Picking the best pellet rifle to buy is an incredible challenge. Certainly not one that we will be able to cover in just one short article. But, we can help you narrow down a few key points and provide a few great suggestions to get you started. Modern airguns are amazingly versatile and cover a multitude of applications.
In this article we are going to look at the following basic categories:
One more caveat, for this article we are going to ignore budget for the most part since we have an entire category just on budget-friendly pellet rifles.
Hunting Pellet Rifles
Let’s start with one of the most popular uses for pellet rifles, small game hunting.
Pellet rifles are exceptional for this task because they are affordable to shoot, fun to shoot, and get the job done. Additionally, when used responsibly, they are far more safe than a traditional firearm, given their lower power output and reduced range. When picking the right airgun for small game hunting you really need to know your prey and an estimate of how far away you’ll be shooting. Most modern PCP airguns have an effective range of about 50 yards with some more expensive models reach out to 75 and 100 yards. It’s important to remember that accuracy is critical when small game hunting, as your ethical kill zone can be very small, usually under 1 inch.
One of the best options in a traditional small game hunting airgun would be the Air Arms S510 XS. This PCP Air Rifle is available in .177, .22, and .25 calibers. Each caliber is a multi-shot repeater with a buttery smooth side lever action, match-grade adjustable trigger, and shrouded (some are fully suppressed) Lothar-Walther match barrel. It also has adjustable power making it really versatile for shooting up close and at long range. It’s available in multiple configurations, stock choices, even an awesome TDR (take down rifle) version which comes with its own matched hardshell case. Delivering sub 1″ groups all day long at 50 yards, the Air Arms S510 XS models are very hard to beat when you are looking for the ideal small game hunting air rifle.
Target / Accuracy Pellet Rifles
When looking for your ideal target and/or bench rest accuracy airgun, there’s only one thing that really matters…accuracy. It doesn’t matter how cool it looks if it can’t drill the center ring over and over. Target shooting is frankly one of my favorite pastimes and I LOVE shooting paper targets with my airguns. I’m happy to just sit and shoot for hours when I have the chance to do so and finding the perfect airgun is part of the fun.
How far you want to shoot accurately, i.e. 50, 75, 100 yards, etc., is really going to be the single most important factor in how much you need to set aside for your budget. There are some airguns that take things nearing the level of science fiction with electronic valves, computer controlled air regulators, space age materials and design, etc. It’s really amazing what’s out there these days.
Perhaps one of the most versatile target rifles on the market is the FX Impact. It’s on the upper end of the price scale, but for good reason. It’s incredibly accurate and it’s extremely consistent. It’s also highly customizable, allowing the owner to change calibers (available in .177, .22, 25, and .30), adjust power output, and really tune the gun to whatever the application may require. From a pure target, accuracy perspective, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better air rifle than the FX Impact.
Budget-Friendly Pellet Rifles
Going from one extreme to the other, let’s go from looking at one of the most expensive airguns to some more budget-friendly options. Also, let’s consider something other than a PCP powered airgun.
One of the things that determines budget is how the airgun makes its power to send the projectile down range. The Crosman 2100B is a great example of a classic, American, multi-pump airgun. It’s been around, in one form or another, for a very long time and continues to provide hours of backyard fun. Shooters can use as little as 3 pumps (with a max of 10 pumps) to send both BBs and Pellets down range all day long. It’s a great example of a true, budget-friendly airgun.
Backyard Pellet Rifles
While we are on the subject of having fun shooting in the backyard, let’s talk about what to look for if this is your “airgun thing!” One advantage of airguns is that you can, provided it’s legal to do so, shoot for fun in your backyard. For this you really want something very quiet. Now as compared to firearms, nearly all airguns are pretty darn quiet. But, in the airgun world, some airguns are MUCH quieter than others. Not only do you want something really quiet, you also want something that’s very accurate as the last thing anyone needs are errant shots going into your neighbor’s yard!
When I think of quiet and really accurate, the Benjamin Woods Walker comes to mind. This airgun is really special in that it’s both a pistol AND a carbine. It actually ships with the pistol grips installed but includes a very cool skeleton stock that swaps out with just two screws. It’s a PCP airgun with an 8 shot magazine and swappable side bolt cocking system. It’s also bundled with a multi-reticle red-dot sight which works great for both pistol shooting AND rifle shooting. It’s got more than enough power for taking out pests and small game, it’s lightweight, compact and just a ton of fun all around, a great airgun for backyard shooting.
Big Bore Pellet Rifles
Well, this is the last category for this article looking for the best airgun and it’s a big one. Big bore that is. Big bore airguns are categorized as anything over .25 caliber, although some would argue that .30 is “mid bore” but I digress. When we talk big bore we are really looking at .35, .45, and .50 and these guns are NOT quiet and they are NOT backyard friendly. They are mostly for hunting medium to large game with the idea that you want to drop your target with one shot.
When I first started looking at airguns many years ago, there was one airgun that captured my attention nearly immediately. It’s still a mainstay today and it’s the Seneca Dragon Claw. This .50 cal, single shot airgun is just a beast. It not only looks amazing, but it’s simple, reliable, operation means that it’s just going to work when you need it the most. There are a lot of big bore airgun options and the best option for you may be something different like the Umarex Hammer, or AirForce Texan. But for us, the Seneca Dragon Claw continues, and may always be, the image of big bore airgunning.
So I hope that helps you take a look at some of the primary uses for airguns and what to look for in each category when you are looking to find the best airgun or air rifle for you!