HUNTING

Best Pellet Gun for Hunting: Lock and Shoot

Best pellet gun for hunting
Shawn Harrison
Written by Shawn Harrison

The hunt is on. You silently tread through the woods with your eyes peeled and your ears tuned to every sound; you are just waiting for that slight movement, or crack of a branch, that will turn you on to where your target is.

Once you find it there are only two things standing in the way of disappointment and the satisfaction of a job well done: your marksmanship and your weapon. When you are hunting, whether for small or big game, the type of weapon you are using is integral to the experience.

You could be a great shot, but with a subpar gun you might never have a chance of getting anything. You could use a rifle or a similar type of firearm, but if the price and safety requirements associated with gun ownership are not for you, there are alternatives that can be just as effective.

One of the best options is an air gun using BBs or other projectiles instead of bullets. There are a lot of options out there, so we are going to take a look at some of them and try to determine the best pellet gun for hunting.

Important Features for Pellet Guns

As always, before making the leap and purchasing something, it is essential you know what it is you are looking for. There is a ton of different products out there and each one has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Pellet gun

We are going to first look at some of the common features for this type of product and compare the different variations you might see on the market. This should hopefully make the decision process a bit clearer and easier when the time does come to make a purchase.

Size and weight

This is always an important aspect of anything that you are going to have to carry around with you. Something weighing 20 or 30 pounds might give you incredible power and accuracy, but if you plan to trek through the woods while out hunting, this might not be the most practical option.

The materials used in the product will play a big role in how much it weighs and as we examine the different options available, we will take a look at this so you can have an idea of what might be best for you.

Firing mechanism

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of your new hunting tool is the firing mechanism. Whatever you end up choosing will have a big impact on how the weapon performs in terms of accuracy, speed and also maintenance.

Firing mechanism

We’ve laid out for you some of the more common options available so you can get an idea of what might work best for you and your needs.

  • Variable pump. This particular mechanism includes a hand operated pump that you use to provide the thrust needed to fire the gun. There is usually a lever attached to the bottom of the barrel that serves as the pump. One of the nice features of this particular mechanism is that it allows you to set the power of the gun, hence “variable.”
    To get a faster, more powerful shot all you need to do is pump it more. Another advantage is that the variable pump usually offers relatively high power without adding too much weight.
    However, in order to operate the mechanism, you need to hold the gun horizontal with both hands and this could prove awkward or uncomfortable especially if you are out in the wilderness on the hunt. This is a very popular and common option and is also very practical for both beginners and experts.
  • Spring piston. This mechanism works by using a strong, heavy spring to push a piston which compresses air and causes the bullet, or in this case the pellet, to explode out of the barrel. This is the preferred choice for many hunters because it creates a lot of force and therefore causes the pellet to leave the barrel at quite high speeds.
    However, it is important to note that the compression of air causes the projectile to move slightly before it is released and this can sometimes affect accuracy. Most people using a spring piston will say that there is a decent learning curve when using this gun, but the force it provides could be well worth the time needed to master it.
  • Nitro piston. This works basically in the same way as a spring piston but instead of using a spring to push the piston, it compresses nitrogen gas in a chamber. From there, the process is the same.
    The advantage to this is largely in weight and also sound as there are less moving parts and therefore fires much quieter than the spring piston. However, this technology will not be found all over the market and is only available on select models.
  • Pre-charged pneumatic. Guns using this mechanism will come with a reservoir that is filled with air and then released a little at a time whenever you want to engage the weapon. This is ideal for rapid reloading and also for multi-shot guns; you can expect to get 25-30 shots with each reservoir refill.
    Another key advantage is that the air can be stored in the reservoir over time so the gun can be left ready to be used. Additionally, most products equipped with this mechanism come with a fixed barrel and this tends to yield higher accuracy.
    The main downside to pre-charged pneumatic devices is that often refilling them requires a special pump and even though they can fire up to 25-30 times on one fill, this may not be enough for your hunt and this means that you will likely have to take the pump with you.
    Depending on your needs and your hunting style this could be quite prohibitive so keep that in mind while eyeing pre-charged pneumatic options.
  • CO2 cylinders. This process functions much in the same way as pre-charged pneumatic mechanisms and has many of the same advantages and disadvantages, but instead of using a pump to put air into a reservoir, you use a canister of compressed CO2that is released a little at a time with each shot to generate the pressure to fire the weapon.
    One thing that distinguishes CO2 from pre-charged pneumatic is that it does not need a pump so if you are in need of more shots while out on the trail all you need to do is replace the cylinder.

Actions

The action is another very important thing to consider when making your choice. It is the part of the gun that determines how the gun is loaded and fired and can have a big impact on the weapon’s performance.

Pellet rifle in action

We’ve detailed the different types of actions available and why some are better than others.

  • Break action. The essence of this action is in its name. In order to load the rifle, you will have to “break” the barrel to expose the breech so that you can load it with your ammunition. The barrel usually does this when you engage a lever or some similar mechanism.
    The main advantage of this type of action is its simplicity. It is quite easy to use and is equally easy to clean and maintain. However, break actions usually only allow for one shot at a time.
    This could be seen as an advantage, as it forces the hunter to patiently await the perfect shot, but it could also be a disadvantage if you want the chance to be able to quickly fire again in the event of a miss. Overall this is a very effective and common action to find on guns being used for hunting.
  • Bolt action. With a bolt action, the shooter gains access to the breech with a lever on the side of the gun that is also used to feed and eject the rounds after each shot. This type of action is particularly popular amongst hunters and also in the military because it is known for being quite accurate.
    It can also be used for multi-shot weapons, which gives it an advantage over the break action for some people. Cleaning is also quite easy, but most bolt action weapons will be somewhat slow to load.
  • Pump action. If you are not sure what a pump action is, just think of any movie where the bad guy, or good guy, has a shotgun and then think of the sound that the gun makes every time they reload the weapon.
    It works by activating a pump that you first pull towards yourself and then push back away from you. This ejects the fired round and feeds the next round into the breech. These mechanisms are quite easy to use, but because of their relative complexity they can be quite difficult to clean.
    Additionally, they are much more common in shotguns and although not impossible to find in rifles, it is quite rare.
  • Lever action. A lever action works in the same way as a pump action, but the motion is reversed. The only real difference is personal preference.

Caliber

The caliber of your weapon should also play a big role in your choice. In terms of the options we are looking at there are really only two calibers available: .22 and .177. Here are the main differences:

  • .177 caliber is the accepted caliber of international shooting organizations and will, therefore, be used for any competitions.
  • .177 caliber rounds are more widely available, meaning there are more choices, and they are also cheaper than .22 caliber pellets.
  • .22 are preferred for hunting as they are bigger. Sometimes .177 caliber rounds can pass through the animal without doing enough damage to stop it. It is possible to hunt with .177 rounds, but you will be running this risk.
  • .22 caliber rounds deliver about 20% more impact force. At times they may come out of the barrel slower, but because they weigh twice as much as .177 pellets, it’s quite a bit more powerful. This is true regardless of other factors such as the length of the barrel.

Firing Velocity

How fast the pellet comes out of the barrel is definitely something to consider when looking for the best option to hunt with. Standard logic dictates that the faster the firing velocity, the bigger impact the projectile will have on the target.

Firing Velocity of a pellet gun

However, one needs to consider what was discussed in the previous section. With all things equal, a .22 caliber will deliver more punch even if it is a bit slower. That being said, the speed of your shot is something worth noting while making your decision.

Single vs. Multishot

This is a tough debate when talking about hunting. It might seem obvious that multishot would be better because it gives you more chances to hit your target, but if you are going after small animals such as rabbits than the sound from your first shot will cause it to run off and it doesn’t really matter if you shoot again.

For this, some people argue that it is actually better to have just one shot as it forces you to take your time and to make sure you have lined up the target as carefully as possible. This is really personal preference; if you think that having multiple shots might make you anxious and cause you to miss too many opportunities, think about looking at some single shot options.

Sight

Some of the available products out there will come with sights to help you line up your target. This could be a helpful feature for you and be useful in making sure you are successful more often.

Sight on a pellet rifle

One thing to look for is whether or not the sight is adjustable to elevation and windage. This will be very useful out in the wilderness and will be a big advantage when trying to get targets from significant distances.

Some Options

Now that we have looked over all the possible features that might affect your choice, we’re going to take a look at a few available products and compare them to get an idea of what is out there and what could be the best option for you.

Crosman M4-177 Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle (.177)

Crosman M4-177 Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle (.177)

Size:

Firing mechanism: Variable pump

Action: Bolt action

Caliber: .177

Firing velocity: 625 ft/s

Single or multishot: Multishot

Sight: Front and rear sight adjustable for windage and elevation

Price: $79.00

Description: Crosman M4-177 Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle (.177) is a very standard variable pump firearm that will be plenty accurate for your hunting needs.

One could call into question its power, with a velocity of just 625 ft/s and by using .177 caliber rounds it is possible you will have some trouble stopping your targets when you hit them. It would depend on how accurate you are and where you hit them.

The adjustable sight could help with that. In general, this is a very practical option that should get the job done and that also comes with a rather reasonable price tag.

Gamo Big Cat 1250 .177 Caliber

Gamo Big Cat 1250 .177 Caliber

Size: 43.3” and 6.1 lbs

Firing mechanism: Spring piston

Action: Break barrel

Caliber: .177

Firing velocity: 1250 ft/s

Single or multishot: Single shot

Sight: 4×32 Air Rifle Scope with rings

Price: $199.95

Description: The Gamo Big Cat is a great gun in terms of accuracy and force. By using a spring piston firing mechanism it will have a much faster-firing velocity than maybe some other .177 options on the market. It is capable of taking down plenty of small animals and perhaps even some medium sized ones if you have the aim.

The high-zoom scope will help make it easier to pinpoint your target and be more efficient with your shooting. The price tag may seem a bit high compared to other choices, but you are paying for quality and it might be worth the extra money depending on your preferences.

RWS .22 Pellet Model 34 Combo Rifle

RWS .22 Pellet Model 34 Combo Rifle

Size: 45” and 7.5 lbs

Firing mechanism: Spring piston

Action: Break barrel

Caliber: .22

Firing velocity: 800 ft/s

Single or multishot: Single

Sight: Scope

Price: $299.99

Description: The slower firing velocity of this weapon can be attributed to the heavier .22 caliber ammunition, but it doesn’t mean RWS .22 Pellet Model 34 Combo Rifle will be any less effective in taking down the small animals you are hunting.

As discussed above, the heavier round will decrease the chances of it passing through the animal without stopping it. Also, the RWS Pellet Model 34 is made with wood giving it a classic rifle look that may be appealing to you.

The spring piston and break barrel mechanisms will provide plenty accuracy and will help you increase your shooting efficiency.

However, despite all this praise it is hard to ignore the steep price tag and to wonder if there are not equivalent options out there that will perform the same but cost you much less.

Benjamin Marauder PCP Air Rifle

Benjamin Marauder PCP Air Rifle

Size: 42.8 and 8.2lbs

Firing mechanism: Precharged pneumatic

Action: Bolt action

Caliber: You can choose between .22 and .177

Firing velocity: 1100 ft/s

Single or multishot: Multishot

Sight: None

Price: $499.99

Description: The scope-less, wood look of this particular gun is classic. Benjamin Marauder PCP Air Rifle sleek design will make you feel proud to have it on your shoulders and its bolt action and pre-charged pneumatic firing mechanism will give it a big boost in accuracy and allow for multiple shots on one load.

The pellet also leaves the barrel at a whopping 1100 ft/s so you can be sure that whatever you hit will be met with significant force. However, its advantages do really stop there. It has no scope, which will make it difficult to be accurate unless you are an expert marksman and it is a little heavier than other options.

The big downside of this particular option is the whopping $499.99 price. It has some nice features and looks good, but it is really hard to justify spending that kind of money for not such a significant upgrade in capability.

Crosman Nitro Venom Break Barrel Air Rifle (22)

Crosman Nitro Venom Break Barrel Air Rifle (22)

Size: 44.25” and 7.4 lbs

Firing mechanism: Nitro piston

Action: Break barrel

Caliber: .22

Firing velocity: 1200 ft/s

Single or multishot: Single

Sight: None

Price: $179.99

Description: Crosman Nitro Venom Break Barrel Air Rifle (22) is a very powerful, very accurate and actually quite modestly priced option. The nitro piston mechanism helps give this weapon quite a burst in terms of capacity; it is capable of firing a .22 caliber round at 1200 ft/s.

Also, the use of a gas instead of a lever or a spring, as mentioned above, means that this gun will fire significantly quieter than most other similar products. The one main knock against this weapon is that it does not come with a sight. It is set up to be able to have one, so you could purchase one separately, but it doesn’t come standard.

Still, for the power, accuracy, and quietness you are getting it could be worth it to shell out extra for the scope to be able to harness the other advantages of this gun.

Hatsan 95 Air Rifle Combo, Walnut Stock Air Rifle

Hatsan 95 Air Rifle Combo, Walnut Stock Air Rifle

Size: 44.3” and 7.8 lbs

Firing mechanism: Spring piston

Action: Break barrel

Caliber: You can choose between .22 and .177 caliber

Firing velocity:1000 ft/s

Single or multishot: Single shot

Sight: Fiber optic scope adjustable for elevation and windage

Price: $159.99

Description: Hatsan 95 Air Rifle Combo, Walnut Stock Air Rifle possesses some features that might make one call it somewhat “standard,” but that does not take away from its effectiveness. It’s plenty powerful and accuracy shouldn’t be a problem with its nice fiber optic and adjustable scope.

This should help compensate for the learning curve in terms of accuracy that was discussed earlier in terms of spring piston firing mechanisms. It also is made with a combination of wood and metal so it has that classic rifle look that makes it an even nicer option.

It is single shot, but it has also been discussed how this might not necessarily be a disadvantage. And to top it all off, at $159.99 it is really quite reasonably priced compared to some of its competitors without sacrificing too much in terms of performance.

Let’s Go Hunting!

Now that we have gone over the important features involved in your pellet gun and compared a few options available on the market, it is time to make a choice and get out there.

Obviously, with any gun, there will be a period of adjustment as you get used to it and learn how to maximize its capabilities, but we hope that the information provided here will help you find something that best fits your needs and that you will be able to find the best pellet gun for hunting.

Choose your pellet gun

Have any experience with any of these particular weapons? Any tips for fellow hunters who are looking to improve? As always, if you want to join in on the conversation or if you think there is something we missed let us know so we can improve and help you better in the future.

Hopefully, you feel more prepared to make the right purchase. Now, let’s go hunting!

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.

  • Conrad Burke

    It depends on the animal you are planning to target. Small animals such as rabbits, birds, rats or smaller. You can just use an air rifle if you are just hunting for animals smaller than birds or rodents. But if you plan on going for a deer or other larger animals, get a gun which fires 9mm, 45 and 50 cal. I’m using a Benjamin Rogue which fires 9mm cartridge and can take out a deer and other similar size animals.

    • Shawn Harrison

      By identifying your target animal and its corresponding size, you effectively narrow down your choices and eventually find the one that suits your requirements in addition to your personal preference. Your choice of getting a Benjamin Rogue is well-suited for small game and even deers.

  • Jamie Lyons

    I bought the Crosman Nitro Venom a few weeks ago, though I’ve not had the opportunity to hunt with it yet, the cans that I’ve had lined up on my fence have had a fair few (hundred) shots taken at them.

    Right out of the box, I was impressed by the Nitro Venom, Crosman state that the rifle can prove rather noisy and inaccurate and loud until it has been broken in, which is around the 100 shot mark. I’ll agree with the statement about the noise, the first 60 or so shots were rather noisy, however, it steadily got quieter and quieter. The accuracy, however, I couldn’t fault, right from the start, I was hitting quarter sized targets, and after I passed the hundred shot mark, I’ve found the accuracy to be improving with each shot – I’m confident now that I’d be able to shoot the fleas off a squirrel. Highly recommended!

    • Shawn Harrison

      The Crosman is one of the most well-built pellet guns you can currently find in the market. Durable, very easy to wield, and augments to your skill as a hunter, this is one of the pellet gun options I do recommend to my friends.

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