What's the advice?
Q: Ed, I’ve noticed in previous articles that you sometimes shoot rabbits with an air rifle. What’s your preferred pellet calibre for rabbits and why?
A: Ed says: I’ve never owned an airgun other than in the calibre of .22, so I can say with confidence a .22. Most of the folk I shoot with use a .22 calibre airgun as well, though they have probably used all sorts.
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, as well as a few other species along the way.
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.
At the end of the day, if you have a decent set-up and scope, which is backed up by skill and accuracy, you should find success with most forms of shooting.
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Q: How close do I need to be to kill a rabbit with a .22 air rifle?
A: If you are an accurate shot and able to consistently hit a rabbit in the head, then a standard air rifle delivering up to 12ft/lbs is more than capable of killing cleanly at 40-50 yards.
You can stretch this distance if the rifle is rated above the 12ft/lb limit, but it will then have to be held on a firearm certificate.
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.