really well put together gun. The combination of the hardwood stock and its large size remind me a lot of old hunting rifles from turn of the century safari photos. Its definitely a good looking and well made gun, I would expect it to stand up to years of use. The Model 135 has in my opinion a very classic look that would make it at home in any serious airgunner collection.
I think for most this is the real question about the 135 .30 cal is “What kind of power does it make and what can I do with it?” Admittedly, I didn’t really know what to expect from the Model 135 myself so I grabbed a tin of pellets and headed to the range. Unfortunately, at the time of this testing their are limited options on this caliber (though we’re sure that will change with the announcement of the new .30 cal AirForce Texan). We only carry two varieties of .30 caliber pellets here at AGD, both are from JSB and both are standard domed pellets, one in 44.75 grains and the other 50.15 grains. For this test I fired a string of 10 shots with the both pellets over our chronograph and got the following results. I have placed them side by side with chronograph numbers from a Hatsan Model 95 Vortex in .22 using 15.43 grain pellets for comparison and frame of reference:
|Hatsan Model 135 .30||Hatsan Model 95 .22|
|JSB 50.15 gn .30||JSB 44.75 gn .30||15.43 gn Gamo Magnum .22|
With the best shots from the Model 135 making almost 30 ft/lbs this really makes the Model 135 a viable short range hunting gun. I could see this as being a great tool for someone with a garden that is haunted by bigger pests such as rabbits, raccoons, or gophers. I would feel confident dispatching any of these with the Model 135 at distances out to 35 yards.
Even more than power, accuracy really is the most important factor. All the power in the world is no good if you can’t hit your target. I found the Model 135 to be a great shooting gun and I was really impressed with its accuracy. After sighting in the gun at 10 yards using a Hawke 4×32 fixed power scope I set my pellet trap out to 30 yards and took a few shots. Point of impact from my initial zeroing had shifted down about an inch so I made the adjustments in the scope and shot a few groups to see how it performed. All shots were fired from a standing supported position using a pair of shooting sticks and man, was I impressed by this gun. The first shot hit dead on just left of center on the target, the next shot went through the same hole. I got a little excited and pulled the next shot to the right but after settling myself down I got the other two on target in a great little group. I was pleasantly surprised at how accurate this gun really was. I had expected to get a much wider group because of those great big, slow moving pellets. My confidence in the this guns ability to take game at short ranges has increased even more.
After spending the better part of a day with the Hatsan Model 135 big bore break barrel, I have to say that it has really grown on me. At first I was intrigued mostly by the oddity of a big bore break barrel but also a little skeptical of its performance. After shooting a few tins of pellets through it I think that this gun really fills a great niche in the air gun world. It bridges the gap between break barrel and pcp and gives shooters an easy way to experience the fun of a large caliber airgun. The Model 135 .30 cal would make a great gun for gardeners who have pests ranging from mice and rats up to raccoon’s that are plaguing their harvest that they really want to put a thump on.
I’m still not 100% sure that the idea of a big bore break barrel will catch on with the mainstream airgun crowd but I really like that Hatsan thought outside of the box to try and bring something to the table that is a bit different and I think that reflects well on them as a company. After shooting so many airguns they sometimes seem to blend together and it’s good to see something that stands out from the pack a little. I really enjoyed the model 135 overall and I can definitely see it coming out of the safe this spring and summer to do a little pesting with around my tomato plants….pests beware!