7 Best Air Rifles for Squirrel Hunting

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7 Best Air Rifles for Squirrel Hunting
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These ain’t your granddaddy’s air rifles. They’ll still shoot your eye out, but they’re also deadly accurate and powerful enough to lay down a squirrel with a single shot every time. They’re quiet, cheap to shoot, and easy to use. If you’re thinking about exploring the small game woods this year, you should know that air rifle technology has advanced enough to rival any rimfire rig.

A kid with a pellet gun is a menace to small woodland creatures, but if you’re looking to get serious about air gun hunting, you should try to select a rifle you know will have enough juice to get the job done.

What to Look for in an Air Rifle

We reached out to the good folks over at Air Gun Depot and Pyramid Air to get a little expert advice. According to a product specialist we spoke with, hunters targeting squirrel-sized game should look for something with a .22-caliber bore capable of pushing a pellet at least 800 feet-per-second (fps). That’ll give you consistently fatal shots out to about 55 yards and possibly even farther.

Is it possible to kill small game with a .17-caliber pellet or a slower moving .22-caliber pellet? Of course. It’s also possible to kill a whitetail with a .223 Rem. You can do it, but given the availability of other options, why not go with something that will be more reliable?

Even with a .22-caliber air rifle, you won’t be blowing anything away. A 14.3-grain .22-caliber pellet traveling 900 fps delivers 26 foot-pounds of energy. By contrast, a 40-grain .22LR traveling 1070 fps delivers 102 ft.-lbs. of energy. So, even though a .22-cal air rifle is more powerful than a .17, it isn’t anywhere close to the most common small-game cartridge.

Airgun Depot recommends choosing an air rifle that uses either a pre-charge pneumatic (PCP) or spring-loaded (“springer”) power plant. The former uses pre-loaded compressed air (delivered via an electric or hand pump) and the latter uses a big spring to compress air and fire the pellet (not unlike your kid’s Nerf gun).

There are pros and cons to both systems. We’ve chosen three PCP guns and two springers to give you some variety, but our primary goal is to give you a place to start. There are many more options than the five listed below, but these are some of the best and most readily available.

Products We Looked At

Our Recommendations

Final Shot

“Seven best” lists can be misleading — there are likely better air rifles out there, but these are no doubt among the best. They combine quality, power, and affordability, and they’re a great place to start.

Some might be more expensive than you’re expecting if you haven’t looked at air rifles since you were 11, but again, these ain’t your granddaddy’s pellet guns. They’ll take small game without breaking a sweat and can be counted on in the woods year after year.

*This article has been updated to reflect 2024 product availability and pricing.

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