Best Air Rifle for Squirrels and Small Game for the money

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squirrel hunting

While cute and adorable most of the time, squirrels, rats, and other rodents can often become serious pest control problems for those of us that maintain vegetable crop, or fruit in our farms and backyards.

As someone with extensive experience with pest control in an urban area(More specifically ground squirrels and rats), I spent lots of time and dropped valuable money on finding an air gun solution to this problem.

I’ve curated the available options in the market into five airguns, and have included specific details about each one below! I hope it can help you pull the trigger on your purchase(Pun intended).

What to look for in a quality air rifle for hunting squirrels and small game

Caliber size

Let’s get the most important question out of the way.
Which caliber should you go with? .177 or .22? The answer is either one should work, but with important caveats.

You have to ask yourself these two important follow-up questions as well :

What regulations should I consider?

For example, there are different air rifle energy legal limits depending on whether you’re in the UK, or in the US(Where most our readers are from). Please be sure to do your due diligence and check with local and state regulations before making a decision. Being a responsible firearms hobbyist is the first and most important quality we support before any of the product reviews and recommendations we make.

What distance will I be shooting from? What targets will I be shooting at?


Before anything else, here’s the #1 rule of hunting we all believe at TrendyTactical, regardless of whether we’re killing pests, or hunting bigger game : Do it instantly and humanely. 

From close range, or up to ~50 yards, .177 will do just fine as long as you’re an accurate shooter, and if you are capable of hitting consistent headshots. If you only have to deal with small pests(squirrels specifically) from close range(~30 yards out), .177 will do fine as well. The plus side of choosing a .177 is that pellets are probably cheaper and easier to find.

I have had friends and acquaintances complain in the past about squirrels not dying instantly with a .177, but from what I’ve observed it was mainly an accuracy problem.

I personally prefer, and recommend a .22 caliber – It’s a more humane round for squirrels and small game, it’s much more energy efficient, the pellets buck the wind better and for the same power plant they maintain a lot more down range energy. Also, should the need arise for bigger game other than squirrels, you’ll be all set.

Noise Level

A lot of our readers will be using the rifle in urban areas, or around neighbors. We advise everyone to keep a transparent communication channel with your neighbors at all times – let them know what kind of rifle you’ll be using, what time, and for what use. Don’t be surprised if some of them ask you to help out with their pest control problems as well! As such, noise level of the rifle is extremely important for community-related reasons.

Air Rifle Type

For a lot of people wanting to buy a rifle for squirrels and small game, it might be their first air rifle. It’s important to consider the type of air rifles – break barrel, CO2, or even PCP. We won’t get into details about the pros and cons of each, but be sure to consider the type that fits your needs best before making the purchase.

With that said, here are the five best air rifles for squirrel hunting all around the $200 budget :

Our top 5 Air Rifles for Squirrel Hunting Compared

ProductsAir Rifle TypeWeightStock MaterialCaliber OptionsNoise LevelLatest Price
Daisy Powerline 880
Break Barrel3.10lbsWood.177 onlyVery QuietCheck Price
Gamo Varmint Air Rifle
Break Barrel5.47lbsSynthetic.177 onlyLoudCheck Price
Hatsan 95
Break Barrel8lbsWooden.177, .22, .25

Loud

Check Price
Gamo Swarm Maxxim
Break Barrel6.8lbsSynthetic.177, .22

Loud

Check Price
Benjamin Maximus
PCP5.7lbsSynthetic.177

Very Quiet

Check Price
Air Rifle Type
Break Barrel
 
Weight
3.10lbs
 
Stock Material
Wood
 
Caliber Options
.177 only
 
Noise Level
Very Quiet
 
Latest Price
 
Air Rifle Type
Break Barrel
 
Weight
5.47lbs
 
Stock Material
Synthetic
 
Caliber Options
.177 only
 
Noise Level
Loud
 
Latest Price
 
Products
 
Air Rifle Type
Break Barrel
 
Weight
8lbs
 
Stock Material
Wooden
 
Caliber Options
.177, .22, .25
 
Noise Level

Loud

 
Latest Price
 
Air Rifle Type
Break Barrel
 
Weight
6.8lbs
 
Stock Material
Synthetic
 
Caliber Options
.177, .22
 
Noise Level

Loud

 
Latest Price
 
Air Rifle Type
PCP
 
Weight
5.7lbs
 
Stock Material
Synthetic
 
Caliber Options
.177
 
Noise Level

Very Quiet

 
Latest Price
 

Our 5 Best Picks

#1. Daisy Powerline 880

The Daisy 880 at around $50 is the cheapest, easiest option for beginners who want a quick solution without the hassle. It’s also been around for decades – I actually had one growing up as a teenager.

Ideal for people who want a close-range solution in their backyards(For around the 10 yard distance, it’s really a fantastic buy).

It’s extremely light at around 3lbs, and one that females, kids and the elderly can easily load and pump. Additionally, it’s also extremely quiet and passes the urban neighborhood test(It can be used in an urban neighborhood without alarming the neighbors).

People have often asked whether they can also use BB’s instead of pellets with the Daisy 880 – Please don’t since it won’t be accurate at all(You shouldn’t be using BB’s for pest control anyway).

The downside is that you get what you pay for. It feels extremely cheap when you hold it(It almost feels like a toy gun) and try to pump it. If you’re used to pumping a Crossman, expect for the Daisy 880 to feel broken because the pump stroke doesn’t get any harder.

The trigger is easy to pull, the bolt is easy to cycle as well. Keep in mind that the first few pumps are very easy, and the pumps afterwards require exponentially more force(Still very doable). Don’t pump it more than 10 times!(Confirmed after our testing).

This is simply the best gun for absolute beginners who are new to airguns, and want a low-stake solution to test in their backyard.

What’s the best scope for the Daisy 880?

As with most guns in the sub-200 price range, the scope that comes with the Daisy 880 is absolute garbage in my opinion. The railing on this gun will fit most standard scopes.

With that said, three recommendations from personal experience :  If you’re a beginner, try to substitute it with a Daisy 4×15 scope. Or, if you want a little bit more accuracy, the Winchester Daisy scope will work great with it too. My favorite suggestion would be the UTG Clamp on Bipod – it offers an amazing accuracy for its price range.

Pros
  • Extremely cheap
  • Light and easy to use – perfect for females, elderly and young shooters
  • Very quiet
  • Best beginner solution
Cons
  • Cheap stock
  • Not great for medium to long range shooting(Anywhere longer than 20 yards)
  • Only available in .177, won’t do much for pests and game other than squirrels

#2. Gamo Varmint Air Rifle

The Gamo Varmint Air Rifle is another ‘classic’ in the air rifle for pest control collection. Available only in the .177, it’s very much affordable at under 100 bucks. It’s quite big, and can feel bulky at first. Lots of satisfied customers handled squirrels, possum and raccoons easily with this gun for many years.

It has great power, and is very accurate for up to 30 yards out(If you have some experience shooting), and Amazon offers a great package with pellets included.

The big issue is that I found it to be extremely loud, especially at first. There’s absolutely no way you’d be able to shoot it in an urban neighborhood without first letting your neighbors know.

A couple crucial nuggets of knowledge to ensure you don’t waste your money and time if you decide to buy :

1. Artillery Hold will save you. The Gamo Varmint has a LOT of nasty double recoil outside of the box. At first, I struggled to get consistent groupings with it but after some digging I found out that to shoot this properly an Artillery Hold is crucial. If you don’t know what an Artillery Hold is, watch the best video explanation on it below :

2. The scope, and the pellets. While some customers said the scope is fine, I found it to be way too blurry for my taste. Get the Hammers Scope with one piece mount. The one piece scope mount is key! For the pellets, you will need to spend an afternoon or two plinking and patterning and finding which round your rig likes best! So I recommend getting the H&N Hunting Assorted Grains Sampler – it’ll give you the variety of pellets you need to experiment. I personally found a heavier grain pellet to increase the stopping power.

I’ve personally used the gun to kill tree rats for a number of years with a lot of success.

Pros
  • Affordable at around 100 bucks!
  • Very powerful
  • Accurate up to 30~35 yards out
Cons
  • Can feel bulky, and is heavy – hard to break initially for loading
  • Included scope can be hit or miss
  • Too loud for residential use

#3. Hatsan 95

If you’re looking for our favorite, this is it.

At around 150 bucks, the Hatsan 95 is still affordable, and in my opinion is leagues better than the Gamo Silent Whisper, a popular choice in a similar price range.

From my experience, using the Hatsan 95 I was able to eliminate a healthy backyard squirrel population in less than 2 tweeks in my spare time, using no poisons, or traps. My friend, who was a novice shooter at the time, missed once out of about 25 shots he took and it was a clean miss.

Simply put, the Hatsan 95 using the .22 caliber is the best springer air gun for hunting squirrels and small game, all while doing it with humane shots.
It has a fantastic walnut wooden stock with clear attention to detail in the finish, great iron sights and my favorite part, the trigger has a clean, clean break. It has the cleanest break among any other rifle in this price range, period.

The accuracy is fantastic, even right out of the box. Minimum 800 fps(TRUE numbers in this case, NOT the hyper-inflated fps numbers usually given by manufacturers – we’ll post a detailed article on this later).

Do NOT get it in the .177 as I do think the gun is too powerful for it. At 8lbs it is on the heavier side, but it feels very well-balanced.

Be sure to tighten ALL the screws on the gun(Including the two screws holding the scope stop) before shooting it. They have a tendency to loosen up and fall off after extensive use from my experience.

I would pick this this over the Gamo Whisper any day of the week. The Gamo Whisper is inconsistent, and despite its name, isn’t much of a ‘Whisper’ and too loud for residential, urban use.

The included scope isn’t great, but it does the job up to 20 yards. so you’ll have to do some scope finding there(Seeing a pattern here? Scopes in guns at this price range are mostly useless)

This isn’t the quietest gun, by the way. It IS loud enough for neighbors to complain and doesn’t pass the urban test. But we have found that it gets significantly quieter over time.

Pros
  • Beautiful construction and feel
  • Extremely accurate and powerful
  • TRUE 800fps
  • Fantastic balance, clean break
  • High-quality wooden stock and finish
  • Fully adjustable trigger out of the box
Cons
  • Too loud for residential / urban use
  • Heavy, not for females or young users
  • Included scope isn’t great

#4. Gamo Swarm Maxxim

The Gamo Swarm Maxxim is another good choice for those looking for a quality option in the 150~200 budget.

What’s great about the Swarm Maxxim is that it’s a 10-shot magazine, meaning it’s just so damn fun to shoot! No need to reload every time. Some pellets might fall out or get stuck between the break, so be careful if you decide to buy.

The second is that it’s VERY accurate for a break barrel, with decent noise level(It’s no louder than any other Gamo’s out there).

It’s accurate even up to around 60 ~ 70 yards in my experience, especially with GREAT accuracy within 25 yards.

Surprise surprise! The included scope isn’t all that bad, it’s actually usable. The scope will seem pretty bad initially out of the box and can take a few attempts to dial it in. But there’s a very detailed, easy to read owner’s manual included.

Pros
  • Great accuracy up to 60~70 yards
  • Light weight and well-balanced
  • 10-round magazine
  • Most fun to shoot break barrel in our opinion
Cons
  • Can be tough to break
  • Relatively loud, does not pass the urban / neighborhood test fully
  • Scope is only decent up to 20 yards

#5. Benjamin Maximus

For our final air rifle recommendation, we actually included a PCP in the list.

If a quiet rifle is your #1 concern, and you can afford to drop a bit of $, go with the PCP. PCPs are significantly quieter than springers.

The Benjamin Maximus is one of our favorite PCPs, and definitely the PCP I recommend most to first-time PCP shooters. It’s simply the best intro to PCP because of the combination of price, ease of use, and accuracy.

It’s very light, easy to carry around, and easy to load as well. Furthermore, Crossman is known in the industry for its stellar customer service. Any reported leak, and they’ll send over a replacement. Their support is simply outstanding.

The accuracy has been fantastic in my experience, headshots for small game were no problem at all.

Setup-wise, I recommend the Hatsan Optima 3-9×40 scope to pair with it, and any of the Benjamin Hollow Pellets will do the job(They are also very affordable).

Pros
  • One of the best intro PCP guns
  • Crossman offers amazing customer service
  • Light and easy to carry
  • Most fun to shoot break barrel in our opinion
Cons
  • No major cons we can think of!

Final Verdict

We’ve reviewed five great choices for air rifles if you’re looking to hunt squirrels and small game. They’re all under or around 200, so depending on your budget, what kind of pests or game you’re dealing with, we’re confident you’ll be able to make an informed decision after reading this article.

Be responsible, have fun, and good luck!

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