13 Best Air Rifles In 2021 Reviewed & Revealed (Hands-on Pellet Gun Guide)

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Air rifle with optic

A lot has changed in the world of air rifles since the days of the Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.

Today, air rifles are high-powered precision tools that can be used for hunting or target shooting with extreme accuracy.

You can still buy a Red Ryder for about twenty-five dollars, but you could also pay approaching a thousand bucks for a gun that falls in the airgun category.

When you start talking about spending several hundred dollars or more on an air rifle, clearly you need to be making a careful selection:

The right air rifle will be:

  • Accurate, durable, plus pleasant and affordable to shoot.
  • A quality air rifle is something that people of all ages can enjoy shooting, whether it is for fun, competitively or for hunting purposes.

Picking the wrong air rifle can lead you down a number of unfortunate paths:

  • Some are less accurate than others, which is a bummer of a discovery after you have already thrown down the money to buy it.
  • Others have quality issues or require more maintenance. Whether you have to spend more money on repairs, maintenance or circling back and purchasing a different model to replace it, picking the wrong gun can be costly.

Using this guide should help you find a quality product that will provide you a great shooting experience.

This article includes:

  • reviews of some of the top pellet guns on the market.
  • advice on all the features & specifications you need to pay attention to when choosing your gun
  • overview of the most popular air rifle brands

13 Best Pellet Guns of 2021: Outdoor Empire Reviews

These are our top recommendations for air rifles in 2021:

  1. Best .22 caliber: Get the RWS Model 34
  2. Best hunting: Get Benjamin Trail NP XL Magnum .22
  3. Best PCP: Get the Benjamin Bulldog Bullpup
  4. Best for the money: GAMO Big Cat 1250 .177
  5. Best high-power: Get the Seneca Dragon Claw
  6. Best big-bore: Get the Umarex Hammer
  7. Quietest airgun: Benjamin Rogue SBD
  8. Best .177 caliber: Get the Air Arms TX200
  9. Best break barrel: Get the Beeman R7
  10. Best CO2 powered: Get the Crosman DPMS SBR
  11. Best shotgun: Get the Seneca Wing Shot MK2
  12. #1 Pick From 2019 SHOT showGet the TC 35 and 45 Big Bore PCP Rifles
  13. #2 Pick From 2019 SHOT show: Get the Benjamin Fortitude

*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:

Best .22 caliber
Best For
The Money
Best Break Barrel
RWS Model 34
RWS Model 34

Benjamin Trail NP XL Magnum
Benjamin Trail NP XL Magnum

Benjamin Bulldog Bullpup
Benjamin Bulldog Bullpup

GAMO Big Cat 1250
GAMO Big Cat 1250

Beeman R7
Beeman R7

Velocity800 FPS1100 FPS800 FPS1250 FPS700 FPS
ActionBreak barrelBreak barrelSideleverBreak barrelBreak barrel
PowerplantSpring pistonGas pistonPrecharged pneumaticSpring pistonSpring piston
Weight7.5 lbs9.7 lbs7.7 lbs6.1 lbs6.1 lbs
Length45 in48.25 in36 in43.4 in37 in
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

1. Best .22 Caliber Airgun: RWS Model 34

RWS Model 34The RWS Model 34 is very popular and one of the most accurate air rifles on the market. It’s proven to be extremely reliable and accurate. At its price point, it is indeed the best .22 out there. Several airguns come close but their cost is almost double of the RWS.

It fires a .22 caliber projectile at eight hundred feet per second. That’s screaming for such a basic airgun. It has a break barrel action that makes it a good small game rifle. It can easily harvest squirrels, rabbits, or other pests.

The RWS Model 34 comes with a fine wooden stock. This gives it a classic look. It’s a throwback to the classic rifles. There is also an RWS 34P that utilizes a polymer stock if that’s what you prefer.

Outstanding Features

The Model 34 features a real rubber butt pad that is ventilated for comfort. It has an auto safety and a well-made two-stage trigger. The trigger is adjustable for user’s choice; it is 3.3 pounds, feels extremely crisp, and very predictable.

It also comes with an amazing set of iron sights. It is equipped with a set of fiber optic Tru Glo sights that are bright enough to be used in low light conditions.

The RWS lacks a few frills here and there. But as a basic air rifle, it is well-made and quite affordable.

Continue to the full RWS Model 34 review.


Caliber: .22
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 800 FPS
Action: Break barrel
Powerplant: Spring piston

Compare prices at: Amazon

2. Best Airgun for Hunting: Benjamin Trail NP XL Magnum .22


Benjamin Trail NP XL Magnum .22


The Benjamin Trail NP XL is one powerful air rifle.

When it comes to airgun hunting, the bigger you go the better. Why? You have to kill an animal and do it humanely. Humane hunting requires the user to make an accurate shot with a powerful weapon. The Benjamin Trail does just that.

It fires a .22 caliber pellet at over a thousand feet per second. It is a gas piston gun that uses nitrogen over a spring.

The stock is made of legitimate hardwood and you have a straight pistol grip with a thumbhole stock for comfort. The stock is ambidextrous so left-handed people are covered.

Outstanding Features

It features an extremely quiet shot profile. It’s cut about 70% from spring shot air rifles. This reduced noise is important for hunting because it is less likely to scare the game. You may miss and be required to take a second shot. The last thing you want is your small game to sprint away.

The Benjamin Trail also reduces the stress put on a system by a spring. Thus, the recoil is reduced significantly. While recoil on an airgun is very little in general, every little bit helps with flinching. Even minimal recoil can cause people to develop a flinch.

You will also wear a scope out less. The Benjamin Trail comes complete with a 3 to 9 power optic and scope mounts.

Continue to the full Benjamin Trail NP XL Magnum review.


Caliber: .22
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 1100 FPS
Action: Break barrel
Powerplant: Gas piston
Others: Optic and rings included

Compare prices at: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Amazon

3. Best PCP Airgun: Benjamin Bulldog Bullpup

Benjamin Bulldog BullpupThe Benjamin Bulldog Bullpup is one of the unique and efficient PCP air rifles in the world. The first thing you might notice is its odd layout. It follows a design known as bullpup.

A bullpup design is where the trigger and pistol grip are placed in front of the action and chamber. The result is a rifle that is superbly short but maintains a full-length barrel.

The Benjamin is 30% shorter than other air rifles that feature a 28-inch barrel. The overall goal means the airgun is more maneuverable in and out of vehicles, on four wheelers and UTVs.

Outstanding Features

The Benjamin Bulldog Bullpup is a big bore air rifle designed to hunt the big and bad out there. Most airguns are used to hunt small game, but this is designed to hunt medium game. Instead of rabbits, you are capable of killing hogs, coyotes, and all types of varmints.

The Bulldog fires a .357 caliber projectile and has varying FPS rating, depending on the weight of the ammunition used. A heavy .147 grain projectile can reach 800 feet per second.

As a precharged pneumatic airgun, it uses a reserve air tank to propel the projectile. This tank guarantees 800 FPS performance for 10 shots. After that, the shots begin to slow down. You also have a quick disconnect to refill it quickly. The Bulldog can use both nitrogen and compressed air.

Continue to the full Benjamin Bulldog Bullpup review.


Caliber: .357
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 800 FPS
Action: Sidelever
Powerplant: Precharged pneumatic

Compare prices at: Sportsman’s GuideAmazon

4. Best Airgun for the Money: GAMO Big Cat 1250 .177


GAMO Big Cat 1250 .177


The Gamo Big Cat is a budget air rifle that is surprisingly powerful and well-made. It fires a .177 projectile at a rip roaring 1250 feet per second. This makes it fast and powerful enough to take small game like rabbits and squirrels.

The Big Cat can be used in a variety of roles, and it excels for target shooting and spinning plates on top of hunting and pest disposal.

Gamo also makes nice airguns that are backed by good warranties and impressive customer service.

Outstanding Features

The rifle is somewhat plain and very simple, so it’s capable of fitting a budget but you still get some excellent features.

For example, there are ambidextrous controls that make the weapon friendly for left and right handers. It also has a shock wave absorber to reduce recoil and scope stress.

Speaking of scopes, the Big Cat comes with a fixed four power scope and mounts.

So out of the box, you are ready to rock and roll. There is a raised cheek weld on the Monte Carlo stock to make using a scope easier. The cocking effort is only 30 pounds so it’s far from significant, and easy for almost any user.

The Gamo Big Cat is an impressive rifle, especially if you consider its affordable price.

Continue to the full Gamo Big Cat 1250 review.


Caliber: .177
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 1250 FPS
Action: Break barrel
Powerplant: Spring piston
Others: Adjustable trigger, scope and mounts included

5. Most Powerful Air Rifle: Seneca Dragon Claw

Seneca Dragon ClawThere comes a time in the airgun world where you want to pull a Tim Allen and just want more power. The Seneca Dragon Claw is for those situations. The Dragon Claw is a 50 caliber airgun that utilizes a pre-charged pneumatic design. This beast of an airgun fires a 50 caliber pellet up to 679 feet per second. It hits with 230 ft-lbs of muzzle energy.

This is the airgun you need if you want to hunt medium game, up to small hogs like javelinas. You can get rid of pests like coyotes, foxes, and possums equally efficiently.

Outstanding Features

The gun is equipped with dual tanks to give 500cc air capacity without a massive tank hanging around. The dual chambers are under the barrel and balances the gun out nicely. The gun has adjustable sights and a dovetail rail for mounting optics. Finally, it comes equipped with fine wooden stock and fore end.


Caliber: .50
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 679 FPS
Action: Bolt-action
Powerplant: Precharged pneumatic
Others: Adjustable sight and dovetail rail for optics

Compare prices at: Sportsman’s Guide, Amazon

6. Best Big Bore Air Rifle: Umarex Hammer

Umarex HammerThe Umarex Hammer has the aptest name for an airgun I’ve ever heard. The Umarex Hammer is a 50 caliber airgun that looks like it stepped out of an action movie.

The Hammer is a PCP gun that uses a 4,500 psi cylinder. It delivers a constant 3,000 psi of pressure behind each shot for devastating power and consistent accuracy.

The airgun uses a bullpup platform to keep the size down to a manageable level. The gun is a relatively short 43 inches, which for a 50 caliber is about as good as it gets. The gun weighs a stout 8.5 pounds and comes ready for a scope.

Outstanding Features

The Hammer comes outfitted with an AR Magpul grip that’s exceptionally comfortable and ergonomic, but it can also be switched out with any other AR grip out there. The gun can send a 250-grain slug screaming at 850 feet per second, and lighter slugs can reach 1,000 FPS. This is no toy and should be treated with as much respect as a real firearm.


Caliber: .50
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 850-1000 FPS
Action: Bolt-action
Powerplant: Precharged pneumatic

Compare prices at: Sportsman’s GuideAmazon

7. Quietest Air Rifle: Crosman Benjamin Rogue SBD


Crosman Benjamin Rogue SBD


The Benjamin Rogue SBD is an improvement on the original Benjamin Rogue SBD. The SBD standing for silencing barrel device. This greatly reduces the noise heard from the airgun firing and makes is 3x quieter than other break barrels. This is a .177 caliber design that throws a pellet at 1,400 feet per second.

This is a quiet killer perfect for taking small game and dispatching pests with ease. The Rogue SBD is a brutal little rifle that makes short, and quiet work of small game. It’s a fast shooting, hard hitting little rifle that’s priced to move.

Outstanding features

The Silencing barrel device is the biggest feature worth mentioning. It’s slightly odd looking, but functions well, and doesn’t block the adjustable sights. Let’s not forget about the adjustable two-stage trigger that breaks very cleanly. The Nitro Piston 2 also offers smoother and smoother shooting gun.


Caliber: .177
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 1400 FPS
Action: Break barrel
Powerplant: Gas piston
Others: Silencing barrel, Nitro Piston 2 powerplant

Compare prices at: Sportsman’s Guide, Walmart

8. Best .177 Airgun: Air Arms TX200 Hunter Carbine


Air Arms TX200 Hunter CarbineRefined, elegant, and accurate is a great way to describe the Air Arms TX200 Hunter Carbine. This compact and lightweight .177 rifle that is designed for target shooting and for all around excellent accuracy. The TX200 sends a pellet downrange at roughly 930 feet per second. This is an underlever style gun that does require 34 pounds of cocking effort.

The Air Arms TX200 Hunter carbine is also a decent choice for small game, nothing bigger than a rabbit. It’s decently lightweight, and short overall for easy handling. The beautiful wood stock gives it that classic hunting look.

Outstanding Features

The standout feature is definitely the two-stage adjustable trigger. This excellent trigger is paired with a barrel from Lothar Walther for precision accuracy. The stock features an extended and comfortable comb for a solid cheek rest. Everything about this gun focuses on accuracy and precision.


Caliber: .177
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 930 FPS
Action: Underlever
Powerplant: Spring piston

9. Best Break Barrel Airgun: Beeman R7


Beeman R7


The Beeman R7 is a small, compact and very lightweight break barrel pellet gun. However, it’s still not a slouch in the power and accuracy department. It fires a .177 pellet right around 700 feet per second.

It is based off the popular R1. The goal was to create a lighter, shorter, and easier to shoot weapon for smaller shooters. To complement this, the double jointed cocking lever reduces the effort needed to cock the weapon. It’s close to 50% easier to cock than the R1.

The break barrel design uses a spring piston to propel the .177 caliber projectile quite accurately. This is an excellent plinker and target shooter. It is also a perfect training airgun.

Outstanding Features

One of the real joys of the weapon lies in the trigger. It is a two stage trigger that uses the Rekord trigger. You get an excellent and crisp break that is easy to predict. The trigger is adjustable for the most discerning shooters, which breaks at 1.25 lbs.

The Beeman’s reduced effort cocking device makes it unique and an overall excellent break barrel design. The fact that it is 5 inches shorter and 2.5 pounds lighter than the Beeman R1 makes it the clear winner.

The Beeman R7 is an excellent air rifle but excels as a break barrel plinker. You also get a set of scope mounts for your optic needs.

Continue to the full Beeman R7 review.


Caliber: .177
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 700 FPS
Action: Break barrel
Powerplant: Spring piston
Others: Adjustable trigger

10. Best CO2 Air Rifle: Crosman DPMS SBR


Crosman DPMS SBRWant to have a little fun? Then the DPMS SBR is for you. This AR 15 style airgun runs off your standard 12-gram CO2 cartridges. Everything about this gun is modern and sleek. It’s also both fully automatic and semi-auto. A full auto airgun is an absolute blast, and the DPMS SBR makes it fun and affordable.

The gun is easy to use and fun for both adults and kids. It uses cheap BBs and the CO2 cartridges are also quite affordable. It’s designed to give you a fun, and even educational experience.

Outstanding Features

First and foremost this gun is so modern. It comes with flip up sights, as well as an adjustable 6 position buttstock. There is even a quad rail forearm for mounting additional accessories. The gun comes with an angled foregrip and has realistic weight and function. The DPMS SBR is even compatible with AR pistol grips.


Caliber: .177
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 430 FPS
Action: Semiautomatic/Full-auto
Powerplant: CO2
Others: Angled foregrip, flip up sights, adjustable buttstock.

Compare prices at: Cabela’sBass Pro Shops, Amazon

11. Best Air Shotgun: Seneca Wing Shot MK2

Seneca Wingshot MKIIAir shotguns are a growing category of airgun for sportsmen. The Seneca Wing Shot MK2 is an airgun shotgun that doubles as a 50 caliber air rifle. The air shotgun uses Air Venturi Shotshells holding either #6 or #8 shot. The effective range is limited to 30 yards, but it is a shotgun and not a rifle.

With a quick removal of the choke you can then easily fire 5 caliber pellets at 760 feet per second. You can hunt both small pigs, and small birds with the Seneca Wing Shot MK2. The only downside is the sights are a simple bead and not rifle sights. You’ll have to get a little practice in with a bead sight.

Outstanding Features

The vent rib makes tracking moving, and flying targets easily and is a nice touch. The Gun handles like a standard over/under shotgun so it’s very fast to point and swing. The gun is well designed as a shotgun, and perfect for the new airgun shotgunner.


Caliber: .50
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 1130 FPS
Action: Bolt-action
Powerplant: Pre-charged pneumatic
Others: Angled foregrip, flip up sights, adjustable buttstock.

Compare prices at: Amazon, Sportsman’s Guide

Top New Airguns From 2019 SHOT Show


12. The TC 35 and 45 Big Bore PCP Rifles

Gamo Big Bore Big Bore TC35 PCP Air Rifle

The TC 35 and 45 Big Bore PCPs are technically two rifles. One is in 357 and one in 45. However, the only real difference is their caliber. In fact, they operate, function, and handle identically.

The TC Series by Gamo is designed for serious hunters, and the rifle looks like an actual steel big bore weapon. With a lethal range of 100 yards, these rifles are incredibly powerful and hard-hitting.

The TC 45 can throw a 138-grain pellet at 900 feet per second! It can use ammunition as heavy as 350 grains for hard-hitting close range power. The TC 35 can throw a 357 projectile at 850 feet per second. These are deadly little guns!

Not to mention, they are modular and easy to use with optics. The tanks double as stock and utilize a modern design incorporated into the system. They are PCP powered air guns and are lethal for 5 to 15 shots. Be warned: tweaking the settings may lower this count.

Outstanding Features

These extremely modern air guns are excellent hunters. Weighing in at around 5 pounds, they are as lightweight as all the best hunting rifles. They are perfect for long range carry and very quick to shoulder and swing. Not to mention these 2 guns are very slim in design.

Both the TC 35 and TC 45 come outfitted with silencers, new scope rails, and an AR 15 grip. The triggers are an adjustable 2-stage design. Both let you tune the trigger for your own needs and wants.


Caliber: 357 or 45
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 357 – 850 FPS / 45 – 900 FPS
Action: PCP Powerplant Air Tank

Compare prices at: Airgun Depot

13. Benjamin Fortitude

Benjamin Fortitude

Sometimes simple is better, and the Benjamin Fortitude is a simple design. It’s intuitive, easy to use, and best of all it’s affordable! The Benjamin Fortitude is a PCP-powered air gun that sports all the features shooters love about these guns. These come in either 117 or 22 caliber pellet rifles. The 117 have a 950-feet-per-second, and the 22 have a 800 FPS speed rating.

The gun is a bolt action, single shot design with a well made, highly reliable 10-round rotary magazine. The Fortitude weighs only 5.3 pounds and is an all-weather type of design. This Benjamin is an excellent little hunter for small game. It’s quite potent inside a hundred yards!

The PCP design makes the action quick to use, and intuitive in design. Not to mention it comes with everything necessary to get going and hit the range. This includes an 11mm dovetail mount and sling swivels. Even better, the Fortitude has Benjamin’s famed reliability, accuracy, and design.

Outstanding Features

The first thing that stands out is the use of a light and crisp single stage trigger. The design facilitates a constant pull, which makes it easy and accurate. Overall, the bolt action is very simple and provides a very easy to use rifle.

The rifle is optics ready and the 11mm Dovetail mount is easy to use. It matches the majority of popular rifle scopes on the market today. The rotary magazine is simple but very robust and reliable. Not to mention the Fortitude itself is very quiet and very lightweight. This a great little hunting rifle for small game and we think it’s a blast to shoot.


Caliber: 117 or 23
Ammo Type: Pellet
Velocity: 117 – 950 FPS / 22 – 800 FPS
Action: PCP Powerplant Air Tank

Compare prices at: Sportsman’s Guide, Amazon

Understand These Important Factors 

Gamo Whisper’s 2-stage adjustable trigger


So what kind of air rifle do you want? There are different kinds of air rifles out there and they are further categorized based on their powerplants. Each offers different advantages, cost, and of course disadvantages.

Spring Piston

Spring piston airguns are the most common form of high-powered, non-toy grade guns.

As you can imagine, a spring is involved in the gun’s operation. This type uses a really strong spring and air piston to propel a pellet or BB. The user has to manually retract the spring through some form of leverage.

Spring powered guns are typically the most accurate and most affordable choice. The technology is incredibly simple and reliable. Spring guns aren’t limited to budget models but are limited in caliber. When it comes to hunting, they are limited to small game.



This type of air rifles uses CO2 cartridges. These small cartridges are 12 grams of compressed air in a metal container. They are affordable and easy to find. CO2 guns come in both rifles and handgun configurations. All semi-automatic airguns use CO2 for power source.

There is no pumping required. However, they suffer from inconsistency given the fact that the CO2 can decrease in pressure due to outside temperatures. This can cause velocity and accuracy issues. These guns are definitely suited for plinking and recreational shooting.

Pneumatic (Pump)

Pneumatic air rifles use compressed air to propel the round from the rifle.





These airguns require the user to consistently pump the rifle in every shot. These are great target guns because they are consistent in every shot. This also makes it difficult to hunt with due to the noise, movement and time required to fill the reservoir.


This became a favorite because of its convenience. Its air reservoir uses a built-in air pump. If you need to fill it with compressed air, you just have to put some effort on the pump handle multiple times.

Precharged Pneumatic





Precharged pneumatic, also known as PCP.

Similar to a pneumatic airgun, you still use a controlled dose of air. The reservoir on these systems is precharged by an air compressor, hand pump, or scuba tank. Once charged, it is ready to go from ten shots to a few dozen depending on caliber.

They can be extremely powerful. They can fire large rounds of ammunition capable of killing medium game. The main downside is their high price, and need for an expensive air filling system.

Power Categories

Power categories are commonly based on the speed that a gun can move at a projectile and the muzzle energy. This is often measured in feet per second (FPS). The power rating of the air rifle dictates exactly what it is capable of doing.

When buying an air rifle for say hunting, you may have a different need than buying one to train target practice with.


Light powered air rifles typically in the 600 to 700 FPS rating and deliver a muzzle energy around ten-foot pounds total.

  • Often lighter and smaller
  • Designed to minimize recoil and noise
  • Better suited for target shooting than hunting
  • Great for piercing paper and recreational shooting


Medium or standard power air rifles are the category that most airguns fall under. Your basic spring powered air rifle is most likely a medium. Mediums range from 700 to 850 FPS, although some consider 900 medium.

  • Its minimal recoil and noise make it pleasant to shoot over and over while plinking.
  • Fast enough to deal with small game like rabbits, squirrels, and small varmints.
  • Most versatile of air rifles


High-powered, or magnum powered air rifles are anything above 900 FPS. These are often the most expensive rifles, and encompass PCP airguns.

  • You can hunt animals ranging from squirrels to hogs and coyotes with the proper magnum powered airgun.
  • Usually not the ideal weapon for plinking and casual target shooting because of ammunition cost.
  • They range greatly in size and caliber.
  • Most common hunting option


Airguns have a wider variety of calibers than people actually realize. The caliber you choose commonly dictates what is done with it.

Small Game and Target Rounds

  • .177 – The standard in international shooting competitions.
  • .22  – Most commonly used for hunting.
  • .20 – Used in multi-pump pneumatic air rifles.
  • .25 – A good choice for hunting and pest control, especially for bigger animals like raccoons and possums.

Large Game Rounds

The following calibers are better used for hunting medium and large game. They are used in almost exclusively PCP airguns. These rounds are also quite expensive.

  • .357
  • .45
  • .50
  • .58


Considerations regarding trigger commonly revolve around adjustment or replacement. If you do not like the stock trigger, can you do something about it?

Some triggers come from the factory ready for adjustment and customization. The aftermarket has created a series of replacement triggers like the GRT 3 by Charlie Datuna. This is a serious consideration for someone who wants maximum accuracy out of their air rifle.


Break Barrel

break_barrel mechanismBreak barrel air rifles utilize a downward hinging barrel to cock the spring. Once the barrel is opened, you also load a pellet directly into the barrel. These are the lightest airguns and often the simplest. Simple often leads to a more reliable weapon.

They are also simpler to take apart and upgrade. Constantly opening the barrel can cause accuracy issues with a scope, which is a downside. However, with iron sights, the aim will stay true.


underlever mechanism

Underlever guns place the lever directly under the barrel.

The user grabs the lever and pulls rearward. This cocks the spring and opens the breech for loading. There is no torque when firing the weapon because the lever is placed below the barrel. These are an ambidextrous design that is easy to use.


sidelever mechanism

The lever on this gun is mounted on the side of the air rifle. The user simply grips the levers and pulls it to the side and rearward. This cocks the piston and allows the user to load the weapon.

Sidelevers are tougher and are less sensitive to rough handling. The problem is that they aren’t ambidextrous so it can be challenging for left-handers.


semi_auto mechanism

Semi-auto air rifles require zero manual cocking after the first round. It feeds from a magazine and fires one round per pull of the trigger. These guns come in either CO2 or PCP mechanism.

Know What You Want and Need

Airgun pellets

BB or Pellet?

Do you want to go pellet or BB? BB guns are more affordable and more common. The ammunition can be bought by the hundreds. This is a big consideration, are you looking for a semi-auto CO2 powered recreational shooter? Then BBs maybe for you.

Air rifle pellets are bigger and cost more but there is a reason for it. They deliver more power and are more accurate because they engage rifling. They are also more capable for more tasks. Pellets are the chosen projectile for small game hunting, competition, and longer range shooting.

Scopes and Scope Mounts

Before we dive into scopes and scope mounts, we need to address if you even want a scope. If you do not want one, then your option for airguns opens a bit.

If you want an airgun scope, you need to pay attention to the gun’s ability to accept one. Some cannot accept mounts, some accept limited mounts, and some can accept almost anything.



If you want a scope, you need to realize that you can’t toss any old scope on a rifle. A standard firearm scope can easily break on a spring powered airgun. That sounds odd, but it is true.

An air rifle recoils in a unique way, much different from a regular firearm. Spring piston rifles produce a reverse recoil. This means your scope needs to be rated for airguns. If it is not, it won’t last long.

Scope Mount


When it comes to mounting airgun scope, you need to (of course) make sure it can be mounted on your gun. After that, you need to understand that optics come in different sizes.

The tube millimeter measurement will ensure you get a scope mount that fits. Tubes come in different sizes, so checking the measurements on your scope and scope mount is the only way to shop.



If you don’t want a scope, you also have to check a few rifles off the list. Some rifles these days do not have iron sights and are made exclusively for scopes.

Iron sights are much better for short range shooting. It also cuts the price of a scope out of the equation. But what kind of iron sights do you want?

If you have a spring piston break barrel, I’d suggest sights located on the barrel. Other than that, the choice comes down to your needs.

For example if you want to maximize accuracy, peep or aperture sights are the way to go. If you want to shoot in low conditions, like hunters often do, you may want fiber optic easy to see sights. Consider your goals when you consider your sights.

What Is Your Goal?

air rifle with telescopic sight for sport hunting

Your goal is the most important consideration. What are you planning to do with your air rifle? Hunters have different needs than that of 10-meter competition shooters. Different needs require different airguns at different costs.

Hunters need something chambered in pellets, and the pellet needs to reach at least 700 feet per second. A competition shooter doesn’t need that much speed for a 10-meter shot and values accuracy over power instead.

A recreational shooter most likely just wants to have fun and plink at targets. Semi-auto designs are a popular option for recreational shooters.

Once you identify the role that you want for your airgun to play, then you can start isolating brands, operation types, and caliber.

Ups & Downs of Leading Airgun Brands



Gamo is the big boss when it comes to air rifles. They share the spotlight with only one other company, Crosman. Gamo produces a very wide variety of airguns which includes rifles, handguns, and even submachine guns.

Their product lines are varied especially when it comes to price. A base level Gamo air rifle roughly costs $100 to $600. They range from small plinking rifles to serious hunting rifles.

They produce airguns in PCP, spring, and nitro piston models. Their pistol line is almost all CO2 powered models.

Notable Features

  • They manufacture very light rifles which is an impressive quality when you consider the fact that they use hardwood in a lot of their builds.
  • They make one of the more affordable spring piston pistols.


The few problems that Gamo has usually revolve around their cheaper rifles.

  • They tend to have excessive recoil which can wear and tear a scope or make the mounts slide back and forth.
  • Many Gamo rifles do not have iron sights so a scope is required.
  • Their premium line limits itself to rifles designed for only hunting small game.
  • Their pistols are mostly replicas of real firearms and are only useful for plinking.
  • The triggers are often heavy and gritty.



Crosman is the other big name in air rifles. They reached this popularity by providing a wide array of airguns. It is an excellent company to start with, and also an ideal starting point for youth shooters.

The Crosman Pumpmaster is probably what most pellet gun shooters start with. Crosman airguns have a firm hold in that beginner market.

They produce M16 and AK clones that can be either semi-auto CO2 powered or nitro piston single shots. Crosman makes a series of impressive pistols, specifically their Field Target Pistol.

Notable Features

  • You can find a Crosman at any big box store that sells airguns and anywhere on the internet.
  • Their rifles can be priced for as low as $35 and start working their way up from there.
  • They have high-end rifles designed for 3 position air rifle contests hosted by the Civilian Marksmanship Program.


  • A lot of their guns are not that durable. They are not designed for long years of use.
  • Unless you are buying a top dollar Crosman, the airgun you are getting is likely not going to last much after heavy use.


Daisy Logo

Dandy Daisy BB guns are by far the most popular and most common on the market. Their BB guns range from lever guns to pump actions, semi-automatic pistols, and competition pellet guns. The classic Daisy Lever action is a mainstay in the airgun world.

Their competition guns are reportedly very well-made and accurate. This includes a unique take on a BB gun. They designed a competition BB gun, the Avanti Champion, which is known as the most accurate BB gun in the world.

Notable Features

  • Their airguns are very small and light.
  • Affordable and a blast to shoot.
  • It’s an excellent way to teach the youth about airguns, accuracy and safe handling.
  • Certainly one of the best brands for youth shooters to begin with.


  • Most airguns are made for kids and are too small for most adult shooters.
  • Quite loud for BB guns.
  • Cocking mechanisms can be too difficult for children.
  • Outside the Daisy competition models, you’ll run into problems with consistent accuracy.
  • The use of plastic degrades overall durability.




Benjamin airguns are some of the best on the market. They make unique designs and often experiment with a variety of styles. Their airguns start at over a hundred dollars go into over the thousand dollar range.

They also produce rifles for hunting small game, target shooting competition, and recreational shooting. If you want to go big in terms of power and FPS, then Benjamin has you covered.

Their Bulldog Bullpup is capable of firing a .357 projectile at over 800 feet per second. These guns can be used for hunting medium game and can easily take out hogs and coyotes.

Notable Features

  • Their air rifles are known to be of high quality and are powerful.
  • Designs vary and are almost entirely modern.
  • Customer support is reliable.


  • Benjamin trigger tends to be serviceable but are not the best. When you consider the price you pay, you expect a better trigger.
  • The only other issue is its weight. These are beefy airguns and the shorter, lighter models like the Bulldog weighs 7 pounds without a scope.

I do like Benjamin air rifles but for polymer frames and stocks, I’d expect some weight savings.

Airgun, Air Fun!

Airguns are an interesting hobby. Every time you think you’ve seen it all, makers come forward and deliver something new. It is a market and hobby that is constantly changing. However, the core concepts typically stay the same.

A general understanding of how airguns work and that they come in different types are the most important considerations. Some shooters also check on airsoft guns, so knowing the differences between airsoft vs airgun is going to help narrow your choices too.,

Having an idea of the various recreational gun types and how they differ from each other can also be beneficial in deciding what is the perfect fit based on your purpose. Once you grasp that, shopping for one is much easier.

And don’t forget to check out the airgun hunting laws by state.

Check out our full guide on getting started with hunting and shooting. 

Other resources worth checking:

Airgun Nation

USA Shooting – They train and promote the shooting sport.

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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes


  1. I have tried break barrel air rifles over the years and I must say that the one that I have been the most impressed by is the Gamo Air Magnum. Yes, it is a bear to cock. However the power and the accuracy is unbelievable. I consistently hit the bullseye with a one inch spread at 35 yards using a Hammers scope. This is the most impressive break barrel air rifle that I have ever owned.

  2. Hi, in in 1969 the sporting goods store had a game break Barrell .177 with a tube detatcable 20 round magazine that worked well with pellets or bbs. It cycled when you cooked the barrel by using a sort of drop block that would go up when you break the barrel then a tab would push it back down with a round in the hole in the block. The block was actually the chamber. No one at that time heard of Gamo rifles .this one for the time looked extremely modern in that day kinda of like seeing an m-16 for the first time. That rifle was accurate powerful and worked perfectly until it was stolen in 2005. Growing up in the Orange groves and a small city at the time we used to always have our air rifles tied to the handlebars of our bicycles and rode everywhere never having any harrasment from any one ever. With Daisy and Crossman being Paramount or a Benjamin if you saw a rich kid with one. .Today I still use a break barrel dual caliber Beeman .It has 2 barrels that you switch out for .177 or .22.. The Sportsman R2 series. Taken game up to coyotes with it and wether with the iron sights or the Optima 3-9 x32 it hits what you aim at.easily out to 50 yards . Past that I can usually still hit a in the 10 ring.. Anyways just wanted to have a true statement in history of the All American Baby Boomers life growing up with Air Rifles and seldom a Henny Penny running around making a scene or passing laws to make them feel safe by giving up rights for a false sense of security. Being in my 60s now I’ve of course shot every type and caliber of rifle and pistol you can imagine. Like my Dad Did for me I bought and gave my son his first rifle at 3 years old.. like myself and all the kids of my time we ranged from 3 to 18 And never went bad or went nuts. Of course most of the oldest kids got an invitation in the mail called a draft notice. Lol. But I do know for a fact that those days as kids with air Rifles saved lots of kids lives and made excellent marksmen in every one of us. Thanks for listening. Be well. Live free. …. Buck.

    • Firing a BB gun within city limits is illegal in my city, because tween/teen hoodlums like to shoot out peoples car windows. I reckon that like me, you grew up in a time were kids were spanked, and taught not to shoot out peoples car windows. We played with rifles, BB guns, fireworks and arrows all summer and nobody cared.

  3. Great article in my opinion. I’ve been shooting for many years, air rifles and much larger weapons, and I have to say that I agree with your recommendations on all counts. Starting with an air rifle can be ideal, especially for people who are on a budget. Not only are the rifles much cheaper but the bullets are also a fraction of the cost of much larger caliber bullets.

  4. I’m somewhat surprised that you didn’t rate the GAMO Big Cat as the best air rifle, does anybody else feel the same? The velocity at which it fires the bullet is incredible which helps to increase accuracy in my opinion and also gives you the option of shooting at longer distances, which you can’t with many other air rifles. Also, I agree with your review. The cocking mechanism is incredibly light and even my children can pull it back without any effort.

  5. I love myself a .22. I’ve got the RWS Model 34 and can highly recommend it. It’s held up overtime even with minimal maintenance and the accuracy is incredible, especially given the price that you’re paying. In general I’d suggest that most people opt for a .22 instead of a smaller caliber because it gives you more versatility, you can shoot bigger game etc.

  6. I’m a little older now, 76 and I’m thinking about buying a rifle. I’m concerned about the kickback, any advice on which rifle to pick or will this not be an issue?

  7. Fantastic article. I’m brand new to shooting, in fact, I’ve never actually shot yet, and this has helped me to narrow down my options significantly. At the moment I’m deciding between the RWS Model 34 and the Air Arms TX200. My only question is whether I should get a .22 or a .177 rifle. It seems that a .22 caliber would be better for hunting while a .177 caliber might be more ideal for target shooting? If you could clarify this for me, it would be greatly appreciated. At the moment I’m planning to focus on target shooting at the range until I have a more accurate shot. However, in the future, I might consider hunting, and therefore it’s important to me that my rifle can do both. Thanks!

    • a 22 would be the best go to between those two. 17 can hunt, but 22 is a better hunter and perfectly capable range gun.

  8. I’ve been shooting the Benjamin Trail NP XL Magnum .22 for a few years now. It’s a great rifle for hunting small game and even slightly larger animals, but I’m not sure that I’d want to hunt a large deer with a .22 like this. In my opinion, it probably doesn’t have the velocity to get a clean kill on an Ontario Whitetail. However, if I was down in the US hunting blacktail or other smaller deer, I’m sure it would be fine. But I mainly use this rifle for hunting much smaller animals. I also heard its illegal to hunt deer in the United States with a .22..

  9. I only recently starting shooting and I wondered if you have any tips for me? My grouping is very bad at the moment and I’m struggling to hit center mass. I’m worried that my breathing technique isn’t right. How should I be breathing to ensure that the rifle is steady?

    • When you exhale there is a natural pause in your breath, it is during this pause that you want to fire the weapon.

  10. I’ve been shooting for a few weeks now, and I’m having a tough time getting my groupings down. Is a better air rifle going to help with this? My current rifle was very cheap, and I’m worried that it isn’t very accurate! Otherwise, do you have any recommendations on how I can improve my shooting? Occasionally I’ll get a few shots on center mass, but typically my grouping is very large.

  11. Hello to all , I found this article very interesting with lots of good information, I’ve been shooting airguns for about 45 years now and I’m also a collector and own about 30 or so different Airguns and I enjoy all of them! When I’m not shooting Airguns or going to Airgun shows ( there all over the USA ) I’m reeding about you guessed it ! Airguns lol , I don’t think I could ever make a list like this because there’s so many to choose from ranging from 35 bucks all the way to several thousand dollars, they all have good and bad things about them but I do know that if I was talking to someone who wants to get into shooting airguns I would for sure recommend some of the older model Benjamin pumpers such as the 22. Caliber model 312 , 317 , 342 , 347 or even the 392 these old guns are amazing there super accurate made of all metal and wood no plastic on these ! And you can adjust the power level by how many pumps you use , I’m still shooting old Benjamin’s that were made in the 40s and as long as you maintain them the value goes up instead of down! You can find them at yard sales, estate sales, eBay or Airgun shows ,you can pick up a really nice one for a couple hundred dollars or even 100 bucks just ask the google machine ! Lol oh did I mention that they were made in
    America instead of China ! Do your self a favor and look into these old guns before you drop any money at the big box store, there’s also several companies that sale hundreds of different Airgun brands, I would really suggest doing some research and figure out exactly what you intended to use the gun for , and I also must say that a lot of these Airguns comes with the same pride of ownership that any firearm would, and a lot of these Airguns are truly beautiful and works os art and engineering marvels . Thank you for allowing me to add my 2 cents.
    Hillbilly tx.


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