Air rifles can be a great way to practice shooting and build skills before getting into a traditional gun. They also can offer a low-cost, low-recoil alternative for small game and pest hunting. But they are also becoming increasingly capable of taking bigger game as well. In fact, big bore PCP (precharged pneumatic) rifles are now able to generate enough muzzle energy to take coyotes and wild hogs. And as more states legalize the use of these powerhouses during regular big game season, it’s only a matter of time before hunters are using them to bag deer and other species as well.

While all air rifles fire pellets, not all operate the same. The most popular and affordable options are variable pump guns that require you to “pump” compressed air into the gun’s chamber as a propellant before each shot. These rifles are generally chambered for.177 and.22-inch pellets and work well for small game and pest hunting.

Next up in popularity are piston-powered air rifles, which swap the spring for a built-in cylinder filled with compressed gas. When you cock the gun, it further compresses the gas, which in turn powers a piston to push a pellet down the barrel and into the target. This type of air rifle can be more precise than break barrel models because you can control how much power you apply to each shot – from 2 pumps when plinking to 12 pumps for knockdown power. airsoft guns

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