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Updated Jul 18, 2023 11:34 AM
Few things are more American than BB guns. And few things make a better holiday gift than a BB gun. Iconic models like the Red Ryder BB gun were the object of desire for millions of kids in the middle of the last century, and have become part of the “accessory pack” for 1950s kids, along with Davy Crockett hats and twin-cap guns. They were part of backyard shooting ranges across the USA where kids and adults alike plinked to their heart’s content using a variety of air guns.
These days, there are a whole bunch more options out there than that iconic Daisy BB gun. (Just remember to wear protective eye gear with these guns. We’d hate for anyone to shoot their eye out over the holidays.) Take a look at our roundup of the best BB guns and decide which is right for you, and then start having some fun.
The Best BB Guns: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Pump: Crosman 760B Pumpmaster
The Crosman 760B Pumpmaster is an American classic BB gun that’s been around for 40 years. For people who want the best BB gun for the money, it’s an outstanding option. This multi-pump pneumatic gun has a proven design that will provide years of backyard Fun. It works as a BB repeater or as a single-shot pellet gun, and weighs just 3 pounds. The guns makes for a great starter air rifle.
The synthetic stock and forearm are durable, and the grip and pump handle are checkered and indented for better handling and ease of use. The Pumpmaster will send BBs downrange at 625 fps with 10 pumps. This gun is great for younger shooters and comes with standard blade and ramp sights. A scope or red-dot sight can easily be mounted in the 11mm dovetail slot.
Best for Training: Umarex Glock 19 Gen3 BB Pistol
If you’re looking for a BB gun Glock, this CO2 version of Glock’s most popular mid-size handgun is a great option. This officially licensed BB pistol made by Umarex allows you to take tactical training sessions to a new level with a BB-pistol version of a Glock 19 that looks, feels, and hefts like the real thing. You can use this BB pistol to practice your draw, perform presentation drills, and lots of other shooting exercises that will help develop your handgun skill set.
An integrated weaver rail in the frame allows for the attachment of accessories like a light or laser or combo unit—just like a real Gen3 Glock, so you can train with them as well. And, just like a real Glock, the frame is made of polymer and the slide is steel, for an even more authentic feel.
This semi-auto BB pistol features fixed Glock style sights, the distinctive Glock double-action trigger, and a magazine that holds a 12-gram CO2 cartridge and 16 pellets. The only downside of this air gun is that it is not a blowback pistol, meaning the slide does not reciprocate when it is fired. However, the extremely affordable price makes up for it.
Best for Kids and Adults: Daisy Family Red Ryder Combo
The Daisy Family Red Ryder Combo lets adults and kids shoot together with air rifles that fit them both just right. The combo includes a newer Adult Red Ryder and an original 1938 Red Ryder, plus a bottle of 2400 Daisy zinc-plated BBs. And the great thing is, you can spend a lot of time shooting without reloading. Both rifles feature a 650-BB reservoir, a spring-piston power-plant, and a lever action cocking mechanism.
Both rifles weigh less than 3 pounds. Better yet, they let adults plink together, build skills, and have some old fashioned fun. And trust me: No matter how long it’s been since you last fired a BB gun, once you start plinking away, you will have fun.
Best for Pest Control: Benjamin Trail NP XL Air Rifle
If you need a rifle capable of pest control in addition to plinking, consider a pellet gun. Rifles like the Benjamin Trail NP XL Air Rifle comes with a host of features and lot of power. This gun has a variety of uses.
Appointed like a hunting rifle, the Benjamin Trail NP XL features a checkered hardwood stock. Under the hood, the rifle produces 25 ft-lbs of muzzle energy and muzzle velocities up to a blistering 1500 fps. This gun is extremely accurate.
The great quality about a gas pistol break barrel rifle like this one is that it’s very quiet. Crosman says this rifle produces 70 percent less noise than spring powered airguns. That’s nothing to sneeze at and could make the difference between hitting one squirrel or two. The rifle also offers a smooth cocking action and soft felt recoil, also making it a great BB gun for kids.
This air rifle that doesn’t mind a patient hunt. There’s no spring torque or fatigue to worry about and you can leave the rifle cocked and ready to fire for hours and it will be ready to function when needed, even in cold weather.
Each rifle comes with a bull barrel, Picatinny mounting rail system, sling mounts, a ventilated rubber recoil pad. Each gun is also accessorized with a 3-9x40mm CenterPoint precision scope with an adjustable objective and range estimating reticle. In other words: This air gun is ready to go as soon as you get it home.
What to Consider When Choosing a BB Gun
These days, there are a lot of BB guns out there, and many are far more capable than the simple spring-powered BB guns of old. Some are powered by nitrogen pistons, other by compressed air, and still others by compressed CO2 in easy-to-change cartridges. Some are versatile hunting and pest-control guns, while others are simply fun plinkers. Still, some others are replicas of real firearms that are fun to shoot, but also great for training.
Air-powered BB guns of all kinds are also great for getting people involved in hunting and shooting sports. They help beginner shooters get ready for an eventual upgrade to rimfire and centerfire firearms.
Choosing the Right Size BB Gun
A BB gun has little to no recoil. Still, it’s important that a gun fit the shooter—same as with a rimfire or centerfire long gun. If a young kid or a small adult uses a BB gun as a learning tool, and the gun has the wrong length of pull or is too long overall and awkward to handle, they won’t shoot well. They also won’t learn proper stance and sight alignment, and they won’t have nearly as much fun. Even worse, they may develop some bad shooting habits.
Multi-Pump BB Guns
While modern technology and materials have allowed for all kinds of BB guns to be developed, there is something to be said for the simplicity of a self-contained, adjustable-power BB gun that you have to pump before each shot. Sure, they aren’t rapid-fire and require a little elbow grease, but they also don’t require you to keep buying anything to keep them going.
BB Pistols for Training
You’ve probably noticed that ammo is in short supply these days. The shelves at your local gun shop have been empty for months, and by the time you answer that in-stock notification, your favorite caliber is gone. If you’re like most, you’re using that precious ammo as judiciously as possible, and shooting running drills in other ways. But if you’re getting a little bored with dry-fire practice, there’s another option.
Using a replica BB pistol for training lets you build muscle memory without destroying your ammo cache in the process. Many of the compressed air guns on the market are faithful reproductions of the real thing, allowing you to get some practice in before the gun shops are re-stocked.
BBs vs Pellets
BBs have limited applications. They make for perfect plicking ammo. But, their performance leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to pest control and small-game hunting. Pellets tend to be heavier, so they carry more energy downrange. This can be crucial when trying to clear the corn crib or anchor a bushy tail for the crock pot.
Pellet designs vary more than BBs. This allows you to tailor the load to the task at hand. If you plan on punching paper or smashing reactive targets, you can select a wadcutter design that offers excellent accuracy while minimizing ricochet potential. (Never shoot hardened BBs at a steel target. They will ricochet.) Pointed designs are better suited to taking game.
Q: What is the best BB gun to buy?
There’s no single best BB gun to purchase. What gun works for you depends on how you plan to use it. Those planning on training for their centerfire pistol will have a very different idea of what the best bb gun than someone that’s just looking to put some holes in tin cans.
Q: What is more powerful: a BB gun or airsoft?
As a rule, BB guns are more powerful. Airsoft guns typically shoot lightweight plastic projectiles at speeds less than 500 fps. BB guns shoot heavier, hardened projectiles at speeds of up to 800 fps or greater. The heavier BB carries more energy than the airsoft pellet, which can have some practical applications. The airsoft is intended for fun and training.
Q: How long does CO2 last in BB guns?
How long a CO2 cartridge will last depends greatly on the gun. A full-auto BB gun can empty a CO2 container in seconds while taking measured shots with a semi-auto makes them last considerably longer. How powerful the gun is, also dictates how long the cartridge will last.
Best BB Guns: Final Thoughts
When it comes time to choose the best BB gun, you just have to start by deciding what you want to do with it. If you want something for plinking fun and light backyard target shooting, a classic lever action BB gun model might be just fine—and it will make for a can’t-miss holiday gift. If you want something with a bit more power or something that mimics the function of a real firearm, let that guide your choice and look for an appropriate CO2 or electric-powered gun. But most importantly, make sure it’s something you will have plenty of fun with at the range.
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For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.