Silent Killers: Air Rifles Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore

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Silent Killers: Air Rifles Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore


Air rifles and BB guns are often considered to be kids toys and not suitable for “real” hunting.  In reality, it is completely possible, and often more practical, to use an air gun when hunting small animals.  However, there are some important considerations to think about before choosing this option.

Pistons or Pneumatic Rifles

The first thing to consider is whether you want a rifle that is powered by a cock and piston or a canister of compressed air.  Pneumatic systems discharge a fixed amount of air through the barrel that propels the projectile toward a target.  Pistons use a spring-activated mechanism that fires the pellet or BB.  Both are equally useful in the field, but Pneumatic rifles have one very important limitation:  Once the air canister is empty, the gun won’t fire.

Consequently, if you are hunting for long periods of time, or have trouble hitting a target, you will need to ensure that you have an adequate supply of replacement cartridges on hand.  However, pneumatic rifles are also easier to cock and fire because you do not need to pull against the resistance of the spring in piston operated guns.  On the other hand, piston operated guns are limited in their power and range by the size of the spring that governs the firing mechanism.

It’s also important to think about these limitations while shopping for a weapon that is suitable for hunting.  Some are more powerful than others, and you don’t want to end up with a gun that produces a weak shot that doesn’t travel far or have the ability to kill the target.  Make sure that you look at the specifications of a particular air rifle to ensure that you get one that will exceed your requirements.

Otherwise, you may end up being in a position where you need to get too close to potential prey in order for a shot to be effective.   Remember that distance and stealth are your friends when hunting, and skittish animals are more likely to flee if you get too close.

BB or Pellets

BB guns can kill anything from birds to rabbits, squirrels, raccoons or other small animals that are not far away.  However, there are limitations in terms of distance that are important to consider.  BB projectiles begin to slow and arc quickly after being fired, and they are unlikely to hit a target hard enough to do any damage beyond 50-100 feet.

You have more options when it comes to pellets.  Pellet guns also tend to produce more force upon firing which makes the projectile travel straighter for greater distances.  This isn’t always the case, but your chances of hitting targets that are farther away with enough force to cause injury or death are better with pellet guns. The shape of pellets also contribute to their ability to cause injury.

The most common caliber pellets are either .177 or .22, and .22 pellets have a greater mass and surface area.  This means that they have the potential to do greater damage.  However, the .177 caliber pellet is lighter, can travel faster and maintain a straight line for greater distances.  In either case, both will work effectively as long as you factor in these differences as you stalk your prey.

The final advantage to using an air rifle is that regulations and laws governing them are generally more lax than opposed to firearms.  They are also statistically less dangerous than their bullet-fired counterparts.  They are also more suitable for children and teens who are not old enough to legally possess and use a firearm as well.  Finally, ammunition is far less expensive for air rifles than guns, and you can afford to fire dozens of shots and miss targets without causing a big dent in your wallet.  Air rifle ammunition is also easier to store, transport and load as well.

At the end of the day, an air rifle can fill a nice niche in your arsenal and give you more options when it comes to hunting small game.  Think about getting one and trying it out for yourself.  You may end up being pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to procure your next meal with these “kids” toys.