Air Rifles - Different types, uses, and help choosing

The Different Types of Air Rifles: A Guide to Help You Choose

UPDATED: February 09, 2023

Air rifles we first developed as early as the 16th century. Today, we use them in hunting, pest control, shooting sport, and good old family fun. There are three main types of air rifles, Multi-Pump Pneumatic, Break Barrel, and PCP or Pre-Charged Pneumatic. Each type of air rifle differs in how you use it, the velocity it throws its projectile, and the projectile size.

No matter which powerplant you choose, the air becomes pressurized, and this pressurized air propels the projectile from the rifle. It's good to understand your needs for the air rifle before you choose one because they won't all have the same capabilities.

Exploring the Different Types of Air Rifles and Their Uses

Umarex Hammer .50 Caliber PCP Pellet Gun Air Rifle
Umarex Hammer .50 Caliber PCP Pellet Gun Air Rifle

PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic)

PCP guns will use pressurized air from an outside source rather than a level. The "outside source" can be a scuba tank, an at-home air compressor, or a local paintball store. If you plan on using a PCP air rifle, it will benefit you to purchase a simple air compressor that you can plug into your vehicle.

Pros of Pre-Charged Pneumatics:

  • Consistent power: Because a PCP air rifle uses an air tank with a regulator, each shot contains the same.
  • Minimal recoil: PCP air rifles use compressed air, allowing for a smoother shot, which means less recoil.
  • Quiet: As mentioned above, because the PCP air rifle uses compressed air, the shot is quieter than other air rifles.

Cons of Pre-Charged Pneumatics:

  • Cost: PCP air rifles usually are more expensive than other air rifles.
  • Recharging: PCP air rifles need constant recharging, which can be cumbersome.
  • Maintenance: PCP air rifles require more maintenance than other air rifles, including regular cleaning.

Break Barrels

The Break barrel air rifle is one of the most popular for its ease of use and power output. This air rifle is cocked by "breaking" the barrel in half and closing it. It is an easy 2 step process, but some of the higher output air rifles' cocking mechanisms can be stiff. Break barrel air rifles use a strong, heavy spring to push the piston forward and compress the air. Break barrel air rifles can be long and noisy when firing.

Pros of Break Barrels:

  • Easy to Use: Break barrel air rifles are simple to operate.
  • Affordability: Break barrel air rifles are more affordable than other rifles.
  • Lightweight: These rifles are usually made of very light material, making them easy to carry and handle.
  • Accuracy: They can be very accurate and offer good performance for target shooting.

Cons of Break Barrels:

  • Sound: Most break barrel rifles are louder than other rifles.
  • Recoil: Break barrel rifles can generate a significant amount of recoil.
  • Inconsistent Power: Depending on the model, the power can vary slightly between shots.
Gamo Whisper Fusion Mach 1 Air Rifle
Gamo Whisper Fusion Mach 1 Air Rifle
Daisy 880 Powerline Air Rifle Kit
Daisy 880 Powerline Air Rifle Kit

Multi-Pump Pneumatics

Multi-Pump Pneumatic air rifles work much in the same manner as a break barrel, but the barrel does not break in half. There is usually a pumping mechanism or lever, and you apply between 1 and 10 pumps. Each pump adds more compressed air to the chamber, so the more you pump it, the more velocity the shot will have. Unfortunately, the more pumps you add, the harder the pump stroke can be. The pumping action can also be loud, making them not ideal for hunting.

Pros of Multi-Pump Pneumatics:

  • Adjustable power: The number of pumps changes the velocity and power output of the projectile.
  • Cost-effective: Multi-pump pneumatic rifles can be lower cost, making them better for beginners.
  • Durability: These rifles are made of sturdy materials, making them more durable.

Cons of Multi-Pump Pneumatics:

  • Pumping effort: The act of pumping the rifle can be strenuous and time-consuming, especially for the inexperienced or those with physical limitations.
  • Inconsistent power: Depending on the number of pumps, the power of the shot can vary, leading to inconsistencies in accuracy and performance.
  • Limited range: Multi-pump pneumatic rifles have a shorter range due to the decreased velocity.

Understanding the Importance of Caliber and Velocity in Air Rifles

Caliber and velocity are important factors that go into an air rifle. The caliber is the size of the projectile, and the velocity is how fast it moves toward its intended target. It's a good idea to determine what you will be using your air rifle for, so you can choose the proper caliber and velocity you will require.

Determining the right caliber and velocity is based on your needs. Will you be using it for hunting bigger game, such as squirrels, rabbits, and raccoons? Will you be using it for smaller game, birds, or small rodents? A higher caliber and velocity are better for bigger game. A smaller caliber and velocity will work for smaller game. You always want to remain humane when dispatching an animal's life, so getting the right caliber and velocity matters.

Stay Safe and Secure: Essential Gun Safety Tips for Air Rifle Enthusiasts

Gun safety is an important topic, especially for air rifles. I've met people who believe that because it is an air rifle, it won't hurt a human. This is not true, most of the air rifles of today are very powerful and can hurt or take human life. Please follow gun safety protocols, even with an air rifle. Here are some tips to get you started, but a gun safety class or video would be very helpful.

  • You should ALWAYS treat your firearm as if it is loaded.
  • Always ensure your gun is pointing away from yourself, others, and property that could be damaged.
  • Always check there is nothing behind your target which could be damaged or harmed.
  • You should wear proper eye and ear protection when shooting.
  • Store your air rifle in a secure and locked place when not being used.
  • ALWAYS keep them out of reach from children.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Never use an air rifle or firearm under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • When a problem with your air rifle occurs, immediately stop using it and take it to be serviced by a qualified technician.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain your firearm to ensure it is in good working order.

I Reviewed the Best Air Rifles...

I put together an in-depth complete guide to the best air rifles. You can check them out over here [icon name="arrow-right" prefix="fas"]

Matthew GisonnoM

Matthew Gisonno

Hey there! As a seasoned Web Engineer with a passion for crafting superb web experiences, I'm here to share insightful reviews and guide your journey in the digital world. Let's explore and make informed decisions together!Read more
Unleash Your Curiosity

Dare to discover more? Subscribe to our newsletter for a curated selection of captivating content and stimulating insights, making your inbox a playground for your mind.