Springer airguns – eight of the best options
Whether it's underlever, gas-ram or break barrel, we're bringing you our top picks for springer airguns, whatever your budget may be.
Springer airguns have been around for over 100 years and probably account for more units sold each year than any other air rifle category, especially at the affordable end of the market.
Not only that, it’s also especially prevalent in those, whatever age they might be, who might be buying their first air rifle, who might want a relatively inexpensive option that they can use to get to grips with their new pursuit. But with such popularity comes a huge amount of options to pick from, so we’re bringing you a list of top picks for some of the best springer airguns on the market right now.
More advice on springer airguns
- How to tune your springer airgun
- How to lubricate your springer airgun
- How to improve your springer airgun setup
Springer airguns – eight of the best options
1. Weihrauch HW90K
Price as reviewed: £550
Best known for its array of top-quality springers, many of which have been around for decades, Weihrauch’s HW90K is the company’s only gas-ram rifle.
At £550, this is a premium rifle, more expensive than most other springer airguns and up there with the best underlevers on the market.
Theoben provided the gas-ram mechanism in the early days, so it’s no surprise the HW90K is considered the successor to the Sirocco.
The beech sporter stock is elegant with panels of laser-cut chequering on the pistol grip and forend, and the solid rubber shoulder pad has a tasteful black spacer. At 1,140mm and around 4kg scoped, it’s on a par with the HW80. However, with the point of balance placed just forward of the trigger, the weight disappears in the shoulder and helps reduce the firing action to a purposeful thud.
The gold-coloured, adjustable Elite trigger unit is a departure from Weihrauch’s fabled Rekord system and is unique to the rifle.
Like its stablemate, the transition between the two stages is well-defined and when it comes, the let-off is crisp and predictable.
In another departure from its sibling springer airguns , the cross-bolt safety catch on the HW90K is located forward of the trigger. Cocking the 310mm barrel – made easier by a very effective silencer fitted to a ½ inch UNF thread – is smooth and sets the safety catch automatically. A second button allows you to reset the safety.
The barrel locks up solidly, and should you notice any play after a while, it can be dealt with by tightening a couple of large screws. The firing cycle is fast – anyone used to springer airguns will notice the absence of a mainspring clanking up and down.
On the range, our .177 calibre test rifle punched half-inch groups at 30 metres with ease. The chrono showed 11.4 ft-lb with 8.44 grain pellets and a spread of just 12 feet per second over 10 shots.
2. BSA GRT Lightning XL SE
Price as reviewed: £349
When it comes to break-barrel rifles, few companies have the hardware to challenge Weihrauch. However, BSA, with the benefit of 160 years’ heritage, is one of those few.
Its GRT Lightning XL SE is a great example and competes with the HW90K for the honour of best gas-ram rifle currently on sale. The big difference between the two is price; shop around and you can save more than £200 with the BSA – enough to buy yourself a decent scope. (For more, read our guide to the best scopes for airguns, as well as our advice on things to consider when buying a scope, and how to set up your airgun scope).
Unlike the even more reasonably priced GRT Lightning SE model, the XL SE is distinguished by a full-length silencer that also has a ½ inch UNF thread, different chequering and the option of either a beech or black soft-touch stock.
A 370mm barrel keeps the GRT Lightning XL SE down to less than a metre long and at 3kg it’s light as well as compact. However, it still packs a wallop; our .177 test rifle registered a shade under 11 ft-lb with 8.44 grain pellets and returned a variance of just 23 fps over a 10-shot string.
The ambidextrous stock features BSA’s signature butt, finished with a squishy, ventilated shoulder pad.
An indent at the top of the pistol grip encourages a comfortable wrap-around grip and a high comb sets you up to aim down the rifle.
A raised scope mount is designed to absorb recoil and prevent scope creep, and ensures excellent scope/eye alignment. The mount can be removed to access the underlying dovetail rails.
The GRT Lightning XL SE is easy to cock. The stroke is very smooth and the return has a vice-like lock-up. An anti-bear trap mechanism helps prevent any accidents.
The two-stage trigger has an adjustable second stage that lets off crisply, and gives you every chance of exploiting the potential of the cold hammer-forged barrel.
3. Ruger Targis Hunter
Price as reviewed: £299.95
Ruger is one of the biggest brands in shooting and yet its air rifles, though not the main focus, have struggled to grab attention. And that’s a shame because Ruger makes superb, affordable products.
The Targis Hunter is a case in point, and at just under £300 for a package that includes a 3-9×32 parallax-adjustable scope, mounts and sling it represents superb value for money, especially when the test .177 rifle produced 11.1 ft-lb with a 12 fps spread over 10 shots. Accuracy at 25 metres was more than acceptable too.
At 1140mm and 3.9kg fully dressed, the Targis Hunter is a full-size rifle. However, the black plastic stock is slim and finished to a good standard with a couple of attachment points to accept the sling. A rubber ridged shoulder pad is integrated into the butt and though a series of cut-outs make it look adjustable, it’s not.
That said, scope/eye alignment is fine, and patches of stippling on the forend and pistol grip make it unlikely the Targis Hunter would slip in your hands.
Shallow scoops on the pistol grip and forend add to the aesthetic appeal.
The Picatinny scope mount is plastic and moulded as part of a section that wraps around the back of the action. The provided mounts gripped firmly and the groups I achieved on the range suggest the setup works fine. And if you prefer you can use a set of adjustable open sights.
The tip of the plastic silencer-cum- cocking aid to the breech is 480mm. The action requires a light tap, and the smooth cocking stroke automatically sets the safety catch, a blade type that’s located inside the trigger guard. Even with the catch pushed forward, an anti-bear trap prevents the barrel from flying forward if you accidentally pull the trigger.
4. Air Arms TX 200 Mk III
Price as reviewed: £499-£569
If you were to look down a price list and note the Air Arms TX200 Mk III was a fair bit cheaper than its Pro Sport sibling, you might come to the perfectly reasonable conclusion that it isn’t quite as good and that compromises have been made to save money.
You’d be wrong though, as the TX200 Mk III is every bit as capable, well-engineered and good to shoot as Air Arms’ other underlever. The only difference, however, is in the design, which gives rise to a different layout.
Like the Pro Sport, the TX200 Mk III is available with a beech or walnut stock, however unlike the Pro Sport, there are dedicated left-hander options. The standard rifle is 1,055mm long with a 395mm shrouded and moderated barrel, and weighs 3.9kg in walnut and 4.1kg in beech. The HC – Hunter Carbine – model is 995mm long thanks to a 319mm barrel and weighs either 3.8kg or 4kg depending on the stock.
Patches of fish scale chequering on the pistol grip and forend are intricate without being fussy and afford plenty of grip. The butt is finished with a ventilated recoil pad, and the pistol grip with a rosewood cap and spacer.
When you consider the long list of FT and HFT titles that have been won with the TX200, including a world championship, it comes as no surprise to learn that the two-stage adjustable trigger is excellent.
Nor are there any shocks in the fact that the engineering on the TX200 Mk III is every bit as good as on the Pro Sport; the use of a low-friction synthetic bearing system ensures a super-smooth, low-effort cocking stroke as well as a refined firing cycle.
Located underneath the barrel, the cocking lever gives an “over and under” look and is held in place with a ball bearing catch under the muzzle. Although the cocking stroke is ratcheted, the lever can be activated silently.
The cross-bolt safety catch at the back of the action comes on when the underlever is pulled down. Once again, there is an additional anti-bear trap that acts as a second line of defence if for some reason you push the safety in and pull the trigger before returning the lever.
To release it, you just have to push a pivot switch on the right of the rifle by the generous loading port.
5. Weihrauch HW97KT
Price as reviewed: £439
Weihrauch’s HW77 may have reinvigorated the underlever sector, but the follow-up act, the HW97, has taken it to new heights, winning an army of supporters happy to argue to their last breath that the rifle represents the pinnacle of spring-powered air rifle capabilities.
Although Air Arms devotees will say otherwise, they have a point. Certainly, the HW97 has more variants than Air Arms, or even the HW77. You can choose either a sporter or thumbhole stock in beech, blue laminate or a black tactical finish. If that’s not enough, the Field Target Black Line STL model comes with black or silver metalwork.
Our review gun is a beech thumbhole stock carbine, otherwise known as the HW97KT. At 1,030mm and 4.3kg, it’s still a substantial rifle in the tradition of Weihrauch springers, but the balance is superb, as is the fit, thanks in part to the adjustable shoulder pad.
The thumbhole will accommodate even the biggest hands, and although the design won’t allow you to use a thumb-up grip, there’s a shelf either side of the pistol grip which, along with a cheekpiece on either side of the butt, makes the HW97 truly ambidextrous. Panels of chequering ensure plenty of grip, and the forend tapers towards a gently flared and sculpted end.
Pushing a button underneath the moderated muzzle releases the underlever and although I couldn’t perform the function silently, the click from the release and return can be stifled quite easily. The cocking stroke, which is smooth and requires little effort, exposes the loading port that enables you to insert a pellet directly into the breech.
Cocking also sets the cross-bolt safety catch located at the back of the action and provides a first line of defence to prevent the sidelever flying up and the loading port causing injury.
Even with the safety catch pushed in, the lever will only return if you move it. Once pushed in, the safety catch can only be reset by pulling the underlever down again to re-engage it.
If you’ve never shot an HW97 before you’ll appreciate why people rave about it after taking just a few shots. The easy-to-adjust gold Rekord trigger is still one of the best available and is the key that unlocks the remarkably consistent accuracy of the rifle.
6. Umarex UX Syrix
Price as reviewed: £159.95
The Umarex UX Syrix comes with a 4×32 scope as well as mounts and is only available in .177 calibre. At a shade over four kilos and 1,160mm long, this is a rifle that younger shooters will struggle to use without an adult helping to cock it.
The ambidextrous black polymer stock is chunky and feels solid. There are no sharply moulded edges and only the slightest flex at the end of the forend. The pistol grip and forend are ribbed, and the metalwork is high quality with no rattles, finished in a matt black coating. The solid rubber shoulder pad makes for a comfortable fit and ensures good alignment down the rifle.
Cocking the 580mm barrel, which includes a plastic cocking aid, sets a safety catch blade located within the trigger guard. The catch cannot be deactivated until the barrel is returned, preventing you from de-cocking the rifle. The trigger is metal and a single-stage unit with no means of adjustment. That said, it broke cleanly enough with a long pull.
The Syrix is fitted with a set of open sights. There’s a red fibre optic on the exposed blade foresight and a green fibre at the rear, the elevation for which is via a wheel.
Tweaking the windage setting requires a screw to be loosened to allow the sighting notch to move.
Good as the open sights are, many will use the 4×32 scope, which is perfectly suited to back garden plinking. Fitting a better-quality optic will improve the shooting experience and reduce group sizes, but in terms of pest control, at a shade under 9 ft-lb, the Umarex Syrix is limited to plinking, informal target shooting and very close-range ratting.
On the range, with a target set at 20 metres, the Syrix fires with a gentle thud thanks to the lack of a mainspring, and although there is no means to add a silencer, the report was surprisingly quiet, making this a rifle you could use in most gardens without upsetting the neighbours.
7. Remington Express XP
Price as reviewed: £159.99
I’ll be honest. When I opened the box, the first thought that popped into my mind was how much the Remington Express XP reminded me of a Weihrauch HW80. And that has to be a good thing.
I’m not suggesting the Remington is as good as the legendary German springer, after all there’s a huge gap in terms of cost, but it has the same kind of solidity about it.
It’s no surprise that the rifle is 1,160mm long and weighs 4kg, not including the 3-9×32 scope that is more than adequate given the overall price of the package.
And despite its bulk, the Express XP’s stock, finished in a dark brown gloss stain on our test rifle, is well proportioned, with patches of stippling on the pistol grip and forend. The butt has a solid rubber shoulder pad that is finished with a black spacer.
Breaking the barrel requires a light tap on the chunky plastic silencer that is also included, along with a rifle slip. For a full UK power rifle, the cocking stroke is light and the lock-up on return is solid. Cocking also sets a push-button safety catch at the rear of the action – just like that on the HW80.
However, unlike the German rifle, the catch can be reset by a short lever. Although the safety catch is automatically engaged, there is no anti-bear trap. However, this does mean that you can de-cock the rifle.
The metal trigger is nice and broad. Out of the box, I found the first stage to be a little short, but the break was very clean. Adjustment for this is accessed via a hole in the trigger guard.
There are several Remington Express variants. With the silencer fitted, our Express XP test rifle doesn’t come with any open sights.
The supplied 3-9×32 scope attaches to dovetail rails that also have a series of notches to help resist scope creep.
At 10.9 ft-lb with 8.4 grain .177 pellets, the Remington Express XP is plenty powerful enough to deal with pests at short to medium ranges, and is accurate enough too.
8. Crosman Fire
Price as reviewed: £179.99
Although it’s been around for some time, this durable rammer is ideally suited for those who don’t want to pay the earth but expect enough quality to reward good technique and send a few tin cans flying.
That’s not to say the Fire isn’t capable of dealing with vermin. At 10.22 ft-lb it’s powerful enough to deal with a problem rat under the shed, and returning groups a little over an inch at 20 yards in our test, it’s accurate as well.
At 1,170mm and a pull of 360mm, the Fire is another full-size rifle. Large cutouts in the black polymer stock help keep the weight down to a very manageable 3.2kg, which also includes a provided 4×32 Centre Point scope and mounts.
There are no open sights due to a chunky shroud, but the rifle is accurate to justify the use of a scope. Having said that, whilst the optic that comes with the rifle is fine for back garden plinking, you’ll soon want to upgrade it to see what the Fire is capable of.
The full-length QuietFire Sound Suppression shroud is effective, and at 525mm long it makes the barrel easy and smooth to cock, although the breech opens with a click.
With a pellet inserted – the Fire is only available in .22 – the breech locks up solidly.
The cocking process does not automatically set the safety catch – which is a blade just forward of the trigger – but an anti-bear trap mechanism will help you to avoid any kind of damage or injury should you accidentally touch the trigger before the barrel is returned. The downside, however, is that you cannot de-cock the rifle.
Somewhat unusually for a rifle at this price point, the trigger blade is metal.
Although the two-stage unit is adjustable, I found it fine straight out of the box with a clearly defined stop after the first stage and a very predictable let-off.