If you want a break-barrel but think the firing cycle isn’t speedy enough, then Mike Morton reckons the Hatsan SpeedFire might be the answer.
Despite the obvious advantages of a magazine, multi-shot, piston-powered air rifles have not been particularly forthcoming. There are some notable exceptions however, such as the recent Swarm series of multi-shots from Gamo, and Hatsan has now entered the fray with the SpeedFire.
This break-barrel rifle is powered by the Turkish firm’s Vortex gas piston system. It’s available in two calibre options, .177, as seen here, and .22, and the gun is also available in two stock options, these being the standard SpeedFire with a black synthetic stock and the SpeedFire W, which wears a handsome walnut handle.
The SpeedFire is a full-power, full-size rifle and length of pull is a healthy 365mm, which is perfect for shooters like me who have long arms. The synthetic SpeedFire has a slightly shorter overall length of 1190mm compared with the 1195mm of the walnut, and is slightly lighter, too, weighing 3kg rather than the 3.4kg of the SpeedFire W. The walnut model does have an adjustable cheekpiece, however, which could be useful depending on your choice of scope, should you decide to fit one.
Truglo open sights, a recoil dampening system and barrel shroud are all standard features, but the highlight of this rifle is the EZ-Load Action System, a cassette-type device that houses the drum magazine, cycles the rotor and seats a pellet every time the gun is cocked and fired.
Hatsan SpeedFire – key specs
Model: SpeedFire (synthetic stock) SpeedFire W (walnut stock)
UK distributor: Edgar Brothers (edgarbrothers.com)
Price: £200 synthetic, £225 walnut
Type: Multi-shot break-barrel
Calibre: .177 (tested) and .22
Magazine: Two drum magazines
Capacity: 12 shots in .177, 10 shots in .22
Overall length: 1190mm synthetic, 1195mm walnut
Barrel length: 370mm
Weight: 3kg synthetic, 3.4kg walnut
Sights: Fibre-optic and hybrid scope rail
Length of pull: 365mm
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Trigger-pull: 4lb 5oz
Safety: Manual and automatic on cocking
Muzzle energy: 10.27ft/lb
STOCK AND GLASS
Some shooters don’t care for synthetic stocks, but they do offer distinct advantages over wood. Synthetic stocks are generally cheaper to produce, which will be reflected in the retail price, are happy to shrug off bad weather, dents and dings, and don’t absorb moisture in rainy or humid conditions, which can cause the action to move inside the stock, shifting a pellet’s point of impact.
The one potential drawback of using synthetic material is stock flex. This is only of any real concern if the material is hollow or flimsy, but the synthetic stock on the SpeedFire is nice and rigid, except at the tip of the fore-end where the cocking slot is located. In general, it feels solid, rugged and well up to taking on even heavy field use.
The sporter stock features a pistol grip that has a relatively aggressive rake to it, which in my opinion makes the stock more comfortable to hold. The butt pad, which isn’t adjustable for height, is made of a fairly hard rubber and is not particularly grippy.
Panels of chequering have been applied to either side of the pistol grip and fore-end, but the chequering is not aggressive and again doesn’t assist grip all that much. But despite these potential shortcomings I never feared I was losing control of the rifle at any time over my testing period. And one thing I really liked was the fact that the belly of the fore-end is flat, which helps the shooter adopt more target-orientated holds such as the artillery hold.
The SpeedFire is equipped with a hybrid rail that offers both Picatinny and 11mm dovetail mounting options. I’m a fan of the Picatinny system, and a rifle like this is the perfect place to exploit one of its major advantages – no scope creep – as the locating bar on each mount drops into a corresponding slot in the rail. Nevertheless, the review rifle came with a scope already fitted – a Bushnell Prime 3-9×40 sitting in dovetail mounts that had been secured with a rear arrestor block.
Because the cheekpiece is fixed on the synthetic model, you’ll need to ensure that any scope you intend to fit won’t sit too high for your shooting eye. The Bushnell scope of the test rifle was just about right thanks to its fairly small 40mm objective lens.
As with any break-barrel, you’ll also need to ensure the scope isn’t so long that it interferes with cocking and, in this case, the EZ-Load Action System as well. Even though this sits high above the breech, it doesn’t actually interfere with the sight picture through the scope at all, even with magnification set at the minimum 3x.
But you don’t have to fit a scope at all if you don’t want to, as the SpeedFire comes with those Truglo fibre-optic sights. The element on the front post is red, and the entire post flips up when you need it and folds down out of the way when you don’t.
The two-dot rear element is green and can be adjusted for windage and elevation, with the controls offering reasonably positive clicks. The rear element has been cleverly integrated into the housing of the EZ-Load Action System, so it’s always there if you need it.
FORM AND FUNCTION
The 370mm barrel is encased within a synthetic shroud that acts as a silencer-cum-muzzle brake. Gas-rams and springers are notoriously difficult to quieten down and despite the shroud the SpeedFire is a little noisy. But where the shroud really comes into its own is as a cocking handle. Some break-barrels require a sharp tap to release the detent, but the barrel on the SpeedFire is easy to release and cock in one fluid motion.
Cocking the rifle automatically engages the safety catch, which can also be set manually at any time. This is a great safety feature, especially considering the multi-shot nature of the SpeedFire. The catch itself is located at the rear of the action, shotgun-style, and can be operated by the thumb of your shooting hand.
If you’re activating it manually, to set the safety to ‘On’ you just need to push the catch upwards, which blocks any movement of the trigger blade. To switch the safety to ‘Off’ it needs to be thumbed down. As long as you operate it slowly and deliberately this can be done nearly silently.
Hatsan has included an anti-bear trap feature that works in tandem with the safety catch. In addition to the safety automatically being engaged when the gun is cocked, the anti-bear trap device prevents the safety catch from being put to the ‘Off’ position when the barrel is broken.
The EZ-Load Action System looks quite complicated, and sits above the breech. The drum magazine – two of which are provided – pops into the EZ-Load with a definite click. It can only go in one way due to the ridge on the face of the mag and a corresponding groove in the loading bay. A small catch on the left of the EZ-Load pops it out again.
Loading the mag is simply a case of inserting a pellet nose first into the empty chamber, then turning the rotor anti-clockwise, holding it against mild spring tension while filling the remaining chambers as you go. The black magazine housing features a cut-out at the top through which you can see the red rotor, with a white marker showing you when you’re on your last round. While this is useful, it would have been even better if each chamber on the rotor had been numbered to show exactly how many pellets were remaining, although this is only a minor gripe.
Hatsan’s now-standard Quattro trigger has been fitted to the SpeedFire. The trigger is multi-adjustable but, in keeping with our usual test protocol, I left it alone and didn’t try to tweak it. First-stage travel was light but came to a
distinct stop, while the second stage did exhibit some creep.
Nevertheless, my results on target proved this gun could shoot really well. The blade is worthy of note, being much more curved and angled rearward than a standard offering. This was a little off-putting at first, but did provide a consistent anchor point for the pad of my finger and I soon got used to it.
READY FOR THE RANGE
Gas-rams tend to have a shorter lock time than springers, but can feel a bit spirited in the hand. Despite not being overly heavy – weight helping to absorb recoil – the SpeedFire was a surprisingly gentle rifle to shoot. It is fitted with Hatsan’s Shock Absorber System, which probably helped.
It’s quite nicely balanced, too, although the point of balance is a little further forward than usual, being about two hands’ widths in front of the trigger guard. I suspect the point of balance on the walnut-stocked SpeedFire W would be more neutral thanks to the extra weight of the wooden stock.
While there’s sadly no such thing as a universal pellet for all air rifles, my ‘go to’ ammo for springers and gas-rams is JSB Exact Express. This little pellet weighs around 7.8gr and seems to work pretty well in most guns of this type. With the bore cleaned and thoroughly re-leaded the SpeedFire was put over the chrono, with the rifle delivering an average velocity of 770fps, a variation of 15.2fps over a 10-shot string and a muzzle energy of 10.27ft/lb.
I’m never too concerned about full-power rifles that don’t deliver in excess of 11ft/lb as long as they are accurate and consistent. The variation in velocity was a concern, however, as I’d have preferred to have seen a figure of 10fps or less. I needn’t have worried, however, as the groups turned out to be stellar.
When zeroing the rifle, I was hoping to start off at 25 yards but the scope that came with the gun ran out of elevation at 20 and the reticle offered no holdover points, so I stuck with 20 yards for the time being. I’ll be honest
and admit that for a relatively inexpensive rifle like this, I was expecting it to turn out to be not much more than a competent plinker. But my expectations were about to be exceeded.
At 20 yards, and with me shooting off a bench and resting the fore-end in the palm of my hand, the SpeedFire was printing reliable five-shot groups measuring around 8mm centre-to-centre. Despite running out of elevation adjustment with this particular scope and mount combo, I pushed the distance to 30 yards, simply aiming on and letting the groups naturally fall low. I was amazed as the average group size was still only around 10mm, even though the trigger-pull was a fairly hefty 4lb 5oz as measured with my Lyman digital gauge.
It is a long rifle but was pleasant to shoot from a number of stances, sitting on a beanbag cushion being my favourite. I was very pleasantly surprised by the level of accuracy this gun delivered, making it worthy of contention for not just the club or garden plinker, but the hunter too.
In the field a fast follow-up shot is sometimes necessary, and with the SpeedFire that follow-up shot just got a whole lot faster.
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- Benjamin Cayden review with Mike Morton
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