The durable plastic casing and strong metal magazine give a well made feel to the gun. Shoots through tin cans and stacks of thick cardboard with ease. Shots are powerful and remain accurate, even at long distances. The clip holds up to 15 BB's. The gun sits at a surprisingly low price point.
The carbon dioxide door can be difficult to close.
The Beeman is lightweight and easy to handle. The safety kicks in after each pump. The gun has an accurate shot and quality trigger pull. The single pump is simple and doesn't require much strength. The fiber optic sight works well. The low price point is desirable as well.
The gun produces a loud crack when firing that may be disruptive.
Built-in noise dampening shroud helps to keep your target practice from disturbing the neighbors. The gun has the accuracy and look of a tactical rifle. Capable of firing multiple shots in a row. Reloading is easy to do. The gun is comfortable to hold.
Sits at a higher price point than its competitors.
Loading pellets into this gun is simple, they fall right into place. The gun is powerful, with just 4 quick pumps you can shoot through a stack of paper magazines. This model is easy to upgrade and modify for a small cost. Shots remain accurate and straight for up to 10 yards. Plastic body feels durable.
Hand pump can get tiring. Quick follow up shots are not possible.
Iconic design. Faithful replica with full metal frame and realistic action. Fun to fire without the high kick of the real thing. Utilizes 6 lifelike BB cartridges. Twelve grams of carbon dioxide stored in the grip. Accurate. Great for target shooters and history buffs alike.
This air pistol is as pricey as it is stylish.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
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.
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.
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.
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 has several important considerations, too. Let’s explore each one.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.