It’s cold out, fall is giving way to winter, but you are up and at it. Armed with your best pellet pistol you’ve woken up early this morning prepared to come home with a rabbit or bust.
As the cold sets in you can’t wait to get back, grab a cup of coffee and start the crock pot full of rabbit stew. You move slowly, and you move carefully.
Your breath turns to steam it so cold, but it’s worth it. You know it when you see that little rabbit bouncing at the edge of a field.
He’s in range, your airgun is ready, and so are you. You settle slowly into a sitting position, align your sights, and carefully squeeze the trigger.
The slight pop goes off, the gun’s little recoil distorts your vision and you see the rabbit run…
- What went wrong?
- Did you miss?
- Was the gun too weak to take the rabbit?
Maybe it’s because you chose the wrong pellet pistol. Not just for hunting, but in general. Choosing the wrong pistol is going to lead down the wrong path.
You won’t ever be satisfied with an air pistol that doesn’t have what you need it to. It’s critical to not only purchase a quality airgun but an airgun aimed at your goals. There is no one air pistol that will do it all.
Purchasing a substandard, underperforming air pistol is quite frustrating. If you want to avoid that feeling you need to keep reading.
We want to help you choose not only the highest quality air pistol but the best choice for the role at hand.
The 6 Best Pellet Pistols of 2021: Outdoor Empire Reviews
These are our top recommendations for air pistols in 2021:
- Best .22 PCP: Benjamin Marauder
- Best CO2: Get the Gamo P-25
- Best for self defense: Tippmann TiPX Mag Fed Paintball Pistol
- Best for the money: Crosman 2240
- Next best for the money: American Classic Pistol
- Best affordable: Umarex XBG
Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:
1. Best .22 PCP Pistol: Benjamin Marauder Woods Walker
When it comes to quality and durability it’s hard to beat the Benjamin Marauder. The Woods Walker is one of the most powerful air pistols chambered in the .22-caliber pellet.
It’s designed to be both a hunting and a marksman’s tool. This PCP airgun throws .22-caliber pellets at a blistering 700 feet per second.
This PCP airgun allows the user to pre-charge the system to maximize power and FPS per shot. It also remains consistent shot after shot.
The Marauder includes a built-in pressure gauge to observe just how powered up this airgun is. The Marauder is equipped with a two-stage match trigger that gives the user a consistent and smooth trigger pull.
The two-stage shot allows you to stage the trigger, and hold it right before it breaks. The Marauder is equipped with a noise dampening shroud that allows you to shoot quietly.
Finally, the Marauder is a modular platform. You can equip a variety of upgrades including optics. You can also easily add a shoulder stock to the Marauder to aid in stabilizing the design.
- Action – Single Shot Bolt action
- Feet Per Second – 700
- Caliber – .22
- Capacity – 1
2. Best CO2 Pistol
CO2 airguns are where things interesting if you are looking for a training or just general fun airgun a semi-automatic CO2 powered airgun is arguably the best option.
There are tons and tons of high-quality CO2 semi-automatic airguns, but one that really stands out to me is the Gamo P25. The Gamo P-25 is a simple, affordable, but dynamic airgun. It’s a pellet gun that fires .177 rounds from a magazine.
What really sets this CO2 airgun apart is its blowback design. A blowback design allows the slide to reciprocate as the airgun is fired.
While many airguns have a reciprocating-blowback design, very few do it at the Gamo P25’s price range. The P-25 is under a hundred bucks, and it is reliable as hell.
The Gamo P-25 features a metal slide and polymer frame, which makes it feel very realistic.
The Gamo P-25 operates off a common 12-gram co2 cartridge and even comes with two magazines. It is a very interesting, and affordable design if you’re looking for a high-quality co2 powered airgun.
- Action – Semi automatic C02 powered
- Feet Per Second – 450
- Caliber – .177″
- Capacity – 16 rounds
3. Best Air Pistol for Self Defense
Air pistols do not produce the amount of energy necessary for self-defense projectiles. A particularly powerful air pistol might hit a dozen joules of energy. Weak 9-millimeter loads still hit almost 500 joules.
That’s not to say there’s no way an air pistol can be used for self-defense, though. Certain air pistols fire .68-caliber pepper balls, which are basically paintballs filled with pepper spray.
The Tippman TiPX is the best paintball pistol for this purpose.
It’s a magazine-fed air pistol that uses a 12-gram CO2 canister under the barrel to fire up to 25 pepper balls up to 150 feet.
However, you’ll want to adjust the speed to maximum to ensure the pepper balls break on the target, in which case you’ll still get 14 shots. Each magazine can hold seven pepper balls, and the air pistol comes with two magazines.
The CO2 canister isn’t pierced until you pull the trigger, so you can keep the TiPX loaded for extended periods of time without worry.
If you don’t like the idea of using pepper balls, then reusable, less-than-lethal rubber balls are available as well.
- The CO2 canister remains sealed until you pull the trigger
- Fires less-than-lethal pepper or rubber balls
- Magazine fed
- Semi-automatic action
- Maximum of 14 shots with a new CO2 canister at maximum velocity
The Tippman TiPX is a reliable air pistol that can carry a variety of less-than-lethal self-defense ammo without being a lethal firearm.
4. Best Air Pistol for the Money
If you are looking for a few quality choices for a good price I have two great little Crosman airguns.
I’d usually choose a single product for this category, but these two are close enough in price and function I couldn’t decide so you get both today.
The first is the Crosman 2240 Bolt action handgun. The Crosman 2240 is a CO2 powered bolt action air pistol that’s designed for both accurate shooting and hunting. The 2240 fires a .22-caliber projectile at 460 feet per second.
This makes it a perfect choice for taking squirrel and even some rabbit at the right range.
The 2240 is powered by a twelve-gram co2 cartridge and maximizes air pressure by utilizing a bolt action design.
It is also quite customizable and you can add a variety of different attachments. This includes suppressors, air rifle scopes, different sights, and more. Crossman provides an exceptional number of optional accessories.
That’s not to say the design is flawed. For the price, it’s outstanding. It’s accurate, powerful, and equipped with a very high end set of iron sights that are easily adjustable.
The 2240 by Crosman is a good choice for the beginner and expert air gunner.
- Action – Single Shot Bolt Action CO2
- Feet Per Second – 460
- Caliber – .22″
- Capacity – 1
5. Next Best Air Pistol for the Money
The Crosman’s 2240s brother, the American Classic is another great choice for all levels. Instead of being powered by a co2, it’s powered by a manual hand pump.
The American Classic is a little better suited for hunting. It’s a .177 caliber pellet gun that can throw a projectile at a rapid 600 feet per second. This makes it ideal for small gun and pest hunting.
Although the .177 caliber means that it is only appropriate for very small game, such as rats.
The American Classic as a pump gun makes it a better suited for those on a tight budget. You don’t have to buy 12-gram co2s. Just toss airgun pellets in it, pump it up and go.
It also features a robust set of iron sights that are easily adjustable and makes it a nice and precise choice for target shooting.
- Action – Single shot pump action
- Feet Per Second – 600
- Caliber – .177″
- Capacity – 1
You’d be well served by both the 2240 and American Classic; at their price, they are hard to beat.
6. Best Affordable Air Pistol
If you are looking to save a little money, then I suggest going with the Umarex XBG. The XBG is a small CO2 powered semi-automatic pistol made by a very reputable airgun company.
This little gun replicates your modern compact pistols down to the 19-round capacity and integrated Picatinny rail.
Saving money doesn’t just meaning saving money on the gun, but its ammo and power source too. This double action gun utilizes 12-gram CO2s and gets over a hundred shots per cartridge.
On top of that, it utilizes plastic BBs which are quite cheap and widely available.
The Umarex XBG isn’t fancy, and that’s not a bad thing. It is durable, easy to shoot, and an excellent little gun to have some fun with. The modern and sleek design sports a realistic and comfortable grip, and a solid set of iron sights.
The pistol is great for kids, new shooters, and general plinking.
- Action – Semi automatic CO2
- Feet Per Second – 410
- Caliber – .177
- Capacity – 19
Important Choosing Factors
The most important factor to consider when buying an air pistol is what exactly is it being used for.
It’s a very simple concept, but an important one to understand. If you have Concept A and buy a gun designed for Concept B you are going to have a bad time. Air pistols can be used for a wide variety of tasks, including:
Hunting with an airgun requires a very specific type of airgun.
Air pistols for hunting animals like:
- squirrel and rabbit should be chambered in either .22 or .25 caliber
- .177 can be used to kill rats, small snakes, and other small pests
With too weak of a gun you’ll merely injure the animal. The weapon needs to be capable of taking an animal humanely, and it’s important these guns are accurate and equipped with solid sights.
It is also important to ensure airgun hunting is legal in your area.
2. Target Practice
When it comes to target practice you can ease your selection process. With target practice, you can go with pretty much any air gun pistol you want. Plinking isn’t a crazy important task.
You simply want a reliable gun that’s fun and easy to shoot.
3. Self Defense
Air pistols designed for self-defense should actually be capable of shutting an attacker down. You’ll likely want an air pistol capable of firing chemical irritant. This is the category users should be most cognizant of.
You need an extremely reliable, and capable weapon for self-defense. Your life is literally on the line.
Self defense training
Many people use an air gun to simulate defensive firearms training when they can’t make it to a gun range. For self-defense training, you need a weapon close to your own in function.
You likely want semi-auto action, and an affordable source of ammo and CO2 since you will be shooting a lot.
Air Pistol Action
Action selection will be pretty critical to what your firearm is aimed at. The action of an airgun pistol can be broken down into:
- bolt action
- single shot
- revolving cylinder
The most powerful pellet pistols will traditionally be single shot or bolt action models. These actions allow for a greater seal that generates more air power.
Some high-end self-defense air pistols will utilize CO2, but will be relatively limited in shots fired.
Air pistols designed for general target practice and self-defense training will often be semi-automatic or feature a revolving cylinder. These guns fire a single shot per trigger pull.
This replicates the action of actual handguns and gives you an action closer to your actual firearm. It also makes target practice a bit faster and bit more fun.
Velocity is going to be a major consideration for hunting and self-defense pistols. Without proper velocity, you won’t have enough penetration to quickly and humanely taking game.
When it comes to self-defense you want the round to cause serious pain or disperse chemical irritants. Velocity for hunting with a 22 caliber projectile should be around the 450 feet per second range.
When it comes to self-defense velocity will depend on the round itself. Rubber rounds should be hitting are around 300 feet per second in general.
It’s best to consult the ammunition manufacturer for a certain rounds effective velocity.
Calibers for airguns are varied but typically fall under 1 of 3 rounds with a 4th bearing mention. The most common calibers are:
The 4th is uncommon but shows up time to time, and it’s the .25 caliber.
For general plinking and target practice, BBs are perfect. They are quite cheap and can be reused if collected in a trap. They are a bit too weak to hunt but perfect for plinking and self-defense training.
.177 is the smallest pellet gun caliber, and can be used for very small pest removal, but is ultimately better suited for target practice and self-defense shooting as well.
Both .22 and 25 are serious calibers designed for hunting game under 6 pounds. It’s great for squirrels, pests, and even small rabbits if you know how to shoot.
However, the .22-caliber variety is much more common, and the pellets are much cheaper overall.
Self-defense rounds tend to vary by gun. Most use a proprietary ammo designed for that particular air gun. The ammo itself is often hard rubber or some form of chemical irritant.
Airgun pistols are traditionally powered by one of three sources. With the name air in the title, it isn’t hard to imagine by what.
A wide variety of airguns will be charged via a CO2 cartridge. These guns take less effort to use, and the CO2 cartridges are common and affordable.
They allow an airgun to function as a semi-automatic, and make follow up shots faster. Even single shot powered CO2 guns are much faster to reload and fire than the alternatives.
One highly common means of operation for air guns pistol on the cheaper end are break action models. When the action is ‘broke’ open the pump sucks in a considerable amount of air and powers the gun.
These guns are traditionally low in velocity and are only single shot air guns. They are great for target practice and not much else.
The third and final means of air powered air guns in PCP, or pre-charged pneumatics. These guns utilize a built-in pump to fill the gun’s tank.
This allows you to fill the tank and fire at a substantially higher FPS per shot than a break action. These are excellent hunting options and are often more affordable than CO2 powered hunting guns.
Airgun pistols are excellent little tools for a very wide variety of tasks. They can fill roles no other tool can, especially when it comes to building an at home shooting range.
Airgun pistols allow you to hunt, plink, train, and even potentially save your life. The key is knowing what does what and choosing accordingly.