There are a couple of good reasons to own an air rifle or pellet gun (they are the same thing, for those who are unfamiliar).
The first of these reasons is practicality. If you are a landowner and you grow crops, raise livestock or even if you just have a garden of which you are proud, vermin can be a real problem.
Air rifles generally do not require any licenses to own and operate and can usually perform the job of getting rid of these pests easily and with minimal training.
Our Top Air Rifles
If you don’t own a farm or grow your own vegetables, there is still a great reason to own air rifles: recreation. That said, they should never be treated as toys, as serious injury can result from irresponsible or negligent use.
But while these tools must be treated with serious respect, there is no denying the fun one can have at a range with an air rifle, practicing marksmanship.
Given their inexpensive nature, coupled with their ease of use, they are a simple tool through which to practice one’s shooting ability.
This guide will demonstrate what criteria will be essential to choosing the best air rifle for 2016, taking into account things such as types of propulsion, ideal caliber and obviously budget.
Additionally, this guide will mention three unique air rifles that any aficionado should be aware of with brief reviews; the Gamo Silent Cat, the Gamo Whisper Fusion Pro and the classic Daisy Powerline 880.
Types of Propulsion Systems
There are numerous different systems among air rifles and pellet guns that determine how force is applied to the projectile.
In layman’s terms, different guns shoot different ways and specific types of propulsion systems offer different pros and cons.
We will provide information you can use to determine what kind of air rifle system best suits your purposes, by looking at four popular types of airgun.
Break Barrel Spring Piston
These are far and away the simplest to use. The barrel and stock can be separated, the pellet inserted and then the two pieces snap back together and with one pump to engage the spring and create the pressure, you’re ready to shoot.
They are accurate and very reliable, but if you want to shoot quickly or need ample power this may not be the format for you.
Multi-stroke or Multi-Pump Pneumatic
This popular breed of air gun is interesting because the shooter can determine how much power will go into his or her next shot. It all depends on the effort you wish to put in.
These air rifles require pumping to fire, and the more times you pump, the more pressure builds up and when you finally shoot, the power of the shot will be directly linked to the number of pumps administered.
For target practice these are great but if you are hunting, maybe don’t bother with a multi-stroke because the noise of the pumping will scare away most critters.
These air rifles are a decent choice if you want to shoot with rapid succession. Meaning, if you want to be able to shoot and then shoot again without having to pump or break the gun in half.
They use CO2 tanks which, when the trigger is pulled create pressure to fire the projectile forward.
Unfortunately, again, these are not the greatest for hunting, because they lack the power needed to take down some pests.
Additionally, because of the expansion and contraction of gasses that essentially power this format of air rifle, the CO2 type has potential for malfunctions at cold temperatures.
Finally we get to the fun one. These are the mean machines of pellet guns. They operate similarly to a multi-stroke pneumatic air gun but never need pumping. They are usually reliable for 30-50 shots on a single charge.
Some people keep a scuba tank with them when using this type of airgun so that they can recharge when necessary.
They are the best of a few worlds when it comes to air rifles, combining awesome power with accuracy and no recoil.
Unfortunately, they have many working parts and the potential to get dirty, which will make them about as useful for hunting as a baseball bat.
Additionally, while other types of air guns can sometimes be repaired by the owner, PCP’s generally cannot and must only be repaired by a specialist, which can be costly.
Much like propulsion systems, there are different calibres of pellet. Each of these react differently while in the air and obviously cost different.
Additionally, if hunting is your purpose each size of pellet will take down a different size of pest.
This guide will help you determine which calibre will keep your property vermin-free, but enable you to, as a good hunter should, kill the animal with minimal suffering.
This calibre is seldom going to take out much more than a bird or other small animal. It is the smallest and least powerful, but is also least likely to ever cause property damage.
If all you are trying to do is take out small animals, .177 is all you need, although a more human kill can be achieved with a higher calibre, which will travel slower but have more force upon impact.
If you are just doing target practice, a .177 is actually a great choice. They get launched at high speeds (above 1000 feet per second) and actually fly straighter than their heavier, larger counterparts.
Although not as popular as it once was, the .20 calibre is still the size of choice for some shooters, due to the fact that it is seen as a happy medium between the .22 and the .177.
It hits harder than a .177 but flies straighter than a .22, and with .22 rifles having started to improve and shoot straighter, the .20 is becoming less and less common.
This size of pellet is probably the most popular for small game. It hits fairly hard and usually with enough force for a quick kill, and flies fairly straight and far.
These are effective at taking out most types of small game quickly and with minimal suffering. The .22 calibre will not have the best accuracy, but it will not let an animal suffer.
Additionally, if you are just plinking some cans it will be accurate enough for your purposes. It is the versatile and reliable pellet to be shooting.
There really isn’t much of a reason to be shooting one of these. This calibre also usually requires a PCP rifle (Pre-Charged Pneumatic, see above) to produce a high velocity and accuracy. They hit with tons of power but can be hard to truly master.
If you want to rid your property of raccoons, or even possibly coyotes, and do not have access to a more powerful non-airgun firearm, the .25 will be your best bet.
Other than large pest control, the .25 is expensive to fire and less accurate than other pellet sizes.
Best Air Rifle for Hunting: Benjamin Marauder or AirForce Condor .25
The reason there are two air rifles listed as the best for vermin hunting is that there are different sizes of pellet for different sizes of vermin.
Plain and simple the Benjamin Marauder is one of the best air rifles today (in fact making two appearances in this article).
At .177 and .22 it hits reliably with significantly more power than others of similar size. Additionally, the accuracy of this air gun is phenomenal and it is not uncommon to hear stories of people making kill shots at 40-50 yards.
The AirForce Condor takes the top prize at .25 calibre because it simply hits with more power than the Marauder at that size and with comparably excellent accuracy.
While the Marauder will reliably put down most pests with a .25 pellet, the Condor is capable of killing larger vermin such as wild dogs and can produce almost 80 ft/lbs of energy.
While there may be better hunting air rifles available they are generally well over $1000. This is impractical for most people who need a reliable vermin rifle or target practice shooter, so the awards go to AirForce and Benjamin for hunting practicality. Next up is another Benjamin air rifle which boasts an obscene amount of power.
Most Powerful Air Gun: Benjamin Rogue
While the AirForce Condor and Benjamin Marauder are two of the most powerful air rifles available today for practical use, they are by no means the most powerful overall.
I will argue that a very powerful and practical rifle is the Benjamin Rogue, which is a PCP that fires .357 pellets.
At this size, these pellets are dangerous for human beings, but the result of their use is a massive amount of force upon impact totalling just under 300 ft/lbs. This air rifle is also very quiet, considering it is essentially the air rifle equivalent of a cannon.
Finally, it has a built in computer which can determine low or high power as well as an estimation of power and speed depending on the type of pellets used.
Is this a practical air gun to buy?
At well over $1000, probably not, but it will ensure a humane kill almost no matter what you are hunting. While it may be fun to play around with, the Rogue is just too expensive, but it is an absolute powerhouse.
Unfortunately, while the Marauder brings great accuracy to the table, tests indicate that the Rogue’s accuracy is just good. Not great, but still good.
If you’re looking for accuracy, our next air gun, from Gamo, may be the best place to look.
Most Accurate Air Rifle: Gamo Whisper Fusion Pro
In terms of overall accuracy, it is difficult to pick a single gun because different guns shoot differently with different types of pellets and every enthusiast wants to argue that his or her favorite pellet gun with a certain type of pellet is the most accurate out there.
One company that regularly produces quality air rifles that are extremely accurate is Gamo. Two of their airguns will be discussed later around the end of this article, and both demonstrate outstanding accuracy.
In terms of talking about accuracy, it is important to note that more often than not, a .177 pellet flies straighter and farther than its heavier counterparts.
The most accurate air rifles are usually firing this size of pellet, and while it may not be able to take down any significant vermin at range, if you’re trying to hit soda cans at 50-60 yards, .177 is your best bet.
With their Whisper Fusion Pro, Gamo bragged that hitting targets with good velocity at 50-60 yards was not impossible and the users agree.
Quite a few air gun reviewers have said that the Gamo Whisper Fusion Pro is the most accurate air gun ever tested.
Best Air Rifle for the Money: Benjamin Marauder
There are numerous reasons that the Benjamin Marauder is one of the best pellet guns for the money right now. It brings several fundamental things to the table all in one package.
- It is extremely powerful, scoring top prize in terms of foot-pounds per shot in the .177, .22, and .25 categories.
- As for accuracy, it has been tested out to over 50 yards and is spot on in all three calibres as well.
- Finally, it is a PCP air rifle, which is part of the reason it is so expensive.
The three calibers of the gun all shoot reliably, and users report that the accuracy and power are not myths.
With regards to this air gun: yes it costs quite a bit when compared to some single pump or break barrel rifles, but what you are paying for it a top of the line, brilliantly made air rifle which, at any one of its three calibers, is capable of target shooting or hunting game, with the .25 being roughly powerful enough to take out a fox or coyote if needed.
Air Gun Review: Daisy Powerline 880
The first of the featured air rifles in this article is the Daisy Powerline Model 880. This pellet gun is a staple in the business for a number of reasons. It is a multi-pump pneumatic that fires either BB’s or .177 pellets.
It is not practical for much in the way of hunting, as it lacks power and does not fire a very large pellet, but for target practice it is a good bet in terms of accuracy. The Model 880 is widely used as a training air rifle, due to its simple design, decent accuracy and its affordability.
Will it win any awards for accuracy, power or pest control potential?
Absolutely not, but for anyone looking to familiarize themselves to air rifles, look no further. Some users and reviewers argue that it has a faulty bolt, and that overall quality control for the gun isn’t very thorough.
For its purpose, it is phenomenal, but don’t ever expect to do great things with it. It is a limited power, limited accuracy rifle that is good to train with, for a fantastic price.
Air Gun Review: Gamo Silent Cat
This pellet gun is a very solid break barrel spring piston that gets its projectiles up to between 1100 and 1200 feet per second, which is very respectable. It won’t take out a coyote, but launches its .177 with solid velocity.
On top of the velocity, it’s quite accurate and users report nearly flawless groupings at 20 yards, which is no small feat for a .177.
The recoil pad on the stock is a great addition and as its name suggests, it is a nice and quiet unit. With that said, it’s not silent by any means, but the suppressor does its job to some extent.
Unfortunately, it is not without its drawbacks, as the scope and trigger are both criticized, along with the suppressor, which is not “silent” by any means but does cut down sound.
The suppressor does make a difference but not enough of a difference to render it perfect in terms of minimized sound.
Air Gun Review: Gamo Whisper Fusion
This air rifle is essentially a significantly better and noticeably pricier option from Gamo than the Silent Cat.
This excellent piece also fires the .177, but gets it up to 1250 to 1400 feet per second, significantly higher than the Silent Cat.
It also costs about twice as much. On top of the greater power, the gun also boasts higher accuracy and it is actually significantly quieter than the Silent Cat.
Is it worth the price tag?
Well, it’s up to each individual shooter and if you strive for perfection, this is one of the best air guns on the market in terms of accuracy.
Multiply that by its near silent shots and you have a gun that is definitely worth the money to those requiring a superior product.
This is largely considered to be one of the best rifles (if not the best) that Gamo has ever produced.
It is unquestionably better than the Silent Cat, but given that it costs double the money, many buyers may be left wondering if it was worth it.
So Overall: What is The Best Air Rifle to Buy?
This is a very difficult question to answer and the answer will be different from person to person. Each air rifle owner will have unique reasons for use, and as such there are a few different “best air guns for 2016” out there.
If all you are looking to do is get acquainted with air rifles and train yourself as a shooter, the Daisy Powerline 880 might be the way to go. It’s cheap, reliable and can be customized to a certain extent.
With regard to hunting, the Benjamin Marauder at .177 and .22 and the AirForce Condor at .25 are great bets and both are PCP air rifles, which makes them both solid picks that are practical for hunting or target shooting.
The Marauder also scores top points in terms of versatility and value. It is by far one of the best air guns ever made and boasts great accuracy, amazing power and a truly wonderful shooting experience for beginners, intermediates and seasoned shooters alike.
In terms of evaluating accuracy, Gamo makes great rifles and also specializes in making quiet rifles ideal for small game hunting, such as the Silent Cat and the Whisper Fusion Pro.
Neither of these are actually completely silent, but they are notably quiet and both demonstrate great accuracy on very affordable air guns.
Finally, if brute force and unstoppable power is what you seek, look no further than the Benjamin Rogue, which can put almost 300 ft/lbs of force into your target.
Is its power really necessary for small game hunting and pest control? Probably not, but some people like power like that.
While there may be some rifles used by professional shooters that may have the advantage over the ones listed in this article, those all cost upwards of $2000, which is an impractical purchase for many part time shooters and hunters.
These rifles have all been under $1000, except for the Rogue which simply stands as an example of massive force.
The goal of reviewing rifles between the Daisy Powerline 880 and the AirForce Condor is to demonstrate what air rifles can serve a purpose and leave some money in the shooter’s wallet for ammunition.