As the potential for gun regulation looms, many are turning to the benefits an air rifle can provide for their hunting needs. With the right level of experience, hunters can work around the requirements and costs of modern ammunition without changing their effectiveness while hunting. However, with so many products available on the market today, how do you find the best air rifle for hunting? This guide will hopefully answer that question and much more you may have.
Choosing the right air rifle means more than picking a favorite brand. It means selecting the right tool that meets your hunting desires, your at-home needs, and other specific uses you may have. The chart below will help you find the right combination of features at the best possible price from some of today’s top air rifles.
What Are the Features of the Best Air Rifles?
Whether you’re looking for the best .22 for squirrel hunting or you’re looking for a pellet gun with an effective range of 50+ yards, it is necessary to look at the features of the air rifle you’re interested in purchasing to determine if it can meet the demands you’ll be placing upon it. For starters, you’ll need a good scope or sight on the air rifle that allows you to comfortably aim at your target. If you’re not comfortable, then you won’t be accurate.
You must also take a look at these additional features to determine which are important to you.
- Caliber. There are four standard calibers for an air rifle today. They are .177, .20 [5mm], .22, and .25. Please note that these calibers are for pellets and not ball bearing [BB] ammunition. Each caliber has certain advantages and disadvantages, so compare these to your needs before making a decision.
- CO2. Some air rifles come equipped with a CO2 cartridge, which allows them to be fired with semi-automatic features. Others require you to manually pump the rifle to create pressure that will fire the ammunition.
- FPS. Once you’ve considered power, it is essential to consider speed as well when shopping for an air rifle. Smaller caliber pellets will travel faster, but they might not take down your target. You must find the right combination of feet per second and overall power to have success.
The final consideration in features to think about is accuracy. For this reason, many hunters are also looking at the best scopes for air rifles to accompany the gun itself. When combined with a good checkering pattern, you can receive the stability you need for every shot. Even a great scope won’t help an inaccurate air rifle, however, so look to best air rifles reviews, both public and on this site, to get a feeling of what your preferred gun will be able to do.
How to Find the Best Air Rifle for Hunting
This is where we must talk about the different calibers that are available in the modern air rifle. Explore what each caliber of pellet is able to do and you’ll know what kind of air rifle you need. It is also important to note that some air rifles are equipped to fire multiple caliber pellets and/or BB ammunition.
- .177 Caliber. The smallest caliber of pellet is also the one that is easiest to obtain. The pellets are relatively inexpensive as well and some air rifles can propel them up to 1,300 FPS. This caliber works best for small game hunting, removing pests, or targeting small birds.
- .20 Caliber. This caliber can be difficult to locate at times, but the benefits of using it can be tremendous. You receive the flat trajectory that a smaller caliber provides, but a weight that is nearly equal to the caliber above it.
- .22 Caliber. If you’re looking for the best .22 for squirrel hunting, plinking, or all-around use, then it is important to understand that the trajectory of this caliber changes. This caliber has more knockdown power and is an effective hunting tool for small- to medium-sized game.
- .25 Caliber. This is the air rifle you need if you plan on tackling bigger pests, like opossums, raccoons, or even coyotes. The ammo is heavy, so most air rifles are specifically designed to work with this caliber. Many offer pre-charged systems that come with a higher price tag as well, but the quality is almost first-rate in every brand.
Once you determine the proper caliber for your air rifle, you’re ready to have the accuracy vs. velocity conversation. Do you need something that has blistering speeds to take down small pests? Or do you need stopping power from your pellets so that you can still hunt effectively? Most hunters find that a heavier pellet at 1,000 FPS or slightly less tends to provide the most accuracy without sacrificing velocity, but specific needs can vary. Meet those needs and you’ll know how to find the best air rifle.
What Are the Prices of the Best Air Rifles for Hunting Today?
The good news is that you can still pick up an entry-level air rifle for practicing shooting and limited pest control for around $50. If you’re looking for a higher FPS, entry-level models tend to be priced right around $100. You’ll find numerous options between $100-$200 that will meet the needs of most hunters in various brands. Premium air rifles with superior velocities and accuracy, along with semi-automatic features and alternative power chambers, are priced between $200-$600.
5 Best Air Rifle Reviews:
1 . Crosman Nitro Venom Review:
Coming with a standard scope from CenterPoint, we appreciate the fact that you can get about 200 shots in before the air rifle needs to be calibrated again. Alloy pellets work a bit better in this air rifle, but the accuracy is relatively similar no matter what type of pellet is used. The wide forearm is nice for stability and the fluted muzzlebrake is designed to give you some consistency. We see this as an ideal pest control tool, but could also be used for some limited small game hunting when needed.
2 . Benjamin Titan Review:
You’re first attracted to the beautiful wood stock on this air rifle. When you pick it up, you’ll notice that the balance is nice for either righties or lefties. The thumbhole is placed in a good location, adding to the overall comfort you receive when aiming. The recoil pad is made from rubber and it is ventilated, but prolonged aiming will still create some sweat at the shoulder. Once you calibrate the rifle, you’ll find the accuracy is pretty consistent. At this price, it’s tough to beat all of the benefits this air rifle is able to provide.
3 . Gamo Hornet Review:
This .177 caliber air rifle clocks in at a nice 1,200 FPS when using Raptor ammunition, making it a great tool to use for the small, fast-moving pests or for hunting squirrels. The cocking system is a single break-barrel, which is protected by a manual trigger safety. The air rifle itself weighs just over 6 pounds, so it can feel a bit heavy when you’re in a prolonged stance, but the nonslip checkering on the forearm and grip help to keep things in place. You might need a well-placed shot for some game, but this air rifle can make it happen.
4 . Daisy Powerline Review:
For many of us growing up, the Daisy brand was our first air rifle. It can be one of the best air rifles for hunting now that we’re passing our legacy to the next generation. You’ll get the full kit with this air rifle, including safety glasses and ammunition. It’s a standard multi-pump design that is powerful enough for squirrel hunting, even with just 5 pumps. We found the pellets are your best option for accuracy with this air rifle, but BBs will also perform fairly well. Expect about 25 yards for range with this entry-level tool.
5 . Ruger Blackhawk Review:
This combination air rifle is one of the best .177 calibers we’ve seen to date. The velocity is spot-on at 1,000 FPS, giving you a good combination of velocity and accuracy. Plinking and small game are perfect options for this spring piston rifle. It’s a break action single shot and allows you to shoot through 0.5 inch plywood at 10 yards. A standard scope also comes with this rifle, but you may wish to upgrade to a hunting scope if that’s how you plan to use this air rifle. It does take some practice to get used to the firing, but the black composite body stays solid and will provide consistent results.
The best air rifle for hunting will help you control pests, hunt squirrels and other small game, and be one of the best tools at your disposal. Invest into one today and you will find that it doesn’t cost a lot to receive a tremendous amount of value in this category.