Paul Austin tests three of the best 10-shot pre-charged pneumatic air rifles for under £500 and asks which offers the best value for money, accuracy and design for your style of shooting.

PCP air rifles are relatively cheap, easy to shoot and given a decent backstop you can even practise in the back garden. Perfect for pest control and ideal around a farm yard if you need to get rid of vermin with little risk of damage to property or stock.

Why are pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifles so popular?

The driving force behind the popularity of air rifles is that you don’t have to have a firearms certificate to own one (provided the air gun is below the 12ft/lb) which all non FAC rifles are. PCP rifles use an external power source, air being supplied by a pump or diver’s tank to the built-in reservoir.

As a result the best PCP air rifles are consistent, accurate and have no recoil. Most come with removable magazines with 8 or 10 shots (depending on the calibre) making them ideal for ratting, rabbiting or effortless plinking at the range. They’re also inherently more accurate and easier to shoot than break barrel (spring piston) rifles which do suffer from recoil and are therefore much harder to master.

The detachable multi-shot mag. A key component of any modern PCP

Which calibre – 177 or 22?

Which calibre should you choose? I always recommend 177 for general purpose applications. They’re faster and therefore flatter shooting, which makes them more forgiving when you’re estimating range. The high velocity and better penetration also makes the 177 more capable when despatching tougher critters such as squirrels.

The key factor when it comes to sub 12 ftlbs air rifles is pellet placement. Accuracy is everything and a flatter shooting gun is invariably more accurate, especially in the hands of the less experienced. It’s vital that quarry is despatched humanely and the faster, flatter 177 pellet simply makes that job easier.

Three of the best PCP air rifles

  1. 1. Why are pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifles so popular?
  2. 2. Air Arms S200
  3. 3. Gamo Phox
  4. 4. Walther Rotex RM8
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