The 6 Best Air Pistols of 2019 Reviewed & Revealed ( Hands-on Pellet Pistol Guide )

Important Choosing Factors

man shooting air gun

Use Case

The most important factor to consider when buying an air pistol is what exactly is it being used for.

It’s a very simple concept, but an important one to understand. If you have Concept A and buy a gun designed for Concept B you are going to have a bad time. Air pistols can be used for a wide variety of tasks, including: 

1. Hunting 

Hunting with an airgun requires a very specific type of airgun.

Air pistols for hunting animals like:

  • squirrel and rabbit should be chambered in either .22 or .25 caliber
  • .177 can be used to kill rats, small snakes, and other small pests

With too weak of a gun you’ll merely injure the animal. The weapon needs to be capable of taking an animal humanely, and it’s important these guns are accurate and equipped with solid sights.

It is also important to ensure airgun hunting is legal in your area.


2. Target Practice 

When it comes to target practice you can ease your selection process. With target practice, you can go with pretty much any air gun pistol you want. Plinking isn’t a crazy important task.

You simply want a reliable gun that’s fun and easy to shoot.  


3. Self Defense

Air pistols designed for self-defense should actually be capable of shutting an attacker down. You’ll likely want an air pistol capable of firing chemical irritant. This is the category users should be most cognizant of.

You need an extremely reliable, and capable weapon for self-defense. Your life is literally on the line.  

Self defense training

Many people use an air gun to simulate defensive firearms training when they can’t make it to a gun range. For self-defense training, you need a weapon close to your own in function.

You likely want semi-auto action, and an affordable source of ammo and CO2 since you will be shooting a lot.  


Air Pistol Action 

Action selection will be pretty critical to what your firearm is aimed at. The action of an airgun pistol can be broken down into:

  • semi-automatic
  • bolt action
  • single shot
  • revolving cylinder

The most powerful pellet pistols will traditionally be single shot or bolt action models. These actions allow for a greater seal that generates more air power.

Some high-end self-defense air pistols will utilize CO2, but will be relatively limited in shots fired.  

Air pistols designed for general target practice and self-defense training will often be semi-automatic or feature a revolving cylinder. These guns fire a single shot per trigger pull.

This replicates the action of actual handguns and gives you an action closer to your actual firearm. It also makes target practice a bit faster and bit more fun.  



boy shooting airgun pistol

Velocity is going to be a major consideration for hunting and self-defense pistols. Without proper velocity, you won’t have enough penetration to quickly and humanely taking game.

When it comes to self-defense you want the round to cause serious pain or disperse chemical irritants. Velocity for hunting with a 22 caliber projectile should be around the 450 feet per second range.  

When it comes to self-defense velocity will depend on the round itself. Rubber rounds should be hitting are around 300 feet per second in general.

It’s best to consult the ammunition manufacturer for a certain rounds effective velocity.  


Caliber Selection 

Calibers for airguns are varied but typically fall under 1 of 3 rounds with a 4th bearing mention. The most common calibers are:

The 4th is uncommon but shows up time to time, and it’s the .25 caliber.  

For general plinking and target practice, BBs are perfect. They are quite cheap and can be reused if collected in a trap. They are a bit too weak to hunt but perfect for plinking and self-defense training.

.177 is the smallest pellet gun caliber, and can be used for very small pest removal, but is ultimately better suited for target practice and self-defense shooting as well.  

Both .22 and 25 are serious calibers designed for hunting game under 6 pounds. It’s great for squirrels, pests, and even small rabbits if you know how to shoot.

However, the .22-caliber variety is much more common, and the pellets are much cheaper overall. 

Self-defense rounds tend to vary by gun. Most use a proprietary ammo designed for that particular air gun. The ammo itself is often hard rubber or some form of chemical irritant.  


Power Source 

Airgun pistols are traditionally powered by one of three sources. With the name air in the title, it isn’t hard to imagine by what.  

CO2 Cartridge


Gamo CO2 cartridge


A wide variety of airguns will be charged via a CO2 cartridge. These guns take less effort to use, and the CO2 cartridges are common and affordable.

They allow an airgun to function as a semi-automatic, and make follow up shots faster. Even single shot powered CO2 guns are much faster to reload and fire than the alternatives.  

Break Barrel

Benjamin Trail NP break action


One highly common means of operation for air guns pistol on the cheaper end are break action models. When the action is ‘broke’ open the pump sucks in a considerable amount of air and powers the gun.

These guns are traditionally low in velocity and are only single shot air guns. They are great for target practice and not much else.  



Ataman PCP air pistol
Ataman PCP air pistol


The third and final means of air powered air guns in PCP, or pre-charged pneumatics. These guns utilize a built-in pump to fill the gun’s tank.

This allows you to fill the tank and fire at a substantially higher FPS per shot than a break action. These are excellent hunting options and are often more affordable than CO2 powered hunting guns.  


Aired Up  

Airgun pistols are excellent little tools for a very wide variety of tasks. They can fill roles no other tool can, especially when it comes to building an at home shooting range.

Airgun pistols allow you to hunt, plink, train, and even potentially save your life. The key is knowing what does what and choosing accordingly.  


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