If you’ve been shooting since you were a kid, there’s a good chance you’ve handled a BB gun or pellet gun. These rifles operate using pressurized air instead of a chemical reaction like gun powder and a spark.
Many hunters overlook air rifles for small game and big game; they can be surprisingly lethal and effective under the right circumstances. And best of all, most are super quiet, protecting your element of surprise.
The answer is yes! You can definitely hunt with an air rifle, and if you haven’t tried yet, this is a sign that you should.
Types of Air Rifles
Here is a quick review of the five main types of air rifles to help you choose the right one for you.
Pressurized rifles use precharged pneumatics to contain the air until you want to shoot. This pneumatic system is similar to how an office chair works, with a compressed air cylinder helping raise the chair up or down. These guns are great because they are easy to use, lightweight, accurate, and have little recoil. However, they are expensive compared to other air rifles.
- Spring Powered
A spring-powered air rifle, sometimes called a break barrel, has a piston and a coiled spring inside the chamber. When you cock the gun, the spring tightens, and when you pull the trigger, it releases the piston, using air to push the pellet out of the gun’s muzzle. People gravitate towards spring-powered rifles because they are easy to use, affordable, and powerful for their weight and price. But be careful, as this rifle has a massive kickback.
- Gas Piston
Gas piston rifles are also break barrel rifles because it uses the same piston method to shoot the pellet. Gas piston guns are slightly more expensive than a spring-piston rifle but have many upsides. Gas pistons are quieter, easier to cock and shoot, and will last much longer. Spring pistons break down after a lot of use, but a gas piston gun should last you years.
- Variable Pump
Variable pump rifles give you much more control over the power and range of your shot but require considerable effort to use. You can pump the gun a lot for a more powerful shot or just a little to shoot something close range. The pumping is tedious, but some hunters appreciate the rifle’s adaptability.
CO2 guns are lightweight, easy to use, fast for reshooting, and all-around a great air rifle for hunting. The main downsides are the price, specifically the price of CO2 refill cartridges, and that the CO2 pressure changes with weather and temperature. Many hunters use this as their rifle of choice because it is quiet, powerful, and dead-on accurate.
Best Air Rifle for Hunting
The Airforce Texan Big Bore air rifle is considered the best air rifle on the market right now for hunting, especially deer. The rifle is one of the most powerful air guns and is lightweight, making it super popular among deer hunters. The gun has consistent power from shot to shot, while some air rifles weaken when you shoot in a row too many times.
The Airforce Texan Big Bore air rifle shoots at 1,000 feet per second and has a higher muzzle velocity compared to similar caliber air guns. But some hunters, especially bird hunters, don’t like how loud the air rifle is, scaring off surrounding prey whenever you take a shot.
The ammo that will fit into this rifle is also limited, so if you like to experiment with various ammunition, maybe this isn’t the air rifle for you.
For small birds to medium rabbits, the most commonly used rifles range between a .177 and .22 caliber. If you only hunt small birds, you can stay on the lower side of the spectrum.
Once you start hunting prey as big as a raccoon or coyotes, you will need at least a .25 caliber rifle or a maximum .30 caliber rifle.
And for those that like to hunt big game like deer or large hogs, you’ll want a rifle with a caliber above .35 and up to .45.
To enhance your air rifle hunting experience check out these cool air gun add-ons from arrows to attachable scopes to handy cleaning tools. Carrying a gun for hours can be tiring, and cleaning your air rifles can be a headache. With these fun add-ons, you can take your hunting game to a whole new level.
- Shoulder Sling
- Mountable Scope
- Lubrication Gel
- Double Rifle Soft Carrying Bag
- CO2 Adapter
- Cleaning Snakes
- Spinner Air Gun Target
- Carbon Fiber Arrows
Laws Concerning Air Gun Hunting
If you want to start hunting with an air rifle, you may wonder: are there state laws that govern air gun hunting? To get an idea of air gun hunting laws, read below.
Well, air gun hunting laws change with the seasons and from state to state. Many states will require that you have a license to hunt certain animals with the air rifle, and in most states, there are species off-limits to air rifle hunters. Every state allows air rifle hunting for the small game except for Mississippi, but they do allow big game hunting with air rifles along with about 20 other US states.
All states allow the use of air rifles to terminate nuisance animals like squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and rats, except for Mississippi, Wyoming, and New Jersey. To review the specific air rifle guidelines in your state, look at this map.
The first state to legalize air rifle hunting for big game was Missouri in 2008, and several other states have joined them since then. But every state also has its own standards of minimum caliber rifles and power levels that can be used for various-sized game.
Some states are beginning to section off pieces of land to designate to air gun hunters, so they can hunt in a space without loud firearms intruding on their hunt. Air rifles are also the best workaround to hunting in an area where firearms are illegal.