HUNTING

Best Air Rifle for Hunting: Top 10 Air Rifles for Small Game

Best Air rifle review
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. 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.

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.

The Most Important Features

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.

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.

Power Source

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.

Air rifle pellets

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.

Reviews for The Top 10 Air Rifles for Hunting

Gamo Big Cat .22 Caliber Air Rifle

Gamo Big Cat .22 Caliber Air Rifle

Weight: 6.1 lbs.

Barrel Length: 18in

Design Features: .22 caliber single shot; 4x magnification; single cocking system; SWA recoil pad; non-slip checkering on grip; shoots 975 FPS with PBA ammo; polymer jacketed rifled steel barrel; & durable all-weather black synthetic stock.

Best Use: Hunting

Description: Gamo Big Cat .22 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 .22 caliber offers more than enough energy for small game hunting. With a velocity of 975 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.

Crosman Nitro Venom Break Barrel Air Rifle

Crosman Nitro Venom Break Barrel Air Rifle

Weight: 7.4 lbs.

Barrel Length: 18½in

Design Features: .177 caliber; single shot system; 70% quieter; fluted muzzle break & wide forearm; alloy pellet velocity of up to 1200 FPS; pellet velocity of up to 1000 FPS; ambidextrous hardwood stock with matching raised cheekpieces; manual safety; & weaver rail.

Best Use: Pest Control, Hunting (target shooting)

Description: Crosman Nitro Venom Break Barrel Air Rifle is without a doubt the best target shooting rifle to buy. It delivers the finest hunting power with 18 FPE muzzle energy. This piece offers you the power, stealth and stability of Nitro Piston technology.

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.

Related: Crosman Nitro Venom is also available in .22 calibers.

.177 Beeman R7 Elite Series Combo

.177 Beeman R7 Elite Series Combo

Weight: 7 lbs.

Barrel Length: 15.5in

Design Features: .177 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: .177 Beeman R7 Elite Series Combo is the best 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.

.25 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP Air Rifle

.25 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP Air Rifle

Weight: 7.2 lbs.

Barrel Length: 17in

Design 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: Evanix Rainstorm II PCP is a well-built hunting rifle. It is virtually a miniature Evanix Rainstorm II PCP in just about every way. 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.

Related: Evanix Rainstorm II PCP is also available in the following calibers: .22 with 22 shots per fill & .177 with 26 shots per fill.

.357 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP Air Rifle

.357 Evanix Rainstorm II PCP Air Rifle

Weight: 7.2 lbs.

Barrel Length: 17in

Design 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: Evanix Rainstorm II PCP is an exceptionally high powered repeating beast for the hunt. 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.

Benjamin Marauder Wood Stock Air Rifle

Benjamin Marauder Wood Stock Air Rifle

Weight: 8.2 lbs.

Barrel Length: 20in

Design 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. 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.

Gamo Silent Cat Air Rifle

Gamo Silent Cat Air Rifle

Weight: 5.28 lbs.

Barrel Length: 18in

Design 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 Silent CAT 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. 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.

Beeman HW97K Air Rifle

Beeman HW97K Air Rifle

Weight: 9.2 lbs.

Barrel Length: 11.8in

Design 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 it 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 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.

Ruger Blackhawk .177 Air Rifle

Ruger Blackhawk .177 Air Rifle

Weight: 6.95 lbs.

Barrel Length: 18.7in

Design 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

Description: Ruger Blackhawk .177 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, 3in eye relief, 32 mm objective lens, and 8 mm exit pupil, ¼ MOA, duplex reticle and 29in field of view at 100 yards.

Benjamin Pioneer Airbow

Benjamin Pioneer Airbow

Weight: 7.0 lbs.

Barrel Length: less than 10 inches

Design 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: 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.

In  Conclusion

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.

Air rifle in action

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.

  • Andrew Miller

    As an owner of a Benjamin Marauder Wood Stock Air Rifle, I should say, that this is the most quite rifle I ever had. In General, this model is actually a standard weapons-grade. Every owner of an air rifle can confirm this. It is noteworthy that the weapon retains all its qualities for many years, unless, of course, the shooter will handle him with care. Therefore, it is worth remembering that any weapon needs maintenance, and this model is no exception. You need only to clean the rifle using a special cleaning kit, and the likelihood that the weapon will fail arrow will be almost zero.

    • Shawn Harrison

      Rifles are equipped with a simple mechanism when compared to other guns. However, this does not exempt them from routine maintenance to avoid progressive wear and tear, as well as potential malfunction. The Marauder is a good choice for an air rifle.

  • Robin James

    This summer brother presented me his Ruger Blackhawk Combo air rifle. What can I say about it? This rifle has a good velocity, something like 1000.00 ft/sec, which is a good result for a rifle of this class. Also, it has a nice scope with 4×32 lenses which is enough for hunting on small animals, like birds, squirrels or rabbits. All the needed screws are included, everything is easy to mount. Generally, I should say, that it’s a good rifle for this money, you won’t be disappointed.

    • Shawn Harrison

      Within that pricepoint, I do agree that the Ruger is a steal considering the fact that it has a proven track record when it comes to reliability and shooting power. It is an air rifle that was made to deliver in the field.