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What the hell?! It’s a 30 Cal!

By Nik Maxwell

Who can remember their first air rifle? Mine was a Diana Model 27, a true classic in air rifle manufacturing history.

 

Dad bought the rifle for my 4th birthday, a purchase that these days that would have many on the ‘other’ side of firearm ownership pulling their hair out in pure anguish.

 

It will come as no surprise that I quickly adopted the hunting and shooting lifestyle. Under the guidance and tuition of Dad, I spent the next few years honing my skills with that little rifle.

 

There were a lot of holes through paper, chunks of dirt and clay blown apart and more than a few plastic toy soldiers taken out! I couldn’t get enough of it and of course the rest is history. Hold on, let’s cut the reminiscing here, back to the Carnivore.

 

OVERVIEW

The Hatsan Carnivore 135 is a single shot break barrel actioned air rifle. It is spring piston powered and will propel a 44gr lead slug down from the muzzle at 550fps, which isn’t all that quick. Standard .177 calibre air rifles will run anywhere between 900-1200fps. However, while the velocity is somewhat down that large slug provides ample knock down power.

 

It is a full-size rifle featuring a very well-crafted Turkish walnut Monte Carlo styled stock. The stock has an elevation adjustable comb and buttpad. There is checkering on both the pistol grip and mid-way up the stock, the hand carrying position

 

The stock buttpad and comb are both adjustable and provide an excellent shoulder fit and cheek weld.

 

The iron sight system is a typical rear elevation and windage adjustable sight with an open front sight. Truglo fibre optics provide quick sight alignment. A scope can be mounted via your standard Weaver style scope mounts.

 

The trigger system sounded impressive. Named the Quattro Trigger, it is fully adjustable and allows both creep and pull weight to be adjusted which was most welcome because… the initial pull weight was 9lbs!

 

Yes, you read that right, 9. Why so heavy ?! I searched far and wide for an answer and it simply came down this, safety. Basically, the heavy pull weight is to reduce the risk of an accidental discharge and from what I could gather, particularly in the hands of minors.

 

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The Quattro Trigger is fully adjustable; a tang positioned safety for easy access and operation; Truglo fibre optic iron sights for quick target acquisition.

 

I imagine a visit to the gunsmith for some additional lightening would be in order. I left any trigger adjustment until I got to the range as I wanted to see what if any difference they made.

 

The fine screw adjustments for the creep allowed me to set the trigger closer to my preferred take-up - the bare minimum of play before discharging. This adjustment was great, allowing me to set it just right.

 

There is an integrated sound suppressor (QuietEnergy) and interestingly the barrel measures just 270mm (10.6”) The full barrel length including the suppressor is 440mm (17”).

 

The safety, while functional, is somewhat cheap feeling. Constructed from plastic it wobbles around slightly when in use and on the safety side of things, metal just feels, safer! It is automatically set to safe each time the barrel is cocked and works in reverse, i.e; pull the safety towards you to fire.

 

ON THE RANGE

Nathan was due some range time with his Savage Rascal so what better way to spend an afternoon than putting some shots down range.

 

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It was a sunny yet breezy day but with our distance at the 25m mark, the wind wouldn’t prove much of an issue. Mounted on the Carnivore was my trusty Vortex Diamondback HP 3-12x42, a great scope that has served me very well over the years.

 

Nate and I set up some paper targets for me and some balloons for him. He much prefers shooting targets that give him some feedback and balloons are ideal, lots of colour and they seemingly vaporise when he hits one!

 

My first job was to get the Carnivore zeroed which actually ended up requiring a few more shots than I had anticipated. The first 20 or so pellets were slightly inconsistent in their groupings and it took a bit of time for the rifle to ‘settle’ in.

 

A whole lot of lead. A 44gr JSB Match Diabolo EXACT slug next to a 40gr Winchester Power Point.

 

Eventually things improved and I began to shoot ragged 2” groups. I actually just kept on shooting more and more pellets through the rifle, it was a lot of fun! There was the very occasional flyer that even after 50 or so rounds through the 135 I still wasn’t able to identify the cause. My only thought being that there could be small inconsistencies in the pellets themselves that attributed to this.

 

While devouring pellet after pellet I did begin to notice the effort required to cock the rifle. It certainly isn’t a rifle that you would put a whole packet through in one sitting, well maybe not with my ‘guns’ arms! I imagine that the cocking may actually get easier over time.

 

With targets set up at 25m, the initial shots (left target) were a bit hit and miss. Eventually groupings tightened until ragged holes began to be produced.

 

During this process I adjusted the stock to suit as well as making some slight adjustments to the trigger stage and pull weight. Reaching for a hex key I proceeded to drop the weight all the way down to… 8lbs. Yep, that was it.

 

An 8-pound pull is not conducive to achieving good groups but there wasn’t much more I could do to improve that except concentrate on my trigger control. If it were my rifle, I’d be visiting a gunsmith to see if it could be lightened. 

 

The sound moderator reduces the report to virtually zero leaving with you just the sound of the gas ram coming forward. With the stock and, albeit slight, trigger adjustments in place I was ready to take the 135 out on the hill after some rabbits. Prior to that though, I was interested to see what kind of penetration these big ol’ 44gr slugs had.

 

I wanted to be positioned within the 25m meter mark so brought along my Bushnell rangefinder to ensure I could get the correct distance. I also brought along my pack to provide some shooting support. The hunt was on, this was exciting!

 

Back in my youth, I remember ‘testing’ bullet penetration on timber and for the 135 I thought why not  do the same. At the range I set up a piece of dry 200mm x 50mm (6” x 2”) at 25m and fired off three slugs.

 

The penetration measured just over 15mms. While this experiment is hardly scientific, I would’ve expected that kind of punch to be adequate to pierce the skin and penetrate into a rabbit at a similar distance. The thud of the bullet striking the timber was also notable, a solid ‘whack’ could be heard as the slug hit the wood.

 

IN THE FIELD

The last time I’d done any hunting with an air rifle was all that time ago with my Diana. Under Dad’s supervision I managed to shoot a couple of rabbits. However, I quickly migrated to a .22Lr. The slug gun was great for around the house plinking and those plastic toy soldiers provided the most fun but for hunting it lacked consistent killing power.

 

Anyway, it was out to Te Puke to see if I could participate in reducing the local rabbit population. The summer months often sees a notable rise in rabbit numbers, particularly in the front horse paddocks where any shooting needs a measured and low-key approach.

 

There are several warrens in the front paddocks and there are almost always rabbits there. I wanted to be positioned within the 25m meter mark so brought along my Bushnell rangefinder to ensure I could get the correct distance. I also brought along my pack to provide some shooting support. The hunt was on, this was exciting!

 

Heading out on a fine mid-week evening I was immediately presented with multiple opportunities, there were rabbits everywhere! Great, all I needed to do was stalk within range and it should be lights out for a bunny or two, easy…

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The first one hit with a loud and solid sounding thump and I was hopeful that the rabbit would be dead at the entrance of the warren. Nope, no blood and no fur. After the second escapee, it was time to ‘regroup’.

 

Well, the stalking part I had down but the killing of the rabbits, not so much. On two occasions where I put a direct chest shot on the rabbit, they both bounded off down their burrows. The first one hit with a loud and solid sounding thump and I was hopeful that the rabbit would be dead at the entrance of the warren. Nope, no blood and no fur. After the second escapee, it was time to ‘regroup’.

 

Hmm, I wasn’t too keen on shooting at another rabbit and my initial thoughts were that the dome shaped slugs just couldn’t penetrate the hide of the rabbit. A headshot might do it, but the thought of wounding the animal had now put me off.

 

Nik located plenty of rabbits, all of which lived for another day!

 

I searched online for 30 Cal hunting slugs and although pickings were slim, I did find some available through an online air rifle store called NZ Air Rifles.

 

They had some hunting slugs that would probably do the trick, however my time with the Carnivore was at an end. Also, I couldn’t help but think that I was most likely educating these rabbits more so than reducing their numbers! The farmer wants dead rabbits not learned ones…

 

CONCLUSION

Chambered in .30cal, the Hatsan Carnivore is an air rifle designed to deliver huge down range energy.

 

At a shade under 10lbs it is certainly weighty, but for the most part I would guess that the owner of such a rifle would be using it for pest control around an orchard or lifestyle block where keeping things quiet is in order.

 

Despite the heavy trigger weight and the slugs seemingly bouncing off the bunnies, I did enjoy my time with the 135. It was nice change of pace. I feel that both of the mentioned ‘issues’ could be quite easily remedied with a trip to the smithy and the use of a dedicated hunting slug.

 

If you are in the market for a ‘big bore’ slug gun, the Hatsan Carnivore 135 is a definite contender.

 

Hatsan air rifles are imported and distributed by Cameron Outdoors.

 

For more information visit:

 

www.cameronoutdoors.co.nz

 

Nik

 

Note: For hunting purposes, I strongly recommend sourcing a proper hunting slug that will provide the penetration required to kill humanely. In fact, I recall using a pointed and black plastic jacketed slug (Prometheus) back in the days hunting with my Diana that were effective in dispatching a rabbit.

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