What is The Best Air Rifle Under $200?
When you go shopping, you need to look out for essential features like mobility, accuracy, size, and semi-automatic capability. For less than $200, you can still get yourself a sturdy, durable, and accurate rifle from the most trusted brands in the industry. But the process is easier said than done.
Crosman Nitro Venom (.22)
Gamo Whisper Silent Cat
Optimus Air Rifle With Scope (.22)
Benjamin 392 (.22)
Crosman MTR77 Tactical
Hatsan 95 (.22)
Ruger Air Magnum Combo (.22)
Benjamin Titan GP Nitro Piston (.22)
How to Shop For the Best Rifle Under $200
I am an avid air gun user, but I occasionally get sucked into the hype and inflated specs from manufacturers who over promise and under deliver. The reality is that ‘cheap’ rifles have flooded the market in droves and you need to take extra care when your budget is under $200.
First of all, what is the purpose of your gu?. Do you want to hunt small game, control pests, or plink pop cans in your backyard? Once you determine the use, you will then decide how it will be powered.
There are various firing mechanisms. Let’s look at the most common ones.
I. Pneumatic (Pump)
They rely on compressed air for power. We have the pump pneumatic and the pre-charged pneumatic.
A. Pump Pneumatic
You can either have the multi-stroke (pump-up/variable pump) or the single-stroke.
- Multi-Stroke/Variable pump – To get air compressed in this gun, you need to stroke a lever (between two and eight/ten strokes). Their reloading process is slow and requires a great deal of movement.
- Single-stroke – You only need one motion of the cocking lever to compress the air.
B. Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP)
They have pre-compressed air inside their built-in air chambers or air tanks. They are high powered since only a portion of air (that is inside the air reservoir) is released during firing.
II. SPRING POWERED (SPRINGERS’)
They also use compressed air, but they use a spring to compress the air, which in turn propels the ammo.
Spring guns are cocked in various ways: break-barrel, Underlever, side lever, or by motorized cocking.
However, most shooters cut their teeth with the break-barrel, which is cocked by holding the stock with one hand and ‘breaking’ the rifle in half at the breech – while supporting the barrel with the other.
- Break-Barrel Air Rifle
Break-barrel air rifles have a break feature that enables the shooter to swing down the barrel (‘breaking the barrel’) when cocking the spring. After this action, the barrel is then loaded with ammo and pulled back to its original position before aiming.
These guns provide outstanding power and accuracy when shot over long distances and are easy to handle.
A.Gas Spring/Gas Ram/ Gas Piston/ Gas Strut
They operate with the same mechanism as the spring powered rifle though they are powered by inert gas (such as nitrogen) instead of a mechanical coil spring. Inside, they have an enclosed piston pump with pressurized air that is sealed within the cylinder. When this gun is cocked, the gas (inside the cylinder) gets compressed further by the piston. When the trigger is pulled, this pressurized air expands back to its original state and pushes the piston forward. This forces air into the compression chamber and powers the pellet. They have less noise and are reliable if you need consistent power. They are excellent for beginners because they are easy to cock.
This is a recent innovation by Crosman. When this gun is cocked, the piston moves to the rear and compresses the nitrogen further. This air is held under pressure until the trigger is pulled. A Nitro Piston gun produces less noise, is more lasting, and can remain cocked for days. It also creates less recoil.
III. CO2 Powered
These rifles rely on CO2 for power though they are not popular. The gas is inactive and is considered safe while providing the capability to shoot semi-automatically. The liquefied C02 is usually stored in cartridges. These rifles can fire multiple shots and are simple to use.
After you have determined how your gun will be powered, its time to look at the specs:
i. Muzzle Velocity
High velocity does not always mean higher accuracy.
In fact, something I’ve learned over the years is that you should steer away from rifles that claim super-sonic FPS. Several gun manufacturers get into the consumer’s head with their “faster-gots-to-be-better” marketing while all they want to do is sell their “magnum springers.” Most accurate guns are tuned to shoot under 600FPS in .177. The reason is that higher speeds make the projectile unstable and reduce accuracy.
If you are shooting long range and you need accuracy, you will be tempted to pick a higher velocity rifle, but keep in mind that the projectile will need to be compatible with your gun.
Caliber is merely the inside diameter of the rifle or the width of the projectile (pellet) that a gun can shoot. Different calibers will give different velocities and trajectories.
Let’s discuss some of the most common air rifle calibers:
a.) .177 Caliber Air Rifles
The .177 air rifle is the most popular. First, it uses smaller and cheaper pellets that are readily available. Their ‘bullets’ are usually smaller and lighter, therefore, enabling .177 caliber air rifles to generate high velocity. They are accurate over longer distances because the high speed creates a flat trajectory. The .177 caliber air rifle is the least expensive to maintain.
b.) .20 Caliber Air Rifles
Most shooters consider it the best caliber for overall use because it falls somewhere between the .177 and .22. Since it uses larger projectiles, the .20 caliber can produce more knock down than the .177 and also a flatter trajectory compared to a .22.
c. ) .22 Caliber Air Rifles
It is considered the best air rifle for hunting small game. .22 uses larger pellets than .177 and .20 and can generate more knock down. It is likely to cause more damage compared to the lower caliber rifles. One major drawback is that the .22 has a shorter effective range.
d.) .25 Caliber Air Rifles
Out of the common calibers, this is the most powerful air rifle. It has the largest caliber of the four and can generate higher muzzle energy compared to its counterparts. This feature makes it ideal for hunting medium sized game like bobcats, coyotes, and raccoons.
A good number of air rifles will come with a scope, but they are usually average or slightly above average. I have learned to forgive manufacturers for their mediocre scopes because these optical components were made to be replaced anyway. But it still irks me that a manufacturer will give you all the desirable features yet install a sub-standard lens. If you can find an air rifle with a better scope, go for it!
iv. Air Rifle Brand
This is a hot topic, and there is plenty of ‘noise’ out there about the best brands. Personally, I have found the following brands to be trustworthy and reliable:
You may also consider other insignificant specs like the finish, trigger quality, and aesthetics. Personally, I love myself a cool looking tactical air rifle because I like to intimidate my opponents and to be given attention.
I was brought up in a hunting family, and I have used air rifles for the longest time. Based on the number of air rifles I have handled, I conducted a comprehensive analysis of some of the top performing air rifles on the market. This included going through videos, interactive comparison charts, and reviews.
These were my eight top picks under $200:
1.Crosman Nitro Venom (.22)
- Excellent for pest control and small game
- CenterPoint 3-9x32mm scope
- Break Barrel
- Wide forearm and Fluted muzzle brake to improve accuracy
- Powered by Nitro Piston
- .22 Caliber
- Barrel made of steel while the ambidextrous stock is hardwood
This rifle is stealth, power, and stability all in one. And I am saying this because I field stripped it to check every part. The wooden stock looks amazing, and the rifle has a remarkable design. Its weight was also decent; maybe because I am 180lbs.
It was a bit noisy but quieter than a spring piston. The scope gets the job done, and the manufacturer has done a great job on the scope mounting rail. I used it for target shooting at 35 yards, and with the power, I doubt a squirrel can stand a chance with this baby.
I found it easy to cock, and it was overall a pleasure to shoot.
- Dimensions: 45.8 x 6.8 x 2.4 inches (L x W X H)
- Weight: 7.3-9.5 pounds
- Velocity: Up to 800 fps for normal pellets and up to 950 fps for alloy pellets
- Model Number: CVW8M22NP
2.Gamo Whisper Silent Cat
- .177 caliber
- Ventilated rubber pad for recoil absorption
- Skeleton Stock
- 4x32m Scope with rings
- Break Barrel
- One year limited warranty
- Excellent for pest control and small game hunting
- Manual trigger safety and automatic cocking safety system
- Durable all-weather stock
- Noise dampener to reduces up to 52% noise
My targets were 20 yards away, and I was able to shoot them with ease. The scope was helpful and can be adjusted as much as you want though I found it difficult to mount.
During my shots, the pellets made some noise though I was able to hit targets that were 23 yards away. I fired around 1,000 rounds and breaking the barrel did not give me any difficulty. This will hurt animals though I didn’t aim at any squirrels.
I felt like the stock has made this gun lighter and easier to handle.
- Dimensions: 48.8 x 6 x 2.5 inches
- Weight: 7.3 pounds
- Velocity: 1200 FPS with PBA or 1000FPS
3.Optimus Air Rifle With Scope (.22)
- Spring-powered break barrel rifle
- 4 x 32 CenterPoint scope
- Light cocking force
- Great for pest control or target shooting
- Two-stage adjustable trigger
- Ambidextrous hardwood stock
- .22 Caliber
Crosman has given this rifle a powerful and elegant barrel with a micro-adjustable rear sight and fiber optic front sight to increase accuracy. My steel targets were 30 yards away, and I hit most of them after firing 70 rounds though I felt like the spring was a bit harder. I dented my targets, and I loved the smooth recoil.
The scope was horrible, and I did not bother to use it most of the time. Some friends were advising that this gun needs some thorough breaking in to get used to, but I was only there to test it for a few hours.
I am sure squirrels will hate it.
- Dimensions: 43 x 1.5 x 7 Inches
- Weight: 8.1 pounds
- Pellet Velocity: Up to 800 fps
- Alloy Pellet Velocity: Up to 950 fps
4.Benjamin 392 (.22)
- The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation
- Hardwood stock (Monte Carlo stock design)
- Fixed front sight
- Rifled brass barrel
- .22 caliber
- Cross bolt safety
- Bolt action mechanism powered by a variable pump
- Ideal for pest control, small game, and target shooting
Benjamin 392 is that rifle with all the admirable qualities. It was a bummer that it didn’t come with a scope, but it would probably not have been worth it anyway. I used it for plinking tin cans and discovered that it was unusually quiet yet had so much power. I couldn’t believe I was able to topple most of my targets while solely relying on iron sights.
The rifle has a lovable appearance, especially the wood and metal construction that give it an outstanding design. I love good-looking guns because they give me out-of-this-world chutzpah.
- Dimensions: 39.5 x 5.2 x 2.2 inches
- Weight: 5.5-6.2 pounds
- Pellet Velocity: Up to 685 fps
- Alloy Pellet Velocity: Up to 800 fps
- Muzzle energy: 14.9 FPE
- Model Number: 392
5.Crosman MTR77 Tactical
- Rifled steel barrel
- Sling mounts
- Powered by Crosman Nitro Piston Technology
- Storage in false magazine
- All-weather synthetic stock
- Adjustable two-stage trigger
- Modern Sporting Air Rifle
This is a beautiful rifle that looks like a real tactical weapon. It has a good weight; it is accurate, and has enough power. The workmanship was superb, and you can tell that Crosman only picked high-quality materials.
I loved the accuracy because I could hit plastic cans that were 45 meters away with precision. I, however, had a problem aiming at smaller targets; I’m not sure why. The magazine can accommodate more pellets, and that can be helpful during hunting. However, cocking it requires some strength. During my firing, I noticed the pellets were making some noise. I was told H&N pellets are compatible with this baby, but I need to try that myself.
- Dimensions: 40 x 2.75 x 8.5 Inches
- Weight: 9 pounds
- Pellet Velocity: up to 1000 FPS
- Alloy Pellet Velocity: up to 1200 FPS
- Model Number: 30060
6.Hatsan 95 (.22)
- Sass shock absorber
- Adjustable fiber optic rear sight
- 2-stage adjustable trigger
- Automatic safety Ambidextrous Turkish walnut stock
- Spring-piston Break-barrel
- Rifled steel barrel
- 11mm fiber optic front sight
- 3-9x32 Optima scope with rings
- Checkered pistol grip
It has three caliber choices, and it looks as good as it shoots. Then it has a Turkish walnut stock and a gold-plated trigger. I picked the .22 though I also got the chance to test the .177.
It has a checkered grip and padded forearm and will give you the firmest grasp. I did fire like 100 rounds in the .22 and the recoil was minimal. But it felt a bit heavy and required extra force to cock. I, however, did enjoy shooting it and I was blown away by its power. There was no scope, but I was able to hit my softball-sized targets, which were 40 yards away. I found the iron sights useful, but I am sure the difference is day and night when it is scoped.
- Dimensions: 47 x 7 x 3 inches
- Weight: 10.1 pounds
- Max Velocity: 1, 000 FPS alloy/800 FPS lead
7.Ruger Air Magnum Combo (.22)
- .22 caliber
- Rubber recoil pad
- Rifled barrel
- Spring-piston break barrel
- Fiber optic sights (adjustable rear, fixed front)
- 4x32 scope included
- All-weather composite stock
- Adjustable 2-stage trigger
- Parallax setting
- Automatic safety
- Great for target shooting, small game, and pest control
- Blued barrel and receiver
- Lockdown all metal custom mount
You can either choose the .177 or the .22 caliber. I went for the .22 and got so much power. The adjustable trigger and tactical rail make it more admirable when you want to take things a notch higher.
It was tough to cock and had more weight. Therefore, it may not be the best option for younger shooters. It’s a good thing the manufacturers gave it a secure grip to handle all its power. Then it is also loud, but you will rarely feel the recoil. I think it was manufactured for rifle nuts; not amateurs.
- Dimensions: 50.2 x 3 x 6.3 inches
- Weight: 10.8 pounds
- .177 Caliber: 1400 FPS with alloy pellets
- .22 Caliber: 1200 FPS with alloy pellets
- Model Number: 1004274
8.Benjamin Titan GP Nitro Piston (.22)
- Two-stage adjustable trigger
- Ventilated rubber recoil pad
- Comfortable thumbhole stock
- .22 Caliber
- Break barrel Gas piston powered by Nitro Piston technology
- Raised cheekpieces
- CenterPoint Optics 4 x32
- Ambidextrous hardwood stock
- Reduced vibration
I was still getting plenty of power at 100ft and could dent most of my cardboard boxes. The guy at the training center helped me trigger fix it to avoid “bad accuracy.” The scope may give you some difficulty setting up, so you can just ask for someone’s assistance to save time.
Cocking the barrel will require some effort and your arm may feel tired and sore after 20 rounds, but I think things get more comfortable once you break in this rifle; I was told so. Another issue I had was the trigger; you have to pull it far back.
- Dimensions: 44.25 x 1.5 x 7.25 Inches
- Weight: 8.8 pounds
- Model Number: BW8M22NP
Being limited by a budget does not mean you are denied air gun fun; you can still get an air rifle that will maximize your potential and give you the best airgun experience. It’s mostly a matter of preference and intended use, but the eight that I have picked for you are a great place to start.