What are the Most Common Types of Air Rifles?

There are numerous distinct varieties of air rifles, each designed to meet specific needs and goals. Spring-piston, CO2-powered, pneumatic, and gas-ram air rifles are among the most prevalent types of rifles. The one you select will largely be determined by your budget as well as the function you need it to fulfill.

However, with so many high-tech options and different kinds of models to choose from, it’s easy to become overwhelmed – especially if this is your first air rifle.

To save you time, we’ve compiled a list of the best air rifles available, along with their benefits and drawbacks. Continue reading to learn more about the differences between them and how to choose the one that best suits your needs.

Four Most Common Types of Air Rifles 

There are many different varieties of air rifles, so we will highlight five that we think are the most common. Here’s a rundown of the top four rifle types:

Spring-Piston Air Rifle

Air rifle, pellet and binoculars on a wooden background

Although there are other types of spring-piston airguns, the break-barrel is arguably the most popular.

The spring-piston version, possibly one of the most classic of airguns, is probably the one with the simplest mechanism employed in airguns – they’re also the most straightforward to use and maintain.

You’ve probably seen this style of piston before, where you snap the barrel down while holding the stock and it appears to shatter the rifle in half. This action pushes the piston back and presses the spring, locking the trigger sear in place until you’re ready to fire.

Before pulling the barrel back up to its initial position and securing it in place, the pellet is placed directly into the breach. If the safety is turned on, you can pull the trigger to release the piston – the spring and piston are pushed forward, propelling the pellet out of the barrel and towards your target.

Pulling down on the barrel does not prime all spring-piston airguns, though. Some employ a lever, but they all function in the same way.


  • Simple maintenance and service 
  • Easy to find replacement parts
  • Cheap to run 
  • A great choice for beginners 
  • Temperature fluctuations do not affect it
  • Large selection of weaponry to pick from
  • Great longevity


  • Springs might degrade with time
  • Other types of rifles may be more powerful
  • Due to the rapid speed of the piston, it can be noisy

Pneumatic Air Rifle

Simply said, these weapons will fire pellets using compressed air.

There are a few distinct sorts of pneumatics, and which one you choose depends on how the air is compressed, however, the multi-stroke is the most common.

To compress the air, you must repeatedly push a lever to achieve the desired intensity. Every pump of the lever is a little harder than the last, so this may not be the best gun for a beginner. 

Other varieties, such as the single-stroke pneumatic rifle, are also available. As you may guess from the name, this gun just takes one pump to compress the air needed for a fire. Although some people prefer this sort of rifle to the multi-stroke, it has issues with precision and power – but it works quite well across short distances.

The Pre-Charged Pneumatic Gun (PCP) is the third type of pneumatic gun. This one allows you to adjust the amount of power you desire. Although precise, you’ll need to pressurize them with a separate tank or a hand or foot pump to get the most out of it. 

Advantages of multi-stroke rifles

  • Low-cost maintenance 
  • It’s usually pretty light
  • There is almost no recoil

Disadvantages of multi-stroke rifles

  • It may take time to get the air pressure to the desired level
  • Pumping the pistol to the proper pressure requires some strength

Advantages of PCP 

  • High velocity
  • Almost no recoil 
  • Wide range of applications and can be used with high-caliber ammunition
  • Temperature does not affect it

Disadvantages of PCP

  • If you’re going to manually pump them up, you’ll need to be in good shape

CO2-Powered Air Rifle

Hunter shooting from the rifle

Several different guns fall into this category, but they all require a CO2 canister to propel the bullet out of the barrel. 

Alternatively, gas can be supplied from a big tank that will be stored in a reservoir within the gun this is how they all function. Even if you utilize a canister, it will provide a small amount of gas to a reservoir in the pistol.

In many ways, this mechanism is similar to how PCP weapons function. When the trigger is pulled, a spring is squeezed, and a tiny valve in the CO2 reservoir is released for a split second. The gas is then pushed down the barrel, propelling the pellet forward.

The gas is held inside the capsule as a liquid and determined by the capacity of the canister. You’ll get roughly 60 shots for a standard 12g capsule.

CO2-fueled airguns have recently grown more popular due to the variety of guns that the power supply allows you to employ.


  • Not much recoil when firing
  • Can provide a fast rate of fire 
  • Consistent power delivery 


  • Temperature variations might affect the accuracy
  • CO2 canisters can be costly

Gas-Ram Air Rifle

These airguns have a lot in common with spring-action airguns.

The gas ram only functions slightly differently since it compresses not only a piston but also a volume of compressed air housed in a cylinder.

Whenever the trigger is pulled, the compressed air recovers to its original volume, pushing the piston forward as well as forcing the air into the compression chamber. Finally, the pellet is ejected down the barrel.

The compressed air, on the other hand, does not escape and stays in the gas ram, which can be used indefinitely.


  • Completely self-contained weapon
  • Can survive for years using the same air
  • Extremely smooth
  • Far less fatigue than with a spring-piston system


  • Modifications are more difficult than with other types of rifles
  • Cocking is required

How to Pick the Right Air Rifle 

Trying to figure out which air rifle is the right one to buy might be a challenge. The things that will determine which one is best for you are based on your intentions, such as how you will use the air rifle, how far you will shoot, and other considerations.

To assist you with deciding which air rifle model to consider for your shooting needs, we’ve come up with a few simple, but important, questions: 

What Are Your Plans for the Air Rifle?

The answer is frequently a combination of applications, just make sure you understand how the rifle is supposed to be used. If you need a multi-use rifle, for example, it’s a good idea to figure out what percentage of your shooting time will be dedicated to each purpose. 50 percent target shooting and 50 percent pest management is a pretty frequent usage combination.

Because all air rifles are created and built to meet specific market needs, recognizing the answer to this question is quite critical. Some are made for general target shooting, while others are made for hunts or competitive target shooting. 

How Far are You Going to Shoot?

types of air rifles

The four power categories for airguns are light, medium, high (magnum), and super-magnum. So, if you’re looking for an airgun for plinking, target shooting, and light pest management up to 35 yards, a light-powered airgun is the one to go with. Consider the other three options if you aim at something bigger.

Your range will be extended to 50 yards with medium-powered airguns. Magnum rifles will have a range of 65 yards, while super-magnum rifles will have a range of 75-80 yards.

Other Considerations 

You’re well on your way to narrowing down your search for the appropriate airgun if you answered the first two questions. However, there are several other factors to consider to narrow down your search even further.

Air Rifle Type

After you’ve answered questions 1 and 2, you can choose between a Spring Gun, a Gas Ram, or a PCP.

Springers and gas ram rifles demand heavier duty sights than PCPs, but they are self-contained in the way that they can be cocked and shot. 

PCPs, on the other hand, have more firepower and can utilize less costly scopes because you don’t have to worry about recoil.

Each has advantages, and you can choose which type of gun best suits your needs.


It’s a smart option to utilize a spring gun with the right amount of power for the job. The more power you have, the greater the price you’ll have to pay! As the power of a spring rifle increases, so does the cost of the sight that is necessary.

These facts do not apply to PCP rifles, however, because they do not have any recoil and so they can be used with any scope. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly choice, this one might be your best option.


Every shooter has his or her own opinion on what constitutes a great weapon. Some people prefer beautiful wood, while others prefer a certain shape or design. When buying a rifle, it’s always crucial to know what attributes you want.

Knowing what features are crucial to you can help you narrow down your options.

Finishing and Fit

It is a topic that most shooters care about, even though it has little to do with how effectively a gun fires. Fit and finish can make a significant difference to a shooter.

The shape of the stock, the general appearance of the rifle, the quality of the bluing, and other aesthetic considerations are all considered in fit and finish.

Things to Think About Before Purchasing an Air Rifle

If you have already purchased or are planning to purchase an air rifle, you must understand how to securely handle air guns. Remember that a rifle is not a toy, and there are a few guidelines to observe when installing and removing the tank, packing and unpacking the gun, and handling and caring for the firearms! 

First and foremost, do not display the gun in front of a large crowd! This may confuse those around you and cause them to misinterpret it as a firearm. 

Second, before using a gun, read all of the directions and realize that you must obey them all. Careless handling is responsible for a substantial percentage of all air pistol accidents.

In addition, there are several general precautions to be aware of:

  • Handle the rifle as though it were loaded, as you would with a firearm
  • Aim in and maintain the barrel aiming in a safe direction at all times
  • Check to see if the gun has been discharged before taking it from somebody
  • Activate your grip safety until you’re ready to fire
  • Never reuse pellets
  • Keep your riffles in a secure location in your home
  • Only those above the age of 18 may be given an air gun and its instructions

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has provided you with adequate knowledge surrounding the most common types of air rifles, how they differ, and how to choose the best one for you.

Keep in mind that the most crucial thing to consider when purchasing an air rifle is to ask yourself what your goals are for the rifle, as well as how far you intend to shoot. The answers to these questions will assist you in narrowing your search.

And remember, safety comes first!

Visit clevershooter.com for more practical shooting information, including product reviews, shooting tips, buying advice, and all you need to become a clever shooter!

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