Powerful air rifles that don’t need a firearms licence
So which are the most powerful air rifles you can use that don't need an FAC licence? Matt Clark investigates
Plinking in the garden is one thing but if you’re after some proper pest control with an air rifle, then you may be interested in finding out which is the most powerful air rifle you can use without the complications of getting an FAC air rifle licence. (For more on getting an FAC for your air rifle read here.)
Sporting Gun contributor Patrick Hook goes more into why you might consider getting an FAC air rifle here and it’s certainly something to be thinking about.
However here I’m writing about the most powerful air rifle you can buy that is under the 12ft/lbs power limit.
Legal limit air rifles
Mike Morton, editor of Airgun Shooter explains: “The legal limit for an air rifle that doesn’t require you to have an FAC for your air rifle is a muzzle energy of 12 foot pounds for a rifle (six for a pistol). Manufacturers typically produce rifles with a muzzle energy a little over 11 ft-lb to take account of any variables which might otherwise push them over that limit.”
These legal limit airguns are the easiest and cheapest way to get into shooting. These types of rifles do not require a licence except in Scotland. (Read more on air rifle law in Scotland here). After the initial expense of buying a gun and charging equipment, sub-12ft/lbs air rifles make for relatively cheap shooting because pellets are much more affordable than cartridges. (Read our guide to the best air rifle pellets.)
A sub-12ft/lbs air rifle can be used for back garden plinking or for small vermin control. It is ideal for use in confined spaces, such as farmyards where a rim-fire or shotgun are ‘too much gun’. Fit a moderator to an air rifle and you have a stealthy rabbit-stalking tool that offers surgical precision. What is more the meat of the rabbit is almost undamaged.
Here is a selection of a few legal limit airguns that we rate. Read through to discover the most powerful air rifle to suit you. There is a mixture of spring-powered airguns and precharged pneumatics (PCPs), which require an air bottle to refill. (More on PCP air rifles here.)
Precharged Pneumatic (PCP)
Apart from the Lothar Walther barrel and the stock, this air rifle is entirely designed and engineered in the UK. A sidelever cocking mechanism gives the shooter a mechanical advantage over a bolt-action system, allowing the shooter to reload without lifting their head off the stock. It’s a superbly accurate hunting tool and the shrouded barrel is fitted with baffles to supress muzzle ‘crack’. The rifle can also be fitted with a moderator for more noise reduction.
BSA R-10 MK2
This air rifle has a regulator which ensures the precise amount of air is used each shot to maintain accuracy. The buddy bottle system gives up to 225 shots per fill (depending on calibre) and there is an ‘on-rifle’ quick fill system. It also has a more refined magazine and an improved trigger mechanism than previous models. (Read our list of the best compressors for air rifles.)
Probably one of the most high-tech air rifles on the market it contains Daystate’s Map Compensated Technology which digitally controls the rifle’s power per shot and this gun also contains yet more electronic wizardry especially developed for the Pulsar. The bull pup configuration makes it compact and the sounds moderated barrel make it stealthy in the field.
Webley & Scott Raider
The name of Webley & Scott has passed into British shooting folklore, but the company is not content to rest on its laurels. The Raider comes with a choice of walnut or an adjustable polymer stock. The barrel is fitted with an integrated Quantum moderator and the gun has a fully adjustable trigger. It also comes with two 14-shot magazines, making it superb value for money. Definitely worthy of making the most powerful air rifle list.
The Germans know about build quality and engineering and this has filtered into their airguns. Weihrauch’s HW110 has a side-lever cocking action, which prevents double loading. Its 10-shot action allows for a shallower action, which in turn gives the gun superb handling. ‘K’ is short for ‘karbine’, which means a short rifle, and this combined with its modest weight make it great for use in the field. (Read this review of the Weihrauch HW110 STK.)
Spring-powered air rifles
Probably one of the most beautiful and refined spring-powered airguns on the market, the Pro Sport hides its cocking lever in the forend of the stock and uses synthetic bearing to make an ultra smooth action. It has a two-stage CD trigger system, which makes it deadly accurate and is great for pest control.
Webley & Scott Stingray Quantum
The Quantum break-barrel has an oversleeved barrel that incorporates a clever moderator system, which removes excess air from the barrel, which reduces the ‘crack’ without a loss of power. The remaining chambers in the moderator incorporate baffles that absorb any remaining pressure build up and sound. This is a full-on hunting air rifle with match accuracy and reliability.
This is a recent version of the ever-popular Weihrauch springer. It is superbly engineered and an underlever cocking system means ensures accuracy. It has a two-stage match trigger and has a high stock comb for use with a scope. There is also a choice of stocks from wood to laminate.