Top 10 Best Air Rifles to Consider
Many will own an air rifle before their first shotgun. They act as a perfect precursor to shotgun shooting and offer great insights into fieldcraft. Many of us are used to the classic break barrel air rifles but modern air rifles are far more advanced these days. The air guns in this article will include Pre Charged Pneumatics (PCP) Under Leavers, Gas Rams and Break Barrels. Each of these layouts has their pros and cons that ill outline now.
PCP: These air rifles have an air reservoir that supplies the power to each shot. Some of these models have a regulator which provide an exact amount of air to each shot. You’ll either need a stirrup pump or diving cylinder to charge these with air. PCP don’t have any recoil at sub 12ft/lb outputs so are prefect for shooting consistently.
Under Leavers: These guns have a fixed barrel with an a leaver fixed underneath the barrel. The leaver drives back a sliding compression chamber which will release for each shot. The fixed barrels give you consistent shot placement between shots. While the under leaver adds weight to the barrel of the guns giving them great accuracy.
Break Barrel: A break barrel works in a similar fashion to an under leaver action. However, instead of an additional leaver to drive the piston system, the leaver is the barrel itself. This is a very simple design and shouldn’t require much maintenance at all. At one point this would have been the standard for all air guns. These guns are very simple to use and the right ones can prove to be incredibly accurate.
Gas Rams: The Gas Ram works in a similar fashion to break barrel but rather than compressing a spring you are compressing a cylinder within the gun. The cylinder is a sealed unit that will drive the piston system towards the pellet each time. Gas Rams requires more effort to load than a break barrel but rewards you with a quieter gun.
Legalities around Air rifles
You don’t need a licence to own an air rifle in the UK that shoots under 12 ft/lbs at the muzzle. Staying under that 12 ft/lb limit means you wont need a cabinet. Exceeding this power and you will need to apply for an FAC. However, guns shooting under 12 ft/lbs can shoot out to 50 yards and beyond. These guns are very capable and are perfect for non invasive pest control and target shooting.
Top Air rifles to consider
Walther Rotex RM-8
The Walther Rotex RM8 is a PCP operated air rifle which has proven since its debut 5 years ago to be exceptionally accurate. The gun comes in 3 variants, those being the RM8, RM8 Varmint, RM8 Varmint UC. The main factor between these is the barrel length with the Varmint being the longest and the UC being the shortest. Each one is just as accurate as the other but some may prefer the compact size of the UC.
The RM8 offers a lot for the price which is between 386£ to 498£ with the wooden stock. This gun is regulated which offers superb consistency between shots. The synthetic stocks come with rail attachments for bipods and accessories.
FX Impact Mk2
FX has been at the forefront of PCP air guns for 20 years. They make guns in a standard and a bullpup configuration with the latter being the one in question here. This gun has two regulators with an Air plenum for ultra-consistent airflow. The Impact has a power level dial so you can change power to suit your range & target. FX doesn’t compromise and this is undoubtedly an expensive gun, carbon bottles, 22 shot mags, dual regulators don’t come cheap.
Like we mentioned, the Impact is an ultra premium gun with an ultra premium price tag. The Impact will cost between 1723£ and 1687£ depending on the length of the barrel and colour. These guns are refined and a quick trip on youtube will show someone hitting an egg from 100 yards.
The Weihrauch HW100 was the brands first attempt at a PCP after a brilliant history with break barrels and UL’s. Their first attempt at a PCP was pretty much perfect and has been since it released in 2003. The initial response was superb and the iterations since have been just as successful. Like other guns mentioned here, the HW100 is available in a multitude of configurations including different stock shapes and barrel length.
The prices between the models sit between 900 and 1100£ and only slightly less for a used one. The few used examples shows how strong a following these guns have. These models are regulated with adjustable triggers which you’d expect at this price point. With such a following there is strong aftermarket support for modifications and accessories.
Daystate Red Wolf
Daystate has been pushing for technical advancements with all their models. This isn’t more apparent than in their Red Wolf model. The first thing you’ll notice is a digital screen giving you up to date data shot after shot. The electronics extend to the trigger which is a two stage unit that you can electrically adjust to your preference. This readout allows you to adjust power outputs simply without disassembly.
These guns are as premium as you’ll find on this list. They’re the choice of pest control professionals and competitive shots alike. The bottles are big enough to shoot a whole tin of pellets and the digital readout keeps the shooter up to date at all times. The Red Wolf starts at 1840£ and more for special models.
Air Arms S200 Sporter
The Air Arms S200 is the consequence of a history of making match grade rifles. The barrel and the trigger unit are a result of this work but packaged into a beginners budget. While the unit comes as standard with a single shot tray, Air Arms also sells a multi shot conversion for when you head to the field. The S200 is the classic loan gun at any air rifle range you might go to. Strong, dependable and very user friendly.
The S200 is a classic choice for someone looking to get into PCP air rifles. Its designed to be a target rifle with the adaptability to shoot game with the multishot magazine. The S200 will forever be a reference point that other air guns will have to compare themselves against. The S200 starts at 519£ which probably doesn’t reflect how good it is.
BSA R10 TH
The BSA R10 TH is always in the conversation when it comes to top PCP air rifles on the market. The R10 offers out the box performance in an uncomplicated package. BSA having been making weapons in some capacity since the 17th century with firearms for over 150 years. The R10 launched in 2009 and has been iterated ever since with the TH being the latest model.
The R10 has always been an excellent platform with an adjustable trigger ad regulator as standard. The TH looks to push this with a barrel shroud, adjustable stock and an elongated buddy bottle increasing shot count. With so much coming as standard you need only worry about what you want to shoot.
Air Arms TX200
The Air Arms is the first non PCP on this list but this is for good reason. The TX200 is an underlever rifle that comes refined and tuned from the factory. These guns were one of the best before the advent of PCP systems but they have been continuously developing since. This gun is now in its 3rd iteration with only minor adjustments separating them all. The underlever action is smooth and means there’s no need for any external filling systems.
Due to the simplicity of the system the gun is hugely inexpensive compared to PCP alternatives. Should you only want an air rifle for plinking and occasional pest control this is certainly worth some consideration. The bare rifle costs 479£ which leaves a lot of room for scopes and targets. You have two options with the TX200, a short and long barrelled option which both cost the same.
It’s hard to talk about under leaver air guns without talking about Weihrauch. They were the first brand to take out the box accuracy seriously when they launched their under leaver 77 model. As a telescopic sight became the norm, the stock was readjusted to suit this and along came the HW97. Available with a thumbhole or a straight stock, the 97 provides a slightly higher cheek piece to suit mounted scopes.
The HW97 has an adjustable 2 stage trigger which is often revered as a masterpiece. The bang for your buck is also fantastic when you consider the cheapest model comes in at just under 400£. Whether it’s any better than the TX200 is down to personal preference but there really isn’t much in it. The wealth of aftermarket parts means it only gets better from standard.
BSA GRT Lightning XL SE
The name might be a bit of a mouthful but the Lightning sits at the apex of Gas Ram air guns. This model is a step forward from most break barrel rifles with an adjustable trigger and integrated silencer. The barrel is cold hammer forged which is tech that is normally found in Long Distance and military rifles.
Break Barrel air rifles often don’t get the credit they deserve. This BSA is slightly different, Multiple videos credit this gun with hitting targets at 80+ yards which is well into PCP territory. It just goes to show with plenty of practice and the right conditions you don’t need to spend thousands to shoot long distance. The BSA GRT Lightning XL SE retails for a penny under 300£
Air Arms Pro Sport
The Pro Sport might have the best aesthetics of all the guns on this list. The lines are classic hunting rifle with only the loading port indicating the gun is an air rifle at all. A small recess in the forend allows you to reveal the under leaver which powers the gun. The Pro Sport is an evolution of their previous Air Sporter sporting gun, but now sporting a much more modern stock and far more refined internals.
The Pro Sporter is probably the best looking under barrel on the market. The barrel is a fully moderated Walther unit that sits between the short and long barrel option in the TX200 range. The trigger is adjustable while the whole system sits in a brilliant stock that is specific for the hand orientation and can be specc’d in either beach or walnut. Accuracy is superb and has been know to shoot sub 1″ groups at 50 yards out the box.
The Walther LGV was one of the first guns in mind when compiling this list. The LGV is a fantastic break barrel gun and has been this way since the 50’s. Their latest gun was the culmination of 70 years of work but looks to have been discontinued. Availability and support will no doubt disappear over the coming years making it hard to recommend.
The Gamo Phox is a brilliant entry level PCP air rifle that comes as a complete kit for under 500£. This removes the biggest difficulty with entering into PCP air rifle shooting. The cost of the rifle might only be half of getting all the other accessories needed to get started. The Phox package removes that headache and brings you everything in one go. Objectively maybe not the best gun but certainly one of the best beginner options for PCP air rifle shooting.
Choosing your air rifle
Determining what air rifle will suit you best will come down to situation and circumstance. Not everyone wants the complexities of PCP with the charging equipment required. The counter to that is the recoilless and multishot capabilities of these rifles. If its just some target practice and the occasional game shooting you need then an Under leaver or Gas Ram will likely suit your needs. If the rifle is becoming part of your regular pest control work then a PCP will likely be your port of call.
For those that are undecided, we’d pick the Weihrauch HW97 or the Air Arms TX200. They don’t need any charging gear and have proven track record reliability, in shooting that’s all that really matters. With the PCP and mutishot rifles, we’d recommend the Weihrauch HW100. The multitude of barrel options as well as stock designs means you have unparalleled choice. Looking at more in depth reviews, it’s clear that these air guns offer a very complete package.