Finding the Best Air Rifle for the Money in 2017

Looking to buy your next air rifle? There are a number of factors to consider, most importantly you’ll want the best air rifle your for your hard earned money, but there are some features you can’t overlook regardless of the price range.

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned shooter, this Air Rifle Buyers Guide will provide you with the information you need to buy the best air rifle that both suits your needs and fits your budget.

Top 10 Rated Air Rifles Comparison Chart

ModelFPSCaliberWeightOur Rating 
Gamo Silent Cat Air Rifle1200.1777 lbs4.6 /5
Crosman Nitro Venom Break Barrel950.227.4 lbs4.4 /5
Gamo Hornet Air Rifle1200.1776.1 lbs4.4 /5
Ruger Blackhawk Combo Air Rifle1000.1779 lbs4.3 /5
Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 1100.228.3 lbs4.2 /5
Gamo Big Cat 12501250.1776.1 lbs4.4 /5
Benjamin Marauder PCP900.257.3 lbs4.3 /5
Crosman M4-177625.1774.8 lbs4.0 /5
Hammerli 850 AirMagnum655.228.4 lbs4.0 /5
Crosman 1077 Repeat Air625.1773.7 lbs3.8 /5

Best Air Rifle Reviews – Our Top 5 Picks

No matter whether you’re eliminating pests, hunting small game or plinking, the best air rifle will offer incredible accuracy and power. It’s important to invest in a high-quality and durable rifle that not only shoots well but is safe to use. But how do you know which rifle is the best choice for you?

Reading through air rifle reviews is a great place to start, but it’s also important to understand what constitutes a good airgun before you start shopping. Knowing how air rifles work is also important.

Unlike a traditional firearm, air rifles (also called pellet guns) use compressed air, gas or a spring to propel projectiles. They’re generally considered safer than a firearm, but they’re not quite as powerful. Throughout history, however, the air rifle has evolved and more powerful models are being introduced each year.

Today, there are more models of air rifles than ever before, but with so many options, it’s not always easy to determine which model is the right one for your needs. We’ve done all of the hard work for you and rounded up the top 5 air rifles based on price and performance.

1. Gamo Silent Cat

Gamo Silent Cat
View on Amazon.

The Gamo Silent Cat is a .177 caliber air rifle that’s capable of firing at 1200 fps. Many shooters agree that this is the best air rifle you can buy for under $150. It’s powerful. It’s accurate, and it’s a pleasure to shoot.

With PBA ammunition, this rifle can fire at 1200fps. With standard lead ammunition, it can fire at 1000fps. It comes with a built-in noise dampener, which reduces noise up to 52%.

Featuring a weatherproof synthetic stock, this rifle can be used in any weather. The Silent Cat also features a 4×32 rifle scope, automatic cocking safety system, and a manual trigger safety.

We highly recommend the Silent Cat for target shooting, pest control, and small game hunting.

The Gamo Silent Cat air rifle is a .177 caliber rifle that boasts a velocity as high as 1,200 feet/sec. It’s a powerful rifle that’s highly accurate and even comes with a 4×32 scope. With great features like an automatic cocking safety system, manual trigger safety, and all-weather stock, this rifle is a smart buy. Let’s take a closer look at this model’s features and performance in our Silent Cat air rifle review.

Gamo Silent Cat Air Rifle Features

  • .177 caliber
  • 1200 ft/sec with PBA; 1000 ft/sec with lead
  • Noise dampener
  • 4×32 scope
  • Skeleton stock
  • Manual trigger safety
  • Automatic cocking safety system
  • One year limited warranty

The Gamo Silent Cat is a great rifle for pest control and hunting small game. During my test run, it was amazingly accurate, but it does sound like a BB gun. The noise dampener is supposed to reduce the noise by up to 52%, but when shooting PBA ammo, it sounds like a firecracker shooting off. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed with the noise reduction, but I was more than happy with Silent Cat’s accuracy.

Safety was definitely a top priority when Gamo designed this rifle. The trigger is safe, but it can make tight grouping difficult. I found that slowly squeezing the trigger and not jerking before I took a shot greatly improved my accuracy. Some people replaced their trigger, but I’ve grown to like the stock trigger. It just takes a little getting used to. It’s also adjustable, so keep that in mind.

The Silent Cat’s skeleton stock is a nice feature too. It provides a comfortable grip, which not only improves accuracy but also helps you get a faster muzzle on target.

This rifle does come with a 4×32 scope, which is a nice addition. It’s not a top of the line scope, but it still works great. It’s easy to mount and sighting in was relatively painless.

The Silent Cat also comes with a one-year limited warranty, which provides you with some peace of mind that your purchase is protected.

Pros

  • Ideal for pest control and small game hunting.
  • Noise dampener reduces noise by 52%.
  • Impressive velocity.
  • Weatherproof.
  • Ventilated rubber pad absorbs recoil.

Cons

  • Trigger length is adjustable, but the weight is not.
  • When shooting PBA projectiles, the rifle was louder than expected.

Many people buy this rifle with the expectation that it will be completely silent. That’s definitely not the case with the Silent Cat – although the name suggests otherwise. It was louder than expected, but this wasn’t a deal-breaker by any means. I was more concerned with the rifle’s power and accuracy. It certainly won me over in those departments.

All in all, the Gamo Silent Cat is a great rifle for backyard shooting, target practice, pest control and hunting very small game. It’s powerful. It’s accurate, and it’s affordable. There are some minor issues with the trigger and the rifle is louder than you might expect, but it’s still one of the best air rifles you can get your hands on.

2. Crosman Nitro Venom

View on Amazon.
View on Amazon.

Crosman’s Nitro Venom is a .22 caliber break barrel air rifle that’s powered by Nitro Piston. With a fluted muzzle brake and generous-sized forearm, the Nitro Venom is deadly accurate. It can shoot up to 800 FPS with lead ammunition and 950 FPS with alloy ammunition. With 20 FPE, this is an airgun that can take down small game and pests with ease.

There are two reasons why we couldn’t rate the Nitro Venom number one:

  1. The cost is higher than the Silent Cat.
  2. This rifle is long and heavy.

Priced at over $150, this rifle is more expensive than the Silent Cat. It’s also heavier (7.4lbs) and longer (44.5” overall).

Despite these two minor flaws, this is one of the best air rifles around. It’s easier to cock than a coiled spring gun and it’s quieter too. It comes with a 3-9x32mm scope and the stock is made from hardwood.

We like the Nitro Venom for plinking, target practice, small game hunting, and pest elimination.

The Crosman Nitro Venom is a .22 caliber break barrel air rifle that’s deadly accurate and surprisingly powerful. Powered by state-of-the-art nitro piston technology, this rifle is designed for small game hunting, pest control, and target practice. We put this rifle to the test to see just how well it performs and how accurate it can be.

Crosman Nitro Venom Features

  • 3-9x32mm CenterPoint scope included
  • Nitro Piston Powered
  • .22 caliber
  • Break barrel
  • Single shot capacity
  • Rifled steel barrel
  • Lever safety
  • Hardwood stock
  • Wide forearm and fluted muzzle brake
  • 20 FPE; 800 FPS with lead; 950 FPS with alloy
  • Effective range of 35 yards

Crosman is a well-known name in the air rifle industry, and the Nitro Venom break barrel model is a testament to the quality the brand is known for. Right out of the box, my rifle was accurate, but it was even more accurate after breaking it in.

It’s important to remember that this is a rifle that’s designed for adults. It’s not a steel spring piston rifle. It’s a nitro piston rifle. It does have some weight to it (7.4lbs) and will require some strength to cock it, but any grown adult should have no problem using this rifle. However, if you’re looking for an air rifle for a child or young teen to learn with, the Nitro Venom is probably not the best option.

Now, the nitro piston may add some weight to the rifle, but it also makes it much quieter. You can easily use this in your backyard without worrying about bothering the neighbors.

The trigger has some pull, but not enough to have an effect on your accuracy. The beaver tail stock makes it easier to maintain the appropriate shooting position. The wider forearm sits in the palm of your hand, which greatly improves accuracy.

The Nitro Venom has an effective range up to 35 yards. I’ve used it primarily for target practice and plinking, but Crosman also states that you can use this rifle for pest control and small game hunting. Although I haven’t used it for these purposes, I’d say this rifle would be effective against squirrels, birds, rabbits and even small hogs.

The 3-9x32mm scope gets the job done and is a great scope for beginners. But you can also replace it with a more expensive model if you need higher magnification.

The stock is made of hardwood, which gives the rifle a nice look.

I was surprised by how powerful and accurate this rifle was. Like other rifles in this price range, the trigger and scope could use some tuning up, but overall, it’s a fantastic air rifle.

Pros

  • Great for pest control and small game hunting
  • Comes with a 3-9x32mm scope
  • Powerful and accurate
  • Scope is easy to sight in
  • 70% quieter than coiled spring rifles
  • Weatherproof
  • Minimal recoil

Cons

  • A little heavy and takes some strength to cock.
  • The trigger has some pull.

Yes, this rifle is on the heavy side, but it’s well made, powerful and incredibly accurate. The trigger does have some pull, but this is common with air rifles in this price range. I didn’t have any issues with the trigger, but it can be easily replaced if necessary.

3. Gamo Hornet

View on Amazon
View on Amazon

If you’re on a tight budget, the third pick on our list, the Gamo Hornet, is the best option. Priced at under $100, this .177 caliber air rifle is surprisingly powerful and accurate. It’s also lightweight (about 6lbs) thanks to its plastic hollow stock.

With PBA Raptor ammunition, this air rifle can shoot at up to 1200 fps. With lead ammunition, it can shoot at up to 1000 fps. This is a break barrel rifle with a second stage adjustable trigger.

The twin cheek pads allow for ambidextrous shooting. The non-slip texture on the forearm and grip make it comfortable to shoot. The Hornet is made in Spain and comes with a 4×32 rifle scope.

We recommend the Gamo Hornet to anyone looking for a quality air rifle at a very affordable price.

The Gamo Hornet Air Rifle packs a punch with a maximum velocity of 1,200 fps and an 18-inch barrel. Weighing just 6.1 pounds, this rifle is perfect for target practice, yet it packs enough power with is .177 caliber to hunt with the utmost accuracy. With a 4×32 scope included, the Gamo Hornet is one of the most affordable, feature-rich rifles on the market.

Gamo Hornet Standout Features

  • 1,200 fps velocity; 1,000 with lead
  • 4×32 scope
  • Weight of 6.1 pounds
  • .177 caliber pellets
  • Break-barrel cocking system
  • 18-inch barrel

Immediately upon picking up the Hornet, I noticed just how lightweight is was. The butt plate is made of rubber pad, so I knew the shot would be absorbed adequately upon firing. Scopes always need to be adjusted, so I suggest first adjusting the 4×32 scope that’s included.

I will admit that seasoned shooters will find the included scope to be mediocre, but I will delve into the scope later on. Once adjusted, I suggest going to the shooting range and really unloading with 200 shots at least. You can use a .177 lead pellet or a PBA Raptor. If you know anything about shooting, you know that the PBA Raptor is superior due to its 25% increased velocity pushing 1,200 fps. Lead pellets still get 1,000 fps.

When first testing out this rifle, you’ll notice that the crank and trigger are stiff. After the first 200 shots, they begin to loosen up, allowing for a faster shot to be taken. The scope will need to be centered again after a few hundred shots, which won’t happen with a high-quality scope.

Ideally, 8 -10.5-grain pellets will be used. Remember, if you’ve already zeroed your scope, you’ll want to use the same type and grain pellets all the time. The difference in weight or even manufacturers can cause your shot to miss its target.

Whether hunting hare or squirrels, this rifle has such power that one shot is all that’s needed for a humane kill. Remember, a .177 caliber is not recommended for game larger than a rabbit.

Pros

  • Comfortable shot
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • 1,200 fps maximum
  • Low-priced
  • Very powerful

Cons

  • Scope leaves a lot to be desired

The only con that I and many other reviews seem to find with this rifle is that the scope is less than desirable. While powerful, the scope will not stay zeroed for long resulting in highly inaccurate shots. After 200 shots or less, you’ll need to readjust your scope so that you can ensure proper aim. When shooting moving objects, this becomes a major hassle.

Ideally, you’ll switch out the included scope for one that is higher quality. This is the best choice.

I liked virtually everything else about the Hornet. Not only is it very lightweight, but it has immense power – maybe too much power. When the scope is zeroed, you’ll be able to kill small game with a single shot.

The Gamo Hornet is the perfect choice for an affordable starter air rifle. With the right scope attached, this is the most affordable, powerful air rifle under $100. Purchase yours today.

4. Ruger Blackhawk Combo

View on Amazon
View on Amazon

The Ruger Blackhawk Combo is a .177 caliber air rifle that’s, more or less, a clone of the RWS 34. This is a spring-piston, single-shot, break-barrel rifle with a weatherproof composite stock.

The Blackhawk Combo cracks like a .22 until you break it in. After about 20 shots, it starts quieting down. Weighing in at 9lbs, this is a heavier rifle, but it can shoot at up to 1000fps. It’s great for target shooting and taking down small game.

A 4×32 scope is included with the rifle, but you’ll probably want to replace it with a better one. It’s tough to sight in.

While the scope isn’t the best, it’s the rifle’s performance that really counts. And the Blackhawk Combo does not disappoint.

Ruger produces some of the best air rifles on the market. With the Ruger Blackhawk, I was surprised how affordable and powerful a rifle in this price range could be. Featuring a sleek black design, this rifle is aesthetically pleasing while able to shoot pellets at 1,000 feet per second with the utmost accuracy.

Ruger Blackhawk Features

  • 4×32 scope
  • ¼ MOA Reticle
  • 29-Feet FOV
  • Windage adjustments
  • Elevation adjustments
  • Lens coating
  • 9-pound weight
  • .177 caliber
  • 1,000 fps velocity

The perfect weight, this rifle packs immense power in just a 9-pound rifle that produces a noise similar to a .22 caliber handgun. The Blackhawk comes in a sleek black color and the manufacturer includes a mount and scope. Made by Ruger, the scope includes all the hardware needed for assembly.

This isn’t a $300 scope, but it’s the perfect scope for the average shooter. Featuring 4 x 32 magnification, you’ll find that the mounting the scope is the first thing you’ll want to do upon unpacking the box. It takes less than 20 minutes to mount the scope.

Inside the box, you’ll find a manual and safety information which I recommend everyone read first. You’ll also find gun registration cards so that you can register the rifle in your state.

After all of this is out of the way, you’ll want to wipe off any excess oil that may be on the barrel. This model comes well-oiled and the manual does suggest cleaning out any oil deposits prior to your first shot.

The butt of the gun provides great absorption. I felt like I was shooting a .22, and the recoil was about the same.

When reloading or loading for the first time, the safety will automatically engage so that you never have any accidents. I suggest spending the day target shooting first so that you can zero your scope and make sure that when you shoot game, you always hit your target. The scope does come loose at first, so keep the included wrench on you during your first outing.

Accuracy depends on your pellets. Don’t choose cheap pellets, or you’ll miss the target every time. Crosman Destroyer pellets work extremely well in the Ruger Blackhawk and ensure that your shot actually hits the target. When taking group shots, if you notice some shots are way off target, you’re probably using cheap pellets.

Noise production is low unless you haven’t cleaned out the excess oil in the barrel.

Cocking is a bit stiff at first but after a few hundred shots, it will be looser. If you’re shooting vermin, this rifle packs enough power for a near instant kill each and every time.

Pros

  • Very powerful shot
  • Great safety features
  • Decent scope
  • Included registration
  • Perfect weight

Cons

  • Needs initial cleaning
  • Scope mount loosens after use

This is the ideal rifle for anyone who wants a complete package. I didn’t like having to initially clean the rifle and the scope wasn’t the best I’ve tried, but for an included scope, it does an amazing job. Bringing the included wrench along the first time shooting, you’ll be able to tighten the scope mount appropriately so that it doesn’t move after a few hundred shots.

For the budget shopper, Ruger hits a homerun with the Blackhawk. A powerful shot and decent scope will allow you to kill vermin or shoot at targets with highly accurate shots. Buy the Blackhawk today.

5. Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100

View on Amazon
View on Amazon

The Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 is another top rated rifle offered by Crosman. With alloy ammunition, this rifle can fire at up to 1100 fps. With lead ammunition, it can fire at 950 fps. Boasting 28.6 fps, this is a powerful rifle that won’t disappoint.

It does take about 500 rounds for this rifle to quiet down. After about 200 rounds, the accuracy improves to about an inch at 50 yards.

The rifle comes with a 3-9x40mm CenterPoint scope, which is great for the average shooter. Most people won’t have to upgrade the scope. The rifle is longer than others on our list (49” overall) and on the heavier side (8.5lbs). The heavier weight is due, in part, to the hardwood stock. The rifle also features sling mounts, which is something you won’t find on most air rifles.

The Benjamin Trail is a powerful rifle. We’ve taken down crows and rabbits with just a single shot at over 25 yards.

Any air rifle reviews that mention the Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 praise its performance and accuracy, but you need to be willing to pay for this rifle’s high performance. Priced at almost $250, this rifle comes in at #5 on our list simply because it’s the most expensive option. But like with most things, quality and performance demand a higher price.

Crosman made the Benjamin Trail air rifle with the intermediate and expert shooter in mind, but the price is set for the first-time buyer. While in the mid-price range, the XL 1100 packs power and a 3-9×40 scope into 8.5 pounds of air rifle perfection.

Let’s take a look at what this rifle has to offer.

NP XL 1100 Features

  • Hardwood stock
  • 1100 fps with alloy pellets; 950 fps with lead
  • 49” length
  • 3-9×40 scope
  • 5-pound weight
  • .22 caliber
  • Break-barrel design
  • Windage and elevation adjustments
  • Single shot design

Many reviews that I read prior to trying the XL 1100 almost scared me away. Some users complained of the lack of craftsmanship, but this was not my experience at all. The rifle is very high quality with a beautiful wood finish.

Alloy pellets provide the best feet per second, but lead pellets are just behind alloy with 950 fps compared to 1100. If you are shooting game, I recommend going with the alloy pellets for a faster overall shot.

The scope needs to be mounted, but it takes just minutes to do. There is an elevation and windage adjustment, so you will be able to shoot with extreme precision. The scope is powerful at 3-9×40 which is often impossible to find at this price range. Adjustments are easy and even after 300 shots, the scope remained zeroed.

The average shooter will find that the included scope will more than suffice. Expert shooters may want to swap out the scope for even more accuracy, but this is not a necessity.

Smaller users may find that this rifle is too big for them or that the recoil provides some discomfort. Adults should not have much of an issue. Power is where this rifle excels. You’ll shoot clear through small vermin and even hear the impact from the shot.

I did have to shoot hundreds of pellets before really getting used to shooting this rifle. You can easily hit the target at 25 yards, but at 50 yards, you’ll need some practice. The Wind can push your pellet off target, but you’ll quickly learn how to adjust your shot accordingly. After the first day of shooting, I was able to hit the target 80 percent of the time with relative ease.

The trigger is not perfect. In fact, I changed out my trigger for a better aftermarket product to provide a smoother shot. This is not a necessity, but I do recommend changing the trigger. If you don’t mind a long pull, the trigger will be fine.

Shots will be very loud for the first 100 or so, but afterward, the Benjamin Trail NP is very quiet.

Pros

  • Great 3-9×40 scope
  • Solid craftsmanship
  • .22 caliber
  • 1100 FPS velocity
  • Well-priced

Cons

  • Trigger has a long pull

It wasn’t just me that didn’t like the feel of the trigger. Many other users complained that the trigger didn’t feel right. Seasoned shooters will easily be able to swap out the trigger while novice shooters will be able to adjust to it faster.

Overall, this is the perfect rifle. With power and precision, you can’t go wrong with the NP XL 1100. If you want a powerful air rifle from a name you can trust, purchase the Benjamin Trail NP today.

Air Rifle Power Selection

There are 4 different types of systems that power an air rifle, these come in 4 different groups Spring-Piston, Gas Ram, Co2 and Pneumatic below we will explain each one as each one have their advantages and disadvantages.

Spring-Piston Air Rifles

The Spring-Piston has got to be the most common power plant on the market and one that most air rifle owners will have owned at some point. They come in 3 different cocking mechanisms Break Barrel, Under Lever and Side Lever.

The biggest advantage of the spring-piston is it reproduces the same power shot after shot it is a really simple power system whereby when you cock the gun you simply compress a spring, once the trigger is released the spring is shot forward generating high pressure to fire out the pellet.

The problem with this system is when the spring is released you can get some recoil so a heavier gun to combat this can help but this is all part of the learning curve in shooting a spring-piston air rifle and very enjoyable once mastered and is all part of the sport.

Spring-Piston Air RifleAdvantages

  • Cheap
  • Self-contained
  • Reliable
  • Great value for money

Disadvantages

  • More often only single shot
  • Recoil
  • Heavy
  • Noisy

The Monster Spring-Piston Air Rifles Comparison Chart

Gas Ram Air Rifles (Niro Piston)

This is very much like the spring-piston but where there is a spring there is a gas unit replacing the spring and is very much the next step up from the spring piston. They still have recoil but a lot less than the spring-piston.

You can leave a gas ram system cocked and as there is no spring you will not have to worry about the spring weakening like you would with a spring-piston also a spring-piston air rifles springs can be negatively affected by changes in temperature the gas ram system is not.

Making it an all-weather unit it’s also easier to cock. In general terms, they are a better-built air rifle with nicer stocks.

AdvantagesGas Ram Air Rifle

  • Cheaper than a Co2 air rifle
  • Consistent power
  • No wearing spring
  • Automatic safety catch

Disadvantages

  • More expensive than a Spring-Piston air rifle
  • Still some recoil

Co2 Air Rifles

Don’t like to sound of recoil then a Co2 air rifle could be the answer at a cheaper price. The Co2 is what generates the power to fire the pellet the Co2 is stored in bottles that are screwed into the air rifle and will need replacing the bottles are at relatively cheap. A co2 air rifle

A co2 air rifle is recoilless and generally lightweight and purchased by beginners who are looking for a fun air rifle for target shooting and younger shooters who struggle with the weight of a spring-piston. The main disadvantage is how sensitive they are to temperature and can cause inconsistent accuracy in extreme heat and extremely cold weather. The Co2 air rifle can come in

The Co2 air rifle can come in the multi-shot format so are ideal for plinking.

AdvantagesCo2 Air Rifle

  • Cheap for recoilless shooting
  • Easy to use
  • Fun
  • Multi-shot available
  • Generally lightweight

Disadvantages

  • Can be expensive (Co2 bottles)
  • Can be built cheaply (get what you pay for)
  • Average accuracy

Pneumatic Air Rifles

1. Pre-Pneumatic Air Rifles (PCP’s)

The pre-pneumatic or as then more widely know as PCP’s is a high power, accurate system that has made huge advances over the last 10 years.

There is a reservoir within the air rifle that is filled using a stirrup pump giving a highly pressured chamber that can fire the pellet to levels between 1500 to 3500 psi some go higher.

As this is a very powerful system it is the air rifle of choice if you want to hunt large game they make a perfect air rifle for someone that wants a recoilless air rifle for easy accurate shooting.

AdvantagesPneumatic Air Rifle

  • Accurate, Recoilless
  • Quiet
  • Powerful

Disadvantages

  • Initial cost

2. Pump-Up Pneumatic Air Rifles (PCP’s)

The Pump-up air rifle works in a very similar way as the pre-pneumatic but where they differ is as the name suggest you pump the air rifle by a lever filling the air chamber the number of times you pump 1-10 can vary between makes and models and the more you pump the more power the air rifle will produce.

These are generally just as accurate as the pre-pneumatic and recoilless making them a great air rifle but are generally only one shot so pumping between shots can become annoying but if you are just target shooting they can be good to go with one pump and you’re ready to shoot and they are cheaper than the pre-pneumatic making them a great entry level pneumatic air rifle.

AdvantagesPump-Up Pneumatic Air Rifle

  • Accurate
  • Recoilless
  • Quiet
  • Powerful
  • Cheaper than pre-pneumatic

Disadvantages

  • Pumping (charging) can become annoying

Air Rifle Caliber Selection

Caliber-Selection-PelletsIf you are new to buying an air rifle then you may need help in understanding calibers. Put simply, the caliber is the internal diameter of the rifles barrel which determines the size of pellet you can use. The higher the caliber, the larger the ammunition.

There are 3 main caliber selections to choose from .177, .22 and .25 each one has its advantages and disadvantages, below we will take a look at each to see which will best suits your needs.

.177 Caliber

This is the most popular caliber on the market and is a highly accurate pellet at longer distances the .177 is ideal for target shooting and plinking but can take out small pests (squirrels, birds, rats) so a bit of an all-rounder. With the .177 being so popular they are the easiest pellets to obtain and generally much cheaper.

.22 Caliber

A pellet with a larger weight and size over the .177 giving it much more knock down power, making it ideal for people looking to hunt larger pests (rabbits, wild woodchucks). They are good for general shooting but the pellets do cost more than the .177.

.25 Caliber

The largest pellet of the common 3 caliber’s, which lends itself to hunter larger pestsz (such as coyotes), they are much harder to shoot at longer range but ideal around 50 yards or less.

Must-Have Air Rifle Features

If you are hunting, controlling vermin or simply target shooting, there are a bunch of features that are important for any kind of shooter, which will be required to ensure a clean shot/kill.

  • Velocity: The velocity dictates how fast your pellet will travel. A pellet that travels at 950 fps is much slower than a pellet that flies out at 1200 fps. If you’re shooting long distances, you’ll need a high-velocity rifle.
  • Caliber: You’ll need a caliber ideal for your target. A .177 is most common and will work well for most users.
  • Scope: Many rifles now include a scope, but most scopes are less than ideal. A good scope should be at least 4×32 and allow for windage and elevation adjustments.
  • Butt Padding: When you take a shot, the recoil will cause you to feel discomfort after a day of shooting. The padding on the butt of the rifle should provide adequate absorption so that recoil pains are never an issue. Rubber works best.
  • Trigger Safety: Injuries often occur during reloading. An automatic trigger safety mechanism will allow you to remain safe when reloading.

These are the most important features. A few other considerations are:

  • Noise
  • Weight
  • Length

Obviously, accuracy will also be a concern. However, this is not a feature as it largely comes down to the experience of the shooter, the target, and the weather conditions, but it is something to research before buying your next rifle. If your shot isn’t accurate due to a product fault, the rifle will be utterly useless. The good thing is this industry is great for returns, so if you do find you have a problem with your air rifle, you can usually return for a replacement/repair at most good retailers.

If your shot isn’t accurate due to a product fault, the rifle will be utterly useless. The good thing is this industry is great for returns, so if you do find you have a problem with your air rifle, you can usually return for a replacement/repair at most good retailers.

You also have to remember that there are numerous price ranges. The absolute best rifle may be out of your budget, but this does not mean that you can’t find one that is perfect for you. In fact, some of the lower priced rifles will compete exceptionally well with high-end models.

Air Rifle Buyers Guide

What Will You Be Using the Rifle For?

One of the first things you should consider is the rifle’s purpose. What will you be using it for? Are you looking to hunt small game and eliminate pests? Are you looking for an air rifle mostly for target shooting, or are you in the market for something that can take down varmint or predators? The answer to this question will have a huge impact on which rifle you ultimately choose.

If you’re looking to hunt predators and varmint, you’ll need a more powerful rifle, like a .177 or .22 caliber. For younger shooters, these rifles may be overkill.

Propulsion Method

The second thing you need to consider is the rifle’s propulsion method, and there are three main types available: spring/nitrogen piston, CO2 powered and pre-charged pneumatic. You can still find pump pneumatic rifles, but these aren’t nearly as powerful as the propulsion methods listed above.

So, how do you know which method is the right choice for you? Let’s take a closer look at each one:

  • Spring/Nitrogen Piston: Spring and nitrogen piston air rifles are the most common adult airguns on the market today. These use an air piston and spring (in the case of spring piston models) to propel the pellet downrange. Break barrel rifles are the most common in this category. Spring and nitrogen piston rifles can attain high velocities and are extremely accurate. They’re a great option for both target shooting and hunting.
  • CO2 Powered: CO2 rifles come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, but they’re all powered by CO2 canisters or capsules. There are many sizes available, but the most common are the 12-gram cartridge. Why use a CO2 rifle? For one thing, they’re incredibly quiet and very easy to use. Virtually no cocking effort needs to be applied in between shots. The biggest issue with these rifles is that the temperature can affect the CO2 pressure tank. When firing multiple shots, spacing shots is important to increase the total number of shots fired from a single canister.
  • Pre-Charged Pneumatic: A pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifle uses a large air chamber that allows for multiple shots to be fired before it needs to be recharged. Tank recharging is done with either a SCUBA tank or a high-pressure hand pump. Generally speaking, PCP rifles are the most powerful airguns on the market today, and they tend to be the most accurate. But extreme performance and accuracy do come at a price, which is why PCP rifles are some of the most expensive ones you can buy.

Most shooters will want to stick with spring or nitrogen piston air rifles. These airguns are highly accurate and powerful, but they’re still offered at an affordable price.

Rifle Caliber

Another important thing to consider is the rifle’s caliber. Calibers vary, but the most popular choices are .22 and .177. If you’re a serious small game hunter, a .25 is a great option.

For plinking, target practice and pest control, the .177 is the best option. These rifles are highly accurate, but still powerful enough to take down pests.

If you’re looking for something with a bigger “punch,” the .22 caliber is the best option. This is the caliber of choice for small game hunters.

Pellets

Air rifles fire pellets, which are safer than steel BBs because ricochets aren’t much of an issue. Pellets are also more accurate and they carry more energy. The caliber of the pellets you choose should match the caliber of your rifle.

There are four main types of pellets:

  • Pointed: As you may have guessed, pointed pellets have a point at the tip. The pointed tip offers superior penetration.
  • Domed: Domed pellets are generally used for field target, general shooting and hunting small game. They have the best aerodynamics and are a great all-around pellet.
  • Hollowpoint: Hollowpoint pellets are used for hunting. These allow for maximum energy transfer and expand rapidly.
  • Wadcutter: Wadcutter pellets have flat noses. They’re highly accurate, which is why they’re commonly used in target shooting. These pellets are ideal for short range hunting and with low-velocity air rifles. Wadcutter pellets are only effective up to 25 yards.

Final Assessment

There are many things to consider when buying an air rifle, but the most important thing is the rifle’s purpose. This will ultimately dictate what type and caliber rifle you choose. Your budget may also be a concern, but it’s important not to skimp on certain features – especially those that affect the accuracy and safety of the rifle.

The five rifles listed above are our top picks based on performance and price. The Gamo Silent Cat is the best all-around air rifle, offering great accuracy and power at an affordable price. The Gamo Hornet is the ideal choice for anyone who is on a budget while the Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 is a smart choice for anyone looking for a powerful air rifle.

The latter choice comes at a higher price but offers the quality craftsmanship that you would expect from the Crosman name. The Nitro Venom is a good in-between choice, although it does offer a lower FPS than other models on the list. The Ruger Blackhawk Combo may be a heavy rifle, but it’s powerful, accurate and comes at an affordable price.

All of these rifles are comparable as far as FPS goes, so you really can’t go wrong with any of these rifle models.

To find the best air rifle for your needs, start with our air rifle reviews and give our buying guide a second read. Consider your budget, your purpose and the propulsion method that suits your needs.

All of the rifles on our list come highly rated by customers, and we were more than pleased with each rifle’s performance. It may take a few hundred rounds to break your rifle in, but once you do, you’ll find that shooting is a pleasure and much quieter than a firearm.

Air Rifle Safety Tips

You should always remember that your air rifle is not a toy and can cause serious damage and even kill. You should tread your air rifle as a live firearm and use it in a safe responsible manner. This air rifle safety tips section is to help the beginner and to drill into you the safety aspect of air gunning.

Above all what you should remember is always know where you are pointing the air rifle and never point it in an unsafe direction and when you do shoot make sure you know where the pellet will end before you finally pull the trigger.

Air Rifle handling

Treat it like its loaded – Always treat the air rifle like it has a pellet in it, never point it in a person direction even when it’s not loaded.

Don’t load – Never load the air rifle until you are ready to shoot, it’s so easy to forget you loaded an air rifle this is when accidents happen so never load until you are sure you will take a shot

Safety on – Always put the safety catch on even when the air rifle is not loaded but don’t rely on this to make the gun safe as although not common things can fail the only safe air rifle is an unloaded air rifle.

Don’t put it down – You should never put the air gun down once it’s loaded to put the air rifle down discharge the pellet.

Unattended air rifle – You should never leave your air rifle unattended you don’t know who’s going to pick it up.

Check – When you first pick up the air rifle always check that the air rifle is unloaded this is something of a habit you should get into.

Pellet destination – Before you pull the air rifle trigger think were your pellet is traveling and where it will be hitting or if you miss the target where will the pellet end up. When you think it is all safe then pull the trigger.

Air rifle storage

Loaded air rifle – When you put your air rifle into storage never leave it loaded.

Pellets – When you store your air rifle I always recommended that you store your pellets in a different location if someone who shouldn’t be using it finds your air rifle they won’t have any pellets.

Out of sight – When you store your air rifle never leave it in sight so people can easily see it also when carrying your air rifle in your car keep it covered. You can always store the rifle in a gun safe to be extra safe.

There are some basic tips when you are using your air rifle and when you come to store it always keep in mind your air rifle is not a toy and can kill this should stop you from taking risks as the consequences can be fatal. An air rifle is a great item to own and you can have many hours of enjoyment with it but keep safe and keep others safe.