Modern airguns aren’t much like your childhood Daisy Red Ryder. Whether break-action, pump, or pre-charged pneumatic, today’s airguns are marvels of technology capable of delivering accuracy and power levels that just might surprise you. Can you hunt with them? Absolutely. Let’s explore.

What Can You Hunt with Airguns?

The common perception is that airguns are useful hunting implements for … squirrels and tin cans. Not so! Modern airguns range from .177-caliber pellet and BB tossers appropriate only for tiny game all the way up to .50-caliber monsters capable of taking down epic four-legged beasts. As velocities are lower than centerfires, one can make a rough analogy to hunting with muzzle loaders firing lead slugs or round balls. Let’s consider a few examples.

The Umarex .50-cal. Hammer is a behemoth delivering more power than many think possible with an airgun. Image courtesy manufacturer.

Gear Up!

In the fire and brimstone world, we talk about cartridge and velocity when pondering the terminal effects of ammunition. In the airgun world, the terminology du jour is “foot-pounds.” An air gunner rarely describes a rifle and ammo combination in terms of velocity, but almost always in terms of delivered kinetic energy. For example, the Umarex Hammer .50 caliber rifle is described as having over 700 ft.-lbs. of energy. Likewise, a .22-caliber air rifle may have 22 ft.-lbs. of energy. These are the primary measurements that indicate appropriate matches between rifle, ammo and game.