Best Air Rifle for the Complete Beginner

With so many Air Rifles available these days it is really difficult to decide on which gun you should buy. If you end up with the wrong gun for the type of shooting you want to do then you may as well have bought a chocolate tea-pot. Once you understand what you want to do with it once you have it you can then narrow it down, based on budget, environment and a few other things.

I could’ve done with this information when I bought my first Air Rifle several years ago (too many to mention!) and ended up with .22 caliber bullets flying through the wooden fence at the bottom of my garden and into the adjacent street! The internet wasn’t around then though so there’s no longer an excuse.

It’s not a particularly difficult process if you know what questions you need to answer and I will guide you through this step-by-step.

The best air rifle for the beginner depends on what they want to do with it. I’ve provided some analysis below but I would recommend the Gamo Whisper gas-piston for a great all-round general Air Rifle. If you just want to have fun then take a look at the Sig Sauer MPX CO2 Air Rifle.

What do you want to do with your Air Rifle?

We’re all different. Take my son for instance. His only reason for owning an Air Rifle is to shoot at tin cans and other stuff I can find for him. This is fine, he gets a lot of enjoyment out of it and so do I.  Put yourself in one of these categories:

  • Plinker – The main thing you want to do with your Air Rifle is to shoot at cans and other random stuff you can find lying around. You enjoy the satisfaction of just knocking things over. Loads of variety in this and you can always find something new to shoot!
  • Target Shooting (short) – You want to practice your accuracy by shooting at targets that are not too far away though.
  • Target Shooting (long) – You prefer your targets to be a bit further away, a little bit more skill involved.
  • Target Shooting (general) – Sometimes you want to shoot at targets that are close to you and sometimes far away, it can vary depending on what mood you’re in.
  • Hunting (small prey) – Maybe you want an Air Rifle for hunting wildlife, such as rats, rabbits and birds?
  • Hunting (larger prey) – Or, do you want to use your Air Rifle to hunt larger mammals?
  • A combination – Of course, maybe you’re not sure yet or you may want your Air Rifle for a combination of the above reasons.

How much do you want to spend?

You probably already have an idea of what you want to spend and if you’re anything like me it will probably creep up a little as you start to see what’s available. One of my (many) other hobbies is astronomy and it’s really frustrating when you’re in the market for a new telescope. There’s always a slightly better one just $50 more expensive than the one you’re looking at. “Just $50 more”, I say to myself. But of course, once I start looking at that then there’s another one, slightly better and only $50 more. Where do you stop…

So, your budget will probably be in this region:

  • Less than $200
  • Between $200 and $400
  • Over $400

Bear in mind there will be additional ownership costs, depending on what type of gun you end up with. For instance, if you go or a CO2 powered Air Rifle then you’ll need to buy CO2 canisters every time you run out. To give you an example of how often this will be, the larger, 88g CO2 canisters will shoot approximately 250-300 pellets or so before they’ll need replacing.

Where will most of your shooting take place?

Think about the environment where you’ll do most of your shooting. Will it be primarily on your land? If so, does it lend itself to plinking or short-range target practice? If you have a large amount of land then it makes things a lot easier of course but not everyone is that lucky. You may only have enough room for some plinking or short-range target practice though so before you go out and buy a powerful large-caliber Air Rifle, make sure you can use it!

Is the loudness of the gun a potential problem?

Some people get a bit freaked out and also surprised that air rifles can be so loud. Well, most of them aren’t. If you’re not bothered about this then it’s not a problem but if you want something a bit quieter or have neighbours then

If the rifle is to be used by someone younger then they might not want something that has a rather loud crack when fired. It will depend on their disposition and temperament really. I’m making the assumption that it’s your first gun of course and you certainly wouldn’t want to be put off just when you’re starting out with your new sport. You can get some very capable rifles that are pretty quiet these days and you also have an option of attaching a suppressor if you like to reduce it further.

Will recoil be a problem?

You don’t get that much recoil in an air rifle. However, some rifles recoil more than others. For instance, the spring piston rifles will recoil more than a PCP or CO2 powered rifle. If you’re not sure of the different types of air rifle available, then take a look at my article here (opens in a new tab) that describes them in a bit more detail (but in a way that hopefully the beginner can understand!)

Anyway, if you don’t want any recoil at all – you should steer clear of spring pistons probably but before you do this, maybe try one out in a shop as you’ll probably be surprised. After half a dozen pellets you’ll get used to it so if possible, don’t rule out anything because of this – it’s really not that much of a big deal.

Will you want to do something else with it?

Is there a chance that after a few days, weeks or months you might change your mind and decide that plinking doesn’t quite do it for you anymore and you want to try a bit of hunting? The reason I say this is if there is even a small chance that this is the case you don’t want to be stuck with a rifle that’s not fit for purpose. Your low-powered .177 caliber rifle may not be up to the job if this is what you go for. Okay, I know this is a difficult question to answer but I’ve done it myself, err more than once. I’ve ended up selling two rifles second-hand at quite a loss because I didn’t really think about what I wanted it for.

So, what do we now know?

  • We know what you want to use it for.
  • We know how much you want to spend.
  • We have an idea where you’re going to be using it the majority of the time.
  • We know whether you’re worried about the noise and recoil of some air rifles.

With these few facts, we’re able to help you make a decision to get that first air rifle. Note, when I make a suggestion it’s not just about the latest and greatest rifle out there. I look at what’s established and has been accepted favourably by its users. If I have to choose between two guns, one of which is far superior on paper than the other but that other has been around for years and has great feedback, I’m always going to choose the latter.

What’s important here is picking a rifle that you know has already been tried and tested, will serve you well over many years and is therefore reliable.

The Results

Using my experience over more than forty years I’ve selected my favourite six rifles that serve a number of different purposes. Of course, it’s up to you to decide how much money you want to spend and what you actually want to use your rifle for. But, I hope this table will help you make your decision.

Sig MPX CO2 (.177) Stoeger X20 Spring Poston (.177) Gamo Whisper Gas-Piston (.22) Daisy 880 Powerline Multi-Pump (.177) Sam Yang Big Bore PCP (.45) Benjamin Bulldog PCP (.357)
Good for Plinking?
Quiet to Shoot?
Good for Short-Range Targets?
Good for Long-Range Targets?
Hunting (Small Mmammals)
Hunting (Large Mammals)
Less Tthan $200
Between $200 and $400
Over $400
Check the latest price by clicking on the image.

Related…

Finally, if you’re interested in what the most reliable air rifles are, then check out the article here.

If you’re in the market for a new gun, be it a BB, Air Rifle or Pistol, check out my totally unbiased reviews on what’s best out there right now. These have all been tried and tested so you don’t have to worry about buying something that isn’t up to the job: