Best Air Rifle For Hunting
Although I personally prefer to use air rifles for target shooting and plinking, there are times when I have used an air rifle for getting rid of unwanted pests. It’s a popular form of pest removal and because you don’t have to have any type of licence to use a pellet gun, it can be an efficient way as well to eliminate pests.
The only issue I have with using air rifles for pest control is that the hunter needs to have a good understanding of what his or her equipment is capable of. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than badly wounding an animal, but not killing it, leaving it to die a slow and painful death. This topic gets me particularly upset when air rifles are used for sport hunting.
In my opinion, air rifles SHOULD NOT be used for sport hunting. If you are really interested in hunting, put in the extra time and register yourself a firearm which you’re confident will do sufficient damage to an animal to kill it one shot. With that being said, there are some air rifles on the market which pack a serious punch and I am completely in favor of using these guns to hunt and kill small pests which are intruding on your property.
What makes our list for the best air rifle for hunting is determined on a few important factors. Obviously one of the biggest factors is power but that can be a little misleading. Just because a pellet gun shoots a pellet fast, doesn’t mean it’s the most powerful.
For example, a .177 caliber air rifle will have a much faster FPS max than a .25 caliber air rifle but that does not mean that it will do more damage to an animal. To determine what air rifle will inflict the most damage we need to consider the FPE which stands for the Foot Pounds of Energy and essentially measure how much energy the pellet will transfer into the target which ultimately results in damage.
What is considered small game?
Small game hunting is something that can be done with an air rifle but I don’t necessarily recommend. However, if you’re sure you have the proper equipment to inflict enough damage for a one-shot kill, ensure you’re also hunting the proper game. Two of the most common animals which would be considered small game would be cottontail rabbits and squirrels. Some might also might consider animals such as coyotes and fox’s as small game but I’d like to think of them on quite a different scale then a rabbit or squirrel.
What is considered a pest?
Pests can sometimes be a little bit more difficult to define as they cover a wide range of animals. A pest that would be on everyone’s list would be a rat for example. Other common pests include racoons, woodchucks, and even iguanas. One thing to consider when you are going to take out a pest is to ensure that whatever you’re hunting is legally able to be hunted. For example, a red-headed woodpecker might be waking you up every morning but because it’s on a protected species list, you can be going out there with your air rifle and taking it out.
Accuracy matter as much power for a number of reasons but most importantly is that to humanely kill an animal, you’re going to want to hit it in the right part of the body to have an instant kill. In most cases, this is in the brain, however a shot to the heart in most cases will also often be effective. With that being said, it’s important to have a rifle where you can have accurate shot within the size of a quarter. To make our list of the best air rifles for hunting, the gun had to meet this criterion on a consistent basis.
A great value air rifle, the Crosman Nitro makes our list for the best air rifle for hunting. A classic this break-barrel model features a precision, rifled barrel and fluted mizzle break which are sure to provide both power and accuracy. Delivering fantastic hunting power, this .22 caliber air rifle can deliver up to 21 FPE while providing the stealth of the patented Nitro Piston Technology.
The Nitro Piston Technology has really impressed me since it was introduced. Used in a few break-barrel models currently, it really do a lot to suppress any noise which is seriously helpful when hunt smaller game. There is nothing worse than spookin’ the whole lot on a day out when you’re looking to bag a rabbit or two.
With an effective range of 35 yards, it met our criterion in terms of accuracy. After a break-in period between 200-250 shots, the Crosman Nitro Venom Break Barrel was dialed in providing us fantastic accuracy and power. The scope provided isn’t awesome so I do recommend adding a better scope, especially if you have something handy.
The Benjamin Marauder is an absolute beast and actually comes with a couple of different caliber options and both the .22 caliber and .25 caliber options made our list for best air rifle for hunting. Not the cheapest pellet gun on the market, it really is a thing of beauty when you get it in your hands. I am not typically a fan of PCP air rifles but the Marauder is a bit of an exception to that rule. Using compressed air, the velocity can be adjusted and I actually recommend playing with the velocity until you find yourself a velocity you like.
The reason I find adjusting the velocity important is because I actually had a really tough time in regards to accuracy with this rifle until I lowered the velocity only slightly. Once I did that, I was shooting consistently perfect which is why I think it is a great pellet gun for hunting.
I also think it can be a great air rifle for hunting because it does feature a 10-shot repeater in the .22 caliber and an 8- repeater in the .25 caliber rifle. This is obviously nice in case you miss your target the first time, you are already loaded and ready to fire again. One thing I do recommend for users of the PCP guns for hunting is to really get to know how the pressure of the compressed air in the gun affects range and accuracy. As we are all responsible for hunting responsibly, please take the time to learn your rifle before shooting at an animal.
The Benjamin Trail NP comes in three different calibers but for our list of best hunting pellet guns, I am reviewing the .25 caliber option. At around 49” in length and weighing 8.5 lbs in weight, she’s quite a hefty beast. For taking down small game and pests humanely, this is a fantastic option and is actually featured at a fantastic price too!
With an FPE of 30, you are surely able to deliver enough damage to take down a small animal but obviously you still need the accuracy to ensure you hit the animal where you need to. In our testing, we found we had to break in the barrel with at least 300 shots before we found some consistency. It does take a little while but once you get there, we think you’ll be impressed with the results.
Given we are reviewing the .25 caliber option, we should touch on the degree of sounds the rifle emits per shot. With a .25 caliber air rifle, you are firing heavy pellets which ultimately results in a higher FPE. To fire these heavier pellets, the rifle needs to emit more power which although minimized by the Nitro Piston, still gives off a bit of a bang. If you live somewhere a bit more rural, then this won’t be a problem for you but in the case you’re in a pretty tight neighborhood, I recommend going with a .22 caliber option.