Competitively-priced, well-designed and reliable, this is a practical semi-auto, says Lewis Potter
The semi-automatic shotgun — or self-loading shotgun if you wish to be very British — is an interesting concept. When viewed in a dispassionate way simply as a multi-shot firearm it is very efficient and one-up on the pump-action. Judged just on the basis of firepower it has some advantages over the double-barrelled gun, which is itself the simplest form of repeater, being a sophisticated assembly of two single barrels fixed together. Yet in the respectability stakes the semi-automatic lags well behind the double and more than one authority has been quick to criticise the idea of anyone wanting to take one on a formal shoot day. As a consequence, the semi-auto has remained very much a basic working gun, a role in which it excels.
The Hatsan Escort Xtreme I tested is typical of a workhorse semi-automatic with a multi-choke capability. The gun, resplendent in its black finish, with synthetic stock, long barrel and selection of extended chokes, would be at home on the clay circuit, in a gullytaking out wildfowl or intercepting pigeon on a high flightline.
First impressions are that it is a big gun, due in part to the visual effect of the long aluminium alloy receiver to accommodate 3in (76mm) cartridges. The effect is heightened by the generously proportioned fore-end and 30in barrels with protruding choke. The length of pull as standard is a modest 141/2in, fairly normal for this type of gun, with additional butt spacers provided for the owner who needs a longer reach. There are also spacers to insert between the stock and receiver to alter the cast — all useful aids towards obtaining a good gun fit which is an essential precursor to accuracy.
Handling is fairly deliberate as one would expect of a gun with an overall length of 51in and a weight of 71/2lb unloaded. At the same time, it is very pointable and, as I was to find out on test, comfortable to shoot with the bigger loads — even if the butt-pad is a bit on the hard side. As for the soft grey panels inserted in the synthetic stock and fore-end, they really do fulfil their function of providing a comfortable grip.
This Hatsan is a gas-operated semi-automatic following fairly well established principles of operation. The piston, actuated by gasses bled off from the barrel, pushes against the twin-arm action bar assembly to operate the bolt mechanism. The return, or closing, of the bolt is achieved by a return spring located around the tubular magazine.
A neat touch is the magazine cut-off allowing one to lock the magazine shut, eject a cartridge from the chamber and reload with a different cartridge if required. A chrome-plated lever situated in the middle of the carrier at the bottom of the receiver is the bolt release, while the safety is the familiar side-operated trigger lock at the back of the trigger-guard.
One feature that has little use in the UK market is the built-in dovetail slots for mounting a sight, but if driven boar using rifled slug is your sort of sport this could be useful for a simple optical sight.
The barrel is chambered 3in magnum and sports a fairly extravagant, though not unattractive, ventilated rib and a dinky green plastic foresight. It carries Birmingham proof marks and this gun is superior proofed for use with steel shot cartridges — important for many semi-auto shooters. Five extended chokes are part of the standard package and, while flush fitting chokes are available, these, with their serrated extension, are a delight to swap.
The finish is very good, and as for the detailing on each choke tube, that could not be bettered. For example, full choke reads “full 1/1 choke, no slugs or sabots, not for use of steel shot”; slightly unusual grammar in that last statement perhaps, but it’s quite clear what is meant. The rest of the chokes in the set include three-quarters, half, quarter and cylinder, all suitably marked.
Something that does not relate directly to the gun but is a good idea is the choke containers. These are fiddly little nylon tubes but not so on the Hatsan — a substantial twin-walled cylindrical plastic container with a hexagon top and multi-start quick release thread is provided. This really is the kind of kit one could open easily with numbed fingers out on the salt marsh and it’s strong enough to protect the spare choke tubes if trodden on.
Hatsan on test
Out on test this Hatsan Xtreme proved to be an easy semi-auto to get along with. The only thing I found a little awkward was the pistol grip, which is quite a handful. For me, where my hand lay naturally, it did mean a bit of a finger stretch to engage the trigger comfortably, which, like most guns of this type, is set a bit heavy and with a fairly long engagement for safe operation.
Due to its length and forward weight the Hatsan swung easily; not a gun for a quick, choppy change of direction but more than adequate for most needs and very smooth. The pattern plate results, for what is after all an economically priced gun, were quite impressive too. Cartridges used included NSI Diamond Sporting, a cartridge new to the market that I have not previously had the opportunity to use, Gamebore Super Steel, Lyalvale Express Super Game and Eley Alphamax. All performed well, though there was some difference in the vertical impact points between the lead and steel shot. Point of aim for most purposes was with the foresight bead on the centre of the pattern sheet. One thing that soon became apparent was that patterns, regardless of the choke fitted, were tighter than expected.
For general functioning, a mixed selection of cartridges from the “odds and sods” box was pressed into service. Shot loads used varied from 28g to 46g, No. 71/2 shot to No. 3 shot. The Hatsan never missed a beat and empty cases were thrown about 12 feet away at a velocity sufficient to make my dogs retreat to a safer distance.
Fulfills the role of a useful multi-purpose gun intended for hard work