How to choose an air rifle

Today we bring a query that has been quite recurrent. How to choose a rifle, carbine or air rifle? What factors to take into account when buying? What options are there currently on the market?

It is not surprising that these doubts arise since there are today many new alternatives for this type of platform that did not exist a few years ago. Many people, in fact, are totally unaware of them and it is because they are relatively new.

In this article we are going to reveal all the types of air rifles analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of each one, so that you can better understand what alternatives the market offers today and which of them is the best for you.

Best air rifles, carbines and shotguns 2021

These are the best-selling compressed air rifle models in Spain during 2020-2021 according to Amazon. Some of them are quite  powerful and accurate today In my opinion, among the first three offers we have the best quality-price air rifle of this year:

Keep reading this article to learn which air rifle or shotgun you should choose.

Best air rifles for big game hunting

There is only one platform capable of safely taking down big game trophies and that is PCP rifles or preloaded air rifles.

They are quite expensive rigs, but certainly, they are the only air rifles that I would recommend doing big game hunting with. PCPs come in multiple calibers, some quite heavy like the .357 and .50. This, added to the great speed at which they are able to shoot, results in the ability to shoot down a well-attached wild boar, antelope deer and other large mammals at short distances.

No other air rifle platform is recommended for hunting big game , because the chances of injuring the animal are many. I definitely do not recommend it.

Best airguns for small game hunting

This size of hunting prey allows me to elaborate a little more on the platform of compressed air shotguns itself (springs or nitro piston) which are the ones we all know and surely the ones we have access to more shooters because they are much cheaper than the PCP platform.

What I will do now is to mention those characteristics of the rifles that exist today on the market that I find particularly useful for small game hunting.


The caliber that I recommend for hunting is 5.5 and the logic of this is quite simple. Large prey will be easier to take down with this gauge than with a 4.5 gauge.

You can also choose the 6.35 caliber but I like the 5.5 better because there are more rifles and pellets in the market in that caliber.


Perhaps one of the most important, the power of a compressed air rifle is the speed with which the rifle ejects the ammunition. Normally it is measured in FPS (Feet per second) or feet per second in Spanish, which is a measure of speed that gives us an idea of ​​the power that the rifle has.

The criterion is simple, the more power the better . The higher the power, the more safety to take down larger prey such as hares in even foxes and a greater range of fire as well.

Try to get the most powerful rifle, carbine or shotgun that your pocket allows you to buy.

Telescopic sight

Try to find a model that comes with a telescopic sight . It does not seem, but this is extremely important because the larger small game prey (hare or fox) are hard to shoot down if you do not aim directly at the vital points (head or heart).

To ensure the shot in these areas I use and recommend using a telescopic sight. This does not mean that you cannot do it without a sight, but it will be more difficult.

IMPORTANT: Ideally, the carbine model you choose comes with a built-in sight. This is because these models will surely have mechanisms that reduce the recoil of the rifle so as not to affect the sight that they have mounted too much. You can mount a sight on an airgun that doesn’t have one, but you must be selective, as some sights break after a few shots on very powerful air rifles.


Always look to make the rifle as light as possible. The shooting position you adopt does not matter. That your rifle is light is always an advantage.

It will allow you to take better freehand shots and it will be easier for you to carry it on long hunting walks.


This point is somewhat particular. Personally, I like that the trigger mechanism is as smooth as possible , practically to the hair, especially for those precision shots. There are some models that even bring the possibility of an adjustable trigger.

This feature prevents shot deviations due to misuse of the finger at the time of shooting. It is not essential, but it is desirable.

So far what I consider the most important characteristics that a rifle, carbine or air rifle for hunting should have.

Now I will mention other features that the current carbine models bring that perhaps could be desirable for some of you.


Some rifles come with a capacity of up to 10 shots or even more. This saves us a bit of the shotgun reloading process. However, in my opinion, and in this type of hunting, the first shot should be the last.


More than a silencer what some rifles come with are sound suppressors. This means that they reduce the sound , but do not eliminate it completely.

Following the logic that I raised in the previous point, we should not care too much about the sound after the shot. However, if you need a second shot, this feature may help you a little to prevent prey from fleeing, but this is not certain.

Culata anti recoil

They come models of butts that absorb the recoil of the carbine . In my opinion this is not too important, since the recoil of modern rifles is nothing to write home about. But tastes are tastes.


I particularly like that the rifle comes with a bipod because I like to shoot from the ground. However, this can add additional weight to the weapon and complicate freehand shooting. It depends on each one.


I always prefer Kevlar stock because it is generally lighter than wood, resists water and scratches from the mountain better.


For hunting a camouflage or sand type color is desirable depending on which one blends more with your hunting area , but if you have a black rifle, you can cover it with camouflage bandages and there will be no problem.

Spring or spring air rifles

This type of rifle is characterized by a brittle barrel. They are the ones we all know for sure and it is the oldest platform of all.

They are relatively inexpensive and have acceptable precision. Within the group of spring rifles we have the most basic rifles, as far as mechanism is concerned, but this does not make them a bad option.

To start with the spring rifle you only need to buy the rifle and the pellets or posts. Nothing else is required to start shooting. Very convenient in this regard.

How a spring air rifle works

When the trigger is pressed, the spring is released, which pushes the piston forward, this generates a great air force that makes the pellet or diabolo shoot through the barrel and the piston returns to its place for a new reload.

Avoid firing the weapon if there is no ammunition in the barrel, as empty firing can damage the piston head.

Durability of spring air rifles

The useful life of a spring rifle is estimated at about 7,000 shots.

After years of use, rifles can lose power due to spring wear. Generally and depending on the brand, parts are cheap and replacing the spring is a simple job for any gunsmith.

Spring-Piston air guns last a long time, but springs wear out at some point. However, it is not a reason to worry. A spring piston replacement and a piston seal change are relatively inexpensive and very easy to accomplish for a BB gun, but again we’re talking about years of use and thousands of buckshot.

Spring Air Rifle Gauges

Within spring rifles there is a wide variety of models, prices, brands, powers, and in the case of spring rifles there are only four types of caliber:

  • Calibre 4.5 mm
  • Caliber 5.0 mm (Mostly in the United States)
  • Calibre 5.5 mm
  • Calibre 6.35 mm

The muzzle velocity, on average, will be around:

  • 4.5 mm caliber: 220 meters per second (720 feet per second)
  • 5.5 mm caliber: 180 meters per second (590 feet per second)
  • 6.35 mm caliber: 140 meters per second (460 feet per second)

Average prices for spring air rifles

This aspect will depend on the quality of the materials used by the manufacturer and will generally determine the price of the weapon.

A good spring rifle is between 350 and 450 US dollars , we are talking about a good quality rifle, with good precision.

For rifles with exceptional precision we can opt for German rifles that are around 670 US dollars, they are also very powerful and will be used for precision shooting or small hunting.

Advantages of spring air rifles

  • It is the autonomous platform par excellence, only the rifle is needed.
  • You do not need to spend large sums of money, you can have very good rifles, of very good quality, for around $ 670.
  • The maintenance cost is low, it does not require much maintenance, kits are available to make improvements to the rifle, and spare parts and spare parts are easy to get.
  • Easy to use.
  • Relatively cheap.
  • Accurate, powerful, consistent with every shot.

Disadvantages of spring air rifles

  • Limiting the distance at which you can shoot, these rifles have an accuracy range of 50 to 60 meters maximum.
  • The limitation of the gauges: there are only 4 gauges.
  • The limitation of power, with a 5.5 caliber it will not exceed 30 foot-pounds of power.
  • The recoil, or kick, powerful spring-action rifles can cause the recoil to even break the sight.
  • It takes practice to hammer and shoot properly.
  • It cannot be left cocked as the spring will fatigue and may not work perfectly.
  • It weakens if you shoot for several years, but can be modified for better performance.

Nitro piston air rifles

This platform may be relatively new to some and, to put it simply, it is like the “evolution” of spring rifles , where technology improves the spring mechanism to the nitro piston. In fact, all new brittle rifles made use this technology, and spring technology is considered obsolete.

In 2014 the second generation Nitro Piston was introduced. The design has several improvements that collectively increase speed while continuing to handle noise, recoil, and precision.

All metal-to-metal contact was eliminated and the piston split to accommodate a bushing that acts as a brake at the end of the stroke, greatly reducing vibration. An additional consequence of the design is an impressive reduction in the effort required to aim the rifle.

The nitro piston system is one of the most powerful on the market among brittle rifles. Compared to some PCP or CO2 models, the muzzle velocity values ​​are not much different.

The weight of the piston also determines the power of the weapon and must be carefully calculated by the engineers to balance the expansion of the spring and get the most out of the rifle.

How a Nitro Piston Air Rifle Works

The rifle spring is replaced by a nitro piston. A nitro piston cylinder is basically a structure composed of a shaft, a piston and compressed gas in a cylinder armed in such a way that the shaft moves internally compressing the gas through the piston. Very similar to the shock absorber in a car.

When the rifle is fired, the compressed gas drives a piston forward to compress air in the receiver behind the projectile.

Durability of Nitro Piston Air Rifles

The useful life of a nitro piston rifle is estimated at about 40,000 shots.

Nitro piston rifles have a longer service life than spring rifles. But nitro pistons are known to wear more power-wise with every shot.

Before, when we only had spring rifles, they were already eternal. The only thing that could happen is that every certain amount of time the spring would wear out or break and need to be replaced.

The nitro piston does not break (unless there is a very exceptional situation), in general it does not.

Of course, every so often we will need to do a service to the mechanism so that it recovers the power that it has been losing due to its use. This service will be more frequent than the one that needs a spring rifle. But we can be talking about years. It is not something that you should worry too much about.

Nitro Piston Air Rifle Gauges

As nitro piston rifles are an evolution of springs, we have the same calibers available:

  • Calibre 4.5 mm
  • Caliber 5.0 mm (Mostly in the United States)
  • Calibre 5.5 mm
  • Calibre 6.35 mm

Regarding the power, it will depend on the weight of the nitro piston. There are heavier nitro pistons, which means more power, and lighter ones, which means less power.

The second generation nitro piston system allows the rifle to fire at more than 330 meters per second without producing significant noise or recoil.

In terms of precision, they are more precise than spring rifles since the nitro piston does not produce the vibrations that the spring produces after firing.

Average prices of nitro piston airguns

There is certainly a lot of price variability depending on the characteristics of the rifle. Basically the price of the rifle increases as the materials improve or the fps (feet per second) increase, that is, the power of the rifle.

We can find very good alternatives starting at 450 US dollars.

Advantages of nitro piston rifles

  • Lighter weight, great reduction in noise and vibration.
  • Easy to use.
  • Relatively cheap.
  • Accurate, powerful, consistent on a shot-to-shot basis.
  • Fully autonomous, without the need for CO2 cartridges or pumping equipment.
  • It helps you sharpen your shooting skills as it doesn’t have much recoil.

Disadvantages of nitro piston rifles

  • Stem wears out faster than spring and parts are harder to come by.
  • It weakens if you shoot for several years, but can be modified for better performance.
  • Overall less recoil than spring loaded rifle, but more recoil compared to other platforms.
  • It takes practice to hammer and shoot properly.

Best Nitro Piston Rifles 2021

The following are the best alternatives in nitro piston rifles that you will find in Amazon Spain. Most of the carbines that we see on Amazon are not nitro piston, but spring. You will realize because nitro piston mechanisms are much more expensive than a spring rifle, ask well before buying.

CO2 or carbon dioxide rifles

CO2 or carbon dioxide rifles are not new. The method of loading this platform is the small gas capsules or carafes that feed the mechanism.

Something that I like a lot about this platform is that it is the only one where we can find semi-automatic rifles.

One of the problems that these rifles face is that their performance is conditioned by the weather , since the density of the fluid varies, so on a hot day, the exit velocity of the ammunition will be higher, and vice versa on a cold day. causing possible aiming problems.

On a cold day muzzle velocities will be around 210 m / s at 4.5mm, 190m / s at 5.5mm and 150m / s at 6.35mm and under these conditions the cartridge will last for a few shots. plus.

On a hot day, the speeds increase, reaching 270 m / s at 4.5 mm, 240 m / s at 5.5 mm, and 180 m / s at 6.35 mm.

They are quite noisy, but in optimal temperature conditions they are usually very accurate.

How a CO2 or carbon dioxide rifle works

In these platforms there is an external source of gas (cylinder or capsule) which is what provides our rifle with the necessary energy to expel the diabolo through its barrel.

These gas sources are loaded into our rifle, either by inserting the bottle or cylinder into the rifle’s tank (if it does not have a gas store) or, if the rifle has a co2 store, the store is loaded with a gas bottle. . Same carafes that are used to make soda, for example.

Durability of co2 or carbon dioxide rifles

As the power in these rifles is given by an external source (the co2 tank), we will not have to worry too much about wear. Simply by renewing the tank we will be shooting at the maximum power of the rifle again.

Breaks of other types are rare to see on these rifles as they have no recoil or recoil. In general, they do not break except when they receive strong blows.

Co2 or carbon gas rifle calibers

Same availability of calibers of the previous ones:

  • Calibre 4.5 mm
  • Caliber 5.0 mm (Mostly in the United States)
  • Calibre 5.5 mm
  • Calibre 6.35 mm

In terms of power, it varies a lot depending on the rifle, but on average these rifles have a power of between 150 to 210 meters per second (500 to 700 feet per second).

Average prices of co2 or carbon dioxide rifles

This is undoubtedly one of the great disadvantages of co2 rifles.

To build your CO2 rifle platform you need the rifle, which is around 100 US dollars, if it is a small crossman type carbine, up to 400 or 500 US dollars if we are already talking about something more elaborate of higher quality , power and greater reach.

But this is not the big problem, but in addition to the rifle, you require the CO2 power plant, which are small cylinders that contain carbon dioxide and whose price is between 10 and 12 dollars each. With a container of carbonic gas it will be possible to make from 80 to 100 shots.

At first it doesn’t seem like that much, but if you do the math, over time, the hobby becomes much more expensive when you use CO2 rifles.

Advantages of co2 or carbon dioxide rifles

  • Rifles are cheap and of good quality.
  • High accuracy.
  • No recoil to shoot.
  • Convenient for repeated shooting as it allows semi-automatic shooting (it shoots as fast as you pull the trigger).
  • They use a power plant that you can easily carry one in your hand, even carry several gas cylinders in a small bag.
  • They are quick and quiet to reload and require minimal movement, which can be a major factor in some hunting situations.

Disadvantages of CO2 or carbon dioxide rifles

  • It is an expensive hobby in some countries, since there are several countries in which CO2 cylinders are not so cheap, they are regulated and require certain permits to be able to import them.
  • The limitation of the gauges: there are only 4 gauges.
  • We are limited in power since CO2 is a gas that when expanded gives you only around 1000 or 1100 pounds of pressure.
  • It is subject to temperature, in cold climates CO2 does not expand with the same force as in warmer climates.

PCP air rifles

PCP stands for precharged pneumatic rifle (in English PRE CHARGED PNEUMATIC), which indicates that the rifle has an air tank that is filled with high pressure air. They range from 2,000 pounds, which is what the Discovery, which is the cheapest rifle, carries, to 4,350 pounds, which is the pressure used by some of the more expensive brands.

PCP rifles are the elite of compressed air shooting. They provide the highest output speed and although they can be a bit noisy, they have millimeter precision.

Preloaded tires come in various configurations ranging from competition air rifles for field or general purpose targets to sporting rifles for pest control and hunting. Some of the preloaded airguns are single-shot versions, while others feature multi-shot magazines.

It is the most expensive platform , the most difficult to obtain accessories, the most difficult to repair, but its use is tremendously entertaining.

How a PCP rifle works

PCP rifles have an air tank with a pressure gauge that indicates the level of air pressure that it has inside.

Basically the air that is pre-compressed in a tube, generally under the barrel, is released when the trigger is pressed through a valve, this drives the pellet that blocks the air chamber.

Durability of PCP rifles

In general we are talking about very durable rifles. I admit that if I have seen problems, for example, with air leaks in the tanks of some PCPs, not very often, but it is something that can happen.

And the weak point here is that they are difficult to repair rifles, spare parts are not available and spare parts are expensive.

PCP rifle calibers

Clearly a point in favor for PCP is the number of gauges. Since it shares all the calibers of the previous platforms:

  • Calibre 4.5 mm
  • Caliber 5.0 mm (Mostly in the United States)
  • Calibre 5.5 mm
  • Calibre 6.35 mm

And it also has exclusive gauges of PCP gauges:

  • Calibre 7.62 mm
  • Calibre 9 mm
  • Calibre 11.43 mm
  • Calibre 12.7 mm
  • Calibre 14.5 mm

The velocity of PCP rifles is quite high, with values ​​that can exceed, on average, 340 m / s (1115 fps) in 4.5 mm, 270 m / s (885 fps) in 5.5 mm and around 220 m / s (885 fps) at 6.35mm.

Average prices of PCP rifles

Having a PCP rifle implies, in addition to the rifle, having a device with which to fill it with air, these can be a pump or inflator such as those used to inflate the wheels of a bicycle. This is the cheapest option, around $ 180, but it takes more time and effort to load the rifle with air.

An option to fill a PCP rifle very quickly is with a compressed air tank, however, it is more expensive, a new tank is around $ 670. To fill this tank it must be done with a special compressor which is around $ 1,340.

A cheap PCP rifle is around $ 450.

Advantages of PCP rifles

  • Virtually no recoil.
  • Compact, high power, high precision.
  • Highly effective with large caliber pellets.
  • Very little assembly effort.
  • Most are repeaters that allow you to quickly fire the second round if you miss the first shot.
  • They have a wide variety of calibers: 4.5, 5.0, 5.5, 6.35, 7.62 or .30, .308, .40, .45 and .50 caliber among others.
  • There is a very large range when it comes to power, from 6 foot-pounds to 600 or 700 which can be used for even bigger game hunting.
  • Reloading is fast and essentially silent, only air moves when shooting, and there is no need for a long receiver in which a piston moves.

Disadvantages of PCP rifles

  • You need a lot of loading equipment, so there are more costs for the weapon.
  • The cost is high, the rifles are expensive, and the accessories are also expensive compared to other platforms.
  • Parts can be difficult, as can getting parts.
  • Possible air leaks.

Conclusion and final tips

Remember then the important characteristics :

  • Calibre
  • Power
  • Telescopic sight
  • Weight
  • Trigger

Keep in mind that the trigger is desirable but not essential.

And as additions that you may like , you can look for these other features that I mentioned:

  • Multi-shot
  • Muffler
  • Culata anti recoil
  • Bipod
  • Material
  • Color

Remember also that for hunting large prey the type of ammunition you choose will also be very important. Try to get pellets that are for hunting medium animals.

Choosing the best air rifle is much easier when you know what type of air rifles are available. Each different type has pros and cons, so at the end of the day it all comes down to your preference, purpose of use, and budget.

Good shots!

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