Air rifles make great target guns and small game hunting tools. Some pellet guns are whisper quiet and offer a tremendous pest control option and a great way to protect your garden. Many serious preppers consider a good air rifle a necessity in their bug-out bags. Umarex Airguns and UmarexUSA.com offers the best air rifles for hunting and survival situations. While fancy high-end pellet rifles may have the looks and power, what you really need when SHTF is a reliable Umarex air rifle, Walther pellet gun, or Ruger pellet rifle. Consider a high pressure air rifle (PCP) like the caliber Umarex Gauntlet combined with a ReadyAir airgun compressor for long-term survival and small game hunting. Or an always-at-the-ready Umarex Octane or caliber Ruger Yukon Magnum to put meals on the table. If you're a meateater go from wilderness to table with Umarex Pellet Rifles.
Which spring or gas piston rifle is right for you? Read Here »
BERETTA CX4 STORM
The Beretta Cx4 Storm air rifle is powered by an 88g CO2 capsule housed within the stock of the air gun, this exciting shot semi-automatic caliber carbine will provide years of shooting enjoyment. ORIGINAL PRICE: $
The Most Powerful Air Rifles of
Written By Jim Chapman
Published Sep. 9,
I started my big bore airgunning journey back in with a semi-custom rifle built for me by the father of the modern big bore airgun, Dennis Quackenbush. Then, later that year, he built another rifle in caliber for me to hunt hogs and exotics down in Texas. Over the intervening years, Dennis produced another dozen rifles for me in a range of calibers — including the used on most of my airgun hunts in South Africa. At that time, if you wanted the most powerful airgun for hunting, Quakenbush was the only show in town. And even though this was a niche market, and arguably it still is, there was enough business to keep his order book filled with a long list of potential buyers just waiting to give him their money. The Quackenbush rifles were uncomplicated, solidly built, and extremely shootable hunting air rifles that were truly made for the field.
As the demand for guns grew, along with the waiting time for a Quackenbush rifle, other small-scale manufacturers came to market with rifles of varying quality. This situation persisted for a few years as the market continued to grow. It is true that there were a couple of major overseas manufacturers producing a limited selection of big bores. Yet, they tended to be somewhat anemic in comparison to a Quackenbush of the era.
Then, a couple of important events occurred over a few short years. The American airgun manufacturing giant Crosman and later the smaller, more experienced PCP air rifle manufacturer AirForce Airguns, released true big-bore air rifles to the US market. Concurrent with this, other manufacturing companies started to gain traction, some small-scale startups such as Professional Big Bore Airguns (PBBA), and other large-scale manufacturers such as Hatsan Airguns, offered a large and evolving lineup of powerful big bore rifles.
The benchmark for the most powerful air rifles is power output, which makes sense, even though I firmly believe that accuracy trumps this and shootability is close on its heels. But all things considered, once you have achieved a level of accuracy and come up with a design that works for shooters, more power is usually better. So, with this in mind, I will present a few of the most powerful airguns available today. It’s not possible to cover all the calibers and configurations, but I’ll pluck out a few of my favorites.
Evaluating Air Rifle Power
Every manufacturer wants to be known as having the most powerful air rifle in the world, and until recently, this was a fluid state between a couple of the companies. The “correct” answer of who made the most powerful rifle was a bit difficult to assess because of the number of shooters modifying their guns to up the power. So, to provide context, I always look at peak power in an out-of-the-box configuration. With this benchmark both the AirForce and Hatsan shared the most powerful moniker for a while.
It is worth noting that in the world of airguns, ammunition (slugs, bullets) and calibers are decoupled from the power produced by the gun. As an example, two rifles with inch barrels of different designs using the same projectile, can deliver vastly different power outputs. I have two caliber rifles from different manufacturers, one generates ft-lb and the other ft-lb using the same slug. The power output is a function of barrel length and the valve design and setup, the fill pressure, and the airflow through the transfer port. Of course, it is possible to get more power by going to a larger caliber, optimizing the valve, and driving it at higher pressures. Still, caliber alone is not the primary factor.
With that said, lets look at my list of the most powerful air rifles available today. In no particular order, they are the Hatsan PileDriver caliber, AirForce Texan CF caliber, Airguns of Arizona Bushbuck , Umarex Hammer caliber, and the AEA Zeus caliber rifles. These guys all have power in common, but they represent a mixed bag of features and styles.
The Most Powerful Air Rifle: AEA Zeus
The most powerful air rifle threshold was recently smashed with the release of the AEA Zeus caliber rifle, specifically the inch barrel model. AEA is the new kid on the block, having come onto the market in the last couple of years. They have some interesting new gun designs, but it is their big bore offering that’s been garnering a lot of attention. The caliber Zeus is both the largest caliber and the most powerful air rifle on the planet. The most powerful configuration is a sporter-style rifle with a inch barrel and cycled with a lever action. With a fill pressure of PSI, the cc air tank supplies the power to drive an grain slug at approximately ft-lb for a power output of around psi and produces three shots per fill. I have the carbine, which is getting about 1, ft-lb, but I have a friend getting over 1, ft-lb with his test gun. With the 32 inch barrel, the Zeus weighs in at about 12 pounds, so it’s got some heft to it, but it also helps to calm down the recoil. The gun comes with an option for a , , or inch barrel.
The AirForce Texan big bore air rifles have become the most popular of the big bores over the last few years, and there are several reasons for this. The bottle for a buttstock design and inline valving are well proven in the field. The guns are adjustable and lend themselves to customization and personalization. They are also very well made and available in several calibers, including , , , , and The performance of the Texan, with respect to both accuracy and power, is rock solid. I’ve used mine to take several species of North American big game. The most powerful version of this gun out of the box is the Texan LSS CF, which is a caliber gun generating over ft-lb. The rifle features a cc and BAR tank that delivers three to four shots per fill. That’s moving a grain slug at fps for about ft-lb. I find that the Texan’s excellent trigger helps wring the most accuracy out of the Lothar Walther barrel and the rifle as a whole.
Next on my list is a big bore that was released by the airgun manufacturing giant Hatsan a couple of years ago. Their rifle is called the PileDriver, an appropriate name for a gun that has passed the ft-lb threshold. There is both a and the version in production, and along with the production Texan, has shared the “most powerful big bore” title for the last couple of years. The PileDriver is a bullpup configuration, but it is still a big gun, weighing 10 pounds with an overall length of 46 inches and a 33 inches barrel. The synthetic thumbhole stock has an adjustable buttstock and cheekpiece, and uses a cc carbon fiber tank to deliver three to five shots before the point of impact shifts. The single action gun is cycled with a side lever action, there is easy access to the loading port, and Hatsan’s two-stage Quatro trigger is crisp, with a medium pull out of the box but can be adjusted to suit. This is another of the most powerful air rifles that I’ve hunted with quite a bit since its release, and it has put a couple decent bucks in the truck for me.
Airguns of Arizona Bushbuck
Airguns of Arizona is a major U.S. retailer that is especially well known as an importer of high-end European guns. But a few years ago, they began manufacturing a big bore rifle called the Bushbuck. To my eye, this is the best looking big bore rifle on the market. It is a bolt action sporter style rifle in that is dressed in a laminate stock with stippling on the forestock and grip, with an adjustable cheekpiece. This rifle is solidly built and weighs in at pounds with an overall length of inches and a inch barrel. My Bushbuck is the compact version. It is inches long with a inch barrel. After a point, I am usually willing to trade off some power for a more compact gun. The cc air reservoir fills to psi using an unobtrusive under-barrel tube that helps maintain the rifles sleek lines, while providing two to four shots per fill. The single-shot Bushbuck has two power settings and generates over ft-lb in the high setting. I’ve carried and used this gun on both North American and South African hunts, and it is a capable rifle for any non-dangerous game.
The last of the most powerful air rifles — the Umarex Hammer — came to market a couple years back, and I had the opportunity to use the first ones while filming a segment of the American Airgunner TV program. This rifle offers some interesting technology: it is the only one of these rifles that is magazine fed, utilizing a linear shuttle mechanism with a two-shot capacity. This shuttle is cycled with a bolt action that operates with little effort. The Hammers onboard air storage is a cc carbon fiber bottle that fills to psi but is regulated to psi to ensure shot-to-shot consistency. The stock is a synthetic material, designed and built for Umarex by PolyOne, and uses an AR Magpul style grip. This rifle is a solid piece of gear at just under 44 inches long, a inch barrel, and weighing pounds. I’ve only had this rifle out once on a fallow deer hunt, and anchored a nice buck putting a grain slug into him that transited end to end on a quartering shot.
Answers to some of the most-asked air rifle questions.
Q: Can a pellet gun kill a deer?
A pellet is not suitable for deer hunting. It is best used for small-game hunting and recreational shooting.
Q: What can a air rifle kill?
As we discussed earlier, not all rifles of the same caliber produce the same amount of energy. In general, a caliber air rifle is suitable for varmints and small game.
Q: What is the highest caliber air rifle?
The AEA Zeus in caliber is the most powerful commercially available air rifle, and it has the largest caliber widely available. However, there are rare caliber rifles also available through custom makers.
Final Thoughts to Help You Pick the Most Powerful Air Rifle
The most powerful air rifles are quite different, but there are similarities connecting them all. I would be happy using any one of them when out after deer or hogs, though my preference would change based on the specific situations and conditions. All of these rifles are accurate, generate more than sufficient power, and have an acceptable shot count for big game hunting. But air usage, number of shots, sound level, anticipated range, and size and weight of the gun are variables each hunter needs to assess based on their own needs and preferences.
Other factors to consider are, how will you keep the gun filled? Will you get a compressor or refill tanks at a local paintball or dive shop? Can, or will, the local shop in your area charge the tank up to over psi? It’s a lot easier to keep a gun charged at psi than Can you reduce the power if hunting in an area where limited range is advantageous, or so as to reduce air usage? Is noise an issue, and do you need to have the lowest possible sound signature? Will most hunting be from a blind or a stand, or will you spend hours covering large tracts of land on foot?
Each shooter needs to weigh the importance of these variables to find what suits them best. I can honestly say that — my own personal preferences and biases aside — any of these rifles could be a perfect big game rifle depending on what you like and what’s important for you and your intended uses.
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The 16 Best Air Guns of
Written By Joseph Albanese
Published Feb. 4,
By: Joseph Albanese
Follow our full coverage of the best new hunting and shooting gear of , including rifles, handguns, shotguns, ammunition, compound bows, crossbows, and more.
Air guns fill many niches. Kids can learn firearm safety using a BB gun before stepping up to the real thing; some use pellet rifles to hunt without breaking local firearm-discharge ordinances; and an air gun can be a simple pest-control tool, or a serious arm for competition. The market has something for everyone, and prices that range from easily affordable to those that require a small bank loan.
Best Air Guns of
As with so many things this year, the introduction of new air guns for was slowed by COVID So what follows is a list of both the best air rifles and pistols introduced this year, and the best air guns introduced in that are still in each company’s lineup.
1. Stoeger SE TAC Suppressed Airgun
Stoeger introduced their first air gun last year, a precharged pneumatic model with enough juice for small-game hunting. For , Stoeger is expanding their line up with the introduction of a new air rifle that utilizes a pneumatic piston. The SE TAC is available in both and calibers, delivering pellets up to 1, and 1, fps respectively. Cocking the barrel compresses Stoeger’s Gas-Ram system, which delivers consistent performance without the drop in velocity that accompanies aging springs. The gas system also eliminates the noise and shock the spring creates as it comes to an abrupt stop. To further reduce sound, the SE TAC is fitted with an Airflow Control (AFC) suppressor that combines an internal air-regulator ring and baffles that slowly bleeds off air pressure. The synthetic stock features integrated Picatinny rails on both sides of the forend for mounting accessories such as lights for pest control after dark. Check prices here.
2. UMAREX USA Prepared 2 Protect HDP 50 Less-Than-Lethal Pepper Ball Air Pistol
One of the reasons air guns are so popular is that they often aren’t subject to the same laws that regulate firearms. Umarex is bringing this advantage to the self-defense market with the introduction of the Prepared 2 Protect HDP 50 Pepper Ball Air Pistol. This gram CO2 cylinder-powered pistol fires caliber pepper, powder, and rubber rounds to provide less-than-lethal self-defense options. Because the pepper-filled capsules are launched at fps, they are effective at up to twice the distance as traditional sprays. The HDP 50 features a quick-piercing CO2 system that pressurizes the pistol in an instant, but doesn’t allow the cylinder to leak down over time to where there’s not enough oomph when you need it. An internal magazine houses six rounds at the ready. A ready-to-fire indicator is located where you might expect to find one on a striker-fired pistol, letting you know when it’s ready to go. The bottom-mounted accessory rail allows for the installation of lights or lasers. Check availability here.
3. LCS Air Arms SK Automatic Air Rifle
Because of their complexity, there are few semi-auto airguns, and even fewer capable of full-auto fire. But consumer demand drives the market, and more are cropping up each year. One of the newest additions is the SK from LCS Air Arms, which offers select-fire capability in both or caliber. The massive magazine holds 19 pellets, which you can send downrange at an impressive rate (19 pellets in less than 3 seconds) or switch to semi and take more measured shots. Pellets are delivered accurately at whatever rate you choose, thanks to the precision Lothar-Walther barrel. The tunable, regulated action can be dialed in quickly using the easy-to-access regulator knob and power wheel. Two separate gauges indicate pressure at the regulator and in the cc removable carbon fiber tank so you can tell how fast the pellets are moving and how much fun you have left at a glance. A carbon-fiber shroud and silencer surround the barrel to bring the sound signature down. Performance comes at a cost, so expect to pay handsomely for all of this American-madeinnovation. $2,; lcsairarms.com
4. Diana 54 Airking Pro Laminated Air Rifle
5. Air Venturi Springfield Armory XD-E BB Pistol
This new BB Pistol from Air Venturi is designed to mimic the feel of Springfield Armory’s popular XD-E centerfire pistol, complete with blow-back action to simulate recoil. Many details from the original are present, including the Grip Zone texturing and functional takedown lever, making this an ideal trainer. The magazine of the replica houses both the gram CO2 cartridge and 18 BBs, making loading similar to the real deal. It even features an accessory rail so you practice with the same light or laser you typically carry. The windage-adjustable red fiber-optic front sight and fixed two-dot rear offer an excellent sight picture for a BB gun. An ambidextrous safety, magazine release, and front and rear slide serrations make manipulating the XDE BB Pistol easy. Spare magazines will be available, so you can practice reloads as well. It only pushes steel BBs at fps, however, so this one is reserved for paper punching and can duty only.
Packs A Punch
The PileDriver is currently the worlds most powerful production air rifle. Hatsan Airguns USA
The newly introduced Hatsan PileDriver delivers a caliber pellet at fps for energy in excess of foot-pounds—dethroning the AirForce Texan to take the title of world’s most powerful air rifle among factory-produced guns. That’s more than enough power to drop a deer or hog with a well-placed shot. Filling the attached reservoir to 4, psi will propel up to five pellets at full-charge, allowing for follow up shots if needed. Only a handful of states permit hunting big game with an air gun now, but most allow the taking of small game and varmints like coyotes. The bullpup stock keeps overall length down despite the inch barrel, and features an adjustable cheek rest and buttpad. And the two-stage adjustable trigger breaks cleaner than one would expect on a hunting air gun. The Pile Driver will also be available in caliber, throwing the smaller pellets about 50 fps faster and allowing for six shots before power drops off. Check availability from Airgun Depot here.
7. Benjamin Marauder Semi-Automatic PCP
The Benjamin Marauder uses excess air from each shot to cycle the action and load a new pellet into the chamber. Crosman
In a gas-operated semiauto firearm, excess gasses from the combustion of a round are siphoned off and used to cycle the action. But no ignition takes place inside an air gun, making engineering an autoloader difficult. As a result, there are very few semi-automatic air guns on the market. However, Benjamin devised a way to recycle some of the compressed air used to propel a shot back into the action. The Benjamin Marauder makes for a semiauto air rifle with faster follow up shots than most of the competition, which is a boon for hunters and a blast for plinkers. To use, throw in a shot magazine and pull the AR-style charging handle. The on-board tank can be filled to 3, psi, giving you about 60 shots and pushing a caliber pellet fps with 29 foot-pounds of energy—plenty of power for squirrels, rabbits, and other small game. The Marauder Semi features a wood stock with an adjustable comb for an excellent cheek weld, and the receiver wears a Picatinny rail so you can easily mount any optic you’d like.
8. Winchester Air Rifles Model 12 Pump-Action BB Gun
Now your kids can learn gun safety on a platform that looks a heck of a lot like your favorite shotgun. Daisy lent Winchester their experience building air guns to help produce a pump-action facsimile of the famed Model Just like the iconic scattergun, each shot requires a pump to load a BB into the chamber which will help develop muscle memory for when your kid moves up to his own shotgun. BBs are fed from a round spring-loaded magazine, and the onboard storage holds another or so in reserve. A cross-bolt safety is located in front of the trigger guard, which will also help with familiarization. Length of pull might be a little long for junior, at 14 inches, but they’ll grow into it. The Model 12 Pump BB gun only produces about fps of velocity, so it’s strictly a backyard plinker.
9. Air Venturi Avenger
The Air Venturi Avenger is an affordable PCP gun that has one notable feature missing from other air guns in this price range: An adjustable regulator. The easily adjustable external regulator valve allows you to change the pressure of each shot on the fly. This means you can turn up the velocity for long shots or lower it so you don’t damage property with an errant shot or a pass-through when dealing with pests. Dual gauges let you keep track of pressure; the gauge on the right side indicates shot pressure, the left fill. And there is a side lever to actuate the magazine and load the chamber for rapid follow up shots. The fully-shrouded barrel helps keep noise down so you don’t annoy the neighbors—or scare off the other pigeons in the milking parlor. The Avenger is available in , , and calibers.
Umarex AirSaber and AirJavelin
Airbows, like the Umarex AirSaber, can be used to hunt varmints in many states, and some allow them for deer hunting as well. Umarex USA
Benjamin rolled out the first pneumatic arrow flicker when it introduced the Pioneer Airbow in It took some time for other companies to catch on, but we’re starting to see entries in this unique category from more makers. Two of these are the AirSaber and AirJavelin from Umarex. The AirSaber is the more powerful of the pair, launching arrows at velocities up to fps with foot-pounds of energy. That’s enough power to take big game. Ten or so states already allow deer hunting with air-archery implements and many more let you pursue predators and varmints. The AirSaber uses specially designed arrows to deal with the air pressure, but you can still use your favorite mechanical or fixed-blade broadhead. The AirJavelin is designed for plinking, as it tosses arrows at only fps with 34 foot-pounds of energy. A single gram CO2 cylinder provides enough power to shoot dozens of arrows, and an adapter is available that will allow you to use two standard gram CO2 cylinders instead. Make sure you also get extra arrows, too.
Air Venturi M1A Air Rifle
One of the great things about air guns is the wide variety of firearm replicas available. And one example of that is the Springfield Armory M1A Underlever from Air Venturi. Through an exclusive licensing deal, Air Venturi has secured the rights to reproduce the M1A, and they managed to replicate the look and heft of the iconic rifle. Propulsion is provided by a unique underlever system: If you need added leverage to complete the stroke, the cocking arm telescopes to give you more of a mechanical advantage. The powerful spring drives a pellet at 1, fps, and the caliber version moves at fps. Loading is simple, thanks to a unique sliding breech system. Sighting is accomplished by the blade front and adjustable rear, though the gun appears to be drilled and tapped to accept an M1A scope mount. $;
Hatsan FlashPup SYN Quiet Energy
The original Hatsan Flashpup is favorite of small game air-gunners for stalking bushytails, so I was excited to see a new synthetic version being released at this year’s SHOT Show. The adjustable bullpup stock ditches hardwood for polymer to resist the effects of wet weather, yet it retains all the other features that made the original so popular. The side-cocking lever combines with a self-indexing magazine to make cycling the rifle easier than traditional bolt-action air guns. When fully charged, this PCP rifle delivers velocities of about 1, fps with 40 foot-pounds of energy—plenty for small game. A match-grade two-stage adjustable trigger helps you put shots where you want them, and Hatsan’s patented QuietEnergy shrouded barrel reduces report by up to 50 percent, keeping the neighbors happy. You can pick up the new FlashPup SYN QE in , , and caliber. Check prices here.
Umarex Legends M1A1
Another great reproduction is the Legends M1A1 from Umarex. This full-auto replica of the Thompson submachine gun spews BBs at an unbelievable rate of fire. The Legends M1A1 features a blowback action, complete with a reciprocating bolt handle similar to the one found on the original Tommy Gun. And, tipping the scales at about eight pounds, it weighs about the same, too. The magazine holds 30 BBs and houses two gram CO2 cylinders. Reloading is a breeze, but you’ll probably want to pick up a few extra mags, because they empty quickly.
Diana 34 EMS Series
This classic spring-powered air gun got an update this year with a range of customizable options. Diana Air guns
You’re probably familiar with the Diana 34 break-barrel spring/piston air rifle. They’ve been in production for about 36 years, with few changes until now. This year Diana added the Easy Modular System, or EMS, to bring the 34 more in line with current airgun tech. This single-shot spring gun is available in both wood and synthetic stocks, and has the ability to swap barrels so one receiver can be used to propel both and caliber pellets. The business end has lots of interchangeable options, too, including a fiber optic bead, a tunnel sight, and a muzzle brake that is said to improve accuracy by altering barrel harmonics. Interchangeable rear sight choices also include fiber optic models. But perhaps the biggest improvement is the two-piece cocking lever that reduces the effort needed to charge the gun. Lastly, a shim kit is included to correct the droop that can occur as the spring gets worn, and you can swap the spring/piston unit for one of Diana’s N-TEC gas rams if you choose. Check prices here.
Beeman PCP Under Lever
Bullpup stocks are great because they put a full-length barrel in a shorter overall package that is easier to maneuver, but manipulating the controls can be difficult because they are shifted so far rearward. To combat this, Beeman created an action that allows a shooter to load a pellet and cock the rifle with a lever located under the forend. This provides faster follow up shots because you don’t need to lift your head off the stock to work the action, and the shot rotary magazine gives you plenty of chances. The relatively low pressure fill of 2, psi delivers up to 1, fps in and fps in Shop the Beeman Under Lever PCP here.
Rapid Air Weapons HM x LRT Chassis Rifle
This super-accurate PCP air rifle will shoot sub-MOA groups at yards. Rapid Air Weapons
Chassis rifles have worked their way into air-gunning, and the HM x LRT from Rapid Air Weapons (RAW) is evidence of that. RAW claims the LRT is the most accurate pre-charged pneumatic air rifle built in the U.S., delivering sub-MOA groups at yards. The competition-proven HM x receiver is tuned to ensure consistent shot strings with 50 foot-pounds of muzzle energy in and 60 foot-pounds in caliber. The LR is fitted with a polygonal-rifled Lothar Walther barrel finished with a carbon fiber barrel sleeve and integral carbon fiber moderator, all of which is tested for accuracy before it leaves RAW. There is a shot rotary magazine and a smooth side-lever cocking mechanism so you can concentrate on shooting, not loading. The ambidextrous chassis features a pistol grip, adjustable cheek rest, and an adjustable spring-loaded butt pad for a custom fit. Check availability here.
Read Next: Best Air Rifles for Squirrel Hunting
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