This whole episode should be some sort of life lesson…. I suppose it is, but much like Calvin from the “Calvin and Hobbes” strip, my mantra in life sometimes seems to be “Live and don’t learn.”
So, I sent the Hatsan back.
Remember, I originally purchased the Hatsan because it was the most powerful (and supposedly most accurate) break barrel pellet gun on the market. Although I never saw the accuracy, I can attest to the power. That gun was a monster. It would punch a .25 caliber round-headed pellet through 1/2 inch plywood with ease, and about one out of four shots into 3/4″ plywood also penetrated. I have no doubt the gun could kill a deer, much less a skunk. In .25 caliber it supposedly delivered up to 40+ foot pounds of energy on impact, which is about
half 1/4 of a typical .22 long rifle bullet. It is technically not considered “lethal” according to the standard measure of “lethal” firearm, but I wouldn’t want to take a pellet from the gun.
But my experience with the gun has been totally negative. So much so, in fact, that it has put me off break-barrel designs entirely.
The unfortunate aspect of this is that the pellet rifle world is divided into four basic categories:
1. Pump pneumatic guns. These are guns you pump up with repeated pumping actions building up air pressure in a reservoir which is released when you pull the trigger. The advantage of pump pneumatic guns is that when you shoot the gun, there is negligible recoil. The disadvantages are that you can’t really design a gun that you can pump up easily to deliver any sort of real power. They have a practical limit based on how much you can pump into the reservoir each pump, and how many pumps you can make. Typically ten pumps is considered to be the max that a shooter will tolerate to get full power. Also the power of these guns tends to be highly variable and therefore the muzzle velocity of the pellets tend to be unpredictable. This is because it is hard to get every pump to be the same. So for the most part pump pneumatic pellet rifles are restricted to backyard plinking duty. They aren’t considered suitable for “ethical hunting” and they typically aren’t consistent enough to be used for serious target shooting. Pump pneumatic guns can be quite cheap. Some quality guns sell for less than $100.
2. Break barrel guns. These now come in two flavors. Steel spring and gas piston. The Hatsan was a steel spring. The advantage of the break barrel gun is that you can generate some serious energy storage from a single pump of the barrel because the energy is stored in a spring or a gas piston instead of increasing the air pressure of an air reservoir. Upon pulling the trigger the spring or gas piston decompresses violently, driving a large piston down an airtight tube to generate a sudden burst of air pressure which propels the pellet. The disadvantage of these guns is that the violent energy release tends to cause the guns to be difficult to shoot with accuracy, requiring a high degree of skill in holding the gun in exactly the same manner for every single shot. The violent energy release tends to travel throughout the gun loosening bolts, changing the scope alignment and just generally wreaking havoc with the gun to the point that maintaining the guns can be a pain. This is why I eventually soured on the design. However, these guns do provide enough energy that if you CAN shoot them accurately, you can reliably take down prey of up to raccoon or even coyote size. Which is why I thought it would be perfect for a skunk. Break barrel guns vary in price according to quality. You can get some .177 caliber basic models for $100, but decent quality guns with any real power tend to be in the $300 – $600 range.
3. CO2 cartridge guns. These guns are similar to the pump pneumatic guns. The limitations of CO2 as a power source are quite severe. CO2 cartridges work by exploiting the volatility of liquid CO2. Basically as long as you have enough CO2 in the cartridge that the pressure keeps some of it in liquid state, the CO2 pressure in the cartridge remains constant. When you fill up a CO2 cartridge the pressure inside the cartridge increases until it reaches the point that the gas liquifies, then adding more CO2 essentially doesn’t change the pressure, it just makes more liquid CO2. In reverse this means that the cartridge will deliver more or less exactly the same amount of gas pressure per shot until the liquid is gone, at which point you might get one more shot before it becomes exhausted. The problem with CO2 guns is that the pressure inside the cartridge at which the liquid becomes gas and vice versa is highly dependent on the temperature. At 100 degrees you might get 2,000 psi pressure inside the cartridge, which will send a pellet on its way at a respectable velocity (but still somewhat less than a break barrel or PCP gun can achieve). But when you get down to, say, 50 degrees, you might be getting only half that pressure, and at really cold temperatures the gun becomes unusable. So since most hunting occurs in the fall or winter, CO2 guns tend to be reserved for backyard plinking and general tomfoolery. CO2 guns are probably the cheapest pellet rifles in general since they have few moving parts and don’t have to be made to high levels of quality or use high quality materials. So $50 might get you a decent CO2 rifle.
4. Pre-charged pneumatic guns. These are the the real deal. They have all the power (and more) of the break barrel guns with all of the advantages of the CO2 or pump pneumatic guns. They have negligible recoil. They have fixed barrels. They have relatively few moving parts. The disadvantage of the PCP guns are primarily in two areas. First they tend to operate at around 3,000 psi, which is scuba tank territory and requires very high quality construction and high quality materials to avoid catastrophic tank or barrel failure. This really drives up the price. But besides that, they require some means of charging the gun before you can shoot it. Those of you who have filled up a bicycle tire with a hand pump understand what a pain it is to hand-pump an air reservoir. But bicycle tires tend to be fully inflated at about 45 psi. These guns require 3,000+ psi. Air pumps that can handle that much pressure are specialty items. You can’t find one at your local Walmart. And they ain’t cheap. A decent quality 3,000 psi air pump that can charge a PCP air rifle costs $200 – $350, depending on the quality. The good ones have moisture filters because if you pump moist air into the reservoir, when you shoot the gun, the moisture will condense immediately due to the drop in pressure. That means your gun innards will get wet, but it also means that your air pressure will drop slightly due to the condensation of the water, which means you’ll lose a bit of power. So you want DRY air. As it happens, that’s also what scuba tanks require, so it is common practice to charge these guns using scuba gear. But that’s not cheap either. First you need an adapter so that the scuba tank filler can fill the gun, second you need a scuba dealer who will fill your gun and third you need to pay the scuba dealer for the service of filling your gun. Or you can just buy a fully charged scuba tank and fill your gun from that, but each time you fill your gun you’ll bleed off some pressure from the tank and eventually you’ll have to top off the scuba tank again to keep the pressure in the gun at the required level. PCP guns tend to run from about $400 to well over $2,000.
So you can guess what I am now wanting…
The best deal I can find so far in terms of power, accuracy and overall cost is the AirForce Condor pellet gun platform. The basic .25 caliber model costs roughly $650 for the gun and the PCP tank. But that tank has to be charged before you can use the gun. A hand pump costs a minimum of $200. The scuba tank adapter costs roughly $100. Since there aren’t many scuba dealers in my neck of the woods, I would have to go with the hand pump. So the “bare bones” model is essentially $850. Plus tax. Free shipping though.
Now, I do have a trade in of $300 from the Hatsan I am sending back, so that means it’s really about $550 out of pocket.
But that’s freaking CRAZY! I can buy a pretty dang nice 30.06 rifle for that much money.
Oh, and I need a scope too. So another $50 – $75 on top of that….
The hell of it is that I have probably already decided to buy the thing. Now it’s just figuring out how to justify it internally.