Which Air Rifle Calibere is Best for Hunting?

1 Comment29 March 2024  |  Air Arms

Which Air Rifle Calibere is Best for Hunting?

Which Air Rifle Caliber is Best for Hunting?

Hunting species with an air rifle can be a challenge for air rifle experts everywhere, especially new shooters. A successful shot requires not only skill and knowledge but also precision and accuracy, so how can you ensure each shot counts?  

Considering factors such as game species, size, shooting distance, and power requirements, choosing the perfect calibre for your air rifle can make all the difference in your hunting success.

This article will explore the world of air rifle calibres and their pros and cons. From small-game hunting to pursuing medium-sized and larger games, let's take a look at which air rifle calibre is best for hunting and what limitations each calibre may have. 


Understanding Air Rifle Calibers

So, what is an air rifle Calibre? 

Caliber refers to the internal diameter of the barrel and is typically measured in inches or millimetres. In air rifles, calibre determines the size of the projectile (pellet) that can be fired from the barrel. Let's look at the most common types of calibre available and what they are suitable for.

.177 calibre:

  • Also known as 4.5mm, it is the most popular and widely available air rifle calibre.

  • It offers high velocity and flat trajectory, making it suitable for target shooting and pest control.

  • Smaller size results in less kinetic energy and limited stopping power, making it less ideal for larger games.

.22 calibre:

  • Also known as 5.5mm, it is considered a versatile all-around calibre for air rifles.

  • Offers a balance between velocity, accuracy, and impact energy.

  • Suitable for small game hunting, pest control, and target shooting.

  • Provides better stopping power compared to .177 calibre for medium-sized games.

.25 calibre:

  • Also known as 6.35mm, it offers increased projectile size and weight.

  • It generates more kinetic energy and impact force, making it suitable for medium-sized game hunting.

  • It provides increased penetration and stopping power compared to smaller calibres.

  • Pellets are less affected by wind but may have a slightly curved trajectory at longer distances.


Explanation of calibre measurement in air rifles

The calibre measurement is essential because it directly influences the size and weight of the pellets that can be used. Different calibres offer varying velocity levels, accuracy, and impact energy, affecting their suitability for hunting or shooting activities.

When selecting the appropriate calibre, it's essential to consider the intended purpose of the air rifle and the characteristics of the game you plan to hunt. Understanding the calibre measurement helps you choose the right air rifle for your specific needs.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the best air rifle for you

When selecting the perfect air rifle calibre for your hunting needs, several important factors must be considered. These factors will help determine the calibre most suits your intended game and shooting conditions. Here are some key considerations:

Game Species and Size:

Different game species have different size and weight characteristics. Consider the typical length of the game you plan to hunt. 

  • Smaller Games, such as birds or pests, may require a smaller calibre, like .177 or .22. 

  • Medium-sized Games, like rabbits or squirrels, a .22 or .25 calibre may be more appropriate. 

  • Larger games, like deer or hogs, may require a more powerful calibre, such as .30 or more significant.

Shooting Distance:

Take into account the typical shooting distances you expect to encounter while hunting. Smaller calibres like .177 may be suited for shorter distances where accuracy is vital, while larger calibres like .25 or .30 may offer better performance at longer ranges.

Power Requirements:

Think about the power requirements needed to effectively take down your intended game. Larger and tougher Game may require more kinetic energy and stopping power, which larger calibre rifles can provide. However, striking a balance is important, as excessive power may cause unnecessary damage or reduced accuracy with smaller games.

Determining what type of air rifle is best for your needs is important. PCP air rifles, spring air rifles, CO2 air guns, and gas ram pellet guns all have unique features that help with certain shooting. Check out our What is an Air Rifle Blog to learn about these types.


Pellet Availability and Cost:

Assess the availability and cost of pellets for the chosen calibre. Some calibres may have a broader range of pellet options and readily available ammunition, while others may be harder to find or more expensive.

Personal Preference and Comfort:

Consider your shooting preferences and comfort. Some shooters may prefer the handling and characteristics of a specific calibre over others. Choosing a calibre that feels comfortable and allows you to shoot accurately and confidently is essential.

Considerations when shooting game

Different game species have varying sizes, weights, and anatomical structures, which impact the effectiveness of various calibres. The right calibre ensures the projectile has enough energy to penetrate and deliver an effective shot, resulting in a clean and ethical kill.

Small Game

For small game, calibres like .177 and .22 are commonly used. These calibres offer sufficient accuracy and velocity for precise shots without excessive power or damage.

Using .177 or .22 calibres for hunting small game:

  • Accurate and Precise: Both .177 and .22 calibre pellets offer excellent accuracy, making them ideal for precise shots on small game targets such as birds or squirrels.

  • Lower Power: These calibres produce lower power than larger calibres, which is advantageous for small-game hunting. It minimises the risk of over-penetration or excessive damage to the target.

  • Flat Trajectory: Due to their lighter weight, .177 and .22 pellets tend to have more balanced trajectories, making it easier to judge distances and compensate for bullet drops.

  • Wide Variety of Pellet Selection: Both .177 and .22 calibres have a wide range of options, allowing hunters to choose pellets that suit their specific needs and optimise performance.

Medium-Sized Game

Calibres like .22 and .25 are suitable for medium sized games. They balance power and accuracy, delivering enough kinetic energy to take down these animals effectively without excessive damage.

Suitability of .22 or .25 calibres for hunting medium-sized game:

  • Both .22 and .25 calibres are suitable for hunting medium-sized Games such as rabbits or raccoons.

  • .22 Calibre: This calibre is widely used for small to medium-game hunting due to its versatility. It offers a good balance between power, accuracy, and trajectory. It can effectively dispatch medium-sized game with well-placed shots.

  • .25 Calibre: This calibre provides more power and energy than .22 calibre, making it suitable for medium-sized game hunting. The larger pellet size of .25 calibre can deliver more significant impact and penetration, increasing the chances of an ethical kill.

Larger Game

When hunting larger game, calibres such as .30 or larger are recommended. These calibres offer higher kinetic energy, penetration, and stopping power necessary to harvest larger animals ethically.

Appropriate calibres for hunting larger game like deer or wild boar:

  • Calibres such as .25 or .30 are commonly used for hunting larger Games due to their power and capability to deliver sufficient energy to take down these animals effectively.

  • .25 Calibre: This calibre provides a good balance between power, trajectory, and penetration. It is suitable for medium to large-sized game like deer, delivering ample energy for an ethical kill with well-placed shots.

  • .30 Calibre: The .30 calibre is known for its stopping power and versatility. It can take down larger game like wild boar, delivering substantial energy and penetration for clean kills.


Distance and Accuracy:

Different calibres perform differently at various shooting distances:

  • Smaller calibres like .177 are commonly used for shorter distances, typically up to 30-40 yards. They offer excellent accuracy for precise shots within this range.

  • Medium calibres like .22 or .25 can provide accurate shots at moderate distances, ranging from 40-60 yards. These calibres strike a balance between accuracy and power.

  • Larger calibres, such as .30 or .35, can deliver accurate shots at longer distances, often beyond 60 yards. These calibres excel in maintaining trajectory and energy over greater distances.

The relationship between calibre, accuracy, and effective range

Caliber plays a role in determining a shot's accuracy. Smaller calibres tend to have less recoil and produce less disturbance in flight, making them more forgiving in accuracy. However, larger calibres have the potential to deliver higher kinetic energy, which can compensate for slight accuracy variations and still provide an effective shot.

Effective range refers to the distance a calibre maintains sufficient velocity and energy to deliver a humane and ethical kill. It is influenced by projectile weight, muzzle velocity, and ballistic characteristics of the calibre. Smaller calibres may have a shorter effective range due to their lower energy and velocity, while larger calibres can maintain effectiveness over longer distances.

It's important to note that accuracy is not solely determined by calibre size. Factors such as your skill, your rifle quality, ammunition selection, and environmental conditions also significantly impact accuracy at any distance. Regular practice, proper technique, and familiarity with your chosen calibre are essential for achieving consistent accuracy.


Power and Energy:

Caliber affects power and energy transfer to the target:

  • Caliber determines the size and weight of the projectile, which directly impacts the power and energy delivered upon impact.

  • Larger calibres generally have more extensive and heavier projectiles, resulting in higher kinetic energy transfer to the target.

  • Kinetic energy is crucial for effective penetration and expansion, ensuring a clean and humane kill.

The importance of sufficient power for humane and ethical hunting:

  • Sufficient power is essential for achieving a quick and humane kill, minimising suffering and ensuring ethical hunting practices.

  • Insufficient power can result in a wounded game that may experience prolonged suffering or escape, leading to an unsuccessful and potentially unethical hunt.

  • A well-chosen calibre with sufficient power ensures the projectile has enough energy to penetrate vital organs and deliver an effective shot, swiftly incapacitating the target.

It's essential to strike a balance when considering power requirements. Using excessive power or calibre for the smaller game may cause unnecessary damage, leading to meat spoilage or reduced accuracy. On the other hand, using an inadequate calibre for the larger game can result in ineffective shots and undue suffering.

Understanding the relationship between calibre, power, and energy is crucial for selecting the appropriate calibre that delivers sufficient stopping power for ethical and humane hunting practices. Always consider local regulations, game size, and the specific requirements of your hunting situation when choosing a calibre.


Other Considerations

Checking your local laws and regulations regarding minimum calibre requirements for hunting is essential. Consider some considerations you must familiarise yourself with before choosing an air rifle.

  • Thoroughly research and understand your area's local laws and regulations regarding minimum calibre hunting requirements.

  • Many jurisdictions have specific rules regarding the minimum calibre that can be used for hunting various game species. These regulations are put in place to ensure humane kills and responsible hunting practices.

  • Minimum calibre requirements may vary depending on the type of game being hunted, such as small, medium-sized, or big games. Some jurisdictions may even have different requirements based on specific species.

  • Violating minimum calibre requirements can result in legal consequences, fines, and the potential loss of hunting privileges. More importantly, it can compromise the ethical treatment of the animals being hunted.

To ensure compliance with local laws and regulations, it is essential to consult official sources such as government wildlife agencies or hunting regulatory bodies. These authorities provide accurate and up-to-date information regarding minimum calibre requirements, bag limits, hunting seasons, and any other restrictions or guidelines hunters must follow.

Personal Preference and Experience:

Personal preference and experience are important factors when selecting a calibre for hunting. Each hunter may have their preferences based on comfort, familiarity, shooting style, and individual shooting capabilities. Experience with different calibres can provide valuable insights into their performance, effectiveness, and suitability for specific hunting situations.

It is beneficial for you to explore and try different calibres to find the one that best suits your needs and preferences. Experimenting with various calibres will allow you to gain firsthand experience and determine which calibre feels most comfortable and practical.

Seeking guidance from experienced hunters can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on their own experiences and expertise. Engaging in discussions, attending hunting workshops or seminars, joining hunting communities, or seeking mentorship from seasoned hunters can help expand knowledge and understanding of different calibres.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all regarding which air rifle calibre is best for hunting - as it depends on what's being hunted, what type of air rifle is being used, and where. By being open-minded, trying different calibres, and seeking guidance from experienced hunters, individuals can enhance their hunting skills and make informed decisions about calibre selection based on their preferences and experiences. 

When choosing an air rifle calibre for hunting, several important factors should be considered. Understanding the game species being hunted, the shooting distance involved, and the power requirements are crucial to making the right choice.

As one of the leading manufacturers at Air Arms, we would love to help you on your shooting journey. Whether it's for target practice or pest control - we deliver airguns at the highest standard, from break barrel, spring air rifle to PCP Airguns. Please do not hesitate to contact us for any questions or queries regarding air rifles. 

D {Tatang ) Valdrez ,Jr.
31 March 2024  |  4:39