Sunday, October 2, 2016

Air Rifles 101

An Introduction

 You just watched American Virginia Thatcher win the first gold medal of the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 10-meter air rifle, and you thought to yourself that it looked like something you'd like to try. Congratulations! You're about to join the millions of air rifle owners worldwide who enjoy this pastime, but before you do, read this review to find out more about what it takes to become an air rifle owner.

Why an air rifle?

Target shooting: 

Air rifles are one of the simplest guns to use, thus making them perfect for a novice looking to take up target shooting. Because they're inexpensive, easy to use, and safer than regular firearms, it's easy to set up a home range to shoot at paper targets or tin cans.

Pest control: 

Air rifles are perfect for the homeowner or farmer who has rats, possums, raccoons, or other pests when having a regular firearm would be prohibited or unsafe to use in your locale.

Small-game hunting: 

Newer hunting air rifles have a 40- or 50-yard range, and because they're quieter than other firearms, you can hunt rabbits, squirrels, or other small game in your backyard or nearby woods without disturbing your neighbors.

What to look for in an air rifle?

Whether it's for target shooting, pest control, or small-game hunting, knowing what you're going to use your air rifle to do informs what you'll want from your purchase.

Propulsion method: 

There are three main types of propulsion methods in today's air rifles—carbon dioxide (CO2), spring piston, and precharged pneumatic (PCP). A CO2 rifle doesn't require you to cock the hammer, making them perfect for new air rifle owners. Spring-piston rifles are popular for plinking and hunting small game because of their versatility, high velocity, and accuracy. PCP rifles are the most powerful of the three, and thus usually reserved for more experienced and serious shooters.


Air rifle calibers vary from .177 to .25, and again, you'll want to consider why you're purchasing an air file in making your choice. The .177 caliber is the best choice for target shooting and pest control. The .22 caliber is the pellet of choice for small-game hunting; it's more powerful and less accurate than the .177. The .25 caliber is best used by a dedicated small-game hunter.


There are four basic types to choose from—wadcutter, domed or round-nosed, hollowpoint, and pointed. Wadcutters are the preferred choice for target shooters, while hollowpoint is almost exclusively used for hunting or pest control. Domed pellets are the all-around champion, good for any use.

Which model air rifle should I choose?

Here are three basic air rifles that I recommend. These models are also recommneded in several online magazines such as (read their full article here):

Gano Big Cat .22 Caliber: 

If you're just getting started as an air rifle enthusiast, this is the gun for you. This is not an air rifle that'll last for the long term, but it's great to get you into the game. Mounting the scope is fairly simple, and once you've broken it in, it'll provide you accuracy and power. It wears out fairly quickly, though.

Ruger Blackhawk .177 Caliber: 

If you do not want to spend an arm and a leg on a quality starter air rifle, check out the Ruger. You can find this rifle online for around $100. It's a solid gun for hunting small game or pest control.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2: 

It's the next step up from the Gano or Ruger listed above, but while designed for intermediate shooters, novices still can handle this rifle. It has improved accuracy without sacrificing on power, and at only eight pounds, it's not too heavy for younger shooters.

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