Guns & Weapons

Choosing Best Air Rifle For Hunting: Reviews on the Top Rated Products

Best Air Rifle For Hunting
Andrew McKay
Written by Andrew McKay

Whether you want to catch small game or do away with pests, air rifles make for the best tools and weapons and are a far more economic than a regular firearm. Most guns use a propellant charge to fire a projectile, but air guns use pneumatic systems of compressed air or other gases and in some cases use pneumatics to power a spring-piston to fire pellets or other projectiles.

Air rifles can be as complex as regular firearms with different firing systems, barrel lengths and types, noise emission that result in varying levels of power, accuracy and maintenance requirements and this in turn makes for generic and specialty uses in various applications and situations. So, there are many considerations when choose the best air rifle for hunting.

Types of air rifles

There are three main types of air rifles:

  • Pneumatic rifles use compressed air from either a pump action or even from a diving air cylinder. They can be pricier than other types of air guns initially but the operating costs are lower than other air rifles. Although pneumatic rifles are generally used as target rifles for sport shooting, however, they can make great small game hunting weapons.
  • Spring-pistons use pneumatics to recoil a spring inside the chamber so that when the trigger is pulled, the spring expansion causes air pressure changes behind the pellet and hence results in a higher velocity when the pellet leaves the barrel. It is recommended that you stick to .22 calibre with spring-piston air rifles as the lighter pellets can lose accuracy easier with the changing of air pressure between the barrel and outside of the barrel.
    The down side of this high power means that it is the noisiest option of the air rifles but there are many noise dampening accessories available or built into some models.
  • Gas springs work similarly to regular spring-pistons, however, rather than a mechanical spring, it uses pressurized gas. As the manufacturing requires more precision they can be a bit more expensive but you don’t need to worry about spring wear or fatigue. Gas spring guns are generally the most accurate as they have the shortest time between pulling the trigger and the projectile being discharged. The gas system means they also have lower recoil and noise.

Accuracy

When you’re aiming for small game the most important feature of your gun is that it is accurate. Small game is just that, small. Like most animals that fall near the bottom of the food chain, their sense of smell, sight and sound is far better and so, unless you have super stealth powers, you often have to shoot from far away.

The smaller target requires more skill from the user and accuracy in the tool to make sure you have the best chance of hitting your target because if you’re gun isn’t accurate and you miss, you’ll most likely scare away your prey and any other potential prizes.

Accurate air rifle

The other benefit of an accurate weapon is that they are actually more humane than most other traps and weapons when used correctly. With greater accuracy you can make sure you hit the game in the exact appropriate spot that will result in a precise and instant kill.

The game you are trying to catch should not suffer and there’s a lot to be said for the quality of meat of stressed animals if your goal is to eat your catch. Worse still though is if you hit your target and it doesn’t die instantly but the animal manages to run away with the projectile embedded in its body to suffer every day.

Still, if you don’t feel your gun is accurate enough or you are a beginner hunter, you should invest in a rifle scope. We have reviewed some of the best scopes on the market and you can learn more, in our article here.

Power

This is where power comes in. If there is not enough power behind the pellet it’s not going to penetrate the game to kill it. You have also have to consider calibre size when calculating the power you require for your hunting tasks. Many air rifles can take various calibre sizes, the calibre size, along with the velocity will change what you will be able to effectively kill.

A .17 calibre air rifle with a smaller velocity is generally only capable of killing small birds. You’ll never get the distance or the power for shooting something small and furry like a squirrel. But you can get .17 calibre guns with higher velocity that will do the job. Note that it is recommended to use .22 calibre pellets for small furry game such as squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits, hares and opossums as the weight of the pellet, with the right power behind it, is more likely to effectively kill such a target.

Ease of use

There are many other considerations within this category such as the weight, type of gas propellant or action, number of shots, reloading etc. Most of these are more important if you are going out for a hunt rather than just going through the yard, unless you have a really big property. Or if you still don’t want to put a lot of effort in these are some good ideas to consider also because the easier something is to use, the more likely you are to use it and improve your skills.

If you’ll be carrying it all day you may not want anything too heavy and if you’re going to be out all day you probably don’t want to have to pump it manually every time. Even more annoying would be trying to carry around diving air cylinders for refilling, which is where spring-pistons can win out over their gas counterparts. However there are options where the gas is in a cartridge and when empty can be removed and new one put in its place.

Maintenance

This is a big factor to consider when choosing the best hunting air rifle for yourself because not maintaining your gun is never an option. Some guns are easier than others and some while easy will require more maintenance than other rifles with more complex maintenance needs.

None of this should reflect poorly on the chosen rifle because a simple to maintain gun that requires more regular maintenance as opposed to a simple to maintain gun that does not may have better accuracy and ease of use when out hunting. You have to decide what effort you are willing to put in for what results since a poorly maintained gun will not perform well in any case.

If you want to learn more about hunting with an air rifle, take a look at our article and see what you should expect.

Top rated air rifles

Daisy Red Ryder

Probably one of the most popular of the simpler air rifles is the Daisy Red Ryder.While it’s not as powerful as some of the other guns mentioned here it is still a favourite for what it is. It is said to be one of the most popular BB guns in the world.

Daisy Red Ryder

This air rifle takes a .17 calibre pellet with a velocity of 350 FPS. You’re not going to take down anything small and furry but it will work for birds around the house without shattering windows. Its simplicity, light weight and ease of use make it great for kids and it’s a very cost effective option if you’re only needing to hunt really small game.

If you like this product you can find and buy it here.

Benjamin Trail All Weather Break barrel air rifle

The Benjamin Trail All Weather Break barrel air rifle is a multi stroke pneumatic rifle and is ideal for small game hunting thanks to high muzzle velocity and the use of .22 calibre pellets, which are recommended for the small furry game. As there are no heavy mechanical parts and no significant movement of those parts in a pneumatic rifle, there is little recoil.

Benjamin Trail All Weather Break barrel air rifle

It’s also easy to load and easy to use and so recommended for beginners but great for more experienced shooters also.

If you like this product you can find and check its price here.

Winchester Semi-Automatic CO2 rifle

An example of a CO2 cartridge loading air rifle that comes recommended is the Winchester Semi-Automatic CO2 rifle. Winchester once produced the M14s for the US military and hence they are a reliable and trusted brand. The rifle uses .17 calibre pellets as well as BBs so there are different options for the user. Being semi-automatic it uses a pellet clip, which can fire up to 16 rounds without needing to reload. It’s light so great for hunting trips and made to be rugged and durable.

Winchester Semi-Automatic CO2 rifle

If you like this product you can find and purchase it on Amazon.

Crosman Nitro Venom

One popular gas-piston rifle is the Crosman Nitro Venom, which is ideal for adults as well as teens and children. As it is reasonably priced compared to similar air rifles it makes for a great first choice. Also it is easy to use and easy to learn on. This air rifle is reputed to fire more than 50 times faster than more spring coil rifles. That, with the reduced recoil of gas-pistons, means it’s comfortable to use and offers greater accuracy.

Crosman Nitro Venom

If you like this product you can find and buy it on Amazon.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston

Another popular gas-piston rifle is the Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston. It takes both .17 and .22 calibre pellets. The nitro-piston means that it is quiet to shoot and, along with the bull barrel, has very little recoil. Overall the rifle is exceptionally lightweight and purpose built for all weather so a great choice for shooting in winter. The use of the Nitro Piston technologies allows for smoother shooting with suppressed noise.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston

This air rifle is designed especially for hunting and so comes recommended from many professional shooters.

If you like this product you can find and check its price on Amazon.

Gamo Whisper Silent Cat rifle

The Gamo Whisper Silent Cat rifle is a rifle that has many recommendations. It is a .17 calibre rifle that provides 1200 FPS for lighter pellets and 1000 FPS for heavier pellets. Thanks to this power it has amazing accuracy. The manufacturers have added rubber padding to the butt which absorbs some of the recoil, it has a noise dampener that reduce sound by some 50% and the safety is reliable even while cleaning and loading. Speaking of cleaning, with few moving parts this gun is very easy to maintain.

Gamo Whisper Silent Cat rifle

If you like this product you can find and buy it here.

RWS Pellet Model combo rifle

Another highly recommended air rifle includes the RWS Pellet Model combo rifle because of the prestige in name alone. RWS are one the oldest manufacturers out there but with the age of the name comes its reputation in reliability. Being a spring-piston, these guns can have some serious recoil, however RWS have added a rearward moving slide action that counters the spring vibration and hence absorbs the recoil.

RWS Pellet Model combo rifle

If you like this product you can find and check its price here.

Gamo Big Cat air rifle

For an air rifle that comes with much commendation for both backyard pest control as well as target practice, the Gamo Big Cat rifle is an all weather, all climate, durable gun. It is slightly heavier than other models as it is built to be rugged and feel sturdy but it is still a well balanced rifle. It has a two stage trigger, which is what makes it so great for target practice.

Gamo Big Cat air rifle

It will, however, require a new scope as the one it comes with does not have great recommendations but this is a small trade off for great accuracy and power.

If you like this product you can find and purchase it on Amazon.

Hatsan 95 Vortex Gas Spring air rifle combo

Hatson are known for their durable and powerful rifles and they are also known to offer great features to increase productivity. Although of reasonable price the Hatson 95 air rifle combo is a great option for pest control and small game hunting. The cock is super light and easy to use so it’s good for those who tire easy or just simply do not want the extra effort. It is a gas piston type and with the popularity among new shooters and more seasoned shooters it is a good gun for complete beginners, through semi advanced and advanced.

Hatsan 95 Vortex Gas Spring air rifle combo

If you like this product you can find and buy it on Amazon.

Crosman M4-177 pneumatic pump air rifle

Although not at the more powerful end of air rifles, the Crosman M4-177 pneumatic pump air rifle is a great all rounder that can be used by both young and old. Although it is one of the cheaper models offered by Crosman, you still get Crosman quality, as you do with all Crosman products. You also still get the top priority in safety. The accuracy is great and as it is a consistent shooter your shots will be consistently accurate. This gun comes highly recommended for the small furry rodents and vermin that invade the backyard.

Crosman M4-177 Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle

There are some concerns that this gun looks a little too close to the real thing, the M4 it is named after, and with no distinctive markers to differentiate this could pose issues when someone picks up what they believe is an air rifle but is actually a firearm, then again with a mostly plastic design these claims could be unwarranted.

If you like this product you can find and buy it here.

Benjamin Marauder PCP rifle

.25 calibre with modifications available for different velocities, quick pellet refill and low noise are just some of the features of the Benjamin Marauder PCP (Pre Charged Pneumatic) as are the two stage trigger for increased accuracy, good balancing in design and minimum recoil.

Benjamin Marauder PCP rifle

Other things to note, however, are that the pump action requires a little more effort than other rifles, unless you are willing to pay for an air tank too because this gun is already at the pricier end of the air rifle spectrum, it is also a little heavier so many not be suitable for some to walk around with for long.

This gun has good range as well as accuracy, for both short and long ranges, straight out of the box, although tuning it recommended. It is a powerful gun.

If you like this product you can find and purchase it on Amazon.

Conclusion

Air rifles have just as much variety as regular firearms. So when choosing the best air rifle for your needs, hunting, pest management or shooting recreationally it is important to consider what you need and what you prefer. If birds are your only issue then you can get away with a smaller gun if you’d prefer to keep costs to minimum.

For around the house management of various pests it is reasonable to add in some power, higher velocity and larger calibre pellets along with other features including scopes, recoil suppression, noise dampening whatever it is you need or prefer. And for more serious small game hunting trips you may prefer a specialized rifle.

Questions to ask yourself may include:

  • What am I shooting at?
  • Do I have to carry the rifle around all day?
  • Will I be using the rifle year round or just during warmer seasons when small game is ample?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • Is it easy to maintain and clean?
  • How often do I have to clean it? After every use or only as it needs?

But there are probably many others. Like with all tools and appliances the most important considerations are what you are going to use it for and to keep this question at the front of your mind at all times because it can be easy to get lost in the ever increasing features.

Air rifles comparasion

Go for something trusted and reliable and recommended to your needs by other experienced shooters if it’s your first air rifle and with your own experience and skill increase you can upgrade later as needed or if your application expand from say, simple small game hunting during peak seasons to recreational shooting year round.

About the Author
Andrew McKay
Andrew McKay

Andrew McKay is a seasoned hunter and fisherman from Anchorage, Alaska. Andrew thinks that he is the luckiest person in the world, as he lives in the most gorgeous place in United States and does what he loves to do. As a member of Alaska Professional Hunters Association and International Hunter Education Association, he is always looking for the ways to improve his skills and to teach people around him.

  • Judith Baumeister

    Great tips. I once used my friend’s Benjamin Rogue .357 while hunting together. It is a unique rifle, truly a piece of art. It is the best rifle I’ve ever used. However, I found some trouble operating it because it is technologically sophisticated.

  • Hey Judith.

    Thank you for the comment. .357s are normally hard to handle and it does take quite a bit of practice to get things working as they should. Do some practice shooting during off-season and you should get positive results before hunting season starts.

    Andrew

  • Frank Shaw

    A friend of mine owns a Silent Cat and it is powerful! I borrowed it when we had a squirrel infestation and the critters died instantly. It helped that the sounds were blocked too because it made the pest eradication more effective (you get to wipe them out as opposed to them coming back).

  • Andrew McKay

    It is a master piece. Apart from the noise dampener which cuts down the noise by 50%; it is one of the easiest rifle to clean and maintain.

  • Donaldson Philips

    Air rifle appears to be the best weapon for hunting as it has the same potentials and effects like regular rifle. It has complex and different firing systems, accuracy, maintenance needs, barrel length and types, and noise emissions. There are different types of air rifles like spring-pistons, pneumatic rifles, and gas springs. Some of the top rated air rifles are daisy red ryder, and crossman nitro venom.

  • Andrew McKay

    Thank you, Donaldson for sharing your opinion with us. Also, you have to consider accuracy, power, ease of use, and maintenance when shopping for the best air rifle for hunting.