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Airgun Hunting 101 | Best Airguns, Pellets, Scopes, and Tips for Hunting

Top Tips for Airgun Hunting and Why It’s So Effective

If you are a hunter, there is a pretty good chance you grew up shooting some kind of BB gun or pellet gun behind the house before you took up more serious firearms. Maybe you simply used it for target practice, taking aim at an unfathomable number of soda cans and paper targets. But maybe you also hunted with it. Airguns have come a long way since then, and yet many people still overlook the value and efficiency of airgun hunting. The fact is that they can be very lethal when matched to the right purpose and hunting scenario. More states are making hunting with airguns legal for different species and there are new big bore airguns coming on the market all the time. In fact, there’s even a fair amount of airgun hunter recruitment coming in from those who bow hunt – that makes sense considering both options are quiet, require your target to be very close, and require a lot of skill and patience to accurately put the shot where it needs to be. If you’ve been dabbling with the idea of hunting with an air gun, here are some things to think about first.

Advantages of Airguns vs. Traditional Firearms

While there may be certain disadvantages with airgun hunting – such as shorter shot distances or having to re-pressurize after each shot – there are a few major advantages over traditional rimfire or centerfire rifles too that many people don’t think about.

  • First, airguns are much quieter than their gunpowder-powered counterparts. The sudden release of pressurized air still makes sound, make no mistake about it. Each brand, model, and caliber produces different sound levels. But it is generally a loud pop or “pssst” sound instead of a crack or bang often heard from a traditional rifle. Many game animals will stand in place after hearing a shot from an airgun as they try to figure out the source of the sound. This helps when trying to remove nuisance animals from your property.
  • Because they are quieter, you can also use some lower caliber airguns in many backyard settings without upsetting neighbors. This allows you to get some extra practice in throughout the week by popping a few shots off each night and not having to go to a shooting range.
  • Since there’s no powder being burned in airgun hunting, you don’t have to worry about all the chemical residue building up inside your gun, which makes cleaning a breeze.

Choosing an Airgun Caliber for Your Targeted Species

Once you’re convinced you’d like to try airgun hunting, you will need to decide on a specific gun and caliber. There are many more models available today than there used to be, including a wide range of calibers that are suitable for hunting many kinds of animals. From the smallest of varmint animals to some of the biggest mammals in North America, there is an airgun capable of quickly and ethically harvesting them. The best airgun caliber for hunting depends on the species being hunted and your own preferences. Check out the video and sections below for more information.

Small Bore Airguns

When we say small bore, we mean the smaller caliber guns that are useful for plinking or hunting small game animals. For example, you’re no doubt familiar with the .177 or .22 calibers when it comes to airgun hunting. But there’s also a .20 and .25 caliber airgun, which pretty much tops the small bore category.

Best Airgun Calibers for Small Game Hunting

Small game animals can vary widely by region, depending on what animals live there. But when it comes to airgun hunting, it generally includes rats, squirrels, rabbits, or birds. Just like traditional firearms, small bore airguns are more than capable of killing these animals provided you have enough practice and experience under your belt. For example, a .177 or .22 caliber air gun is plenty strong enough to hunt squirrels, rabbits, and many birds (e.g., grouse, crows, etc.). With proper shot placement on the head or vital chest area, you should have no problem hunting small game animals with an air gun. In fact, hunting rabbits with an air gun are easily accomplished with either, and you could push it to woodchuck-sized animals without much trouble. The biggest trick with small game air rifle hunting is getting close enough to make the shot. In a backyard setting, it’s usually easy to get within 20 yards of a rabbit or squirrel, but sneaking that close in a wild setting makes it much more likely the animal will bolt before you get the opportunity. Taking shots beyond 20-30 yards gets more difficult and will depend largely on how accurate your pellets are

Big Bore Airguns

Big bore airguns are obviously on the other end of the spectrum and can be used to hunt larger animals. Most people define the big bore calibers starting at the .30 caliber range, and then move on up the chain from there. For example, .308, .357, .45, and .50 caliber airguns are all available for hunting larger animals.

Best Airgun Calibers for Big Game Hunting

This is where most people get thrown off with air rifle hunting because nobody really expects you to be able to hunt a large animal (e.g., feral hogs, deer, bears, bison, etc.) with an airgun. But we’re not talking about using that same .22 caliber air rifle from above on a deer. We might be talking about a .50 caliber air rifle, which is more than enough to take down some really impressive animals, such as a bison! That sounds pretty exotic and intense, but hunters also routinely use an airgun for hunting deer or feral hogs if that sounds more attainable. With these higher powered calibers, there’s no hand pumping of the airgun. Instead, precharged pneumatic (PCP) rifles need to be pressurized with an air compressor before the hunt, and you might get a few shots from them before you need to recharge them. Depending on what big game animal you want to hunt and your own personal preferences, the caliber might change a bit. Each state may have different laws and regulations that dictate which caliber you can use as a minimum on big game species. Overall, the .45 family of airgun ammunition is commonly used on many big game species. But the .50 caliber can be deadly even up to American bison!

Predator Hunting Airgun Calibers

In between the small bore and big bore options, there’s a little variability depending on who you talk to. Some experts believe the .25 and .30 caliber options are a good mid-range option that can be used on predators or for varmint hunting. For example, the .357 is a popular choice for predator (e.g., coyote, bobcat, etc.) or varmint (e.g., woodchuck, raccoons, prairie dogs, etc.) hunts.

Best Airgun Ammo for Hunting

Probably just as important as the caliber discussion, your choice of ammunition for an airgun is critical to making the best, most lethal shot possible. There are a couple of different types of projectile types available on the market today. Each one has its own specific best use and may not be suitable for all or any airgun hunting.

Shapes of Airgun Pellets/Ammo

For the basic small bore airguns (e.g., .177, .20, .22, and .25 caliber), you will find roughly four types or shapes of airgun ammunition. The best pellet for small game hunting is the domed/round nose pellet, which is accurate out of most airguns. But each airgun tends to shoot more or less accurate depending on the type and brand of pellets, so take time to shoot a variety and find the best option.

  • Domed/round nose
  • Pointed
  • Flat pellets/wadcutters
  • Hollow points

In addition to these ammunition shapes, there is big bore airgun ammunition as well. Hollow points tend to not be necessary given the ballistics of higher calibers, but they do also cut cleaner wound channels. Heavier ammunition is generally only used by precharged pneumatic airguns. Round ball ammunition will get better penetration on larger animals, but they tend to be less accurate than cast bullets because they don’t fly as efficiently.

  • Round ball
  • Cast bullet
  • Hollow points

Small Game Ammunition

Ammunition used for small game airgun hunting is almost universally a pellet with one of the four shapes mentioned above (i.e., domed/round nose, pointed, flat pellets/wadcutters, and hollow points). These airgun pellets tend to fly very fast and very accurately, which also allows them to shoot flat trajectories. However, they slow down faster as the distance increases. Because they slow down faster, they are less likely to do damage if they miss their mark, which makes them great for use in suburban areas.

Big Game Ammunition

On the other hand, big game animals require a different approach. Round balls or cast bullets are better options for larger animals. Round balls and cast bullets both keep their velocity better than pellets, which makes them a better choice for big game hunts.

Best Airguns for Hunting

Everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to any firearm, including airguns. But there are a few choices that we have tested and that you should love too.

Airgun Hunting Gear

Of course, with any kind of hunting, you will need specific gear to go along with your new airgun hunting obsession. Here are some things to keep in mind before you start buying anything, and a few things to remember afterward too.

8 Things You’ll Need Before Airgun Hunting

Below is a list of the basic gear you will need to go hunting with an airgun, particularly if you are using a big bore gun for larger animals.

  • Multi-shot airgun to allow for follow-up shots at game animals.
  • The power source (for air compressors) or removable air source for a high shot count when shooting a PCP airgun.
  • Pouch or carrying case for transporting pellets or bullets in the field.
  • Sighting devices (e.g., laser rangefinder and/or scope).
  • Manometer (i.e., air pressure gauge) to monitor the amount of air that is in your PCP gun.
  • Accessory rails or mounts to add lights for night hunting (generally only for predator, varmint, or hog hunting).
  • Swivel studs and a sling or carrying the gun in a scabbard are both good options to carry your airgun in the field.
  • A shrouded barrel or suppressor to silence the sound will help you while hunting.

Airgun Scopes

Because airgun hunting requires you to be so precise and accurate, using a scope is almost a necessity in many cases. As your prey animals gets smaller, more dangerous, or further away, you need to make absolutely sure you can put the bullet or pellet where it needs to be. You get what you pay for with scopes. Larger scopes with bigger objective lenses and better quality coatings will perform much better than cheaper options. Illuminated reticles provide some nice contrast for low light situations. Variable power scopes provide some leeway if you want to adjust in the field, but many people tend to use higher magnifications than they need.

Rossi’s Recommended Airgun Scopes

Leveling and Sighting in an Airgun Scope

When you get a new scoped airgun and want to learn to shoot it accurately, some people get intimidated. When first mounting the airgun (or rifle), you want to make sure that the reticle (crosshairs) look level to you. It’s different for everyone.

As you sight in your airgun, pick a reasonable range (e.g., 30 yards) that you will do a lot of your shooting and hunting at. For variable power scopes, turn it all the way up to maximum magnification. Take a shot and see where you hit the target. Then adjust the windage and elevation turrets on your scope until you start to shoot the bullseye. Afterward, you can dial the magnification down again to what you think is reasonable, and it should keep its zero.

Critical Airgun Hunting Tips And Useful Knowledge  

When it comes to how to hunt with airguns, you need to understand a few important things that usually aren’t quite intuitive.

Airgun Energy

Most new airgunners don’t know what airgun energy is or how it helps. The energy of an airgun is measured in foot-pounds, which is the energy needed to move one pound one foot of distance. What that means for the average airgun hunter is that heavier and faster projectiles do more damage than lighter and slower projectiles. Having higher overall energy (foot pounds) means you can take larger animals or put them down faster. A big bore gun will deliver much more power/foot pounds than small bore guns, even if they are capable of shooting at similar velocities (feet per second). There are calculators to help you determine that energy.

Airgun Hunting Shot Placement

As mentioned earlier, airgun hunters need to deliver their shots exactly where they intend to. This is because airguns don’t offer the same foot pounds/energy (and therefore trauma) that firearms are capable of doing. Therefore, the pellet or bullet needs to hit the vital organs every time with enough energy to kill them quickly. For small game animals or predators/varmint animals, headshots are good options because they offer about the same size target as a body cavity shot, but they are extremely deadly and will generally drop an animal in its tracks. This is important when hunting in suburban areas or places where you don’t want the animal to run a long distance before dying. For big game animals, a broadside heart and lung shot is the ultimate goal because it should avoid hitting the significant bone structure and will quickly kill an animal.

Shooting Distance

Airgunners keep pushing the capabilities of airguns as they practice long range shooting. Depending on the gun you use, long-range might mean very different things – but anything past 75-100 yards is generally a good distance. You will need to consider the overall velocities of your airgun and how your ammunition maintains its energy. But a .308 is a good caliber choice for long distance target shooting.

If you haven’t thought seriously about going airgun hunting before, hopefully, this has changed your mind. Modern air rifles are very sophisticated and powerful when used correctly. And they’re a lot of fun to shoot too!

 

Airgun Hunting Rat Wars 2018

Hunting Rats with an Airgun | Rat Wars 2018

On this episode of American Airgunner, Rossi joins the war on pest control and competes in the 2018 Air Gun Rat Wars.  The 2-day competition was comprised of 4 teams, Innnerloc’s Out There, Urban Nocks, Umarex Airguns, and American Airgunner. Teams were scored on the heaviest rat, longest rat, heaviest total catch, nest treasure, and most rats.  Each team had 2 shooters and a guide that were equipped with Umarex Gauntlet air guns and Axeon Laser Scopes. The guns have been dialed in from 10ft to 30ft for those hard to reach rats.

This is the 3rd annual competition that was initiated to bring an element of fun to handle a nuisance population of rats that decimate farmers feed and machinery. Join Rossi and his crew as they set to reduce the rat population and have a few laughs.

Check Out The Gauntlet Here

 

Rossi’s Airgun Reviews | Airforce Model 94

AirForce International Model 94 Airgun Review

On the latest installment of Rossi’s Reviews, Rossi’s taken a look at a line of air guns that he’s completely unfamiliar with. The AirForce International line of guns are mainly break barrel actions that are manufactured in Spain. The model Rossi reviewed is the AirForce International 94 Spring Air Rifle break barrel single shot in a .22 caliber topped with an AirForce 4×32 scope. One characteristic that separates AirForce International from other manufacturers is the ability to customize your rifle to your liking whether that’s by changing the stock or swapping out the barrel for a different caliber.   Make sure to watch the entire video we promise you won’t be disappointed with this guns versatility and performance!

 

 AirForce International 94 Spring Air Rifle

  • .177, .22, and .25 caliber offerings
  • Break barrel
  • Single-shot
  • Precision, hammer forged, rifled steel barrel
  • Integral muzzle brake
  • 11mm dovetail optics rail
  • Two stage adjustable trigger
  • Fixed TruGlo fiber optic front sight (red, 0.060″)
  • Fully adjustable TruGlo fiber optic rear sight (green, 0.035″)
  • Anti-bear trap mechanism
  • Automatic safety
  • Synthetic stock
  • Rubber butt pad
  • Raised cheek piece
  • Weight: 7.5 lbs.
  • Overall length: 44.9″
  • Barrel length: 18.75″

https://www.pyramydair.com/s/m/AirForce_International_94_Spring_Air_Rifle/3613

https://www.pyramydair.com/s/m/AirForce_International_Orion_Air_Rifle/3616

SHOT Show 2019 Product Recap

New Airgun Products from SHOT Show 2019

If you’ve never been to SHOT Show before, it’s a whirlwind of new and exciting products, great people, and sore feet! Rossi Morreale spent some time there and caught up with several brands that have some awesome fresh products for this year. If you didn’t get a chance to view them live, here’s a SHOT Show 2019 product roundup so you can catch up on all the action.

Hatsan Airguns 

At the Hatsan Airguns booth, Rossi got to check out the new airgun models. Most of the Hatsan line of airguns come in .177, .22, and .25 caliber and will be available in stores within the next couple of months. Check out the video and airgun highlights below.

  • 1844 QES – this airgun from the Quiet Energy Series now has open sights, so you won’t have to have a scope if you don’t want it. 
  • Glacian – this is a semiautomatic airgun, which has a very tactical look to it. It is a great option for small game and medium range targets. 
  • Vectus – this is a brand new airgun with a smooth lever action. It has a quiet energy synthetic shroud on the muzzle and flip up open sights. It also has a combination picatinny/dovetail rail. 
  • Nova Star – this is an upgraded gun from the Nova series, which is about a pound lighter than previous models. It also has a hidden in-stock magazine holder with a Turkish walnut stock. 
  • SpeedFire – this is a break-barrel repeater (automatic loading) airgun, which has open sights or a scope. 
  • AirMax – the AirMax is a bottle-fed airgun instead of cylinder-fed with a forward cocking mechanism. It too has a Turkish walnut stock and many more shots (up to 100 shots). 
  • Flash Wood – this airgun has a unique tactical look while still having a walnut stock. It has a chrome-plated and smooth operating cocking bolt. 
  • Airtact – this is an entry-level break-barrel airgun with a lighter synthetic barrel. 
  • Bull Boss – while this model has been popular already, there are several new and different color options. 

Predator International Airgun Pellets 

While at the show, Rossi also had to check out some new pellet options. He caught up with Dick Dickson from Predator International. In 2019, there’s a strong focus on improving the quality control that JSB and Predator International have for their pellets. Every pellet is hand-viewed under a microscope, with a rejection rate of 2%. Check out the video below.

  • .20 caliber Heavy – the new .20 caliber pellet, which is heavier (almost 16 grains), is making a comeback for 2019. 
  • Hades – this hollow-head pellet splits apart on impact, which is very lethal for small game, available in .22 caliber right now. 
  • GTO Pellet – this tin-based pellet is slightly lighter than lead but performs similarly. This provides a great lead-free option. 
  • Monster – to better match different guns, the Monster pellet is available in re-designed and original pellets (in .177 and .22 caliber options). 

Umarex Airguns 

Rossi caught up with Richard Turner from Umarex Airguns, including some of the big game animals that have been taken with these products.

  • Synergis – this under-lever repeater design allows an unbroken fixed barrel, with a 12-shot magazine. For a large-looking .177 caliber gun, it is very lightweight. 
  • Ruger 10/22 – following the look and feel of the original (and widely popular) Ruger .22 model, this airgun is a great replica to allow backyard shooting. 
  • Hammer – this new for 2019 .50 caliber air rifle allows three full powered shots, which is powerful enough to take down big game animals, including Cape buffalo! 

Velocity Outdoor Airguns 

Many people are more familiar with Crosman and Benjamin as name brands, but the Velocity Outdoor Company includes several great airguns. Check out the video below for more information.

  • Remington 1100 – this youth style shotgun has a single pump and holds 1,000 BBs for all-day plinking opportunities. 
  • Fortitude (Gen 2) – this lighter and newer option has some flexibility with an adjustable hammer, depending on how you use the gun. 
  • DPMSSBR – this newer (CO2-powered) airgun is a fully automatic BB gun. It comes with a red dot sight, and adjustable AR-compatible buffer tube and grip. 
  • MagFire Mission – this is another new repeater airgun for 2019. Also in this group is the Nomad with a wood stock and an Ultra option. 
  • Triple Threat – this awesome air handgun can shoot BBs or pellets and comes with three different barrels (3”, 6”, and 8”) to customize your shooting style. 

Gamo Airguns 

While at the SHOT Show, Rossi, of course, had to stop by to chat about Gamo airguns to see what is in store for 2019.

  • Swarm Whisper – with a good price point and a 10-pellet rotating magazine, the Fusion is an entry-level break-barrel airgun in .177 caliber. 
  • Swarm Bone Collector – using the Whisper Fusion sound suppression technology, this .22 caliber air rifle comes with a beech wood stock and an adjustable stage trigger. 
  • Swarm Fusion 10X Gen 2 – this new air rifle has a horizontal 10-shot magazine alignment, and so the rifle can support iron sights or a scope. It also comes with the adjustable stage trigger and sound suppression technology. 

AirForce Airguns 

While at the 2019 SHOT Show, Rossi also stopped by the AirForce Airguns booth to catch up on what’s going on this year.

  • RAW HM1000X – this is a long-range air rifle, best for target shooting. With a flat bottom, it can fit into bench rests very steadily. 
  • LSS – this prototype built off of the Texan model is impressive-looking and silent shooting. 

Hawke Optics and Airmax 

Without good optics, it is tough to truly extend your shooting and hunting opportunities. Rossi stopped by the booth to chat about the options for airgun optics.

  • Airmax Compact – this 3-12x scope has a parallax adjustment and illumination options, but it is smaller in size to fit smaller airguns. 
  • Frontier – this is a top-of-the-line scope built with stronger (but lighter) aluminum and crown glass for maximum clarity. The turrets are larger and tactical, and it features a Zero Stop feature, which allows you to always return to your zero point. With a throw lever on the magnification, you can quickly adjust it in the field even with gloves. This also comes in a 1” tube. 
  • Sidewinder 8-40x – this is a slightly smaller option from the 10-50x, but it has a lot of the other great features of the Sidewinder. 
  • In addition, Hawke Optics offers binoculars, rangefinders, and spotting scopes, which have all of the same great benefits of the scopes above. 

Air Arms 

Air Arms is a company from the UK that manufactures many different types of air rifles. They place a very high priority on quality products.

  • TDR Tactical Rifle – this silent air rifle comes in .177 and .22 caliber, with a side cocking mechanism and a 10-round magazine.  
  • S510XS Ultimate Sporter – this air rifle is extremely adjustable and comes in a more traditional-looking wood stock model. It is a great hunting rifle and comes with swivels to attach accessories. 

MTC Airgun Optics 

The MTC Optics Company is known primarily for airguns, with a large presence in the UK as well. Check out the video below for more information.

  • Cobra F1 – this scope features a first focal plane for extremely accurate shooting, and it has easily-adjustable turrets. The scope also has a glass reticle. 
  • Mamba Ultralight – this is a 1” tube, very lightweight scope. It is illuminated and brand new. 
  • Viper Pro – this scope features a totally customizable turret where you can set your own yardage for easy and quick adjustments in the fields. 

Daystate 

This is another British company that has some amazing airgun products.

  • Brocock Commander – this airgun is extremely tactical looking. Anyone who likes ARs will love it because it can interchange with AR parts to customize just about everything on it.  
  • Pulsar Saxon – this is a digital airgun, which has three different programming levels of low, medium, and high power. 
  • Brocock Sniper – this is similar to the Commander but features a different stock and is very lightweight.  
  • Red Wolf – this model comes with a walnut stock instead of the traditional red laminate stock. This gun is capable of producing half-inch groups at 100 yards! 

SIG Sauer Airsoft Guns and Airguns 

Everyone’s familiar with this brand, and their booth at SHOT Show 2019 was huge! They have a great high-end line of Proforce airsoft guns, but we were really interested in the airguns.

  • .365 – this BB gun is a fun handgun option, which can be used to train for concealed carry applications. 
  • Virtus – modeled on the MCX firearm platform, this airgun can use a lot of the same firearm accessories. This PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) .22 caliber comes with 30 rounds. 

Air Venturi 

Last, in the live video updates from SHOT Show 2019, Rossi stopped by the Air Venturi booth to see what’s new. You’re likely familiar with the air bolts already, but they have some exciting new products.

  • Springfield – this replica BB gun is CO2-powered, semi-automatic, and has a 15 shot magazine with full blowback action as you shoot. This is the first Springfield replica airgun produced. 
  • Springfield XTM Handgun – this handgun comes in both airsoft and airgun options, and has a holster with push button release.  
  • Seneca Aspen – coming in .177, .22, and .25 caliber, this PCP/pump airgun is dual-purpose so you can fill it and then continue pumping a couple times after each shot to keep it at full power. 
  • Nomad 2 Compressor – this compressor can be charged via wall outlets or car batteries. This compressor goes up to 4,500 PSI and can fill your airgun in 5 to 10 minutes. 
  • Bada-Bang – this new target prototype connects to your phone via Bluetooth, which offers different games with four targets.