Best Air Rifles for Hunting, For The Money

There has been a growing interest in hunting since the air rifle guns began expanding into big game hunting. Gone are the days when only break barrel guns were synonymous with air gun shooting. If the terms PCP and spring piston are confusing you, keep reading to find out what they are. You’ll find out which of them are the best air rifles for hunting and the money. We’ll also cover break barrels.

Are Airguns used for hunting?

The first-ever airguns date back to the sixteenth century. It is different from a firearm because it does not involve a chemical reaction. Rather, it uses the projection force formed by compressed air and other gases to shoot. They come in various forms, which shoot either pellets or spherical shots. Air guns have been known to be used for hunting and warfare ever since they were invented.

They have different power sources based on whether they are spring-piston or bottled compressed gas. They can also be pneumatic.

Pellet vs. BB

Both BB and pellet guns are popular choices for small game hunting. But what is the basic difference between the two, and which one will suit your requirements more? Let’s find out.

The pellet gun is generally known as stronger than a BB. This is due to the characteristics of the pellets that it is loaded with. Pellets have a conical shape and look more like bullets due to their pointed edge. In contrast, BB guns have more spherical ammunition. That gives pellets the quality of penetrating their target more easily. Often pellet guns can also fire spherical rounds, but BB can’t fire conical pellets.

The BB gun fires ammunition ranging between 0.171 to 0.177 inches in diameter for the size of this ammunition.

Pellet guns measure their pellets in terms of ‘caliber.’ It refers to the diameter and size. It is also affected by the projectile and slug diameter. These pellets come in various sizes ranging from 0.20 to 0.50 inches. 0.22 inches and 0.30inches are popular sizes, too. 0.357 and 0.45 are also worthy contenders.

The material of pellets and BB rounds are also very different. In comparison, BB rounds can come in steel with a copper coating or airsoft BBs. Airsoft BBs come in a non-biodegradable material with an ACB plastic base. The biodegradable Airsoft BBs have a polylactic acid base that dissolves the BB round in around 45 days. It makes it great for the environment. In pellets, you’ll usually find the material is pure lead or an alloy of lead and antimony.

Weight is another important factor that differs in pellets and BBs and is measured in grains. One ounce equals 437.5 grains. Air gun pellets will always weigh more than BBs, known for their feather-light design.

All these factors influence the final result and behavior of the guns. BB’s super-light design and round shape mean that they ricochet and bounce around a lot more than air gun pellets. You’re likely to miss your targets more often if you take BB gun hunting. That’s why BBs are generally preferred for practice instead.

Air gun pellets will be a little more accurate in their pointed design. Although they won’t be as bouncy as BBs, they’ll still be a little jumpy. With pellets, the accuracy is more while the ricochet is less. As a result, airgun pellets will also be priced more heavily than a BB.

Again, the best rifle for hunting or any other activity will depend on what you’re looking for. For that reason, we’re covering a range of topics that include PCP and Gamo. Learn more about big bore and break-barrels before heading out. We’ll also cover the differences between a .22 and .357 caliber.

PCP 

You might have heard the hunting community talk about ‘PCPs or ‘pre-charged. Maybe you felt you didn’t quite understand the lingo yet. No worries. We’ll tell you all about PCPs right here.

PCP stands for Pre-charged Pneumatics, which refers to the air compression that powers its fire. It was common for them to be powered from pressurized air tanks back in the day. Yes, there was a time when PCPs were relatively new. These most commonly scuba tanks were easily available in every region. But today, there are plenty of methods to charge up your PCP. They include the hand pump system and carbon fiber tank. When choosing the filling method, it all comes down to the type of game you want to hunt. Choose the experience you have and the type you’re most familiar with.

You can fire as many as 20-30 shots before the PCP needs to be filled with air again with the average PCP. Most will have markers to indicate the air left in the reservoir. You can easily calculate how many shots you have before it’s time for the next refill.

The PCP will usually start with a low velocity in a highly pressurized tank. You’ll need to shoot several times to find the high velocity you wish. You can also use the air regulator to find the consistency in velocity while shooting. This type can shoot 0.46, 0.58, and 0.72 caliber bullets. It has minimum recoil and produces minimum sound if you’re looking for something quiet in the woods.

Here are two models we think are worth checking out in the PCP market.

  1. The Benjamin Bulldog .357

With a whopping rating of 4.7 stars on Amazon, it doesn’t get any better than this bad boy. Priced very reasonably, it features a reversible side-lever bolt action quality. It’s perfect for both right-handed and left-handed shooters. It even includes a 5 shot magazine and a cleaning kit for you to use. The barrel is made of strong alloy steel and features a sound trap to keep the noise to a bare minimum on your hunts.

Sale
Benjamin Bulldog .357 PCP
381 Reviews
Benjamin Bulldog .357 PCP
You'll come to love the reversible sidelever!
  1. Sig Sauer MCX Virtus 0.22

Rated at 4.4 stars, this PCP model shoots up to 700FPS and can easily be pumped with a cheap pump as well. It’s the perfect choice for a novice as it’s semi-automatic, and reviews suggest that all customer feedback was incorporated into the design. This resulted in new stocks now featuring the most updated and innovative design. Check it out!

Sale
Sig Sauer MCX Virtus
194 Reviews
Sig Sauer MCX Virtus
After manufacturer fixed some quality issues, this is a really strong choice!

Gamo and big bore

Big bore rifles refer to the higher than 0.25 caliber that is used to shoot hog-sized games. These bad boys are for serious hunting and not practicing in your backyard. One of the most popular options in this category is the Hatsan PileDriver. It’s a serious tool with 0.51 caliber and 850 feet per second and a whopping 800FPE. The high pressure of 4300 PSI means the hunter can easily take five full-powered shots with room for additional ones without the need to refill.

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Hatsan Piledriver Big Bore PCP .50 Cal
194 Reviews
Hatsan Piledriver Big Bore PCP .50 Cal
With the weight of this beast, you'll feel well-equipped!

The Umarex Hammer is another well-known big-bore famous for its mimic of a real firearm. It has an ultralight and high-powered tank of 4500 PSI. You can easily deliver 4 big shots and a finishing shot to conclude. The best part is the minimum noise it produces while doing the job.

Sale
Umarex Hammer .50 Caliber
123 Reviews
Umarex Hammer .50 Caliber
With its .50 caliber flying at up to 1,130 fps, there's no wonder why this made it onto our list of recommendations.

Gamo is also a big manufacturer in the arena. They’ve let out several great models in the past few years. One of them is the Gamo Whisper Fusion Mach, which is highly powerful but equally accurate and quiet. It has a greater muzzle velocity and less vibration for the smoothest shooting experience.

Sale
Gamo Whisper Fusion Mach 1
1,690 Reviews
Gamo Whisper Fusion Mach 1
Great .177 caliber at a price point you definitely can't complain about!

The Gamo Urban PCP is also highly rated, with 4.5 stars on Amazon. It has up to 800 FPS in a sleek black design and is made of the greatest quality of metal that remains sound for years to come.

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Gamo Urban 
331 Reviews
Gamo Urban 
At 6.6 pounds, you'll get a great .22 caliber option, capable of 800 fps.

Break-barrel

Are you looking for a basic option for trainees and novices or just a handy item for small game hunting? A BB gun is your best bet. Not only is it light and easy to handle, it even comes cheaper than other types of air rifles. The DPMS Full Auto CO2-powered BB is a perfect choice and received a whopping rating of 4.6 stars with more than 8180 ratings. It can fire up to 1400 rounds in a minute and is durable alloy steel. It has both pop-up sight and rear sight for precise targeting.

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DPMS
9,726 Reviews
DPMS
Reviewers rave about how fun this is to shoot!

Another highly rated product is this Crosman Hardwood BB. It has a 2 stage clean break trigger and the capacity to reduce the oncoming noise of the rounds fired. The hardwood stock and the alloy steel barrel are hard to miss for their visible strength.

Crosman CVH22RDNS-WX .22-Caliber
213 Reviews
Crosman CVH22RDNS-WX .22-Caliber
The 4 x 32mm scope is great to practice your precision, especially at the price!

Another admired item is this Ruger Air Magnum Break barrel with automatic safety and a 4×32 scope. The frame material is plastic, so you can imagine how truly lightweight it is.

Ruger
300 Reviews
Ruger
We agree with one of the reviewers – a great feature this has is that the ammo is dirt cheap!

You can combine these lightweight BB options with this resetting target for the best indoor or outdoor target practice.

Caldwell Resetting Targets
5,727 Reviews
Caldwell Resetting Targets
These Caldwell resetting targets are a great way to get something you can aim for when you're out.

Best .22 caliber

A 0.22 caliber produces as much as 20 foot-pounds of energy. It makes it fit perfectly in the small game category. It produces around 140 decibels of sound. It makes it double the decibel of a doorbell, approximately 70 decibels. With more than 1400 ratings, this 0.22 caliber by Gamo is a game-changer. Its Recoil-Reducing Rail technology absorbs the recoil and increases the rifle’s lifespan. You can adjust your trigger to your comfort no matter which hand you prefer to shoot. Start shooting as soon as you spot the target.

Sale
Gamo 611006325554 Whisper Fusion Mach 1
1,690 Reviews
Gamo 611006325554 Whisper Fusion Mach 1
Smooth cocking and little vibration and high muzzle velocity. What's not to love?

Another sought-after .22 is this Umarex Ruger, which has built-in automatic safety and silencing technology.

Umarex Ruger Targis
196 Reviews
Umarex Ruger Targis
For the outdoorman that loves small game hunting, here's a strnog contender.

Best 50 cal

Many novice hunters will believe it only takes a traditional rifle to hunt all kinds of games. An expert will know that the best way to shoot a big game is with a device that produces less sound. You’ll also want more Foot pounds of energy. This factor depends on the velocity and barrel length. The weight of the pellets is also important to consider. Due to this, 50 caliber air rifles are deemed perfect for deers and hog size games. They have tonnes of energy and will surprise you with their speed and accuracy. It is why they should only be given to trained adults. Make no mistake. They are certainly not backyard material or training equipment.

One of our favorites is the Seneca Double Shotgun featuring an air distributor and double bore barrels. You’ll love its front bead sight and scope rail. You can also go for the AirForce Texan PCP with a carbon fiber tank. The innovation of the carbon fiber tank adds lightness and the TX2 technology adds strength upon impact.

Seneca Double Shot .50 Cal 
10 Reviews
Seneca Double Shot .50 Cal 
Impressive piece of equipment to bring with you on your next hunting trip!

Best .357 caliber

For medium-sized games and some large games, a 357 air rifle is trusted by many hunters. For reference, a 12-gram bullet fired from a handgun of .357 caliber will produce about 570-foot pounds of energy. It takes between 600 and 700 FPE to take down a large deer. This Benjamin Bulldog is a popular choice on Amazon for 357.

Sale
Benjamin Bulldog .357 PCP
381 Reviews
Benjamin Bulldog .357 PCP
If you didn't see it the first time around we recommended it, check out this Benjamin Bulldog now.

The Seneca Recluse with a dual air reservoir and a velocity of up to 980FPS is another amazing buy.

Seneca Recluse .357 Caliber
9 Reviews
Seneca Recluse .357 Caliber
If you're looking for something quiet, this is not it. If you're looking for a .357 that will kick some butt, this may just be the right one for you!

What to look for?

Are you looking to buy something for pest control? Or are you a first-time hunter looking for their first buy. These creations have made their way into the hearts of many hunters. Thanks to their skipping of classification as firearms in many state laws, they’ve made it into lots of homes. But there are many things to consider before you buy your next one. Here are some of them.

  • Budget – Break barrel options are lightweight, and some are even made of plastic. You can easily score one with ammo included within a budget of $200 – $300. With PCP guns, you’ll need a hand pump which will cost an additional $200 at the very least. Consider your budget before you go deciding on which to add to your cart.
  • The game – Which type of game you take down has a lot to do with the type you need to hunt it. The large game will need a .357 or .40 or 0.50 caliber. But those looking for training in their backyard can make do with a .22.
  • Temperature – If you’re looking to hunt seriously in a cold climate, a CO2 cartridge gun might not be the best option. The performance dips when the gas is exposed to cold temperatures. As a result, you’re going to have to align your local temperature with the type you will need.
  • Recoil – if you’re not the most experienced shooter, you should know that each type has a different feel to it. BB guns and spring pistons might be cheap and handy for the backyard. They have an instant recoil that can seriously hurt your shoulder if you’re not used to it. However, other multi-pump options out there absorb the recoil, making shooting less hurtful and more fun.
  • Experience – It’s best to take it slow and easy with a basic handgun and try target shooting until you’re very fluent in the art. As you gain experience and confidence, you will be able to handle the big arsenal.
  • State laws – This is a major factor that will influence your final purchase. Check up on local gun laws in your area. Some states might require you to have permission or a license. It’s best to be updated on all permissions and regulations before your purchase. If you plan to carry yours to another state, make sure to check the destination state’s regulations.

Check out our other articles on gauge wire and split king beds. We also have resources on zero-waste living and laser cutters.

Can I shoot a pellet gun in my backyard?

Yes. As long as you abide by the local laws, you are allowed to shoot in your backyard and on private property. The basic guidelines require the shooter to be over eighteen years of age and have a license. In most states in the US, it’s illegal to be shooting within 50 feet of a public road or premises. However, you must check out the local laws in your area as each state has some variations in the rules.

If you’re within the rules and want to start practicing your shooting in the backyard, it’s good to have a bullet trap box. This bullet box mount bracket from Highwild is a great option for high-powered 0.22 and 0.17 caliber models. The ammunition is collected neatly in the trap system for you to clean out within seconds. The best part it’s portable!

Highwild Bullet Trap Box
846 Reviews
Highwild Bullet Trap Box
With .17 or .22 caliber, this is a great target for you to get.

Suppose you want some serious targets with a human silhouette to practice on. This Splatterburst Target works with airsoft and BB. It’s also great for air rifles and pistols. The bullets burst out in fluorescent yellow on impact, so you can easily check your target from afar. With more than 18000 ratings, it’s rated 4.8 stars for its efficiency and highly innovative design.

Splatterburst Targets
21,392 Reviews
Splatterburst Targets
With this silhouette target, you'll become a pro at self-defense in no time!

Which is the most powerful air rifle for hunting?

This question can’t be answered with just one name. There are many factors, like the type of game you want to hunt and the caliber you need.

For small game hunting, you can go for an air pistol like this Umarex Prepared 2 Protect HDP 50 Pepper Ball Air Pistol. It’s also compact and easy to operate for self-defense or training practice.

Umarex T4E 
425 Reviews
Umarex T4E 
Other comparables cost in excess of $400, but not the Umarex T4E.

For the medium game, we would recommend the Diana RWS 34 Break-barrel. With classy Woodstock and Tru-Glo fiber optic sights, it makes for a great hunting partner.

Diana RWS 34
26 Reviews
Diana RWS 34
Tried and true, the Diana RWS 34 is great!

For a big game, you’re going to need a gamechanger and a high-caliber bullet. The AirForce Texan SS is the go-to for big games like deer since AirForce was the first manufacturer of PCP in the US. No one knows ‘the game’ better than they do. With this model, you can easily shoot .357 or .457 caliber bullets.

What caliber is best for hunting deer?

When looking to buy air rifles and bullets for hunting deer on your trip, you’ll need to look at two things – Caliber and Foot pounds of energy(FPE).

Many big game hunters recommend the AirForce Texan Big Bore as the best choice for deer hunting.

A caliber of .357 or more for small deer and an FPE of 100 is acceptable. You’ll require at least 0.40 caliber or more for medium-sized deer and 150FPE. Large deer will require .45 caliber and 200 FPE. However, expert hunters will know better and trust their instincts while hunting rather than following a set number. Some hunters will say 200FPE is too much for deer, and a smaller number might work too. It all depends on the expertise of the hunter.

FAQ

Is a BB gun and a pellet gun the same?

Although there are similarities in their purposes, the BB gun and pellet guns are different. The BB gun uses small spherical bullets that tend to ricochet. The pellet gun has cylindrical pointed bullets that are more optimum than BB bullets. However, both guns are primarily used for sport and practice.

Can a pellet gun penetrate the skin?

Yes, certainly. A pellet gun can easily penetrate human skin and most animal hides. If the speed is high, it is even possible to break a bone or kill with pellet guns. This is why you must be careful with pellet guns and where you keep them, especially in a house with kids.

Which is better – a .22 or .177 air rifle?

This depends on the type of target or activity you have in mind. .22 rifles are known to deliver more energy into the target and hence more muzzle energy. But this means a lower initial velocity of the bullet. .177 has a faster initial velocity but lower muzzle energy. So while .177 is considered better for aiming and shooting, 0.22 is considered best for a clean kill.

Is there a gun that just shoots air?

Air guns are weapons used for sports and shooting practice. They use pockets of compressed air to fire projectile bullets into their target. Both BB guns and pellet guns are types of air guns.

Are BB guns good for self-defense?

Although BB guns are not designed for self-defense, almost anything can be used as a weapon in times of need. BB guns can puncture the skin and injure it. Yes, they can be useful when self-defense is a priority.

That’s all, folks!

We hope you’ve now made a choice about which type would suit you best. Make sure to check up on local laws before your final purchase. Happy hunting!

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