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Best air rifles under £600 (and they’re suitable for live quarry)

Mat Manning rounds up a selection of sub-£600 air rifles that are up to the task of tackling live quarry

The Weihrauch HW95K is built to give years of good service with minimal maintenance and is well-suited for tackling pigeons on the farm

The Weihrauch HW95K is built to give years of good service with minimal maintenance and is well-suited for tackling pigeons on the farm

The following are my pick of the best air rifles under £600, with models that I’ve been putting through their paces over recent months. They are in or around the entry-level price bracket, but still deliver solid build quality and dependable performance. (Prices correct at time of publishing.)

Best air rifles under £600

best air rifles under £600 Weihrauch HW95K

Weihrauch HW95K

Weihrauch HW95K £470 

Break-barrel airguns are about as simple as they come, but that doesn’t mean there has to be a compromise on quality or performance. The Weihrauch HW95K features the German gunkmaker’s signature high-quality engineering and is built to give years of good service with minimal maintenance.

I have owned one of these airguns for more than 10 years, and I rate it as one of the best off-the-peg break-barrels I have ever used. Weighing in at 3.5kg, and with quite a hefty cocking stroke (which engages an automatic safety catch), it is probably a bit too much of a handful for very young shooters. That said, this is a full-power airgun, and its weight does help to soak up its modest recoil.

The HW95K’s 97cm overall length makes it quite a compact spring gun, which is well-suited for use in a hide or inside farm buildings. The design of the beech stock has evolved slightly since my model, and the gun is now supplied with a very effective sound moderator, but it still boasts the excellent two-stage Rekord trigger unit, which has been setting the standard for airguns for decades. The HW95K is readily available in .177 and .22 calibres and also in .20 and .25 to special order. Definitely deserves its place on the list of best air rifles under £600.


Hämmerli Hunter Force 900 Combo

Hämmerli Hunter Force 900 Combo

Hämmerli Hunter Force 900 Combo £274.95

This very competitively priced spring-powered airgun has a fixed barrel and underlever cocking. This eliminates the risk of accuracy declining as the barrel retainer wears, which can be a problem with cheaper break-barrel airguns.

Apart from being a very solid airgun fitted with fibre-optic open sights, the Hunter Force 900 Combo includes a scope and mounts, making it a very comprehensive package for well under £300. At 114cm long and weighing in at 4kg before you fit the scope, it is certainly an adult-sized airgun, but it doesn’t feel particularly cumbersome and is well suited to plinking and pest control over sensible ranges. Its beech stock is quite traditional in appearance and features neat panels of chequering on the fore-end and pistol grip.

This .177 calibre airgun has a very consistent muzzle energy of just over 11.5ft/lb, yet its long underlever provides sufficient leverage to keep the cocking stroke manageable. An automatic safety catch is set when the action is cocked and, although fairly basic, its two-stage trigger has a positive and predictable release.

The telescopic sight included in this package is surprisingly good. Its 6x magnification makes it a good all-rounder and, although parallax is fixed, it is set to cover typical airgun ranges from eight to 40m.

BSA Scorpion TS

BSA Scorpion TS

BSA Scorpion TS £569

This offering from BSA proves that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to own a very good pre-charged airgun with serious pedigree. So I had to include it on my list of air rifles under £600.

The Scorpion TS incorporates features from BSA’s flagship air rifles into a no-frills model that sits in a tough ambidextrous synthetic stock, and the result is a robust, accurate and very well-engineered air rifle that can cover everything from toppling targets on the club range to serious pest control. The Scorpion TS is a comparatively compact 92cm long before you fit a sound moderator, and it tips the scales at just over 3.4kg without a scope, so it should be manageable for most shooters. Maximum fill pressure is 232 bar, which should return around 140 consistently powered shots at around 11.5ft/lb in either .177, .22 or .25 calibres.

BSA Scorpion TS

The robust and accurate BSA Scorpion TS is as comfortable on the range as it is tackling pests

This airgun runs a 10-shot magazine, which is driven by a positive rear bolt action to deliver fast, fuss-free reloading. It is also equipped with an adjustable two-stage trigger and BSA’s famous cold hammer forged barrel, which is free-floating, choked, chambered and crowned. This barrel, which is threaded for sound moderator attachment, has a reputation for being very accurate and the Scorpion is capable of pellet-on-pellet accuracy at 25m.

The Pretensis airgun

The Pretensis airgun from Reximex features a crisp and predictable two-stage trigger

Reximex Pretensis £479

Made in Turkey, the Pretensis squeezes a lot of features into a very affordable package. The gun shown here is the walnut stock option but there are also some seriously eye-catching laminates in the range. A nice touch on the ambidextrous handle is its adjustable cheekpiece, which ensures good eye/scope alignment.

Overall length is 102cm, and unscoped weight is a comparatively modest 3.3kg. A single shot tray and two magazines are supplied; the .177 version holds 14 pellets while the .22 holds 12. The cocking and loading mechanism is driven by a very positive and reliable side-lever action. Maximum fill pressure is 250 bar and from that you can expect 150 full-power shots in .177 and 180 in .22 at full output. Power is adjustable and can be wound down to just 5ft/lb.

Reximex Pretensis

Reximex Pretensis

The two-stage trigger is crisp and predictable and, combined with consistent power output and a decent barrel, makes the Pretensis capable of single-hole grouping at 30m. A cleverly designed scope rail facilitates scope mounting via either Picatinny or dovetail mounts.

The JTS Airacuda Max offers good looks alongside a solid, accurate performance

JTS Airacuda Max £549

This pre-charged airgun has been on the scene for less than a year, but it has already won a loyal following thanks to its good looks and solid performance. It is 104cm long, weighs a substantial 3.8kg unscoped and its ambidextrous thumbhole stock incorporates a height- adjustable cheekpiece and some tidy chequering.

JTS Airacuda Max

JTS Airacuda Max

The Airacuda’s 45cm barrel is fully shrouded. The shroud does provide some sound suppression and is also threaded for moderator attachment. Driven by a slick side-lever action, the magazine holds 12 pellets in .177 calibre and 10 in .22. Two magazines are supplied, along with a single-shot tray. The two-stage trigger is exceptionally good for this airgun’s price point, and the Airacuda Max also boasts a regulator, which is apparent by its very consistent power output. The one I tested was running at 11.8ft/lb with 9.6-gr QYS pellets and variation was within 6fps over a string of 10 shots — that’s better than some high-end airguns costing three times as much.

Maximum fill pressure is 220 bar, and from that you can expect more than 200 shots in .22 and almost as many in .177. Accuracy-wise, the Airacuda really impressed me by consistently printing ragged single-hole groups at 30m.

How airguns have changed

Airguns offer a great route into the world of fieldsports, and their development has come a very long way since they provided me with my introduction to shooting almost four decades ago.

Back in the 1980s, our standard test for air rifle performance was whether we could hit, and preferably punch through, a tin can at 20 paces. Nowadays, even entry-level airguns are capable of grouping pellets inside a 1in circle at 25m, and most models produce power very close to the 12ft/lb legal limit. That level of performance means they can confidently be used for the humane despatch of small pests over sensible ranges. (Take a look at our guide to choosing airgun pellets.)

Modern air rifles can cost several thousands of pounds, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to buy one that’s powerful and accurate enough to tackle rabbits, rats, pigeons and grey squirrels. As my list of air rifles under £600 shows, a few hundred pounds will buy you a reliable airgun that can deal with pests in the garden, around the farmyard, out on the open fields or in the woods. Owing to their self-contained powerplant, spring-powered air rifles tend to be the most affordable, but the price of recoil-less pre-charged airguns is now within the reach of most people — although you do need to factor in the additional cost of an air tank or stirrup pump to keep them topped up with compressed air.