A lot of gun owners sort of shrug off the idea of owning an air rifle, since there are small caliber long guns that have similar characteristics to a pellet gun, but are an actual gun. However, both the power and utility of air rifles are underestimated.



    Why an Air Rifle is a Great Addition

    Easy to purchase

    Great for plinking

    Perfect for practicing marksmanship

    Viable for small game hunting


    Buying Guide

    In terms of specifications—muzzle velocity, barrel length, and so on—a lot of pellet guns are quite similar. However, there are some pretty significant operational differences when it comes to the different types of air rifles and how they function.

    Types of Pellet Guns

    The difference between the types of air rifles has to do with how the pellet gun builds up enough pressure to propel the pellet out the barrel. There are three main types of air rifles:

    • Pneumatic
    • Spring powered
    • CO2 powered
    • PCP powered

    The pressure building system of pneumatic air rifles is essentially a hand pump. There’s usually some sort of mechanism on the forend of the gun that the shooter pumps in order to pressurize the chamber for firing. Depending on the brand of rifle, it usually takes between 3 and 10 pumps to achieve the necessary pressure to fire.


    While this system delivers a rather slow rate of fire, there are some advantages of pneumatic pellet guns:

    • Muzzle velocity can be changed by changing the number of pumps applied.
    • Muzzle velocity is very consistent given the same number of pumps.
    • Very good for children and beginners.
    • Inexpensive.
    • Can shoot both BBs and pellets.

    As a general rule, pneumatic air rifles are powerful enough for small game hunting.


    Calibers

    Air rifles are small caliber, and typically come in one of four sizes:

    • .177 caliber
    • .20 caliber
    • .22 caliber
    • .25 caliber

    The two most popular calibers are .177 and .22. As a general rule, higher calibers have heavier pellets. This means the larger calibers typically have lower muzzle velocities and shorter effective ranges.

    Even though the larger caliber pellets travel a bit slower, they’re generally preferred for hunting, since the smallest calibers general don’t do enough damage to humanely put down even small game.

    These are the top uses for the most popular calibers:

    .177 caliber

    .22 caliber


    Recommended Accessories

    Whatever you intend to use your air rifle for, they are best when they have the right supporting hardware, since they’re lower on the performance scale by nature.

    These are the top accessories to pair up with your air rifle once you get it:

    • Air rifle scope
    • Chronograph
    • Green gas

    Even though you won’t be shooting tremendously far with an air rifle, you’ll usually be shooting at smaller targets, especially if you’re small game hunting. On top of that, shot placement is vital for hunting with an air rifle.

    So it’s a really good idea to find the best air rifle scope for your rifle, even if you don’t plan on hunting, since it will help you squeeze the most performance out of your pellet gun.


    Top Air Gun Reviews On The Market

    No matter what your needs are, one of these pellet guns will work for you:

    Benjamin Marauder

    The Benjamin Marauder is easily the #1 PCP air rifle for the money. It comes standard with a ton of features.

    Also, the Marauder comes in synthetic stock and wood stock versions, so those who want a lighter rifle can throw down a few extra bucks to save some weight.

    The most obvious thing is that the Marauder is a PCP powered air rifle with an adjustable gas system, so you can tune the muzzle velocity for your shooting context.

    What’s more, the Marauder is known for delivering consistent muzzle velocity, so it’s an excellent choice for hunting.

    Then, there’s one more thing for hunters: versatility.

    The Marauder comes in .22 and .25 caliber. It’s easily the best .22 caliber air rifle for hunting squirrels, rabbits, and other small game. And, since .25 caliber isn’t as popular, the Marauder is also in the running for the top .25 caliber pellet gun overall.

    Since shot placement is so important for hunting, it’s nice that the Marauder comes with an adjustable cheek rest, so you can get the most comfortable shooting position and the best sight picture.

    Unfortunately, Benjamin doesn’t include sights on the Marauder, so you’ll need to add your own or purchase a good air rifle scope. To make up for the lack of sights, the trigger is a two-stage, adjustable match trigger, which helps make more accurate long range shots and practice core marksmanship fundamentals like your trigger press.

    For ergonomics, the Marauder has a reversible bolt, so left-handers can use this pellet gun just as well as right-handersThe magazine holds 10 .22 caliber pellets, or 8 .25 caliber pellets, which is good for both hunting and marksmanship practice, since you’ll need to reload less often than with some other pellet guns.

    A final note: you may also want to buy a female quick disconnect fitting so you can recharge the air system from any air compression souce. The Marauder gas system can also handle CO2 for more flexibility when it comes to filling up.

    So, while the Marauder may not be the most powerful air rifle (that award goes to the Sumatra 2500), it comes in a close second. The power and versatility of the Marauder make it excellent as a dedicated small game hunting air rifle, or as a training platform for children or marksmen.


    Ruger Blackhawk Combo

    Most shooters know Ruger for their standard pistols and rifles. However, Ruger also has some solid offerings in the air rifle category, and the Ruger Blackhawk Combo is the top pick under 200 dollars right now.

    The Blackhawk is a .177 caliber pellet gun, so it’s less than ideal for hunting.However, the muzzle velocity reaches 1200 feet per second with alloy pellets (1000 with lead pellets), so it’s got plenty of power for plinking and target shooting.

    Ruger fitted the Blackhawk with fiber optic front and rear sights, and includes a 4x32 air rifle scope and mounting rings in the package. 

    So, although .177 is a bit small for hunting, the Blackhawk has all the necessary hardware to place shots well enough to hunt small game with good marksmanship skills.

    On the topic of marksmanship, the Blackhawk is a great platform for improving your long-range fundamentals. The scope and trigger are perfect for dialing in your trigger press and breathing. Additionally, the break barrel design is ideal for teaching children and beginners good gun handling and shooting skills. If you want to upgrade your pellet gun, the Blackhawk has dovetail grooves on top of the receiver for whatever optic you might want.

    The Blackhawk comes standard with a synthetic stock, so the rifle is nice and light, which makes it easy to pack around in the woods or for children to carry.

    However, the spring piston mechanism requires 30 pounds of pressure to pump, which might be difficult for younger children to work.

    The Blackhawk is probably the best .177 air rifle and can’t be beaten as a training and plinking tool, especially priced the way it is. However, those looking for a dedicated hunting air rifle may want to look for a larger caliber in order to get the ballistics they need.


    Crosman M4 Pneumatic Pump

    The Crosman M4 Pneumatic Pump is one of the coolest air rifles on the market.

    It’s built to replicate the appearance and function of an M4, which gives it lots of aesthetic appeal. The best part is, that it features some of the customizability of an M4 as well.

    The Crosman M4 has almost the exact lower receiver of an M4, so it’s actually quite handy for perfecting your grip and trigger control if you own an AR-15.

    On the upper half of the gun, the Crosman features front and rear sights, which are also the same as an M4. So, with the exception of the magazine, the Crosman M4 is an ideal AR-15 training platform for experienced shooters and beginners.

    The stock is adjustable, which is nice, since it can be shortened for younger shooters with shorter arms. Additionally, there are a number of picatinny rail sections on the Crosman M4, so you can mount any lights, lasers, or optics that you want.

    The magazine holds 5 .177 pellets, so all you have to do between each shot is pump the rifle up and chamber another pellet using the side-mounted cocking lever, rather than loading a pellet each time. This is handy for marksmanship practice and plinking since it maximizes how much shooting you can do during a shooting session.

    Unfortunately, the Crosman M4 isn’t quite powerful enough to really be a good small game rifleThe muzzle velocity maxes out at about 600 feet per second, which is half of what some more powerful air rifles deliver.

    On the upside, the Crosman M4 comes in at an outstanding price point, and its value as a training tool for transitioning to true AR-15 shooting shouldn’t be understated.


    Marksman Beeman CO2

    The Marksman Beeman CO2 is a capable rifle designed for short range plinking and marksmanship practice, and comes with all the right hardware for those who plan to shoot from a bench.

    The Beeman comes standard with bipods, which are perfect for benchrest shooting, and a synthetic stock with a thumb-hole design for a better cheek weld and more stable shots. 

    The sights are adjustable, for more precision at longer ranges.

    Since the Beeman is CO2 powered, it can replicate the bolt action of a standard rifle, since there’s no need to pump the rifle between shots. 

    The trigger is also adjustable, adding to the feel of an actual bolt action rifle. All this makes the Beeman an ideal tool for teaching children and practicing bolt action marksmanship.


    Additionally, the stock has a number of picatinny rail sections so you can mount any accessories you want, which is nice since the Beeman doesn’t come with any optics.

    The Beeman maxes out at 650 feet per second with .177 caliber pellets, so it’s not ideal for small game hunting. However, the price point is perfect for those looking for a good training platform to improve their long range shooting with their true bolt guns or help teach kids about long range shooting.


    Crosman Fire Nitro Piston

    The Crosman Fire Nitro Piston  comes in an amazing value package, and is quite possibly the best nitro piston air rifle you can get for the money.

    Since it’s a nitro piston air rifle, it’s quite powerful, and hits 1200 feet per second with alloy ammunition. Additionally, it comes standard with a lightweight synthetic stock, so it’s easy for kids to handle.

    Given that it’s a .177 caliber rifle, it’s smart that Crosman included some hardware designed to maximize your ability to get perfect shot placement. The barrel is rifled steel, and the Fire Nitro comes with a 4x32 air rifle scope. So, even though the pellet might not be that powerful, you can achieve the accuracy you’d need to hunt small game.


    To add even more accuracy, the trigger is two-stage and adjustable, so you can get the most precise trigger press possible. Even though this air rifle is viable for hunting, it really shines as a training platform for beginners and those looking to fine tune their marksmanship.

    Although the Nitro Fire is a great deal, the price does come at a cost. There are no iron sights included and no mounting points for iron sights if you want them. So the Nitro Fire is an optic only rifle. For those looking to learn to use a scope or work on their long-range steadiness, the Nitro Fire is a killer bargain.


    Gamo Swarm Maxxim

    The Gamo Swarm Maxxim is unique because it features an integrated suppressor, which makes it incredibly quiet. However, the durability features have led many to call this the best Gamo air rifle available.

    The Swarm comes with three main durability features:

    1. Inert gas system
    2. Polymer jacketed barrel
    3. Recoil reduction rail

    The inert gas system reduces vibration when the rifle is fired and improves the longevity and consistency of the rifle. The polymer jacket prevents corrosion on the barrel. Lastly, the recoil reduction rail keeps the scope in good shape. All this means is that the Swarm air rifle will last for many years, and provide maximum return on your investment.


    In addition to the durability features, the Swarm also has an adjustable two-stage trigger, with independent adjustments for each of the two stages, and includes a 3-9x40 scope. So the Swarm delivers a lot of precision and durability.

    The only real drawback to this rifle is the muzzle velocity. With .22 caliber ammunition, the Swarm only reaches 975 feet per second, which is respectable, but slightly lower than some other break barrel air rifles in this price range.

    Overall, the Swarm is a very affordable rifle, that will last for many years of hunting, plinking, or marksmanship practice.


    Conclusion

    Best PCP

    Benjamin marauder

    Most people will find that a gas piston, spring piston, or PCP air rifle meets all their needs, whether they’re using it for training or hunting. CO2 air rifles are fun for plinking, but the benefits of CO2 pale in comparison to PCP air rifles. However, a CO2 air rifle is a low cost alternative to a PCP rifle for those who want semi-automatic operation without paying too much.


    Recommendations

    Break Barrel For Plinking & Target Shooting

    Ruger blackhawk combo air rifle

    For marksmanship training, plinking, and teaching children to shoot, the Ruger Blackhawk Combo is the best value choice you can get.

    For Hunting

    benjamin marauder

    For hunters, the Benjamin Marauder in .25 caliber is the top value pick. The Marauder is a great candidate for a great mix of power and precision.

    So grab an air rifle, and head out for some quality shooting time!