Editor's gun test: The Hatsan Nova Tact Compact
PUBLISHED: 16:31 25 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:31 25 January 2018
The editor called for a carbine version of the Hatsan Nova Tactical - and here it is
Back in May, I tested the Hatsan Nova pre-charged pneumatic rifle, and despite its ‘tactical’ presentation being just about everything I don’t prefer in a sporting airgun, at least style-wise, its performance forced me to sit up, take notice, and admire what it can do.
There was one feature of that Nova Tactical that definitely didn’t grow on me, and that I said I’d change, which was its 28-inch shrouded barrel arrangement. In fact, in my follow-up test, I made a statement. ‘I’m calling Hatsan, and its UK agent Edgar Brothers, to introduce a factory carbine version of this remarkable rifle.’
The new Nova
One glance at this month’s test subject tells us that the Hatsan/Edgar Brothers axis has done just that, and five seconds’ thought will work out that the introduction of a Nova carbine has absolutely nothing to do with my gobbing-off about the need for it. How and why the Nova Compact came to be among us is of little importance. What matters is that it’s here and, from my perspective, that I have sufficient recall of the full-size version to make a meaningful comparison. This makes me more excited than a man of my years has any right to be, but I’m taking that as a bonus. Let’s get to it, then.
The same – only different
First, its barrel set-up and open sights aside, this rifle is exactly the same Hatsan AT-44 10, sidelever, 10-shot, bottle-fed, ambidextrous combination of blued steel and synthetic compound I tested around 10 months ago. Rather than that being a problem, I consider the opportunity for direct comparison I mentioned previously to be my chance to see if what I wished for does what I expected of it. Truth to tell, I’m writing this after having had my first fondle of the Compact, and the jury’s not out on this one, because I already know the verdict.
The Hatsan Nova Compact
For those readers without a copy of the May 2017 issue in front of them, I’ll skip through the Hatsan Nova Compact’s impressive features line-up. Beginning at the back, that synthetic, skeletonised stock slides in and out at the plunge of a button to adjust the rifle’s pull-length. This is a major feature because it can perfectly accommodate shooters of almost any build, and having the pull-length working for you, rather than against, establishes the foundation you need for efficient handling.
Next, the Nova’s cheek piece is adjustable for height and position, courtesy of another push-button and a couple of coin-friendly screws. This sorts the alignment between the shooter’s eye and the ocular lens of the scope, or in this case the rifle’s open sights, should anyone prefer to go old-school.
As ever, I’d have preferred to see an adjustable butt pad, but at the sub-£600 required to own this rifle, its features list is comprehensive to say the least. Of course, it’s far easier to offer this level of accommodation in a design built around synthetic mouldings, rather than oiled walnut, or timber of any kind come to that, but this being a totally practical tactical, we’re always going to see function over style.
That applies to the Hatsan’s drop-down grip, with its finger-guiding scallops and that hint of a palm rest. I recall from my last tests with this rifle how I came to appreciate its stock geometry and features more as my time with it went on. As a practical handle for a hunting gun, this Hatsan offering scores highly.
Directly above the Nova’s grip sits the auto-resettable safety catch and forward of that the rifle’s simple sidelever, which cocks and loads the action, and indexes the standard Hatsan removable rotary, 10-shot pellet magazine. This mag’ is secured by a sliding pin and cast from alloy, making it all but indestructible in addition to being chunky enough to make poking pellets into it the easiest of tasks. Two magazines are provided with the Compact, and provided you always make sure each pellet is fully seated, you’ll have no glitches.
I’d heaped a fair pile of praise on the Nova’s trigger during the previous tests, and I’m pleased to say this feature retains its precision delivery. Two stage and adjustable via the hex wrench provided, the Nova’s trigger is a genuine star performer. I don’t normally mess about with triggers too much; perhaps I should, but unless there’s an obvious problem, I work back from the downrange groups and if they’re good enough, so is the trigger.
However, my experience with this trigger unit showed me the value of a tweak here and there, so I adjusted the let-off until my version of perfection was achieved. I think I would have shot exactly the same groups by leaving the test rifle’s trigger unmolested, but I enjoyed setting things to my preference and this game of ours is all about enjoyment, wherever we find it.
Nestling between a synthetic fore end ‘lip’ and the Compact’s shrouded barrel, there’s the lungs of this pre-charged pneumatic in the shape of a 500cc, non-removable buddy bottle. My notes tell me that, when charged to 250 bar, the .22 calibre Nova I tested in May recorded over 400 shots at 11.3 ft.lbs., and while that rifle had a 23-inch barrel and this one is fitted with an 17-inch version, which won’t make as much use of the rifle’s impressive capacity, I knew I was still going to have to go some to drain the Compact’s tank.
The stated maximum charge of 250 bar is not the definitive number. The Nova I tested back in May ran most consistently off 220 bar, and this version preferred 230 bar. The only way to find that optimum charging pressure, is to start at 250 bar and work your way through an entire charge, recording the Nova’s output as you go. It’s a painstaking, not to mention searingly dull, process, but if you’re interested enough, you’ll carry on through the tedium.
I clocked 260 shots at 11.5 ft.lbs. during my first full test session, until bad light stopped play. I’d had enough by then and shooting 20 magazine’s worth of carefully-aimed shots, plus some more ‘instinctive’ one to test the Nova’s handling in hunting situations, left me weary and my marksmanship was beginning to suffer.
Draining it may present a lengthy challenge, but filling it couldn’t really be much easier, thanks to the Nova’s plug-in charging system. It is what its name suggests, a vented probe, sealed with ‘O’ rings, and I was pleased to see Hatsan supply a blanking plug to prevent the potentially catastrophic ingress of grit. For those new to the PCP way of doing things, dirt and grit are public enemies number 1.
Should particles invade and find their way between the rifle’s internal valve face and its seat, air-leaks will be the likely result and the entire powerplant can be rendered useless. Keep your charging gear and air inlet ports spotless, and such worries will be blown away.
That shrouded barrel
Before anything else, it has to be said that the foreshortened barrel of the Compact is an absolute winner in the looks department. The fluted shroud perfectly complements the Nova’s tactical styling and the whole effect is one of visual balance. That’s all very splendid, of course, but it’s just so much poncery compared to the effect that matters, which relates to handling.
The quality of the barrel itself is even more key, of course, and this Compact matched its full-stretch stablemate shot for shot, with groups at 40 yards that snugly held my thumb. Have no doubt whatsoever that the Hatsan Nova Compact can shoot straight, consistently – initial tests showed a 15 f.p.s. average deviation over the first 80 shots – and with all the predictable precision any hunter could need. Now for that handling report.
How does it handle now?
I’d like to report that the Hatsan Nova Compact handles like a tailor-made thoroughbred sporter, and becomes one with its user after a mere handful of shots. That’s not the case. This rifle can never be a ‘classic’ anything, because its ergonomics and handling characteristics are set in synthetic and steel by its design.
Sometimes my leading hand locates the forward edge of the fore end ‘lip’, and at others, that hand found a natural stop against the abbreviated Picatinny rail moulded into the fore end.
I found I extended my arm more when shooting from a rested position, and retracted it during standing and kneeling shots. Others who tried it, and who were not as tall as I am, preferred to use that Picatinny moulding as their hand stop. At all times, the trigger hand contact, eye-scope alignment, and trigger finger position remained constant and comfortable. So much so that cycling the side-lever and returning my hand to the drop-down grip really did become about as natural as it can. I still forgot the auto-safety, but I’ll always be afflicted by this. I’ve used my beloved Weihrauch HW77 FTS for 30 years and I still forget to disengage its auto-safety.
I’ll never fully embrace the shiny spring clips that rattle around on the end of the Nova’s supplied sling, and without an additional silencer, this rifle won’t be the whisper-quiet PCP we’re used to. Adding a stumpy silencer would be the way to go for most, as long as it doesn’t compromise handling, so the fix is quick and relatively painless. I’ve already mentioned my permanent wish for an adjustable butt pad, but apart from these niggles the Hatsan Nova Tact is a whole lot of rifle for the money.
The Compact Nova is better balanced than the full-length version, and its overall handling will definitely make it easier for any shooter to realise the rifle’s undoubted performance potential. I have more exploration to do, including the use of those open sights, but I’m already convinced that lopping off that barrel was a good move, and that in this case, less really is more.
See you next month for what promises to be a revealing follow-up test.
Model: Nova Tact Compact
Country of origin: Turkey
Type: Pre-charged, multi-shot, tactical sporter
Calibre: .22, .177, .25
Loading: Via removable, rotary 10-shot magazine
Trigger: 2-stage, adjustable
Stock type: Ambidextrous synthetic, adjustable for pull-length and cheek piece position
Weight: 4kg (9lbs)
Length: 37-41 ins (940-1040mm)
Barrel: 482mm (19 ins)
Fill pressure: Max 250 bar
Shots per charge: 400-plus, in .22, potential 300-plus in .177
Variation over 100 shots: 15fps over 80 shots for .22 on test when charged to 230 bar
Average energy: 11.5 ft.lbs.
Contact: Edgar Brothers at www.edgarbrothers.com
We also test the Hatsan BT65 SB – find the review here.