Updated July 2023
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
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.Read more 
Bottom line
Best of the Best
Gamo Whisper Fusion Mach 1 Air Rifle
Whisper Fusion Mach 1 Air Rifle
Check Price
Powerful Performance
Bottom Line

If you need an air rifle with more stopping power than the average model, this is well worth your consideration.


With a .22 caliber pellet topping out at 1,020 fps, this air rifle was made for especially powerful shots. Innovative design minimizes recoil and vibration. Includes 3-9 x 40 scope. Very accurate. Trigger can be adjusted in 2 stages for personal preference.


Despite the "Whisper" moniker, this rifle is still quite loud.

Best Bang for the Buck
Daisy 880 .177 Powerline Air Rifle
880 .177 Powerline Air Rifle
Check Price
Bargain Pick
Bottom Line

An intuitively designed air rifle that's built to last and comes with everything you need to get started.


This multi-pump pneumatic rifle has a wood-grained Monte Carlo stock and forearm, adjustable rear sight, and a blade and ramp front sight for accurate shots. It supports .177 BB or pellet ammunition and comes with shooting glasses and a scope attachment.


Some complaints about the scope being difficult to mount.

Gamo WildCat Whisper Air Rifle
Wildcat Whisper Air Rifle
Check Price
Trusted Brand
Bottom Line

Provides above-average muzzle velocity speeds at either caliber of ammo and good accuracy for a simple air rifle.


Two versions available, either .177 or .22 caliber. Smaller caliber offers 1,300 fps of muzzle velocity for excellent power. Less vibration when firing than some other air rifles. Lightweight weapon that's easy to carry and feels good to hold and use. Constructed with high-quality materials.


Slightly higher price point than some similar types of weapons. Scope is below-average quality, causing misses.

Umarex Ruger Blackhawk Combo
Ruger Blackhawk Combo
Check Price
Simple Yet Solid
Bottom Line

Good results in an air rifle for the price you pay, along with good build quality. Feels solid in your hands.


Extremely easy to have success with this air rifle straight out of the box. Safety is automatically engaged when you cock the gun. Makes use of .177-caliber ammo. Provides muzzle velocity of 1,000 fps. A 4 x 32 scope is included with the gun.


Buyers will want to upgrade to a better scope. Loud. May be too heavy for some users, causing inaccuracy.

Crossman Bushmaster MPW
MPW CO2-Powered BB Air Rifle
Check Price
Best Automatic Model
Bottom Line

Versatile and powerful, Bushmaster’s MPW is easily the best automatic air rifle on the market.


Features automatic and semiautomatic firing modes. CO2 cartridges hidden in a 25-round magazine. Easy-to-mount accessories. Shoots up to 1,400 rounds per minute.


This is a particularly pricey air rifle.


We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

Category cover

Buying guide for Best air rifles

Air rifles are realistic-looking weapons and often replica models of some of the most popular military or law enforcement gear. But these weapons don’t fire live ammunition; they use small pellets or ball bearings instead. The “air” part of the name refers to the firing mechanism, which uses compressed air or carbon dioxide (CO2) cartridges. While air rifles can still cause injuries, using air classifies them as non-lethal weapons.

It’s this non-lethal aspect that makes air rifles the perfect alternative to deadly weapons (though you should still treat them like any other gun and lock them in a gun safe). Air rifles are often used in various recreational activities, such as conflict simulations, target practice and war games among friends. There are air rifle replicas of all kinds, from pistols and revolvers to sub-machine guns, assault rifles and high-powered sniper rifles complete with magnifying scopes and bi-pods. 

Our top pick, the Gamo Varmint Air Rifle .177 Cal, is one of the most popular among farmers to get rid of pesky critters as well as with shooters who are looking to increase their target accuracy. 

Best air rifles

Gamo Varmint Air Rifle .177 Cal

While the rifle looks similar to its real-life counterpart that reloads through a bolt-action, this one features a cocking barrel that takes .177 caliber pellets. It’s relatively powerful, with a maximum muzzle velocity of 1,250 feet per second thanks to the grooved cylinder rail and fluted polymer-jacketed steel barrel. 

It comes with a high-powered 4x32 shockproof scope to make aiming easier, and it has an adjustable second-stage trigger. The stock is robust, made from all-weather hardened plastic, and there is a rubber recoil reduction pad at the end to protect your shoulder.

Daisy 880 Powerline Air Rifle Kit 

The Daisy brand is one of the most well-known manufacturers of air rifles, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an adult who didn’t grow up playing around with them. Similar to the models from the ‘70s and ‘80s, this one is brought into action through a multi-pump pneumatic system to build up air pressure. It takes 1.77 caliber rounds, fires up to 750 feet per second and the internal compartment stores up to 50 pellets at a time. 

This kit includes several accessories, such as safety glasses, a 4x15-millimeter scope, 500 Daisy pellets and 750 BBs. The Monte Carlo stock and forearm are made from wood-grain plastic. If you prefer to shoot with iron sights, the scope can be removed to use the blade and ramp sight instead.

Crossman DPMS Full Auto SBR

A great air rifle for military enthusiasts, this replica assault rifle looks and feels like the real deal. It is made from durable synthetic components that won’t be damaged easily by dirt, dust or water. The rifle features a removable pop-up sight and an adjustable rear sight for increased accuracy. 

Ideal for target practice or war games, it can fire up to 1,400 rounds per minute (23 rounds per second) at a maximum muzzle velocity of 450 feet per second. It uses two CO2 cartridges, and the stock has six adjustable positions to make it easier to handle and aim quickly. For a real military feel, the 25-round magazine drops out when ejected. The high round rate means the magazine could empty out in a second, but luckily it has different firing modes, such as burst and single shots.

Black Ops The Sniper S

This high-powered rifle is a must-have for anybody who loves long-distance shooting or wants to emulate the excitement and precision of being a military sniper. It fires .177 caliber rounds (equivalent to 4.5-millimeter) at a maximum muzzle velocity of 1,250 feet per second. For added realism or not alerting small animals to your presence, it comes with an attached noise suppressor. 

Accuracy is aided by the adjustable bi-pod to steady your rifle and a 4x32 removable scope. The stock, which has rubber padding on the back, is made from durable polymer, while the barrel and grip are made from blued steel. The gas-piston trigger has a smooth pull action, and the scope rests on a 6-inch Picatinny rail that lets you add or remove accessories easily. 

Barra Airguns 1866 Cowboy Series Lever Action Air Rifle

This is an excellent air rifle for any Western fan, as it’s an accurate replica of the well-known model used by cowboys throughout the late 1800s. It features a true-to-life cast-iron lever action to reload the next round, letting you experience what it was like to use a repeating rifle on the Plains. It can shoot a single .177 caliber pellet at a time, or if you prefer faster shots, it comes with a 50-pellet reservoir. 

It’s relatively powerful, as a maximum of 10 pumps will blast the pellets out of the muzzle at up to 800 feet per second. Weighing almost 6 pounds, the rifled barrel is 20 inches long, and the stock is 19 inches long. It doesn’t come with a scope, so you have to rely on your keen eyes by using the iron sights.

Umarex Heckler & Koch MP5 K-PDW

An instantly recognizable Personal Defence Weapon (PDW), the H&K MP5 is one of the most widely used sub-machine guns globally and is a standard issue for many law enforcement agencies and militaries. It fires 4.5-millimeter steel BBs at a muzzle velocity of a relatively slow 400 feet per second. The velocity isn’t the gun’s appeal, however. Instead, it's the rapid rate of fire, blasting off hundreds of rounds in a matter of seconds. 

It has variable firing modes and comes with a high-capacity, drop-free magazine that holds up to 40 steel ball bearings. Similar to its real-life counterpart, it has a removal or folding stock, is made from durable plastic and weighs just under 3 pounds. This sub-machine gun doesn’t come with an ACOG or Red dot scope but uses a front ring reticle with iron sights at the back.

Bushmaster BMPWX with Red Dot Sight

The replica assault rifle has a mock suppressor on the muzzle, but don’t let that fool you about its capabilities. It can fire 4.5-millimeter ball bearings at a blistering pace of 1,400 per minute at a muzzle velocity of 430 feet per second. That’s enough to cause serious damage to soft tissue or an unfortunate watermelon. 

The adjustable stock has six positions, making it easy to find the most comfortable stance and shouldering for you. It comes with a 25-round drop-out magazine, which adds to the realism, and it has a red dot scope attached to the realistic accessory rail. The rifle uses two CO2 cartridges, includes a speedloader and is compatible with other AR15 pistol grips. It is made from durable plastic and weighs only a few pounds.

What to know before buying an air rifle

Before we look at choosing an air rifle, a quick note about safety. Unlike a rifle bullet or shotgun cartridge, an air rifle pellet has no explosive charge. The projectile is propelled by pressurized air or gas. As a result, air rifles are considered much safer. They're not actually categorized as "firearms" at all.

However, some are capable of muzzle velocities well in excess of 1,000 feet per second. That's roughly the same speed as a 9mm Glock handgun. Although .177 and .22 are common, air rifles can go as large as .50 caliber. That's a 1/2-inch lump of lead, and it can travel at more than 400 mph.

Make no mistake, all air rifles — even low-power models — are dangerous. Treat them with the same caution you would any other weapon. There are many pleasures in air rifle shooting. There are none in a visit to the emergency room.

How an air rifle works

All air rifles work in basically the same way: air (or gas) is pressurized, pulling the trigger releases pent-up energy and fires the pellet down the barrel.

What differentiates each type of air rifle is the way the pressure is provided.

  • Spring-piston air rifles use a lever action. Break-barrel models are very popular because they're easy to use and very repeatable. You “break” the barrel, levering it open so you can put a pellet in the breach. As you close it, you compress a spring. Pull the trigger and the spring releases, pushing a ram that forces high-pressure air behind the pellet and thus along the barrel. Break-barrel is just one piston method. Levers can also be underneath, above or on the side. It's a simple, reliable system. Springs last a long time, and while they do wear out eventually, they're not difficult to replace. 
  • Gas ram air rifles (also gas piston or IGT — Inert Gas Technology) work on the same principle as spring-piston models. Instead of loading up the spring pressure, a piston compresses gas in a cartridge. Pulling the trigger releases the pressure in much the same way. The gas cartridge is a sealed unit, so it never needs refilling. It's not affected by temperature, and it's easier to cock than a spring. There's less recoil, and owners often claim they’re quieter.It's a relatively new technology and currently not all that widely used. But several major manufacturers have announced intentions to make gas ram air rifles, so we're sure to see more of them. With prices only a bit above spring-piston models, they're definitely worth considering. 
  • Pneumatic air rifles (also called variable pumps) usually use a manual pump action to compress air in a cylinder. High-end competition rifles compress enough air in a single pump, but some more widely available “multi-stroke” models might take half a dozen pumps or more to build up sufficient pressure.The major benefit of pneumatic air rifles is very low recoil. They can be compact and lightweight, too.The negative aspect is the time it takes to prepare a multi-stroke rifle for a second shot. No problem if you're target shooting, but what if you're hunting? Miss, and by the time you're ready again the quarry will be long gone!The solution is pre-charged pneumatics (PCPs). A tank within the gun (looking much like a second or third barrel) is filled at home from a SCUBA tank. Very high pressures are possible. Rifles can be single-shot or repeaters and no physical effort is required beyond squeezing the trigger.It's a system often used on large-caliber air guns because it gives you enough pressure to propel those big pellets. Though pressure eventually runs out, you might expect anything between a dozen and 40 shots, depending on caliber (bigger pellets are heavier, so you get fewer). 
  • CO2 air rifles are powered either by a pre-charged canister or by filling from a tank, as with pre-charged pneumatics. This type of rifle is popular with competitive shooters because the gas pressure can be very stable, and thus more predictable than compressed air.The disadvantage for the recreational shooter is that CO2 pressure can vary dramatically with temperature. On a cold day, your rifle will have much less power than on a hot day. It's not a problem for the target shooter who has time to let his or her rifle acclimate and then has more time to sight in. For the “ordinary” shooter that's just impractical, so while some CO2 air rifles can be quite cheap, their inconsistency is likely to be frustrating.

Choosing the right air rifle

The choice of air rifles is vast. As we've seen, there are four basic power types. Then there are seven different calibers (from .177 right up to .50). And there are more than a dozen established brands, each of which offers a massive selection of different sizes and styles.

It's not practical, or even sensible, to compare a low-power .177 pump-action with a .45 caliber PCP hunting model capable of taking down a wild boar. They’re designed for very different users. Therefore, within the space we have available, we're concentrating on the two most popular air rifle calibers: .177 and .22. Many of the principles in choosing the best air rifle of this kind are equally valid for other models.

Primary characteristics to consider include:

  • Muzzle velocity and range
  • Cocking force and trigger pull
  • Length and weight
  • Sights or scope
  • Stock
  • Style

Muzzle velocity is measured in feet per second. The higher the figure, the further the pellet will be fired. A .177 bore is smaller than a .22, and the pellet is lighter. So, if both rifles apply the same pressure, the .177 will have a higher muzzle velocity and therefore a greater range. Of course, different air rifles apply different amounts of pressure, hence the variations you see in muzzle velocity. In terms of the numbers, higher is always better.

One note of caution. Some manufacturers quote muzzle velocity using special non-lead alloy pellets (PBA is a popular brand.) These fly considerably faster than standard lead-alloy pellets. They are readily available, so it's not a problem, but if you use “ordinary” ammo you won't achieve the same velocity.

A few makers quote muzzle energy in fpe (foot pounds of energy). It's a calculation that takes into account the weight of the ammunition and should, therefore, offer more accurate numbers. The problem is, only a few quote it, so comparisons are practically impossible.

Cocking force has a number of different names. Essentially, it's the amount of physical effort required to cock a break-barrel rifle or get a variable pump air rifle up to firing pressure. While it's not a major factor for a fit adult, it can be difficult for younger people, or those with restricted strength. The same kind of consideration applies to trigger pull. Better manufacturers provide this figure, but many do not.

For casual shooters, length and weight are not significant considerations. However, a gun that's too long or too short can be uncomfortable. That's important if you're concerned about a high degree of accuracy, particularly if target shooting from a prone position. Too long of an air rifle can also be a problem for younger shooters. Air rifle weight can vary by a couple of pounds or more. It may not seem a lot, but again, comfort depends on the physical attributes of the shooter.

Your air rifle's sights are obviously vital to accuracy. You'll have a fixed front sight and an adjustable rear, which should offer windage and elevation. On occasions, we found manufacturing faults with sights. They just couldn't be adjusted properly. It's unusual, but if it happens, you need to return your rifle for an exchange.

Some air rifles come with scopes pre-fitted while others have the option to add one. The majority of those supplied with a rifle are 4x32, meaning they magnify four times the normal view. That's a good choice for a general-purpose .177 or .22 air rifle. Coated lenses are a benefit. They reduce glare and can enhance your view.

Small caliber air rifles produce less recoil than firearms, and traditional hardwood stock looks great, but it will still wear on your shoulder after a while. A rubber bump pad or recoil pad adds long-term comfort.

Although the style of air rifle you choose has negligible impact on accuracy, it's still an important personal consideration. The variety is huge. There are traditional hunting rifle styles and others that mimic a suppressed sniper rifle, or other military or tactical styles. The choice is yours!

We didn't mention accuracy — which you might expect to be a high priority. It is, but there are many variables. Not least of these is the shooter. No two people shoot the same air rifle with the same degree of precision.

Of course, some air rifles are inherently better than others. In general, you pay more for quality components and build, each of which improves performance. In all likelihood, the more you can afford to spend, the more accurate the air rifle you'll get.

We're also great believers in checking customer feedback. If several dozen different people praise (or criticize) an air rifle's accuracy, it's a good bet you'll get similar results.


Amazon Prime Day 2023

Get the best live deals now



Tips for better air gun accuracy

  • The most important element in the accuracy of your air gun is you — and there's no substitute for practice. Even if you shoot regularly, it takes time to acclimate to a new rifle. Consistency is key.
  • Properly caring for your air gun is essential. Clean the bore periodically, following manufacturer instructions. Screws and bolts can loosen over time. Check that sites or scope are secure. The same for hinge bolts and stock screws.
  • Try different brands of air gun pellets. Some gun/pellet combinations work better than others. If you have a PCP air rifle, experts recommend lubricating pellets, because the compressed gas contains a small amount of moisture that can cause drag and eventually rust your barrel. But you should never lube pellets for use in spring-operated or gas-ram air rifles.


Q. How much should I expect to pay for an air rifle? 

A. There are some very cheap air rifles around, but please don't be tempted. Even if you're buying for a beginner, you need adequate performance. If they can't hit the side of the proverbial barn, they'll soon be put off from shooting — even if it's not their fault.

A decent, entry-level air rifle can be found for around $60. Between there and $200 you have a staggering amount of choice. You can spend a lot more, of course. More power and larger caliber will add to the bill. Some very pricey air rifles can cost over $2,000. If you're passionate about air rifle shooting, as many people are, there are some fabulous guns available.

Q. Do I need a license for an air gun?

A. Under federal law, an air gun is not classed as a firearm, because it uses no explosive charge to expel a projectile. However, many states do regulate air rifles in some way, depending on factors like the owner's age and the rifle’s power. Individual county laws or ordinances may also apply.

The only way to be sure is to check with your local administration. Different rules apply to hunting with air guns (rather than target shooting), so you need to check that with your state's game and fish authority.

Q. Which is best, a .177 or .22 caliber air rifle?

A. This is one of the most common questions when choosing an air rifle. We surveyed a number of experts, and the answer is invariably, "It depends..."

Because .177 pellets are smaller. Velocity is higher, so trajectory is flatter. If everything else is the same, a .177 is more accurate over distance. Ammo is usually cheaper. If you like shooting tin cans in the yard, or paper targets at the range, we recommend a .177. They are also popular for vermin control, making them an excellent all-rounder.

A .22 rifle is more powerful. If you're hunting, the larger pellet has considerably more stopping power. With small game, you're not likely to be shooting at much distance, so projectile trajectory is less important. If hunting is your thing, with occasional target shooting thrown in for practice, a .22 air rifle will suit you better.

Those are our opinions, but we guarantee you'll find just as many experts disagree as those that agree!

Q. Should I use a particular type of air rifle pellet?

A. There could actually be two questions here: which brand of pellet, or which physical type.

The answer to the first is that you can't really expect accuracy if you use cheap air gun pellets. Budget pellets often have inconsistent shapes and weights, so no two shots are the same. Quality pellets deliver the consistency you need. We can't recommend a particular brand because every rifle and pellet combination delivers a different performance. It pays to try different ones until you develop a preference. Small sample packs are available from some suppliers.

As for type, there are three different shapes generally available:

  • Hollow points expand on contact and are generally used for hunting.
  • Wadcutters have a flat tip, so they make a clean hole in target paper. Ten-meter competition shooters invariably use them. They're also effective when hunting at distances up to 25 yards.
  • Domed pellets (also called round-nosed) have better aerodynamics than the other types and are an excellent general-purpose option — good for casual target shooting, pests and small game.
Our Top Picks