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Can You Use Pellet Guns for Hunting? – a Closer Look at Small Game Hunting and Air Rifles

A lot of people have asked this question before: Can you use pellet guns for hunting?

The answer, in short, is yes, but there are a few things you’ll need to consider.

This post has been created to help you better understand the idea of hunting with pellet guns, and it will also show you a few key things you need to keep in mind should you decide to hunt with a pellet gun.

Is It Humane to Use a Pellet Gun for Hunting?

Yes, but if it’s done right. Accuracy is a big concern when it comes to keeping things humane. If you can’t hit the target, don’t aim and fire. Pellet guns are best used for hunting small game, which includes rabbits, birds, and squirrels. The target is very small, think along the lines of a quarter, just under once inch wide.

The quickest, most humane shot is a brain shot. When it’s done right, the animal dies instantly and there is no suffering. Small game animals need to be shot on target otherwise they might run off and die a slow, painful death. You’ve got to ensure that you’ll be able to make the shot, one where you’d be able to hit that quarter on target, every time.

hunting with a pellet gun

How Much Power Does a Pellet Gun Have?

The power that your air gun generates is an essential piece of the puzzle in determining whether or not it can be used for hunting applications. In this scenario, you’re going to be looking at muzzle energy because velocity without the power means nothing.

Some folks prefer using as much power as possible while others stick to the idea that you can still hunt using as little power as possible.

The truth is this: you actually can hunt game and get a head shot by using very little power. The thing you have to keep in mind, however, is the fact that when less power is used, you have less play when it comes to hitting the target.

There’s a recommendation that applies to the lowest limit that an air gun has to have in order for it to be used as a hunting gun. The gun has to produce 12 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. This means that a .177-caliber pellet gun has to shoot pellets weighing 7.9 grains at a shooting speed of 827 feet per second at the muzzle. For other guns, you can go ahead and work out their muzzle energy using this handy calculator.

Then there’s also the case of the range which comes into play. The further away from the muzzle, the less energy a pellet has when traveling towards the target. Low-power air guns have a much more limited range of effectiveness, and you can probably guess what happens with a high-power gun.

Buying a Pellet Gun for Hunting - What to Keep in Mind

When purchasing an air rifle with the intent of using it for hunting small game, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind in order to ensure it is the right gun for your needs. Let’s take a look at what you need to look for…

Caliber

Pellet guns generally come available in 4 different calibers. These include: .177, .20, .22, .25

The .177 and .22 caliber are the most popular calibers for pellet guns that are used for hunting applications. Birds, for instance, should be hunted using a .177, whereas a .22 works much better for hunting squirrels and rabbits. .177 For feathers and .22 for fur, that’s the general rule of thumb.

Scopes

pellet gun scopes

Depending on what sort of game you’re hunting, you may or may not need a scope for your pellet gun. Since you’ll be hunting small game, you’ll need better accuracy, which probably means that a scope would suit you well.

You’re going to have to invest in a scope that was actually made for a pellet gun. Keep in mind that zoom is an important feature on a scope, but so is an adjustable objective lens, which can help you bring the target and the crosshairs into focus at the same time.

Pellets

pellet gun pellets

The type of pellet that is used affects penetration and accuracy when it comes to hunting with a pellet gun.

Domed pellet are the most popular for pellet guns since they have better spin and are more accurate with the majority of pellet guns.

You can obviously opt for something like wad-cutter pellets, which have flat heads, but they’re generally less accurate and don’t offer the same penetrative force as domed pellets.

Accuracy

pellet gun accuracy

As mentioned before, the only way to ensure that hunting with a pellet gun is humane is by ensuring you’re accurate with your shots. Therefore, you pellet gun needs to be as accurate as possible.

Keep in mind that a gun’s loading mechanism may have an impact on its accuracy, just as the choice of pellets will have with penetration, which ultimately accounts for accuracy as well.


Final Thoughts

We hope that you have enjoyed reading this post and that it is now clear to you that hunting with a pellet gun is not only possible, but it can be done with great success when it is done in the right way. Remember that a pellet gun which gives one hunter great power and accuracy might not do the same for you. Ensure that you keep our tips in mind when purchasing your pellet gun and you’ll be well on your way towards embarking on an epic small game hunting adventure!

Dave

Hi! I'm Dave - an air rifle enthusiast and a bit of a geek to be honest. When I'm not out at the range or on a hunting trip, I enjoy writing about different air rifle products and accessories.