Well weve reached the end of this series as we wrap up with airguns best suited for hunting applications. Before we start, lets go back over what weve covered so far. As a note, Ive kept the focus to airguns that fall under the $350 price point.
The first question was: What airgun would be best for backyard target practice with the occasional need to take down small game or pest? The answer was something in a 1000 fps .177 caliber class spring or gas piston powered airgun.
The next question was: What airgun would be best for strictly target practice, never needing to take out small game or pests? We talked about several options here starting with a low powered spring gun, pump pneumatic, and even a couple of co2 airguns, all very well suited for this role.
Our last question was: What airgun would be the best for small game hunting with the occasional desire to punch paper as well? Here we went back to spring and gas piston powered airguns with a focus on .22 cal, 800 fps class airguns. There are many that fit the bill.
Todays final question is: What airgun would be best for small game hunting out to 30 to 35 yards, with maximum energy and 1 inch accuracy on target a must? The answer is simple; In this case, bigger is generally better.
Before we start looking at various models, I want to encourage you to go and look at the last segment where we addressed the question: What is the maximum hunting range of my airgun? Its critical that we only take ethical shots, and that will depend a lot more on our abilities than the abilities of our airgun.
More power please…
So lets look at the parameters we have to work with: capable of 1 accuracy at 30 to 35 yards, hard hitting, back yard friendly, and still in the sub $350 price range. The first decision will be caliber. A .22 will go faster, but the .25 will hit harder, generally speaking. This is where things can get a bit subjective, but Ill give you some of my basic guidelines.
To really have repeatable accuracy at 35 yards, you need to have sufficient muzzle velocity, say 700 FPS at a minimum. This may take some slower .25 cal airguns out of contention, but it does not mean they are out of the race. Urban pest control rarely exceeds 15 to 20 yards and this is where the slower .25 cal airguns really shine. Because the pellet is slower, heavier, and larger than a .22 in the same class, they tend to stay in the game rather than passing through and into an adjacent property. Most recently I tested the Hatsan Striker 1000x Vortex .25 cal and at 20 yards it was slamming the target trap with real authority while keeping all the shots easily inside the 1 kill zone. Will it keep that accuracy out to 30+ yards, probably not. Thats when you need to look for something with a little more gas in the tank.
So now you have a choice, go with a .22 in the same power class, i.e. 800 fps range, or stick with the .25 caliber and step up in power class to something like the Benjamin Trail NP XL, Umarex Octane, or Hatsan 125, Hatsan 135, or Hatsan 155. Before you make the jump to more power, here are a few things to consider. More power comes at a cost. Generally it comes at the expense of ease of shooting. More power means more recoil, which means more hold sensitivity and also more maintenance. The key here will be how much power do you really need?
If you are only looking to dispatch small game like squirrel and rabbit, you dont need ultra magnum power. You need consistent accuracy. The easiest way to get consistent accuracy is to get an airgun thats easier to shoot. Anything that will put 8 or 9 foot pounds of energy on target is more than adequate to the task at hand. Here are some great options to consider, all in .22 caliber: RWS 34, Benjamin Trail NP, Hatsan 95, Hatsan 85, Ruger Yukon, Gamo Silent Stalker Whisper IGT. All of these will generate around 14 to 16 foot pounds at the muzzle and around 700+/- fps with standard lead pellets. They will be relatively easy to shoot and with the right technique, put lead on target time and time again.
A bit MORE power please…
If your needs are a bit larger, say raccoon, possum, wood chuck, etc., then you need to be looking for something well over 20 foot pounds, preferably over 25 foot pounds. For this your best option will be one of the ultra magnum airguns in .25 caliber. Some of the most consistent are the Hatsan 125, Hatsan 135, andHatsan 150/155 airguns. With the right pellet, these produce up to and over 30 foot pounds of devastating energy on target.
If you prefer to stick with a .22 caliber for reasons such as pellet availability, pellet price, or pellet options, then here are some good choices. They wont get up to that 30 foot pound mark, but they are certainly a step above (in power) the 800 fps class airguns: Umarex Octane, Benjamin Trail NP XL, and of course theHatsan 125 &Hatsan 135 variants.
The trick to picking the best airgun for your needs is to really objectively define your needs. For that you may want to take the time to get on the web and do some research. Its no fun buying something only to find out that it just doesnt work for you. If you take the time to define your shooting goals, set a budget, and look at what you find aesthetically pleasing, theres going to be an airgun out there for you.