Wondering what the ideal air rifle calibre is for this particular target? John Knibbs offers some advice

Airgunners have been debating which are the best air rifles for shooting rabbits for nearly 100 years. It’s always a matter for debate and so far nobody seems to have reached an obvious conclusion.

So I thought I’d put my experience into the ring to see if it can help.

Air rifles are restricted in power output

It doesn’t matter what calibre they are. All standard air rifles are restricted in power output to a maximum of 12 ft/lb.Whether they are pre-charged air rifles or spring-powered.

A full-power legal .177 rifle firing an 8.5-gr pellet at around 800fps, or a .22 air rifle firing a 16-gr pellet at around 580fps would be perfectly capable of killing a rabbit at normal ranges up to 35-40 yards.

However I am assuming that you are competent to shoot consistently in a tight group of a maximum of 2in.

Smaller pellet v the larger pellet

  • The smaller pellet will not produce as much kinetic energy as the larger .22 pellet, but it will give a flatter trajectory and is likely to be more accurate.
  • The larger .22 pellet will give more “knock-down” or killing power, but will require more sight adjustment at longer ranges.
  • The size of the air rifle’s calibre will make little difference however if the rabbit is hit in the head. Even if the shot is taken at long range.

Zeroing is crucial

First things first. The first thing to check before you head out into the field after those bunnies with your air rifle is to check that it is correctly zeroed. Basically it means that it is hitting accurately where you are aiming. (Obviously you won’t get the best results from your foray otherwise).

The rule applies whether you are using open sights or telescopic sights.

How can you get it zeroed? Simple. Just take your air rifles along to your local gunshop and ask them to test them. They’ll take a look and tell you whether your air rifle needs a full service or re-zeroing. Definitely worth a trip.