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Budget Gear Review: Best Air Rifles (2016)

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Air rifles can be a great way to teach shooting mechanics, add target shooting to your outdoor time, to get some small game hunting in, or for quiet pest control. If you’re interested in any of the above you may have already walked the aisles of some local stores and ogled the available air rifles on the shelves, but if you’re looking to get your hands on the best air rifle, you’ll want to delve into this article and see what you may have missed.

​The Air Rifles you need to consider when buying:

What to look for in an air rifle

Whether you are trying to put an end to critters ruining your crops, or just want some leisurely trigger-time without spending a fortune on ammo, a quality air rifle is the answer. Although these lightweight rifles may be available from local retailers rather than gun shops, they are not toys, and proper consideration should be made before you snag one.

Cost

You get what you pay for, but don’t let that lead you to simply buying the most expensive air rifle out there. Making sure you stick to your budget is important, but you can get a lot of features without breaking the bank if you know what to look for.

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Overall Quality

A vast majority of air rifles are rather inexpensive, and even worse yet, many are just plain cheap. Don’t settle for something that’s going to require a lot of frustrating maintenance just to save a few bucks. There’s a good price vs. performance ratio in the air rifle market—let us help you find the sweet spot. Look for a rifle that’s built sturdy, has quality cocking mechanisms, and a scope (or sights) that will actually help you put your shots on target. Without these features, you’ll most likely be selling your air rifle at the next yard sale.

Caliber

Air rifles, unlike airsoft rifles, fire metallic BBs or pellets in various calibers—the most common being .177 and .22; although, there are .20 and .25 caliber options out there as well. Seeing as how most common air rifles will be .177 or .22 we’re going to stick to these options for this article.

Velocity

The speed with which projectiles leave the rifle is the velocity. Faster is generally better, but don’t be blinded by stats alone, there are plenty of great rifles that may shoot slightly slower than others.

Action

With options like pump action, break action, nitro piston, precharged pneumatic (PCP), CO2 and even more options are available. Simply stated—the action is how you go about charging the rifle to make it ready to fire. If you are looking to sling pellets at game or pests rapidly, you would want to look at a system that reloads quickly.

Bundled Accessories

Knowing what comes with your rifle may add a lot of value to your purchase. Kits that come with projectiles (either BBs or pellets), shooting glasses, targets, bipods, scopes, etc. may be worth considering—just try not to get sucked into the trap of buying a cheap air rifle just because it comes with some goodies.

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Outdoorhill Top Five Recommendations

1. Daisy 880 Powerline Kit

When someone says the words “air rifle” or even “bb gun” who doesn’t think of Daisy? One of the most prominent names in air rifles, no doubt.

The Powerline kit comes with most everything a shooter needs to start launching pellets or BBs down range: rifle, scope, safety glasses, 500 pellets, and 750 BBs.

The rifle itself is extremely budget priced, coming in under the $60 mark, which places it well within the grasp of many shooters. This is a multi-pump rifle, which allows the shooter to use a different amount of power on each shot if they choose. Overall this is a good budget option.

Things We Liked

  • Great budget rifle kit
  • Excellent for beginners
  • Comes with safety glasses
  • Recommended ammunition is included
  • BBs fire at 750 FPS and pellets at 715 FPS
  • One year warranty

Things We Didn't Like

  • Multi pump doesn’t reload quickly
  • More effort required to shoot subsequent shots
  • Lower velocity

2. ​Gamo Hornet

Gamo is a premier maker of air rifles, and if you’re planning to hunt with your air rifle—you may want to focus on their offerings.

The comfortable stock, and high speed firing offered by the Gamo Hornet are a recipe for bagging tons of small game.

The break-barrel design, nonslip texture on the grip and forearm, and rubber pad will ensure a smooth comfortable shot time and time again. If you’re looking for a plinker, this air rifle would certainly do fine—but it is designed only for pellets—so loading a handful of BBs into it for quick reloads just isn’t possible.

Only demanding Currently Not Available* from your bank account, the Gamo Hornet offers a lot of air rifle for your dollar. Overall this is a great buy, and with the money saved on the initial purchase—you may find room to add in a higher quality hunting scope.

Things We Liked

  • Extremely fast 1200 FPS with PBA Raptor ammunition
  • Excellent grip and comfort
  • Great value
  • Very good option for hunting small game
  • Smooth adjustable trigger
  • Ambidextrous cheekrest

Things We Didn't Like

  • The included scope is low quality
  • Loud

3. ​Ruger Blackhawk Combo

Ruger is a name that most gun owners and hunters will be familiar with, but don’t let the model name fool you—this isn’t a .357 revolver—Ruger’s used the Blackhawk model name here for their combo air rifle.

This rifle is a spring-piston design single shot air rifle with a break barrel. The included fiber optic sights are of good quality, and the combo includes a nice 4x32 scope as well.

Priced at Currently Not Available* as of this article, this is certainly a great rifle package for the money; however, it may be a bit better tailored to plinking rather than hunting. It is strictly a pellet gun, and will launch ammunition at 1000 FPS, and for the price paid you really get a lot of features.

Things We Liked

  • Good quality scope
  • 1000 FPS
  • Great feel in your hands
  • Good manual and tools included
  • Very accurate when zeroed properly

Things We Didn't Like

  • Zeroing process can be difficult
  • Loud (not ideal for neighborhood use)

4. ​Benjamin Titan GP Nitro Piston Air Rifle

At first glance, the Benjamin Titan GP looks like it would be at home on a shelf with match grade .22 rifles—and in some ways it would be.

The beautiful wooden stock is ambidextrous, and the rubber recoil pad really give this air rifle a stunning look—pick it up and the weight in your hands is that of a regular rifle as well.

At Currently Not Available* it almost feels like you’re stealing something when you buy this air rifle. The two-stage trigger is adjustable, and has a clean crisp feel. The gas piston allows this rifle to fire quieter than other air rifles as well, making this an exceptional package for a great price.

Things We Liked

  • Available in .177 or .22 caliber
  • Gas piston design is deadly and quiet• 1200 FPS (for .177) 950 FPS (for .22)
  • Excellent hardwood stock
  • Adjustable trigger
  • Gas piston design lasts a long time

Things We Didn't Like

  • Included scope may need upgrading
  • Breaking the barrel takes more effort than other rifles

5. ​Black Ops Tactical Sniper Combo Air Rifle

So you want an air rifle that is customizable, accurate, shoots lightning-fast, and looks pretty badass?

The Black Ops Tactical Sniper air rifle is your answer. Prop this baby up on the included bipod, zero the scope, and start dominating small game.

The elevated cheek rest is great, and the tactical rails make it easy to swap the scope if you’d like.

Coming in at Currently Not Available* as of this article, it’s the most expensive rifle to make our Top 5 Best Air Rifle list, but come on…look at this thing! If pure badassery is on your checklist of must-haves, pick up a Black Ops air rifle.

Things We Liked

  • 1250 FPS
  • Comes with scope and bipod
  • Adjustable stock
  • Has a (non-functional) bolt for killer design
  • Accurate

Things We Didn't Like

  • HeavyIncluded scope isn’t great
  • More expensive

​Final thoughts

The air rifles we reviewed today are all great packages that offer a ton of value for the shooter; however, in true Outdoorhill fashion, we like to pick one that we give our highest recommendation to. Let me say that in this category, it was especially hard to choose the best product, because they are all very good options.

In an effort to get the absolute best rifle into your hands, our top pick is the rifle that (accessories aside) has the best design, feel, and value. The Benjamin Titan GP is the winner here, for a handful of reasons. First and foremost is the beautiful hardwood stock.

There’s nothing wrong the black polymer look of the other rifles we reviewed, but the eye-catching looks of the Titan just stand out from the crowd in so many great ways. Aside from the look is the gas piston system that shoots quieter than the other offerings we reviewed, while also zipping pellets along at 1200 FPS and having a nice long lifespan.

I do want to touch back on the fact that air rifles are not toys. Any weapon should be used under the supervision of someone with experience in it’s use, and your new air rifle should be locked up when not in use to prevent unauthorized access.

With proper care and use, any of the rifles featured today should make for excellent options for many years to come. Take care, and have fun with your new air rifle.

See Also:​

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