HUNTING

Best Air Rifle for Hunting: Diminish Your Chances of Missed Shot

Best air rifle for hunting
Shawn Harrison
Written by Shawn Harrison

Hunting can be a fun activity if you have the correct gear, especially when you go for varmint and small game hunting. To be successful and make the whole experience less frustrating, you know that you need to have the right gun for the job. Thus, taking your time to buy the best air rifle for hunting should be the first thing to do.

The paramount air gun is defined by its use and design features and the main use of an air gun is target shooting, especially when hunting small game. The collective design features of the gun you buy should offer you the accuracy you need, which includes but is not limited to: power source, caliber, action, barrel profile, stock specifications and sights & optics specifications. But, out of so many available options on the market, how do you make the right pick?

In this article, we took a look at the best products on the market and reviewed them to help you compare products, get knowledge on the best products and choose the one that best fits your needs.

Our Top Picks

Product NameWeightBarrel LengthBarrel SizePrice
Gamo Big Cat6.1 lbs18 in.22 caliberCheck price on Amazon
Crosman Nitro Venom7.4 lbs18.5 in.22 caliberCheck price on Amazon
Beeman R7 Elite Series Combo7 lbs15.5 in.20 caliberCheck price on Amazon
.25 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP7.2 lbs17 in.25 caliberCheck price on Amazon
.357 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP7.2 lbs17 in.357 caliberCheck price on Amazon
Benjamin Marauder Wood Stock8.2 lbs20 in.177 caliberCheck price on Amazon
Gamo Whisper Silent Cat5.28 lbs18 in.177 caliberCheck price on Amazon
Beeman HW97K9.2 lbs11.8 in.20 caliberCheck price on Amazon
Ruger Blackhawk6.95 lbs18.7 in.177 caliberCheck price on Amazon
Benjamin Pioneer Airbow7 lbs10 in/Check price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

As far as hunting small game is concerned, you will be faced with the dilemma of selecting an adequate air rifle. The best way to deal with such a dilemma is to know the most important features to look for.

Intended Use

First of all, you should think about your intended use of the air rifle – pest control, hunting, or target shooting. In most cases, they are meant to be used for all of it, but you need to determine the degree to which you’ll be using it for each use.

On the market you can find air rifles meant for general, or multi-purpose use, or highly specialised ones for hunting of target shooting. Certainly, you can use any air gun for any purpose, but to get the most of it, you should think about what you need most.

Target shooting

If you’re interested in hunting, you should consider whether you’re going to use it for hunting small or bigger play. If you’re hunting small game, you should consider .177, .20 and .22 calibers, or a gun with at least 1000 ft/s firing speed. It you’re into hunting bigger prey like raccoons, consider .20, .22 or .25 caliber gun, which is magnum powered.

Shooting Range

You should think about the range you’ll be using your air rifle to get the most of it. Air rifles fall in four categories: Light, Medium, High (Magnum), and Super-Magnum (Specialty Rifles). Light air rifles are best used for distances up to 35 yards, medium – from 35 to 50 yards, magnum to 65, and super-magnum to 75-80 yards.

Air rifle set for shooting

For long distance shooting (to 75 yards, for example) you’ll need a specialty rifle with PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic) system, while for target shooting and pest-control, you’ll probably get the most of light air rifle with a variable pump. Keep in mind that you need to narrow down you’re your preferences and choose a rifle accordingly.

Power Source

Air rifles function by driving a projectile down the barrel with a discharge of compressed air. This is one of the most important features of the air gun. These guns produce their blast of air through one of the two power sources: pre-charged pneumatic or spring-and-piston.

The other two less common power sources are gas-ram system and a CO2 system. The spring-and-piston barrel is cocked by breaking the barrel or by the stroke of side-lever or under-lever. On the other hand, pre-charged pneumatics (PCP) has an air reservoir, which holds enough air for powering shots.

Shooting with an air rifle

One of the great differences between a spring-and-piston and a pre-charged pneumatic model is the absence of moving parts in PCP. The absence of moving parts signifies that the firing cycle is practically recoilless.

The absence of action significantly improves accuracy when compared to a break barrel, side-lever or under-lever systems. You should; therefore, go for PCP if you are into target shooting. Unlike spring-and-piston guns, PCPs have their firing power already generated and enclosed within its workings. Moreover, PCPs need far less cocking energy than spring-and-pistons.

Caliber

Air rifles go by barrel size, also referred to as caliber or bore size. Most air guns are engineered with the following bore sizes: .22 (5.5 mm) or .177 (4.5 mm) for accurate shooting and target practice.

Other models are fitted with .25 (6.4 mm) or .20 (5.0 mm). You should choose a bore size depending on the game you are hunting or any other relevant activity. The .177 pellets are normally the smallest (4.5 mm), which you can fire at the highest velocities at flat trajectory, especially when target shooting. .177 pellets are the finest for small game hunting and pest control.

Placing a cracker shell

The .22 pellets have a greater gain in size as well as weight when compared to .20 and .177. However, the .22 has the shortest range when compared to the other three calibers. The effective range of the .22 is approximately 45 to 50 yards. The .20 pellets are the best for overall use.

They offer additional knock down power when compared to the .177 pellets. The .20 calibers balance speed and power. However, they are rarely manufactured. The most popular air gun that uses the .20 pellets is the Beeman Hw97k Air Rifle. The .25 caliber pellets are the heaviest and the rarest. The most popular gun that uses these pellets is the Evanix Rainstorm II PCP Air Rifle.

Accuracy

Accuracy will be important to you depending on the type of shooting you prefer. So, if you’re target shooting for fun you may not need the perfect accuracy, while if you’re in competitions, you will probably need the best you can get your hands on.

Air force shooter

Each power source used for rifles offers different accuracy, with variable pump being the least accurate. It is followed by CO2, which is very easy to use, because no manual action is required except pulling the trigger. The break barrel requires a lot of training, but in return gives superb accuracy. Last, and most accurate of them all is the pneumatic air rifle, perfect for long distance shooting.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Considering all the features and qualities you have to look out in a rifle, you now have an idea of what you want. Let’s review 10 of the most popular air rifles, in order to help you make an informed decision/

Gamo Big Cat 0.177 Caliber Air RifleGamo Big Cat 1250 Air Rifle

Price: Approx. $230

Weight: 6.1 lbs

Barrel length: 18 in

Specific features: .177 caliber single shot; 4x magnification; single cocking system; SWA recoil pad; non-slip checkering on grip; shoots 1250 FPS with PBA ammo and 100 FPS with lead; polymer jacketed rifled steel barrel; & durable all-weather black synthetic stock.

Best use: Hunting, target practice, pest control – both large and small

Description:  Gamo Big Cat .177 Caliber Air Rifle is an ideal air gun for small game hunter. It is not only sturdy, but also well built. It might be a little loud when shooting, but it’s a good choice when you compare it to other guns. It is just the piece you need for hunting and target shooting in any given weather condition, due to the all-weather black synthetic stock and polymer jacketed rifled steel barrel.

Apart from being affordable, the .177 caliber offers more than enough energy for small game hunting. With a velocity of 1250 FPS with PB ammo along with 4×32 scope/rings reticle, Gamo Big Cat offers you precision shooting for bringing down small/ medium sized game at ease. Moreover, you should expect a few challenges with this rifle, especially if you are not familiar with its design features.

Customers have used this air rifle for a variety of purposes ranging from backyard plinking to getting rid of small and big pests like iguanas and rats. Most customers preferred it with its rather low-quality scope and rings replaced with something more durable. Most have found that cocking it requires a sturdy hand.

PROS:

  • Can be used in all weathers
  • Feels solid
  • Very accurate shots
  • Powerful

CONS:

  • May be a little loud
  • A bit hard to cock
  • Scope not of quality
  • Break-in period of roughly 300 shots

Related: Consider replacing the scope of this air rifle with a good-quality scope like the Bushnell  Drop Zone-223 BDC Reticle Riflescope.

Check the price on Amazon

Crosman Nitro Venom Break Barrel Air RifleCrosman Nitro Venom Air Rifle air rifle

Price: $140 – $240

Weight: 7.4 lbs

Barrel length: 18.63 in

Specific features: .22 caliber; single shot system; 70% quieter; fluted muzzle break & wide forearm; alloy pellet velocity of up to 950 FPS; pellet velocity of up to 800 FPS; ambidextrous hardwood stock with matching raised cheekpieces; manual safety; & weaver rail.

Best use: Pest control, hunting (target shooting)

Description: The Crosman Nitro Venom Break Barrel Air Rifle delivers the finest hunting power with 20 FPE muzzle energy. This piece offers you the power, stealth and stability of Nitro Piston technology.

The air rifle includes unmounted CenterPoint 3-9×32 mm scope with quick-lock mounting system. It has a break-in period of approximately 200 to 240 shots before requiring another calibration.

Its double-faced stock is fitted with raised cheekpieces and beavertail forearm design, allowing you to shoot from an artillery hold shooting position. The forearm is engineered to rest on your palm at ease, improving your accuracy. Crosman Nitro Venom has no cocking lever problems. It has little recoil if any and its operation is much quieter. You should not be worried about the penetration. It all depends on the kind of pellet you use.

It is also functional in cold-weather and last longer than a metal spring. You can even leave it cocked for few hours and there won’t be any signs of spring fatigue.

PROS:

  • Very accurate
  • Less recoil
  • Easy to cock
  • Quiet operation
  • Ergonomic
  • Fast

CONS:

  • Could be better with a trigger change
  • Heavy
  • Few customers have found it to be less durable

Related: Together with this product you can purchase the Maverick Air Rifle Targets for practicing your aim.

Check the price on Amazon

Beeman R7 Elite Series Combo Air RifleBeeman R7 Elite Series Combo air rifle

Price: Approx. $500

Weight: 7 lbs

Barrel length: 15.5 in

Specific features: .20 caliber; 2 low-medium loudness; 18 pounds cocking effort; two-stage adjustable trigger; spring piston; break barrel action; single shot repeater; 11 mm dovetail scope; & 1 round capacity.

Best use: Hunting, plinking & target practice

Description: Beeman R7 Elite Series Combo is a great hunting air rifle for the money. It is the most accurate Elite at ten meters when compared to all the elite series. Its velocity and foot-pound have been significantly reduced to make it lightweight and allow for a smaller scale. It has the most attractive metalwork and woodwork craftsmanship that you can ever wish for.

The stock design is not only simple, but also designed for both left and right handed shooters. The forearm and grip are fitted with nice checkering, which adds texture to the stock.

Unlike most air guns, this particular model is pretty short and it is installed with a weighted muzzle break. The design does not contain any plastic; it’s all wood and metal. Beeman R7 Elite is easy to operate; the scope is easy to mount. Cocking it is easy and it is not hold sensitive.

It comes with a good quality Bushman 4-12x40AO scope and muzzlebrake.

PROS:

  • Light
  • Easy to cock
  • Good trigger
  • Accurate
  • Well-built
  • Smooth action

CONS:

  • Safety feature not adequate

Related: If you are a young shooter, you can purchase the Daisy Shatterblast Target Disks together with this rifle, for practicing.

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.25 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP Air Rifle.25 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP Air Rifle

Price: Approx. $700

Weight: 7.2 lbs

Barrel length: 17 in

Specific features: .25 calibers with 20 shots per fill; pre-charged pneumatic; manual safety; shrouded barrel; two-stage adjustable trigger; sidelever cocking; built-in manometer; adjustable butt pad; nice checkering on pistol grip and forearm; Indonesian walnut stock; a trigger pull of 2.2 to 3.0 lbs.; 3,000 psi fill; 11 mm dovetail sights; and 1/8in BSPP probe with male threads & two magazines.

Best use: Small Game Hunting

Description: The .25 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP Air Rifle is a well-built hunting rifle. It has a state-of-the-art design, which includes a built-in manometer in addition to its design features. This is a pre-charged pneumatic gun; therefore, it uses compressed air as its power source. It offers accuracy and single-shot power that you need to hit your target with precision.

The .25 caliber may be heavier, but it will provide you with 20 shots per fill. The nice-looking checkering on the pistol grip and forearm offer added texture. This piece is engineered for precision shooting with the .25 ammunition.

The barrel is shrouded, preventing injuries on a hot barrel. It also has a side lever cocking, which gives more accuracy than a breakbarrel, because it’s easier for handling. It features 2-stage adjustable trigger with manual safety, and the pull is approximately 2.20- to 3.00-lb. This rifle, however, doesn’t come with a scope or sights, so you might need to get those separately.

PROS:

  • Well-built
  • Built-in manometer
  • Accurate and precise shots

CONS:

  • Loud
  • Doesn’t come with a scope or sights

Related: Since this rifle doesn’t come with a scope, we recommend getting the Hawke Vantage SF 4-16×44 Medium Weaver Rings Kit, which comes with a scope and mounting system.

Check the price on Amazon

.357 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP Air Rifle.375 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP Air Rifle

Price: Approx. $900

Weight: 7.2 lbs

Barrel length: 17 in

Specific features: .357 caliber; pre-charged pneumatic; sidelever cocking; Indonesia walnut stock; vertically adjustable butt pad; checkering on the pistol grip and forearm; built-in air pressure gauge; two-stage adjustable trigger; manual safety; trigger pull of 2.2 to 3.0 lbs.; 11 mm dovetail; 3,000 psi fill; & 7 yards shooting distance.

Best use: Hunting

Description: .357 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP Air Rifle is an exceptionally high powered repeating beast for the hunt. It is the same model as the previous reviewed product, only it comes with a bigger caliber, giving you greater range of shooting. So, if you liked the previous model, but needed something more powerful, this is the one!

It is installed with an Indonesian walnut stock, which is lightweight and porous. This PCP is exceptional; it looks and feels great, offers excellent power, highly versatile and very accurate. It has a shrouded barrel, which ensures that you do not injure yourself when the barrel is hot. The Evanix Rainstorm II PCP is designed for precision accuracy at ten yards.

You can alternatively attempt to extend the distance and it will still offer you the best performance. It is a sidelever action, with a fire mode repeater, and 4-medium-high loudness, making it just the gun you need for hunting.

PROS:

  • High power
  • Very accurate
  • Versatile
  • Lightweight
  • Smooth breach lever

CONS:

  • High price
  • Loud
  • Doesn’t come with a scope or a sight

Related: Since this product doesn’t come with a scope or a sight, we recommend getting this versatile UTG 3.8″ ITA Red/Green Circle Dot Sight, which comes with integral quick detach mounting deck and flip-open lens caps.

Check the price on Amazon

Benjamin Marauder Wood Stock Air RifleBenjamin Marauder Wood Stock Air Rifle

Price: $480 – $670

Weight: 8.2 lbs

Barrel length: 20 in

Specific features: .177 caliber pellet rifle; pre-charged pneumatic power plant; shrouded barrel; 2 low-medium loudness; maximum velocity of 1,100 FPS; 11 mm dovetail scopeable; two-stage adjustable trigger; soft rubber recoil pad butt plate; bolt action; a trigger pull of 1.5 lbs.; repeater; 32 shots per fill; manual safety; & multiple settings.

Best use: Varmint hunting, small game hunting, pest control, & target shooting

Description: Benjamin Marauder Wood Stock Air Rifle has a unique and sleek design for target shooting, pest control, small game and varmint hunting. It is designed and balanced with field carry in mind and it features an adjustable comb for a custom fit.

The artistry of the metalwork and woodwork is what you should expect from this masterpiece. The hardwood stock is fitted with an adjustable comb as well as checkered forearm and pistol grip for added texture. The in-built pressure gauge allows you to monitor the pressure of the compressed air.

The raised aluminum beech makes it easier for you to load the circular magazine. The reversible bolt allows you to effectively switch from left to right. You should expect fast refills because the gun is fitted with a male quick-disconnect foster fitting at the end of the air reservoir. The .177 caliber is definitely the best, providing you with 32 shots per fill.

PROS:

  • Sleek design
  • Accurate
  • Not very loud

CONS:

  • A bit expensive
  • Heavy

Related: It’s always good to have an extra magazine or two, to be able to fire at will when the need is there. You can have this possibility with the Crosman Marauder Magazine which holds 10 .177 caliber pellets.

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Gamo Whisper Silent Cat Air RifleGamo Silent Cat air rifle

Price: Approx. $160

Weight: 5.28 lbs

Barrel length: 18 in

Specific features: .177 caliber; break barrel; skeleton stock; 4×32-scope with one-piece mount; 1,200 FPS with PBA; grooved receiver; second stage adjustable trigger; manual safety; non-removable noise damper; fluted barrel; automatic cocking safety system; single shot; cocking effort of 30 lbs.; twin cheek pads; & synthetic stock.

Best use: Hunting & target shooting

Description:  Gamo Whisper Silent Cat Air RIfle has an ultramodern mechanism, stock & barrel profile, sights and optics. Weighing 5.28 pounds, this is a lightweight and the best hunting air rifle that you should consider to buy. Because of its less weight, you can use it without always resting it on something.

It is a break barrel with single cocking system and spring piston system. A feature unique to this air rifle is the non-removable noise dampener, which has the capacity of reducing the noise to 52%.

You will certainly admire the all-weather synthetic stock. The stock is also fitted with matching cheek pads for ambidextrous shooting and butt plate for recoil absorption. It is installed with grooved receiver for holding the scope and fiber optic rear & front sights for aiming. It is fitted with raised rail scope ramp. The .177 caliber offer lightweight projectiles; therefore, you should expect some challenges with accuracy.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Accurate
  • Powerful
  • Scope can be easily zeroed and stays that way

CONS:

  • Loud, perhaps because of the power
  • Tricky to mount the scope
  • Breaking the barrel needs strength

Related: Oftentimes bought together with this rifle are the Crosman Destroyer Pellets, which combine with best attributes of a pointed pellet with a hollow point, resulting in complete expansion and energy transfer.

Check the price on Amazon

Beeman HW97K Air RifleBeeman HW97K air rifle

Price: Approx. $650

Weight: 9.2 lbs

Barrel length: 11.8 in

Specific features: .20 caliber; spring piston; underlever action; automatic safety; rubber recoil pad; muzzle break; single shot; sliding breech with anti-bear-trap system; two-stage adjustable trigger; synthetic stock with thumbhole; & 3-medium loudness.

Best use: Hunting small game, pest elimination, plinking, & field target

Description: The Beeman HW97K Air Rifle is without a doubt one of the finest underlever air rifles in the market. It is fitted with a simple, Monte Carlo stock that has raised cheekpieces. The pistol is fitted with hand-cut checkering.

The ergonomic design of this rifle ensures that it fits comfortably in your hands. You may feel a little need to stretch your finger to reach for the trigger. But, apart from that, it fits well.

The finishing on the barrel and stock is amazing and of high quality. The two-stage adjustable trigger will adjust conveniently. The .20 caliber provides you with accuracy and more than enough power for different shooting activities, including field target, plinking, hunting small game, and pest elimination.

The HW97k performs extremely well. It is one of the most accurate air rifles and is super quiet too. The trigger is easy to adjust even by minute specifications. The fully open breach allows to load the barrel with pellets easily. Being ambidextrous, the rifle can be loaded with either hands.

PROS:

  • Ergonomic design; so fits well
  • Very well carved
  • Accurate
  • Powerful
  • Quick break-in period
  • Quiet

CONS:

  • Weight distribution not great
  • Spring could have better calibration

Related: You should always carry protective glasses when shooting guns. Protect yourself with the Air Venturi Safety Glasses that feature anti-fog lenses and 99.9% UV protection.

Check the price on Amazon

Ruger Blackhawk Combo Air RifleRuger Blackhawk Combo air rifle

Price: Approx. $120

Weight: 6.95 lbs

Barrel length: 18.7 in

Specific features: .177 calibers; spring piston break barrel action; two-stage adjustable trigger; all-weather ambi composite stock; fully adjustable rear; 3-medium loudness; 11 mm dovetail scopeable; cocking effort of 30 pounds; single shot; automatic safety; rubber butt plate; maximum velocity of 1,000 FPS; & a trigger pull of 3.3 pounds.

Best use: Small game hunting, plinking, pest control

Description:  Ruger Blackhawk Combo Air Rifle is exact, sturdy, resourceful and effective. It is built with an all-weather ambi composite stock that is sturdy and resistant to wet conditions. Its operation is based on a single shot system that hits the target with precision.

It is fitted with spring piston break barrel action, making it suitable for both novice and expert shooters. The fiber optic sights are fully adjustable, a feature that makes it possible for you to zero on your target with precision. The scope has 4x magnification, 3” eye relief, 32 mm objective lens, and 8 mm exit pupil, ¼ MOA, duplex reticle and 29” field of view at 100 yards.

Most customers have found this rifle to be well-built and well-lubricated right out of the box. The rifle has also stood up to quality expectations. Customers also have found that the rifle works very well and is easy to load. The safety feature of this rifle turns on after every reload, which is again an appreciated point.

The scope, however, is not up to the mark. It has to be zeroed in for it to work properly. A few customers have had success replacing the scope with a scope that is more user friendly.

PROS:

  • Good quality
  • Inexpensive
  • Smooth break barrel mechanism
  • Easy to load
  • Safety mechanism turns on after each reload

CONS:

  • Scope not that great

Related: For a better deal with Ruger Blackhawk, you may want to consider Crosman Destroyer Pellets and Crosman 12 Gram CO2 Cartridges, as a complete package.

Check the price on Amazon

Benjamin Pioneer AirbowCrosman BABPNBX Benjamin Pioneer Airbow

Price: Approx. $700

Weight: 7 lbs

Barrel length: Less than 10 in

Specific features: Pre-charged pneumatic; bull-up configuration; 3,000 psi of compressed air; ambidextrous top cocking bolt; integrated pressure regulator; 160 FPE with 375 grams arrows at 450 fps; & free floating barrel.

Best use: Big game hunting & target shooting

Description: Crosman Benjamin Pioneer Airbow is a well-built big game air rifle that features full weight broadheads and full length arrows, propelled by air. The American-based PCP platform makes it easier for you to cock with two fingers.

You can easily fire eight shots at a blazing shot velocity of 450 fps. Benjamin Pioneer is not built for a specific group of shooters, it is built for everyone. This is regardless of whether you are a novice or expert shooter. The ambidextrous cocking bolt ensures you are always safe whenever taking a shot from a tree stand position.

The rifle comes with 1000 psi of compressed air. So, you need to pump it to 3000 psi. Doing that may take a lot of time if you do it manually with just a hand pump.  The scope that comes with it has a cheap feel to it. You would be better off with a better scope.

PROS:

  • Light
  • Powerful
  • Accurate

CONS:

  • Loud
  • Trigger a bit stiff
  • Pumping to 3000 psi from 1000 psi is difficult with just a hand pump
  • Scope not great

Related: It’s never a bad idea to have the complete set with this airbow. For that, you can add Crosman Benjamin Pioneer Airbow Arrow Pack and  the Benjamin High Pressure Hand Pump.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

When choosing the correct air gun for hunting, you will be faced with a bewildering assortment of power sources, calibers, models and styles. That’s why we tried to offer the right information so you’d know what you need to select the most appropriate gun.

Normally, the most popular models to buy are pre-charged pneumatics (PCPs) or spring-and-piston (break-barrel, side-lever or under-lever). You will also want to pick a caliber that will offer you enough power to make a good, clean kill. The .177 and .22 calibers are appropriate for pest control, small game hunting and target shooting.

So what do you think of our selection? Do you think we missed any of the great air guns out there? If so, please inform us in comments.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison is our expert in hunting. He was born in Alaska, so hunting was his hobby since high school. Later, Shawn took a Hunter Training at Alaska Department of Fish and Game to structure his knowledge and now he is open to share his knowledge with our readers. Shawn is taking ‘Safety First’ approach on all of his trips, especially is some people are going hunting for the first time.