What is an air rifle used for?

1 Comment19 April 2024  |  Air Arms

What is an air rifle used for?

Air rifles have gained significant popularity in recent years, capturing the attention of shooting enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike. These versatile firearms, powered by compressed air or gas, offer a wide range of applications and are considered an appealing alternative to traditional firearms. 

But what can they be used for? Air rifles have become a go-to choice for many individuals seeking an engaging and versatile shooting experience from pest control to recreational shooting. In this blog, we will examine what air rifles are available and how they’re used across the UK.

What is an air rifle?

An air rifle is a type of pellet gun that uses compressed air or gas to propel projectiles (typically pellets or BBs.) Unlike traditional firearms that use explosive propellants, air guns utilise pneumatic mechanisms to generate the force required for propulsion. These air guns operate on the principle of pneumatics, harnessing the power of compressed air to propel the ammunition. Compared to traditional firearms, air rifles are quieter, have minimal recoil, and offer a wide range of applications, appealing to a diverse range of shooting enthusiasts.

Understanding Air Rifles

An air rifle is a type of firearm that utilises compressed air or gas to propel projectiles. Unlike traditional firearms that rely on gunpowder explosions, these pellet guns use pneumatic power to generate force. This makes them distinct from conventional firearms regarding operation, noise level, and recoil.

There are several types of air rifles available in the market, each with its own unique mechanisms and advantages. Some common types include:

Spring Air Rifles:

These rifles use a coiled spring and a piston to compress air within a chamber. When the trigger is pulled, the spring releases its energy, pushing the piston forward and compressing the air. As the compressed air expands, it propels the pellet out of the barrel.

Gas-Piston Air Rifles:

Gas-piston rifles replace the coiled spring with a gas-filled cylinder. When the trigger is pulled, the gas inside the cylinder expands rapidly, pushing the piston forward and compressing the air. This system offers smoother shooting and reduced recoil compared to spring-piston rifles.

CO2-Powered Air Rifles:

CO2 rifles use carbon dioxide cartridges as their power source. The cartridges are inserted into the rifle, and when the trigger is pulled, a valve releases a controlled amount of CO2, propelling the pellet. CO2 rifles are often favoured for their ease of use and consistent power output.

PCP Air Rifles

A PCP air rifle, or Pre-Charged Pneumatic air rifle, is a type of firearm that operates using compressed air or gas stored in a high-pressure reservoir. Unlike traditional spring-powered air rifles, PCP air rifles are pre-charged with air before shooting.

Calibres and Velocities:

Air rifles come in various calibres, ranging from .177 (4.5mm) to .50 (12.7mm). The calibre refers to the internal diameter of the barrel, and different calibres are suited for various purposes. Smaller calibres like .177 are popular for target practice and pest control, while larger calibres like .22 and .25 are preferred for hunting larger games.

The velocity of an air rifle, measured in feet per second (fps) or metres per second (m/s), plays a crucial role in performance. Higher velocities generally result in flatter trajectories and greater kinetic energy upon impact. However, factors such as pellet weight and design also affect the effectiveness of an air rifle.

So, what can air rifles be used for?

One key factor contributing to the growing popularity of air rifles is their versatility. Unlike traditional firearms that rely on explosive propellants, air rifles use compressed air or gas to propel projectiles, making them quieter, more accessible, and environmentally friendly. This unique feature opens up many applications for air rifles, catering to various interests and needs.

1) Recreational Shooting and Target Practice:

Air rifles have become a favourite among recreational shooters due to their ease of use and affordability. Whether plinking at tin cans in the backyard or honing your marksmanship skills at a local shooting range, air rifles provide an enjoyable shooting experience for individuals of all ages. Target shooting’s appeal lies in its ability to enhance hand-eye coordination, concentration, and focus, making it a popular activity for both beginners and experienced shooters.

The appeal of Target Shooting:

Target shooting with air rifles appeals to individuals for various reasons. It can be a form of relaxation, a way to challenge oneself, or simply a means of enjoying time outdoors. The repetitive nature of target shooting also enhances hand-eye coordination, focus, and concentration.

Benefits for Hand-Eye Coordination and Concentration:

Practising target shooting with air rifles can improve hand-eye coordination and concentration. The precise aim required to hit targets consistently helps develop fine motor skills and enhances the shooter’s ability to focus on the task.

Popular Shooting Disciplines:

Air rifle enthusiasts engage in various shooting disciplines, each with its own rules and challenges. Some popular disciplines include:


Plinking involves shooting at informal targets such as tin cans or paper targets in a casual and relaxed setting. It is a fun and accessible way to enjoy shooting without strict rules or regulations.

Field Target Shooting:

Field target shooting is a competitive discipline where shooters aim to hit metal targets at various distances and heights outdoors. This requires a combination of accuracy, range estimation, and wind reading skills.

Equipment and Safety:

Engaging in recreational shooting with air rifles requires appropriate equipment and safety measures. This includes using proper eye protection, selecting suitable targets and backstops, and following local regulations and guidelines for shooting on private property or designated ranges.

Target shooting with air rifles provides a fulfilling recreational activity that individuals of all ages and skill levels can enjoy. Whether it’s plinking for fun or participating in competitive shooting disciplines, the appeal lies in the challenge, focus, and satisfaction of hitting targets with precision.

2) Pest Control and Small Game Hunting:

Another practical application of air rifles is pest control and small game hunting. Air rifles offer a humane and efficient option for managing pests that threaten crops, gardens, and property while minimising the risk of collateral damage. Additionally, they are suitable for hunting small game such as rabbits, squirrels, and birds, providing a challenging and rewarding experience for outdoor enthusiasts.

Advantages for Pest Management:

  1. Quiet Operation: Air rifles produce minimal noise compared to traditional firearms, making them ideal for urban or suburban areas where noise restrictions may apply. The reduced noise level helps avoid disturbing neighbours or alerting other nearby pests.

  2. Reduced Risk of Collateral Damage: The limited power and range of air rifles make them less likely to cause unintended damage to property or harm non-target animals. This is particularly important when dealing with pests in populated areas or near livestock.

Regulations and Guidelines:

The regulations and guidelines for pest control with air rifles vary between jurisdictions. It is essential to familiarise oneself with local laws to ensure compliance. Some regions may require specific permits or licences for pest control activities, while others may have restrictions on shooting near residential areas or during certain times of the day. It is advisable to consult local wildlife agencies or authorities to determine the specific regulations that apply.

Ethical and Responsible Hunting Practices:

When it comes to small game hunting, ethical and responsible practices are crucial. You should prioritise humane kills, ensuring that the chosen air rifle and ammunition are capable of delivering enough energy to dispatch the animal swiftly and effectively. Proper shot placement is essential to minimise suffering for the chosen game and make for a safer environment for both you and the animals.

3) Competitive Target Shooting

Another amazing activity that you can participate in with your air rifle is competitive target shooting. There are a multitude of options, from field target to hunter field target to target sprint. 

Field Target (FT):

Field Target shooting involves precision marksmanship at various targets placed at different distances and heights in a natural outdoor setting. Participants must showcase accuracy, focus, and a deep understanding of windage and elevation adjustments to hit targets that mimic real-life hunting scenarios.

Hunter Field Target (HFT):

Hunter Field Target shooting combines marksmanship with the elements of hunting. It requires shooters to engage targets set at unknown distances within a time limit. This discipline emphasises quick decision-making, adaptability, and skilful shooting under pressure, making it a test of accuracy and speed.

Target Sprint:

Target Sprint is a fast-paced discipline that blends running with air rifle shooting. Participants dash between shooting stations, where they must demonstrate excellent marksmanship, physical agility, and endurance. Target Sprint challenges athletes to push their mental and physical limits as they strive for precision and speed in this dynamic competition format.

Training and Education:

Air rifles also serve as valuable tools for training and education in shooting sports. Their affordability, accessibility, and reduced recoil make them an excellent choice for introducing beginners to shooting fundamentals and firearm safety. Additionally, air rifles are commonly used by law enforcement agencies and military organisations for training purposes, allowing individuals to develop and refine their shooting skills in a controlled environment.

Shooting Fundamentals:

Air rifles provide a less intimidating introduction to shooting for beginners, allowing them to learn the basics of marksmanship, such as proper stance, grip, sight alignment, and trigger control. Air rifles’ reduced recoil and noise make them more manageable for novices, helping them build confidence and develop fundamental shooting skills.

Firearm Safety Education:

Air rifles are excellent tools for teaching firearm safety practices. Instructors can emphasise the importance of safe handling, proper storage, and responsible shooting techniques without the added concerns of live ammunition. This allows beginners to focus on learning and internalising safe firearm practices before transitioning to firearms that use live ammunition.

Affordability and Accessibility:

Air rifles are generally more affordable than traditional firearms and require less expensive ammunition. This affordability makes them accessible to a wider range of individuals interested in learning shooting skills. Additionally, air rifles can be safely used in indoor ranges or private backyards where space or noise limitations may apply, adding to their accessibility for training purposes.

Skill Development:

Air rifles offer shooters the opportunity to refine their shooting skills. The consistent shooting experience provided by air rifles allows both beginners and experienced shooters to practise and improve their accuracy, precision, and consistency. This makes them valuable tools for ongoing training and skill development.

To finish off

If you’re curious about the shooting world, we encourage you to explore the potential of air rifles. Whether for recreational enjoyment, honing your marksmanship skills, or participating in competitive shooting sports, the best air rifle can offer a rewarding experience. Remember to prioritise safety, familiarise yourself with local regulations, and follow proper shooting practices.

Here at Air Arms, we would love to help you find the perfect air rifle for your shooting needs. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any queries or questions. Happy shooting!

William Pinchers
28 April 2024  |  16:19

well I'm a 66 year old returning to air gunning after 45 year break.i really want a tx200 left hand stock and a pro sport left hand stock just gutted that you no longer do the pro sport on a left hand stock.