Updated on January 5, 2017
The best air rifle is the one that suits and serves you best. A good pellet gun will serve your purpose well and worth your investment. This type of firearms had been around for centuries. Since the Girandoni Air Rifle was first introduced in 1780s the technology of making air gun has been developed quickly. At the moment air rifles are still preferred in a vast of tasks from hunting, shooting practice or being backed up as a survival/defense/pest control rifle. The hobby of collecting best pellet guns is not limited to anyone but spread out from hunters, shooters, collectors or just a backup tool in a family in case of emergency.
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1. The History Of Air Guns
The pellet gun has a deep and rich history. Air rifles represent the oldest pneumatic technology. The oldest mechanical air gun is located in Livrustkammaren Museum, Stockholm. In the 17th century, science and technology developed well and people could produce air guns using a pump to fill up the air reservoir and give shots from 650 to 1000 FPS. The most famous example air guns of this period is the Girandoni Air Rifle. Compare to other primitive firearms, air rifles had superb advantages. Unlike matchlock muskets or muzzle-loading guns, air guns could shoot in wet weather and rains, with a higher speed. The shot gave less sound, no flash and no smoke which did not reveals the shooter’s position. In 1780s, a Tylorean watchmaker, mechanic and gunsmith named Bartholomaus Girandoni developed the Austrian 1780 model Windbuchse (“wind rifle” in German) which is also known as the Girandoni Air Rifle. This air rifle use two .51 calibers in a magazine, which can penetrate a 1” wooden board at 100 paces. This invention clearly had a huge effect on warfare at that time.
The famous captain Lewis used a .31 pneumatic pellet rifle made in Philadelphia in the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804). This pellet guns could shot 22 times per minute. The Indian tribes at that time referred this weapon as the “smokeless bolt of thunder”.
In the East, the Japanese inventor Kunimoto Ikkansai produced an air rifle model based on Dutch models.
Circa 1890s, air rifles competitive target shooting was very popular in Great Britain with more than 4000 clubs and associations.
After the World War II, air guns once again became more and more popular. Pellet guns at that time was designed mainly for hunting. Nowadays, the use of pellet guns are expanded such as hunting, pest control, plinking and competitive sports. Olympic Games had the first air guns shooting competition in 1984. The joy of owning and using the best airgun is now not limited to anyone but become and worldwide interest. The modern technology have made the air rifles to a whole new level, vast in both quantity and quality.
There are many variations of pellet rifles in the market now and that is a problem for people who need one. They come in many shapes and sizes, functions, ability and complicated numbers that may confuse the beginners. The best air gun’s caliber is the one does their right task: ask yourself whether the chosen caliber type is used for plinking, practicing or hunting.
At our site, everything will be broken down to make it simple and easy to get. If you are a veteran then skip down to our table list to choose the top air rifle for you. Think of them as a tool and you will see there are some main factors that make them the best or the worst air rifle gun ever. The key points are the caliber size, the power plant and the love/hate affair of velocity, energy and accuracy. Understanding all aspects will help you choose the best pellet gun that you always dream for. The most powerful air rifle is also be able to handle big games, too.
2. How To Choose The Best Pellet Gun Caliber
The first thing to look in an air rifle is probable the caliber. The four most common calibers for pellet guns are .25, .22, .20, and .177. Among them the.22, .177 calibers seem to be more popular. There are also many choices of ammo/pellets for each caliber, too.
.177 Caliber Air Rifles
Being the smallest makes the .177 caliber pellets the cheapest and gives them a very flat trajectories which also enable them good accuracy.
The .177 Caliber Pellet Guns are very popular for beginners and are the standard for local and international target shooting. Due to their small bores and light ammo, .177 rifles commonly gets shot out at over 1000 FPS (feet per second) which surpasses the sound barrier.
The .177 rifles are ideal for shooting practice and hunting small games such as birds, pests etc. For a humane final blows, a larger caliber is necessary or at least shoot at a closer distance.
.20 Caliber Air Rifles
The .20 caliber are classic icon with a proud history. It is commonly known as the buffer between the .177 and .22 which is suitable for both hunting and shooting. Nonetheless this type of gun and ammo becomes harder to get. However for old timers, it is still a good thing to go and of course, you can still get them on our site, too.
.22 Caliber Air Rifles
The .22 Caliber Gun can be considered the all-rounders which mean they can do almost every tasks you require. The .22 caliber’s larger pellet size and weight produce high velocity and impact power which is ideal for hunting small games such as rabbits, rats, squirrels, varmints… For smaller size pellets as .177, the pellet tends to go through the animals but does not kill them immediately. On the contrary, the .22 pellet give more energy on the impact, killing the animals quickly and humanly.
The heavy weight of the .22 pellet also helps it maintain a good accuracy. Of course you should practice a lot to shoot super-accurately. A good thing to know is that the .22 caliber ammo is also very popular next to the .177. Many good features make the .22 the most versatile air gun available on the market today.
.25 Caliber Air Rifles
The .25 caliber air rifle is often associated with the PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic) system. Though expensive, this system is excellent for its task (this thing will be discussed more at the PCT section). The .25 caliber pellet is capable of joining big games such as raccoons, coyotes, foxes. This is the contemporary air gun with the late technology that provides both high velocity and lethal power. Some best deer hunting air rifle even use the heavier caliber for more power shot.
3. Choose The Right Power Plant
It is important to understand the power plant types, or propulsion methods of the best air riffles. To put it simply, how the pellet are shot.
Pre Charged Pneumatic (“PCP”) Pellet Guns
This type of air gun was charged up to around 2000 psi which enables them to fire continuously with high stability. External source such as scuba tank or hand-pump is required to boost up the pressure of the gun. In short, you just have to pump once and shoot many times. The B is a very good icon of accuracy and efficiency.
Multi Pump Pneumatic
The name said it all: this type of rifle need to be pumped several times before taking a shot. You can easily control the shooting power by adjusting the amount of pumping. Another good thing is that no need of expensive CO2 packs, just pumping is enough. Though the pumping noise maybe cranky and scare the animals away. That is why it suits more for ambush hunting or shooting practice. However, due to the power control and simple function, this type of gun is very popular and preferred as a survival gun or a self-defense gun.
Spring Piston Air Rifles
Spring piston air rifles are known for being always-ready and super convenient. Generally, they require one pump for one shot. The mechanism takes use of a break barrel to create high air pressure which is very reliable. Easy to use, fun to operate, reasonable price for most parts – this type of gunis ideal for most situation.
CO2 gas compressed Pellet Gun
The CO2 gas powered rifles are silent and easy to use. They fire rapidly without the need of cocking or pumping. They are almost semi-auto rifle. Moreover, the recharging process is done quickly with the use of CO2 canister (typically in the size of 12g and 88g). The use of CO2 gas canister is especially convenient where you are shooting on hard terrain where the space or position for pumping is not available. The downside is that you have to carry a certain number of canisters to use. Fortunately, they are pretty cheap and available widely. You can buy them here.
4. A review on velocity, energy and accuracy.
FPE and FPS – which one is more important?
FPS – feet per second – which is also known as muzzle velocity is the common unit that air gun producers use to describe their products’ power. Of course, the faster the better, right? Many trends have been boost up by such belief and producers often use FPS as their selling point. It is alright to use FPS as a reference. However, it is not 100% accurate that a gun with higher FPS will shoot better. Producers always have many ways to pump up their score such as using light-weight pellet in the test and report as “maximum FPS”.
FPE – Foot-Pounds of Energy – is a more accurate way to demonstrate the rifle power. The function to calculate FPE: E = ½.m.c2 (m = weight of pellet, c = speed). The results will demonstrate the impact force when the pellet hit the target. Clearly the mass (m) of the pellet plays a very important role here. It is also shown that whichever rifle produce higher impact force, it is more powerful.
Overall, FPE is more important than FPS to determine the true power of an pellet gun. Do not get flooded by the advertising info boast by sellers. Use your knowledge and experience to determine which air gun the best for you.
Accuracy and Velocity
It is a common knowledge is that a pellet gun’s accuracy decreases rapidly as reaching the sound of the speed (about 1100 FPS). As the pellet was shot and break the sound barrier, its velocity decrease and the sonic wave generated behind the pellet caught up over take its trajectory, causing a flip-flop flight, hence make it less accurate. If you are shooting at close range, the effect is not very clear. However in long range shooting, this will make you miss-shoot. That is why veteran shooter often maintain their FPS around 1000 by using heavy pellet for more precise shooting, and higher impact power, too. The most powerful air rifle can do many thing, even for deer hunting, if you have an accurate shot.
Pellet Guns Safety
Since pellet guns shoot pretty quietly, many people become reckless when using them. That’s a big mistake! An .22 air rifle pellet moving fast enough to penetrate through a rabbit can be fatal for a person. Therefore you should be extremely careful when using air guns. They are just as dangerous as all other firearms. Always remember:
- Never point the muzzle at anything that is not your preset target.
- You must always follow the rules of safe gun handling. Always be aware of the surroundings, and the people around you.
- Always treat them carefully as if it were already loaded.
- Always aim pellet gun in a safe direction. Be aware of the shooting direction, too.
- Always hold an air rifle safelly until you are ready to shoot.
- Always make sure you and your partners wear shooting glasses.
- Always use the decent and new caliber ammunition. Do not reuse the used ones.
- Always make sure the air gun is in safe mode and unloaded when getting it from another person or from the store.
- Read manual carefully. Ask for experts’ advice if necessary.
- Place your finger off the triggers and guards until you are ready to shoot.
- Store your guns in safe place, keep out of children reach.
- Never, ever point an air gun at any person. That’s an absolute rule!
- Never load an air gun until you are ready to shoot.
- Unload all ammo when the guns are not in use
You must also follow the state and local laws about the buying, right to own and practice of air guns. Minors must be advised by adults. Please remember, misuses or careless use of air guns may cause serious injury or death. Once you have mastered all the rules and spent good amount of practice, just enjoy your shooting activities to your heart content with the best air rifle!