The strong and silent type? Mat Manning puts the whisper-quiet Hatsan Nova Compact Tactical QE to the test, on the range and in the field
Test gun supplier: Edgar Brothers
Price: £552 (£580.35 for walnut stock)
Model: Nova Compact Tactical QE
Type: Multi-shot sidelever PCP rifle
Calibre: .177, .22 (tested) and .25
Magazine: 10-shot rotary
Overall Length: 117-127cm (extendable) including silencer
Length of Pull: 295-395mm
Weight: 4.5kg (unscoped)
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Safety: Automatic, resettable
Power: 11.4ft lb
Hatsan airguns have a reputation for delivering solid, reliable performance at a competitive price. Although it’s by no means a cheap airgun, the new Nova Compact Tactical QE follows in that vein – its £552 price tag buys you a full-size, full-power PCP that boasts several innovative features.
The first thing to strike me about this Hatsan is that, despite its name, it isn’t particularly compact. The test gun actually measured around 120cm from end to end – the exact length is a moveable feast, thanks to the extendable rear section of the stock, but more about that later.
Part of this airgun’s considerable length can be attributed to the long barrel, which is fully shrouded and incorporates a slinky tapered Quiet Energy (or QE) silencer. The shroud and moderator give a real boost to the gun’s looks, but they also perform extremely well, and, as a consequence, this gun is extremely quiet.
Back to the stock, and the handle on this Nova variant is an ambidextrous black synthetic one – and it lives up to the gun’s Tactical label. Its real standout feature is the telescopic butt section, which facilitates the length adjustment mechanism. Press the button beneath the cheek support and the butt section slides in and out to enable you to get the length of pull exactly right to suit you. Once it’s where you want it, release the button and the retainer snaps into the nearest notch to lock it into position. The notches give around 20mm adjustment at each stage, enabling length of pull to be shifted from 295 to 395mm. The most comfortable setting for me turned out to be one notch in from maximum, giving a 375mm length of pull.
There is a noticeable amount of play in the connection mechanism, but it didn’t cause any problems when shouldering and shooting the test gun. Another button just behind the pistol grip facilitates the complete removal of the rear section, which could prove useful for transportation.
Slacken off the locking screws on the cheekpiece, and that can also be adjusted up and down to improve alignment between your eye and the scope. It doesn’t offer an enormous amount of rise, and you’ll probably need it on its highest setting if you plan to use medium scope mounts or higher. Right at the very back of the butt section is a soft, ventilated recoil pad. It doesn’t have much work to do because this PCP has no recoil, but it does feel extremely comfortable in the shoulder.
The pistol grip is a tactical-looking drop-down design. It’s sculpted to cradle the profile of your hand and gives very good trigger attack. Moulded just in front of the trigger guard is a neat little snap-fit clip, which holds the spare magazine. The housing looks like the sort of magazine you might find on a rimfire and it suits the gun’s overall looks very well.
The front of the stock flares out to accommodate the large buddy bottle. It makes for a wide hold that suits larger hands, and this section of the stock is grooved for improved grip. There’s also a Picatinny rail on the underside of the forend for attaching accessories like a bipod or laser, and this stock’s impressive list of extras doesn’t end there. The handle is also ready-fitted with sling swivels – and you even get a padded sling supplied with the gun.
This is very much an adult-sized airgun; apart from being comparatively long, it weighs 4.5kg without a scope fitted. It is pointable, though, and doesn’t feel excessively long once you have it shouldered. The large-capacity air bottle and light rear section does make it feel front-heavy, but the additional rearward weight of a scope and mounts helps to counter that.
Just as I’d expect from a Hatsan, the Nova feels to be very solidly engineered and it’s finished to a decent standard. Engineering is probably better described as robust than refined, but there’s nothing wrong with that – this is the sort of gun that can be put to real use without fear of it picking up the odd bump. The black metalwork matches the tactical stock and, being more matt than deep gloss in finish, shouldn’t attract unwanted attention in the field.
There’s plenty of clamping space on the scope rails, which are stepped to accommodate either 11 or 22mm mounts. Because the magazine doesn’t stand very high above the line of the rail, it’s unlikely to get in the way of the scope tube if you need to place mounts either side of it.
Filling the Hatsan Nova is fast and fuss-free. The supplied quick-fill probe simply pushes into the inlet at the front of the action just behind the bottle. The probe pushes out the friction-fit plug on its way in, and it’s then just a matter of filling up, bleeding the hose, uncoupling the probe and then popping the plug back in to keep dust and grit at bay.
Maximum fill pressure is a hefty 250 bar. That’s a lot of pressure, and a heck of a lot of air in that big 500cc bottle. I filled the .22 calibre test gun to just below the maximum limit and it returned just short of 200 consistent shots at around 11.4ft lb. There’s a clear pressure gauge safely positioned in the belly of the stock – roll the gun over and air reserves can be checked at a glance.
The trigger is a lot better than I’d expected – certainly better than some Hatsans I’ve used over the years. I really like the shape of the blade, which has a slight curve and a flat front face. It’s an adjustable two-stage Quattro trigger unit. From the box, the first stage was quite short and, although it did have a small amount of creep, the second stage was positive and very predictable.
The gun is fed by a 10-shot rotary magazine that’s of a simple cog-type design. To remove it, you push the retaining bolt in front of the magazine forward, pull the sidelever all the way back, then pull it out from the right. It’s incredibly simple to load – and you do that with the smooth side facing away from you. I tried a variety of pellets and, although all felt quite tight going into the magazine, it didn’t seem to hamper the probing mechanism or downrange accuracy. Once the magazine is full, you pop it back in, return the retaining bolt, push the sidelever forwards and the gun is cocked and ready to shoot.
The sidelever cocking system is impressive and makes for fast and reliable reloading. It’s very positive and doesn’t feel at all rough. Cycling it back and forwards indexes the magazine, cocks the gun and probes the next pellet into the breech. The rear stroke also engages the resettable automatic safety catch which is conveniently positioned at the rear of the action – the catch pushes off by thumbing it forward when you’re set to take the shot.
Although the Tactical QE’s proportions need getting used to, it is a nice gun to shoot and it’s pretty accurate. It’s not an easy gun to shoot freehand, but it didn’t take me long to get the measure of it in the kneeling stance. Shooting rested from a bench revealed its true accuracy potential, and I was able to consistently print five-shot groups measuring less than 20mm from centre to centre at 30m.
Hatsan’s Turkish factory has a reputation for turning out decent barrels, with careful attention paid to the rifling and crowning process. The Quiet Energy shroud and suppressor on the end of this one hush the muzzle report down to a muted ‘pap’.
The multi-shot loading system didn’t miss a beat during the test period. It’s a great feature for high-speed plinking, but also handy for fast follow-up shots in the field.