Top Air Rifles for Small Game Hunting

31 May 2024  |  Air Arms

Top Air Rifles for Small Game Hunting

Small game hunting has long been a cherished pursuit for nature enthusiasts and shooters alike. It offers a gateway to the great outdoors and the thrill of the hunt. 

When selecting the perfect air rifle for small game hunting, several crucial factors come into play. In this blog, we dive into the world of small game hunting, focusing on the best tool for the job. Join us as we unveil the top air rifles designed to elevate your small game hunting adventures to new heights.

Air Rifles and Small Game Hunting

When it comes to hunting, air rifles have gained popularity for their precision, power, and versatility in various hunting scenarios. Whether targeting small game or pests or honing your marksmanship skills, choosing the right air rifle can make all the difference in your hunting experience.

Why are air rifles a good choice for small-game hunting?

Small game hunting demands precision, stealth, and accuracy, making air rifles the ideal companion for hunters seeking to hone their skills and pursue game such as rabbits, squirrels, and birds. With advancements in air rifle technology, hunters can enjoy a quieter, more controlled shooting experience well-suited for small game scenarios. 

Here's why air rifles are the perfect choice for small game hunting:

  1. Precision Shooting

Air rifles are known for their accuracy and precision. They allow hunters to make precise shots on small targets without disturbing the surrounding environment. This precision is crucial when targeting smaller game animals that require accurate placement of shots for humane kills.

  1. Quiet Operation

Compared to traditional firearms, air rifles operate quietly, reducing noise disturbances in the hunting area. Their stealthy nature makes them ideal for hunting small game without alerting other wildlife or nearby hunters.

  1. Controlled Power

Air rifles offer controlled power levels, allowing hunters to adjust their shots' velocity based on the target's size and distance. This feature is essential for small-game hunting, where overpowered shots can damage the game or cause unnecessary suffering.

  1. Versatility

Air rifles come in a variety of calibres and designs, offering hunters versatility in choosing the right tool for the job. Whether you prefer a spring-powered rifle, a precharged pneumatic (PCP) model, or a CO2-powered airgun, there is an air rifle suited to your small game hunting needs.

  1. Safety and Accessibility

Air rifles are often easier to handle and operate than traditional firearms, making them accessible to hunters of all skill levels. Their lighter weight and reduced recoil make them user-friendly for beginners while offering experienced hunters a reliable hunting tool.

Determining Your Hunting Needs

Before deciding, take the time to evaluate your specific hunting needs and preferences. Consider the type of small game you'll be targeting, the typical ranges you'll be shooting, and any environmental factors that may influence your choice of air rifle. You can maximise your hunting success and enjoyment by aligning your selection with your hunting requirements.

Calibre Comparison for Small Game Hunting

When selecting an air rifle for small game hunting, choosing the right calibre is crucial to ensure ethical and effectiveshots. Let's compare the popular calibres of .177, .22, and .25 for hunting small games, highlighting their advantages and considerations in various hunting scenarios.

Velocity and accuracy are paramount when it comes to successful small game hunting. A high-velocity air rifle coupled with exceptional accuracy can increase your chances of making clean shots and minimise the game's suffering. 

.177 caliber

  • Advantages:

    • Higher Velocity: .177 caliber pellets typically achieve higher velocities, offering flatter trajectories and better accuracy at shorter ranges.

    • Less Pellet Drop: The flat trajectory of .177 pellets makes them suitable for shooting small game like birds at distances up to 30 yards.

    • Less Penetration: Ideal for hunting smaller game where overpenetration is a concern, ensuring precise shot placement.

  • Considerations:

    • Less Knockdown Power: Compared to larger calibres, .177 pellets have less mass and energy, which may require more precise shot placement for effective kills on medium-sized game.

    • Wind Sensitivity: Due to their lighter weight, .177 pellets are more susceptible to wind drift, requiring shooters to adjust for wind conditions.

.22 caliber

  • Advantages:

    • Superior Knockdown Power: .22 caliber pellets offer increased kinetic energy and stopping power, making them effective for medium-sized game like rabbits and squirrels.

    • Balanced Performance: .22 pellets balance velocity and energy transfer, providing reliable performance at moderate ranges.

    • Accuracy: Known for their accuracy, .22 pellets are favoured by hunters for their ability to deliver lethal shots with proper shot placement.

  • Considerations:

    • Trajectory Drop: .22 pellets exhibit more trajectory drop than .177 pellets, requiring shooters to adjust for bullet drop at longer distances.

    • Noise Level: The larger size of .22 pellets may produce more noise upon impact, potentially alerting other game nearby.

.25 caliber

  • Advantages:

    • Increased Stopping Power: .25 caliber pellets deliver higher energy transfer and penetration, making them suitable for larger small game like raccoons and possums.

    • Effective at Longer Ranges: .25 pellets retain energy well over distances, providing consistent performance at extended ranges.

    • Versatility: It offers a good balance between energy, accuracy, and trajectory, suitable for various small game hunting scenarios.

  • Considerations:

    • Limited Pellet Selection: Compared to .177 and .22 calibres, .25 caliber pellets may have a narrower range of options, affecting shooter customisation.

    • Recoil: The increased energy of .25 caliber pellets may result in more recoil, which can impact shooter comfort and follow-up shot accuracy.

By considering the advantages and considerations of each caliber, hunters can make informed decisions based on their hunting preferences, target species, and shooting conditions to optimise their success in small game hunting endeavours.

So, what are the top air rifles for small game hunting?

Regarding small game hunting, Air Arms is a brand known for its commitment to quality, precision, and performance in the field. 

When it comes to small game hunting, selecting the best type of air rifle—PCP (precharged pneumatic), spring-powered, gas piston, or CO2-powered—depends on various factors influencing your hunting experience. Each type of air rifle has its advantages and considerations for small game hunting:

  1. PCP Air Rifles:

    • Advantages:

      • Consistent power and accuracy via the highly pressurised air cylinders .

      • Ability to take multiple shots without needing to cock the rifle.

      • Quieter operation compared to spring-powered rifles.

    • However:

      • Additional equipment is required for refilling (e.g., hand pump, scuba tank).

      • Higher initial cost.

  2. Spring-Powered Air Rifles:

    • Advantages:

      • Lower cost compared to PCP rifles.

      • No need for external air sources.

      • Simple design with fewer moving parts.

    • However:

      • Requires cocking before each shot.

      • Can be louder and have more recoil than PCP rifles.

  3. Gas Piston (Gas Spring) Air Rifles:

    • Advantages:

      • Smoother shot cycle than traditional spring rifles.

      • Less vibration and recoil.

      • Can remain cocked for longer periods without spring fatigue.

    • However:

      • It may require a break-in period for optimal performance.

      • Can be challenging to repair if issues arise.

  4. CO2-Powered Air Rifles:

    • Advantages:

      • Easy to operate and consistent shot velocity.

      • Suitable for all-weather use.

      • Semi-automatic or full-automatic options are available.

    • However

      • Performance can be affected by temperature changes.

      • Ongoing costs for CO2 cartridges.

Ultimately, the best type of air rifle for small game hunting depends on your preferences, budget, shooting style, and hunting conditions. PCP rifles offer superior accuracy and consistency, making them ideal for precision shots on small game. Spring-powered rifles are reliable and affordable options for hunters looking for simplicity and affordability. Gas piston rifles provide a smoother shooting experience with less recoil, while CO2 rifles offer easy operation but may be impacted by temperature fluctuations.

What about Air Arms?

Let's explore some of the top Air Arms air rifles, which excel in reliability, accuracy, and power for small game hunting enthusiasts.

Air Arms S510 XS

  • Model: Air Arms S510 XS

  • Features: Regulated side lever action, adjustable power output

  • The Air Arms S510 XS is a flagship model known for its exceptional accuracy and consistent performance. With a regulated design and customisable power settings, this air rifle offers precision and power in a sleek and ergonomic package, making it an excellent choice for small game hunting.

Air Arms TX200

  • Model: Air Arms TX200

  • Features: Underlever spring-powered action, Lothar Walther barrel

  • The Air Arms TX200 is a classic spring-powered air rifle celebrated for its craftsmanship and accuracy. With a renowned Lothar Walther barrel and smooth underlever action, this air rifle delivers consistent performance and reliability, making it a favourite among hunters seeking traditional shooting mechanics.

Air Arms Pro-Sport

  • Model: Air Arms Pro-Sport

  • Features: Spring-powered design, adjustable two-stage trigger

  • The Air Arms Pro-Sport is a premium spring-powered air rifle designed for hunting excellence. With a focus on precision and ergonomics, this air rifle combines power and accuracy for small game hunting adventures. The adjustable two-stage trigger ensures a crisp and consistent shot every time.

Air Arms Galahad

  • Model: Air Arms Galahad

  • Features: Bullpup design, built-in regulator

  • The Air Arms Galahad is a modern bullpup air rifle that excels in compactness and performance. Equipped with a built-in regulator for shot-to-shot consistency and a distinctive design, this air rifle offers style and substance for small game hunters looking for a reliable and powerful companion.

Air Arms Ultimate Sporter

  • Model: Air Arms Ultimate Sporter

  • Features: Adjustable match trigger, shrouded Lothar Walther barrel

  • The Air Arms Ultimate Sporter is a versatile air rifle designed for precision shooting and hunting applications. This air rifle delivers consistent performance and power in the field with an adjustable match trigger and a shrouded Lothar Walther barrel for enhanced accuracy and noise reduction.

Features to Look for in Hunting Air Rifles

When choosing an air rifle for hunting small game, specific features can significantly enhance your hunting experience and improve accuracy in the field. Let's explore key features like noise suppression, scope compatibility, and trigger sensitivity, highlighting how they can elevate your hunting prowess and ensure successful hunts.

  1. Noise Suppression

  • Stealthy Approach: Air rifles with effective noise suppression mechanisms allow hunters to take stealthy shots without alarming nearby game or alerting other animals.

  • Reduced Disturbance: Minimising the noise generated by firing the air rifle helps maintain a quiet hunting environment, increasing the chances of multiple opportunities on a hunt.

  • Ethical Hunting: Quiet shots lead to less stress on game animals, ensuring ethical hunting practices and humane kills.

    1. Scope Compatibility

  • Enhanced Accuracy: Pairing your air rifle with a compatible scope enables precise aiming and target acquisition, improving accuracy over short and long distances.

  • Extended Range: Scopes provide magnification capabilities, allowing hunters to confidently and clearly engage targets at extended ranges.

  • Target Identification: Scopes help identify small game targets more clearly, reducing the risk of mistaken shots and ensuring ethical hunting practices.

    1. Trigger Sensitivity

  • Consistent Shot Placement: A sensitive trigger allows for consistent and predictable shot releases, minimising trigger pull variations that can affect accuracy.

  • Improves Follow-Up Shots: A smooth and sensitive trigger facilitates quick follow-up shots, essential for scenarios where multiple shots may be necessary.

  • Increased Control: Fine-tuned trigger sensitivity gives hunters greater control over shot placement, resulting in more accurate and effective hunting outcomes.

By prioritising noise suppression, scope compatibility, and trigger sensitivity in your hunting air rifle selection, you can optimise your hunting experience, increase accuracy, and elevate your performance in the field. These features contribute to successful hunts and promote ethical hunting practices and responsible wildlife management. Choose an air rifle incorporating these key features to enhance your small game hunting adventures and make every shot count.

Tips for Successful Small Game Hunting

Small game hunting requires skill, patience, and strategy to ensure a successful and ethical hunt. Here are some valuable tips, techniques, and strategies to help you effectively target small game and enhance your field hunting experience.

  1. Stalking Techniques

  • Move Slowly and Quietly: Practice stealthy movements to avoid alerting game animals. Move slowly, step carefully, and minimise noise to increase your chances of getting closer to your target unnoticed.

  • Use Natural Cover: Utilise natural elements like trees, bushes, and terrain features to conceal your movements and blend into the environment. Stay low, use shadows, and approach from downwind to remain undetected.

    1. Shot Placement

  • Vital Zone Targeting: Aim for vital areas on the small game targets to ensure quick and humane kills. Focus on hitting the heart or lungs for ethical shots that minimise suffering.

  • Practice Accuracy: Regular target practice and understanding your air rifle's trajectory are essential for precise shot placement. Know your rifle's capabilities and practice shooting at different distances to improve accuracy.

    1. Field Dressing

  • Be Prepared: Carry essential field dressing tools such as a sharp knife, gloves, and plastic bags for processing game in the field.

  • Quick Processing: Field dress small game promptly to preserve meat quality and prevent spoilage. Follow proper techniques to gut, skin, and cool the game efficiently.

    1. Safety Precautions

  • Know Your Target: Always positively identify your target before taking a shot to avoid accidental shootings of non-target species.

  • Follow Regulations: Adhere to hunting regulations, respect property boundaries, and obtain necessary permits to hunt legally and responsibly.

    1. Environmental Awareness

  • Study Animal Behavior: Learn about the habits, habitats, and behaviour of the small game species you're hunting to anticipate movements and patterns.

  • Weather Considerations: Be aware of how weather conditions can affect animal activity. Adjust your hunting strategies based on wind direction, temperature, and other environmental factors.

    1. Patience and Persistence

  • Stay Patient: Small game hunting requires patience and persistence. Be prepared for long periods of waiting and stay focused on the hunt.

  • Learn from Experience: Each hunting trip offers valuable lessons. Reflect on your successes and failures to improve your skills and tactics for future hunts.

By incorporating these tips and techniques into your small game hunting approach, you can increase your success rate, hone your hunting skills, and enjoy a rewarding and fulfilling hunting experience in the great outdoors. Remember to prioritise safety, ethical hunting practices, and respect for wildlife during your hunting adventures.

Final Considerations

Embrace the art of small game hunting with an air rifle in hand, and embark on adventures that challenge your marksmanship skills and foster a deep appreciation for wildlife and responsible hunting practices.

If you would like to hear more about our air guns and what types of break barrel air rifles we offer, please do not hesitate to contact us. From pest control and small game hunting to target shooting and recreational shooting, we will help you find the best air rifle to suit your air gun and recreational and sporting activities needs.