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What can you shoot with an air rifle? This is one of the first questions people ask when they consider buying an air gun. Air guns don’t pack as much power as a fire-powered rifle, but they’re still powerful enough to hunt pests and small game humanely. They’re ideal for plinking too. And with certain high caliber air rifles (and the right skill level), you can humanely track down larger game.


Air rifles are commonly used for pest control. What’s classified as a pest? That depends. A pest may be a critter that’s invaded your home or yard. Or, it may be the greater category of animals that society considers a pest. Rats are the perfect example of a pest, but some people might consider squirrels to be pests too.

You’ll find different caliber air rifles that can take on different sized pests from small all the way up to large.

  • Small pests might include chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits.
  • Medium pests might include woodchucks or raccoons.
  • Large pests might include javelin, boar, coyote or small deer.

What you can and can’t shoot will depend on your state laws here. You might think that critter on your roof is a pest, but that species may be protected by state laws. So, before you start shooting any pests, make sure it’s legal first.

Small Game

Air rifles can be used to humanely track down small game, like gray squirrel and cottontail rabbit. The small game category is pretty broad. Some people consider raccoons and woodchucks a part of the small game category, while others stick to rabbits and squirrels. Again, the most important thing is to make sure that your state and local laws allow you to hunt that particular type of game. And of course, don’t try to take down large quarry with a typical air gun. It will only anger the animal or injure it.


Air rifles are excellent for target shooting, especially single-stroke pneumatic rifles. These are commonly used in 10-meter competitions. While single-stroke pneumatics are great for plinking, any type of air rifle is suitable for this purpose.

The great thing about air rifles is that, in most cases, you can shoot targets on your own private property. There’s no need to drive out to a range every time you want to practice.

Larger Game (In Some Circumstances)

Hunting larger animals with an air rifle is not recommended in most circumstances. The only exception is if you have a high caliber air rifle and the skills to track down your quarry humanely.

In order to shoot larger game, your rifle needs to meet the following criteria:

  • The caliber needs to be large enough to take down your target in a single shot.
  • The rifle’s velocity and muzzle energy need to be powerful enough to reach a long-distance target.
  • You’ll be hunting larger game at a much greater distance. This means that your rifle will need to be able to hit a one-inch circle at the range you’ll be shooting from.