Whether you’re a seasoned marksman or a novice shooter seeking a new adventure, selecting the perfect air rifle can be a daunting task. There is an enormous range of air guns to choose from, with models designed for everything from plinking to hunting.
If you’re buying a new air rifle but have no idea where to start, read on. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of air rifles, exploring various types, calibres and factors to consider before making your purchase. We will navigate the plethora of options available to help you choose the best air rifle for your needs and budget. Let’s get started!
Air Guns, Air Pistols and Air Rifles: UK Law
In England and Wales, anyone over the age of 18 can purchase an air gun (this includes air pistols and air rifles). In most cases, you do not need an air rifle licence (UK).
However, this only applies to air rifles with a maximum muzzle energy of 12ft/lbs. Rifles more powerful than this will require a firearm certificate. For pistols, the limit is much lower at 6ft/lbs. In Scotland, all airguns require a certificate or permit, regardless of power.
You can use your air rifle for target shooting, pest control or small game hunting. Before you start, make sure you’re familiar with all relevant regulations. For example, you can only shoot animals on your own property, or with written permission from the landowner.
What to Consider When Buying an Air Rifle
There are many different types of air rifles, each with different specifications. Some air rifles are best suited to casual use, such as backyard plinking. Others are built to match-grade standards for competitive target shooting, while others are designed primarily for hunting.
When searching for an air rifle for sale, it’s important to think about how you plan to use it. You’ll also need to take into account your budget, skill level and any specific features you’re interested in. Here are the main factors to consider.
There are four main types of air rifle (UK), each with their own benefits and drawbacks.
Spring piston air rifles, or springers, work using a compressed spring. Upon pulling the trigger, the spring releases, propelling the pellet out of the barrel. Popular for target practice, springers are simple, affordable and reliable, but can be more difficult to shoot accurately.
Gas ram air rifles rely on compressing and expanding gas (often nitrogen) rather than a spring. They offer smoother cocking, reduced recoil, and quieter shooting, but may require more maintenance.
CO2 air rifles use pre-filled, disposable CO2 cartridges. When the gun is fired, a valve opens, releasing the ammunition with a burst of gas. CO2 air rifles are known for their ease of use, rapid-fire capability, and shot-to-shot consistency. However, the cost of replacing the cartridges can add up.
Pre-charged pneumatic or PCP air rifles are powered by compressed air, stored in a built-in reservoir which must be refilled regularly. They offer high accuracy, little to no recoil and multi-shot capability, making them popular air rifles for hunting. However, they tend to be more expensive, and require the additional purchase of a pump or cylinder.
The calibre of an air rifle refers to the internal diameter of its barrel and the size of the pellet it fires. The required air rifle range and the intended use play a significant role in choosing the right calibre.
.177 is often preferred for target shooting. The smaller, lighter pellets have a flatter trajectory for a more precise shot. .22 and larger calibres are more powerful and tend to perform better at longer ranges. They also have a higher impact, making them ideal for pests and small game hunting.
The type and weight of pellet you choose will also make a difference to the gun’s performance. You can read our buyer’s guide to air gun pellets here.
Size and Weight
The size and weight of the air rifle is also important to consider. For those who plan to carry and use it for extended periods, smaller and lighter rifles (such as carbines and bullpups) are easier to handle and transport. However, they may be less stable when shooting.
On the other hand, heavier full-length rifles may be more cumbersome to carry, and awkward to use for those with smaller arms. However, they provide better stability and aim, and are better at absorbing recoil.
Air rifle barrels come in two main types: rifled and smoothbore. Rifled barrels have grooves that spin the pellet, providing better accuracy and stability. Smoothbore barrels lack these grooves, making them less accurate but suitable for casual shooting and plinking.
Additionally, some air rifles feature a shrouded or silenced barrel. This reduces noise and makes them more suitable for hunting and backyard shooting in noise-sensitive areas.
Single Shot vs. Multi-Shot
Single-shot air rifles fire one pellet or BB at a time. They are generally less expensive and simpler in design, making them an excellent choice for beginners. However, the need to reload after every shot can be time-consuming, which may not be ideal for situations such as hunting.
Multi-shot air rifles feature a magazine or rotary clip that holds multiple pellets. This allows for fast follow-up shots without the need to reload between each one. This type of air rifle may be more expensive, but offer greater efficiency, convenience and ease of use.
Open vs. Telescopic Sights
Some air rifles, especially more affordable models, are fitted with open sights (also called iron sights). These are the oldest and most basic type of aiming device. They work reasonably well at short range, but can be difficult to use, relying on the naked eye.
Many modern air guns, however, are fitted with rails which can be used to mount a telescopic sight or air rifle scope. Scopes draw in light and use magnification to provide a clearer view of the target, They can be adjusted to different focal points and carry markings allowing the shooter to account for elevation and wind.
Some air rifles come with a scope included, but you can also purchase them separately.
Quality and Price
The most basic, budget-friendly air rifles start at around the £70 mark. High-end models, built with precision-machined components and extra features, may exceed £1,000.
Choosing the best air rifle is all about striking a balance between quality and price. Generally, more expensive air rifles will be built to last, offering better reliability, accuracy and power.
At The Wolfman, we supply air guns, ammunition and accessories from trusted industry-leading manufacturers such as Kral, Crosman, Air Arms, BSA and more. We only stock well-made, high-quality products that you can rely on.
Head to our website to browse our fantastic range of air rifles for sale, including PCP, CO2, spring-powered and gas piston models. For advice or product recommendations, feel free to get in touch.