Our Airgun Buying Guide
Buying your first airgun can be a bewildering experience. The sheer diversity of guns on offer can easily lead to confusion when it comes to deciding on a purchase.
We would highly recommend that you visit your local club where you should find a friendly welcome and also have the opportunity to try a range of airguns.
Below, we have attempted to provided an introduction to the diverse world of the airgun. Hopefully it is not as confusing as it may first appear!
There are different methods of powering an air gun. These methods can be broadly divided into 4 groups: spring-piston, gas ram, CO2 and pneumatic. These methods are used in both air rifles and air pistols (with the exception of the gas ram which is only available for rifles).
Spring Piston Rifles and Pistols or"Springers"
This is probably the most popular type of air gun and the one that most shooters will at one time have owned. A spring piston gun has long been the standard entry route into the sport of shooting. There are three different cocking mechanisms for spring piston guns: Break Barrel, Under Lever or Side Lever
Spring piston guns or "Springers" generally have a very simple operation.
Spring-piston guns operate by means of a coiled steel spring-loaded piston contained within a compression chamber, and separate from the barrel. Cocking the gun causes the piston assembly to compress the spring until a small hook on the rear of the piston engages the sear; pulling the trigger releases the sear and allows the spring to decompress, pushing the piston forward, thereby compressing the air in the chamber directly behind the pellet seated in the barrel. Once the air pressure has risen enough to overcome any static friction and/or barrel restriction holding the pellet, the pellet moves forward, propelled by an expanding column of air. All this takes place in a fraction of a second.
The movement of the spring and piston leads to recoil, which can affect the accuracy of the gun. The lighter the gun usually the more recoil. Hence heavier spring guns are often easier to shoot and more accurate than their lighter counterparts. You may have to compromise with weight though, especially if you are hunting.
To shoot a recoiling gun accurately, techniques must be learned to compensate for the recoil. Learning and improving these skills is all part of the hobby, and a huge amount of satisfaction can be gained from learning how to get the best performance from your gun.
Spring guns are usually relatively cheap, simple and self-contained. They can be very accurate and powerful. They are also quick to load. An average weight for a rifle is around 7-8lbs.
Advantages of Spring Piston Airguns:
- Cheap to buy
- Self contained
- Quick to load
- Excellent value for money
Disadvantages of Spring Piston Airguns:
- Generally single shot only
- The most accurate guns tend to be heavy
- More noisy than a PCP to shoot from muzzle and piston noise
- Recoil can make the gun more difficult to shoot accurately, requiring more practice to become proficient.
Spring Piston Rifles - Our Recommendations:
Best Value For Money
Edgar Bros Models 55 & 60 - cheapest rifle we sell that is powerful enough for hunting. Reliable (not chinese). Very popular. Walnuit stock, great trigger - excellent entry level air rifle!
Best Mid-Priced Rifles £100-£300
Gamo Shadow & CFX ranges - surprisingly good, Spanish made rifles. Great open sights for backyard plinking without the expense of a scope.
BSA Supersport - The most popular, full UK power (12ft lbs) spring rifles. Reliable and British made.
Weihrauch HW99 - Great build quality and fairly lightweight
BSA Lightning XL Based on the lightning but with a two stage trigger, better stock and silencer
Best £300+ Rifles
Air Arms Pro-Sport
Air Arms TX200
All three of these rifles are superb with little to choose between them. They are all heavy, with low recoil, built in silencers, smooth underlever cocking and all three are built to last. Of the three rifles, the TX200 is fractionally smoother out of the box. The TX200, although heavy, is very easy to cock. The Pro-Sport shoots like a TX200 but looks gorgeous!
Beware of - Chinese spring guns advertised as 12ft lbs power as many of them do not produce this power.
Gas Ram Rifles
Imagine a spring gun but with a sealed gas unit or strut instead of the spring. They still have a piston, hence they do recoil, but they are the next step up from a spring gun. They give less recoil and vibration, require less maintenance and can be left cocked for long periods without the worry of spring wear. They are usually better built, with nicer stocks.
Overall, if you want a self contained, easy to maintain gun, then look at either a top of the range springer or a gas ram gun.
Advantages of Gas Ram Rifles:
- Less expensive than a pre-charged gun
- Consistent power
- No need to charge air cylinders and no charging equipment required
- Automatic safety catch
- No spring to wear out
Disadvantages of Gas Ram Rifles:
- More expensive than spring guns
- Small amount of recoil
Best Gas Ram Rifles - Single Shot
This range has the same action with different stocks and different length barrels.
The Evolution-Olympus with thumbhole stock is a superb gun with a great stock. Highly recommended.
Best Gas Ram Rifles - Multishot
In a category of one! the Theoben SLR98 is one of our favourite rifles. Look out for the new longer barrelled .177 version. A rifle of choice if money is no object but you do not want the bother of charging a pre-charged gun.
Great to shoot. 7-shot magazines. Lovely stock.
CO2 Powered Airguns
This is a good way of buying a recoilless gun at a cheap price. They use small CO2 bulbs or sometimes bigger 88gram CO2 bottles. The main advantages are they are cheap to buy, recoilless and often lightweight.
CO2 powered airguns are mainly purchased as fun guns to use for informal target shooting in the backyard. No recoil and bolt action cocking makes them popular with beginners, younger shooters and shooters who struggle with the weight of a spring rifle.
CO2 also has some disadvantages. You have to keep buying CO2 bulbs, they are limited in power and less consistent than other power sources - CO2 can vary in pressure depending on temperature, leading to inconsistent results as the weather changes. For this reason the guns have a shorter consistent range but are ideal for multishots and plinking guns.
Advantages of CO2 Airguns:
- Relatively cheap
- Fun to use
- Multishot models available
- Easy to use
- Usually lightweight
Disadvantages of CO2 Airguns:
- Average accuracy
- Can be expensive to run
- Many of the guns are built cheaply - you get what you pay for!
Best CO2 Plinking Gun
Crosman Nightstalker - semi-auto action means these guns are great fun to shoot, they look great and are inexpensive.
Best CO2 Hunting Gun
Umarex 850 Air Magnum - it is difficult to recommend a CO2 gun for hunting, with the limitations described above. However, we tested this rifle at 10.9ft lbs power, so it is capable of short range hunting (25-30 yards max) in the right weather conditions. It has an 8-shot magazine, so ideal for that quick next shot.
Pre-Charged Pneumatic Airguns (PCP's)
This is the group of rifles and pistols that has advanced the most in the last 10 years. They use a reservoir built into the gun to hold a store of compressed air, usually about 2500-3000PSI. This reservoir can hold anything from 30-500 shots worth of air depending on the size of the cylinder. The compressed air cylinder is charged via a stirrup pump or divers bottle. NOTE that a regular spray compressor, garage pump or foot pump will NOT do the job as they do not run at high enough pressure.
These guns have many advantages. They are recoilless so they are very easy to shoot accurately. They are very quiet when fitted with a silencer. There are many different models on the market to choose from, so you should be able to find just the right specification for your purpose - multishots, single-shots, lightweight, large shot-capacity, fully adjustable, whatever you want! PCPs do have some disadvantages such as cost, the extra investment in charging equipment and the inconvenience of charging the air cylinder.
Advantages of Pre Charged Pneumatic Airguns:
- Huge choice of brands and specifications - many multishots available
- Great choice of add-ons such as silencers, bipods and custom parts
- Full UK power
- Very quiet with a silencer fitted
Disadvantages of Pre Charged Pneumatic Airguns:
- Cost of initial setup
- Can be inconvenient to refill
- Whilst no recoil is great for accuracy, it also takes away some of the soul and challenge of the shooting experience.
Best PCP Value For Money
Air Arms S200 - Lightweight, seems to fit everyone from juniors to ladies and men. Very accurate and cheap. Single-shot as standard - an Air Arms multishot conversion can be fitted at extra cost.
BSA Ultra - Ultra-short, accurate and reliable. Needs a decent silencer though.
Air Arms S400 - You cannot get much better value than a HFT competition winner straight out of the box. A good hunting gun as well.
Best Mid-Priced PCP
Air Arms S410 - 10-shot, lightweight, well built, great magazine. Almost faultless with good backup and spares availability. Looks pretty too.
BSA Ultra multishot Excellent little rifle with great performance , new updated stock and magazine .
Daystate Huntsman Not quite mid-priced but such a good gun. Reliable, accurate, light, pretty, with a 5 year warranty and a stack of fans, if you appreciate quality this really is the gun to buy.
Weihrauch Hw100 Typical solid German quality, great magazine system , comfortable stock . If you are a Weihrauch fan then its a no-brainer.
Best Money-No-Object PCP
Theoben MFR - The pinnacle of Theoben's know-how. Based on the Rapid & but prettier and regualted for more consistency and shots.
Daystate Airwolf/ Ranger/Mk4 Daystates electonic technology is mature now and there are obvious benefits. If you want the performance in a simpler package then look no further than the Air Ranger. Backed up by brilliant service and a 5 year warranty
Unusual But Good PCP
Parker Hale Phoenix - 10-shot underlever cocking action. Great fun!
Best Field Target (FT)/ Hunter Field Target (HFT) PCP Rifles
Air Arms S400 - Single-shot. Great performance for the money.
Steyr LG110 - Single shot. The sexiest gun on the market. Just drop dead gorgeous and happens to shoot like a dream too. Excellent after-sales support from the official importer too.
Air Arms EV2 - Air Arms have ironed out all the glitches to produce a truly great FT rifle.
Are we qualified to give our opinions?
Well, we all shoot. We have owned just about every decent gun between us. At the moment we own-
Heath - Air Arms S400 .22cal, Pro-Stalk 3-9x50. Daystate X1 177cal, Map Pro 4-16x50, Daystate Huntsman .22cal, MTC Mamba 4-12-50.
Sean - Daystate Airwolf MVT .177cal, MTC Mamba Lite 3-12x44
Michael - Theoben Sirocco .22cal
Lloyd - Daystate Huntman .20cal, LightStream 4.5-14x44
Telescopic Sights or "Scopes"
To the beginner scopes look very complicated, and when you take a look at the Telescopic Sights section on the web site you will see a vast array of numbers for each model.
As an example - if we take a 4 x 32 scope, the number four equates to how many times closer the object you are viewing becomes when viewed through the scope.
The number 32 equates to the size in mm of the front lens, also known as the objective lens.
The theory behind the objective lens is that the bigger this lens, the brighter the image will be when viewed through the scope. There are however other factors to consider, such as lens quality, that makes one scope brighter than another.
When looking at a 3-9 x 40 as an example of zoom scopes, the number forty is once again the size of the objective lens. The numbers 3-9 mean that when the image is viewed through the scope and the 3-9 zoom (located at the rear of the scope) is adjusted the image will move from 3x closer all the way through to 9x closer .
Telescopic sights have adjusters fitted to them that enable the scope to be set up in such a way that the pellet will impact on the target at the same point where the cross hair also appears on the target. These adjusters are generally called turrets. The top turret adjusts the cross hair up or down depending on which way the turret is turned . The side turret will adjust the cross hair left or right depending on which way it is turned.
This is only a basic guide for telescopic sights and you will find as your shooting develops so too will your knowledge and understanding of them.
We will also be updating this section periodically with more in-depth information on reticles, parallax, turrets and lenses.
These are a very important piece of your equipment that enable the air rifle and telescopic sight to work together as one.
Mounts are available in many different sizes and generally the bigger the objective lens the higher the mount required.
As long as you use good quality mounts that are fastened together with allen bolts from a quality manufacturer you can not really go wrong.
This is required to enable you to carry your air rifle in a public place and will offer a good degree of protection from the elements. The thicker the lining of the gun bag, the more protection it will offer your equipment.
If you attach a silencer to your rifle, decide on the correct length bag to accomodate this to avoid having to detach it during trips.
When considering which gunbag to purchase, think about the accessories you will be carrying with you. If you need storage space for pellets, spare air cylinders, targets, etc make sure you choose a bag that can accomodate these.
Internal straps to secure your rifle are a useful option on many bags, as are rucksack-style carry straps.
Hard cases offer the ultimate protection but can be unweildy to store in car boots, so measure up before you buy!
Never store an air rifle in a gun bag as it will rust.
Stick to a good quality lead round head pellet from the likes of H&N, Air Arms, Crosman or Daystate and you cannot go wrong. Experiment with any of these brands and you will find a least one that will perform incredibly well.
Hollow point pellets are generally used for close to medium range hunting as they impart alot of force on impact.
Flat head pellets are poular for paper target shooting as they punch the target cleanly and make it easier to work out your scores.
Pointed pellets are used as they are supposed to give more penetration on impact. They are not as accurate as roundhead pellets as they are not as ballistically efficient.
Frequently Asked Questions
Air Rifle FAQs
What air rifle can I purchase?
Any air rifle that does not does not exceed 12ft/lbs of muzzle energy
What is 12ft/lbs?
This is the maximum power an air rifle is allowed to produce in England,Scotland and Wales without a firearms certificate.(F.A.C).
What is fps?
Feet Per Second,(fps),is the velocity or speed a pellet travels at when leaving the muzzle of a rifle.The muzzle is the end of the barrel.
Can I have more power than 12ft/lbs?
Only if you apply for a firearms certificate from your local constabulary, without this you are breaking the law and could face a heavy fine or end up in prison
What is calibre?
The size of the bore or hole running through the centre of the barrel.In .22 calibre the rifle will require a .22 pellet,in .177 calibre,a .177 pellet.
What does the difference in calibres mean?
In real terms a .22cal(.22 of an inch in imperial,5.5mm metric.)the muzzle velocity equates to around 600fps.In .177cal(.177 of an inch imperial,4.5mm metric.)the muzzle velocity equates to around 800fps depending on pellet weight.
How does pellet weight make a difference?
Pellets are weighed in grains,the heavier the pellet the slower it travels.That is why .177 flies faster than .22
What are the best pellets?
Round headed pellets made of lead have excellent all round accuracy.Stick to a good quality pellet from the following manufacturers;Air arms,Daystate,Crosman,H+N and RWS.
What calibre is best?
.22cal is generally preferred for hunting as it has good hitting power.177 is generally preferred for target shooting as it flies faster and flatter than a .22 cal.Depending on preference both calibres are suitable for hunting.
How do I work out ft/lbs?
Velocity(fps) x Velocity(fps) x Pellet weight(grains) DIVIDED BY 450240 equals ft/lbs
What are joules?
Another form of energy measurement.12ft/lbs equals 16 joules.
Where can I shoot?
At any air rifle club in the country,see our club directory or on land where you have prior written permission from the landowner.
Can I shoot in my garden?
Yes as long as the pellets do not leave your property and you are more than 50 feet away from the centre of a public highway and are not causing a nuisance to your neighbours.
Is an air rifle powerful enough to hunt with?
A rifle producing just under 12ft/lbs at the muzzle in .22cal will still produce around 7-8ft/lbs at 40 yards and it will take just 3-4ft/lbs of energy to kill a rabbit providing you only go for head shots, there is to much margin for error when aiming for the body.
Will the air rifle be accurate enough?
Modern air rifles are more than capable of hitting a 50pence piece at 30 yards or more in the right hands. Set your rifle at 35 yards with a scope fitted and you’re more than covered,providing your marksmanship is good enough.
What can I hunt?
The most popular quarry for airgunners are rabbits,crows,magpies,feral and wood pidgeon,collared doves,rats and the jay
What rifle should I buy for hunting?
This really is down to personal preference, as long as the rifle is producing between 10.5 and 11.5 ft/lbs and is accurate enough it can be used for hunting.
What rifle should I buy for target shooting?
If you want to shoot field target you will generally need a recoilless rifle also known as a pre charged pneaumatic in .177calibre.
What scope should I buy?
From a hunting perspective anything from a 4x32 upwards will suffice. As a rule though the minimum is a 3-9x40 zoom scope.
What scope should I use for field target shooting?
A high magnification range finding scope with an absolute minimum of 18 mag is generally required although some shooters will shoot with scopes that are 50 magnification. The higher magnification the more precise the range calculation will be.
What is zoom?
The ability to bring an image being viewed through a scope closer ( 4x32 brings an image 4 times closer. 3-9 brings an image from 3x closer all the way through to 9x closer.)
What do turrets on a scope do?
Turrets adjust the crosshair up, down, left or right so when set up at a desired range the pellet impacts at the same point on the target as where the crosshair is being placed on the target.
What is range finding?
The ability to look at a target at an unknown distance on high magnification and use the pre set up rangefinding or parallax adjustment ring to work out the distance in yards or metres.
What are crosshairs?
Look through a scope and you will see a cross made up of vertical line and a horizontal line, where these lines meet is where the pellet should impact on the target when the rifle and the scope have been set up or zeroed in
What is zeroing in?
Adjusting the crosshair to line up with the impact point of the pellet on the target at the desired range of the shooter.
How do I use the parallax adjustment on my scope?
Very briefly, set the range on the dial (usually written on the scope dial from 10yards to infinity in varying increments) to the range at which you are shooting.
This will achieve two things: A reduction / elimination of parallax error and it will focus the scope clearly on the object you are looking at.
What is parallax error?
This is the apparent movement of the scope crosshair on the object you are looking at. This is caused by looking through the scope at an angle other than directly through it. Shouldering your rifle correctly will reduce this problem, or buying a scope that is correctly parallaxed (30 yards setting for air rifles on a fixed parallax scope) or setting the parallax dial for the exact range you are shooting at.