What is an air rifle? All Basic Discussion That You Need to Know

An air rifle or air-gun is a sort of weapon that dispatches projectiles pneumatically with compressed air or other gases. These air or gases are pressurized precisely without including any chemical reactions, as opposed to a firearm. This rifle can generate propulsive energy by breaking molecular bonds.

The very first air rifle “Girandoni air rifle” was made in the 1779. From that time, this rifle has taken a considerable place in the market. Apart from that, from hunting to warfare, the air rifle had been used to a large extent.

Before starting of the civilization, people hunt with their own made weapons. From that, they got the idea of the air rifle for self-defense, hunting, shooting, etc.

There are different types of air rifles with different calibers, and uses of them are also different from one another.


Air Guns History

Air Guns are always considered as a symbol of pride and power. From the starting of civilization, people love to get these two for themselves.

The history of the air gun is not a recent one. Rather it is a story that goes back many centuries. We need to go back several millennia to find the origins of the use of technology.

Air guns are mainly representing the oldest pneumatic technology. The blowpipe has been considered as the first-ever air gun. To shoot a projectile, it uses the force of the air. By using the same premise, all the subsequent air rifle were developed on that early time.

If you are looking for the origin of the first air rifle, you’ll need to be travel back to the 15th centuries. Though you’ll not get any physical appearance of the rifle, due to the materials of that ancient time wasn’t that much durable. So for that, the archaeologists were failed to discover many ancient air rifles over the years.

The oldest surviving air rifle that is based on spring-piston or known as a piston is stored in “Livrustkammaren Museum” in Stockholm as a token of an early form of an air rifle.

After that, from the 17th to 19th century, the uses of Pre-compressed air rifle (PCP) has been spread widely for its effectiveness. Also, the calibers .30-.51 were used for hunting. Those rifles were extremely powerful and effective also to kill a deer or wild boar with a single shot. In warfare also the PCP air rifle was used. At that time, guns were used for showing the aristocracy as these were expensive enough.

There is a definite advantage of the compressed air rifle over the uses of traditional air rifles.

At first, it can offer advantages over their black powder counterparts. It can be used in extreme weather conditions where traditional rifles work well.

Then if you look over it, you can find that it is quiet enough and not generate white smoke or flash when fired.

Also, the speed and consistency of the rifle are impressive too. Whereas the traditional guns took a long period to prepare for shooting, but the 18th centuries rifles were fast to shoot. In 1779, Austria equipped with .44 caliber air rifle that was capable of firing 20 round lead balls per minute with the 1000 feet per second approaching velocity. Also, the most recognized Girandoni rifle of the 18th century could fire up to 20 shots a minute.

With having some advantages, these air rifles also come with some disadvantages too, which is mainly focused on the Second World War. To replace this, Germany started manufacturing many air rifles. These are also used for hunting, plinking, pest removing, etc.

And from that, the adult air rifle market has boomed. The air rifle company start focusing on their rifle’s accuracy, velocity, and consistency to make it more powerful. Also by the technological advances opened the door for a whole new generation to use the air rifle for their recreational support like-small game hunting, plinking, etc.


How does an air rifle work?

Air rifles are not a toy at all. It is a weapon that is used for self-protection to recreational element. As there are different types of air rifles, the working procedures are also different.

The air pressure or the compressed air drives the projectile (BB, pellet) up the barrel of an air rifle. To shoot the projectile a trigger releases the hammer strike and opens a metering valve to release the compressed gas.

BB weapons utilize unrifled barrels to shoot copper-plated steel BBs. Rifled barrel air guns are progressively more accurate and shoot pellets and most of them are made from lead.

Most of the rifles have an automatic locking safety that engages automatically when the gun is cocked to ensure the safety of the users.

Again, for all most, every air gun models have the trigger pull that is adjusted in the factory. But the experienced shooters need the adjustment feature. The two-stage trigger has that adjusting screw for them.

By pulling down on the end of the barrel in a single action, you can cock the air rifle in a safe direction. And by inserting a pellet into the breech, you are ready for your shooting. But be careful about choosing the right pellets for your air gun.


What are the different uses of air rifles?

The air rifles can be used for several purposes like:


Plinking is the most common hobby for many shooting enthusiasts all over the world. It is the informal way of practicing target shooting to emphasis on fun. This recreational air rifle shooting is mostly done in the backyard and on metal targets.

Long-range Shooting

For long-range shooting heavier calibers (.25, .30, .50) air rifles are used mostly. This big bore air gun is very famous among the athletes or professional shooters to bring excitement to the events.

Sports Shooting

In many sports events like- Olympic events use very accurate and costly air guns for targeting. These rifles are built for giving extra penetration and accuracy to achieve the target of the games.


Air guns are also used in an initial level of training at several defenses, security and other departments for giving the basic knowledge of the shooting. This guns are also very cheap and have less recoil management aids for improving aims and other techniques.

Veterinary Use

To give proper vaccinations to the zoo animals and other wildlife parks animals compressed air guns are also used. Thru dart type projectiles this vaccination is delivered to the animals.

Pest Elimination

In several parts of the world, air guns are proven as the best pest elimination tools. If you feel irritated for rats or other types of vermin, then air guns can give you a solution. With a short-range great accurate gun can make you rid of this problem with a single shot.


In many construction industries to drive nails and such variants of air, guns are also used. These guns are known as Nail Guns. These guys are expert in increasing speed, but the safety should be taken properly.


For having less noise, no smoke emission and faster to load features make it also user-friendly in military or defense. These guns are best to hide their position for their no smoke emission.


Basic Types

There are four main types of air rifles. Among these four, three are used some form of a compressed air tank and the other is different from the three. The four types of air rifles are-

  1. Pneumatic air rifle
  2. Spring-piston air rifle
  3. Gas Piston air rifle
  4. CO2 air rifle


Pneumatic air rifle:

Pneumatic air rifle drives the shots by using the pneumatic potential energy within compressed air. And this compressed air is pressurized beforehand and put away inside the gun and after that discharged through valves during shooting.

Depending on the designs there are mainly three types of pneumatic air rifles-

  1. Single-stroke air rifle
  2. Multi stroke air rifle
  3. Pre-charged Pneumatic air rifle


Single-stroke pneumatic air rifle

You can probably guess from the name that this rifle requires just one pump to compress the air for shooting. It is low fueled, yet unimaginably exact, which is the reason it’s utilized in 10-meter rivalries.

Multi stroke or multi-pump pneumatic air rifle

Multi stroke air rifles are the most common pneumatic air rifle. For the multi-stroke air rifle, you need to pump a lever several times to increase the pressure to get the air to be compressed. Then at the point when the trigger is pulled, a hammer spring pushes the hammer into the valve which discharges the stored air and drives the pellet out of your air gun.

Pre-charged pneumatic air rifle

The pre-charged pneumatic air rifle is mostly known as PCP air rifle. It is considered as the king in the air rifles field. These air rifles are powered via a compressed air cylinder that is built into the action of the rifle. From 10-meter rivalry air guns to extensive bore chasing PCP air rifles, pre-charged pneumatics are reforming the air-rifles business.


Spring-piston air rifle

Spring-piston air rifle is the most traditional air rifle and the mechanism used in this rifle is probably the simplest one. In the spring-piston air rifle, there is a cylinder and a coiled spring inside the chamber. When you cock the gun, the spring is packed. Then when you pull the trigger, you make the spring decompressed so it makes the cylinder push ahead.

Spring weapons are normally cocked by one of the following systems:

Break-barrel — it works as a break activity gun, the barrel is pivoted at the intersection with the recipient and can be flexed downwards to uncover the breach and furthermore fill in as a cocking lever itself. I’ve listed top rated break barrel air rifles in a different post. You can check it out.

Fixed-barrel —the barrel of the rifle is fixed to the recipient, and the cocking is finished with an extra cocking lever

Underlever —the cocking lever of the underlever is situated underneath the barrel and is flexed downwards during positioning

Sidelever — in the sidelever, the cocking lever is situated to the side of the recipient and is flexed sideways during positioning and this is the mechanism of the side lever air rifle.

Overlever — in the Overlever the cocking lever is situated over the barrel and is flexed upwards during positioning, found in some air guns are known as over lever

Mechanized positioning controlled by a battery-powered battery (rare)


Gas Piston air rifle

A gas piston air rifle works similarly as the spring-piston air rifle does. Because both types are cocked and shot in the same procedure but the gas piston air rifle has a gas-filled cylinder instead of a coiled spring.

CO2 air rifle

If you want to know the name of a unique gun then surely CO2 air rifle is a name. The working procedure of CO2 is the same as how PCP airgun works. It uses the carbon dioxide cartridges (CO2) as the power source rather than the pressurized gas. When you pull the trigger, the compacted CO2 is discharged and it causes the pellet to push ahead inside the barrel.


Types Of ammunition

Mainly there are a very few options for the source of ammunition available for the air rifle-

  • Pellet
  • Ball Bearing (BB)
  • Others



Pellet is the most popular type of ammunition for any air rifle and is used mostly. These air gun pellets come in different shapes, designs, and materials. Though there are several different materials from which the airgun pellets are made of but the most used materials are lead, lead-based alloy, tin, plastic, copper, etc. These pellets are used several different calibers to shoot. Read full article about air rifle pallets.

There are three types of air gun pellets-

  1. Diabolo Pellets
  2. Slug Pellet
  3. Modified bullet Pellets


Diabolo Pellets

Diabolo pellets are the most widely used pellets nowadays. It is also known as the wasp waist or waisted pellets. Almost all of the air pellets are categorized on this type. It has a muzzle velocity of 240m/s.

The pellets that are categorized in this type are-

Wadcutter Pellets: Wadcutter Pellet is a common and the most standard choice for short-range target shooting. This pellet can be used in self-defense too.

Pointed Pellets: Pointed pellets are designed for best penetration. They have sharp, pointed heads.

Domed Pellets: The domed pellet is well known for its versatile quality. It is ideal for powerful air gun. It has a heavy, round head and creates more take-down power at long distance

Hollowpoint Pellets: It has an extreme effect and is best for short-range target shooting or hunting or pest control services.

Round lead ball Pellets: This pellet has the aerodynamic design and is best for all-around shooting and also hard-hitting. This pellet is also secure to use in many air guns.

High-Velocity Pellets: This pellet is designed for the maximum speed with different shapes. Though it is also lightweight as materials are not coming from lead which is eco-friendly too and also have the ability to travel fast.

Hybrid Pellets: The hybrid pellet is also known as a mixture or variation pellets. They can give high penetration.


Slug Pellet

This is new addition pellets that have arrived in the market. They are commonly found in higher-velocity air rifles.


Modified bullet Pellets

Modified bullet Pellets are mainly for professional shooters. It is more than a pellet. It can be said an air bullet.


Ball Bearing (BB):

After the pellet, the ball bearing as BB is used to be the most popular ammunition type. The materials they used to make are lead or steel. For short distance shooting or for fun shoot they are best. Mainly .177 caliber is used in this BB and they can deliver a great accuracy as well.



Some other types of ammunition are mostly known as projectiles. But they are not that much popular and not standard also.


Discussion about Calibers

There are four major calibers for airgun pellets that are used worldwide for shooting, hunting, plinking or pest removing. The weights and sizes of the pellets create a direct impact on its velocity as well as accuracy.

The most used calibers are-

.177 Caliber (4.5 mm):

This caliber is the most commonly used pellet. It has a great round for casual shooting. .177 pellets are very popular, cheap and also very light in weight and can provide a higher velocity to achieve the same muzzle energy. For target shooting and small game hunting, this pellet is the first choice for many.

.22 Caliber (5.5 mm):

.22 is heavier than, 177 and has more knockdown power to hit the target with a perfect performance. It can deliver 20% more power than .177 cal and has the more slightly better stopping power. So for that, it has the hunting supremacy for field hunters and pest eliminators. It carries a lot more energy in target and can impact great when it hits.

But also some other calibers are used hardly-

.20 Caliber (5 mm):

 Once it was used widely but it is not popular nowadays.

.25 Caliber (6.35 mm):

.25 is heavier than .22 and has less velocity. As .22 is suitable for hunting the small critters just in one clean shot whether larger critters like- raccoons, the coyote can be killed by this .25. This caliber is used for a long time and is known as the largest calibers for air guns.

.30 Caliber (7.62 mm):

This is a large round caliber and mainly used in the PCP air guns.

.357 Caliber (9.07 mm):

The .357 is a caliber frequently connected with Magnum revolvers. It can give higher velocity with excellent penetration properties.


Is an Air Rifle Dangerous?

An air rifle can be dangerous as can make serious injury to death if it is misused. Also without adult supervision, it can be deadly too.

Air rifles are an important cause of serious eye injuries. It can also make some fatal injuries to children. Using extra force in air rifle can be risky. Moreover, the pellet of rifle can be a reason for infection as it contains the lead toxin.

Also for doing crimes like robbery, threatening or human killing can be also done through this. According to a survey of the United States, it is clear that 40% of offensive crimes have been done through this rifle.

That is why there is an air gun law. Though the law is varied from country to country or states to states. In some of the states of the United States, 16 is the perfect age for using air rifle whereas some other states are not allowed to use air gun below age 21.


What Can You Hunt With Air Rifles?

If you are bored with the backyard pests like- rats, rabbits then surely try to apply air rifle for controlling these. An air rifle can hunt small animals like deer, squirrels, etc. and it is legal too.

By using .177 and .22 caliber you can hunt fairly decent sized wild animals. But you need to follow the legal hunting procedure for it.

Once my friend killed a German shepherd with one shot to protect his chickens. Though some of his neighbors claimed him that it was beyond law, soon he let everyone knew that it was legal.


Some well-known Brands of Air Rifles

With the passages of time air rifles have gained a huge market worldwide. The manufacturer lists are also big. The well-known companies are doing well and upgrading their products with modern technology and materials regularly.

Gamo Air Rifles:

Gamo is a Spanish manufacturer of air pistols and air rifles. It is the name of love and trust. Gamo was established in the late 1880s in Barcelona, Spain. The organization was established in 1959, as El Gamo, and air gun generation previously began in 1961. Today Gamo items incorporate air rifles, air guns, ammo, and optics. They produce air guns proposed for the mass market.

Their best manufacturing items are- Gamo Whisper Silent Cat, Gamo Swarm MaxximGamo Hornet, Gamo TC45, and Gamo Urban, etc.

Crosman and Benjamin Air Rifles:

Crosman and Benjamin are two of the most noticeable name all around the rifle industry. But numerous devotees don’t understand that these two brands are both a piece of the Crosman Corporation family. Crosman Corporation is an American company which is also fashioner, producer and provider of shooting sports items. It was founded in 1923 in Rochester, New York.

The two brands offer a wide scope of air rifles, yet some are more mainstream than others. Their best manufacturing air rifles are- Benjamin Marauder, Benjamin Wildfire, Crosman 760B Pump master, Crosman Silver for NP, Benjamin Maximus Hunter, etc.

RWS Air Rifles:

RWS is a standout amongst the most regarded and believed names noticeable all around the rifle industry. Its trademark dates right back to the 1800s where it was initially known as Rheinisch-Westfalischen Sprengstoff. RWS is a name that is trusted by seekers, hunters, yet Olympic target shooters also.

The bestselling products of RWS air rifles are- RWS Pro 34P Compact, Diana RWS, RWS 350 Magnum, RWS Model 34P, etc.

Ruger Air Rifles:

If you want an option for your shooting needs that can offer years of experience and manufacturing the best design Ruger air rifles are the perfect match for the shooters.

This Sturm, Ruger Company is an American manufacturing company and was founded in 1949. But widely it is known as Ruger.

Their well-known products are- American Rifle, Rugger Precision Rifle, Ruger Precision Rimfire, SR-22, Ruger Mini-30 and many more.

More Brands of Air Rifles:

  • Air Force Air Rifles
  • Air Arms Air Rifles
  • Sig Sauer Red Dot Air Rifles
  • Remington Air Rifles
  • Beeman Air Rifles
  • The Hatsan Air Rifles
  • Umarex Steel Storm Air Rifles
  • Sam Yang Air Rifles
  • Hammerli Air Rifles
  • Diana Air Rifles
  • Daisy Air Rifles
  • Webly & Scott Air Rifles
  • Winchester Air Rifles
Lawrence C. Peterson

Hello, I'm Lawrence. I'm a passionate hunter as well as a blogger. I am 36 years old and have been into hunting for more than 12 years. It's not my profession, it's my hobby and I like adventures so hunting is really a adventurous activity.

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