In our first article on this topic we looked at caliber as it may relate to small game hunting and pest control. Thats a pretty narrow focus and while that may be a part of an airgunners intended purpose, most of us do more than just hunt. We also enjoy target shooting and the relaxation or entertainment value of plinking in the back yard. While the larger .22 and .25 calibers may hold the advantage for hunting, the .177 could certainly be considered a better or best option for non-hunting applications.
The range of available .177 airguns runs further than I may be able to cover in several years. This is undoubtedly the most popular airgun caliber and for good reason as they are very inexpensive to shoot. Without question .177 pellets cost less than .22 caliber pellets. Less per shot, means more trigger time for less money.
So lets define the question that we are going to address today in this article: What airgun would be best for someone looking to mostly target practice in their back yard, but may need to take out the occasional pest? The answer: A 1000 fps class airgun in .177 caliber that delivers good repeatable accuracy.
Here are some options that Ive found that certainly fit that criteria. Lets start with the new Ruger Talon. It hits all the marks for someone interested in target shooting and taking the occasional pest robbing the birdfeeder. It has very good build quality, good power, decent trigger, is reasonably easy to shoot, and has a price point well under $200. The bundled optics dont do the rifle justice so youll need to shoot with the open sights, or simply upgrade the scope. For this rifle I really like the 4x32AO Hawke with a set of Hawke Weaver mounts. All in youll be looking at under $250 for a great backyard airgun. Match it with some quality pellets and youll be good to go.
Another option at a little higher price point would be the RWS 34. TheRWS 34 is the entry level offering from RWS but its build quality and warranty stand above just about anything else on the market in the sub $350 price range. TheRWS 34 is as reliable as they come. It is very accurate, generates good energy, has an adjustable trigger that surpasses guns costing much more, and its German made with a limited lifetime warranty.. The basicRWS 34 comes with just open sights, so consider a quality optic when you are putting together your perfectRWS 34 package.
Crosman/Benjamin really cant be overlooked in particular market space. One of their most popular offerings comes in around $200 and is the Benjamin Trail NP in .177. This is a nitro piston powered airgun that uses a gas ram much like youd see holding up the hatchback of a car or that holds up the hood. It performs the same function as a spring but without the vibration, rotational torque, and secondary noises that are produced by entry-level metal spring powered airguns. TheBenjamin Trail NP comes with an impressive set of features on paper. It has the energy, and quietness looked for by many backyard shooters, but it is plagued by a not-so-great trigger and inconsistent accuracy between manufacturing runs. Most serious owners swap out the stock trigger pretty quickly with one of the 3rd party options available online. This has been known to greatly improve the accuracy and shootability of the Benjamin Trail NP.
Weve got 2 more airguns to talk about in .177. The first is the new Gamo Whisper Fusion IGT. This airgun answered a lot of issues found in previous Gamo airguns. TheWhisper Fusion IGT is a gas piston driven offering from Gamo. It is very quiet, has a good trigger, decent scope with solid scope mounts (previously a major issue), is very light weight and easy to cock, and most importantly, very accurate out to about 25 to 30 yards. The price puts it right under $300 which certainly fits the bill for most back yard target shooting and light pest control needs.
The last airgun offering well talk about today is the Hatsan 95 and Hatsan 85 variants. They start around $150 and go up to just under $300 and cover a lot of shooters stylistic needs and wants, including the option for a traditional metal spring or the new Vortex gas piston. This line of Hatsan airguns really favors the hunter more than the backyard plikiner. They are a bit heavier and harder to cock, but that extra effort translates into higher velocities with standard lead pellets and more energy on target. They all also come with Hatsan’s adjustable Quattro Trigger, which is very good for an airgun in this price range. My personal favorite from this line Model 85 Sniper. It adds sling mounts, a sling, and a front suppressor that really helps reduce the shot noise. Accuracy is very reliable out to about 25 yards.
This should give anyone looking for a multi-use airgun a lot to think about. Remember that with this article we really focused on airguns that were primarily for target shooting, but may be needed to deal with the occasional small game or pest control situation. Next well look at what works for someone that just wants to target shoot and never plans to use their airgun for small game hunting or pest control.