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Gun test: Hatsan BT65 SB

PUBLISHED: 10:21 04 April 2017

This is a proper hunting rifle that can take the rough handling in the field

This is a proper hunting rifle that can take the rough handling in the field

Archant

The editor gets his hands on a big rifle from those Turkish airgun masters

Although the Hatsan brand feels familiar to me, when I really thought about it, I realised just how few of them I’ve ever shot. They tend to make visually distinctive guns that aren’t likely to be mistaken for any other brand, although a number of their models look just like semi-automatic shotguns. This made me keen to try one for the full Big Test treatment, so I asked Edgar Brothers, the UK importer, if I could try a BT65 SB Elite pre-charged pneumatic rifle. This again is very distinctive in its looks and I was drawn to it especially because it boasts an adjustable height cheek piece, a feature I value greatly.

This is a big, heavy rifle, best suited to large, strong men. A lady’s gun this is not. The whole feel of the rifle is robust and chunky, topped off with an advanced polymer stock, so you know immediately this is a gun designed to take the knocks in the field and laugh them off. There’s a touch of military styling about it too, with the matte black stock and three sections of Weaver rail attached to the fore end to accept torches and lasers, if they’re your thing.

I was getting one-hole groups at 30 yards with H&N FTTI was getting one-hole groups at 30 yards with H&N FTT

Complete kit

What arrived for review was a complete kit, comprising; the rifle, three magazines, an Optima 3-12 x 44 AOE scope, mounts, a sling, an Optima II LED torch and mount, spare seals and tools, a plastic flight case and finally a clip-on bipod. Phew! What a list! All you need is some air and pellets and you’re ready for anything. The one thing that I feel British shooters would have liked to have seen in a kit like this is a silencer. The barrel is screwcut ready to accept it, so I attached my standby Weihrauch one, which fitted perfectly. This dropped the muzzle noise to a whisper, which then accentuated the resonance from the hammer spring, which to be blunt, is quite loud under the shooter’s ear. However, any skilled tuner could eliminate that in no time.

I assembled everything apart from the bipod, which wasn’t the right one for this gun. Next, I adjusted the stock. The drop to heel measurement, i.e. the top of the butt pad, is quite unusually low at under 2”, so I set the pad to a more familiar 2¾” which felt much better. Next, I raised the cheek piece to its maximum height. The scope mounts are much higher than needed, so I wanted all the height from the stock I could get. With these changes made, I was much more comfortable and at home. If this were my gun, I’d swap the scope mounts for something much lower to help the handling even further. The butt pad is heavily concave adding to the target rifle feel and making the rifle slower to mount.

I'd like to see adjustable height cheek pieces on all serious riflesI'd like to see adjustable height cheek pieces on all serious rifles

Big and heavy

As mentioned, this is a big heavy rifle and I thought that the length of pull must have been long, but in fact it’s ½” shorter than the industry standard 14½”. This puzzled me and it took me quite a while to realise what was causing the sensation. It turned out that it was the rifle’s balance point, which is some 5” in front of the trigger, even before you fit a silencer. This gives the same feeling you get from target rifles, being very stable on aim and slow to move, rather than fast handling, like a lightweight sporter. Whether or not this suits you depends on your build and your taste in guns. It certainly felt very steady on aim. One dimension that’s out of place with the rest of the build is the reach to the trigger blade. Even for my medium-sized hand, I found the reach quite short and needed to rotate my wrist back to put the pad of my trigger finger on the blade.

A quick chronograph test to check the power gave me quite a surprise. Over 30 shots, the BT65 varied just 4ps. Now, remember that this was straight from the box with Air Arms Field .22 Diablo pellets straight from the tin. I assumed it must have a regulator, but on checking with Edgar Brothers, I was assured that it does not. Average velocity was 566 fps, for a muzzle energy of 11.2ft.lbs, which is just how I like my guns set. This consistency boded well for accuracy as did Hatsan’s claim that they fit precision, chocked barrels to this model. Range-time would tell.

The trigger system is Hatsan’s proprietary Quattro unit that’s fully adjustable and has a good reputation. To be competitive in today’s PCP market, a top-drawer trigger unit is demanded, because people prepared to spend this much money know what they can expect these days. In use, I found the second-stage short and predictable, although perhaps not quite as sophisticated as some of its competitors. Just behind the trigger guard there’s a cut-out in the stock that accepts a bolt, but it leaves two rough/sharp edges against the middle finger of your trigger hand. This lasted about two minutes on my test gun before I gently removed them with some fine emery cloth.

The magazine is as basic as can be and I love it for that. Loading it could not be simpler because there are no moving parts to go wrong. You also get three with the rifle, which is superb. The two spares are carried in docking stations in the belly of the stock in front of the trigger guard, immediately to hand when needed under pressure to make a quick shot. Just how dirty they’d get in that exposed position will need to be seen from field use, remembering that PCPs hate dirt and grit in their insides.

To load a fresh mag’, lift the bolt, pull it back firmly, and drop it down into a ‘keep’ position. Next, push the small brass ball forward of the magazine up into its keep position, being ready that the magazine will pop out of its channel. Please do not drop this into farmyard mud and muck. The main bolt needs a firm, muscular hand to activate it, both backward and forward into battery. This is no finger-tip rifle. Strong hands are needed all the way to ensure that the full stroke is achieved each and every time.

Filling the air reservoir was simple. Rotate the filling port cover, insert the ‘O’ ring sealed brass probe and top her up to 200 bar nice and slowly. In front of this there’s a pressure gauge to show just what she’s got left in the tank, and I believe that every serious PCP needs one. Then I got to the bit of testing I actually enjoy; trigger time. Shooting slowly and steadily I soon had the rifle zeroed at 30 yards, about right for a sub 12 ft.lbs .22. I used my default test pellet: the Air Arms Field Diablo, which it didn’t like as much as the old-fashioned H&N Field Target Trophy. All too often, I find that Turkish guns don’t like modern pellets, preferring older designs. When I did my bit, I was getting honest one-hole groups at 30 yards and you can’t ask for much more than that from any sporter. No rabbit, pigeon or squirrel is safe from this gun on the farm at 30 yards. If you miss with the gun, it was your fault, not the equipment.

Advanced feature

An advanced feature that deserves much credit for Hatsan is that the rifle will not double-load. By this I mean that no matter how many times you cycle the bolt without firing the hammer, only one pellet will load. As soon as you do fire, the system is ready to load the next pellet. In this regard, Hatsan has one up on some of its illustrious competitors and is only equalled by Weihrauch and Daystate with their Wolverine model. Good on Hatsan for moving the hunting airgun on with this technological advancement! This type of innovation is where the next generation of airguns will come from, along with adjustable stocks.

Talking of innovations, the scope rail of the BT65 has an 11mm rail on top of a Weaver rail. I checked, and both types will fit. Now, I’m no fan of the Weaver system for airguns, but many of you are, and with this gun you really do get the best of both worlds.

One irritation I have with this and many other airguns is that the safety is on the left side of the action, even though 80% of humans are right-handed. This is made worse by the thumbhole stock because you have to extract your thumb, move your hand up to the safety, disengage it, and then go back to your shooting position before you fire.

So, just who is this rifle designed for? I’d have to say a big old farmboy, who likes to hunt and ‘can’t be doin’ with fancy, fragile airguns. He wants a ‘proper’ airgun that he can take out in all weathers and get muddy and bloody whilst he gets the job done. It’s fair to say that that the BT65 isn’t as slick and sophisticated as some of its English-made competitors, but it’s good value for money and feels like you could just get out and hunt with it, without needing to cry if you gave it a scratch.

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Hatsan

Importer: Edgar Brothers

Type: Pre-charged pneumatic

Action: Magazine-fed, bolt-action

Trigger: Quattro 2-stage adjustable

Weight: 9.7lbs (4.4kg)

Length: 42” (107cm)

Stock: Ambi’ thumbhole, adjustable for pull-length and height of cheek piece

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