When my son and I went outside during the weekend to do a spot of plinking, he asked me why I was using ‘that old pistol’ again. He was referring to my Webley Tempest, the cheek! Although, I guess he was quite accurate in what he said as it was almost 40 years old. Not quite as old as me but old enough. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve not maintained that Tempest in any way really, however, it refuses to show any signs of age. Unlike me.
This British-built pistol is made of the right stuff. It’s never let me down once. I take it out of the cupboard and into the elements, whatever they may be. Break the short (but well-made) barrel and pop a .177 Wadcutter pellet into the breech. Pop and repeat. Store for a few months and repeat.
This is how an airgun should be made.
This article is dedicated to my faithful Webley Tempest, which may or may not make an appearance in the list below. Which brings me nicely to the point of this article. I want more pistols and rifles like the Tempest, so based on what I know, what I’ve heard from people I’ve spoken to and the research I’ve done (which has been extensive, believe me!) I create for you this.
Last update on 2020-02-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Most Reliable Air Rifles
You may not want to read the whole post to get my opinion, although if you have time do so as there are reasons why I’ve rated these guns the way I have. If you’re interested in any of them then read my comments to see if you agree.
- Springer / Gas Nitro: Gamo Silent Cat
- PCP Powered: Crosman Benjamin
- CO2 Powered: Crosman 1077
- AirPistol: Crosman P1322
- Hunting Rifle: Benjamin Bulldog
- Plinker: Sig MCX
How Did I Evaluate the Air Rifles?
Different methods as I don’t own every airgun (unfortunately) on the planet. However, I do own quite a few and know many others that own even more. So, I spoke to owners at the local club as to their opinions on various models and manufacturers over a period of several weeks (and over a few beers) and am quite confident with the below results.
Typically, you will find that the majority of these guns aren’t new. These guns might be awesome but how would I know if they’re reliable if they’ve only been out two months. I’m looking at guns that are established and have been well received by their owners. Likewise, if a gun has been in the market for 10 years and has poor reviews by the general populace, it was not included.
One last thing. All the airguns in this article are top-drawer. You won’t be disappointed with any of them. However, there always has to be a winner!
There was no way I could possibly choose just one airgun. A fantastic gun for hunting would not necessarily make a great gun for plinking. We all have our favorite area when it comes to shooting, hence why I’ve created a few different sections for each specific genre.
Most Reliable Springer/Gas Nitro Air Rifle
The Spring-Piston (and its brother, the Gas Nitro) is the most popular type of airgun and can be extremely versatile.
From hunting to plinking in your back-yard there will be a gun of this type that can fit your requirement. It might not be the best for that particular use but its versatility and ease of use are a couple of reasons why this type of gun will be around longer than you and me.
There are more guns in this category than others and actually more guns than I originally wanted to include. However, these five rifles all have such good qualities, I couldn’t possibly leave them out! Let’s have a look at each one in turn.
The Varmint is a .177 caliber single-shot pellet rifle, powered via a cocking break-barrel. It shoots at speed and in fact, it advertises a muzzle velocity of 1250 fps with Gamo’s own platinum pellets. Whether you can quite reach these lofty speeds is another thing but either way, it’s a high-velocity rifle.
There are many reasons for buying this as your first rifle if you don’t already have one. Apart from its looks, which are elegant and functional – it comes with a nice 4 x 32 shockproof scope, which isn’t too bad at all. Of course, you can replace this if you so desire.
In fact, I’d probably recommend it if you can afford it. The scope is pretty good considering it comes with it but it may need re-sighting more often than a quality scope. The stock is synthetic and waterproof. Also, no need to worry if you’re left-handed as this is ambidextrous so you won’t have any trouble in using it.
It’s a great gun for target practice or pest control, as long as what you’re shooting is quite small. It’s not too noisy also. You’ll probably think at first it is but that’s most likely because the spring is tight, don’t worry – it’ll loosen up.
Your pellets may also exceed the sound barrier initially, creating a rather surprising crack. However, the speed will drop well before you finish that first tin of pellets to more reasonable velocities. Most likely, subsonic so you will lose that crack over time.
Some people have been a bit surprised as to how loud this rifle is but actually it’s quite common with springers to feel this way to the shooter. The sound doesn’t actually travel that far and if you’re standing only around 5 m away from the rifle when shot you’ll realize it’s actually not that loud at all.
Regarding the cocking. Younger shooters may struggle a little with initially breaking the barrel, but once you break it free it’s quite easy. Also, it does loosen a bit with time.
Crosman Benjamin Trail
The Benjamin Trail is a Nitro-Piston rifle that comes in either .177 or .22 caliber flavors. It is a single-shot pellet rifle that is cocked by a break-barrel mechanism. It is also a very good looking rifle that wouldn’t look out of place on your wall.
The stock is synthetic but the purists shouldn’t be worried about this. A synthetic stock just means you don’t have to worry about it being affected by the elements. In fact, the gun is very comfortable to use, helped by the thumb-hole contained in the stock.
With the .22 version, the rifle will shoot up to around 900 fps if you’re using an alloy-based pellet and a bit less than that if you’re using one made of lead. Accuracy wise, don’t be surprised to get consistent groupings up to around 80 yards, or perhaps even more.
The Benjamin doesn’t come with a hard-sight so you’ll be pleased to know it does come with a 3-9 x 40 sight attached. The reticle is of the mil-dot variety and actually, this isn’t a bad bit of kit. Yes, you can change it if you like but it this is your first gun then you’ll be more than happy with what you have.
This is a pretty quiet rifle. If you know much about these types of guns then you’ll understand they can sound quite loud to the shooter but actually, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The Crosman Nitro, a break-barrel air rifle that utilizes .22 caliber pellets. It shares a lot of similarities to the Benjamin Trail, above. It has, like so many other rifles, a synthetic stock to protect against the elements. The Nitro is another good-looking rifle. I love these classic lines so perhaps I’m a little biased but the numbers and stats speak for themselves with this weapon.
Capable of shooting your projectiles at 950 fps if it’s an alloy pellet or around 800 fps if constructed of lead. Comes complete with a 3-9 x 32 mm scope sitting on a Picatinny rail.
One advantage a Nitro-piston has over a springer is that it can produce around 70% less noise, which is great if this is a problem for the shooter. There’s also less recoil and a lovely cocking action that is very simple to use. It comes with a muzzle breaker, which not only looks cool but helps absorb some of the sound produced once fired.
This rifle can be used for hunting, as long as the pest isn’t too big and you’re not much further than 40 yards or so away, as always though, make sure you’re using the right pellet for the job!
Gamo Whisper Silent
I do like the Gamo brand. They developed an action that minimizes damage if you dry-fire. Although they don’t recommend you test it out, it’s nice to know it’s there if you happen to do it.
Anyway, this is the Gamo Silent Cat Air Rifle. A high-velocity, single-shot, .177 caliber break-barrel gun that can shoot up to around 1200 fps with PBA pellets. Like many of these rifles, it has a 4×32 scope and what’s known as a skeleton stock, which is made from synthetic material.
Although it’s called the Gamo ‘Silent’, it’s not totally quiet of course. But, it is a lot quieter than many rifles in this niche. This is a big positive for an air rifle of this type. Its noise dampening reduces the noise by around 25% which is a great feature if you’re using it for pest control.
The recoil is pretty subtle, most likely because of the rubber padding which also feels very comfortable when in the Artillery position.
Regarding the high velocity of the pellets, my recommendation is to use a heavier pellet to ensure its velocity is under the speed of sound. Unfortunately, the shock-waves caused when the pellet reaches these speeds does all kind of bad things to its accuracy. Easily fixed though and you’ll notice the muzzle velocity decrease after a few tins of pellets.
Diana RWS 48
The German-manufactured RWS 48 comes with a healthy history. In fact, Diana was formed way back in the late 19th Century so it is more than 125 years old!
The RWS 48 comes in either a .177 cal or .22 cal variety. It’s a single-shot air rifle that has a side-lever action and is well-known for its versatility.
This thing is ridiculously well made. This manufacturing quality is the reason behind its longevity and fondness within the industry. It just seems to last forever. Its looks aren’t for everyone though and it is arguably functionality over form. I disagree though, I love its simplistic looks and design.
The firing-action feels a little different from the other rifles I’ve used. It’s hard to describe but it just feels more mechanical. This is possibly down to the slightly shorter barrel and the larger compression stroke. Cocking effort can reach almost 40 lbs apparently but I didn’t notice it was any more difficult than others in this sector.
Most Reliable PCP Air Rifle
Widely used for hunting but does have other uses. The PCP is filled typically with a scuba tank or a manual hand-pump until the desired internal pressure is released. You can then shoot away until the pressure is diminished. Loads of different guns to choose from but arguably more suited to the shooter who wants a little more power.
The Benjamin is a classic looking .22 caliber Air Rifle, with a twist. You see, this rifle is dual fuel! What does that mean? Well, it can either act as a PCP rifle and you can fill it with a scuba tank or via a hand-pump. Alternatively, it can be charged via CO2. Although this is great news, it’s not the reason why it’s included in this list.
It’s a rifle that’s lighter than you think it’s going to be when you first pick it up but don’t let that put you off. The lack of weight isn’t a sign of inferior quality.
This is a rifle that packs a real punch but if you’re new to PCP rifles be aware that if you decide to manually pump air into this gun it can be quite hard work!
For that hard work, you’re only going to get about 20 shots. Of course, this is still 19 shots more than you get when you break the barrel of a spring piston. You’ll need to weigh up what you prefer, a little effort often or a lot of effort, less often.
The Benjamin has been well received by the public and you’ll see from the reviews on Amazon (for instance) that this is a well-liked gun. As for modifications, well you have the possibility of dovetail mounts so you have a lot of choices!
The Stormrider is a firm favorite of mine and has been for a while. Available in either .177 cal or .22 cal flavor, it’s a multi-shot bolt-action repeater and can fire up to 26 .22 pellets in its magazine. It’s well-loved for its versatility with the .177 version being used widely for plinking, hunting small pests and target shooting.
Looks-wise, it might not have the smooth, uncomplicated lines of other rifles. It more than makes up for it though in its performance and life expectancy. Strangely, I discovered not everyone shared this opinion and although online reviews and opinions are generally favorable there are some that have concerns about its accuracy.
It’s not all about that though. It’s about the whole package. It’s about who the rifle is geared towards and what that person will end up doing with it. It’s also of course (as it always is) about the price, which I have to say, is pretty darn cheap.
Most Reliable CO2 Air Rifle
These Air Rifles use canisters of carbon dioxide to drive the pellet out of the barrel. The CO2 canisters come in either (typically) 12 g or 88g sizes. The larger size has given shooters a lot more choice over the years. There are several semi-automatic rifles that use this gas as a power source. One canister can last some time also, typically around 250-300 shots!
Also, I’ve taken a couple that could have been written about in this category (the Sig MCX and the Umarex MP40) and have also put them into the ‘Plinker’ category so technically, they’re in both 🙂
Crosman 1077 Repeat Air
The Crosman 1077 Repeat Air is a CO2 powered semi-automatic rifle that shoots .177 caliber pellets from its 12-shot rotary pellet clip. It’s made from synthetic materials (although the barrel is steel) and this rifle has been around for some time.
Okay, I’m not going to beat around the bush here. The 1077 isn’t the best looking, aesthetically pleasing rifle you’ll ever see. It’s not made from the nicest materials and its performance could be better. So, why is it being included on this list you may ask?
If this rifle was several hundred dollars in price, it simply wouldn’t be included. However, I could hardly believe how cheap this thing is! This price-point, combined with the simplicity of use and how reliable it is meant it simply had to be included.
So, let me tell you this. If you’re thinking of getting your son or daughter their first rifle and aren’t sure whether they’ll like the sport or not, consider this. It will cost you less than a half-decent night out and they’ll still have it when they’re going to university.
Sig Sauer MPX and Umarex MP40
These two rifles are detailed under the ‘Plinker’ section.
Most Reliable Air Pistol
I decided to group all pistols together. There’s slightly less to choose from and even less when you’re just looking at the very best-in-class.
This covers both the .177 cal and the .22 caliber version of this iconic pistol from Crosman. For many of us, when you think of an air pistol, you think of this Crosman. I used to have one of these before we had the myriad of rifles and pistols available to us these days. This one is the slightly updated version.
It’s a single-shot gun, powered by a simple pump action and is indeed very easy to use. It’s a multi-pump, so you will have to pump it several times to get the best out of it, a minimum of three though and a maximum of ten. It has a small bolt that just feels lovely to use.
This pistol has been around for decades and there’s a good reason for this. Apart from its accuracy, there’s just not much to go wrong with it.
So, this gun is accurate, reliable and cost-effective – there’s not much more you could ask for?
Benjamin Marauder PCP
This PCP Powered .22 caliber pistol comes with an interchangeable shoulder stock so arguably it could be in the rifle section. However, as it looks more like a pistol, this is where it stays.
Used by many for hunting, the Marauder is very quiet and of course, this is one of the attractions. Velocities are high when charged to its 3000 psi compressed air capacity.
One of the stand-out features of this pistol though is the 8-round pellet clip which really takes some of the hassle out of shooting and again, is a plus when hunting after a near-miss. Use the right pellets and you’ll see some very impressive groupings.
This is not a cheap pistol. It is several times more expensive than the popular Crosman P1322/77 but it’s a different type of pistol for a different type of person. The reliability of both is unquestionable but if you have the budget and are perhaps a more seasoned shooter, then this could be the one for you.
Most Reliable (Serious) Hunting Rifle
I allowed myself free-reign here. I looked at all rifles, powered by any source that I considered up for the job.
Benjamin BPBD3S Bulldog
The Bulldog is a big gun, in more than one way. Big on performance, big on size and err big on price. However, this thing has a reputation and a good one at that.
The Bulldog fires rather large .357 caliber pellets and is powered, rather obviously, by PCP. This airgun, in many ways, is unlike most other airguns. It will take down a house at 50 yards. Okay, well maybe not a house but certainly if you’re looking to hunt mammals larger than rabbits then you will probably end up looking at the Benjamin Bulldog at some point.
It’s a bolt-action rifle capable of firing its contents out at over 900 fps, depending on the pellet. Which is fast, considering the mass of the projectiles.
The Bulldog might be big and powerful but that doesn’t translate into big problems. The Benjamin Bulldog is a very reliable rifle of significant standing.
Sam Yang Big Bore
If you thought the Bulldog was a heavyweight, this Big Bore from Sam Yang is an absolute monster of a rifle! This rifle will shoot a rather scary 0.45 caliber pellet (or should I say bullet) at around 730 fps and will take down pretty much whatever it encounters.
Powered by PCP, as you’d expect, this single-shot rifled barrel doesn’t let you down in the aesthetics either. But then you’d expect nothing less from Sam Yang and at this price point. This rifle has two power levels and will deliver around 15-20 shots when filled to its 3000 psi pressure level.
It has a hardwood Monte Carlo stock which looks just lovely and the whole gun in fact just oozes quality. This is a tried and tested rifle that’s been in the market for many years and is very widely accepted. It’ll shoot through concrete for crying out loud!
This is your go-to airgun when you want to have a bit of fun outside. It had to be something that you could just pick up again and again without having to worry too much about other stuff. To me, that’s the definition of a plinker.
But of course, this couldn’t just be a plinker – it had to be the most reliable plinker. I think I’ve written the word ‘plinker’ enough times now and it’s probably starting to get annoying.
Sig Sauer MPX (or MCX)
The Sig MPX is another favorite of mine. It just does the job it was designed to do and does it so very well. Not only that, it looks very, very nice. I think if you’re a kid (which my wife says I still am sometimes) then it looks even better.
The MPX is a semi-automatic CO2 powered air rifle. It’s capable of shooting .177 caliber pellets out of its 30-round magazine at a fast rate of knots. Not only that but assuming you don’t shoot too quickly (CO2 will cool down your gun causing inaccuracies if fired too quickly over time) it will also group very nicely.
As soon as you pick this thing up it shouts quality. Actually, as soon as my son picked this thing up he asked me to buy it for him he loved it so much. As I was equally impressed, I did – it was his first rifle. You can see my real-world review here if you like.
The Sig Sauer MPX is powered by an 88 g canister that screws into a space that the stock covers and will shoot over 250 pellets before it expires.
What I really like about this gun though is its reliability, which is why it’s here of course! It has never let me (or my son) down. Not one jam, not one problem. And that’s what you need when you’re trying to get a younger member of the family interested in the sport. It worked.
Umarex Legend MP40
Similar in some regard to the Sig MPX, the MP40 is a semi-automatic machine gun that fires .177 BBs, of which 52 can be stored in its magazine. That’s a healthy number.
But let’s forget about the numbers for a second as the figures aren’t what this gun is about. It’s about how the thing looks, how it feels and how it responds to use. Which is very nice. It’s constructed of metal which really helps and overall, it’s a fantastic replica of the original 1940’s German machine gun.
I know a couple of people who bought these for their family to have fun in the backyard and it certainly delivers. These guys have never had any problems however my research suggests some people have had the occasional issue with jamming.
So, here below is a summary of the results. These are, in my personal opinion, the most reliable airguns for each category!
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|Gun Type||Most Reliable||Runner Up|
|Spring/Gas Nitro||Gamo Silent Cat||RWS Diana 48|
|PCP||Crosman Benjamin||Diana Stormrider|
|CO2||Crosman RepeatAir 1077||Sig MCX|
|Pistol||Crosman P1322||Webley Tempest|
|Hunting Rifle||Benjamin Bulldog||Sam Yang BIg Bore|
|Plinker||Sig MCX||Umarex MP40|