Bullpup air rifle: why choose one?
Is the bullpup air rifle just a fad?
Q: All I seem to hear about these days is the bullpup air rifle. What makes them so special and how do they differ from short carbines? (Check out some bullpup air rifle reviews here.)
A: Mat Manning says: “Bullpup airguns differ from carbines in that their breech is usually right at the back of the action rather than in front of it. The result is that they are very short, even when equipped with comparatively long barrels. A lot of shooters favour short bullpup airguns because, apart from handling better in the confines of a hide or inside farm buildings, they also tend to be easier to hold on aim, as the bulk of their mass is closer to the shooter’s body. Bullpup design does have its limitations, though. It usually necessitates mounting the scope high above the barrel, which increases the need to use aim-off, and tends to need a longer trigger linkage, which can result in a spongy feel to the trigger release on some of the cheaper models.”
Bullpup air rifle popularity
The bullpup has been embraced by the military for very specific reasons. As bullpup airguns are shorter than a conventional rifle, they are ideal for CQB and urban combat. With the action essentially in the butt of the rifle it can still maintain great -long range accuracy as the barrel length is essentially the same.
Another huge bonus, especially for auto/semi auto weapons, is that the recoil is sent directly back into the shoulder, vastly reducing muzzle flip, especially when multiple rounds are fired in quick succession. All very appealing features in a centrefire combat rifle.
However there’s one unavoidable downside when the bullpup design is applied to an air rifle. With no curve in the stock the scope inevitably ends up way above the barrel and that’s their Achilles’ heel. When shooting the rainbow ballistics of an air rifle, getting your scope as close to the barrel as possible is a major advantage. If it’s way above the ballistic curve the pellet gets magnified dramatically.
Are bullpups less accurate than conventionally stocked rifles?
No not at all, they’re simply far less forgiving and therefore harder to aim over a variety of ranges. You need to be spot on for distance and you also need to know your rifle intimately to make the larger adjustments required whenever you wander away from your zero.
There’s pellets with points, pellets with crosses, dumb-dumb pellets, others with weird plastic protrusions the list goes on but it’s pretty much guaranteed the weirder they get the worse they’ll be at distance. Fun perhaps but don’t believe the hype, the classic diablo outstrips them all. (Read our guide to the best air rifle pellets.)
The air rifle pellet is subsonic by design with a smooth round head stabilised by a traditional skirt and they’re superbly consistent with ideal aerodynamics at the correct velocity. (Read picking the perfect airgun pellet.)
This article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.