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Which are the best air rifles for shooting rabbits?

Here are a few pointers

shooting rabbits

Do you go off for a hunt shooting rabbits with an air rifle and invariably come back empty handed?

Well of course, it could be your technique that’s at fault (more on that here) but then it could be your equipment.

So let’s take a look at some air guns popular for rabbit control and how they differ. (Scroll down and you’ll also see what our Facebook followers had to say on the subject.)

spring-powered airgun or a PCP

Precharged air rifle vs spring powered air rifle

Are the best air rifles for shooting rabbits spring powered or PCP?

  • Choose a break-barrel spring power air rifle for rabbit control and you won’t need charging equipment. You’ll also have a relatively cheap and self-contained gun.
  • However you will have to deal with recoil, which makes for inaccuracy unless you are a very skilled shooter.
  • Finally a spring power only gives you one shot. You miss, the rabbits scatter and you have no quick follow up shot available.
  • A PCP rifle gives you that all-important second chance
  • Fluff the shot and a PCP rifle has a second pellet ready instantly.
  • PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) air rifles are low recoil too, which makes it easier to be accurate.
  • The multiple shots allowed by a PCP are powered by compressed air stored in a reservoir – a pulse of which is released to power the pellet when the trigger is pulled.
PCP air rifles best for shooting rabbits

A multi-shot PCP air rifle

PCP probably your best option for shooting rabbits

Matt Clarke, editor of Sporting Gun, says that the above reasons are why he prefers a PCP for rabbits: “For rabbit shooting a PCP is the best fit for most airgunners. The only downside is that they can be expensive and require external charging equipment, such as a dive bottle or stirrup pump. So the initial outlay can be almost £1000. However, once you are set up, pellets are cheap and so you have an economical form of shooting.”

What about calibres?

After you’ve decided between a spring-powered or PCP air rifle you need to think about calibres.

The most common are .22 and .177. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

The .22 pellet is larger, bigger and heavier which transfers more energy to the quarry, resulting in a cleaner kill.

On the other hand, the .177 pellet has a flatter trajectory, which means that the aim point is closer to the point of impact and it is easier to hit your target.

You could consider a compromise with the .20 calibre which sits in between the two.

You can also use a firearms certificate air rifle for rabbits which is different again – find out more about that here. 

Isn’t a .22 best for pest control?

A PCP was recommended in the past for rabbits, due to its hard hitting. But if you’re a good shot and aim between the rabbit’s ear and eye, then you can humanely kill a rabbit up to 40 metres with a .177.

Shooting beyond 40 metres with a legal limit airgun is irresponsible, because the wind can blow your pellet off target, resulting in a wounded animal. All responsible shooters should opt for a clean kill, not injury.

Airgunner and Sporting Gun contributor Ed Cook says: “I use two different airguns, my Air Arms S410, which is on my firearms certificate, and my Weihrauch HW77, which was bought for me when I was nine years old. I have despatched 
a lot of rabbits with both.

“My understanding is that a .22 has a good “smacking power” when compared to the larger and slower .25 calibre or the fast but smaller pellet thrown 
by a .177 round. The .22 can thus be deemed a happy medium and is easily available for the would-be hunter.

“My old Weihrauch Mk77 has killed thousands of rabbits over the years, and it still kills well enough now. One of the beauties of hunting rabbits with a little air rifle is that it teaches you an amazing amount of fieldcraft, including the absolute need to get in close to your quarry before attempting a shot.

“Regardless of which air rifle you use my advice would be to spend as much money as you can on buying a decent telescopic sight because then you will end up with a top notch set up for killing rabbits.”

So how do you decide?

Ask yourself honestly which calibre you are most accurate with and use that to decide on your best air rifles for shooting rabbits.

airgun pellets

Good quality pellets are the way to go if you want consistent accuracy from your airgun

Get your air rifle zeroed too

Do this before you go out in the field. Zeroing your air rifle means that it will hit where you are aiming, which will definitely help your success rate!

The zeroing rule applies whether you are using open sights or telescopic sights. To get your air rifle zeroed just take it along to your local gun shop and ask them to test it.

What Shooting Times Facebook followers said about air rifles for shooting rabbits