If you watch any of today’s hunting shows, you have probably seen commercials for the best air rifles for hunting squirrels. If you like to squirrel hunt, you can’t help but want to try one on your next trip to the woods. There is much more to these marvels of technology than you think. Let’s look at the top five air rifles for squirrels and what separates them from the pack.
Keeping Up with the Times
You may know how to hunt squirrels, but have you kept up with air rifle technology? Let’s take a minute to get everyone up to speed on the technology used by today’s air rifles. The two most preferred types are the break-barrel and the pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifles. You can still find the CO2 and multiple-pump air rifles, but the CO2 lacks the power needed for squirrels and multi-pumps are just not practical to hunt with. Bow hunting small game is easier than hunting with a multi-pump air rifle.
Break-Barrel Air Rifles
Break-Barrel air rifles use gas pistons or spring to compress the air needed to propel a pellet. The barrel breaks over much like a double-barrel shotgun: Load the pellet and, when you snap it back into place, it compresses the air and cocks the gun. This produces 600-1500 FPS, depending on what gun you are using.
The breaking action can be stiff, and most young hunters cannot break it over. Break-Barrel air rifles are not as accurate as PCP models, but you’re talking about a small difference in most cases. The loss in accuracy is because you’re relying on the barrel and scope to hinge and snap back to the same position every time. This design sacrifices a small degree of accuracy, but it is still deadly.
PCP Air Rifles
The PCP air rifle has a compressed air tank, with highly compressed air. These tanks are filled to around 3,000 psi. They are more accurate and quieter than other types of air rifles. They allow you to take multiple shots far quicker than break-barrel air rifles and have less kick.
You can generally get 20-30 shots on a single tank but will need to refill after that. Your Walmart compressor is not going to fill PCP tanks. You will need to go to a scuba shop or use a hand pump to refill the reservoir.
To maintain constant pressure throughout the firing cycle, some models use an air regulator to maintain a constant pressure on the firing valve. The regulator greatly improves shot group consistency, but it can be an expensive option.
The drawbacks to the PCP air rifle are cost and hassle. They are more expensive than most break-barrel air rifles. For many, the cost is a deal-breaker. Others don’t want the hassle of filling tanks, especially if they are traveling.
Top Five Air Rifles
Gamo Swarm Magnum (22-caliber 10-shot break-barrel air-rifle)
One thing you will find with any Gamo air rifle is they are all highly accurate. From the low-end to the high-end models, they are all accurate. Two features to love about this model that others don’t have? It is quieter than some models, and the 10x Quick-Shot technology lets you shoot up to 10 times without reloading. Gamo is now using a 33mm cylinder to deliver 1,300 fps in .22 caliber. Load up the hunting dogs: The Gamo Swarm is ready to hunt.
Benjamin Marauder Rifle Regulated
The Marauder is a PCP-powered, multi-shot .22 caliber air rifle that is really hard to find. If you can get your hands on one, don’t hesitate to buy it. It’s almost too pretty to take to the field but too accurate not to. It shoots lead pellets at 850 seconds, making it very quiet. Details like the adjustable-comb stock make this a joy to shoot, but all this adds up, and this model is not cheap.
Umarex Ruger Targis Hunter Max
This .22 caliber break-barrel air rifle shoots up to 800 FPS. It comes with a sturdy Picatinny rail that secures a 3-9×32 scope that is included. It is a very quiet model and comes stock with the SilencAir noise dampener. The reliable Turbo Nitrogen Technology (TNT) delivers consistent groups from the bench and above accuracy in the field.
Hatsan Model 125SN Spring Combo .25cal Air Rifle
This break-barrel, single-shot air rifle is a joy to shoot. The 2-stage adjustable Quattro trigger comes from the factory set at under 4-pounds. The rifled barrel comes with an integrated moderator that is backyard quiet. The stock optics are nothing to write home about, but you won’t miss a squirrel because of the scope. This magnum-class air gun boasts 31 foot-pounds of energy. A .25 caliber air rifle pushing a lead pellet at 800 FPS is a definite squirrel killer.
Gamo Whisper Fusion Mach 1
This .22 caliber single shot break-barrel model is fast, easy to shoot and highly accurate. The IGT MACH 1 gas piston is the quietest noise reduction technology offered by Gamo. The cocking mechanism is smooth, and the Recoil Reducing Rail (RRR) absorbs much of the recoil, increasing the lifespan of the scope and keeping the Whisper Fusion accurate for years to come. The Custom Action Trigger (CAT) is sweet and lets you really bear down on squirrels at a long distance.
To Try One Is to Love One
These are five of the best air rifles available. There are others that are just as good, but it’s hard to find many better ones. This year, instead of watching commercials with celebrities killing squirrels with an air rifle, pick one out for yourself. It’s a whole new world out there, and these air rifles are game-changers.