Whether you’re looking to take down a few renegade squirrels in your yard or work on your aim using tin cans and paper targets, an air rifle is the best substitute for the real thing. With an air rifle, accuracy is guaranteed since they have virtually no recoil (some of the more powerful guns, however, pack quite a kickback). And with newer and more powerful models being made, air rifles are quickly becoming the standard weapon/tool that is safe enough for children or for use around children.
Air Rifle Buying Guide
When it comes down to buying the right air rifle for your specific needs, you have to think about air rifle mechanisms, their advantages, and their limitations. There are four main categories of air guns based on the mechanisms they use:
Spring-loaded – these are the cheapest to buy and to maintain. They can pack quite a punch depending on the size of the spring. However, they take a time to reload and recoil with every shot. While adequate for general shooting purposes, they may not be the best choice for someone who is looking for speed and accuracy.
Pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) – these types of air rifles use compressed air to propel pellets, meaning there is virtually no recoil. The gun will be able to let off as many shots as possible before the air runs out, meaning they are quite fast shooters. However, the air reservoir needs to be replaced and this can either be strenuous (if you use a stirrup pump) or expensive (if you purchase a diving bottle or removable buddy bottles).
Gas ram and CO2 – these are much more powerful guns that can shoot fast, accurately, and quite powerfully. However, most of them are high maintenance and require expensive parts every so often. They are not the best choice for the casual air rifle enthusiast.
No matter what you fancy, here is a list of some of the best air rifles for your money and level of skill:
7. Gamo Buckmasters Squirrel Terminator
Beautifully crafted with the vintage rifles in mind, Gamo’s break action Squirrel Terminator rifle gives you the perfect blend of accuracy, penetration, and performance at medium to close range. Made for hunters who enjoy the thrill of sneaking up on their small prey, the classically styled rifle is moderately quiet and built to minimize recoil significantly.
It uses a powerful spring-loaded mechanism to propel pellets at penetrative speeds. Using Turbo Stabilization, the spring can be brought to a controlled stop inside the barrel for a swift, crisp, and incredibly powerful shot with reduced recoil. Other features include a polymer-jacketed steel barrel, an all-weather stock, a Smooth Action Trigger (SAT), and an SWA recoil pad for shoulder protection.
- Powerful, penetrative shots
- Comes with a durable all-weather stock and a scope
- Not the quietest rifle; lets out an audible pop
- Cannot hold more than a pellet at a time
6. Walther Maxima Thor Air Rifle
The Walther Maxima Thor is a resilient bolt-action PCP rifle that is considerately made for both left-handed and right-handed people. It offers fast shooting speeds with a finite ammunition reserve offered by an 8-shot metal rotary magazine that lets you hit several targets in quick succession.
It features a finely crafted Minelli hardwood stock that extends into a checkered grip and cheekpiece, all of which are ambidextrous. The air rifle uses a 200-bar quick-fill compressed air cylinder to propel its highly penetrative shots. Vibration reduction technology minimizes the recoil to facilitate minimal adjustment after every shot. The rifle also comes with an adjustable match trigger.
- Has a finite supply of ammunition
5. Gamo Hunter Extreme SE
Capable of discharging .177 pellets at a velocity of 1650 feet per second, this is one of the most powerful spring-loaded air rifles you can buy. The break barrel of the rifle allows for only a single shot at a time and as such, speed is compromised. Nevertheless, the rifle makes up for it with excellent accuracy and high-end optics.
The barrel is a stylishly imposing jacketed steel bull that offers an easy single-cocking system. One of the selling points of this high-performance rifle is that it comes with powerful optics—an illuminated center glass-etched reticle scope—that drastically enhances your shooting precision. A second stage adjustable trigger is the crowning piece to this beauty, perfect for pest control and small game hunting.
- High shooting velocity of 1650 FPS
- Ambidextrous stock, grip and cheekpiece
- Great optics
- Has a significant recoil
4. Diana RWS 48 TO6 Trigger Air Rifle
The Diana RWS 48 is an absolute beginner air rifle. From its quaint appearance to its user-friendliness, the air rifle is perfect for target practice, large pest control, hunting, and other fun, controlled shooting activities. The best part is that you don’t have to splurge to get admirable accuracy.
Powered using a spring-piston mechanism, the rifle is surprisingly powerful and can send pellets at highly penetrative speeds with minimum recoil. It is a break action rifle so you must reload after every shot. This is a small price to pay when you consider the accuracy you get with a gun as affordable as this. You can switch to heavier pellets for more penetrative power when hunting rabbits, squirrel, and deer.
- Lightweight, easy to handle
- Highly accurate
- Emits a loud, snapping sound which can spook prey
3. Optimus Air Rifle with Scope
This is a much more affordable .22 caliber air rifle that comes with a scope for enhanced accuracy. The break barrel rifle boasts of an elegant build that is topped off by a handsomely sculpted ambidextrous hardwood stock.
Its light cocking force makes it easy to use even for children. Despite its docile look, it can discharge pellets at speeds of up to 950 FPS; enough to take down the largest small game, birds, or pests. Your accuracy is guaranteed thanks to a combination of a micro-adjustable rear sight and, a fiber optic front sight, and a 4x32mm CenterPoint® precision scope.
- Packs enough penetrative power
- Easy to use
- It is a single shot rifle; cannot fire more than one pebble per reload
2. Benjamin Marauder Air Rifle
Whether it is speed, power, accuracy, or capacity you’re after, the Benjamin Marauder presents itself as a one-size-fits-all solution. The PCP air rifle is extra quiet and capable of discharging multiple shots in quick succession thanks to an auto-indexing clip. It discharges .25 pellets at speeds of 900 FPS and as such, most people would consider this a bit of overkill for pest control. However, it is a beast when it comes to stealth-hunting.
The attractive rifle features a custom choked battle with internal shroud, a two-stage adjustable metal trigger, a smooth all-weather stock for both left-handed and right-handed use, and a raised aluminum breech. It is powered by an air cylinder with a maximum fill pressure of between 2,000 and 3,000 psi.
- High pellet capacity
- Is compatible with .25 pellets
- Sleek, ambidextrous design
- Impressively quiet with no recoil whatsoever
- Requires quite a bit of calibration
1. Crosman Optimus .177 Caliber Break Barrel Air Rifle
Pocket-friendly, accurate, and very efficient, this .177 break barrel Crosman Optimus air rifle is not just elegant and simple to use, it is an absolute beast that is capable of discharging alloy pellets at speeds of 1200 FPS. The rifle features a relatively light cocking mechanism and a stylish, ergonomically crafted ambidextrous hardwood stock that gives it a vintage appeal.
For more precise shots, the air rifle incorporates an optic front sight and an adjustable rear sight. The rifle itself is relatively light and measures in at around 45 inches from butt to muzzle. It is highly efficient when it comes to taking down large pests, shooting tin cans, and other forms of target practice.
- Simple cocking mechanism
- Shoots at highly penetrative speeds
- Slight recoil