Airgun Hunting

Check out HAM’s regular Airgun Hunting Column by Hunting Editor Derek Goins.

It seems that almost everyone wants to hunt small critters with their air rifles, the most popular choice of target for airgun hunting being the unfortunate squirrel.

But not all airguns are suitable for hunting. A humane one shot kill requires patience, good shooting, a scope and a powerful enough air rifle. HAM suggests that you don’t try airgun hunting with a pistol, they’re not powerful enough.

If you plan to hunt, don’t over-estimate your capabilities or those of your airgun. Practice until you can shoot really accurately, learn to estimate distances and get as close as you can to your target. Always use a scope that is correctly sighted-in.

Those air rifles that have the power and accuracy needed for responsible hunting of pests, small game and even larger animals, are often big, heavy and tough to shoot. High RateAGun scores are the result. But serious airgun hunters understand this and value the humane “one shot kill” they provide.

This chart gives examples of the types of prey that can be taken at short ranges (less than 20 yards) and with good shooting with different airguns having the muzzle velocity capabilities with the pellet weights shown. If your air rifle does not exceed the muzzle velocities shows for the type of pellet and prey, don’t shoot it!


Example PreyMuzzle Energy.177 Cal. PBA 5.0 Grain Pellet.177 Cal. Lead 8.0 Grain Pellet.22 Cal. Lead 14.0 Grain Pellet.25 Cal. Lead 24.0 Grain Pellet
Small Pests: Sparrows, Chipmunks etc.Over 6 Ft/LbsOver 735 fpsOver 585 fpsOver 440 fpsOver 340 fps
Larger Pests: Squirrels, crows etcOver 8 Ft/LbsOver 850 fpsOver 675 fpsOver 510 fpsOver 390 fps
Small Game: Rabbits, Groundhogs etc.Over 12 Ft/LbsOver 1040 fpsOver 825 fpsOver 620 fpsOver 475 fps
Varmint: Raccoons, Foxes heavier than 6 pounds etc.Over 20 Ft/LbsOver 1470 fpsOver 1165 fpsOver 805 fpsOver 615 fps
Large Game: Deer, Coyote etc."Big Bore" airguns only.Not recommended.Not recommended.Not recommended.Not recommended.


Please don’t shoot and wound any animal or bird with your airgun. If you must shoot it, shoot to kill with one, humane shot so that it doesn’t stagger off and die slowly in agony. If you’re not sure of the shot, don’t take it. Good airgun hunting is responsible airgun hunting!

And finally, check any applicable State, Town or other local laws before airgun hunting. There may be limitations and you are responsible for knowing these before you hunt anything.