What’s The Best $500 PCP Air Rifle For Me?

“What’s the best $500 PCP for me?” If you’re asking this question, you’re not alone. There’s a good number of PCP air rifles at around this price, so let’s simplify things and look at HAM’s selection of the best…

Today we have three top contenders in this market segment. They all won coveted HAM Gold Awards in our consistent, structured test reviews. This means they’re all great guns!

In fact, the these three air rifles all scored 87% or 88% in Hard Air Magazine testing. This means it’s too close to call a “best” gun. It’s all down to your preference.

But the guns themselves couldn’t be much more varied.

In this feature, we’ll summarize the HAM test data and conclusions on these $500 PCPs. Of course, everyone has their own specific requirements, likes and wants. You can use this to help you make your own choice of the best $500 PCP for you…

The best $500 PCP contenders are (in alphabetical order):
1. American Tactical Nova Freedom
2. Benjamin Marauder
3. Diana Outlaw

American Tactical Nova Freedom

This is the radical choice! Firstly, the Nova Freedom isn’t $500 – it’s selling for $400 (plus scope) at the time of writing.

Secondly, it’s a PCP with a built-in hand pump. In fact, it’s one of only two models of this type available. (And the other – the FX Independence – sells for about $1,600).

What’s The Best $500 PCP Air Rifle For Me?

The built-in hand pump definitely works. It means that you avoid the cost and inconvenience of a separate High Pressure Air hand pump. However, it can also be filled from an external tank or HPA hand pump if required, or if you have the equipment.

Most importantly the built-in hand pump means that the user is able to re-fill the gun while in the field. This overcomes the inevitable air anxiety (“Do I have enough air?”) that every PCP owner has experienced at one time or another. This is a HUGE benefit!

Compared to a more “normal” PCP air rifle with larger tank, the number of shots per fill is very low on High Power. And it’s not regulated. But it’s competitive with many low end PCPs on the Low Power setting. And Low Power is still pretty powerful…

This independence from a separate air supply means that the American Tactical Nova Freedom could well be the PCP that many break barrel owners have been waiting for. It’s powerful, it works and it’s great value!

We LikeWe Don't Like
That built-in handpump!Difficult to fill from a tank
Strong on High PowerNo regulator
Accurate with heavier pelletsOnly 12 month warranty
Nova Freedom PCP Air Rifle .22 caliber

Benjamin Marauder

The Marauder has been around seemingly for ever. It was the PCP for some years for many airgunners and still is a great gun.

A huge attraction of the Marauder to many shooters is the degree of built in tuning capability. There’s multiple ways to tune the muzzle velocity, shot count, ideal fill pressure and trigger settings to your own personal preferences.

Furthermore, Crosman gives basic instructions to do all this in the Owner’s Manual! This capability to really make the Marauder “your own” air rifle is unique in this price range.

BUY FROM AMERICAN TACTICAL Nova Freedom PCP Air Rifle .22 caliber

There’s a choice of synthetic and wood stocks. But the Marauder shows its age in having no regulator. Sure, the Field And Target version includes a regulator, but you’ll need to pay $80 more for it. Given that so many cheaper – $300 PCPs – are equipped with a regulator to provided consistent FPS, that’s a big omission in late 2019.

But the Marauder has a large and loyal following from many shooters that’s been built-up over the years. And it benefits from the manufacturer’s 5-year warranty that gives great peace of mind.

We LikeWe Don't Like
Tuning versatilityNo regulator
Excellent triggerWe'd prefer a side lever action
5-year warrantyDid we mention there's no regulator?
Benjamin Marauder Air Rifle, Synthetic Stock

Diana Outlaw

The Diana Outlaw is a sophisticated newcomer to the “$500 PCP” air rifle market. The manufacturer has selected a different blend of features to the competition, making it an interesting and attractive choice.

Its good regulated shot count, pleasant side lever cocking and consistent trigger make the gun a strong performer. It looks good and feels good in the hand too.

Compared to the Outlaw, the Marauder has a better trigger, is quieter and can’t be blank-fired with a magazine in place. But the Diana has a far more consistent regulated shot count, side lever action and more sophisticated looks.

This comparison to the Marauder in itself means that the Diana Outlaw offers very good value for money. That’s always been the Marauder’s strong suit and the Outlaw clearly trades punches with the long-established champion in performance, value and quality.

What’s The Best $500 PCP Air Rifle For Me?

We LikeWe Don't Like
Regulator for shot consistencyMagazine allows blank firing
Side lever actionSafety too small for easy use
Sophisticated looks and feelOnly one year warranty
Diana Outlaw PCP Air Rifle

So what’s the best $500 PCP for me?

Choosing between these three air rifles is a really tough call!

If you value the independence of never running out of High Pressure Air, the Nova Freedom is the obvious choice. It’s remarkably comfortable to shoot freehand, too. And – did we mention – it’s $100 less than the other two models here…

For long-term security, the Benjamin Marauder is the one. That 5 year warranty can’t be beaten at this price. Crosman’s spare parts support is the best in the business, too. It has the best trigger here and the tuning options are outstanding.

If consistent FPS is your priority, together with the shot-to-shot accuracy it brings, the Diana Outlaw is the choice. It’s the only one of the three with a regulator. It gives by far the most consistent shots per fill of HPA. For all-day shooting, this is a big deal. It’s also clearly the most sophisticated-looking and -feeling of the trio here.

Because all three are HAM Gold Award winners, you can be sure that one of them will be the best $500 PCP air rifle for you. It’s your choice!

PS. You can check out the links in this review to access the full, original HAM test reviews for each model.