Best Air Pistols

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

39 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
442 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best air pistols

Last Updated August 2019

Air pistols are an alternative to regular pistols for younger shooters and those wanting to improve their shooting skills. These guns use compressed air to project a pellet rather than an explosive like true firearms. They tend to be easier to handle and quieter than regular pistols. They are also not as strictly regulated as firearms, because they are not as powerful. However, air pistols can be dangerous. They should be used with caution and parental supervision.

Air pistols are popular for target shooting. Some are low key, and shoot plastic or metal BBs. Others are rifled and designed to use a pellet. Experienced shooters may find that certain air pistols (particularly those that use a pellet) can be an inexpensive alternative for target practice. Air pistols are a great tool for improving marksmanship and accuracy. Pellets, and the BBs some air pistols can fire, are very inexpensive. The guns are also quieter and easier to handle than most firearms. When used properly, they can also be safer.

Before you buy, we have put together a shopping guide to help you consider the pros, cons, main considerations and variations of air pistols. Read through it to help understand your needs and review our information about laws and safety precautions, then check out our top picks.

You may want to try several different types of ammunition in your air pistol to see which style and shape works best for your needs.

Air pistol considerations

There are two main considerations when you are purchasing an air pistol. The first is the power of air pistol you are purchasing. The second is the type of ammunition it can take. Those at all levels will come in styles that look very similar to real guns.

Muzzle energy

The amount of power an air pistol can offer is called muzzle energy. The manufacturer will list this information in feet per second (fps) under their product information. The higher the fps, the more powerful the gun. A top quality air pistol may be able to offer fps of 600 to 700. Mid-range quality pistols will come in between 300 to 500. The least powerful, and least expensive, will have a fps between 100 to 300. As a frame of reference, the old style Red Ryder BB guns have an fps of about 350.

The least powerful air pistols are sometimes referred to as air-soft guns. They will shoot plastic balls or sometimes metal BBs rather than pellets. They will have the lowest levels of muzzle- energy. These guns virtually all come with an orange cap on the end to differentiate them from their more powerful counterparts. Some people think of them as a more mature version of a Nerf-gun (although it’s still hardly a toy). The shot on these guns will not be very accurate.

Rifled vs. smooth bore

If you are looking for accuracy, make sure the air pistol you purchase is rifled.

Rifling is a series of grooves inside the barrel, which spins the pellet and gives you a more accurate shot. These styles of guns will shoot a pellet rather than a BB. Unless rated for a BB, you should not shoot a BB through these guns, it can ruin the barreling and make the gun less accurate.

A smooth bore barrel does not have the grooves. This is the kind you will find in most of the lower end air pistols. These guns will accommodate a round ball. It will not be as accurate as a rifled gun.

Ammunition considerations

Ammunition has several important considerations, too. Let’s explore each one.

Ammunition size

Air pistol ammunition comes in several sizes. The most common size is a .177 caliber. This is a good size for target shooting. You can also find .20, .22 and .25 caliber air pistols. This larger sized pellet may be a better choice for shooting small game. The smaller sizes are best for target shooting.

Ammunition type

A basic BB style of ammunition is a simple ball. They can either be steel or plastic. These will be the least accurate of the ammunition types, and may not be the best choice if you have a rifled barrel, because they will wear down the rifling grooves. Do not use metal BBs in your air pistol unless is it fitted for BB use. It will tear up the inside of the product.

A rounded top pellet is pinched in the middle and curved on one end, which aids in accuracy and is good for target practice.

A pointed end pellet looks similar to the rounded pellet, but has a pointed end. This will make your shot faster and penetrate further. A high velocity pellet is a subcategory of the pointed end pellet. It will usually look like a pointed end pellet, but be made of a lighter weight plastic body with a metal pointed end.

A hollow point pellet is designed to expand from the velocity of traveling forward. This gives you more surface area to hit a target.

A wadcutter pellet has a flat top. It is shaped like a round top, but is designed to make a larger hole in your target.

Ammunition material

Each caliber of air pistol ammunition comes in several shapes and weights, usually determined by their material composition. Ammunition comes in both plastic and metal. Some are a combination of two materials, either plastic with metal, or two types of metal. Pellet styles may combine two types of metal or metal and plastic in an effort to make the pellet shoot straighter, faster, or more accurately.  

FOR YOUR SAFETY

While most air pistols are made with a polymer or plastic material, many look like real pistols and are hard for people not holding the gun to be able to tell the difference.

Air pistol features

Built-in sight

Not all air pistols have built-in sights. Those that do come in either peep or open sight, just like regular guns. Those with both rear and front sights will likely give you better accuracy. Some sights are better than others, giving you the ability to adjust them for elevation or wind. Those pistols that do not come with a built-in sights can be fitted with one after market.

Release systems

There are three basic systems for release and pressure to watch for on air pistols: Co2, manual pump, or spring release. All can be powerful.

  • Co2: These air pistols will require you to insert a disposable canister of Co2 into the handle of the pistol to work. They are convenient and can usually handle many shots before you need to reload the canister. The drawback is that you will have to replace cartridges and the temperature may affect the power of the shot.

  • Manual pump: A manual pump air pistol can be very powerful. It requires the user to move a lever up and down to pressurize air inside the chamber of the pistol. It is limited by the amount of pumping you do, but generally will allow for several shots off of one recharge.

  • Spring release: These air pistols have an internal chamber with a spring which pushes air quickly forward when released in order to project a pellet. They are limited by the strength the shooter has to pull back against the spring. They also tend to have a little more recoil than other styles.

EXPERT TIP

Some air pistols can provide several shots per pump. Others are a single shot, pump and shoot style. Those with Co2 canisters can usually get many shots from one canister.


Staff  | BestReviews

Air pistol prices

Inexpensive

If you are looking for a just-for-fun model that a beginner will have fun with for target shooting,  you can get an air pistol for $10 to $20. These pistols will shoot plastic pellets. They will likely have an orange safety indicator on the end of the barrel to help others tell the difference between these often spring-loaded guns and other more dangerous models.

Mid-range

In the $20 to $30 range, you will find greater accuracy and better sighting. This price point will also begin to deliver some of the Co2 powered air pistols, which will not require pumping. A very good quality and accurate air pistol can be purchased for between $30 to $60. These will likely look like a real firearm and shoot straight. The build on the gun should be more solid. Some of these models will offer rifling and adjustable sites to make them a very good choice to help perfect your marksmanship.

Expensive

Top quality air pistols can cost a few hundred dollars. Chose this style if you are serious about small game hunting, or using your air pistol for shooting practice.  

Tips

  • If you buy a single pump air pistol, be careful not to pump it a second time until after you shoot. That second pump could actually release the air from the first pump, making your shot less powerful, not more.

  • Air pistols will perform better with lubrication. You can lubricate all metal on metal contact points to keep the gun working properly. Use a petroleum based lubricant.

  • Do not leave an air pistol cocked without shooting. This could either weaken the spring on a spring pistol, or potentially weaken seals and cause your air gun to develop leaks. It is best to also remove a Co2 canister from your pistol when you are not using it.

  • Air pistols should not be taken apart for cleaning like a real firearm. Taking them apart can destroy the seals and make the gun stop working properly.

  • Do not store your Co2 cartridges in a hot place. The cartridges can break and potentially cause injury if they get too hot.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Bright orange markers on the end of an air pistol’s barrel help signify the difference between an air gun and a firearm. However, not all air pistols include this safety feature.

Other products we considered

In this shopping guide we focused on realistic and accurate air pistols that look and can act very similar to real guns. There are many on the market, which are less powerful, less accurate and less expensive, but can still be fun. For an inexpensive model, we recommend the Spring Airsoft Gun . It is spring loaded and comes with 1,000 pellets. The Desert Eagle Spring Powered Airsoft Pistol is very accurate for its price point. It also has a realistic look and feel. Daisy, which has always been a reliable maker of BB guns, also makes a nice air pistol, the Daisy 415. This air pistol has front and rear sites and is powered by Co2 to allow semi-automatic shooting.

Air pistols can be used for serious shooters. They are even used in some Olympic shooting events.

FAQ

Q. Are air pistols safe for kids?
A.
Air pistols are not toys. They shoot a very fast pellet and can kill small game. They are not usually capable of serious harm or death to humans, but can do serious damage if they hit a person in certain spots and should never be aimed at humans or innocent living things (or anything you don’t want hit/damaged). States may also have their own regulations prohibiting the use of air pistols by children under a certain age, even with adult supervision.

Q. Can I shoot an air pistol in my backyard?
A.
Even though an air pistol is not a firearm, you must check local regulations before deciding to shoot an air pistol in your backyard. Many cities have laws that prohibit the discharge of BB guns or air guns inside city limits.  

The team that worked on this review
  • Amber
    Amber
    Writer
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Karen
    Karen
    Writer
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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