Different Types of Air Rifles

Updated November 21, 2016

Air rifles are an excellent way to practice your marksmanship skills or to introduce new shooters to rifles. There are several types of air rifles each of their advantages and disadvantages. The quality of air rifles range from standard low cost target rifles to precision competition rifles.


Among air rifles, pump rifles are among the most common. These air rifles have levers underneath the barrels that allow the shooter to compress air into a chamber by pumping the lever; most rifles require approximately five pumps to be at full strength. This compressed air is released when the trigger is pulled, propelling the pellet or BB down the barrel. An advantage of this type of rifle is that the power remains consistent; a disadvantage is the time it takes to pump the rifle between shots.


These air rifles use pressurised CO2 as propellant. The rifles typically have a cartridge receptacle located on the rifle, commonly below the barrel, that accepts a CO2 cartridge. As the cartridge is secured into place, typically by turning an end cap that's over the end of the receptacle, the seal of the cartridge is breached and the gas is allowed to the chamber. As the rifle cycles, small amounts of gas are released to shoot the pellets or BBs. An advantage of this type of rifle is that to it can shoot relatively quickly; the disadvantage is that as the CO2 cartridge loses pressure, the pellets lose velocity.


Spring air rifles are very similar in operation to pump air rifles. An advantage of these rifles is that they provide a consistent velocity and take relatively little time to reload. Spring operated air rifles have cocking levers underneath the barrel or barrels that double as cocking levers. These rifles are single shot and breech loaded. When the lever is pulled back to cock the weapon, the breech opens allowing you to place a pellet into the chamber. When the lever is placed back to its original position, the breech closes and the rifle is ready to fire.

Air Rifle Ammunition

Air rifles typically use pellets or BBs as ammunition. Pellets are available in .22, .20 and .177 calibres. BBs are also produced in .177 and are often interchangeable with .177 pellets, this size is commonly used for target practice. The larger.22 calibre pellet is appropriate for pest control with an effective range up to 50 yards. The .20 calibre pellet is a relatively new pellet and is generally used by high end competition air rifles.

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About the Author

Peter Timm has been writing since 2002 for both print and online publications. Timm earned a Bachelor of Arts from the New York Institute of Technology in 2008 and emerged a technically astute writer.