best air rifle for hunting rabbits and squirrels

There are many hunters whose favorite targets are squirrels and rabbits.

In many instances, a great choice for small game hunting is a quality air rifle. There are many reasons for this choice, including the less stringent laws and ordinances addressing air rifles.

These are not your BB guns available at local big box stores. The air rifles capable of consistent accuracy and power for hunting are a different breed.

Air rifles for hunting squirrels and rabbits demand higher velocities and heavier projectiles. Most hunters choose an air rifle that shoots a 14.3-grain .22-caliber pellet.

To be effective on small game such as squirrels and rabbits, the air rifle must drive the projectile greater than 900 feet per second. Accuracy is the key factor.

With low-power rifles and lightweight projectiles, shot placement is critical for clean kills.

There are many good air rifles on the market. But finding the one that fits your needs, hunting style, and budget can be a challenge.

We have scoured the marketplace and looked at hundreds of air rifles in our search for the best air rifles for small game hunting like hunting squirrels and rabbits. These air rifles represent our choices for your best options.

In any case, the preferred rifle type for small game hunting will be Pellet Guns.

Tl;dr

Best Air Rifles for Small Game Hunting:

What Caliber Pellet Should You Choose?

types of air rifle calibers

Go with .22 for small game hunting.

In general, there are three caliber choices available in air rifles suitable for hunting small game, such as rabbits and squirrels. Each caliber has pros and cons that deserve consideration when choosing a pellet rifle for hunting.

You should understand the advantages and disadvantages of each caliber as you make your decision.

.177 Caliber

.177 caliber pellet

Among air rifle enthusiasts, the .177 caliber pellet remains the most popular. One great advantage of the .177 caliber rifle is the velocities you can achieve with a given amount of air gun energy available.

These higher velocities mean a flatter shooting rifle which many shooters appreciate for accuracy reasons.

Most air rifles suitable of r hunting rabbits or squirrels in .177 caliber develop around 1000 fps. This is generally considered the minimum muzzle velocity required for clean kills on small game.

The accuracy of many of these air rifles chambered for .177 pellets makes them suitable for target shooting as well.

.22 Caliber

.22 caliber pellet

A great advantage to choosing an air rifle chambered for .22 caliber pellets is the gain in weight.

The heavier weight of the pellet gives greater knockdown power downrange. Depending on the size and weight of your target, this can be a huge advantage.

On the other side of the coin, .22 caliber air rifles have a much shorter effective range than the .177 caliber rifles.

At best, you can expect effective ranges between 45 – 50 yards.

If you are hunting varmints such as crows, raccoons, woodchucks, or jackrabbits, a .22 caliber air rifle is a great choice.

.25 Caliber

Not as many shooters are aware that many air rifles are chambered for a .25 caliber pellet.

This is typically the largest projectile available in what are still considered pellet rifles.

The increased size and weight of the .25 caliber pellet improve the pellet’s delivered energy to your target.

However, as weight increases, the effective range can also decrease.

One other disadvantage to air rifles that can drive the larger .25 caliber pellet is increased cost.

Air guns capable of developing the necessary energy to get the .25 caliber pellet up to a muzzle velocity suitable for hunting tend to be on the expensive side.

Our Picks for Best Air Rifles for Hunting Squirrels and Rabbits:

Of the many pellet rifles on the market, this is a very short list of what we consider to be the best options for hunting squirrels and rabbits.

We have chosen a variety of styles and types of pellet rifles for our list.

Benjamin Marauder .22 Multi-Shot Bolt-Action Hunting Rifle

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Benjamin Marauder BP2264S Synthetic Stock...
190 Reviews
Benjamin Marauder BP2264S Synthetic Stock...
  • ALL-WEATHER SYNTHETIC STOCK WITH RAISED COMB - Durable, lightweight, well-balanced
  • MULTI-SHOT, BOLT ACTION, PCP-POWERED - Has built-in pressure gauge and quick-disconnect Foster...
  • TWO-STAGE ADJUSTABLE MATCH GRADE TRIGGER SYSTEM - Lever safety

Benjamin has been making air guns of all styles, sizes, and types for many years.

The Benjamin brand name is recognizable by all shooting enthusiasts.

It is no wonder that the Benjamin Marauder makes our list of air rifles for squirrels and rabbits.

One great advantage to the Benjamin Marauder line of air rifles is the accuracy of these air guns.

You can order a Marauder with either a Crosman barrel or a Lother Walther barrel.

You also get a choice of calibers up to .25. Caliber. Benjamin doesn’t skimp in other features included with the Marauder air rifle.

Features

benjamin-marauder-air-rifle-specifications

  • Adjustable-comb allows you to fit the rifle to your shooting styles
  • A reversible bolt action allows ambidextrous shooting
  • The 10-shot rotary magazine allows rapid backup shots
  • An 11mm dovetail on the receiver is optics ready
  • Each Marauder rifle includes a two-stage adjustable match trigger
  • Adjustable velocities for best shooting performance
  • Built-in air pressure gauge
  • Uses compressed air up to 3000 psi
  • The Marauder rifle can be quickly refilled from scuba tanks or hand pumps

Specifications

Benjamin Marauder PCP-Powered .22-Cal Multi-Shot Review

  • The Benjamin Marauder is capable of muzzle velocities of up to 11oo fps
  • Rifled barrel
  • Weight – 7.30 pounds
  • Length – 42.80 inches
  • 32 shots per fill
  • Includes a 5-year limited warranty

What Shooters Say about the Benjamin Marauder

By and large, shooters of the Benjamin Marauder rave about their air rifles. The many comments found from Marauder shooters fall into these general categories.

  • This is one of the quietest air rifles they have shot. There is almost no vibration, bounce, or noise with this air rifle.
  • The Benjamin Marauder consistently shoots dime-sized patterns at 25 yards.
  • The two-stage adjustable trigger is great. We get clean, consistent let off with every shot.
  • This rifle shoots well enough that a bipod is a worthwhile investment to increase your accuracy

There are some minor downsides to the Benjamin Marauder air rifle. In general, these comments reflect some users’ concerns:

  • The bolt can be difficult to work for some people. It takes some effort to cock the rifle.
  • There is no way to tell if a pellet is in the chamber and the gun is cocked
  • There are no iron sights on this rifle. For the best results, you must mount an optical scope of some kind.

Despite the few shortcomings, the Benjamin Marauder is a great value in an air rifle that will perform in the field or on the range.

The street price for this rifle is well within the budget of most serious air gun shooters and hunters.

For that price, you will get excellent and reliable performance.

AirForce Condor SS (.22 Cal)

AirForce Condor, Gun Only, No Sights, No Clamp air...
  • caliber: 0.22
  • velocity: 1250.00 ft/sec
  • Warranty: Limited Lifetime Warranty

AirForce Air Rifles may not be the household known name of other air rifle manufacturers, but among avid air gun shooters, AirForce is a recognized leader.

AirForce concentrates solely on high-power air rifles for hunting and target shooting.

They offer a line of quality air rifles featuring innovative designs.

AirForce delivers air rifles to meet almost any need.

The company makes it known that their air rifles can take some of the larger game animals in North America, where it is legal.

For hunting squirrels and rabbits, the AirForce Condor SS is a great choice.

You will get the expected features with an AirForce air rifle, such as:

Features

airforce-condor-ss-specifications

  • AirForce Sound-Loc® noise reduction technology makes the Condor one of the quietest air rifles on the market.
  • Specifically designed for small game hunting and pest control.
  • Ring-Loc ™ valve system increases velocity and energy levels
  • Easily adjustable pressure system
  • Spin-on Air tank for rapid tank changes
  • Unique design and looks
  • Made in the USA

Specifications

AirForce Condor SS Review

  • Available in .177, .22, and .25 calibers
  • 490cc air tank rated to 3,000 psi
  • Refillable from a scuba tank
  • Capable of up to 1100 fps
  • Bolt action operation
  • Weight – 6.10 pounds
  • Length – 38.13 inches
  • 1mm dovetail rail for optics mounting
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty

What Shooters Say about the Airforce Condor SS

Overall, shooters are extremely complimentary about the AirForce Condor SS Air Rifle. Their remarks fall into these types of categories.

  • One of the quietest air rifles in the collection.
  • The quality of the construction is impeccable
  • A perfect gun for squirrels and other small game. Enough power to score clean kills.
  • The Condor SS gives us almost double the range of our old air rifle.

There are some factors about the AirForce Condor SS to consider before making your purchase.

  • This is a single-shot air rifle. Rapid follow up shots are just not possible
  • Some users have had problems with the threads on the spin-on air tank
  • Expect to add a scope and a bipod to get all you can get out of this rifle.

airforce-ss

AirForce is a Texas company that designs and produces its air rifles in the US.

The customer service from AirForce is, by all standards, excellent when a problem does arise.

These rifles are a bit pricey but well worth the extra investment for a quality air rifle that will give you years of service.

Hatsan BullBoss QE Air Rifle

Wearable4U Hatsan BullBoss QE .22 Cal Air Rifle...
4 Reviews
Wearable4U Hatsan BullBoss QE .22 Cal Air Rifle...
  • IN THE BOX: 1 x Hatsan BullBoss QE .22 Cal Air Rifle; 1 x Pack of 100x Paper Targets; 1 x Pack of...
  • QuietEnergy fully shrouded barrel and Integrated Sound Moderator – Approximately 50% Quieter.
  • 230cc Removable Cylinder. Quattro Trigger. Combo Scope Rail (11mm and 22mm).

If you want the tactical look for your air rifle. The Hatsan BullBoss is a great choice.

Modeled after the most popular tactical rifles, the Hatsan BullBoss packs an astounding array of features and power into one of the shortest frames in the air rifle market.

At only 36 inches overall, the Hatsan BullBoss is compact and easy to maneuver in the heaviest brush.

Every Hatsan BullBoss comes with an integrally suppressed barrel for the quietest shooting experience you can imagine.

The quiet shooting coupled with the rotary 10 shot magazine makes quick and accurate follow-up shots possible.

You won’t find the Hatsan BullBoss lacking in features.

Features

hatsan-bullboss-qe-specifications

  • Side-lever cocking for fast follow up shots
  • Available in .177, .22, and .25 calibers
  • Integral Picatinny rail for both 11mm and 22mm scope mounts
  • Adjustable cheek comb for comfortable and accurate shooting
  • Precision rifles barrel with choke
  • Integral sound suppression built into the barrel
  • Quick-fill nozzle included with the kit
  • Quattro trigger includes a two-stage adjustable match trigger
  • Fitted sling swivels
  • Kit includes two rotary 10 shoot magazine
  • One year limited warranty

Specifications

Hatsan BullBoss QE Air Rifle

  • Available in .177, .22, .25 calibers
  • 1070 FPS
  • Side lever action
  • Rifled Barrel
  • Weight- 8.6 pounds
  • Length – 36.8 inches
  • Magazine capacity – 10 pellets
  • Two-Stage Adjustable Trigger

What Shooters Say about the Hatsan BullBoss

hatsan-bullboss-review

A review of user comments finds most shooters using a Hatsan BullBoss are above average. In general, the comments follow these trends.

  • A well-balanced air gun that shoots easily but also allows you to tune the gun for even more incredible accuracy
  • AT 25 yards, single hole accuracy is not uncommon
  • A very quiet air rifle for the money
  • If you need a .25 caliber air rifle, the Hatsan BullBoss is a great choice

Some shooters did have some minor difficulties with the Hatsan BullBoss rifles

  • The plastic stock models can be a little fragile. In particular, the side cocking plate often breaks. A metal replacement is available.
  • If you are a serious shooter, adding air regulation to the rifle is necessary.
  • The bipod mount looks and feels a little flimsy

Despite a few minor issues, the Hatsan BullBoss air rifle is a great value for an air rifle capable of taking down squirrels and rabbits.

Getting off a quick follow-up shoot with a quiet rifle can be a huge advantage on multiple targets.

Benjamin Trail Nitro Piston XL

Trail NP XL1100 Break Barrel Air Rifle, Nitro...
316 Reviews
Trail NP XL1100 Break Barrel Air Rifle, Nitro...
  • Benjamin Trail NP2 Hardwood .22 Break Barrel Air Rifle with Scope

If you are a purest and want an air rifle that looks and feels like a rifle, the Benjamin Nitro Piston XL is your choice. The Benjamin Nitro XL features a wooden thumb-hole stock with integral cheek rest. Not only does this air rifle shoot above average, if you like the look of a traditional hunting rifle, this one fits the bill.

This is not just a good-looking rifle. The Benjamin Nitro XL is also a performer.

This rifle can launch pellets at 1,100 fps, making it a perfect choice for small game such as squirrels and rabbits.

benjamin-trail-np-xl

With the reputation of Benjamin, you can expect to get a full-featured air rifle of high quality and reliability.

Features

  • Benjamins Nitro Piston Technology delivers precise and consistent power
  • Gas piston technology that uses nitrogen as the power source
  • Quiet operation without the spring or a traditional spring rifle
  • Less felt recoil
  • Ambidextrous thumbhole stock made of hardwood
  • Integral rail for quick optical sight mounting
  • Includes a Centerpoint 3-9x40mm mil-dot scope
  • Sling mounts and swivel studs pre-installed

Specifications

  • .22 caliber
  • Muzzle velocity – 1100 fps
  • Break barrel action
  • Single shot
  • Rifled-barrel
  • Weight – 9.7 pounds
  • Length – 48.25 pounds
  • Gas-piston action
  • 5-year limited warranty

What Shooters say about the Benjamin Nitro XL Air Rifle

benjamin-np-xl-specs

Overall, shooters of the Benjamin Nitrol XL are positive in their comments. Surveying shooters about this air rifle found comments that fit into these categories.

  • Easily shoots dime-sized groups at 30 yards with a heavier pellet
  • One of the most powerful air rifles available in this price range
  • The beautiful finish on the stock makes this a showpiece
  • The break barrel design is great for beginning shooters to teach patience and accuracy

On the other hand, some shooters found some inadequacies in the Benjamin Nitro Air Rifle.

  • An adjustable trigger would be a great addition to this rifle
  • Lighter pellets can go supersonic, resulting in a distinct sound. Heavier pellets seem to work better with this rifle
  • This is a heavy rifle

Admittedly, this is not the air gun for a lot of people. Many shooters want something more futuristic. However, if you prefer the traditional look and feel of a rifle, the Benjamin Nitrol XL is a perfect choice.

You will get the performance and the looks you want at a very reasonable cost.

Gamo Magnum Air Rifle

Gamo 611006154 Magnum .177
601 Reviews
Gamo 611006154 Magnum .177
  • Made of the highest qualitiy materials
  • Air guns rifles. Trigger pull: 3.2 pounds
  • Another quality product

One of the hardest-hitting air rifles available in .22 caliber is the Gamo Magnum Air Rifle. Gamo advertises that the Magnum air rifle can produce 1,300 fps of muzzle velocity.

This puts the Gamo Magnum air rifle near the top of the charts. The more traditional look of the thumb-hole stock on the Gamo rifle is another plus with some shooters.

Gamo has put the features into this rifle that are the most popular with shooters.

This includes a two-stage adjustable trigger, rubberized grips, and the IGT Mach 1 air valve system for increased accuracy and consistency. Among the other features you will find:

Features

  • Reduced shock and recoil with the IGT Mach 1 piston system
  • A weather synthetic thumb-hole stock with rubberized grips
  • Kit includes a 3-9×40 adjustable objective scope
  • Ambidextrous stock design
  • Fluted barrel
  • Recoil Reducing Rail
  • Five year limited warranty

Specifications

  • Cocking effort – 41 pounds
  • Length – 49.2 inches
  • Weight – 6.88 pounds
  • Available in .177 and .22 calibers
  • Muzzle velocities – .177 caliber 1650 fps, .22 caliber 1300 fps

What Shooters say about the Gamo Magnum Air Rifle

gamo-magnum-air-rifle

Overall, the reviews and comments about the Gamo Magnum air rifle are above average. We found that shooters frequently leave comments about the Gamo Magnum air rifle such as:

  • One of the most powerful and accurate break barrel air rifles I have shot.
  • As accurate as any air rifle on the market when paired with the right pellet
  • Quiet operation allows me to practice in my backyard without disturbing or alerting my neighbors
  • The rail system does seem to help dampen the shocks to the scope

There are some negative comments about this air rifle as well. Typically, those comments regard these categories.

  • This rifle is very sensitive to the pellet you shoot. It may take some time to find the best combination for your rifle
  • The included scope is often not worth the effort. Scrap it and put a better scope on the rifle.

If you want the highest possible muzzle velocities, the Gamo Magnum air rifle is good. This break barrel design will deliver excellent power.

However, it may take some experimenting to find the best pellet weight and material to get the best performance from this air rifle.

FAQs

What Size Air Rifle Will Kill a Squirrel and Rabbit?

Any quality air rifle shooting one of the three most popular caliber pellets can kill a squirrel or a rabbit. If you want to seriously hunt with an air rifle, no matter the caliber of pellet, a minimum muzzle velocity of 1000 fps is recommended.

More often than not, your success will depend on the rifle but your ability to stalk, locate, and shoot accurately when the time comes. Any gun, even a pellet rifle, will only perform as well as you can perform.

Do You Need a Scope for an Air Rifle?

In general, yes. Higher-end air rifles suitable for hunting small game don’t come with iron sights but have rails built onto the receiver to mount a scope. Some manufacturers include a small scope as part of the gun package.

However, most shooters opt to ditch the included cheap scope and put a better quality scope on their air rifle.

What’s the Best Range for Hunting Squirrels and Rabbits?

Your effective hunting range depends on several factors. All work together to determine the best range you should consider when hunting squirrels and rabbits with a pellet rifle. In general, you shouldn’t expect your pellet rifle to be effective and accurate past 50 yards.

  • Muzzle Velocity of your Air Rifle – The minimum velocity at the muzzle of any pellet gun used for hunting squirrels or rabbits should be 1,000 fps. No matter the caliber, this muzzle velocity will give you the adequate range for a clean kill.
  • Delivered Energy and Caliber – Lightweight pellets don’t deliver as much energy to your target as heavier pellets. However, lighter pellets tend to hold that energy at farther distances. There is a trade-off between pellet caliber and energy that affects the range.
  • Shooter Ability – Your ability to judge distance, compensate for wind and elevation, and accurately put pellets on your target are part of the equation as well. Knowing your own limitations and abilities can make a big difference in your effective shooting distances.

Finding the Right Air Rifle for Hunting Small Game [Squirrels and Rabbits]

Searching for that perfect air rifle is not much different than looking for the perfect conventional rifle.

The rifle must fit your needs and expectation as well as your hunting or target shooting style.

There are many different options from which to choose.

These are, in our opinion, excellent choices for the different designs and styles of air rifles.

Good luck and good hunting.

Last update on 2022-01-24