Best Pellet Guns for Hunting Small Game [The 2020 Guide]

Pellet Guns for Hunting – The 2020 Guide

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Choosing the Best Pellet Gun for Hunting

The best pellet gun for hunting will depend on what you what to hunt and how much can you spend. Pellet gun power is the main consideration when choosing one for hunting. The bigger the game or the longer the range, will determine how much you will need to spend. Big game or long range pellet guns will cost more.

The price range is $35 – $900.

There are cheap pellet guns, under $100, that are great for hunting small game and pests. If you can spend more like $150-$200 then you can get a nicer pellet gun with better sights, more power, wooden stock and maybe a scope.

Types of Pellet Guns for Hunting

When choosing a pellet gun for hunting, you will want to consider power, accuracy, caliber, stock and sights. These features are what make a hunting pellet gun vs a target pellet gun.

Pellet Gun Power

This really depends on what type of small game you want to hunt and how far you will be shooting. The more power you have the larger the game you can hunt or the longer the range you can shoot from. Short ranges and/or small game like birds are easily taken with just about any pellet gun. It doesn’t have to be the most powerful.

Here are the different power ranges [based on .177 and .22 calibers]

  • Low Power:  300 – 400 fps
  • Medium Power:  500 – 800 fps
  • High Power:  1000 – 1600 fps
  • High Power [.30 – .50 caliber]: 600 – 800 fps

Very Small Game or Short Range(small birds at 50 ft)

You can choose any pellet gun with a muzzle velocity of about 350 fps as long as you are hunting small birds at ranges of 60 feet or less. Lead or PBA pellets will work fine. Test several design and brands to see which are the most accurate in your pellet gun.

Small Game or Medium Ranges (small game at 50 yards)

You should choose a pellet gun with a muzzle velocity of about 700+ fps to hunt small game like rats, birds and squirrels. .177 or .22 caliber will work fine as long as it is pretty accurate.

Small Game at Longer Ranges (small game at 100 yards)

The higher the velocity the better for hunting small game at 100 yards. I would recommend 1,000 fps – 1,500 fps in .177 caliber. If you want a .22 caliber pellet gun then you would need about 800 fps.

Large Game at Short to Medium Range (under 100 yards)

I recommend a large caliber pellet gun with a muzzle velocity in the 600+ fps range. Pellets should be 300 grains or heavier. Bison and Elk have been taken with the Umarex Hammer 50 caliber pellet gun. It can shoot a 550 grain pellet at 760 fps.

Pellet Gun Actions

PCP Pellet Guns
PCP or Pre-Charged Pneumatic are the absolute most powerful hunting pellet guns available. PCP guns have a gas cylinder or reservoir that holds compressed gas, usually at around 3500 psi. It’s like a giant CO2 cartridge. This is what powers the gun when you pull the trigger. To give you an idea of how powerful a PCP gun can be. The Umarex Hammer 50 caliber pellet gun shoots a 550 grain lead pellet at 760 fps. You can hunt large game like deer, elk, bison, bear, wild hogs, etc.

PCP guns are very accurate.

PCP guns require a hand pump or compressed air tank to recharge.

Break Barrel Guns
Break barrel guns are very powerful and fairly inexpensive compared to PCP guns. You can buy a powerful break barrel for about $150. Break barrel guns are single shots that cock the action by breaking the barrel open, loading the pellet and then returning the barrel to its locked position. This cocking motion compressed gas in a cylinder which is used to discharge the pellet. Some break barrel guns reach a muzzle velocity of 1500 fps. Gamo makes some really nice break barrel guns.

Break barrel pellet guns are exceptional for hunting. They are powerful, accurate and reliable.

Pump Pellet Guns
Pump action pellet guns are powered by pumping a lever to compress gas into the chamber. Usually the range is 3 to 10 pumps. They are pretty easy to pump and can be fairly powerful, usually with a maximum velocity of 700 – 800 fps. These are also single shots which is fine for hunting. Pump guns are pretty cheap at around $50.

Some pump pellet guns are accurate while some are not. These are fine for bird hunting at short to medium ranges.

CO2 Pellet Guns
CO2 pellet guns are powered by 1 or more compressed CO2 cartridges. The are not as powerful as the other action types but you can still use one for hunting birds at short ranges. Muzzle velocities range from 350 – 500 fps in .177 caliber. They usually are semi auto and have magazines or clips that hold several pellets.

Let’s take a look at some of the game you can hunt with a pellet gun.

Bird Hunting with a Pellet Gun

Since birds are small and fragile, they are easy to take with a pellet gun. You do not need much power to hunt birds with a pellet gun unless you want to take longer range shots. Typical bird hunting ranges are about 25-35 yards when hunting with pellet guns. If you want or need to take longer shots like 75 yards or greater then you might want a pellet gun with 1,000 fps velocity or greater. For closer ranges, 350-650 fps pellet velocities are perfect. .177 pellets will need more speed because they are lighter than .22 cal. If you want to hunt with a .22 caliber pellet gun then you do not need the same velocity. .22 caliber pellets are heavier, so the velocity can be lower while still remaining deadly.

Small Mammal Hunting with a Pellet Gun

Small mammals such as rats, field mice, squirrels, ringtails, raccoons, fox, coyote, opossums, prairie dogs, etc can be hunted with pellet guns at reasonable ranges of 15 – 50 yards depending on the game size. Rats and mice can be taken out to 100 yards. Larger game like raccoons, opossums, fox and ringtails should be taken between 15 and 30 yards. Head shots are best on larger game offering quick and humane kills. Scopes really make it easy to take longer and more accurate shots.

Larger small game like raccoons, coyote, fox, badger and opossums can be taken with the more powerful break barrel guns in .177 and .22 calibers.

Here are some great guns for larger small game.

  • Gamo Hornet Maxxim [$150]
  • Gamo Silent Cat [$140]
  • Gamo Swarm Magnum [$280]
  • Umarex Octane Elite [$210]

Best Pellet Gun for Squirrel Hunting

The best pellet gun for squirrel hunting could be rifle or pistol with a muzzle velocity of at least 600 fps with a BB or lead pellet. You could even use a BB pistol with a muzzle velocity of 400+ fps if you shoot at 50 feet or so. BB’s will penetrate nicely at 400 fps at close ranges. If you want to hunt squirrels with a pistol, look for one with good sights or one that will accept an optical sight. A Red Dot sight would be awesome.

There are a lot of pellet rifles that make excellent squirrel guns. You could chose a pump, CO2 or break barrel. All of these are powerful enough and accurate. I used a Crosman 760 pump when I was a kid and killed many squirrels and pigeons.

Good Pellet Guns for Squirrels

  • Daisy Powerline 880 Pump [$50]
  • Crosman 2100b Pump [$70]
  • Crosman 760 PumpMaster [$60]
  • Crosman 1322 pistol [$60]
  • Gamo Silent Cat [$150]
  • Gamo Varmint Air Rifle [$120]

I recently had a Gamo Hornet Maxxim in .22 cal. It was a great pellet gun. It is a break barrel gun and really powerful. I bought it for $140 which is pretty inexpensive compared to PCP guns of similar power.

Also take a look at the Gamo Silent Cat.  Check Prices on Gamo.

Best Pellet Guns Under $100 for Hunting

  • Crosman 1377 or 1322 pistol
  • Umarex Strike point pistol
  • Crosman 760 PumpMaster rifle
  • Crosman 2100B rifle
  • Daisy Powerline 880 rifle

Pellet Pistols Under $100 for Hunting
If you like hunting with a pistol then you definitely want to look at the Crosman 1322 or 1377 American Classic pellet pistol. It’s a powerful and accurate pump action single shot. The 1377 is a .177 caliber pistol while the 1322 is a .22 caliber gun. It retails for about $60 and is a real bargain. You can add a butt stock to it, turning it into a carbine. The sights are very good and it is well made. A pistol is easy to carry into the field and bring into action.

Crosman 1377 – pellet velocity 600 fps

Crosman 1322 – pellet velocity 460 fps

*** Also check out the Umarex Strike pump pistol. It’s very similar to the Crosman.

Crosman 1322 air pistol

Pellet Rifles Under $100 for Hunting
The Crosman 2100B is another sub $100 pellet gun that is great for hunting small game. It too is a pump action single shot pellet gun however the 2100B is a rifle. It is very powerful with 10 pumps and accurate as well. You can mount a scope on it easily. It is part plastic and part metal but is still well made. It is a light weight gun and easy to carry long distances. It can shoot .177 pellets and BB’s. Pellets are much better for hunting because they are heavier and expand.

Crosman 2100b – BB velocity 755 fps and pellets 725 fps

crosman2100bpumpairrifle.jpg

Best Pellet Gun $100-$200 for Hunting

The best pellet gun for hunting and for the money is, hands down, the Gamo Whisper Silent Cat Rifle. You can buy it online for about $150 even though it retails for $269.00.

The Silent Cat is a super pellet gun for hunting. It is very powerful, up to 1250 fps with PBA pellets which means you can hunt larger small game or shoot at longer distances. The Silent Cat is a synthetic stocked, break barrel single shot rifle. It is light weight and very ergonomic. The stock is fantastic. It fits really well and is comfortable. It has a rubber butt pad too…ohh and it comes with a 4X scope too!!

I want to also mention that it is QUIET. If you keep the pellet velocity below the speed of sound, it will remain quiet but if you use light PBA pellets and the velocity hits 1200+ fps then it will sound like a .22 rifle.

Best Pellet Gun Over $200 for Hunting

Gamo makes some of the finest pellet guns for hunting, period. The Gamo Swarm Magnum .22 caliber pellet gun is the tops for hunting small and medium size game. The Swarm Magnum in .22 caliber has a muzzle velocity of 1,300 fps with .22 caliber PBA pellets. This is an awesome hunting pellet gun! It’s a synthetic stocked, break barrel single shot with the famous Gamo Whisper noise damping technology. It also has a 10 shot pellet clip so you don’t have to load 1 pellet at a time.

Gamo Swarm Magnum Specs

  • .22 cal 1300 fps muzzle velocity with PBA pellets
  • Synthetic all weather stock
  • IGT Mach 1 gas piston
  • CAT or Custom Action Trigger
  • Whisper Fusion noise reduction technology
  • 10X 10 shot rotary magazine
  • Gamo 3-9 x 40 mm scope
  • Cocking effort 41 lbs
  • Weight 6.88 lbs
  • 5 year warranty

IT IS THE QUIETEST pellet gun in its class. The Gamo Swarm comes with a 3 x 9-40 mm scope and mounts. This gun is very close in power to a .22 LR rifle. The Swarm Magnum .22 retails for $329.95 but you can buy one online for about $295.99

Best Pellets for Hunting

Most lead pellets will provide descent accuracy and penetration but some are better than others. Crosman lead pellets are pretty good in accuracy and are cheap. I really like H&N and JSB lead pellets. I use the lighter weight pellets for birds and the heavier ones for small game like squirrels, rats, fox, coyote and opossum, etc.

Lead Pellet Nose Shape

There are 3 basic types of noses on hunting pellets

Flat Nose – good for hunting birds where deep penetration is not needed but shock is important. These are very accurate. Most competition target pellets are flat nose.

Round Nose – great all around nose for hunting small and medium game. The round nose penetrates well and expands for good shock. Also very accurate.

Hollowpoints – these are devastating on birds. They drop instantly.

Here are some of my favorite lead pellets for hunting.

.177 cal Pellets

H&N Barracuda Hunter Extreme Hollowpoints – [.177 cal] 9.77 grains

Crosman Premier Domed Field – [.177 cal] 10.5 grains

JSB Exact Monster Diabolo – [.177 cal] 13.43 grains

.22 cal Pellets

H&N Field Target Trophy – [.22 cal] 14.66 grains

JSB Exact Jumbo Monster – [.22 cal] 25.38 grains

H&N Pile Driver – [.22 cal] 29.94 grains

.177 cal – The H&N Barracuda hollowpoints are my favorite for birds. They are accurate and super explosive on birds and even large birds like crow and ravens. For larger game, squirrels, fox and rats, I use the JSB Exact Monster Diabolo pellets. These are heavier and penetrate really well. Accurate too.

.22 cal – The H&N Pile Driver and JSB Exact Jumbo Monster are the best for larger game like fox, coyote, raccoons and bobcat. I use pellet weights of 25.38 grains in the JSB and 29.94 in the H&N Pile Driver. These hunting pellets penetrate deep and are deadly on medium size game.