Introduction to Air Rifles:
Air guns, although not full-fledged firearms, can still be some pretty powerful weapons. Actually, there are a lot of people who will prefer the best air rifle over the best regular firearm for a variety of different reasons. Air guns are not loaded with traditional regular-sized bullets like regular firearms. You load them with either PBA or lead pellets. They are also often referred to as “BB guns” and/or “pellet guns.” There are a number of different types of pellets on the market that can be purchased separately and used to load and shoot air rifles and pistols. Air rifles are similar in appearance to regular rifles, but they weigh less, are a lot less powerful and are not considered to be dangerous, life-threatening weapons.
There are a lot of different brands and models of air rifles on the market today. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and with a wide variety of different features and specifications. There are air pistols, which are around the size of a regular handgun, and there are also air rifles, which are very similar in size to regular rifles.
Some of these models are smaller in size, while others are larger, finding the best air rifle can be difficult at times, but we got you covered. Some models are designed to be quieter than others, while some are famous for being “loud.” There are certain models that are better for hunting than others and some that are better for target shooting and/or plinking. Some are better options for beginners, and/or younger users, while others are specially designed for more experienced air gun enthusiasts. Depending on your own particular preferences, needs and requirements, there’s sure to be an air rifle and/or pistol out there that is just right for you.
Best air rifle according to need:
Below you will find a chart with some of the most top-rated air rifles for in certain categories. If you happen to fall into one or more of these categories, we hope you find this table helpful. Hopefully, the information here can assist you with you search for the best air rifle for your specific needs.
|RECOMMENDATION FOR:|| AIR RIFLE BRAND/MODEL:
|Best Air Rifle for Beginners/Learners||Benjamin Discovery Air Rifle (.22)|
|Best Air Rifle for Intermediate Level Users||Benjamin Titan GP Nitro Air Rifle
|Best Air Rifle for Expert Users||Diana RWS 34
|Quietest Air Rifle||Gamo Whisper Silent Cat Air Rifle
|Best Air Rifle for Less Than $100||Crosman Optimus .177 Break Barrel Air Rifle|
|Best Air Rifle Priced in the $100 – $300 Range||Gamo Whisper G2 Air Rifle
|Best Air Rifle for Target Shooting||Daisy 880 Multi Pump Air Rifle
|Best Air Rifle for Hunting Vermin (Long-range)||Crosman Nitro Venom
There are actually 3 main types of air rifles:
- Pneumatic Pump Air Rifles
- PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic) Air Rifles
- Break Barrel (aka Spring Piston) Air Rifles
There is also a type of air gun that is powered by CO2 gas, but because these air rifles are not designed to be used in colder temperatures, they are not quite as popular as some of the best air rifles on the market right now.
PNEUMATIC PUMP AIR RIFLES:
Pneumatic pump air rifles are powered by a lever (pumping lever). The pumping lever pumps air directly into the chamber of the rifle. The rifle has to be manually pumped about 5 to 10 consecutive times after each and every shot. These air rifle types usually have the ability to shoot both pellets and BBs.
Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle PROS:
- One of the more inexpensive types of air rifles that are currently on the market today
- Ideal for both target shooting (non-moving) and moving, as well as plinking
- Great for hunting small rodents and pests (such as mice, chipmunks, etc. (when using pellets, NOT BBs)
- Powerful enough to take down smaller rodents/pests, usually with just one good shot
- FPS can be varied (can be pumped less for a slower FPS or can be pumped more for a higher FPS)
- Can be used to scare small and/or larger animals away instead of killing and/or injuring them
- Can be a good option for training younger air rifle users on safe shooting
- Safer option than a semi-automatic air rifle (because it must be pumped up again after one shot)
- Can be a good beginner’s air rifle for users of any age
Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle CONS:
- Has to be pumped up before every single shot (some users find this tedious and/or time-consuming)
- Some users complain of sore arms from all of the pumping over and over again after each shot
- Inexpensively made, so therefore, it is not going to be the best quality air rifle on the market
Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle Recommendations:
When you are looking for a specific type of air rifle (i.e. the best .22 air rifle, or the best pellet rifle, etc.), you can almost certainly find a plethora of recommendations if you take some time out to do an online search. But what is the best air rifle in the pneumatic pump family? Well, the answer to this question, of course, is going to be dependent on the particular specifications you are looking for.
If you happen to be in search of an inexpensive air rifle for a beginner or young learner, then a pneumatic pump air rifle just might be the best air rifle for your needs. Two of the most popular pneumatic pump rifles on the market right now are the Daisy 5880 and the Crosman 664SB. We have included some thorough reviews of these two popular and well-known PCP air rifles on this site.
Compared to some of the other pneumatic pump air rifles out right now, these two babies tend to receive higher user ratings and more positive air rifle reviews from customers and fanatics all over the globe. Both the Daisy 5880 and the Crosman 664SB have the ability to shoot both pellets and BBs alike. These two bad boys are also recommended by many users to be some of the best air rifles for younger learners. They are also highly recommended by a lot of users as good plinkers for backyard usage.
Now, if you plan to do any kind of hunting with a pneumatic pump air rifle, whether it be for small rodents, vermin or other pests, you may want to skip both the Crosman 664SB and the Daisy 5880 and pick yourself up a Crosman 2100B or maybe even a Remington Airmaster 77 instead. The Crosman 2100B and the Remington Airmaster 77 are two pneumatic air rifles that currently receive some of the best air rifle reviews when it comes to choosing a pump air gun that is also ideal for small game hunting. You can’t go wrong with either of these two top air rifles in the pump family for shooting at small pests and other vermin. Even a beginner air rifle user will soon be feeling like a pro after taking down a few small animals with one of these. Both of these air rifles are also well-made and equipped with the power and the shooting accuracy required for efficient air gun hunting. We will also be including some very thorough reviews of these two excellent PCP air rifles on this site, as well.
PCP (PRE-CHARGED PNEUMATIC) AIR GUNS:
The PCP rifle may not be the absolute best air rifle on the market, but it most certainly is not the worst either. PCPs or Pre-Charged Pneumatic air rifles operate by using compressed “breathable” air. The compressed air is used by the PCP air guns to shoot off the pellets. These guns are equipped with a built-in air tank, and the air in that tank is compressed to anywhere from 2700 to 3000psi or pounds per square inch. This is accomplished with the use of a high-pressure hand pump, carbon fiber tank, or scuba tank. When the air rifle’s tank is full (has reached the pressure level desired), the air gun is ready to use.
How PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic) Air Guns Function
The PCP air rifle’s firing sequence is basically a simple one. When you pull the trigger, this open’s a valve, resulting in the release of the compressed air in a quick burst. This burst of air then travels up the air gun’s barrel and pushes the pellet out of it. Every time you fire the air rifle, both the volume and the pressure of the available compressed air in the tank of the gun are reduced slightly.
Eventually, the air pressure and volume in the tank of the air rifle will become too low to propel the pellet at a velocity level required for maintaining a predictable trajectory. When this happens, the path of that pellet degrades, altering the poi or point of impact, by about a quarter of an inch or more. Any subsequent shots will no longer be “predictable” for pinpointing their accuracy, and therefore, you should recharge the air rifle at this time.
Nice, flat air rifle shots with accurately predictable trajectory are referred to as “usable shots.” Therefore, when the trajectory is degraded because of the lack of air volume/pressure, the shots are no longer “usable” and their accuracy can no longer be predicted. The amount of usable shots that can be taken before the air rifle needs to be recharged can vary. This can be due to a variety of different factors including, but not limited to: the air rifle’s power, the level of the original charge, and/or the distance the user is attempting to shoot. Although all of these factors may sound pretty complex, it is actually a lot easier to manage a PCP air rifle than it may seem.
History of the PCP Air Rifle
If you happen to be a newbie when it comes to the PCP air rifle market of things, rest assured that starting out in the PCP air rifle world was not always as complex-sounding as it is these days. The best air rifle of those days would not be comparable to the ones of today. This was mainly because back in the days of old, there were nowhere near as many brands and models of PCP air guns as there are available for purchase on the market today. Also, there were no high-pressure compressors around to use to charge the air guns, nor were there any hand pumps (or any other pumps for that matter) around either until the Career 707 came out on the air gun scene all those years ago. Before then, the Beeman Mako and Super 12, the BSA Super 10, and the RWS 75to1 and CA-100 were basically the only guns that were available for purchase on the mass United States market.
All of the best air rifle were charged with the use of scuba tanks, and every gun had to have its own personal scuba charging adapter. These adapters had to be purchased separately, and they had to be the specific charging adapter that was made to be used only for that particular air gun model. Even so, this all made the purchasing of PCP air guns noticeably less confusing. Whenever anyone decided they were going to buy one, they would just simply buy the specific scuba charging adapter made for the PCP air gun model they purchased. If someone decided to buy a 2nd, or possibly even a 3rd PCP air gun, they would also buy additional scuba adapters for whichever gun model they had purchased.
Even though this was a fairly simple concept overall, it was also one that became pretty expensive if someone wanted to buy more than one PCP air rifle, because they always had to also buy another scuba charging adapter for every air gun model they purchased. This was mainly due to the fact that some of the air guns were designed with a detachable bottle, and their model-specific scuba charging adapters were designed to have that bottle screwed directly into that adapter. Other PCP air gun models were built for use with what were referred to as “probes.” These probes had threads that were specific sizes. Pretty much all of these specific air rifle models and scuba charging adapters are still available for purchase today, and any of them can be a pretty great buy for someone who only plans on purchasing one of these PCP air gun models. All you have to do is purchase the air gun and its specific scuba charging adapter and you’re pretty much good to go.
PCP Air Rifle Models of Today
Not taking anything away from the PCP air gun models of the old days, but these days, there are newer rifle and pistol models and newer charging options that are available for air gun fanatics of all ages. And, if you plan on owning more than one of these newer PCP air rifle models, there are a lot of new additional charging options that are now available for purchase. These newer models can be charged faster and more easily. One of these new charging methods include quick-connect adapters. These new adapters are ideal for those who own, or plan to own more than one or two PCP air rifles.
How to Use a PCP Air Rifle
If you decide to purchase a PCP air rifle, you should know that in order to be able to use it, you will need to fill it with compressed air. Now, there are 3 basic tools you can use for filling up your PCP air rifle:
1.) A hand pump– these works a lot like a bicycle pumps, except for their high pressure
2.) A scuba tank- standard 80 cubic ft. diver’s tank (all of the scuba charging adapters are designed to fit a standard 80 cu. ft. tank’s dinn.
3.) Carbon Fiber tank- has a volume of 88 cu. ft. in volume and is charged to 4500 psi (this pressure level is a whole lot higher than that of standard scuba tanks.
Performing the PCP Air Rifle Charging Function
Any of these tools can be used to charge your PCP air rifle, and each one of these different methods has its own particular pros and cons.
For instance, hand pumps require multiple, repetitive strokes in order for you to be able to add air. Therefore, even though they do pump pretty easily, the entire process can become quite a bit tedious and tiring. But on the other hand, a hand pump is a small, convenient and portable tool, and it can renew your rifle’s air supply pretty quickly whenever you want to be able to shoot your air gun, regardless of where you happen to be located at the time.
Scuba tanks are a different story. They have to be refilled periodically at a dive shop, and they can also be quite heavy to carry around with you. On the plus side, however, scuba tanks make the task of refilling your air rifle both quick and easy, and the task requires very little physical effort on your part.
Carbon tanks, unlike the scuba tanks, are pretty lightweight at only 15 lbs. when completely filled with air. These are more expensive, of course, but they yield a whole lot of PCP refills, nevertheless.
If you happen to be the proud owner of more than one PCP air rifle, a Quick-Fill adapter would be most likely be your best bet.
BREAK BARREL (SPRING PISTON) AIR GUNS:
Some air rifle fans consider the break barrel rifle to be the best air rifle type around. Break barrel air rifles are also referred to as “spring piston” air rifles, and they use what is called a spring “power plant” in order to function. Cocking a break barrel air rifle is accomplished by simply “breaking the barrel” down, (the barrel actually swings on a hinge) loading your pellet ammo, and then breaking the barrel back up into its original position.
Break barrel air rifles are good pellet guns, and they are one of the top air rifles, and also one of the most popular air rifles that are available out on the market today. Break barrel air rifles are also affordable and they have the ability to produce from 600 fps or feet per second to 1500 fps of power when shot. These air rifle models are some of the simplest types of powerplants when it comes to air gun parts and mechanisms. They are also some of most recently designed and developed air gun types.
How Break Barrel (Spring Piston) Air Rifles Function
Break barrel air rifles function when the force of their spring pistons compresses the air in front of them in order to power the ammo (pellet or BB). When these air rifles are fired, a highly powerful spring is released and this spring is what drives the piston. Back in the day, springs were not the only mechanisms used to make a break barrel rifle work. Both gunpowder and dynamite were used in order to power the pistons of these air guns in the past.
The barrel of the break barrel air rifle aligns with what is called an air transfer port whenever the gun is fired. These parts of the gun are located in the front and to the left of the air rifle’s compression tube (also called a spring tube).
Basically, all break barrel air guns function in virtually the same way. They have at least one (some of them have more) spring-powered piston located inside of their compression chamber. The compression chamber is connected to the barrel by way of the air transfer port. Whenever you cock a break barrel air rifle, this causes its piston to be withdrawn into its compression chamber. Air is then drawn through the gun’s transfer port.
Until you cock a break barrel air rifle, its piston rests directly inside its compression tube, and against the front part of the gun’s compression chamber. The gun’s piston is resting directly at the end of the compression/spring tube until you cock the air rifle. The gun’s air transfer port, which is located at the end of its compression/spring tube, leads right to the gun’s barrel. There is no valve anywhere in this system. It is just as simple as blowing through a drinking straw in order to expel a spit ball. There are no valves of any kind required.
Whenever the piston of the air gun is withdrawn, this causes air to then be pulled into the chamber that forms directly in front of it. This chamber is the compression chamber. There is absolutely nothing mechanical between the air gun’s barrel and piston, which is also where the pellet (ammo) sets.
Whenever a pellet is loaded into the air gun’s barrel, an airtight seal is formed. When you plug the barrel with a pellet, the piston moves forward, thus compressing the air directly in front of it. This air presses extremely hard on the pellet, eventually overcoming its resistance. The compressed air pressure is very high, higher than 1200 psi, but the actual amount of air pressure is extremely small. It is only the amount that was in the air gun’s compression chamber.
The pellet gets hit hard on its tail with a teeny tiny little puff of air, but at extremely high pressure. Therefore, the pellet can no longer remain where it’s at, and it begins to move down the air gun’s barrel. As the pellet moves down the barrel, the air directly behind it starts losing pressure very rapidly. After about 8 to 10 inches, this air is nearly at the exact same pressure as the air outside of the air rifle. By this time, the pellet has sped up to the fastest speed it will travel at.
All of this happens in about a fraction of a second. During this time frame, the air experiences adiabatic heating and its temperature rises all the way up to several hundred degrees. This air then cools as it expands. Even though there are a number of differently designed powerplants, they basically all function by the same modest design. The amount of effort required to cock a break barrel air rifle is usually directly related to the gun’s actual power. Higher muzzle velocities will usually require noticeably more effort than lower muzzle velocities.
Using a Break Barrel (Spring Piston) Air Rifle
Break barrel air rifles have an upper limit of about 1250 fps for .177 caliber pellets. Higher velocities can potentially cause the pellet’s flight to become unstable and can also cause loss of accuracy. This mainly due to the excessive buffeting that is caused by the pellet reaching and surpassing transonic speed (the speed of sound), and then slowing back down and going through it again. This can be much more than enough to destabilize the pellet’s flight.
Very soon after it leaves the barrel of the air rifle, the speed of the pellet ends up falling back down below the speed of sound. When this takes place, the pellet is overtaken by the shock wave, thus causing disruption of its flight. Drag rapidly increases as the pellets push pass transonic speed. Therefore, it is usually better to increase the weight of the pellets in order to maintain subsonic velocities, especially in higher powered air rifles.
Sonic crack (from the ammo) can also cause the shot of the air gun to be louder at times, and this can possibly cause it to be mistaken for actual firearm discharge. A large number of air gun shooters have discovered that velocities right around the 800 to 900 fps range tend to offer a pretty ideal balance between pellet stability and power.
Air Rifles and Their Purposes:
Although the best air rifle are not quite powerful enough to take down a deer, a bear or any other big game, they can be very good rifle choices for hunting certain types of small game, as well as many different kinds of rodents and pests. Not every air rifle is created equal, however. Some brands and/or models are better for certain activities than others. Some of the best air rifle on the market can be ideal choices for a number of different purposes, depending on what those specific purposes are.
Different Purposes for Using Air Rifles
- Plinking (Recreational Shooting)
- Hunting and/or Pest Control
What are some of the best air rifles for plinking?
Plinking or “Recreational Shooting” (including target shooting) is a pretty popular and enjoyable activity for a lot of air gun fans and enthusiasts alike. Target shooting is most often practiced on non-moving targets, but it can also be performed on moving targets as well. Here, you will find some of the best pellet guns for plinking, mainly based on their specifications and user reviews.
Daisy is known for making good pellet guns and the Daisy 5880 .177 is one of the brand’s most popular and top-rated air rifle. This gun shoots both pellets and BBs with mind-blowing power. It is a multi-pump PCP air rifle that sends its ammunition roaring downrange. When using BBs, this gun can go 750 fps, and when using pellets, it can go 715 fps. The velocity and power of this air rifle can be adjusted by the number of times you pump it (no more than 10 pumps).
It features a synthetic, molded woodgrain “Monte Carlo” stock designed with a raised cheekpiece. It also has deep checkering on both its forearm and its grip. It has 11mm dovetails on its receiver, and they are made out of engineering resin. This makes it easy for its users to attach the included scope. Shooters of this gun are also able to use its open sights. This gun features a plastic buttplate and a 21” barrel length.
This is a BB repeater air rifle that can hold up to 50 BBs, and with pellets, it’s a single-shot shooter. It is a fun gun to shoot and it’s also lightweight at 7 lbs., making it an ideal air rifle for hours of enjoyable plinking.
The Crosman 664SB Air Rifle: Specifications and Review
The Crosman 664SB has the ability to shoot BBs and/or .177 pellets, and it just might be one of the best pellet guns for plinking. It’s a multi-pump PCP air rifle that shoots BBs downrange at 690 fps (and 645 fps when shooting pellets) with just 10 pumps.
It’s a top air gun choice for target shooting, and it also comes with its own 4x unmounted scope, which can certainly help you improve your shooting accuracy. Also, it’s such a lightweight gun, that you could literally shoot it all day long. It is one of the most accurate air rifles for younger users and adults of smaller stature.
This air rifle has a synthetic black Monte Carlo stock and a silver barrel and silver scope. If you happen to be a user who prefers to use open sights when you’re shooting, this air gun’s fiber optic front sight and its fully-adjustable rear sight are sure to help you out when it comes down to getting a “quick bead” on whatever your target may be. The gun’s checkered grip and pump handle will help ensure a firm grasp.
This gun uses its 5-shot manual clip for loading pellet ammunition, and for BBs, it uses an 18-shot magazine, fed from its 200-shot reservoir.
What are some of the best air rifles for hunting?
Not every air rifle is ideal for hunting and/or pest control, even if it is only small game. Small game can include rodent-sized animals, like rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and etc. If you happen to be on the “hunt” for an air rifle that can be ideally used for hunting and/or controlling unwanted pests around your property, here are a few suggestions you may want to check out.
The Crosman 2100B Air Rifle: Specifications and Review
The Crosman brand’s 2100B .177 air rifle is a multi-pump PCP air rifle and is one of the best pellet rifles for hunting small game and controlling outdoor pests. It features a repeater and a 17rd BB magazine and a 200rd BB reservoir. This air rifle is a single shot when using pellet ammunition and also features an 11mm dovetail. You only need to pump this air gun anywhere from 3 to 10 times, (never more than 10 pumps) depending on your shooting distance. It delivers amazing accuracy, making it one of the most accurate air rifles for small game and/or pest hunting.
This 2100B may be light when it comes to weight, but it is a full-sized powerhouse that launches its BB ammo up to 755 fps and pellets up to 725 fps. For a combination of both accuracy and variable power, this just might be the best hunting air rifle in the PCP air rifle family.
The Gamo Whisper Silent Cat Air Rifle: Specifications and Review
The Gamo Silent Cat model break barrel single shot air rifle gives you the option of shooting either pellets or BBs. This top-rated air gun is a spring piston gun, covered in an all-weather synthetic stock, and it is designed with a single shot mechanism featuring a PBA velocity of 1200 fps (PBA) and a lead pellet velocity of 1000 fps.
A lot of air rifle enthusiasts have considered this gun to be the best air rifle in the “quiet” air guns class, due to how quietly it fires lead pellets. It also features a fluted barrel, polymer jacketed rifle steel and a 2nd stage adjustable trigger. The cheekpiece of this gun has twin cheek pads, increasing its comfortability level for shooters who may be ambidextrous. Its butt plate features a ventilated rubber pad which increases recoil absorption.
The Gamo Whisper Silent Cat is equipped with fiber optic front and rear sights and a grooved receiver for accommodating the gun’s 4x32mm scope. It also features a scope ramp with a raised rail. This air rifle is considered to be very lightweight, weighing in at only 5.28 pounds. It’s 46 inches long and has an 18-inch barrel length.
The Crossman Nitro Venom Air Rifle: Specifications and Review
This very impressive Crosman Nitro Venom air rifle just may be the ultimate in break barrel air rifles when it comes to both pest control and the hunting of small game animals. This bad boy weighs 7.375 lbs, and is designed with a break barrel mechanism that is powered by nitro piston. This powerful, top rated air rifle drives lead pellets and alloy pellets at speeds that reach 800 fps and 950 fps, respectively.
And, what’s even more remarkable about this air gun is that its FPE is 21. This means that its velocity is extremely quick, and its knock down power is also exceptional.
This phenomenal air rifle features precision, stability and minimal recoil, placing it on the list of the best air rifle around today. It’s not only one of the best air rifle for hunting, but it also scores sky high on air rifle reviews as well as pellet gun reviews all over the web. It is 70% quieter than a lot of other break barrel air rifles, has a manual safety, muzzlebrake, weaver rail, and an unmounted Center Point Optics 3-9×32 scope that features a quick-lock mounting system.
Benefits of the Nitro Piston include smoother cocking and shooting, no spring torque or fatigue (even if left cocked for hours) perfect functioning cold weather, and it’s longer-lasting than a metal spring model.
The Crosman Nitro Venom air rifle is designed with Nitro Piston Technology and has proven over and over again to be a huge plus for users who enjoyed hunting with air rifles and are looking for a good pellet gun for pest control. This air gun is ideal for hunting rabbits, birds, squirrels, nutria, chipmunks, mice and rats.
Recommended Air Rifle Brands/Models
There are a lot of air rifles reviews in our site, with so much information on so many different air rifle brands, types and models available, it can be hard to decipher which info is valid and which info is just smoke and mirrors. If you happen to be a newcomer onto the air rifle scene, this can be even more frustrating and can even lead to what is referred to “information overload.” Well, we are hoping that you can utilize this site as a one-stop information shop for all of your air rifle info needs.
If you are a more experienced air rifle user, or maybe even an avid collector or expert-level air gun enthusiast, you still may have some questions or concerns about the air pistols and/or rifles you do not yet own, or have not yet purchased and/or used. We have created this site to be a one-stop reference for air gun fans of all ages and experience levels.