Hard Air Magazine
Test Philosophy

Hard Air Magazine’s aim is to provide readers with the best information to help them buy an airgun or associated product. That’s why we are publishing HAM’s Test Philosophy here for all to read.

To give the most benefit to the most people, HAM concentrates on “mid range” products that are available in the USA; e.g. air rifles costing between about $100 and $500.


First, Hard Air Magazine’s tests are undertaken by very experienced airgunners. These guys really know what they’re doing and have been doing it for a long time! For example, HAM Tester Doug Wall has been shooting airguns for over 50 years!


To make tests of anything meaningful – including airguns – there must be consistency in how they’re tested. For this reason, Hard Air Magazine uses standardized testing procedures conducted by experienced testers.

HAM airgun tests are conducted:

  • at specific ranges
  • using the same test targets
  • with 10-shot strings (for rifles) and 8-shot strings (for pistols)
  • shooting the same range of quality pellets or Bbs
  • with guns appropriately rested
  • using the scope bundled with the gun or an alternative compatible scope (for rifles)
  • using Shooting Chrony chronographs
  • after spring/piston and gas ram airguns have been fired enough to mitigate the effects of dieseling
  • with a consistent one minute gap between shots for CO2-powered airguns
  • after refilling to maximum pressure before each string with PCP airguns
  • with standardized testing categories
  • with consistent note-taking and record keeping


HAM test reviews are based on hard data as much as possible. That’s why we publish all our test targets, muzzle velocities achieved, etc.

The subjective sections of our tests – eg “Appearance and Finish”, “Buying and Owning” are reviewed jointly and compared to other products to give as much consistency as possible.


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This is a “quality” score. It’s expressed as a percentage. The higher the HAM Rating, the better the product.

As HAM reviews are conducted according to standardized test protocols, HAM test reviews scores can be directly compared to each other.

The overall HAM Rating is derived from the results of our tests. The biggest influence is given to performance – what’s actually on the test targets and chrony printouts, but all segments of the test count towards the final performance.


Introducing Hard Air Magazine HAM Awards for Air Pistols

HAM Ratings are compared between products for consistency and reasonableness. HAM Awards give a “value” indication by relating the HAM Score to price.

For example, airgun A might gain a HAM score of 86%. This means that it is better in an absolute sense than airgun B which gains a score of 74% as the two test reviews were conducted under identical conditions.

But what if airgun B costs twice as much as airgun A? Which is the better buy?

HAM Awards help you to make that decision.

Because HAM Awards relate Hard Air Magazine test review scores against the prices of the guns, they enable a comparison based on Quality, Usability, Value and Performance.

There are three levels of Hard Air Magazine test review awards:
– HAM Gold Awards
– HAM Silver Awards
– HAM Bronze Awards


The table below shows how HAM Awards are determined for air rifles.

Price Range (Inc Scope)GOLD AwardSILVER AwardBRONZE AwardNo Rating
Up to $15074% and above68 - 73%63 - 67%62% and below
$151 - 20075% and above71 - 74%66 - 70%66$ and below
$201- 25077% and above73 - 76%69 - 72%68% and below
$251 - 35079% and above75 - 78%72 - 74%71% and below
$351 - 50082% and above78 - 81%74 - 77%73% and below
$501 - 100087% and above83 - 86%79 - 82%78% and below
$1001 and above89% and above85 - 88%82 - 84%81% and below

For example, if an air rifle costing less $100 scored 75% in a HAM test review, it would qualify for HAM Gold Award status. If a different air rifle costing $550 also scored 75% in a HAM test review, it would not even receive a HAM rating at all…

Note that the prices used by HAM for determining HAM Award status are the “Street Prices” – the typical retail price you would pay excluding tax – at the time of the test. This price includes the scope that’s bundled with many air rifles.

If no scope is bundled with the gun, the Street Price includes an amount that a typical user would probably pay for a scope and rings to accompany the gun.


Price RangeGOLD AwardSILVER AwardBRONZE AwardNo Rating
Up to $5070% and above65 - 69%60 - 64%59% and below
$51 - 6575% and above71 - 74%65 - 70%64% and below
$66 - 9085% and above81 - 84%75 - 80%74% and below
$91 - 11090% and above86 - 89%83 - 85%82% and under
$111 - $15092% and above88 - 91%85 - 87%84% and under
$151 and above94% and above91 - 93%88 - 90%87% and under

Check out HAM Test Reviews and look for the air rifles with the HAM Gold Award logo. These are the best buys!


Price Per Pellet .177 CalPrice per pellet .22 CalGOLD AwardSILVER AwardBRONZE AwardNo Rating
1.40 cents and less1.99 cents and less46% and above42 - 45%40 - 42%39% and below
1.41 to 2.39 cents2.00 to 3.59 cents59% and above48 - 57%42 - 47%41% and below
2.40 to 3.00 cents3.60 to 4.40 cents70% and above57 - 69%46 - 56%45% and below
3.01 to 4.10 cents4.41 to 6.00 cents78% and above68 - 77%67 - 58%57% and under
4.11 cents or more6.01 cents or more85% and above75 - 84%70 - 75%69% and under

For companies wishing to license HAM Awards for endorsement purposes, details are here.


The vast majority of air rifles are sold bundled with a scope and mounts. In these cases, the HAM tests and ratings are made with the bundled optics.

But some air rifles – particularly the more expensive ones – are sold without a scope and mounts, to give maximum flexibility of choice to the buyer. These air rifles usually have no iron sights and so require a scope to be mounted for use.

To give the correct test rating for air rifles sold without scopes, HAM assumes a typical price for a scope and mount that would be chosen by a buyer. This price is added to the “gun only” price in our test review, together with an appropriate score in the “Sights and Scopes” section of the review.

This table gives details of how this is done.

Price of Air Rifle Without ScopePrice of Typical Scope and MountsHAM Sights and Scopes Score for Typical Scope
Up to $489.99$120.0090%
$490.00 to $649.99$150.0095%
$650.00 to $899.99$250.00100%
$900 and Above$350100%


RateAGun score 6.3 good shooting fun

The RateAGun score is a “usability” rating and it applies to air rifles. It’s expressed as a number.

Many air rifles require specific knowledge or experience to shoot well. Of course the HAM testers know this and apply these techniques naturally. But many air rifle shooters – newcomers in particular – don’t know this, or have difficulty doing so consistently.

The RateaGun score indicates how easy an air rifle is to shoot “for the average Joe”.

A low RateAGun score means that the air rifle is easy to shoot. A high RateAGun score doesn’t mean that the air rifle is bad, but it does indicate that skill and experience are required to obtain the most accurate shooting.

  • RateAGun scores less than 5.0 are easiest to shoot.
  • RateAGun scores from 5.1 to 7.0 are good shooting fun.
  • RateAGun scores between 7.1 and 9.0 are an enjoyable challenge.
  • RateAGun scores above 9.1 indicate airgun shooting experience required.

RateAGun scores are calculated using a consistent algorithm that’s been derived as a result of much time and experience.


There’s no conflict between the HAM Rating and RateAGun scores. They’re different, but complimentary, ways to compress huge amounts of information into simple comparisons that can help you buy the best airgun.

Check for a high HAM rating, particularly in aspects that you find important (eg “Speed and Accuracy”), combined with a RateAGun score that matches your experience and capabilities. This will give you a good starting point for choosing an air rifle.


The test results and data shown by Hard Air Magazine apply only to the individual product sample(s) tested by HAM.

As EVERY manufactured product – not just airguns – will have very slight variations, test results will not be exactly the same for any other sample of the same product. However the results of our HAM tests should be indicative of the performance that could be expected by a consumer under similar test conditions.