Air guns aren’t just for plinking at bottles anymore. These powerful hunting tools are just right for bushytails and other critters.
Pellet guns aren’t what they used to be. They’re a lot more than the overblown toy Daisy BB guns of the old days.
Today’s high-powered air rifles or airguns are excellent for small game hunting, capable of taking small game and large game alike. But less powerful and precise versions are the perfect tool for hunting squirrels. They’re quick, accurate enough for headshots, powerful, and quiet enough not to disturb the rest of the woods–even quieter than a .22LR with a suppressor. And the best part is you can order one right from Amazon.
Regardless of muzzle velocity, you need enough power–a minimum of 10 foot-pounds of energy–to take squirrels reliably. Plus, they’re great for pest control, plinking and target practice, all without burning ammo, and the more powerful models will work on most varmints and all sorts of critters inside effective ranges. From the following list you should be able to find the best air rifle for squirrel hunting that’s just right for you.
RWS Diana 48 Sidelever Action Spring Piston Air Rifle
This spring-pistol rifle from RWS is a powerhouse that produces enough energy to take animals of 25 pounds or more. This model is particularly consistent and accurate, but it’s still affordable and is definitely built more for the field than the range.
It features a beechwood stock (that contains the large spring). Be warned, it takes exactly 39 pounds of force, according to RWS, to compress the internal spring and cock this gun via a side lever that can handle that kind of force. The result is about 22 foot-pounds of energy and a muzzle velocity of 900 fps with a .22-caliber pellet. It’s also available in the smaller .177 chambering and the larger .25 chambering, capable of taking mid-sized game at reasonable distances.
Hammerli 850 AirMagnum
This gun is powered not by a piston but by a cartridge of compressed CO2 gas. That means you have to change 12-gram CO2 cylinders when they run empty, but it also means you don’t have to pump or cock the gun to shoot it.
The 850 is one of the few CO2 guns powerful enough for ethical hunting. This eight-shot repeater fires .22-caliber pellets at 760 fps with about 13 foot-pounds of energy. This is aided by using large 88-gram CO2 cartridges instead of the little 12-gram ones. An 88-gram cartridge will provide about 225 full-powered shots from the 850. The air gun comes with very capable fiber-optic sights and the receiver has standard 11mm dovetails for mounting scope rings.
Benjamin 392S Variable Pump
This multi-pump .22-caliber air rifle made by Crosman is simple and has plenty of power to take squirrels. It is basically an updated version of Benjamin’s tried and true Silver Streak air gun.
It features a synthetic stock and the power output is regulated by how many times you pump the gun. Three pumps get you about 500 fps, six pumps gets you 650 fps. The maximum 10 pumps delivers up to 800 fps of muzzle velocity and 15 foot-pounds of energy, more than enough for squirrels. The bolt action pellet gun also features a rifled brass barrel, a single-stage trigger, and a manual safety.
Hatsan FlashPup SYN QE
Bullpups make firearms shorter overall without sacrificing barrel length, and the idea works even better in an air rifle, especially since there is no spent brass to eject.
All bullpups suffer from the same problem, whether an air rifle or a firearm: it’s hard to make a good trigger, considering it has to be connected to an action that is all the way in the buttstock instead of directly above it. The FlashPup endeavors to overcome this shortfall with an excellent two-stage adjustable trigger. The gun has more than enough power for squirrels and small game, propelling .22-caliber lead pellets at about 1,000 fps with 38 foot-pounds of energy. The shrouded QuietEnergy barrel also reduces the already diminutive sound by up to half.
Gamo Wildcat Whisper
This break-barrel airgun is a simple single-shot option, but it’s dead simple. Just open the action to cock it, insert a pellet, and close the action. It’s then ready to fire.
Early break barrel air guns used springs to propel a projectile, but modern versions like the Wildcat Whisper use a piston filled with a gas, typically nitrogen, that stores energy when compressed that is released when the trigger is pulled. This gun features a polymer stock and fires .22-caliber pellets at around 975 fps and the .177 version moves at 1,350 fps. Gamo sells a combo version that comes with a 4x32mm scope.
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