Small game hunting with an air gun is a right of passage for many. With the advent of more powerful pre-charged pneumatic and big-bore airguns, hunting is not limited to only small game. Here are some of our favorite choices in a number of price ranges.
Entry Level Small Game Airguns
The Hatan Model 95 in .177 caliber has been my 'go to' recommendation for budget air rifles for quite some time. The rifle comes with a nice 3-9x32 Optima scope, features adjustable 'TruGlo' fiber optic sights, and an adjustable Quattro 2-stage trigger. Hatsan's 'SAS' system reduces the recoil felt byt hte shooter on this rifle, making it a great option for small-game hunting.
The Seneca Dragonfly is a multi-pump pneumatic air rifle. This style of air rifle is nearly recoil-free, making it a great choice for small-game hunting. The updated 'butterfly' pump action of the Dragonfly Mk2 makes is very easy to pump up. Pump it just a few times for some indoor target practice, or go the full 15 pumps for some small-game knockdown power.
Entry Level PCP Small Game Airguns
Most of these PCP options will require a bit more of an investment. While we recommend a compressor, such as the GX CS1-I, any budget hand pump, such as the VEVOR PCP Handpump will suffice. Note that in small-game hunting, my suggestion is usually to go with as lightweight and durable an airgun as you can afford to equip yourself with.
One of the most affordable 'bottle guns' on the market, the Umarex Gauntlet features an insane shot count (up to 70 full power shots in .177). The included 10 shot magazine make it a good option where follow-up shots are important. The only negative here is the weight, and that it lacks iron sights, meaning you'll need to invest in a scope in order to use this.
Weighing in at 4.6lbs, the Stormrider is everything you can ask for in an entry-level small-game rifle. It is powerful, lightweight, quiet, and has a 7-9 round magazine, depending on caliber. Go with the synthetic over the wood stock for some extra weight savings. The only real drawback is that sometimes it can be difficult to source spare magazines.
The new Hatsan Jet 1 and 2 are both capable of small game hunting in the .22 or .25 caliber configuration. These are crazy lightweight. coming in at just under 3lbs. The rear stock can be removed, transforming this from carbine to pistol, dropping weith on the Jet 1 in pistol configuration to roughly 2lbs. This makes for a great trap-line gun in the pistol configuration. If you want to double your effective shot count, upgrade to the Jet 2.
Mid-Range PCP Small Game Airguns
The entire Air Venturi Avenger line will work for small-game hunting, however we're leaning towards the Avenge-X as being the one to go with. With interchangable caliber kits as well as the option to go with the standard 210cc air cylinder or upgraded 400cc bottle, you can truly build out the pefect mid-range hunting rifle for your needs. The standard Air Venturi Avenger is always a great option as well.
There is a reason this is considered one of the most popular modern PCP Airguns these days. The Benjamin Marauder has become the gold standard for mid-range PCPs. It is quiet, easy to modify, and has a wide array of aftermarket upgrades available. Frequent 'new shooter' packages and holiday sales make this one a hard value to pass up.
The Vectis is one of the few under-lever PCP rifles on the market. This makes it a a fun and practical field gun for small-game hunting. The only real negative here is that the compact design of this rifle means that the air cylinder is on teh small side. At 165cc, it is smaller than the other mid-range PCPs we've recommended. As a trade off for the low shot count, you do get a rifle that can toss some serious power down-range, being able to exceed 40FPE in .25 caliber. Flip-up iron sights and long top rail give you a variety of optics options.
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While considerably heavier than most others in this list, the Hatsan Invader is the only semi-auto in our list for a reason. The Invader packs quite the punch as well, and is very much capable of pushing the upper limits size-wise when it comes to small game. Expect roughly 50 shots per fill in .22, though I would suggest going with the .25 cal on this one. Great for varmint control.
With significant upgrades to power, shot capacity, and fill pressure, the Umarex Gauntlet 2 is a more powerful, yet also queiter option for small-game hunting when compared to the original. With an improve optiocs rail along with M-Lock slots on the bottom and sides, you can truly customize this PCP to your liking. The Gauntlet 2 is still a bit on the heavy side when compared to some of others on this list.
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This one is a bit of a wildcard choice. Those who have had good luck with the Seneca Aspens absolutely love them. Some, however, have had problems with the air cylinder and built in pump. The built-in pump is what truly makes this rifle shine, but has also been a problem for some. This is still my go-to rifle at our off-grid cabin in the woods, as it works for me every time, and the accuracy is solid.