Flamboyant, colourful and even equipped for turkey hunting, this semi-auto offers reliable functioning with a wide variety of cartridges, says Lewis Potter.
Around 10 years ago, I reviewed a camouflaged Hatsan 20-bore semi-auto and commented at the time that to turn up with it on a formal gameshoot would be akin to introducing a young lady of dubious reputation to your very respectable mother and announcing marriage plans. To continue the analogy, that same young lady has matured into something of a scarlet woman; bright, brash and potentially great fun: the Hatsan Escort Magnum Xtreme.
That might not be how everyone views one of the latest colourful options from Hatsan, and I have tested a rather severe all-black model as a pigeon gun, but the Hatsan Escort Magnum Xtreme on test is, at the very least, eye-catching. I would go so far as to say it is probably not for the shooter of conservative mien who wishes to go about their business unnoticed. However, for the Gun who is fond of semi- automatics and who does not mind advertising the fact, this Hatsan could be just the ticket.
While colourful shotguns are not new, my first impression of this Hatsan Escort Magnum Xtreme was one of slight amazement, tempered with a certain amount of wry amusement that the maker was prepared to be quite so daring. That is the view of someone who is a bit deficient in the colour recognition department.
Of course, it is not just the bright blue and the size of the aluminium alloy receiver, but also the contrast of the matt black stock and fore-end with the grey soft inserts for comfortable handling, glossy black barrels and shiny extended choke that has such a visual impact. You could almost forget that this is really a serious tool to do a job, whether out in the field or on the clay circuit.
To put things in perspective, the Hatsan Escort Magnum Xtreme is a 3in chambered, steel-shot proofed, 28in barrelled, gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun with a synthetic stock and fore- end. It comes supplied with five extended choke tubes, with the spares, when not in use, protected in remarkably sturdy cylindrical containers.
One of the advantages of such long chokes is, of course, that they are usually changed by hand, no choke key being necessary or provided. Extra chokes can be obtained separately and the maker advertises extra, full-choke tubes for turkey hunting. While this is an opportunity sadly lacking in the UK it is not to say that such “super chokes” might not have their uses.
Spacers to fit between the head of the stock and rear of the receiver to alter cast and drop are provided as well as three spacers to adjust stock length of pull (the measurement from the trigger to the end of the butt). This is topped off by a spare gas cylinder “O” ring and the importer’s (Edgar Brothers) three year “no quibble” guarantee. It all adds up to a quite impressive and comprehensive package.
Hatsan advertises this semi-auto as having smart valve piston technology and a fast loading system. The former refers to a piston assembly designed to cater for cartridges of various lengths and performance without having to carry out any changes to the gun. The fast-loading system is really a modification over earlier models to allow easier fumble-free loading. These are the kinds of features that one can only confirm on testing.
The synthetic stock and fore-end are made from a polymer compound and, while the stock has the usual hollow sound when tapped, the soft, cross-hatched grey- coloured inserts are really comfortable in the hand. Also the general fit is good due to a neatly shaped stock and very practical design of fore-end.
A couple of other features of note include the magazine cut-off and extensions on the trigger. The cut-off on a semi-auto shotgun with tubular magazine became popular in the early 20th century but there was a lack of interest, at least among most makers. It is a rather useful and eminently practical device, allowing you effectively to shut off the magazine, holding the cartridges therein, while changing a cartridge in the breech, say for a heavier load if a fox appears.
The extensions to the trigger mean that there is no gap in the trigger-plate, so they guard against the ingress of foreign materials into the lock work. As for the trigger lock safety in the rear of the trigger-guard, that is a feature familiar to most users of this sort of gun. Similarly, the bolt release situated in the cartridge carrier, which is pressed to release the bolt, is something we are used to, though the length of this release and its grooved shape do bode well for the rapid reload.
Hidden away inside there are dual operating arms on the action bar, which is always a good feature. The large diameter recoil spring is located around the magazine — again, a technically neat idea — and the magazine is crimped to comply with UK law, while the gun bears Birmingham proof marks.
Hatsan Escort Magnum Xtreme on test
The first test with any semi-auto is reliability of functioning. I used 10 different loads of cartridge from five different makers, including some noted for “soft” recoil characteristics. Loads varied from 21g to 40g magnum, mixed up in no particular order and in 2½in (65mm), 2¾in (70mm) and 3in (76mm) lengths. Every one fed and fired without a hitch; the only noticeable differences being the recoil, which even then was not unpleasant for a gun weighing a bare 7¼lb unloaded. With the “hotter” cartridges, it ejected cases further than the more modest loads.
As far as fast loading is concerned, it could be loaded as fast as your hands can oblige, which in my case is not as fast as 30 years ago. I asked a young friend in the prime of life to have a go and he found it was simple, straightforward and foolproof as any good semi-auto should be.
Patterns were placed on the target fairly much with the foresight bead just on the target bird. In the good light on the day of testing, the plastic bead seemed to glow like a laser, and even shooting with both eyes open it appeared very clear in my sight. Trigger-pull proved to be better than average for this sort of shotgun and a demonstration of the magazine cut-off to my young friend left him amazed that not all manufacturers included this very useful device.
Gun on test kindly loaned by Shooting Supplies, Worcestershire, tel 01527 831261 or visit www.shootingsuppliesltd.co.uk.
The Hatsan Escort Magnum Xtreme did everything expected of it and did it well; subtle improvements mean it is quite user-friendly.