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  • Ray Campbell

I Tested And Ranked The Best Air Rifles For The Money In 2023

Looking for a serious air rifle for training or hunting? I tested and ranked the best options for the money. Read hands-on reviews of my top 15 picks.

FYI, Prices and ratings are accurate as of time of writing.


1. Gamo Varmint Air Rifle .177 Caliber Combo

Top-rated: 6,837 ratings | 832 answered questions


Gamo Varmint Air Rifle .177 Caliber Combo

Highlight: This bundle includes both the Air Rifle and the Air Venturi .177 pellet pen.

Helpful review: "This rifle and Gamo scope are AWESOME! My experience level: Certified NRA L.E. Firearms Instructor (Patrol Rifle/Pistol) with hundreds/thousand hours of instructing time, USMC 8th award rifle expert and 4th award pistol expert... but just a regular shooter now and then these days. Why is this combo great for the price? For starters, I opened the box and read all of the literature. I took apart the scope mounts and cleaned the lenses before assembling onto the rifle. I installed according to the instructions with Loctite on all hardware threads, ensuring my cross hairs were as level as possible... but I'm not certain this is a huge issue, as for anyone who has used an Etch-a-sketch would know how fine adjustments to your Y and Z axis will get you a good zero. How I "zeroed" the included scope? Once scope was mounted, I screwed each vertical/lateral adjustment knob to it's fully seated position. Grabbed a beer... then I SLOWLY counted each click as I adjusted them back out to their full maxed out positions... this was like 420ish clicks YIKES! Divide your clicks in half to find your CENTER POINT of reference. Adjust each knob to it's center point by counting those individual clicks... opened a second beer. Now you are ready to ZERO the .177 beast. Then, I determined what my "AVERAGE" distance was I'd be shooting; for my purposes I'm really only concerned with plinking squirrels and birds in my back yard about 10-20 yards. I set up a good prone position with semi-soft mat and barrel rest...
NOW, the scope says 1 click = 1/4 inch @ 100 yards, or 4 clicks for 1 inch @ 100 yards. As I'm shooting 50 feet (16 yards) and my math is horrible, i rounded up to 25 yards for easy math. Knowing this 1/4 conversion, 4 clicks @ 25 yards "should" yield me 1/4 inch of movement on target; for an inch, I'd have to adjust 16 clicks. One thing that can make zeroing with this rifle a pain is you have to change your position for each reload... your average shooter will have different positions each time they reload and assume the prone position...just how it works with this break barrel design; might be where people give up because they can't get consistent groups. With a semi-auto weapon, your prone position doesn't change much if you have a stable position to begin with...unless you are shooting .50 Cal I guess. Opened a third beer - this is where patience is your friend. I chose my target to be a palm tree in the backyard, so I could see horizontal/lateral impacts due to the dark bark breaking, and showing white flesh underneath.... wife might have been mad, but I made her dinner to ease the anger! HOLY SMOKES I didn't know how fast and deep those little rounds would penetrate...be careful of your backstop i.e. neighbors house, cats, etc... These are more powerful than one would image (if you've never shot pellet before). Since my target reference point was a dark black knob, I always used the same spot and walked in the rounds through fine adjustments after each shot placement. Once on point, I put the adjustment knob covers on and waited for some friends to show up... From the off-hand standing position: 1 squirrel down @ 9 yards, 1 sparrow down @ 12 yards, 1 Oreol or Starling (with orange circles on wings) down @ 18 yards.
Pros: Over 250 rounds and zero held; good weight; decent quality for price; fun and cheap to operate; good for basic skills brush up as it's very accurate within 20 yards - haven't gone out further; rifled barrel... Now, I don't really know how pellets are affected, but I do see rifling wear marks on the lower edge of retrieved pellets after shooting into lemons. BTW, the Crosman Destroyer will go through 3 lemons @ 12 yards no problem. But let me point out that my way is only my way. There are many other ways to setup a weapon and get good with it. Remember what my mission is - to neutralize varmint who want to feast on my fruit crop in the back yard. Keep in mind this isn't going to have match-type groupings, but it's really good for the price. And after some more thought, the first two upgrades will most likely be a bipod and scope to really see how far out I can take this. The intent is to teach my kids with this thing in my CA backyard...not so fortunate to have acres like some out there. It's really quiet too, so hopefully the LAW doesn't show up. And treating your neighbors kindly is key!" — James T.
Reassuring review: "Awesome! Happy wife here! First time ever shooting a pellet gun. The scope was a bit tricky to mount on but with patience we did it. Then we sighted it with a target from online. Loaded up and first shot was a success! Used the Destroyer pellets as someone else suggested for the iguanas and they worked great! Looking forward to taking care of more of these in the coming days! 100% would suggest this rifle!" — A. Utset

Get it from Amazon now: $299.93 & FREE Returns

 

2. Daisy Powerline 880 Air Rifle .177 Caliber Kit

Top-rated: 3,653 ratings | 436 answered questions


Daisy Powerline 880 Air Rifle .177 Caliber Kit

Highlight: The kit includes the rifle, safety glasses, a 4x15-millimeter scope with rings, 500 Daisy pellets, and 750 BBs.

Helpful review: "First off, I must say, this is the first pellet/bb rifle, I've purchased in a long time. I'm 32 now, and when I was in my early teen years I think it was, I had an older Daisy Model 225, one-pump bb-gun. So going from that rifle to this, well, WOW! This rifle is so powerful and accurate, it just blows me away! To me, it seems like Daisy always had made very high quality rifles and pistols, and this seems to be no exception to that rule. I've owned a bb rifle and bb pistol before, and have played with various other friend's rifles growing up, and to me, this is by far the most powerful I've used. I haven't even pumped it up to the recommended limit of 10 pumps yet, and it still seems so powerful, I'm just positive it is deadly to all small game, and would do some serious damage to a human, and possibly kill someone if pumped enough, and the shot was placed in the right area. Which I definitely wanted to mention, because to me, I wouldn't suggest a parent buy this for child, or give to a child as a present. I think it just has to much power with it, and I would recommend less powerful models for kids. But on the same side of that coin, if you have responsible parents, that will usually be present when their child is shooting this rifle, well then I would think it's okay to buy for them. But the world isn't that lucky to always have that kind of good parental supervision, so parents beware, and always follow and read all safety rules. And of course, always wear the safety eye protection, regardless of age.
I'm not an avid air rifle shooter, so I don't possess a large amount of technical knowledge and jargon, regarding this sport, but I'll do my best to give my impression of the rifle. I've been shooting about 25-45 feet, and I've been able to accurately hit my target zone, in decent size grouping, with only about 2 to 4 pumps. I prefer to just pellets most of the time, and I have the Daisy Flat Head pellets that came with this kit, which are really good. And I also have some Crosman Destroyer pellets that I bought a while ago, and I really recommend those! They just absolutely tear and rip up anything you shoot at. So if you're looking for more clean shots, like with shooting at targets, the flat head one's seem to show better, where you shot.
The safety glasses that came with this kit outstanding, but well, I haven't compared other safety glasses. But I love the yellow tint these have, and they are really clear, and seem very well made, and would most likely stop most pellets or bb's that hit them. They also seem to have adjustable arms on them, so I would think they would fit a wide variety of faces. The bb's that came with the package are your standard silver bb's, they appear to be very good quality. And they all seem uniformed, and have no dents or imperfections that I could find. Now on to the thing that most people have a problem, and I'm no exception in this area either, the Daisy 4x15 scope. Although, to be fair, I have no prior knowledge of attaching any kind of scope to a any kind of rifle, so honestly, I'm not sure I can judge this scope. I found it annoying to try to get on by myself, I'm sure it would be easier with someone to help hold it, or have the proper tools like a vise to hold the gun while you work. But once I did get it on, I found all of my shots went to the bottom right of my target, almost exclusively. But like I said, I have no experience with scopes, so take my review on this particular part of the package, with a grain of salt. I should add that, within the myriad of instructions that came with the kit, nowhere does it provide information on how to attach the scope properly, nor sight it in. I would have liked to have had that, because to me, without knowing what I'm doing, I haven't found a lot of helpful information on the net so far, but I'm going to continue to search. I would so the rifle's normal front and rear sights are very accurate, and I usually do just fine, using them only.
So overall, I would say this is an outstanding air rifle, for the beginner, and also for the expert. Of course, there are a lot more superior rifles out there, but for the price, well, I just think you can't do any better, with a rifle with the fps that this has, and just the outstanding accuracy and weight to it. I'm enjoying mine daily, and I assume if you make the choice to get this package, or the gun by itself, you'll be just as happy as I am :)." — Fuzzbucket
Reassuring review: "I'm no expert on BB/pellet guns, but this gun is excellent and a lot of fun. I'm 51 years old and bought this rifle for squirrel control in my yard. I've spent countless hours on my back porch by myself and some of my friends, shooting bottles, plant pots, pieces of wood, etc... from various distances... and it's a great time! And I didn't attach the scope, but it is not complicated, I just use the sights and they are very accurate! I was surprised at the things that I could hit and also, the distances that someone with my little shootng could do. I reccomend this Daisy rifle Bb gun kit!" — Ari L.

Get it from Amazon now: $94.99 & FREE Returns

 

3. Umarex Ruger Blackhawk Pellet Rifle .177 Caliber Kit

Top-rated: 3,398 ratings | 437 answered questions


Umarex Ruger Blackhawk Pellet Rifle .177 Caliber Kit

Highlight: Scope and mounting rings included.

Helpful review: "I bought this rifle as a gift for my son on Christmas. First off this is not a Red Rider BB gun, nor is it designed to shoot BBs. This is relatively high powered .177 caliber spring air piston rifle. It is powered by retracting a very heavy spring inside the gun by snapping the breech of the barrel open where the barrel meets the stock of the air rifle. You fully compress the spring inside which becomes your stored energy, load a pellet into the breech and then reorient the barrel in line with the air rifles stock with a positive lock. Hold gently for accuracy: When you pull the trigger it releases a spring, the energy from this release generates a recoil action very similar to a .22 rifle (firearm), that recoil is the spring directing energy into a air compression piston, that piston action rushes forward to compresses air and then sends that shot of air to propel the pellet out of the barrel. This is important because spring air rifles require finesse to keep your pellets on target. The felt recoil happens prior to the pellet leaving the barrel. Which is why it is ever so important to learn how to hold this air rifle so that is essentially resting on your support hand instead of being actively held and pushed back into your shoulder, which is something you would normally do for a firearm or other types of air rifle. A very light touch is all that is needed while you let the air rifle gentle pat [recoil] into your shoulder. This method is called the "Artillery Hold" and I highly recommend it.
This is NOT a toy. The black composite body feels very good in the hands and has an excellent weight to it. The balance favors the back of the air rifle which is just fine in this application because you will be resting the rifle on your body instead of pulling it into your shoulder. Speaking of shoulders the butt plate has a nice oversized rubber stopper on the end. The break barrel mechanism holds the barrel true and provides a positive un/locking action. The piston spring locks positively in place at the end of spring cocking travel. Out of the box I had a very straight shooting rifle using the adjustable fiber optic sights. Zero on windage was actually zero. I always like to do skill shots with the iron sights [fiber optic] before I put the scope on. The shots went exactly where I pointed them and within the accuracy I was willing to strive for in my excitement to get this air rifle setup for my son to shoot.
The 4x32 scope that came with it was DOA. I contacted Ruger / Umarex for a RMA and they sent out a brand new scope with rings after I shipped the broken scope back to them. That all happened within 2 weeks of Umarex receiving it (insured / return receipt). Once I received the functional brand new scope I set about to getting it zeroed. Zero is when the gun and the scope point at the same place on the target. Anytime you remove or place the scope it MUST be zeroed while mounted on the gun to the range you plan on shooting in. Since the new scopes arrival I have been driving tacks with this thing at 100 Feet. And by driving tacks I mean that I am able to consistently group shots through the same hole (or a hole about the size of a plastic thumbtack) in my targets. Some people will tell you to ditch the scope for something better. I don't necessarily agree with that. This air rifle system is extremely accurate for a off the shelf air rifle. But it is NOT a Match level air rifle. Putting a huge scope on this rifle would be like putting high performance tires and a spoiler on a economy car. You will see very little benefit for the cost and you may wind up with too much scope for the ranges you will be shooting.
As far as pellet selection goes, while wad cutters (flat nosed) pellets will work just fine in this rifle at close ranges as you move your target out longer distances you may find that the wad cutters are breaking the sound barrier. If you hear that distinct crack or you are not getting neat round holes punched into your targets you will know that your pellet is tumbling instead of flying straight. Tumbling affects accuracy. So keep that in mind. Unless you are specifically hunting rodents / varmints you will gain no advantages in accuracy or range from pointed and / or hollow point pellets. I would highly recommend dome shaped pellets for maximum accuracy, as well weight and being able to handle the velocity created by this air rifle. I am not going to endorse a specific brand. But I will encourage you to get samplers for each brand and run 10 shots groups and see which ones perform best for you. Every gun is different.
All in all if you are an amateur looking to get into a nicely powered spring air rifle, or looking for something to handle varmints/rodents, or simply looking to get more trigger time. This is a great beginner - intermediate air rifle and the price with scope is a pretty good deal ~$120 through amazon prime when I purchased it. This air rifle is great fun to shoot, consistent and accurate. Personally I have dusted off the daisy of my youth and purchased this rifle for my son so that I can teach him marksmanship, gun safety and created an opportunity to have quality family time for the whole family. You see, if you can't find ammo for your firearms or can't afford to shoot your firearms as much as you like, then air rifles are a great tool to improving your skills and correcting flinch, grip and recoil habits." — The Gunner
Reassuring review: "This Ruger/Umarex has surpassed all my expectations. I have fired several hundred rounds through it in the past few days, and it will generally hold 1/2" or less groups at 15 yards. It holds the same point of aim out at 25 yards, but the groups open up to about an inch, or maybe a bit more (I really have not shot too much at that longer range). I am using bulk Crosman lead wad-cutter "Competition" pellets (the cheapest ones I could find on Amazon), and the results are so good I feel no need to test any others. I love the safely placement and operation, far superior to the garbage Beeman makes. It is both easy to reach and take off, as well as put back on if I decide not to take the shot. And the trigger on this Ruger is just superb. It is adjustable, but it has been so smooth and perfect right out of the box that I have not made any changes." — Mauser

Get it from Amazon now: $130.00 & FREE Returns

 

4. Daisy Adult Red Ryder BB Gun

Top-rated: 3,011 ratings | 80 answered questions


Daisy Adult Red Ryder BB Gun

Highlight: This is the adult full-sized version of the American Red Ryder classic.

Helpful review: "I grew up with Daisy BB guns shooting minnows in our backyard canal, and 60 years later I bought my second one for different reasons. I now have a farm with lots of livestock, including two new Great Pyrenees dogs that I am about to let loose from their fenced area. However, I know that they will be going after our chickens right away. This BB gun will hopefully work fine to discourage them from attacking the chickens without hurting them more than just a little sting. My neighbor uses one and encouraged me to get it. It was easy to open the package and load BBs. It says it holds 650 BBs, and it's probably right. I stopped loading after about 100 or so. The loading process is simple enough, but I need to find a better way. Pouring the BBs from the bottle spout doesn't work well. The BBs get clogged at the small opening. It seemed to work better by pouring BBs into my hand and cupping it just right over the loading spot. Cocking it is simple and sweet. I held the rifle upwards and cocked it, and it loaded and fired every time. You can cock it with or without the safety on, and it both loads and fires perfectly either way. I fired my first shot at a plastic bucket about 25 feet away, and it hit it and bounced off. I fired many more and hit the target. I tried firing about 50 feet, and the ballistic curve is somewhat significant. I'm not an expert, but I would guess that at 50 feet the BB dipped at least an inch. At 350 fps, I'm guessing that's about right. Somewhere between .5 inch and 1.5 inch at 50 feet. I plinked at plastic buckets, plywood sheets, metal poles, and a doghouse metal roof. The BBs all bounced off. I got a good indication of the actual force of the BB when I hit the metal pole. Just like astronomers use the intensity of light to measure star distances, the intensity of the ping sound of the BB on the pole about 10 feet away was an indication of the energy of the BB. It was quite a ping. I would not want to be hit by one of these from 10 feet away. This gun, at this price, is definitely worth the money. I recommend it to anyone looking to own a good BB gun that will perform." — Sabine
Trending review: "I don't know why I bought this, but I remember having one as a kid and I had so much fun with it. Plus it also taught me how to be somewhat responsible. Now I'm all grown up and when I saw they have an adult size Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun I didn't even think about it, I just ordered it. Maybe I thought it would make me feel like a kid again. Maybe it does. I take it out back and set up targets, mostly aluminum cans or soup cans and sometimes a few bottles. I sit back in my camp chair and take aim. I remember being a pretty good shot back in the day but for what I use it for now probably doesn't take much skill. My targets are pretty big and just far enough away that the BB's don't bounce back and hit me. Next thing I know 3 hours have passed and it's getting dusk, time to sweep up. Before the day ends I've already begun saving targets for the next time." — Kelly Albrecht

Get it from Amazon now: $49.99 & FREE Returns

 

5. Crosman Legacy 1000 Variable Pump Air Rifle .177 Caliber Kit

Top-rated: 2,455 ratings | 200 answered questions


Crosman Legacy 1000 Variable Pump Air Rifle .177 Caliber Kit

Highlight: 4x15mm scope included!

Helpful review: "Still a great pump gun even though it is mostly plastic, but with care it will last a long time. It would be neat if Crosman would make a commemorative version of this with real wood stock, but of course it would weigh more and cost more, but hey, it would be cool. The included scope is more of a toy, but it does work for backyard plinking. I prefer to use pellets for greater accuracy, but BBs are just as good for plinking. This is not a Red Ryder folks; fully pumped it is 3 times the power of a Red Ryder and can be dangerous if not handled properly. Be safe out there." — Namington
Trending review: "Well, I’m taking the time to write this review because I simply can’t believe how accurate this little inexpensive air rifle is. Take the time to read the instructions and mount the scope properly. Then sight it in with multiple shots until it is hitting your point of aim. If you don’t know how to do this, call on someone who does. Without doing this properly you are sure to be disappointed, just as you would be with any other air rifle. The little scope is just what it is. Cheap, but it works. Don’t expect it to be a $100 scope. With hollow point pellets, this thing is deadly on varmints, even with just 5 pumps. I could not be happier with my purchase! Great value for money!" — Gary
Reassuring review: "This is an amazing bb rifle, I do find it to shoot off to the right and even with adjusting windage and elevation it won’t 0 in on the crosshairs. However, this is very powerful and fun to use, I like the variable pumps to determine how strong the shot will be. The other issue I find is filling the rack with BBs. I have to do a lot of shaking and rattling to fill it even though there is over 100 BBs in the buttstock" — John Miller

Get it from Amazon now: $78.92 & FREE Returns

 

6. Gamo Raptor Whisper Air Rifle .177 Caliber Combo

Top-rated: