A Buyer’s Guide to Air Guns for Hunting

A Buyer's Guide to Air Guns for Hunting Hunting with an airgun used to be for kids, however, more and more states are allowing hunting with airguns. Finding the right airgun for the game and area you will be hunting can be a bit complicated. Here are some things to help you start your research into finding the right airgun for hunting.

There are many different models of air guns available on the market. Further, there are multiple types across multiple brands. Some brands specialize in an airgun for hunting while others specialize in airguns for target practice. You should also have a firm grasp of pellets and accessories before buying your chosen air gun.

Because every air gun has its own unique qualities that will affect your enjoyment and use, you want to ensure that you make a good choice. This exhaustive guide on air guns will ensure that you can make the best choice for your purposes.

What Will You Use it For?

The first step in buying an air gun is understanding its planned usage. Do you want an air rifle just for hunting with small guns? How about making it a minors present? Do you just want to do some target shooting on cans?

Once you know what you want to do with the air gun, it will greatly pare down your options. For instance, the Ruger Explorer is great for kids to learn shooting with, but anyone looking to hunt small game would be much better off with a .177 or .22.

Propulsion Type

Once you know what the air gun will be used for, the next consideration is its propulsion, how it fires its ammunition. The propulsion of modern air rifles is broken up into three categories: CO2, spring pistons, and pre-charged pneumatics.

CO2 Powered

Regardless of the size or shape, these all use a CO2 vessel for power. CO2 airguns are the quietest and simplest to learn with no need to cock them. Their only major drawback is that temperature change can influence tank pressure, leading to inconsistent firing power. Rapidly firing a CO2 air rifle also uses up more CO2 than firing the air rifle every so often.
Notable Examples: The Hammerli 850 AirMagnum and Beretta Cx4.

Spring Piston

These are the best for velocity and are quite accurate. Spring piston airguns are the most common form of air rifle among adults. These rely upon a spring and an air piston. The spring pulls back before shooting, only to zip forward into the piston when you pull the trigger. The piston sends air into the barrel. There are several models of spring-piston air gun with different cocking mechanisms like through the barrel, the side, or underneath.
Notable Examples: Ruger Blackhawk and the RWS. These can be found in .177 and .22 caliber.

Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP)

These contain a large reservoir of highly pressurized air. PCP rifles are the leaders in power, accuracy, and craftsmanship among air rifles, which also makes them the priciest. Notable Examples: If you are buying for a serious shooter, the creme de la creme of PCP rifles is the Walther 1250 Dominator. This particular item even comes with a scope and tripod.

Caliber

After you know which type of air rifle you want to buy, you should look into the caliber. While most air guns are .177 and .22, serious hunters of the small game should look for a .25.
.177
These can fire BBs and pellets, making them suitable for target practice or dealing with birds, mice, and squirrels. .177 caliber offers high velocity, decent penetration, and even trajectory while being suitable for almost any budget.
.22
The .22 caliber is the go-to caliber for small game hunting, offering greater punch than a .177. The trade-off with .22 rounds is that they are just a bit less accurate than .177, making them less than ideal for target shooting. You go for a .22 when you need to prioritize power.
.25
This caliber is for the serious small game hunter. While the larger caliber means it is less accurate than a .22, let alone a .177, anything hit by the projectile of a .25 is definitely going to feel it.
Note that while other calibers of air rifles exist, these three are the most common on the market.

Accessories:

A quality air rifle goes beyond the rifle and extends to accessories like pellets and BBs. Most modern air rifles fire pellets over BBs due to being less likely to ricochet, as well as better accuracy and velocity. There are four main varieties of pellets on the market

Wadcutter:

These have a flat nose and are great at short distances, making them perfect for shooting targets

Domed/Round Nose:

These aerodynamic pellets are often used for targets and small game. Honestly, these pellets are great for just about any type of shooting.

Hollowpoint:

These are exclusive to hunting due to their design’s ability to transfer as much energy as possible into the target. Note that accuracy with hollowpoint diminishes beyond 25 yards.

Pointed:

These pellets excel at penetration and offer the accuracy necessary for long-distance shooting. Most people who are new to shooting air rifles will consider picking up a sampler kit of pellets. Because it comes with a little bit of everything, a sampler kit allows you to try out various pellets to figure out what works for you.

There are even more accessories to air rifles than just the pellets.

  • Scopes for magnification.
  • Reticles for accuracy without having to close an eye.
  • Tripods for steady shots.

You may also want to look into some maintenance gear when buying your air gun if only to improve the lifespan of said air gun.

  • Gun oil.
  • Cleaning pellets.
  • Cleaning rod.

So Which is Ideal for You?

There are several factors when buying an air rifle.

  • The shooter’s age.
  • The primary form of shooting.
  • Budget.

All of the data covered in this guide should greatly help inform your purchase. Keep it in mind while hunting for your perfect air gun and know that you will wind up with a great choice.