Best Air Rifle Reviews
Airguns are a great way to go shooting without having to use live ammunition that can be dangerous to both shooter and people around you. The best air rifle or best air pistol lets you enjoy the outdoors and go hunting. They are also much cheaper since ammo (pellets) are cheap which you can’t always say with bullets. Make no mistake however, air guns are not toys. They can cause serious damage if they hit people, kids, pets, and even property.
For the air gunner, we’re here to help you find the best air rifle that will help you get a more enriching shooting experience. We go through the different products available and compile information so that all you need to do is click on your mouse to find what you need. Enjoy our air rifle reviews!
Best Air Rifle – By Price Range
In this section we pick out the top value for money airguns based on cost. For each price level, we provide air rifle reviews that will give you a good idea of why it makes our list.
Under $50 Range
Crosman 2100 Air Rifle
Most airgun enthusiasts will promote exceptional air rifles that offer top notch quality and precision ability. The problem with this is not everyone has over $300 or more to spend on an air gun. These include recreational shooters who are looking to have fun with friends in their backyard and have target shooting competitions on who gets to hit the most bottles off the wooden ledge. Other times it’s just to get rid of really small pests that are bothersome. For these purposes, an expensive gun isn’t necessary. Plus not everyone is willing to spend hundreds of dollars for an air rifle. If you feel this way you’ll be happy to know there are some nice budget air rifles that are available.
Topping our list in the low cost category of best air rifle under $50 is the Crosman 2100 BB / Pellet rifle. Yes, we may have overstepped the $50 limit by $4 so hopefully you’ll forgive us. The reason is we were willing to go out of bounds was in this class the Crosman 2100 gives you better quality and performance over the rest. The Crosman 2100 is a variable pump pneumatic which means you get to moderate how much power you put into the shot. Maximum is 10 pumps so don’t go over that and take care of your rifle and this will give you plenty of years of great service for an inexpensive gun.
This is a .177 caliber that shoots 725 FPS for pellets which gives you a respectable 9 ft-lbs. of muzzle energy, which is why we like it over the others in this price point. It offers nice accuracy and lets you hit targets well inside the 20 to 25 yard range. The Crosman 2100 comes with open sights though you can choose to add a scope if you wish. It shoots both BB and pellets, but our preference is with pellets.
If you’re strict about the price and must stay under $50, the Daisy 880 Multi-pump is $5 below that limit, and is very similar to the Crosman 2100, with manufacturer rated muzzle velocities of 750 FPS on BBs and 715 FPS with pellets, able to produce slightly over 7 foot pounds of energy per shot.
Between the $50 – $100 Range
Gamo Hornet Air Rifle
With a little more cash in hand, you can get your hands on an airgun that easily breaks the sound barrier. At this level, we like the Gamo Hornet break barrel rifle, which is a .177 caliber single shooter that uses a spring piston power plant. In it you get a very simple all black exterior without too many decorations.
Short to say it isn’t going to make people take notice, at least not until after you pull the trigger. This Spanish built airgun has a factory rated 1200 feet per second velocity using the lightweight lead free ammo. At $100, what you’re getting is a rifle that shoots 14 to 15 FPE depending on the pellets used. Lighter 7.9 grain pellets will give you closer to the lower end of that energy range, whereas the heavier ones like 10.5 grain pellets at 15 FPE. As with all supersonic air rifles, using a heavier pellet will help you keep speeds under the sound barrier which will give you better accuracy and a much lower noise level. Given its affordability and ability to hit targets, the Gamo Hornet is one of the most popular products that have excellent user feedback. Over 120 Amazon.com users give it a very high 4.5 stars, with 5.0 being a perfect score.
Between the $100 – $150 Range
Gamo Big Cat 1250
With some minor upgrades, the Gamo Big Cat 1250 is very similar to the previously reviewed Gamo Hornet. Priced at $130 it offers slightly higher muzzle velocity of 1250 FPS and an improved stock. Another difference is this particular model offers two caliber options, one at .177 and another at .22. Like the Hornet above, the Big Cat uses a break barrel cocking action which allows you to load the pellet into the breech by bending the barrel downwards.
While this doesn’t beat the simplicity of PCP air rifles and those that are powered by CO2 that are often repeaters, loading each shot is fairly quick and simple since the barrel isn’t particularly heavy and you can get yourself set up from one shot to the next within ten seconds with this gun. These factors make this an excellent choice for beginners and young kids who want to get into shooting. The gun serves well for target shooting or hunting small game including, groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits and raccoons.
Two other excellent options at this price range include the Benjamin 392 and 397 pumpers. The former is a .22 caliber while the latter is a .22 cal. Both are bolt action multi-pump pneumatics that give you the freedom to adjust power by using 3 to 10 pumping strokes depending on what you’re going to shoot.
Between the $150 – $200 Range
Hatsan 125 Air Rifle
Arguably, the sweet spot for most recreational shooters is this $100 to $200 price range. This and the previous category have most of the reviews where people who are looking for a good value air rifle will probably go. The variety in this price level makes it more difficult to choose a clear winner.
Our pick her is the Hatsan Model 125 Combo. Hatsan is probably one of only few brands that provides customers with muzzle velocity specifications based on the more practical lead pellets. Doing so gives potential buyers a closer estimate of what they can expect when they use it. The downside of this however is your FPS numbers can look inferior to those presented by other manufacturers.
This is a heavy gun weighing over 9 lbs., it is likewise long at 47.4 inches. We like the thumbhole stock which is comfortable on this singe shot airgun. But where this stands out is its extreme power, having the ability to deliver 30 FPE makes it one of the most powerful spring driver rifles in its class. The .177 caliber goes up to 1250 feet per second when it comes to pellet exit speed which allows it to stay accurate and carry well into 50 yards.
As mentioned earlier, most people seriously considering an air rifle will probably start looking at around these prices, and for good reason. It offers a nice balance between cost and value. So if you’re looking for more choices, our top picks that cost under $200 are listed here.
Between the $200 – $300 Range
Diana RWS 34 Combo
The German crafted Diana RWS 34 Combo airgun is our favorite choice at the $200 to $300 level. For anyone who’s looking for good value for money, this popular RWS offering is a very well balance rifle that is pleasing to the eyes. The cheek piece is ambidextrous allowing both left and right handers to enjoy themselves shooting it.
The RWS Model 34 is a spring driven break barrel air rifle that measures 45” in length and seven and a half pounds in weight. It has adjustable rear sights though it comes with a 4x magnification scope. When it comes to power produces 15 FPE making it a good additional to your hunting arsenal. As for speed, the .177 caliber is rated at 1000 FPS while the .22 caliber clocks in at 800 FPS. You can expect to get consistent velocities of about 700 FPS using the heavier 14 grain pellets. It also has a smooth T06 trigger that allows you to make shot groups of 5 that fall inside of 0.7 inches from 20 yards.
Between the $300 – $400 Range
Benjamin Discovery Air Rifle
At this point in our air rifle reviews, we finally get to a gun that can shoot many rounds without having to cock between shots. For air gun hunting lovers who want a repeater that can easily take down small game at good distances the Benjamin Disovery .22 caliber is one worth taking a close look at.
Able to shoot groups of 3/4” inside of 50 yards, the accuracy allows you to humanely take down animals by hitting the tiny kill zone. This specific package includes a hand pump that lets you load compressed air into the PCP chamber located under the barrel. Using this method, the fastest way to get to the fill 2000 psi is pump at a deliberate pace, making full pumping strokes slowly.
If you don’t want to do manual labor, have the local diving shop load up a SCUBA tank and attach it to the adapter to quickly charge this PCP air gun. When shooting indoors or plinking, another option would be to use CO2 instead. The Discovery allows for either type of charge to be used making it versatile depending on what you plan to shoot. This is a small, light weight rifle that has a hardwood stock and fiber optic sights. It does not come with a scope but using one really improves the shooter’s ability.
Between the $400 – $500 Range
Benjamin Marauder Dual Fuel Air Rifle
Now we get to the best air rifle under $500 and for that we have the Benjamin Marauder PCP Air Rifle. This one is one of those classics that changed the way people used pre-charged pneumatics (PCPs). Keep in mind that although this is a primarily a PCP rifle it can also use CO2 as long as you empty the chamber before loading one or the other. When you get receive the package, you’ll also see an automatic indexing clip which is like a magazine you can load the pellets in for continuous shooting.
The capacity of the magazine will depend on what caliber you get. The smaller bores, .177 and .22 calibers offer a 10 shot capacity while the larger .25 cal houses 8. The beauty of this is once you’ve charged your gun with compressed air or CO2 you are able to fire off 8 to 10 successive rounds before having to reload the clip. And are ready to unload another 8 to 10 shots. Small game hunters will enjoy the knock down power delivered by the .22 and .25 calibers.
Also included is a degasser tool which allows you to empty the existing air inside the chamber. What the Marauder ultimately offers is a combination of power, ability to deliver successive shots, excellent accuracy and smooth shooting. It has an easy match grade trigger (1.5 pounds trigger pull) and shrouded barrel that contains the noise level to very low. Customer ratings for this airgun are as close as one will get to being perfect.
Our Air Rifle Buyers Guide
Now that we know which products standout in their own price class, we set our sights into understanding which of the long air guns we should consider aside from just looking at the cost.
Step 1: What are you going to shoot?
Just like before you go out and put down your hard earned money on a product, you want to understand whether or not the product you’re considering is what you really need. People purchase airguns for a variety of reasons but for the most part these reasons fall under one of three categories. These are:
- General shooting – more commonly called plinking, where you and your buddies go to the back of the house, in the barn or onto the field to shoot home made targets that can be toy action figures, old cans or bottles. These are informal gatherings where the main goal is just to have fun and test each one’s abilities.
- Target shooting competition – these include serious shooters and often entail competing for prizes or position. Individuals and teams are formed and practice is done in shooting ranges or gun clubs where each shot is scored by judges. Air rifle events including the 10 meter competition are part of the Olympics and other major events.
- Hunting – this not only includes going into the woods and hunting game, but also pest elimination. Unlike the other two where you’re shooting at inanimate objects, in hunting and pest control you deal with live animals with the intent to take them out.
Once you’ve considered which of the three or which combination of the three (you can have more than one purpose) your intention with the air gun is, you’ll then be able to start narrowing down the gun choices.
2. Select the Caliber and Pellet Types
The easiest weapons to choose for is plinking. Since it’s for fun, chances are that the first point of concern is how much will the airgun cost. You probably won’t be spending a lot of money for this and aren’t going to get high end features or upgrade the rifle’s scope. What’s important here is the ability to shoot and knock down some lightweight objects off some type of platform.
With that in mind, a .177 caliber rifle is most suited for it. It often has the cheapest models because is smaller and lighter than the others. Because you want to be able to shoot straight, the .177 cal is ideal. These guns provide the high exit speed for the pellet and have the ability to launch the projectile in a straighter trajectory compared to the other calibers.
This is also the reason why competition shooters almost exclusively use this caliber. They give you the best chance of hitting short range targets. The major difference between general and competitive shooting is those engaging in the latter will get the best possible gun and accessories in order to beat their opponents. They will change the trigger, find the best pellets suited for their rifle, upgrade the scope and modify the weapon till it is perfect for them.
While the .177 calibers work great for those aiming at inanimate targets, hunters need to add another consideration when purchasing an air gun. They have to know how much kinetic energy (power) it is able to deliver. This value is represented in foot pounds of energy or FPE. This tells you how much power the pellet will have on the subject that’s hit upon impact.
Why is this important?
That’s because aside from hitting the target hunters want to be able to incapacitate or kill it. More importantly they need to hit small specific areas of the animal such that they kill it instantly and not cause it unnecessary suffering.
To do this hunters will often veer away from the smaller, lighter pellets and move to the larger, heavier ones which transfer more energy to the subject on impact. The larger force makes sure that you aren’t just hitting or hurting it but completely taking it out. To do this, hunters will use .22 or the larger .25 caliber rifles which have bigger barrel diameters and can house larger sized ammunition. For the most part, small game hunters are looking for impact forces which are at least 12 FPE, though this will vary depending on how far they’ll be shooting from.
To learn more about the different air rifle calibers click here. You can then follow that up by understanding which types of pellets work best for what circumstances.
3. Choosing your Airgun’s Power Plant
Once you’ve gotten an idea of what caliber you’ll be needing for your shooting experience, it’s time to consider the propulsion method of the gun. How and what fires the pellet from its chamber depends on the weapon’s power plant. This is the power source so to speak of every air rifle and you’ll notice in our air rifle reviews that guns with different power plants will behave very differently from others.
With this regard, there are 4 major types of air rifle power plants. These are:
- Spring piston – the most common of all the types, they are simple to use and allows shooters to load their weapons quickly for the next shot. Spring driven rifles use a steel spring that’s compressed when the gun is cocked. This allows it to store energy that’s released when the trigger is pulled, which uncoils the spring. It is the spring that drives a piston forward that will push the ammunition out of the gun.
- Gas piston – this type of power plant uses the same concept to that of the spring piston. But instead of having a metal object (the spring) as the driving force, it is replaced by gas that is compressed when the user cocks the rifle. Different manufacturers use different types of gases to drive these guns. For example, Crosman uses its Nitro Piston (Nitrogen), while Gamo has its IGT line (inert gas technology).
- Pneumatic or Pump – the major difference between pneumatics with the previous two technologies is the user uses a pumping action to fill the guns storage area or reservoir with the pressurized air. For rifles, this means users often have to pump numerous times to fill enough air into the reservoir in order to propel the pellet far enough with sufficient power.
- CO2 powered – as its name implies, CO2 powered air rifles are loaded with CO2 as the compression agent. In this type of gun, CO2 stored in canisters are attached to the propulsion mechanism of the weapon. When the shooter pulls the trigger, the rifle uses the compressed air to propel the pellet out of the barrel to its target.
To learn more about the different types of airgun power plants, see our section on propulsion methods.
These are the basic things to consider before purchasing an air gun. Understanding these factors will let you pick out a good gun that will serve you for many years.
Choose the Best Air Rifle
Now you have a good idea as to which air rifles will fit your purposes. Any of the airguns mentioned above will do a great job in serving you, as long as you make sure that they fit the criteria that will let you achieve the goals you have within your required budget.