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Updated Apr 21, 2023 10:19 AM
Air guns fill many niches. Kids can learn firearm safety using a BB gun before stepping up to the real thing. Some hunters 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.
And, as everyone who’s seen A Christmas Story will agree—an air gun makes for a great holiday gift. So, no matter if you’re on a budget or looking to go big, if you need a gun for hunting, pest control, or plinking, our list of the best air guns of 2023 has you covered.
The Best Air Guns: Reviews & Recommendations
Fastest Shooting Air Rifle: Stoeger S8000-E TAC Suppressed Airgun
Why It Made the Cut: The new S8000-E TAC Suppressed is silent and drives pellets up to 1,200 fps.
Stoeger introduced their first air gun last year, a precharged pneumatic model with enough juice for small-game hunting. For 2021, Stoeger is expanding their line up with the introduction of a new air rifle that utilizes a pneumatic piston. The S8000-E TAC is available in both .177 and .22 calibers, delivering pellets up to 1,200 and 1,000 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 S8000-E 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.
Most Versatile Air Pistol: UMAREX USA Prepared 2 Protect HDP 50 Less-Than-Lethal Pepper Ball Air Pistol
Why It Made the Cut: The new self-defense air pistol fires pepper-filled capsules, as well as powder and rubber rounds.
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 12-gram CO2 cylinder-powered pistol fires .50 caliber pepper, powder, and rubber rounds to provide less-than-lethal self-defense options. Because the pepper-filled capsules are launched at 350 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.
Fully Automatic Air Rifle: LCS Air Arms SK-19 Automatic Air Rifle
Why It Made the Cut: The new SK-19 is capable of full-automatic fire.
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-19 from LCS Air Arms, which offers select-fire capability in both .22 or .25 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 480cc 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. $2,189.
Best Precision Air Rifle: Diana 54 Airking Pro Laminated Air Rifle
Why It Made the Cut: This new sharp-looking and accurate air gun from Diana pushes pellets up to 1100 fps.
Best Trainer Air Pistol: Air Venturi Springfield Armory XD-E BB Pistol
Why It Made the Cut: This makes an ideal trainer for competitors who shoot the original XD-E.
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 12-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 380 fps, however, so this one is reserved for paper punching and can duty only.
Why It Made the Cut: The PileDriver is currently the world’s most powerful production air rifle.
The newly introduced Hatsan PileDriver delivers a .50 caliber pellet at 850 fps for energy in excess of 800 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 4,300 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 33-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 .45 caliber, throwing the smaller pellets about 50 fps faster and allowing for six shots before power drops off.
Best New Gas-Operated Air Rifle: Benjamin Marauder Semi-Automatic PCP
Why It Made the Cut: The Benjamin Marauder uses excess air from each shot to cycle the action and load a new pellet into the chamber.
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 10-shot magazine and pull the AR-style charging handle. The on-board tank can be filled to 3,000 psi, giving you about 60 shots and pushing a .22-caliber pellet 950 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.
Best New Pump-Action BB Gun: Winchester Air Rifles Model 12 Pump-Action BB Gun
Why It Made the Cut: Teach the fundamentals of running a pump shotgun with the Model 12 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 12. 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 12-round spring-loaded magazine, and the onboard storage holds another 250 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 350 fps of velocity, so it’s strictly a backyard plinker.
Most Adjustable Air Gun: Air Venturi Avenger
Why It Made the Cut: The adjustable regulator on the Avenger allows you to change the velocity of each shot.
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 .177, .22, and .25 calibers.
Best Air Bows: Umarex AirSaber and AirJavelin
Why It Made the Cut: Airbows, like the Umarex AirSaber, can be used to hunt varmints in many states, and some allow them for deer hunting as well.
Benjamin rolled out the first pneumatic arrow flicker when it introduced the Pioneer Airbow in 2016. 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 480 fps with 178 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 300 fps with 34 foot-pounds of energy. A single 88-gram CO2 cylinder provides enough power to shoot dozens of arrows, and an adapter is available that will allow you to use two standard 12-gram CO2 cylinders instead. Make sure you also get extra arrows, too.
Most Classic Air Rifle: Air Venturi M1A Air Rifle
Why It Made the Cut: M1A shooters should be happy with this replica from Air Venturi.
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 .177 pellet at 1,000 fps, and the .22 caliber version moves at 800 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. $199;
Most Durable Air Rifle: Hatsan FlashPup SYN Quiet Energy
Why It Made the Cut: The Hatsan FlashPup is a small-game hunting machine, and it is available in a variety of calibers.
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 1,250 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 .177, .22, and .25 caliber.
Sub-Machine Replica Air Rifle: Umarex Legends M1A1
Why It Made the Cut: This select-fire replica of the famous Thompson sub-machine gun has a close look and feel to the real thing.
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 12-gram CO2 cylinders. Reloading is a breeze, but you’ll probably want to pick up a few extra mags, because they empty quickly.
Best New Spring-Powered Air Gun: Diana 34 EMS Series
Why It Made the Cut: This classic spring-powered air gun got an update this year with a range of customizable options.
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 .177 and .22 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.
Most Compact Air Gun: Beeman PCP Under Lever
Why It Made the Cut: The Beeman PCP Under Lever is a bullpup design that is much easier to reload than others.
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 10-shot rotary magazine gives you plenty of chances. The relatively low pressure fill of 2,000 psi delivers up to 1,000 fps in .177 and 830 fps in .22.
Most Accurate PCP Air Rifle: Rapid Air Weapons HM 1000x LRT Chassis Rifle
Why It Made the Cut: This super-accurate PCP air rifle will shoot sub-MOA groups at 100 yards.
Chassis rifles have worked their way into air-gunning, and the HM 1000x 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 100 yards. The competition-proven HM 1000x receiver is tuned to ensure consistent shot strings with 50 foot-pounds of muzzle energy in .22 and 60 foot-pounds in .25 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 12-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.
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