6 Different Types of Air Rifles for Hunting

Are you a novice hunter looking for the right air gun for the job? Those who wish to take to the woods with an air gun have a wide choice of suitable air rifles. Each type has several advantages and disadvantages. Find out which of these 6 different types of air rifles for hunting is the best fit for you!

1. Variable Pump Air Rifle

Advantages: The variable pump air rifle is a classic among all the different types of pellet guns. Because the number of strokes can be varied to adjust the pressure in the reservoir, variable pump rifles have the advantage of offering the shooter variable velocities. The forearm serves as the pump handle, so there is no external recharging device required. These types of air rifles tend to be short and light for the speeds they achieve.

Disadvantages: The major disadvantage of the variable pump as a hunting rifle is that reloading is slow, and a great deal of work and movement is required during the process to pump the rifle eight or ten times (usually the maximum number recommended). To pump the rifle, it is necessary to grip it in the middle so that one hand applies pressure to the gun in opposition to the pumping action by the other.

Many hunters who use air rifles started with a variable pump rifle like the Crosman 760 Pumpmaster. Regardless of skill level, these types of air rifles are always a good choice.

2. Break Barrel Air Rifle

Advantages: Break barrel air rifles use either a spring or gas piston powerplant — the “break barrel” part of the name refers to the way the air rifle is loaded and cocked. The barrel of this type of air rifle is hinged, which allows the rifle to “break.” Breaking the barrel down will first cock the rifle by “searing up” (pulling back) the piston. This allows you to load the breech with the pellet before lifting up the barrel to close the action. Its simplicity and flexibility with powerplant options gives it an advantage over more labor-intensive air gun pressurization systems like PCP. Many of these types of pellet guns can drive pellets at velocities up to 1,000 fps, or substantially more with .177 caliber air rifles if lightweight alloy pellets are used.

Disadvantages: Firing a break barrel rifle in which a strong, heavy spring pushes a piston forward to compress air results in movement of the rifle before the pellet leaves the barrel. For this reason, many shooters find that it requires a great deal more practice to shoot these types of air rifles accurately. In general, break barrel rifles tend to be heavy, long, and noisy with a pronounced “twang” upon firing.

If you’re interested in bringing a break barrel air rifle on your next hunting trip, take something like the multi-shot Crosman Mag-Fire Extreme, which also utilizes Crosman’s innovative Nitro Piston powerplant.

3. Nitro Piston Air Rifle

Advantages: The Nitro Piston® is a powerplant designed by Crosman. This type of pellet gun is similar to a spring-powered air rifle, in which cocking moves a piston to the rear. However, instead of compressing a spring, gas (nitrogen) in a cylinder is compressed. When the rifle is shot, the compressed gas propels a piston forward to compress air in the receiver behind the projectile. The advantages of using compressed gas as a power source (sometimes called a gas ram) instead of a spring include lighter weight, a great reduction in noise and vibration (up to 70%!), and the option to leave the rifle cocked for extended periods, which might cause weakening of the spring in spring-powered air rifles.

Disadvantages: It still takes some effort to cock these types of air rifles, and some metal-to-metal contact causes vibration.

If you want to see the benefits of Nitro Piston technology for yourself, try the Crosman F4.

4. Nitro Piston Elite Air Rifle

Advantages: Crosman expanded its lead in gas piston technology in 2014 with the introduction of the Nitro Piston 2 powerplant. The design has several improvements that increase speed while continuing to manage noise, recoil, and accuracy. All metal-to-metal contact in these types of pellet guns was eliminated and the piston itself was split to accommodate a bushing that acts as a brake at the end of the stroke, vastly reducing vibration. An additional consequence of the design of these types of air rifles is an impressive reduction in the effort required to cock the rifle.

5. Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP) Air Rifle

Advantages: The idea of pumping air into a large reservoir in a rifle (pre-charging it) and allowing only part of it to escape each time the rifle is shot has been utilized for a very long time. The advantages of pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifles are obvious. Reloading is rapid and essentially noiseless, only air moves at the time of firing, and there is no need for a long receiver in which a piston can move. The reservoir may be left filled when stored so the rifle can remain ready for use. These types of air rifles are generally very fast and accurate as a result of their fixed barrel design. The fact that only air moves when the rifle is shot also contributes to outstanding accuracy and minimal recoil.

Disadvantages: The main disadvantage is that the reservoir of a PCP air rifle must be filled in some way, most commonly with a compressor or by means of a special pump. If you use a hand pump, a large number of strokes are required to fill a reservoir to the required pressure of 2,000-3,000 psi. After the reservoir is filled, up to 25-30 shots can be shot without having to recharge the reservoir. Another disadvantage of these types of air rifles is that unless the filled reservoir has enough compressed air for a sufficient number of shots for the hunt, a pump must be brought along.

PCP rifles are the choice of many serious air gun hunters, and the bolt-action Crosman Icon is a great example of this type of pellet gun.

6. CO2 Air Rifle

Advantages: Although the internal pressure in a CO2 rifle is limited to the pressure produced by the vaporizing CO2, that pressure is sufficiently high to drive pellets at approximately 600-700 FPS, making these rifles capable of hunting varmints. While some of these types of air rifles use a hose hooked up to a CO2 tank, most utilize small cartridges of pressurized CO2, like Crosman Powerlets. As in the reservoir of a PCP rifle, each CO2 cylinder holds enough gas to give a series of shots that can be shot simply by loading only the projectile. These rifles are quick and quiet to reload, an important factor in some hunting scenarios, and CO2 cylinders are small and light enough to carry spares while hunting.

Disadvantages: As mentioned above, the internal pressure in a CO2 rifle is limited to the pressure produced by the vaporizing CO2.

This type of air rifle is a simple and reliable option for heading out into the wild with. For your next small game hunt, bring a CO2 rifle like the Heritage 2260.

Find Your Target With Crosman

Crosman has been operating since 1923, constantly innovating and bringing you a wide range of new air gun experiences so you can discover the joy of shooting for yourself. Bring on the fun with Crosman, and reach out to our customer service team if you have any questions along the way.

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