Small Game Hunting: Is It Possible to Hunt Using Air Rifles?

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Surprisingly, yes. It’s possible to hunt small game such as rabbits and squirrels using air rifles. Unlike conventional firearms, air rifles are relatively quiet, have little to no recoil, and because air rifles have limited range, are less likely to produce dangerous stray bullets that could impact nearby residential areas.

Even the most powerful air rifles lose much, if not all of, their punch after about 150-200 yards, whereas a .22 round can travel well over a mile, and still hit with enough power to seriously injure, or kill.

Basic Power Requirements

Most hunters recognize and agree with minimum power requirements. An underpowered gun is more likely to maim or wound rather than kill, either because the projectile doesn’t hit with enough force or cannot be controlled accurately. The further away you engage the target, the more important this consideration becomes.

For instance, it’s believed that an air rifle/gun should produce at least 12 FPE at the muzzle to kill efficiently and humanely for closer range hunting (say, within 35 yards or so.) if you want to hunt at longer ranges, well beyond 35 yards for example, more FPE will be needed to maintain proper flight trajectory and to ensure that the knock-down power remains by the time the shot reaches the target.

A rifle with 30 FPE should easily handle game at or beyond 50 yards, but take care not to push it. Shoot game at closer ranges, since the further away you engage, the less likely you are to deliver a precise kill shot. It’s also important to know your rifle’s limits, as well as your own. Consider that in shooting at 200 yards, you are, perhaps, more likely to wound or maim rather than kill the animal.

Which Caliber?

There’s an old saying that goes: “.177 for feather, .22 for fur.” As a result, if you are pursuing more rabbits and squirrels than pigeons and starlings, the .22 is the better of the two, with the .20 caliber being a nice compromise for more mixed hunting. Beyond having more punch and carrying its energy payload further than the .177, .22 pellets suffer much less from target “over penetration.” Due to the .177’s faster velocities, these rifles can often shoot right through game, rather than transferring their energy to an animal’s tissues where it’s most needed to take them down.


More than power, however, one more thing to consider is accuracy. Owning the most powerful rifle is useless if you can’t hit your target. Further, if you are even slightly off of the small kill zone required for this type of game (normally a head shot) then you are more likely to maim it, or allow it to flee where it may die slowly. In this regard, .177 pellets have the flattest trajectories, and make accurate shooting easiest. Generally, it takes more time to get a feel for the relatively bowed flight path of the .22 pellets, especially if you are shooting at some distance.

In conclusion

If you plan on hunting birds and occasionally furred game, wish to shoot with laser-like accuracy quickly and without concern for finding range, the .177 is an excellent choice. If you wish to go for the middle ground, go for a .20 caliber, if you can find one and don’t mind spending more on ammunition.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be hunting squirrels, rabbits and woodchucks more, then the .22 or .25 make great choices and can be just as accurate as the .177.

Whatever your choice, you can be sure that we here at Gunco Arms have you covered. If you’re within the surrounding area of Wichita Falls, Texas, we provide the best guns money can buy. Don’t hesitate to call 940-341-2501. Aside from rifles, we also have handguns, shotguns and parts for all your hunting needs.