There are some notable examples of hunters using .50 cal air rifles with the impact of a “real” rifle to hunt wild pigs and deer or similar game. If you are after big game, you need something with an impact that equals a gunpowder rifle, so use a gunpowder rifle for that.
However, if your choice of target is small, it may be small enough that it can be used in rats, squirrels, rabbits and similar, then an air rifle has many advantages. You can use it in a populated area. Your neighbors will not be in danger of getting hit by a stray round. The noise will not disturb them. The pellets are inexpensive and you do not need a gun license.
When it comes to choosing the right rifle for the pest control or hunting task, there are just a few basic features that you need to keep in mind.
The rifle needs to be accurate.
The rifle needs to be powerful.
The rifle should ideally be a .22 or .25 caliber.
What is less important, or not important at all:
- It does not matter if it is a break-barrel rifle, a gold rifle or a rifle. They will all perform the task.
- The rifle does not need multi-shot capacity. It is very unlikely that you will ever get to fire at the same target.
With the accuracy, power and caliber parameters in mind, you can easily choose from the market. The Hatsan 125 sniper rifle style is a very powerful air rifle in .177, .22 and .25 calibers, with a bipod and a decent scope at a nice price. The Beeman RS1 is a priced 130 dollar rifle (at the time of writing) available in dual calibers (switchable barrels) that is powerful enough for the task at hand. For those of you who just want a powerful and all around excellent air rifle, you would not go wrong with the legendary RWS Diana 34.
Second, choosing the ammunition.
When it comes to choosing the right pellet for air rifle hunting, we are talking about a trial and error process, where you need to examine which pellet works best with your rifle. First of all, you will probably need a heavy pellet, so it is unlikely that you will find a suitable synthetic pellet for hunting tasks. For the purpose of this post, we want to reduce the pellets into three types:
- Wadcutters. These pellets used to cut nice clean holes in paper targets, really only have one hunting purpose. They are for when you hunt very small pests inside barns or near to houses, where you do not want to damage the property. A good, light and inexpensive wadcutter is Umarex Meisterkugeln Pellets.
- Domed pellets. These are heavy pellets with an aerodynamic shape that translates into a very good impact energy. A good extra-heavy pellet is the JSB Match Diabolo Exact Jumbo Heavy .22 Cal, 18.13 Grains, Domed, 500ct.
- Hollow point pellets. Basically a dum-dum round for air-rifles. These are ideal for hunting that your air rifle is powerful enough. You will not get the right kind of deformation of the pellet otherwise. A very heavy hollow point pellet is the Beeman Crow-Magnum .22 Cal, 18.20 Grains, Hollowpoint, 200ct.
Third, learning how to hunt with your air rifle.
The principles that apply to hunting with “real” rifles also apply to air rifles, but you need to be more conscious about certain aspects. Are you familiar with your weapon, the scope deviation and the bullet trajectory? Is the target stationary and are you sure you will hit it in the kill-spot? If you are not certain, you do not take the shot. Are you shooting at a time that is close to its burrow? Even if the shot is lethal, your prey might be underground and leave you empty handed. These are just some of the aspects to keep in mind when it comes to hunting with air rifles and you would benefit from learning more about both the practical and the theoretical aspects of this. This goes far beyond the scope of this article though. Just remember, have everything else in life, practice makes perfect.