Whether you’re a novice shooter looking to get into air guns as a hobby, a match competitor, or a small game hunter, choosing the right air rifle is one of the most important factors in your enjoyment of the sport. There are many different air guns on the market today from companies like Crosman, Gamo, and Ruger, and they range in price anywhere from $80 to upwards of $400. Knowing what to look for will help ensure you save your money and effort, and get a rifle that will provide years of fun and function.
Plinking, Hunting, or Competing?
Ask yourself first, “What am I going to use this rifle for?”. If you are new to air guns and want something you can shoot in your backyard to get a taste for the sport, you should probably focus on factors like cost (of the gun and of ammo), noise level (to make sure you won’t annoy your neighbors), and scope (a lower magnification scope is fine unless you have a huge backyard). Plan to spend around $100 to $150 on your air rifle in order to get one that is high quality enough to last, but won’t break the bank. As for caliber, the.177 is much less expensive to shoot than a.22, and less likely to punch through your backstop. Nitrogen piston rifles tend to be much quieter than their spring-powered brethren, but read reviews first to find out if a particular rifle has a reputation for being ninja silent or nailgun loud.
Hunters, on the other hand, should look for something lightweight, powerful, and accurate. Depending on what kind of game you’re after, a.22 caliber air gun might be more appropriate than a.177 caliber. Look for a rifle with a high velocity for your given caliber, e.g. 950 feet-per-second for a.22. A scope with more magnification will serve you well when you’re aiming at small game from a distance, so either find a scope/rifle combo with a 3-9x scope or buy one separately. Portability is extremely important if you’ll be hiking out on your hunting trips, so a lighter rifle that can use a sling would be ideal. Plan to spend at least $150 to $200 on a quality air rifle with enough power to make a clean, humane kill on varmints.