The Top 10 Best Hunting & Self Defense Pellet Guns For Doomsday Survival

Our Top 10 Best Air Rifles & Pellet Guns for hunting, long term survival and Doomsday preppers.

Top 10 Best Air Rifles & Pellet Guns To Consider In 2021 For Hunting & Long Term Survival

See our top 10 picks for the best air rifles in 2021 for hunting small, medium, and large sized game such as large deer and hog sized animals that can be taken with today's highest powered air guns. Learn the minimum energy, pellet size, and kill zones for different animals.

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Why Air Rifles Are Perfect For Hunting & Survival (click to expand)

Air rifles are the perfect stealthy solution to hunt small, medium, and large sized game to provide food for your family without going to the grocery store. Even large deer and hogs can be effectively hunted with today's highest powered air guns. See our top 10 picks for the best air rifles for different sized game. They are all exceptional for hunting, and any one of them could be perfect for your situation. Our #10 pick (the Benjamin Pioneer Airbow) is an extraordinary new type of hunting weapon. Keep reading after our top 10 picks to learn the different types of air rifles, minimum energy, pellet size, and kill zones for different animals plus which pellets are best for hunting. We also discuss air rifles vs. air pistols, laws & regulations, how to calculate muzzle energy, and more.

The Air Rifles pictured below are the best available today for both hunters & preppers who understand the importance of pellet guns for both hunting, survival and for a Doomsday Prepper SHTF scenario. Be sure to watch the included videos in our reviews to get a good feel about these highly regarded pellet guns. It's the best way to start learning about features and what characteristics of air rifles are important to you.

Why you might need one or more air rifles

With the world becoming increasing more dangerous, it's not too far fetched to imagine that someday a Doomsday situation could unfold that requires long term survival skills. At that point having the right equipment and supplies will be a factor in surviving or not. If a natural disaster, economic collapse, pandemic, or any other devastating event causes the government to lose control of society, after the food supplies run out, people will be scavenging, growing, and hunting their own food sources in addition to outright marauding and taking what others have. Most Doomsday preppers stockpile firearms (pistols, rifles & shotguns) and ammo to the extent they can afford to for hunting and self defense. Probably more important than all of them are high powered pellet guns. Regular rimfire and centerfire firearms are extremely loud (without expensive suppressors), and they are on average much higher cost in comparison to an air rifle. Air rifles are more easily purchased and are less regulated compared to regular firearms. Furthermore, many air rifles are practically silent allowing more places to shoot without disturbing others. In addition, with pellet guns, you can often get multiple shots at the animals you are hunting without scaring the animal you are targeting or others that are nearby. So if you miss, you might get a second or third shot, or if you drop the animal you still may be able to shoot another one right there on the spot. Pellets are also much lighter, smaller, easier to carry, and are less expensive than traditional ammo. This affords air rifle owners the opportunity to practice shooting and hunting more frequently and improve their accuracy.

In a extended survival situation, most food secured by hunting will be small animals, varmints and birds within 10 to 100 yards. The pellet gun is the ideal tool for this type of hunting. Although air rifles are not often thought of as a self defense weapon, in a collapse of society, a high powered pellet gun would be a pretty good deterrent in many situations. A prepper can easily equip their network with pellet guns and stockpile many thousands of pellets. In a Doomsday SHTF situation, having both traditional firearms and an air rifles on hand would be ideal. Traditional firearms could be used for self defense and hunting larger game. However, the great majority of all shots that you may need to take over time could be made from your pellet guns by taking shots at small game. That would greatly extend the remaining stockpile of traditional ammo using this common sense strategy.

AirForce Texan Big Bore Air Rifle - The World's Most Powerful Production Air Rifle Available Today

Even large deer and hogs can be effectively hunted with today's highest powered air guns such as the Air Force Texan.

Our Top 10 Favorite Air Rifles For Hunters & Preppers

1. Hatsan 135 QE Vortex Air Rifle, .30 Caliber - Recommended For Medium Sized Game

The Hatsan 135 QE Vortex Air Rifle in .30 Caliber is the world’s most powerful break barrel rifle and is a great choice for medium sized game and doomsday survival hunting.

Summary

Pros

  • World's most powerful break barrel air rifle.

  • Highly accurate.

  • Phenomenal air rifle for medium size game hunting with 30 ft/lbs of muzzle energy.

  • This is not just a short range high power gun. It still has approx. 23 ft/lbs at 50 yards making it very effective at this long range probably more effective than smaller bore guns.

  • Beautiful Turkish hardwood stock

  • Nice open sites if you wanted to remove the scope to reduce weight.

  • Leave it cocked all day while you hunt.

Cons

  • Heavy

  • Hard to cock (the price to pay for such high power in a break barrel). Not for smaller, weaker shooters.

Where To Find - Check Availability and Prices at Airgun Depot, Pyramid Air and Amazon.

Detailed Review

2. Gamo Whisper Fusion Mach 1 Air Rifle, .22 Caliber - Recommended For Small Game

The Gamo Whisper Fusion Mach 1 Air Rifle in .22 Caliber is quiet and easy to cock and is perfect for hunting small game and as a survival weapon.

Summary

Pros

    • Fairly Quiet.

    • Fairly lightweight at 6.61 lbs.

    • Easier to cock than most other break barrel rifles except the Benjamin NP2s. Only 32 lb. cocking effort.

    • Good knockdown power for small game hunting with 21.4 ft/lbs of muzzle energy.

    • Decent adjustable 2-stage trigger.

    • Very good accuracy.

    • Bold body design and overall look.

    • Solid scope mount and excellent variable scope for the money.

    • Leave it cocked all day while you hunt.

Cons

    • Typical of most Spring Piston and Gas Piston guns, the Mach 1 is prone to recoil requiring re-tightening of stock and scope screws when accuracy starts to wander.

Where To Find - Check Availability and Prices at Airgun Depot, Pyramid Air and Amazon.

Detailed Review

3. AirForce Texan Big Bore Air Rifle, .45 Caliber - Recommended For Large Sized Game

The Air Force Texan is an easy to cock, highly reliable, easy to operate large caliber air gun that has incredibly awesome power making it perfect for hunting large game today or in a doomsday survival situation.

Summary

Pros

    • The world’s highest power production air rifle available today. Just incredible awesome power (watch the YouTube video in our Review - see link below).

    • Very well designed, well built, highly reliable, easy to operate large caliber air gun.

    • Very easy to cock. You can cock it with one finger.

    • Surprisingly light weight.

    • Easy to tune sighting when changing pellet grains.

    • Easy to load short or long pellets.

    • Highly accurate even at 100 yards with 2" CTR (Center to Center) accuracy.

    • Air Efficient. You'll get 5 to 6 shots before you start to lose accuracy and power to the point you will need to refill the air.

    • Long dovetail rail above and below shroud leave a lot of room for accessories.

Cons

    • Loud.

    • Long (increases power and accuracy, but makes the rifle less portable).

    • Expensive.

Where To Find - Check Availability and Prices at Airgun Depot, Pyramid Air and Amazon.

Detailed Review

4. RWS Model 34P Striker Combo, .22 Caliber - Recommended For Small Game

The RWS Model 34P Striker Combo pellet gun in .22 Caliber is a superbly crafted German air rifle that is highly accurate and dependable and is recommended for small game hunting.

Summary

Pros

  • A very well built and precisely crafted German rifle.

  • Good balance & comfortable feel

  • Two-stage adjustable T06 Trigger is very nice and amazingly light. It is the smoothest trigger I have ever pulled.

  • Very accurate and consistent. Dime sized groups at 20 yards are the norm.

  • Easier to cock than most other break barrel rifles after break-in.

  • 3-9x40 AO Rifle Scope is nice for hunting. Adjustable objective allows focusing the scope to be free of parallax.

  • Open sights are exceptional if you want to remove the scope to reduce weight.

  • Kills squirrels and other small game easily at 25 yards.

Cons

  • Medium loudness.

  • Typical of most Spring Piston guns, the RWS 34P is prone to recoil requiring re-tightening of stock and scope screws when accuracy starts to wander after approx. 300 to 400 rounds.

Where To Find - Check Availability and Prices at Airgun Depot, Pyramid Air and Amazon.

Detailed Review

5. Benjamin Marauder Premium Combo, Synthetic, .25 Caliber - Recommended For Medium Sized Game

The Benjamin Marauder pellet gun in .25 Caliber has zero recoil and is very quiet, powerful and accurate allowing multiple shots when hunting medium sized game.

Summary

Pros

    • Remarkably, smooth, quiet, powerful, and accurate

    • Zero recoil

    • Outstanding trigger

    • Affordable for a high quality PCP Rifle.

    • 16 shots per fill for .25 caliber. Magazine makes loading fast between shots.

    • TAG bullet drop reticle

    • Most backyard friendly PCP Airgun on the market

    • Highly adjustable, tuneable rifle.

Cons

    • Bolt is a little gritty until break-in

Where To Find - Check Availability and Prices at Airgun Depot, Pyramid Air and Amazon.

Detailed Review

6. Sam Yang / Seneca Dragon Claw 500cc Air Rifle, .50 Caliber - Recommended For Large Sized Game

The Sam Yang / Seneca Dragon Claw 500cc air rifle is a .50 Caliber beast that can also shoot arrows and is perfect for doomsday preppers and hunting large sized game such as deer and hogs.

Summary

Pros

    • Massive takedown power with a .50 caliber non-ATF regulated air gun!

    • Almost zero recoil.

    • 20 shots per fill for .50 caliber (4 at high power + 16 at low power).

    • Stock Iron Sites are exceptional.

    • This beast is equally impressive shooting arrows. Watch the video in our Review (see link below) to see it shoot an arrow through a car door into a heavy duty water barrel.

    • Versatility to shoot pellets, arrows, or shotshells.

Cons

    • Loud

Where To Find - Check Availability and Prices at Airgun Depot, Pyramid Air and Amazon.

Detailed Review

7. Benjamin Trail NP XL, .25 Caliber - Recommended For Medium Sized Game

The Benjamin Trail NP XL, .25 Caliber is a very powerful and accurate air rifle for preppers and is recommended for hunting medium sized animals.

Summary

Pros

    • Very powerful & accurate break barrel.

    • Lots of knock down power for medium and small game.

Cons

    • On the heavy side. Right at 10lbs with scope.

    • Hard to cock. Not for smaller, weaker shooters.

    • Hold sensitive. It will take some practice to learn a consistent hold.

Where To Find - Check Availability and Prices at Airgun Depot, Pyramid Air and Amazon.

Detailed Review

8. Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 Air Rifle with Scope, .22 Caliber - Recommended For Small Game

The Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston 2 pellet gun in .22 Caliber is backyard quiet, accurate and powerful for small animal hunting and makes a great survival weapon.

Summary

Pros

    • Very Quiet, i.e., "backyard quiet". Once you break it in (approx. 100 to 200 shots), one of or perhaps the quietest small game hunting air rifles of all pellet guns in the Gas Piston and Spring Piston categories.

    • Easier to cock than most other break barrel rifles. Only 28 lb. cocking effort.

    • Very powerful for small game hunting with 26 ft/lbs of muzzle energy.

    • Decent adjustable 2-stage trigger.

    • Highly accurate.

    • Variable scope works very well (although some shooters would prefer a Mil Dot reticle).

    • Leave it cocked all day while you hunt.

Cons

    • On the heavy side. Right at 10lbs with scope.

    • Typical of most Spring Piston and Gas Piston guns, the NP2 is a little more prone to recoil requiring retightening of stock and scope screws when accuracy starts to wander.

    • Requires artillary hold when shooting. Not a big deal, just learn the technique.

Where To Find - Check Availability and Prices at Airgun Depot, Pyramid Air and Amazon.

Detailed Review

9. Black Ops Tactical Sniper Gas-Piston Air Rifle, .22 Caliber - Recommended For Small Game

The Black Ops Tactical pellet gun is very menacing and best used as a sniper rifle or for small game hunting.

Summary

Pros

    • Extremely well made, durable, heavy duty gas piston air rifle for the money. A great value - this rifle should cost more.

    • Very accurate, heavy hitting tight groups right out of the box out to 75+ yards.

    • Very powerful for a break barrel.

    • Included folding bipod make it extremely easy to shoot and the (heavy) weight of the gun makes it easy on the cheek.

    • Great menacing looking tactical rifle, best used as a bench or sniper rifle.

Cons

    • Relatively hard to cock and heavy. Not for smaller weaker shooters and cumbersome to tote in the woods.

    • Relatively long, heavy, stiff (but consistent) trigger.

    • Could use a better scope than the included fixed 4x32 scope.

    • Pistol hand grip is a little larger than an AR15 hand grip and may be too large for anyone with medium to small sized hands.

Where To Find - Check Availability and Prices at Pyramid Air and Amazon.

Detailed Review

10. Benjamin Pioneer Airbow - Recommended For Large Sized Game

The Benjamin Pioneer Airbow has the killing power of an arrow, ease of shooting a rifle and has jaw dropping unbelievable power suitable for doomsday survival or  hunting large animals.

Summary

Pros

    • Jaw dropping unbelievable power.

    • Bull pup design has a perfect balance when shouldered.

    • Killing power of an arrow and the ease of shooting a rifle-like air gun.

    • Lightweight, short, and maneuverable.

    • Easy to cock and shoot.

    • Accurate and extremely hard hitting. Shoot 2" groups at 50 yards.

Cons

    • So powerful, you can ruin arrows if you shoot at targets too close (within 40 yards) as many folks say the arrows are going straight through 12" thick targets at 25 to 30 yards, etc., and are ripping the feathers off of the arrows.

Where To Find - Check Availability and Prices at Airgun Depot, Pyramid Air and Amazon.

Detailed Review

What are the different types of air rifles and which are best for hunting & for preppers? (click to expand)

Air rifles come with several options in power plants in order from typically the least to the most powerful as follows.

  • Single-Stroke Pneumatic

  • CO2

  • Multi-Pump Pneumatic

  • Spring Piston

  • Gas Piston

  • Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP)

Single-Stroke Pneumatic air guns

Single-Stroke Pneumatic air guns require only one stroke of a cocking lever to compress the air required for propulsion. The action is typically easy, and although a good choice for younger users, Single-Stroke Pneumatic pellet guns are generally not suitable for hunting. The big downside of these rifles is their limited power.

CO2 air pistols & rifles

CO2 air pistols & rifles are typically easy to cock, have no recoil, and the best CO2 air guns are very consistent and incredibly accurate at 10 meters. Although they are great for target shooting, CO2 Air Guns are not recommended for hunting and should not be the first choice for preppers. The two biggest reasons are that CO2 air guns have limited power & velocity and are quite temperature dependent. When temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, velocity will slow significantly. On very hot days, CO2 vapor pressure may elevate to the point that the firing mechanism seizes entirely. You typically have to acclimate the CO2 cartridges to the environment you are shooting in, and then site in your gun for the current environment. Plus, from a prepper's point of view, who really wants to store CO2 cartridges when there are better options.

Multi-Pump Pneumatic air rifles

Multi-Pump Pneumatic air rifles are affordable and can be effective for hunting small game. One big advantage of a Multi-Pump is its comparatively low weight. They can weigh almost half as much as most other typical air rifles. Multi-Pump Pneumatic pellet guns allow adjusting the power of the rifle by internally charging the air chamber typically with 3 to 10 manual pumps with an under-lever. Increasing effort is required by each successive pump, so they can become tiresome to shoot often for long periods of time. From a power perspective, Multi-Pumps have light or medium power and range. They have little or no recoil which helps accuracy. There are some downsides to Multi-Pumps. Often a second shot is nearly impossible due to the noise and time it takes to pump the gun for another shot. Accuracy is impacted by the number of pumps. So if you sighted in with 6 pumps, but then you shoot with more or less pumps, then your shot may be less accurate. If you forget how many pumps you have made and over compress the air chamber, then you will probably damage the seal making the rifle inoperable. Although not our favorite type of pellet gun, some people prefer them. So we do recommend one Multi-Pump Air Rifle for hunting and preppers and that is the classic Benjamin 392, primarily due to its low weight, cost, and capability to hunt small game. This rifle and its .177 version, the Benjamin 397 have been made for decades, the manufacturer continues to put extra fine details in the rifle, such as a swelling in the forearm to make it easier to pump and a fully adjustable rear sight.

Spring Piston air rifles & pistols

Spring Piston air rifles & pistols are typically powerful, often generating velocities of 1000 feet per second or more. There are many great models that are reliable and can be maintained for decades. Most popular is the break barrel, but it is also common to see models with an under-lever, a side-lever, or a top-lever. These guns are very convenient to use since they only need a single cocking. They work by compressing a heavy spring behind a piston. When fired, the spring is released launching the piston forward within a cylinder. The air ahead of the cylinder is compressed through a tiny hole generating significant pressure behind the pellet. The resulting jet of air forces the pellet through the barrel at high velocity. The price range for Spring Piston air rifles is approximately between $50 and $800. You can purchase a decent hunting rifle for as little as $80 to $150. From a cost perspective, Spring Piston pellet guns are the lowest cost firearms that are most suitable for hunting small game. Although these pellet guns are great for hunting, and are affordable, the more powerful "Springers" typically require a lot of force to coil the large springs and can be challenging to cock for users other than strong adult males. They also are typically louder than other types, so when hunting with them, you usually scare away nearby game and if you miss, you may not get another shot. They also generate more recoil than other pellet guns due to the large springs employed in these rifles. Another downside of Spring Piston air guns are that you cannot keep them cocked for extended periods of time without causing spring fatigue. Spring-Piston air guns typically last for years and thousands of pellets, but the spring and piston seal do eventually wear out. Spring piston replacements and piston seal changes are inexpensive and very easy for a gun shop and you can learn how to do them yourself on YouTube. Any Spring or Gas Piston model made by Diana / RWS will be an outstanding German made supreme quality, reliable, highly accurate air rifle. One of the best Spring Piston models on the market is the extremely accurate Diana RWS 460 Magnum that only has 36 lbs of cocking effort and with the .22 caliber reaches 1000 FPS max.

Gas Piston air rifles

Gas Piston air rifles have the best overall set of features for small & medium sized game hunting and for Doomsday preppers in our opinion. These rifles are similar to "Springers" except they work by compressing nitrogen gas in a cylinder instead of compressing a large spring and piston. As a result, the Gas Piston pellet rifles have a smoother action, they are much quieter and are easier to cock compared to Spring Piston rifles. Another huge advantage is that Gas Piston air guns can remain cocked indefinitely without loss of power. This means you can hunt with them in the woods all day long with a cocked rifle versus having to cock the rifle just before taking the shot. More advantages enjoyed by Gas Piston air rifles are that they function perfectly in cold weather and they have a much quicker and smoother shot cycle and significantly less torque & recoil, which typically results in greater accuracy. Gas Piston rifles have self contained gas cylinders versus Pre-charged Pneumatics (PCPs) which have to be recharged. That gives the Gas Piston an advantage over the PCP in that you do not need a hand pump nor an air tank to refill the gun. Gas Piston air guns retain the nitrogen in their cylinders and can last for many years, lasting longer than a metal spring.

Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP) air rifles

Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP) air rifles will put you in another league for power, range, and larger game hunting. PCP air guns are extremely powerful, have incredible accuracy, are easy to cock, they have no recoil and they provide rapid firing of multiple shots. But they are also significantly more expensive and have their own disadvantage in that you have to manually recharge the reservoir after X number of shots. PCP pellet guns use pre-compressed air at pressures ranging from around 1,500 to over 3000 PSI. You charge the PCP air chamber either by using an external hand-pump or by connecting the gun's air chamber to a scuba tank or to a carbon fiber tank with a high pressure hose and gauge. Although CO2 air guns are multi-shot they have little power, so PCP rifles are really the only air gun that can shoot repeatedly and with great power. They can also shoot larger caliber pellets such as .357, .45, and .50 caliber at high velocities and with great knock down power. This makes PCP air rifles the best choice for maximum range and power needed for hunting big game animals. From a prepper perspective, when "Bugging Out", an air tank is out of the question and lugging a hand pump along with the air rifle would be an issue. But from a "Bug-In" perspective, there are some very nice hand pumps such as the Hill Pump MK4 that would make a PCP air rifle very worthwhile. If you have access to scuba tanks, a PCP air rifle would be a really attractive hunting weapon. The best value package deal for a PCP air rifle is the Benjamin Maximus Entry Level Air Rifle Kit. This is an outstanding PCP rifle for younger shooters as it only weighs 5 lbs (one of the lightest air rifles) and is easy to hand pump this rifle to its recommended pressure of 2000 PSI with the included pump, and you get up to 30 shots in 0.177 caliber and up to 20 shots in 0.22 caliber per fill. This rifle is great for hunting also as it generates Max Velocity of 850 fps and Muzzle Energy of 23 ft/lbs.

Benjamin 392 (Multi-Pump Pneumatic Air Rifle)

The Benjamin 392 is a multi pump pneumatic air rifle that has been a classic hunting pellet gun for decades.

Diana RWS 460 Magnum (Spring Piston Air Rifle)

The Diana RWS 460 Magnum is one of the best .22 caliber Spring Piston pellet guns available and is extremely accurate for hunting and survival.

Benjamin Maximus Entry Level Air Rifle Kit (Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP) Air Rifle)

A Great PCP Small Game Hunting, Plinking and Target Practice Rifle For Younger Shooters

The best PCP air rifle set for younger shooters is the Benjamin Maximus Entry Level Air Rifle Kit which provides an outstanding 30 shots in 0.177 caliber and up to 20 shots in 0.22 caliber per fill making it great for hunting.

Air Pistols versus Air Rifles?

Air pistols are significantly less powerful than air rifles on average, and unless you are shooting a Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP) air pistol, then you will not have enough power as a small game hunting gun. Spring pistols can only produce about 6 FPE while Spring Rifles can produce up to the low 30s in FPE.

We do recommend one PCP Pistol and that is the Benjamin Marauder Woods Walker Air Pistol. It has 15.54 FPE and is okay for hunting animals the size of racoons or rabbits according to crosman.com.

Benjamin Marauder Woods Walker Air Pistol

The Benjamin Marauder Woods Walker Air PCP Pistol is great for hunting animals the size of racoons or rabbits and can be concealed as a doomsday survival weapon.

Muzzle Velocity (FPS) versus Muzzle Energy (Foot Pounds of Energy (FPE))

Most people concentrate on muzzle velocity when trying to determine the power of an air rifle. That is a mistake when it comes to hunting. Some manufacturers will manipulate muzzle velocity by using super light weight alloy pellets that fly much faster than the pellets that you are more likely to buy.

Muzzle Energy (FPE) is a much better way to determine an air rifle's true take down power since it takes into account a pellet's weight and the muzzle velocity. For small animals such as tree squirrels and pigeons, you should really have 11 FPE or more to humanely dispatch these animals. Always refer to the manufacturer's suggested use of the the air gun to determine what size animals can be humanely hunted and killed.

If the Muzzle Energy is not specified for a Pellet Gun, you can calculate it yourself from the following formula.

FPE Muzzle Energy Calculation (click to expand)

Multiply the product of the weight of the pellet (in grains) times the square of the velocity and divide that number by 450240. That last number is a constant created by multiplying two times the acceleration of gravity by 7,000 - the number of grains in a pound. The number used for the acceleration of gravity is 32.16 f.p.s. That number is obsolete, but the number that replaces it, 32.174 feet per second (f.p.s.) below the 50th latitude, does not change the energy calculation significantly.

E = (M x V²) ÷ K

where K is 450,240 and is derived from (2 x 32.16 x 7000),

M is the weight of the projectile, in grains,

V is the velocity in feet per second and

E is the Muzzle Energy in foot pounds.

Minimum acceptable caliber and FPE for hunting different wild game.

The Kill Zone is the best location and size of the target area you need to aim at to humanely dispatch these animals. Some states and municipalities have specific rules and laws for hunting larger game with airguns.

Hunting FPE Recommendations

This chart displays the minimum acceptable caliber and FPE for hunting different wild game, plus it shows the best location and size of the target area you need to aim at to humanely dispatch these specific animals.

What Laws & Regulations Do I Have To Follow To Own, Use & Hunt With Pellet Guns?

Laws and regulations for owning, using and hunting with pellet guns will vary by state, county, and city, so be sure to check with your local municipality and where you will shoot or hunt. Many municipalities will allow you to own and use a pellet gun without a license, but there are some that require you to have a license.

If you plan to hunt with your pellet gun, be aware there are some places that will require you to obtain a hunting license. You will have restrictions on where you can shoot or hunt, when you can shoot or hunt (i.e., which months, which days, what time of day, etc), and if there is a daily bag limit based on species.

Some overpopulated animals or pests may have no bag limit at all which translates into you can kill as many of these animals as you want. Remember to learn your local laws and regulations before you shoot. Otherwise, you could be breaking the law and may be fined or be subject to other penalties.

Different sized pellets and which ones are best for hunting. (click to expand)

Pellet Sizes

The following are the different caliber pellet sizes available. The pellet gun that you purchase will typically only shoot one size pellet, unless you purchase a model that allows you to interchange barrels.

  • 0.177"

  • 0.20"

  • 0.22"

  • 0.25"

  • 0.30"

  • 0.357"

  • 0.45"

  • 0.50"

0.177 caliber pellets

0.177 is the most widely available pellet size and are the smallest, lightest and most inexpensive pellets. 0.177 air guns produce the highest muzzle velocities that will have a flatter trajectory over a longer distance. This makes them the most accurate pellet rifles so they are perfect for target shooting.

For hunting purposes, the biggest disadvantage of this caliber is that it is too small for serious small game hunting. 0.177 caliber pellets okay for taking birds and small pests at close range. Although you can certainly kill small to medium sized game with this caliber, if the shot misses a vital area, it can just pass through the animal (almost like an acupuncture) allowing the animal to escape with a fatal injury only to suffer inhumane death.

Another disadvantage of hunting with 0.177 caliber rifles are that certain models can fire pellets fast enough to break the sound barrier, which is approximately 1,125 feet-per-second depending on elevation, temperature, and humidity.

Once the pellet approaches the speed of sound and is in the transonic region (about 1000 fps or above but less than the sound barrier), accuracy suffers due to a build up of pressure eddies and currents. When a pellet is fired breaking the sound barrier you hear the loud crack with the shot. Soon after the shot, the sonic wave will overtake the slowing pellet which will impact its flight trajectory and/or cause the pellet to tumble.

For powerful 0.177 air rifles, it is advisable for shooters to select the heaviest pellets to keep the velocity down.

0.20 caliber pellets

0.20 pellets are a decent option for target shooting and small game hunting, but this caliber is more expensive, harder to find, and has less choices to experiment with to find the optimum pellet brand for your air rifle. The 0.20 caliber does have a flatter trajectory at longer range compared to the 0.22 caliber but has less knock down power.

0.22 caliber pellets

0.22 pellets are probably the best caliber for most small game, and depending on the particular air rifle include humane hunting of crows, pigeons, woodchucks, squirrels, cotton tail rabbits, skunks, rats, gray foxes, turkeys, opossums, and ground hogs.

Compared to the 0.177 caliber pellet, the .22 caliber’s larger pellet size and weight will result in greater impact and a larger entry wound that will take down small game more efficiently and humanely. A 0.22 pellet will always have more knock down power than a 0.177 pellet.

You should always practice shooting at close, medium, and long range distances no matter which air rifle you purchase. The slower velocity 0.22 pellet will have more arc over greater distances compared to the flatter flying 0.177 pellet. 0.22 pellets are the second most widely available pellets with many brands and choices.

0.25 caliber pellets

0.25 pellets have greater take down power than the 0.22, and depending on the particular air rifle, include humane hunting of bigger game like porcupines, red foxes, small hogs, beavers, raccoons, and bobcats. There are a few Gas Piston models and many Pre-charged Pneumatics (PCPs) that are available in 0.25 caliber. PCPs have significantly more velocity that even a 0.22 caliber PCP will usually humanely handle this size game.

0.30 caliber pellets

0.30 pellets have even greater take down power than the 0.25 and depending on the particular air rifle, include humane hunting of bigger game like coyotes. Typically, you will only find PCP models that shoot this caliber. However, there is one Gas Piston model that we recommend in 0.30 caliber and that is the Hatsan 135 QE Vortex Air Rifle.

0.357, 0.45, and 0.50 caliber pellets

0.357, 0.45, and 0.50 pellets have the greatest take down power and depending on the particular air rifle, include humane hunting of bigger game like white tail deer, wolves, wild boar, and wolverines. Only PCP air rifles are available that can fire these sized pellets.

The weight of a pellet is an important factor when choosing ammo for your air rifle or pistol. Use lighter pellets for low powered airguns and heavier pellets for high powered air rifles for the best accuracy and effectiveness.

Our favorite hunting pellets

Our favorite overall brand pellets in .177, .22, and .25 Caliber are the H&N Baracuda Hunter Extreme Hollowpoint Airgun Pellets. These pellets are the ultimate long range hunting pellet. They are heavier with a cross shaped hollow point, but still rounded.

They are very accurate and have super penetration and expansion, putting most of the force in the target with devastating hydrostatic shock. The can also has a screw on lid which is really nice. Hands down H&N are the best of quality when it comes to the pellets they make.

Predator Polymag Premium Hunting Pellets are also a good choice for most air rifles in .177, .20, .22, .25, and .30 Calibers as they are typically highly accurate flying and they have great penetration and expansion to inflict maximum damage.

No matter which air rifle you buy, you need to try different pellets to see for yourself which are best for your gun. However, if your gun is in these calibers, at a minimum try these pellets.

For our top ten air rifles above, we recommend specific pellets based on our own testing plus research on what others have stated in reviews and testing for specific air rifles.

H&N Baracuda Hunter Extreme Hollowpoint Airgun Pellets (Available in .177, .22, & .25 Cal.)

The H&N Baracuda Hunter Extreme Hollowpoint Airgun pellets are the ultimate long range pellet for hunting or doomsday survival.

Predator Polymag Premium Hunting Pellets (Available in .177, .20, .22, .25, & .30 Caliber)

Predator Polymag Premium Pellets are also a great choice for hunting and survival as they have great penetration and expansion to inflict maximum damage.

Recommended Air Rifle Accessories (click to expand)

Optics (Hawke scopes are our favorite scopes for air rifles.)

Loaders

Best Affordable Shooting Glasses

Targets

Air Rifle Cleaning & Protection

Other Accessories

Recommended Blog

To see some other great options in pellet rifles and to learn the differences in the types of pellet rifles available today, which are the best for preppers, and why you should buy one, check out this article by SurvivingPrepper.com.


Caution & Warning

Use at your own risk. Please note that the information provided on this web site is for information only. TopSurvivalPreps.com and it's owner have no liability or responsibility for anyone using any items described on this web site including air rifles, air bows & pellet guns. Please take proper care of your air rifles, air bows & pellet guns, learn how to use them responsibly and train frequently. Understand the gun laws in your state and always properly secure your guns.


See Our Other Firearm Related Pages

For more information on firearms, ammo, and accessories for the typical American who is thankful for our 2nd Amendment rights, see our additional firearm related pages.


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