Air rifle shooting is one of the most affordable, fun hobbies you can take up. Not only that, but air rifles are a great way to eliminate pest animals such as squirrels and coyotes. In many countries and jurisdictions, they may be your only way.
But how do you find the best air rifle?
There are a lot of options out there, from small BB guns up to .357 and .50 caliber hunting rifles. Most air rifles will fall between these extremes, and the vast majority are .177 or .22 caliber. But even these average-sized air guns can have significant differences.
For example, some air rifles are powered by compressed CO2, while others have to be cocked or hand-primed. Like gunpowder rifles, they can come with scopes, or with a variety of other features. For more information about different types of air guns, you can read the buying guide at the end of this article.
Here, we’re going to review fifteen of the most popular air rifles available online. We’ve chosen a broad selection of varieties and features, across the full price range. Whether you’re plinking or hunting, one of these air guns will be right for you. Every air rifle on our list can be shipped to most locations in the US. If you live outside the US, your results may vary.
Best Air Rifles
- Pellet Velocity: Up to 800 fps
- Alloy Pellet Velocity: Up to 950 fps
- Length: 45 inches
The Crosman Optimus is a .22 caliber with a spring-loaded firing mechanism. It cocks easily but has higher recoil than other styles of action. It’s easy to load, too. Much like the Crosman Fire, you just have to push the barrel down to open the breech, load a single pellet, and close it again.
What the Optimus sacrifices inaccuracy, it makes up for in power and looks. The .22 pellets hit considerably harder than the Fire’s .177 pellets, and this rifle will fire alloy-coated pellets at 950 feet per second. Combine that with the 4×32 scope, and you have a hard-hitting varmint rifle at a reasonable price.
This air rifle weighs just over 7 pounds and has a hardwood stock that’s a dead ringer for the 10/22 stock. It also has a two-step adjustable trigger.
- Wood stock
- Includes a 4×32 scope
- Adjustable trigger
- Spring-loaded design
At the end of the day, the Optimus is another good starter air rifle. At the end of the day, the Fire is slightly better for target shooting, and the Optimus is better for varmint hunting.
$166.32 in stock
- .22 caliber; Single shot; Break barrel; Spring piston; Quattro Trigger - 2-stage fully adjustable match trigger
- High quality, genuine Turkish walnut stock – with ambidextrous design; Precision rifled German steel barrel
- Grooved dovetail receiver for 11mm scope mounts; Includes 3-9x32 Optima scope & rings
- Max Velocity* – Lead-Free Pellets – .177 cal – 1300 FPS, .22 cal – 1000 FPS, .25 cal – 750 FPS Max Velocity* – Lead Pellets – .177 cal – 1100 FPS, .22 cal – 800 FPS, .25 cal – 700 FPS Max Muzzle Energy** – .177 cal – 20 FPE, .22 cal – 21 FPE, .25 cal – 24 FPE
- * Velocity results may vary due to pellet weight, pellet shape, pellet material, temperature, elevation, as well as other factors ** Energy results may vary due to pellet weight, pellet shape, pellet material, temperature, elevation, as well as other factors
The Hatsan Model 95 is a dedicated varmint rifle. It fires an alloy coated .22 caliber pellet at 1,000 feet per second, and delivers an impressive 22-foot pounds of force. That’s as much as a low-velocity .22 short cartridge. To keep this air rifle from sounding like a rimfire rifle, Hatsan has included an integrated muzzle brake, which will keep your rounds from going supersonic.
The 3-9×32 scope is powerful but is easy to knock off-center. Essentially, you’ll need to zero the scope every time you go shooting. For this reason, the Model 95 is a poor target rifle. We wouldn’t recommend using the scope for pest control, either, unless you want to end up with a bunch of maimed animals. That said, the iron sights are excellent, and you can easily drive a tack with it at fifteen yards.
This is a spring-loaded, break barrel rifle that fires a single shot. It weighs just over 9 pounds, which is quite heavy, but it packs a lot of punch.
- Includes a 3-9×32 scope
- Integrated muzzle brake
- Scope won’t stay zeroed
- Spring-loaded design.
Model 95 is a solid pest control rifle. Consider it if you’re trying to get rid of rats or squirrels.
- Multi-pump pneumatic rifle
- .177 cal. (4.5 mm) BB or pellet
- 50 shot BB or single shot/pellet capacity
- Fiber Optic front sight. Adjustable rear sight
- Tough black composite stock
The PowerLine Model 901 is a pump-action air gun that can be used to fire .177 BBs or pellets. It accepts up to 50 BBs at once, or you can single-load a pellet into the breech. This is a very inexpensive air rifle, and it’s not just light on your wallet; it weighs only 3.7 pounds, thanks to the lightweight composite stock and foregrip.
Because it’s a pneumatic rifle, you’ll need to pump it up before each shot. This can require a lot of effort if you’re trying to maximize power by pumping it five times. On the other hand, it’s easy to pump once or twice for backyard plinking contests. This air rifle is scary accurate for the price, even though it only has iron sights. We’re not saying you can use it competitively, but you can drive tacks from 10 or 15 yards with no problem.
- Accepts BBs or pellets
- Requires pumping
- Not very powerful
This is a fun air gun for backyard plinking. In a pinch, it can be used for short-range pest control. That’s not bad for the price.
- IN THE BOX: 1 x SlG Sauer MCX .177 Cal CO2 Powered Advanced Air Rifle (AIR-MCX-MRD-FDE); CO2 90 Gram, 2 Pack (AC-90-2); 1 x Pack of 500 Lead Pellets (VPB-177)
- Metal housing. Manual safety. SIG SAUER MCX AIR RIFLE: Based on the original designs of the SIG MCX, this CO2 version is ideal for training and practice. From tactical drills to target practice, the CO2 powered SIG MCX Air Rifle delivers 30 rounds of rapid-firing, simulated SIG MCX performance and handling for more realistic, economical training and practice — any time, any place.
- Includes red dot sight with integral mount. Chambered in .177 pellet, features include an 18" rifled steel barrel, synthetic handguard, picatinny rail, tactical front grip and more.
- Caliber .177" (4.5mm). Max Velocity up to 700 fps. Barrel Length 17.7". Overall Length 34.7". Powerplant CO2. 90 gram CO2 Cylinders.
- You need this Ready-to-shoot Hassle-Free MCX AirRifle bundle.
The SIG Sauer MCX is a perfect replica of the centerfire SIG MCX. It’s designed specifically for people to own the AR to train without wasting a ton of expensive ammo. With that in mind, everything about this air rifle is designed for authenticity and accuracy, not power or range.
And wow, is it accurate. You can easily get dime-sized groupings at 20 yards. It includes your choice of three sights: a 1-4×24 scope, folding iron sights, or a red-dot sight. If you just want to fire off thirty .177 pellets as fast as you can, it’s fun for that, too. Just don’t expect to do any hunting with it. The pellets have a maximum velocity of 700 feet per second, which isn’t enough to reliably kill even small animals.
The CO2 cartridge will need to be replaced from time to time, but it allows you to fire without cocking after each shot. It’s also very low-recoil, which only improves the MCX’s accuracy.
- Includes Picatinny rail
- Includes your choice of sights
- Modeled on the real SIG Sauer MCX
- 30-round capacity
- CO2 powered
- Very accurate
- Low power
This is an exceptionally well-designed plinking air rifle. It’s also good for AR practice if you don’t want to spend a fortune on AR ammo.
- .177 Cal pellet single cocking break barrel
- The Varmint features a long lasting spring piston able to deliver 1250 fps of muzzle velocity with Gamo PBA Platinum pellets .177 Cal
- Fluted polymer jacketed rifled steel barrel. Grooved cylinder rail
- 4 x 32 Shockproof Scope. Gamo trigger with adjustable second stage. It has a synthetic ambidextrous all-weather stock with a rubber recoil pad. Lightweight design
- Noise dampening: None
The Gamo Varmint is a spring-loaded break barrel air rifle with extremely high muzzle velocity. It fires .177 caliber pellets at 1,250 feet per second, which is more than enough to kill squirrels, snakes, raccoons and other pests with a single shot.
It ships with a 4×32 scope that’s easy to zero, and it will drive tacks at 10 yards with no problem. Make sure to use the locking pin on the scope, though, or it will quickly drift off center.
Some break barrel air rifles are difficult to cock, particularly high-velocity models like the Varmint. This one opens as easily as an old-school 700 FPS air gun. The trigger is adjustable, which helps improve accuracy. Due to recoil, it’s not reliable for competitive target shooting, but it’s accurate enough for a friendly match provided you have a good backdrop.
- High velocity
- Easy to cock and load
- Includes 4×32 scope
- Adjustable trigger
- Spring-loaded design
This is a well-built varmint rifle for the price, and the 1,250 FPS muzzle velocity is very impressive.
- caliber: 0.22
- velocity: 800.00 ft/sec
- Warranty: 1-year Limited Warranty
- Incl. 3-9x32 Scope & Mount
The Hatsan Edge is a dedicated varmint shooting rifle that’s available in two calibers: .22 and .25. It has a break barrel design and accepts a single pellet at a time. The gas piston propulsion has less recoil than a spring-loaded design and can propel a .22 caliber pellet at up to 1,000 feet per second.
The .25 caliber model reaches a maximum of 800 FPS, but the larger round packs a lot of punch at that speed. Both models are inexpensive, although the .22 caliber costs less.
This air rifle ships with a powerful, 3-9×32 scope. It’s accurate enough to hit a quarter at 20 yards, which isn’t enough for serious target shooting but is more than good enough for pest control. If you live in the suburbs, the .25 caliber model is an excellent choice.
Because it has the same amount of force but doesn’t break the sound barrier, this model is a quiet solution for people who don’t want to wake up their neighbors.
- Ships with a 3-9×32 scope
- Powerful varmint shooting
- Gas piston design
- Reasonably priced
- Not accurate enough for target shooting
This is another excellent, inexpensive varmint-shooting air rifle. It’s quiet enough for suburban neighborhoods.
Gamo Swarm Maxxim
- 10-Shot break barrel allows you to shoot up to ten pellets without reloading
- Velocity 1300 feet per second (fps) with PBA Platinum
- 3-9x40 Air Rifle Scope.Checkering:Non-Slip texture design on grip and forearm.
- Inert Gas Technology (IGT)
- 2-Stage adjustable Custom Action Trigger (CAT)
The Gamo Swarm Maxxim is a high-velocity air rifle that’s good for varmint hunting, pest control, or target shooting. It’s a break barrel rifle, which means you’ll need to cock it between shots, but the 10-round magazine means you won’t have to load a new pellet every time. This greatly reduces the time between shots and can make enough of a difference to let you get a follow-through shot.
It comes in .117 and .22 calibers. The gas piston action will push .117 pellets at up to 1,250 feet per second depending on the weight. The .22 caliber version can reach 1,000 FPS muzzle velocity, which is enough to bring down a raccoon at 50 yards.
The scope is disappointing, though. Like a lot of inexpensive add-on scopes, it just doesn’t like to stay zeroed. The rifle is also fairly heavy, at 8.3 pounds. Still, this is a nice air rifle. You won’t find many like it at this middle-of-the-road price point.
- Includes a 3-9×40 scope
- Gas piston design
- 10-round rotary magazine
- High velocity
- Low recoil
- Stock scope doesn’t stay zeroed
This is an accurate, high velocity varmint rifle, and the 10-round magazine gives you a decent chance at a follow-up shot.
- Spring powered break barrel .22 caliber pellet air rifle
- Streamlined Monte Carlo beechwood stock with checkered grip and ventilated buttpad
- Shoots .22 caliber pellets at up to 1000 fps
- Built as a powerful backyard plinker and small pest eliminator
- Features an 11mm dovetail rail for mounting optics and an adjustable rear sight
The Diana RWS Magnum is called the “magnum” for a reason. It propels even heavy, 25-grain pellets at up to 1,250 feet per second. That velocity and weight packs as much as some .22 short rimfire cartridges, which means you’ll be able to bring down opossum and grouse reliably at 50 yards. Although it doesn’t ship with a scope, this air rifle is extremely accurate even with iron sights.
The adjustable trigger ships with a pull of 3.3 pounds, which is more than the force it takes to cock the rifle. No, that’s not a typo. The RWS Magnum requires only 3 pounds of force to cock, meaning you won’t need to manhandle it or brace it between your thighs just to load another round. Throw in the gorgeous walnut stock, and it’s easy to understand why this air gun comes at a premium price.
- High velocity
- Gas piston design
- German engineering
- Easy to cock
- Very accurate
- Wood stock
- On the pricier side
This is a fantastic single-shot air rifle for hunters and target shooters alike. If you’re serious about small game, it’s a great choice.
Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun
$47.99 in stock
- Solid wood stock and forearm. Burnished forearm band. Lariat ring with leather thong.
- Capacity: 650 rounds. Velocity: 280 fps. Overall Length: 35.4".
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that off our chest, let’s acknowledge that the Red Ryder isn’t powerful enough to do any kind of hunting. It fires BBs, not pellets, and the muzzle velocity is only 280 feet per second. This is strictly a target shooting air gun.
Let’s also acknowledge that it’s only good for target shooting at a distance of ten yards or so. So why would we recommend the Red Ryder, other than the nostalgic appeal of a true classic?
Simply put, this is what a BB gun used to be: a tool for teaching young kids to shoot. Make no mistake, though, this is a tool and not a toy. 280 FPS may not be fast enough to bring down any animals, but it can still break the skin, or a pair of glasses.
- Classic design
- 650 round capacity
- Great for backyard plinking
- Low-enough velocity for younger shooters
- Not useful for hunting
If you’re looking for a starter air gun for your child or grandchild, why not choose a reliable classic?
Benjamin Marauder Pellet
$459.99 in stock
- ALL-WEATHER SYNTHETIC STOCK WITH RAISED COMB - Durable, lightweight, well-balanced
- MULTI-SHOT, BOLT ACTION, PCP-POWERED - Has built-in pressure gauge and quick-disconnect Foster fitting
- TWO-STAGE ADJUSTABLE MATCH GRADE TRIGGER SYSTEM - Lever safety
- 10-ROUND MAGAZINE. The .22 Caliber Air Rifle designed to operate on compressed air as well as CO2
- DOVETAIL MOUNTING RAIL - For accessories. Also includes sling mounts
The Marauder is another top of the line air rifle. The bolt action is reversible for left-handed users, and will effortlessly cycle through 10 or 8-round magazines as fast as you can pull the trigger and work the bolt. It’s available in three sizes: .177, .22 and .25 caliber.
The PCP drive needs to be recharged from a SCUBA tank but is good for 32 rounds of .177 or .22 caliber, or 22 rounds of .25 caliber. It fires .22 caliber rounds at 1,000 feet per second.
While there’s no scope on this air rifle, it accepts weaver rifle scopes, and the iron sights are good enough for hitting small targets out to 50 yards. While the Marauder is expensive, it’s exceptionally high quality and will serve you equally well for hunting or target shooting.
- Durable synthetic stock
- PCP design
- 10-round magazine (8 for .25 caliber)
- Ambidextrous bolt action
- Extremely accurate
- Requires a SCUBA tank for recharging
If you love to hunt small game, but want to reload quickly for easy follow-up shots, the Marauder is a solid choice.
Gamo Big Cat
- Suggested Use: Pest Control / Plinking /Target Shooting, Caliber: 0.22, Velocity: 950
- Manufacturer: Gamo, Airgun Mechanism: Spring-piston, Ammo Type: Pellets
- Weight: 6.1, Fire Mode: Single-shot, Warranty: 1 Year Limited, Condition: New
The Gamo Big Cat is a spring-loaded, break barrel air rifle that’s designed for varmint hunting. It fires .177 caliber pellets at up to 1000 feet per second, which is good enough for small game like rabbits and squirrels, as well as for pests like snakes and rats. It’s affordable and comes with a 3-9×40 scope. Unfortunately, the scope gets knocked out of alignment easily and requires frequent re-sighting.
This air rifle is loud, almost as loud as a .22 rimfire. This is only an issue if you’re using lightweight pellets. Heavier pellets will be subsonic and will deliver the same amount of force without the sonic boom. Like other break barrel air guns, the Big Cat fires a single shot between reloads.
The spring-loaded action delivers significant recoil, so it’s not ideal for target shooting. It’s still good enough to take down a rabbit at 30 yards, though.
- Includes 3-9×40 scope
- Powerful enough for varmint hunting
- Spring-loaded design
- Scope does not stay zeroed
The Gamo Big Cat is a solid varmint-hunting air rifle. Take it out in the field, and you’ll bring home as many rabbits or squirrels as you can find.
Air Rifle Buyers Guide
If you’re new to the world of air rifles, you probably have a few questions about them. Every air gun is different, so we can’t possibly cover every possible feature. However, we’ve tried to answer some of the most common questions.
Types of Air Rifles
All air rifles work on the same principle: using compressed air – or another gas – to propel the pellet out of the barrel. But they have five different ways of doing that. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Spring Piston Air Guns
Spring piston air guns, sometimes called break barrel guns, are by far the most common type of air rifle. The reason they’re called break barren guns is because of the way you cock them. You put one hand on the stock and the other hand on the barrel, and “break” the gun in half. They’re hinged right where the barrel meets the stock, and the “breaking” motion is how you cock them.
When cocked, a spring-loaded piston is pushed in place in the back of the chamber, and a pellet is pushed into the breech. When you pull the trigger, the piston is released, pushing the air in the chamber forward and creating a high-pressure wave that accelerates the pellet out of the barrel. These guns tend to be less expensive than other designs, but they also have the highest recoil.
Gas Ram Air Guns
Gas ram air guns are similar to spring-piston guns. They’re actually another type of break barrel gun because you cock them the same way. The difference lies in how the pellet is fired. Instead of a spring-loaded piston, gas ram guns use a closed container of compressed air.
Cocking them compresses the air further, and pulling the trigger releases it to the original pressure. These guns have lower recoil than spring-piston guns.
Pneumatic Air Guns
A lot of older-style air guns fall into this category. Pneumatic air guns require you to manually pump them up to compress the air for each shot. This can require anywhere from one to ten pumps, depending on the design. Since the pressure increases as you’re pumping, each successive pump will require more force.
These guns are a poor choice for hunting since it’s impossible to fire a follow-up shot quickly. They’re popular among target shooters, though, since they have low recoil.
PCP Air Guns
PCP air guns work the same way as pneumatic air guns, but don’t require any pumping. Instead, they have an internal compressed air reservoir that needs to be refilled from a SCUBA tank or other high-pressure tank. This allows you to fire several shots without needing to pump the rifle, and also gives you low recoil.
Inexpensive PCP air rifles will tend to lose power with each shot, as the reservoir loses pressure. Higher-end guns will have the reservoir at a higher pressure than is needed and will use a regulator to control chamber pressure.
CO2 Air Guns
The last type of air rifle is the CO2 gun. These are usually powered by standard, 12-ounce CO2 canisters, although some have a reservoir similar to a PCP gun. CO2 guns are a bit of an oddball since they range from cheap pistols up to high-end competition rifles.
The reason for this is that CO2 is both cheap and incredibly reliable. Be careful using it for target shooting, though. Until your canister adjusts to the ambient temperature, it will have too much or too little pressure, which can cause you to shoot high or low respectively.
Air Rifle Accessories
Air rifles can have just about every accessory a gunpowder rifle can have. Some even have AR-style Picatinny rails for mounting standard rifle accessories. Here are a few things you’ll want to think about.
It can be tempting to get a high-magnification scope. 12x magnification just sounds awesome. But the higher the magnification, the narrower the field of view. Keep in mind that you’re almost certainly not going to be shooting at anything beyond 50 yards. Especially if you’re varmint hunting, a wild field of view is best.
An air rifle may not weigh as much as a standard hunting rifle, but it can still be inconvenient to carry in your hand. If you’re going out in the field to hunt rabbits or other small game, a sling can be essential for comfort.
A lot of air rifles come standard with these. While air guns aren’t as loud as gunpowder firearms, they can still be pretty loud, particularly the higher-power models. Not only will a sound baffle protect your hearing, but it can also keep your air rifle from sounding like a standard rifle. This can be useful in jurisdictions where air rifle hunting is legal, but gunpowder hunting is not.
What Can You Shoot With an Air Rifle?
Air rifles have three main uses: pest control, varmint hunting, and target shooting. While some PCP rifles have rounds up to .50 caliber and are meant for larger game, we’ll restrict our answer to “normal” air guns.
Air rifles have been an important part of every farmer’s toolkit and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. They’re ideal for killing rats, rabid raccoons and other critters that eat grain stores or endanger livestock. Be careful only to use them only on small animals, though. Most air guns aren’t powerful enough to kill foxes, wolves or boars.
A good air rifle can easily kill rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, and possums. Because of the small pellets and relatively low force of impact, they do less damage to the fur and meat than small-caliber hunting rifles.
Air rifle shooting is a popular sport. Most target shooting air guns are pneumatic or CO2 powered, and competitions are typically held at 30, 50 and 100 meters.
How Accurate Are Air Rifles?
Accuracy with any rifle comes down to two questions: what are you trying to hit, and how far away is it? A quality air rifle will be good for varmint hunting up to around fifty yards, although that can vary depending on the size of your target.
For target shooting, the best groupings are within one just a few hundredths of an inch. Of course, that’s at only ten yards, with a target rifle. An inexpensive rifle will have groupings of about a quarter inch. At fifty yards, a quality sporting air rifle will shoot about a half-inch group. Beyond that, accuracy falls off quickly.
As you can see, there are a lot of things you can do with an air rifle. You can shoot pests, go hunting or shoot targets for fun. Target shooting, in particular, is a popular pastime, since air gun pellets are incredibly inexpensive; in some countries, you may not be able to obtain a standard hunting rifle, in which case they’re your only option for hunting small game or controlling rodent populations.
We’ve also seen that air rifles are available across a wide range of prices. Whether you’re on a shoestring budget, or whether you’re willing to pay top value for one of the best air rifles, there’s one out there that’s a good choice for your budget.
In terms of design, you’re going to get what you pay for. The more affordable air guns will tend to be higher recoil break barrel guns, while the more expensive choices will tend to be lower recoil PCP guns. If you’re looking for low price and low recoil, you’ll have to sacrifice convenience and use a pneumatic air rifle.
As we’ve already mentioned, CO2 air guns run the full gamut of prices. What we didn’t mention is that they’re a poor choice for hunting. Unless they’ve been sighted in at the same temperature you’re hunting at, your accuracy will be off. Visit the OutdoorWorld Reviews homepage for more expert information and reviews!
11 Best Air Rifles
Here are the ratings of the 11 best air rifles on the market.
- SIG Sauer
- Gamo Varmint
- Hatsan Edge
- Gamo Big Cat
- Gamo Swarm Maxxim
- Remington AirMaster
- RWS Magnum
- Daisy Red Ryder
- Benjamin Marauder