Air rifles are good, cheap options for scenario training, shooting practice, pest control, and hunting small game.
There are literally hundreds of air rifles to choose from in the market at the moment. Veteran users will already have a good grasp as to what to look for in an air rifle at this point, but how about beginners? Don’t fret, as this is where we come in. This article will help you figure out what factors to look for when searching for an air rifle. We will also touch upon important elements such as maintenance of the air rifle, proper use, and safety.
Before we head into further intricacies about the air rifle, I would like to first give you a selection of air rifle products that you might want to include in your list. Below are the top 10 best air rifles today as well as details, specs, and the strengths and weaknesses of each to help you make a more informed choice. This list is not in order, so take your time to read each entry to find out which one suits your preference.
As you would expect from reading the name of this air rifle, it is amazingly silent. However, don’t mistake the hushed sounds of this rifle as an indication of its power. Far from it, as the GAMO Whisper Air Rifle is definitely among the top tier of high-powered air rifles in the market today. It comes pre-installed with a noise reduction attachment. This noise reduction attachment cannot be removed, which is something to note.
The power of the air rifle is pretty much retained, even with the silencer attached. It manages to clock in at 1,200 feet per second, which is definitely nothing to scoff at. There is no reason for you to remove the silencer, unless of course, you need to hear the bang when you pull the trigger. But if that is what you want, then this air rifle is definitely not the one for you.
The silencer used in the GAMO Whisper delivers a 50% noise reduction, and seeing as air rifles aren’t particularly loud to begin with, the “whisper” monitor is on-point. In terms of accuracy, the GAMO Whisper is nigh on-par with high-end models. It features a great balance of power and accuracy with a price tag that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Its high accuracy rating can be credited to the air rifle’s great design. The ergonomic stock of the air rifle feels absolutely comfortable. The overall sleek design makes shooting targets extremely easy, and prevents any straining from the shooter.
The air rifle’s break barrel is another high point of this product. It was designed with both beginners and veteran air rifle users in mind. Finding a middle ground between a beginner-friendly design and one that experts would like is difficult to accomplish, but the GAMO Whisper managed to do it. The break barrel can also be easily maintained, which is great for longevity. The cocking action is also smooth to operate with the spring piston system, making it remarkably functional.
The GAMO Whisper Silent Cat Air Rifle is a perfect example of an air gun that offers great quality at a fair price. While there are high-end air rifles that deliver better performance and aesthetics, if you are looking for something a little more forgiving to your budget, then this is something you should consider. It can still hold its own when it comes to quality, accuracy, and performance, and is a considerably quiet air rifle that you should not balk at.
- Impressive high-powered air rifle at a reasonable price.
- Amazing accuracy even at long range.
- Ergonomically designed for optimum comfort.
- Easy maintenance.
- Significantly quiet thanks to the noise suppressor.
- The high power of the air rifle means it is better suited for heavier rounds.
- The scope leaves a lot to be desired. I recommend you get a better replacement scope in the future.
Ruger Blackhawk Combo Air Rifle
Another quality air rifle on the affordable side of the spectrum, the Ruger Blackhawk Combo Air Rifle caught my attention with its impressive power. If you are looking for an air rifle that can deliver the long distance and high precision shooting aspect, the Ruger Blackhawk might just offer what you need. Let’s take a closer look at this air rifle to give a better picture of its capabilities.
The break barrel system is easy to use. It is rather basic with the standard single shot mechanism, meaning that you need to pump the barrel after every shot. For beginners, this might take some getting used to, but after a handful of sessions, it will start feeling like second nature. The break barrel is smooth and glides effortlessly, so you won’t need to strain after every shot fired.
The velocity of each pellet from this air rifle clocks in at 1,000 feet per second, which is quite impressive, indeed. If you are looking for a long-range rifle that delivers power and accuracy, the Ruger Blackhawk should be on your shortlist. With that level of power, you can retain high precision, even with a considerably far away target.
In terms of noise, the Ruger Blackhawk is a .177 caliber air rifle, which means it will produce a far quieter shot. While not on the same level as the GAMO Whisper, it is still significantly quiet and a good choice for practicing in your backyard when you don’t want to disturb your neighbors.
If you are worried about your budget, this air rifle won’t break the bank, as it is one of the more affordable air rifles on the market today. Priced around a hundred bucks, you will get a pretty reliable air rifle that you can use for practice and for hunting small animals, such as rats and squirrels. You will also get a decent 4×32 scope, but you might want to replace it with a better one when you can.
The Ruger Blackhawk comes with an impressive one-year warranty, which is a nice cherry on the top, as this is already a well-made air rifle. Having a safety net will give you that peace of mind in the instance that it suddenly breaks down, which is rare, might I add.
- Powerful enough to hit small targets as far as 50 yards.
- The handling and high power of this air rifle deliver superb accuracy.
- The Ruger Blackhawk comes at an affordable price tag.
- The recoil of each shot is quite substantial.
- The default scope is not the best of quality. You might want to replace it as soon as possible.
- The Ruger Blackhawk is slightly louder than your standard air rifle.
Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 Break Barrel Air Rifle
In terms of design, the Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 Air Rifle is definitely an eye-catcher. The checkered hardwood stock is quite attractive and gives it that traditional rifle aesthetic. However, you would be amiss to think of this air rifle as just a pretty face. It is one of the most powerful air rifles to date, with 1,100 feet per second firepower. What else does the Benjamin Trail NP XL have under its non-existent sleeve? Let’s find out.
What gives this air rifle the level of power it has is that rather than using the standard coiled spring system, it uses a nitro gas piston to propel pellet ammunition. One of the main differences between a spring coiled and nitro piston system, other than the power difference, is that nitro piston produces 70% less noise, which is great for those who prefer a significantly silent air rifle. Gas powered air rifles are also not affected by natural elements and will not have any corrosion issues to contend with in the future.
Another notable feature that the Benjamin Trail NP XL has is its multiple ammo type options. For example, using a BB ammo allows it to deliver 600 feet per second, using a .177 caliber will give you 1,000 feet per second, a .22 caliber gives 800 feet per second, and a .25 caliber will deliver 825 feet per second power. Depending on your prey, you can switch up your ammunition for the best possible result.
As expected, the scope is a point of contention for customers. While the Center Point 3 – 9 x 40 scope is a solid choice, you might be able to improve overall precision if you swap it with a better scope. One important factor that you should consider is the weight. It weighs in at around 10 lbs. (scope installed), which might cause some to become exhausted after a while. It is still a great air rifle, and weight is barely an issue if you consider its overall performance. If you are planning to hunting small (rats and squirrels) to the medium sized game (raccoons and opossums), then you should check out what the Benjamin Trail NP XL Air Rifle has to offer.
- Maximum of 1,100 feet per second firepower.
- Great choice for small to medium game hunting and for eliminating pests.
- The nitro piston system reduces noise up to 70% when compared to spring coiled rifles.
- Adjusting the trigger can be a bit of a bother at times.
- The weight (10 lbs. with the scope) might be an issue with some.
Crossman M4-177 Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle
The Crossman M4-177 Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle is a decent enough air rifle and is a good choice for beginners, considering its exceptionally low price tag. One of the major selling points of the Crossman M4-177 is its versatility when it comes to ammunition. This air rifle is compatible with both pellets and BBs, which is a great feature in terms of convenience. The pellet clip can hold five pellets at a time. The reservoir chamber, on the other hand, can hold around 350 BBs.
The Crossman M4-177 Air Rifle utilizes high-pressure air tanks. Operating the air rifle is simple, although it takes a little bit longer, as you need to pump the lever around one to ten times before you pull the trigger. Thankfully, the lever location on the rifle makes it so that pumping it can be done easily and quickly. It can fire pellets at 600 feet per second and BBs at 625 feet per second.
The Crossman M4-177 also offers diversity with the multitude of mounts you can use on it. It has a laser and flashlight mount for added precision and for using it in low light areas. This is a great accessory if you like to hunt pests during dusk or at dawn.
It also comes with a shooting range feature that should help assist aim and for hitting moving targets. It is capable of delivering consistent power for up to 60 yards. Consistency is its strength, and you can depend on it to perform reliably again and again.
All in all, the Crossman M4-177 is a solid air rifle. Taking into account its price tag and its quality, I would say that it is pretty well-rounded. Don’t expect it to match up with high-end air rifles, though. However, it is good enough for practice, training, and hunting/eliminating small pests around your home.
- Affordable price tag. Great choice for beginners who are still grasping the basics and don’t want to spend too much on an air rifle.
- Easy to use. It states that it will require one to ten pumps, but from what I’ve observed personally, you can pull the trigger after four to five pumps.
- At 4 lbs. this air rifle is as light as they come.
- Pumping the air rifle can be quite noisy. It can also be a little bit of a hassle for some, as they would need to pump the air rifle multiple times to generate the desired power.
- The bottom rail is rather bulky and takes up a lot of space during storage.
The Crossman Nitro Venom Air Rifle utilizes the break barrel pump system, which makes operating this air rifle quite simple. This, of course, means that it does not utilize any kind of CO2 cartridge, but will need to be cocked before every shot. This might take some getting used to at first, but will quickly become second nature after a while.
This air rifle is lightweight yet packs a punch. It weighs in at around 7 lbs. and is 44.5 inches long. It’s just the right weight and length for outdoor trips, in my opinion. The design also feels authentic to that of a real rifle, and aiming feels comfortable as well.
As for the power of this air rifle, its pellets have clocked in at 950 feet per second, which is more than enough for hunting small prey, even at a considerable distance. The Crossman Nitro Venom is actually a .22 caliber rifle, and while it has a relatively limited optimum range, it makes up for it with its power.
The Crossman Nitro Venom is equipped with a nitro piston system which helps reduce the noise it produces by up to 70%. The recoil is also low, which makes it a good choice for beginner teenagers. Since it uses the nitro piston system instead of the spring coiled mechanism, users don’t need to worry about corrosion or getting the air rifle wet.
- Nitro piston system means it is quieter and longer lasting.
- It uses .22 caliber ammunition for optimum power.
- It has a good quality synthetic stock.
- It uses a fluted muzzle for better heat dispersion and less recoil.
- It does not come with an iron sight.
A popular air rifle in air gun aficionados’ circle, the Hatsan 95 Air Rifle delivers versatility, as it comes in different calibers. The most popular are the .22 and .177 caliber air rifles. It uses the tried and tested break barrel system, and also comes with a safety switch to ensure that you don’t fire it accidentally. In terms of aesthetics, I would definitely recommend the Hatsan 95. But what about its performance? Let’s take a closer look at this air rifle and find out.
Another feature that I would like to touch upon with the Hatsan 95 is the front and rear fiber optic sights. You can find a red fiber optic sight on the top of the muzzle, as well as an adjustable yellow fiber optic sight. This helps improve precision, especially with the rear fiber optic sight, which can be used to calculate elevation and wind strength/direction. It also comes with an Optima scope that can zoom in at 3 – 9 x 32mm. While the Optima is a decent enough scope, I still recommend that you replace it with an upgraded version for best results.
In terms of power, the Hatsan 95 can deliver 1,000 meters per second with the .177 caliber, and about 800 meters with the .22 caliber pellets. The safety switch is automatically triggered once you have cocked the air rifle, which is great for avoiding misfires.
As this air rifle is quite powerful, you can expect it to have a considerable recoil. Fortunately, it does come equipped with a shock absorber and recoil pad, which can help reduce the recoil significantly. It also has a two-level adjustable trigger for better control of the trigger’s pull weight and travel length.
- The walnut stock with checkered grip is a great choice for optimum grasp.
- It features an automatic safety switch.
- The high power of this air rifle is balanced by a shock absorber and recoil pad.
- It comes with a one-year warranty.
- This air rifle can be quite loud.
- The default scope is sub-par.
- It is substantially heavier than other air rifles.
Hammerli 850 Air Magnum Air Rifle
At first glance, the Hammerli 850 exudes a sleek and well thought of design. The design perfectly captures that of a real rifle, which also means that you need to handle this with care if you plan to go hunting. It is important to note that this air rifle is a limited release, so expect it to come with a higher than normal price tag. However, you can also expect it to be well-built, and it can withstand a few rough and tumble excursions.
This air rifle uses a CO2 cartridge – this means that you don’t have to pump the rifle before firing. In fact, you can fire up to eight shots in succession without any hindrance. It can fire pellets at 760 feet per second, which is a commendable feat for a CO2 cartridge system air rifle. Any individual who knows how to operate a real gun can pick this air rifle up and use it without any problems.
The Hammerli 850 is specifically designed as a hunting air rifle. It utilizes .22 caliber pellets; combined with its powerful CO2 cartridge system, this makes for a dangerous combination. I highly suggest that you take all necessary safety precautions when operating this air rifle. The CO2 cartridge’s longevity varies, but we have received reports that it can continuously fire up to 200 times at maximum power before the need to replace it.
While the price tag of the Hammerli 850 might appear to be too much, the power and precision of this air rifle more than makes up for it. I do want to point out that the air rifle does not come with its own CO2 cartridge out of the box, which is disappointing. This means you might shell out some extra cash if you plan to use this one frequently.
- Handles like a dream with its high accuracy.
- The sturdy design ensures longevity.
- Great for small game hunting and pest control.
- CO2 cartridge system delivers in the power department.
- It is significantly more expensive than most air rifles.
GAMO Big Cat 1250 Air Rifle
This is another appearance from GAMO here. The GAMO Big Cat 1250 Air Rifle delivers an authentic feel and design. It is a great choice both for small prey hunting and for target practice. One of the biggest pros of the GAMO Big Cat is its weatherized construction. Designed for outdoor use, it utilizes all-weather polymer material for its stock and the barrel. This means it can withstand rain, shine, and snow while still delivering optimum performance.
The GAMO Big Cat features the breakaway barrel as its cocking mechanism, which means that you need to bend the barrel before firing. This mechanism is actually the most common system found in air rifles. Fortunately, cocking the barrel takes little effort, so you can fire quickly and continuously.
The grips on the stock and forearm are all checkered, which greatly improves the grip of the user. No worries about slipping here. This is especially helpful when hunting outdoors, as you can expect dirt and mud to stick to your hands and air rifle. The checkered grip and forearm also mean sweat won’t be much of a factor when handling the GAMO Big Cat.
In terms of power, the GAMO Big Cat 1250 Air Rifle delivers an astonishing 1,250 feet per second when you use it with PBA platinum ammo. Lead pellets can produce 1,000 feet per second, which is nothing to scoff at as well. As for accuracy, its precision is on point, although I do recommend that you swap the stock scope with an upgraded one for best results.
At six lbs. and 43 inches in length, the GAMO Big Cat feels like an authentic rifle. It delivers superb power and accuracy, and is definitely an air rifle that you should check out.
- Powerful and high penetration air rifle.
- Synthetic all-weather polymer material protects it from natural elements.
- The fluted barrel helps reduce recoil effectively.
- Uses a non-slip texture for optimum grip.
- PBA pellets are rather expensive.
- The scope is effective within 40 yards. Anything farther will steadily reduce precision. Replace the scope with a better quality one when you can.
- A little loud.
GAMO Raptor Whisper Air Rifle
Another GAMO product makes an appearance on this list. The GAMO Raptor Whisper Air Rifle uses a break action mechanism, and gives you the option to choose between .22 caliber or a .177 caliber ammunition. The distance varies depending on the caliber, as a .177 caliber can produce a whopping 1,300 feet per second firepower, while the .22 caliber can produce an equally impressive 975 feet per second.
It is equipped with a gas piston that delivers more power, less noise, less recoil, and longevity. The adjustable trigger on this air rifle also adds to its strengths. You can easily adjust the trigger to deliver the best possible tactile feedback. The length of the barrel also gives you more leverage when cocking the break action mechanism.
As for the noise, it uses the patented Whisper noise reduction technology that does reduce firing noise significantly. The air rifle also comes with a shockproof 4 x 32 scope, which is solid enough in itself. An additional noteworthy feature is its use of all-weather polymer material on its stock, which greatly increases its performance outdoors, no matter the weather.
- Impressive high-velocity air rifle.
- All-weather polymer material helps prevent damage due to rain, snow, and dust.
- Ammunition is cheap.
- The scope could have been better.
- It is still rather loud compared to other GAMO air rifles.
GAMO Hornet Air Rifle
The GAMO Hornet Air Rifle comes with a fluted steel barrel coated in durable polymer and a hard-plastic stock, which gives it durability and a longer lifespan. Of course, a barrel made of steel will always trump others when it comes to longevity, but the GAMO Hornet does a decent job of increasing its lifespan.
One thing I noticed about the GAMO Hornet is how you need to put a little bit more effort into cocking the barrel. This is why I would recommend this one for adults more, as younger individuals might find the cocking mechanism difficult to operate. The slightly harder cocking mechanism does have an advantage, as it can deliver up to 1,200 feet per second of velocity. Checking the cocking mechanism reveals that it requires a minimum of 30 lbs. of torque to pull. Not much, but it might cause younger ones to tire out more quickly.
The size and weight of the GAMO Hornet make it an ideal air rifle for outdoor enthusiasts. It weighs in at 6.1 lbs. and is 43.3 inches in length. Of course, the weight could be something you need to consider, especially if you plan to carry it around for hours on end. Fatigue can severely affect your aim, so make sure the weight of the air rifle won’t be much of a bother in the long haul.
Users will appreciate the rubberized butt plate with air holes in the stock. This helps alleviate a significant amount of recoil and kickback from firing this powerful air rifle. It also comes with a stock 4 x 32 scope, which is decent enough, considering the price of the GAMO Hornet. However, as always, I would suggest that you swap it with an upgraded scope for better accuracy. The scope is attached to a groove, which helps prevent it from becoming loose during normal travel and use.
The GAMO Hornet is a pretty reliable air rifle if you will be using it for hunting small game or for target practice. The spring mechanism is not much of a factor, as it allows you to cock the barrel faster. However, I want to point out that the cocking mechanism does require a bit more strength. For beginners, the GAMO Hornet is a solid choice. If you prefer something more competitive, then I recommend that you check out some of the higher end air rifles in this list.
- Well-balanced weight distribution.
- Safety switch.
- Rubber pad with air holes for added safety and comfort.
- Features twin cheeks pad for ambidextrous shooting.
- High accuracy.
- Cocking mechanism requires a bit more strength than normal to operate.
Basics of Air Rifles – What You Need to Know When Buying Air Rifles
Now that you have a list of the best air rifles on the market today, let’s take it a step further by giving you important information and tips when it comes to choosing, maintaining, and storing your air rifle. Keep in mind that while air rifles tend to be categorized as “toys,” they are undoubtedly not and should not be handled like one. This is a dangerous piece of equipment that should be handled with care and respect.
First things first, let us tackle what an air rifle is and the varieties of air rifles available to us. For example, do you know the difference between air rifles and pellet rifles? These two are commonly thought to be the same by casual customers, but they are quite different from each other.
Air Rifles and Pellet Rifles – What’s the Difference?
The main difference between these two is the ammunition they carry. Simply put, air rifles can use different ammunitions like ball bearings or BBs. The pellet rifle, as the name suggests, uses specially made pellets as their ammunition.
Air rifles use BBs and are mostly for recreational purposes. BBs are small spheres made of steel that measure a diameter of .18 inches. These are mostly used for target practice, and due to the construction of BBs, they tend to ricochet.
On the other side of the spectrum, pellet rifles use, you guessed it, pellets. Pellets take the design of the BBs and mold them into something that can pack quite a punch. They are basically BBs but with a taper, and will have either a round or flat head. This design gives the pellet significantly more penetration, and prevents it from bouncing around surfaces. Pellet ammunition is commonly used for hunting small prey and eliminating pests, and is better in terms of accuracy.
Three Main Types of Air Rifles
Another important factor that you need to know is that air rifles have their own sub-categories. These are the spring, nitrogen powered, and PCP rifles.
Spring Powered Rifle – Spring powered air rifles are the best choice for beginners. They are single shot air rifles and can shoot ammunition at blisteringly high speeds, making it ideal for hunting small prey.
PCP or Pre-Charged Pneumatics Rifle – PCP rifles utilize compressed air to propel pellets from the barrel. The compressed air used in PCP rifles utilizes 2,700 to 3,000 psi.
Nitrogen Powered Rifle – Nitro piston powered air rifles do away with the spring mechanism and instead uses a cylinder filled with nitrogen. Once the nitrogen expands, it pushes the piston forward at tremendous speeds, and in turn propels the pellet or BB outwards.
Air Rifle Buying Guide
When looking for an air rifle, it is important that you first do your research. This should assist in narrowing down your choices and help you avoid low-quality air rifles, as well. In this section, we will be discussing the important aspects that you should check before purchasing your very own air rifle.
- Main Purpose of the Air Rifle
Know what you plan to do with your air rifle. If you will be using it for recreational purposes, you can pretty much settle for something basic, preferably from a reputable brand. If you will be using it to hunt small game, then you should consider whether you will be hunting at long range or if you prefer sneaking up on your prey for a close-range shot. If you plan to hunt game or eliminate pests, you should definitely consider looking for a powerful air rifle. A .22 caliber and above is a good choice, as it makes sure your prey will have a quick and painless death.
- Air Rifle’s Precision
The air rifle’s accuracy is an important element that should always be among the first things you look for. This is where the power of the air rifle comes into play. However, if you will be aiming at targets at 50 yards away, then an air rifle with a scope will be a good idea to get. The thing about this is that stock scopes are rather unimpressive. You should think about purchasing a higher quality scope for optimum range and precision. As you would have already learned from our air rifle reviews earlier, the stock scope isn’t exactly the best.
If you plan to hunt small or medium game or eliminate pests in a certain area, you will need an air rifle with decent firepower. In that regard, I suggest you look at getting a break barrel or PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) rifle. However, if you don’t plan to shoot targets at a considerable distance (less than 20 yards), a CO2 air rifle might suffice. CO2 cartridge powered air rifles may not deliver in distance, but at short range, they are just as effective and can fire multiple consecutive shots.
Each air rifle will deliver different yardage. This will depend on their firing mechanism. A CO2 cartridge powered air rifle will offer the shortest distance, while a PCP will deliver the longest at 60 yards max. If you want to hit long-distance targets, a PCP air rifle is what you need. So, ask yourself whether you prefer to take out your target at long range or if you prefer stalking your prey.
- Type of Ammunition
Some air rifles can use both BBs and pellets. You should also know that there are different types of pellets to choose from. Depending on what you need to accomplish, you might want to look at specific types of pellet ammunition. For example, hunters who use air rifles would use pellets that incorporate hollow-tips (with polymer tips or pointed pellets) as their primary ammunition. I would also highly recommend that you get environment-friendly air rifle ammunition that is lead-free. Again, determine the main use of your air rifle and you will be able to properly choose the right ammunition.
- Using CO2 Cartridge Air Rifles or Not
Choosing an air rifle that uses a CO2 cartridge comes with the great advantage of firing your rifle continuously, without the need to pump or cock the rifle after every shot. In fact, you can fire continuously for up to eight shots. The downside here is that CO2 cartridges can be quite expensive in the long run. If you will be using your air rifle regularly and want to save some cash, I suggest you pick a CO2-free air rifle instead.
- Budget Range
Make no mistake, air rifles can be quite expensive if you want the best ones. Fortunately, there are budget air rifles that offer solid performance and quality, as you can see from the top 10 lists earlier. If you are a beginner, I suggest you opt for the cheaper ones to help you get the feel without breaking your bank. Once you are comfortable with using an air rifle and want something that provides a more advanced experience, you can choose to upgrade to high-end models. Make no mistake about it, high-end models are leagues beyond what your standard budget air rifles can offer in terms of performance. But for those still learning the game, a good quality budget air rifle is a good first choice.
- Check for Testimonials
Thanks to the internet, looking at first-hand customer experience is a breeze. Be sure to check the product’s customer review section first. This is a great place to look for pros and cons, as well as little nitpicks that will help paint a full picture of the product’s overall quality. This is a great place to gather specific information on air rifle products.
Air rifles are budget-friendly options for gun aficionados and hunters. They can also be used as economically friendly alternatives for target practice and training. Try to combine all of the information detailed above to help you make an informed decision when it comes to choosing the best air rifle that will suit your needs. While looking for a budget air rifle is important, keep in mind that you should never take the overall quality of the product and put it in the back seat. Sometimes, it is better to shell out a few extra bucks for something reliable and long lasting, rather than picking the cheapest one that will break down in less than a year.
The thing about choosing an air rifle is that it covers several layers, which you need to consider. It is not a simple case of whichever delivers the best range or power. There are many intricacies, such as personal preference, to take into account as well. This article was written specifically to help shed some light on how to choose the best air rifle for you. Once you have ingested the information contained in this article, you will be more than ready to pick your own air rifle that will be able to cover everything you need.