Your Guide To The...
BEST UK AIR RIFLES of 2023
This guide is here to help you understand your options and which air rifle is best for you
BEST UK AIR RIFLES
If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you’re looking for an air rifle. It’s also a good bet that you’re trying to figure out what’s the best air rifle for you, right? If so, you’re in the right place. This site was set-up to help people in the UK figure out what is the best rifle for them. Note that we said IN THE UK.. that’s because we focus on guns that are readily available in the UK (it can be annoying to find the best gun, then realise it’s not available in the UK!)
So, what’s the BEST air rifle in the UK? Sadly, the answer is “It depends”. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through the points you need to think about, so you’ll be able to get the best gun for you.
THE BEST UK AIR RIFLE – WHAT ARE THE CONSIDERATIONS?
We’re going to go into this in more detail, but in short the following all impact what rifle is best for you:
Your budget – There’s little point considering a gun you can’t afford!
Your use case – Lots to think about here, what do you want to use the gun for?
Shooting targets in your back garden,
Shoot in a club for fun or competitively
Pest control, shooting rats or other vermin?
Hunting – Yes, you can hunt small quarry like rabbits, for food.
Okay – let’s dig into a little more detail on each point:
AIR RIFLE BUDGETS:
LOW BUDGET AIR RIFLES: £85 TO £200
You can pickup an air rifle for as little as under £100 for a brand-spanking new rifle. So if you’ve got a low budget, something like this could be right up your street.
Something like the SMK B2 Deluxe Air Rifle would work well for you here. These are a basic springer (see air rifle types, below), with a break-barrel.
For the upper-end of this budget, consider something like a BSA Meteor Evo Silentium… This is another break-barrel springer, but is designed as a hunter.
MEDIUM BUDGET AIR RIFLES: £250 TO £500
This price bracket has a lot more choice, and you can start to consider non-springer air rifles, like a PCP-based air rifle (again, see the section below for more info on air rifle types).
Good examples at the lower-end of this price bracket include the Snowpeak Regulated Pcp Air Rifle at around £259.99. As a PCP air rifle, this will have less recoil and a 7-shot magazine so you can fire-off shots much quicker.
At the upper-end of this budget range a rifle like the Gamo Coyote Air Rifle, at around £475 for a basic gun kit… with a 10 shot magazine and, a silencer, scope and gun bag.
HIGH BUDGET AIR RIFLES: £550 TO £1500+
When you have a high budget there’s a lot available for you. At this range, you can go with the lower-end of this range with something like a Airarms S510 TDR Walnut Stock– A beastie of a rifle that is right up near the legal 12 ft-lbs of power making it a very powerful air rifle, two-stage trigger, and adjustable butt pad for comfort. It’s not just powerful, this gun is known to be highly accurate.
At the upper-end of this price bracket, a Airarms Galahad Carbine PCP air rifle, with Walnut Stock. Coming in at close to £1.5k, this rifle is (in our opinion) likely to be one of the best you can buy. Right up at the maximum power for UK air rifles, with a 10 round magazine, highly accurate and looks stunning, this is the ultimate air rifle in many ways.
Another great option would be a Weihrauch HW100 PCP air rifle. This brilliant rifle is said to be one of the best in the world (admittedly that is according to the manufacturer! But it REALLY is a very, very good gun). It comes with great specs as default, is high-powered and extremely accurate. A great choice for hunting small prey like rabbit. The HW100 has a silencer included, too, and a lever action for loading.
TYPES OF AIR RIFLE
There’s a few main types of air rifle for you to choose between. Don’t worry though, we’ll list the 3 main types we usually recommend below – and give info on each:
SPRING POWERED AIR RIFLES (SPRINGERS)
Spring powered air rifles (known as ‘Springers’) are one of the most basic types of air rifle on the market. Essentially a coil spring is compressed when you cock the rifle. When you pull the trigger the spring shoves a piston, which in turn shoots compressed air (and the pellet) down the barrel, out of the end of the rifle, and (hopefully!) into your target.
One of the main pros of springer air guns is that there’s no need to worry about leaking gas or having to lug around dive bottles for filling up your rifle (especially annoying in the field if you’re hunting!)… you just pick up your rifle and get cracking.
ADVANTAGES OF SPRINGERS:
The cheapest types of air rifle.
Super-easy to use
No extras to carry, unlike some of the other types (e.g. co2 canisters or diver tanks for PCP guns)
Can be easy to service & upgrade.
DISADVANTAGES OF SPRINGERS:
Much more recoil than most other types of air rifle
Can need more strength & skill due to this
Can’t be left cocked as this risks stressing the spring & damaging the gun.
PRE-CHARGED PNEUMATIC AIR RIFLES (PCP)
PCP air rifles – which stands for The Pre-Charged Pneumatic are very different to Springers. Instead of a spring that’s compressed when cocking the gun, PCP rifles use highly pressurized air, compressed at up to 4000 PSI (depending on the gun). Diving tanks are used to refill the pressure in the gun (or a pump, for a budget option).
Once charged, a PCP air rifle can discharge many shots (often around 35 to 60 shots) before needing recharging, and many of them come with multi-shot magazines.
There is very little to no recoil with a PCP air rifle, making them a great option both for target shooting, but also for pest control or hunting (the multi-shot option can be good here too… whilst we all try to get a clean-kill, the ability to fire-off a 2nd kill shot very quickly can help dispatch your prey & avoid unnecessary suffering.
ADVANTAGES OF PCP AIR GUNS:
Pretty much NO recoil with a PCP rifle
Reduced hassles in some ways (instead of, say, breaking the barrel of a gun often a simple bolt-action is all that’s needed. Quicker & easier).
As mentioned, often (depending on the gun) the ability to fire-off 2nd and more shots.
Most PCP air rifles are high powered, making them a great option for hunting.
DISADVANTAGES OF PCP AIR RIFLES:
Cost – they tend to be much more pricey than springers
Need to carry extra kit, like diver tanks to re-fill the gun.
Cost of extra kit (like the diver tanks above).
CO2 POWERED AIR RIFLES
CO2 powered air rifles are in closer to a PCP (see above) air rifle than they are to a springer. The difference is that instead of pressurised gas that’s pumped in from a divers tank, CO2 air rifles use Carbon Dioxide cartridges.
ADVANTAGES OF CO2 AIR RIFLES:
Easy to shoot accurately due to lack of recoil
Easy to cock compared to some Springers
Consistent accuracy with each shot
DISADVANTAGES OF CO2 AIR RIFLES:
Usually less powerful than Springers 7 PCP air rifles.
The cost of CO2 cartridges can add up if you shoot a lot
Can be variable accuracy depending on weather
CO2 cartridges may leak over time if left in the gun.
SO WHAT IS THE BEST AIR RIFLE IN THE UK?
As you can see, when it comes to choosing the perfect air rifle, the main considerations are use-case & budget.
If you’re looking for a cheap air rifle for plinking targets in the back garden & have a low budget, then a springer like the SMK B2 Deluxe would be a good option, with a BSA Meteor Evo Silentium being the next step up. However, a springer air gun will have recoil (they’ll kick when shooting).
If you have a bit more budget and can stretch to around £260 (JUST for the rifle, you’ll need a scope and bag too), then the Snowpeak regulated PCP air rifle is a good option. It’s a PCP, meaning much lower recoil. If you can stretch to £475 then the Gamo Coyote is a good option.
Lastly, if you can afford it, an Air Arms S400 or a Weihrauch HW100 PCP rifle is an EXCELLENT choice.
If money really is no object, then an Airarms Galahad Carbine would be an excellent choice.
Personally when it comes to air rifles for hunting, I’d prefer a decent PCP rifle, due to the lack of recoil and high degree of accuracy.
If you’re hunting, it’d also be advisable to select a decent optic. A telescopic sight can increase your range & accuracy considerably.
AIR RIFLE FAQ:
WHERE CAN I BUY AN AIR RIFLE IN THE UK
You can buy air rifles in the UK without a license, if you’re over 18 years old. You can buy an air rifle from a gun shop (often fishing tackles shops too), or of course on the internet.
WHERE CAN YOU SHOOT AN AIR RIFLE IN THE UK
Please see our article on airgun law for full details, however the basics are that you can shoot in your garden under some circumstances, at a club or range, or on private land with express permission of the landowner.
WHAT CAN YOU LEGALLY SHOOT WITH AN AIR RIFLE UK
Woodpigeon can make for good food, but you can’t actually shoot one for the purpose of eating it! You can only shoot one to prevent serious damage to crops.
When it comes to Corvids, you can shoot magpies and carrion crows throughout the UK, but hooded crows ONLY in Scotland & Northern Ireland.
Jackdaws can be shot in Scotland, Wales, and Ni, but you CANNOT shoot Jackdaws in England.
Lastly, Jays can be shot in England, Scotland, and Wales… But NOT in Northern Ireland, whereas Rooks can be shot in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland but NOT Wales.
Got that? Quite complex, right?!
You CAN actually shoot ducks, pheasants, partridges and grouse in your back garden! If you have them there.
You can also shoot, subject to conditions:
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