.177 or .22 - What is the best calibre for air rifle hunting?

14 June 2024  |  Air Arms

.177 or .22 - What is the best calibre for air rifle hunting?

In the world of air rifle hunting, there is a common debate over the choice between .177 and .22 calibres and which choice is the best for the job. So, which one is it? Understanding the advantages and inner workings of each caliber is an essential factor for you and the shooters to enhance and hone in on your shooting experience. 

In this blog, we will take a look at .177 and .22 air rifle calibres, comparing and contrasting both to see which option is the best for air rifle hunting.

What are Air Rifles?

An air rifle is a gun that uses compressed air or gas to propel a projectile, typically a pellet or BB. These rifles are popular for various purposes, including target shooting, pest control, small game hunting, and recreational shooting. They are known for their relatively low noise levels, affordability, and ease of use, making them accessible to shooters of all skill levels.

What types of air rifles are there?

Air rifles come in different types, including break barrel, PCP air rifles, CO2-powered, and spring air rifles. They vary in power, accuracy, and features, catering to a wide range of shooting preferences. 

These air guns come in different calibres, styles, and powers. You can learn more about the different air gun types in our blog: What is an air rifle?

Air rifles are often used for training, competitive shooting sports, backyard plinking, and hunting small to medium-sized game animals.

What does calibre mean? 

Calibres, in the context of air rifles, refer to the diameter of the projectile or pellet used in the gun. Common calibres for air rifles include .177, .22, .25, and others. The choice of caliber can impact factors such as speed, accuracy, power, and suitability for different shooting activities. This means that depending on which calibre your air gun has will influence the performance of your chosen activity.

When hunting, your shot should aim to be efficient, clean, and reliable. Whether you're precision target shooting, hunting small game, or engaging in plinking activities, each caliber has its strengths and considerations, influencing the shooter's overall experience with the air rifle.

So, what calibre is best for hunting?

  1. .177 Caliber: This is one of the most popular and widely used calibres for air rifles. It offers high velocity and flat trajectory, making it suitable for target shooting, pest control, and small game hunting.

  2. .22 Caliber: Known for its higher impact energy than .177 caliber, the .22 caliber is favoured for hunting purposes, especially for larger pests and small game. It has a slower velocity but delivers more stopping power.

When choosing an air rifle caliber, you should always consider the intended use, shooting range, target size, and personal preferences to select the most suitable option. 

Comparison of .177 and .22 Calibers

When comparing the .177 and .22 calibres for air rifles, several factors include speed, accuracy, and power. Let's delve into the key differences between these two popular calibres:


  • .177 Caliber: Known for its high velocity, the .177 air rifle often achieves faster speeds than .22 calibres. Thisresults in a flatter trajectory, making it ideal for target shooting and situations where precision and speed are crucial.

  • .22 Caliber: While slightly slower than .177, the .22 caliber delivers greater impact energy due to its heavier pellets. This slower speed can be advantageous for hunting scenarios that require more stopping power at closer ranges.


  • .177 Caliber: The .177 caliber is often associated with better accuracy over longer distances due to its flatter trajectory and less susceptibility to wind drift. This makes it a preferred choice for competitive target and precision shooting applications.

  • .22 Caliber: Despite its slower speed, the .22 caliber can offer excellent accuracy within its effective range, especially in hunting scenarios where hitting power takes precedence over speed.


  • .177 Caliber: While .177 air rifles may lack the raw power of .22 calibres, they make up for it with higher speeds and flatter trajectories. They are effective for shooting small pests and varmints at moderate distances.

  • .22 Caliber: Recognised for its superior knockdown power, the .22 caliber is often preferred for hunting largergame and pests. The heavier pellets retain energy better over distance, making them suitable for short to medium-range hunting applications.

Understanding the unique characteristics of each caliber is essential for selecting the right tool for your specific shooting needs. Whether it's pinpoint accuracy in target shooting or maximum stopping power in hunting, choosing between .177 and .22, calibres ultimately depends on your shooting style, intended use, and personal preferences.

Hunting Performance

When hunting with air rifles, the choice between .177 and .22 calibres can significantly impact your success in the field. Each caliber offers distinct advantages and considerations that hunters must carefully weigh based on their target species, shooting conditions, and personal preferences.

.177 Caliber Hunting Performance:

  • Small Game: The .177 caliber is well-suited for hunting small game such as squirrels, rabbits, and birds. Its high velocity and flat trajectory make precise shots at moderate distances practical.

  • Pest Control: Airgun enthusiasts often rely on .177 calibres for pest control due to their accuracy and ability to take down pests like rats, mice, and pigeons without excessive damage.

.22 Caliber Hunting Performance:

  • Medium Game: The .22 caliber excels in hunting medium-sized game such as raccoons, possums, and larger pests. Its heavier pellets provide superior knockdown power for ethical and practical hunting.

  • Short to Medium Range: Hunters favour the .22 caliber for stopping power at shorter ranges, making it ideal for hunting scenarios where precision and impact energy are crucial.

Why choose a 1.77 calibre for hunting?

Selecting a .177 caliber air rifle for hunting can be a strategic choice based on specific hunting scenarios, target species, and shooting preferences. Here are some reasons why hunters may opt for a .177 caliber for their hunting endeavours:

  1. High Velocity: .177 caliber pellets are known for their high velocity and flat trajectory, making them ideal for shooting small game and pests at shorter distances. The increased speed of .177 pellets can improve accuracy and precision when targeting small or fast-moving game.

  2. Accuracy and Precision: The lighter weight of .177 pellets allows them to travel faster and maintain better stability over longer distances. This can enhance the shooter's accuracy and increase the likelihood of hitting the target precisely, which is crucial for ethical hunting practices.

  3. Versatility: .177 caliber air rifles are versatile and well-suited for various hunting applications, including pest control, small game hunting, and target shooting. The flat trajectory and consistent performance of .177 pellets make them adaptable to different hunting environments and shooting conditions.

  4. Suitability for Smaller Game: When hunting small game such as birds, squirrels, or rabbits, the .177 calibre's high velocity and impact energy can provide effective shot placement and humane kills. The smaller profile of .177 pellets makes them suitable for targeting vital areas on smaller game species.

  5. Less Pellet Drop: Due to its flatter trajectory, .177 caliber pellets experience less drop at longer distances than heavier calibers, making it easier to aim and adjust for elevation when hunting in varying terrain.

  6. Regulatory Considerations: In some regions, hunting regulations may specify smaller calibres like .177 for specific game species or hunting activities. Choosing a .177 caliber air rifle ensures compliance with local hunting laws and restrictions.

Why Choose a .22 Caliber for Hunting?

Opting for a .22 caliber air rifle can offer distinct advantages in specific hunting scenarios, target species, and shooting conditions. Here are compelling reasons why hunters may prefer a .22 caliber for their hunting pursuits:

  1. Increased Impact Energy: The larger and heavier pellets of .22 caliber air rifles deliver enhanced impact energy upon hitting the target, making them well-suited for hunting medium-sized game and varmints. This increased stopping power can result in more effective and humane kills, especially when targeting larger game species.

  2. Superior Terminal Ballistics: .22 caliber pellets exhibit superior terminal ballistics due to their weight and size, ensuring deeper penetration and better expansion upon impact. This can be crucial for achieving quick and ethical kills, particularly when hunting animals with thicker hides or challenging shot placement.

  3. Enhanced Knockdown Power: The higher kinetic energy and momentum of .22 caliber projectiles provide improved knockdown power, increasing the likelihood of swiftly incapacitating the target upon impact. This can prevent wounded animals from escaping and ensure cleaner kills.

  4. Accuracy and Stability: While .22 caliber pellets may have a slightly slower velocity than .177 caliber, they offer greater stability and resistance to wind drift. This can be advantageous when hunting in windy conditions or at longer distances, ensuring consistent shot placement and reliable performance.

  5. Versatility for Medium Game: .22 caliber air rifles excel in hunting medium-sized game such as raccoons, possums, groundhogs, and other similar-sized animals. The balance between velocity and impact energy of .22 caliber pellets makes them suitable for delivering effective shots on medium game species.

  6. Longer Effective Range: Due to their heavier weight and ballistic characteristics, .22 caliber pellets can maintain accuracy and energy over longer distances than lighter calibres. This extended effective range allows hunters to take ethical shots at targets situated farther away.

So, which option is the best for hunting?

Well, in short, the answer is: It depends.

The decision between .177 and .22 calibres for hunting ultimately depends on your specific needs, hunting preferences, target species, and shooting conditions. 

  1. Target Species: Consider the size and type of game you intend to hunt. For smaller game like birds, squirrels, or pests, the high velocity and accuracy of .177 caliber may be more suitable. In contrast, if you're targeting medium-sized game such as raccoons or groundhogs, the increased impact energy and knockdown power of .22 caliber could be advantageous.

  2. Shooting Distance: Evaluate the typical shooting distances in your hunting environment. .177 caliber air rifles are known for their flat trajectory and better performance at shorter distances - while .22 caliber excels at longer ranges due to its superior stability and resistance to wind drift.

  3. Accuracy and Precision: Consider your shooting skills and the precision required for ethical hunting. If you prioritise accuracy and precise shot placement, the flatter trajectory and speed of .177 caliber may enhance your shooting performance. However, if you need increased terminal ballistics and impact energy for clean kills, .22 caliber could be the preferred choice.

  4. Regulatory Considerations: Check local hunting regulations to ensure compliance with any caliber restrictions or requirements for specific game species. Some regions may have limitations on using certain calibres for hunting purposes, influencing your decision between .177 and .22 caliber.

  5. Personal Preference: Ultimately, your personal preferences, shooting style, and comfort with a particular caliber play a significant role in the decision-making process. Test both .177 and .22 air rifles to determine which caliber feels more natural to you and aligns with your hunting goals.


The best caliber for hunting—whether .177 or .22—depends on your individual needs, hunting objectives, and the specific conditions of your hunting environment. By considering factors such as target species, shooting distance, accuracy requirements, regulatory guidelines, and personal preferences, you can make an informed decision that optimises your hunting success and ensures ethical and effective hunting practices.

When choosing between .177 and .22 calibres for air rifle hunting, it's crucial to consider your specific hunting needs, shooting style, and preferences. Take the time to assess what matters most to you in your air rifle pursuits, and make an informed decision based on your unique requirements. 

At Air Arms, we're here to ensure you find the perfect air rifle for your needs. From entry level air rifles to high powered pellet guns, we have the best air rifle for the job. For any air rifle-related questions or queries, please contact us today.