When it comes to buying a new air rifle, the decision can be made difficult by the sheer number of options available. In addition to brand, model, and caliber, air rifles are sorted by propulsion method.
The type of propulsion that the air rifle you buy uses is important for many reasons. In particular, it affects the accuracy and power of the gun. In turn, this translates to the type of activities – plinking, target shooting, or small game hunting – the rifle can be used for. If you are undecided on what type of air rifle/propulsion you should choose, take a look at our in-depth air rifle buying guide. In this article, I discuss top considerations for the best air rifle that are tried and true.
For those of you who just want a quick run down, the table below gives you our top picks in 2014. Clicking on the name of each rifle will give you more detail. Read through these to find the perfect air gun for you.
|Activity/Purpose||Our Pick||Propulsion Type|
|For Beginner||Crosman 1077 Semi-Automatic CO2 Pellet||CO2 powered|
|The quietest||Benjamin NP XL 725||Gas spring|
|Small pest control/Small game hunting||Benjamin 392 Bolt Action||Multi-pump|
|Long range hunting (up to groundhog size)||Benjamin Discovery, Benjamin Marauder||PCP|
|Best Value for money||Gamo Big Cat 1250||Spring piston|
|My personal favorite||RWS 34 .22 (Read my in-depth review)||Spring piston|
1. Spring Piston – Gamo Big Cat 1250
Spring piston propulsion is perhaps the most popular type of air rifle for adult shooters. The spring retracts before each shot pushing forward a piston when the trigger is pulled. The piston then pushes the pellet through the barrel of the gun.
In my opinion, the Gamo Big Cat 1250 Air Rifle is one of the best spring piston propulsion air rifles around. It is lightweight, durable, and very comfortable to shoot. Its fluted barrel makes it perfect for use in light rain.
A single cocking system makes the air gun easy to power. Not much strength is required to cock it. And with a 1250 feet per second (FBS) shot, you get great velocity from a gun that comes at a stellar price. Slight recoil means you might to shoot it slightly different than other types of air rifles.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this gun is the velocity at which it fires. It seriously is no joke. The Gamo Big Cat 1250 has plenty of firepower for hunting small game at a reasonable distance.
It is important to note that this air rifle does not come with iron sights. While this is a slight bummer, shooting is greatly improved with the addition of a scope.
At the end of the day, the Gamo Big Cat 1250 is a great gun at a great price. I have nothing but praise for this spring piston air rifle. It is sure to exceed your expectations, especially considering the price, and provide nearly unlimited fun.
At a more expensive price point, the RWS .22 has now replaced the Big Cat 1250 as my go-to spring piston air rifle. I covered everything in much more detail in this review.
2. Pre-Charged Pneumatics (PCP)- Crosman Benjamin Discovery Dual Fuel .22
Pre-charged pneumatic air rifles utilize a large tank of high-pressure compressed air to propel pellets. They are the most powerful and accurate type of air gun, perfect for serious shooters that need serious firepower.
One of the best pre-charged pneumatics on the market is the Crosman Benjamin Discovery PCP Dual Fuel .22 Air Rifle. It is a trouble-free and extremely accurate rifle where no pumping is required and outdoor temperatures will not affect the power of your shot. You simply shoot until the gun needs to be refilled with air – no questions asked.
As a long time fan of air guns with an extensive personal collection, this is one of my go-to air rifles. It is a real treat to use when plinking or at the target field and gets the job done when small game hunting as well.
Getting the Crosman Benjamin Discovery up and running is easy. It comes with a hand pump that you can use to fill the 2000psi tank. Using slow deliberate pumps makes filling the tank easy. After filling the tank with air, it’s time for the fun part. I found this gun to be extremely accurate and to shoot straight right out of the box. There is almost zero recoil yet it has the power to hunt small game (up to about groundhog sized). One of my favorite things about this gun is its small stature. It is just a little smaller than most pre-charged pneumatics making it easy to store and transport as well as very fun to shoot. For an entry level PCP rifle, I feel like this gun can’t be beat.
The only drawback is that it is loud. If noise is a big concern for you, you’d better off with the Discoveries big brother Benjamin Marauder. The Marauder is one of the most sought after air rifle, so I’m currently working on a lengthier review that it deserves.
With that said, the Crosman Benjamin Discover PCP Air Rifle is one I am sure you will be happy with. If a new pre-charged pneumatic is up your alley, I strongly urge you to consider this particular air gun.
3. Multi-Pump Pneumatic – Crosman Benjamin 392 Bolt Action .22
Multi-pump pneumatic air rifles are great for shooters of all types. Perhaps their biggest advantage is that propulsion is self-contained. Simply pump the rifle a few times before firing and you are good to go.
Though there are countless multi-pump pneumatic air rifles on the market, there is little arguing that the Crosman Benjamin 392 Bolt Action Variable Pump .22 is among the best of the best. Combining classic good looks with dependable accuracy and quality workmanship, the rifle has long been the favorite of many.
The Crosman Benjamin 392 is a .22 air rifle that I use a lot. It is a dependable gun that you never have to worry about running out of air. Some people see the need to pump as a drawback, but I don’t see it as such at all. A few pumps before each shot is a small price to pay for an accurate shot with high velocity.
What sets this gun apart form other multi-pump pneumatics, aside from its accuracy and dependability, is its quality design. It is constructed of sleek and lightweight American hardwood and a fully rifled brass barrel. The fully adjustable sights ensure you can zero in and hit your target with ease.
The Benjamin 392 is a good bet for target shooting, but I use it primarily for small pest control/small game hunting, where it performs especially well. The trigger is crisp, the shot is quiet, and the bolt action affect is a nice touch.
If you are considering the Benjamin 392 as your next air rifle, I recommend investing in a scope. The iron sites are a little hard to shoot with. Fortunately, there are two places to mount the scope (I recommend a pistol scope as it makes pumping easier).
4. CO2 Powered – Crosman 1077 Repeat Air Semi-Automatic
I’m not normally a fan of CO2 powered rifles but the Crosman 1077 Repeat Air Semi-Automatic CO2 Air Rifle always makes me reconsider my prejudices. Whenever I pull this baby out for a little shooting, I am pleasantly surprised at its accuracy and reliability. Plus, the fact that its semi-automatic means you can fire it as fast as you can pull the trigger.
The Crosman 1077 is a 12 shot semi-automatic rifle. This makes it unique in the class of CO2 powered rifles. Shooting it is very similar to shooting a semi-automatic firearm rifle. The big difference is that the 1077 is much quieter and doesn’t have much recoil (unlike standard firearms).
The simplicity of design is another highlight of the 1077. It is a solid gun that doesn’t require much maintenance. Best of all, it is relatively affordable, so it is a great air rifle for those learning to shoot or without much time to shoot.
The Crosman 1077 is not, in my opinion, an accurate enough gun for target competitions. It likewise isn’t powerful enough for most small game hunting (aside from mice and small birds). However, I love it for close range target practice in my backyard.
5. Gas Spring – Crosman Benjamin NP XL 725
A gas spring air rifle works in much the same way as a spring piston air rifle. The difference is that instead of a spring, a gas powered air rifle uses nitrogen gas to push the piston forward and power the pellet.
When it comes to gas spring air rifles, few are as high quality as the Crosman Benjamin NP XL 725 Break Barrel Air Riffle. They are among the most fun to shoot with a high level of accuracy and great velocity. Add a handsome, checkered hardwood stock into the mix and you have an air rifle that looks as good as it shoots.
I use my Benjamin NP XL 725 primarily for small game hunting. 30 foot pounds of muzzle energy and a shot velocity of up to 999 FPS make the gun an absolute champion. Effortless cocking action and 70% less noise than a spring piston air rifle will also appeal to serious small game hunters.
All in all, the Benjamin NP XL 725 shoots hard and with great accuracy. I think it works best at 30 yards or less but you might be able to go a little farther back with the right technique. For a great air rifle (that is not meant for children), there are not many better choices than this one.
The Best Air Rifle for You
Use this air gun buying guide to find the absolute best air rifle for you. Depending on the type of gun you want and the shooting you want to do, any of these guns will work great. Investing in one of these high-quality air rifles – over a shoddy, knockoff brand – will guarantee years of great performance and bushels of fun and enjoyment.
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