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What You Need to Know About Airgun Hunting

Itís true: not all airguns are created equal. Some airguns are absolutely useless for hunting, while others are extremely accurate and powerful enough to take down large game. Most people probably wonít use an airgun for trophy hunting Ė but you can use one for turkeys, deer and other game.

Hunting with Airguns: Is it Humane?

Other than the obvious arguments for and against hunting, you canít argue with the fact that airguns designed to kill small game are humane. Airguns are usually best for shooting animals such as squirrels, rabbits and birds, and because the targets are very small, the area you must hit to ensure a humane kill gives you more play than it would with larger game.

Aside from the humane killing aspect, you also have to consider the likelihood of your game escaping after you shoot it. For most people, including those who are an extremely accurate shot, airguns are only suitable for small game.

Small game usually includes:

  • Rabbits
  • Squirrels
  • Birds
  • Woodchucks
  • Raccoons
  • Opossums

Itís important that you choose your hunting airgun based on the type of animal youíll be shooting. A gray squirrel, for example, can absorb more of a hit than a bird can absorb.

Your Airgunís Power and Hunting

Itís essential to choose an airgun thatís powerful enough to deliver a kill shot when youíre using it to hunt. Velocity without power behind it doesnít mean much when youíre hunting with an airgun, so youíll need to choose a weapon with sufficient muzzle energy.

While it is possible to kill small game with very little power, accuracy matters. The lower the power, the more accurate your shot needs to be. Beginners and intermediate shooters will be better off choosing a more powerful weapon for hunting.

Experts recommend that you choose a hunting airgun that delivers at least 12 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. That translates to a .177-caliber airgun shooting a 7.9-grain lead pellet at 827 feet per seconds from the muzzle. If youíre shooting a .22-caliber airgun, you need one that can fire a 14.3-grain pellet at 615 feet per second at the muzzle. Naturally, other pellet weights produce different amounts of energy, and lower-powered airguns have limited effective ranges.

Should You Hunt with an Air Pistol?

Most people donít believe you should hunt with an air pistol. Because the lower limit for hunting is 12 foot-pounds, and most air pistols deliver less than 12 foot-pounds, itís usually not a good idea to use them for hunting.

Airgun Hunting and Caliber

The four most common airgun calibers Ė .177, .20, .22 and .25 Ė are important considerations when youíre hunting small game.

The smallest caliber, .177, can shoot right through game without hitting vital kill areas. You need to be an incredibly accurate shot if you attempt to hunt small game with a .177-caliber round.

The most successful calibers for hunting are generally .20 and .22. They have a broader impact than smaller ammunition does, and there are a wide variety of pellets available at low cost.

While a .25-caliber shot will also be extremely effective for hunting small game, giving the hunter even more room for error, the fact remains that ammo of this caliber isnít cost-effective for many people.

Hunting with Airguns: Put Safety First

As with any shooting sport, itís important that the person hunting small game is well trained in safety and knows how to operate his or her airgun properly. Itís also important to wear the right protective gear, including ear protection.