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Published Aug 23, 2022 1:45 PM

Squirrels are one of the most popular species of small game, and in some regions, squirrel hunting borders on a religion. Several species of tree squirrel can be hunted in almost every region of the country. I attempt to do the grand slam squirrel hunt every year, which consists of taking a fox squirrel, gray squirrel, black color phase fox/gray squirrel, and the Aberts in a single season. And to my way of thinking, airguns are the perfect tool for harvesting this upland critter.

Most airguns fit within the perfect power range to cleanly drop squirrels out to 75 yards, yet the projectiles don’t carry as far as a rimfire, making them safe to use in more populated areas. The guns I cover in this review are laser accurate, which is a great attribute when shooting into the forest canopy at a tiny target. Air rifles are also quiet, and the ammo is cheap. If you need more reasons to hunt with an airgun then consider that they range in size, price, and design to match any hunter’s needs. 

There are a lot of great air rifles on the market, and picking the best air rifles for squirrels is a subjective undertaking. The choices presented in this article are based on rifles that I have used, that I think would satisfy the greatest number of potential users, and I think deserve consideration if you are searching for a squirrel gun.

Best Overall:  Brocock Commander 

Brocock

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Why It Made the Cut 

This PCP rifle has become my go-to gun for small game hunting because it is very quiet and incredibly accurate. The Commander generates power in the 55 foot-pound range with a smooth sidelever action and outstanding trigger. 

Key Features

  • Weight: 6.8 pounds
  • Length: 40.5 inches
  • .177, .22, or .25 calibers
  • HUMA regulated air delivery system
  • Integrated shroud
  • Carbon fiber air bottle
  • Lothar Walther polygonal barrel
  • 10-shot rotary magazine
  • Adjustable power

Pros

  • Accurate and powerful
  • Quiet
  • Cycles very quickly
  • Great ergonomics
  • Outstanding trigger
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No .30 caliber version

Product Description

The Brocock Commander XR .25 is a minimalist design, somewhat tactical in appearance, but it is the absolute perfect balance of form and function in my eyes. From the AR-type folding stock and pistol grip to the mechanically superb sidelever cocking mechanism and match-grade trigger, this rifle has everything I want and nothing I don’t. The Commander is light and easy to maneuver as you work through the woods, and the ergonomics allow you to shoot it from virtually any field position. I find this gun almost points itself whether I’m shooting into the canopy while leaning against a tree, shooting with the rifle resting over a fallen tree trunk, or snapping a quick offhand shot as a squirrel runs along the forest floor. 

The Commander also offers a high shot count, and the advanced regulator provides an extremely consistent point of impact across the shot string. The accuracy is so good that this rifle can easily take the shooter from the field to a competitive target environment. 

Best Budget PCP: Air Venturi Avenger

Air Venturi

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Why It Made the Cut

The Avenger offers exceptional accuracy and features for the price. 

Key Features

  • Weight: 6.4 pounds
  • Length: 42.75 inches
  • Externally adjustable regulator
  • Sidelever
  • Max Velocity: 900 fps in .25 caliber
  • Max Fill Pressure: 4,351 PSI (300 BAR) 
  • Shrouded barrel
  • Eight-round magazine in .25 caliber 
  • Available in .177, .22, and .25 caliber 
  • Adjustable trigger

Pros

  • Very accurate 
  • Easy to tune 
  • Good handling

Cons

  • Not the quietest airgun 

Product Description

I got my .25 caliber Avenger from Pyramid Air and added the optional tuning service with their Pro Tune. Out of the box it shot 1/4 inch groups at 25 yards and ½ inch groups at 50 yards with JSB Exact King Diabolos. I tested Hades pellets and several slugs as well, but none grouped nearly as well as the Exact Kings. 

The Avenger was my first hunting air rifle, and I was concerned about the terminal performance of the rounded diablo pellets. Luckily my Avenger arrived in time for my state’s spring squirrel season. On the first hunt I witnessed how effective a PCP airgun is, and all my concerns about the Diabolo pellets were put to rest. By the time spring squirrel season ended, I shot six squirrels, and all dropped stone dead. Most were headshots, several at 40 to 50 yards, but the few that were shot behind the shoulder also dropped. 

The Best Air Rifles for Squirrels of 2022
A 50-yard group with the Avenger and Diabolo pellets. Scott Einsmann

With one fill I get about two to three mags before I need to refill, which is plenty for a morning squirrel hunt. I can then refill the reservoir at the truck with my Air Venturi Nomad compressor. 

One of the first modifications I made to my Avenger was adding a DonnyFL moderator, which tamed the report down to backyard friendly. The trigger is adjustable on the Avenger for both travel and weight. I adjusted my trigger to zero travel and as light as it would go. 

The Avenger made Outdoor Life’s list of the best air rifles, and for squirrel hunting you’d be hard pressed to find a better option for under $300. – Scott Einsmann, gear editor. 

Best Entry-Level: Umarex Origin

Umarex

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Why It Made the Cut

The Umarex Origin is an accurate PCP air rifle that only needs a hand pump to fill, which keeps your entry costs low. 

Key Features

  • Weight: 6.8 pounds
  • Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds (.22)/ eight rounds (.25)
  • Max Velocity: 1075 fps (.22) and 950 fps (.25)
  • Integrated suppressor
  • Two-stage adjustable trigger
  • Can be purchased in a package with 4500 psi hand pump 

Pros

  • Easy filling with the included hand pump 
  • Quiet, backyard friendly
  • High shot count
  • Quick cycling

Cons

  • Length of pull is short
  • Unregulated
  • Proprietary fill probe

Product Description

I think that if you’re looking for an entry-level PCP for small game hunting, the Umarex Origin is a rifle that has to be on your shortlist. The innovative air management system means that you can easily keep the rifle filled with minimal startup costs. PCP airguns have huge advantages over springers, but they require expensive compressors or air tanks. The Origin’s pre-pressurized air tanks make it easy to use an inexpensive hand pump, and with less than 100 pumps you’ll have 40 full power shots.

The Umarex Origin is a traditionally styled hunting rifle that utilizes a synthetic sporter style stock with a nicely configured comb and molded pistol grip that provide a stable and consistent hold on the gun in any field position you need to shoot from. The rifle is cycled with a sidelever action that is cocked with an ergonomic handle facilitating quick and easy manipulation. 

The sidelever cocking and auto-indexing of the ten-shot rotary magazine is reliable and quick to cycle, and the performance is everything you need to be successful in the woods. The length of pull is a little short for me in my light summer clothes, but it’s easy to extend the butt with a spacer. In the woods I found this rifle to be very shootable, coming quickly and consistently to shoulder, and it’s comfortable to shoot off hand or rested.

Best Spring/Gas Piston Rifle: Diana 340 N-Tec

Why It Made the Cut

Of all the best .22 air rifles utilizing spring power that I’ve used in recent years, this one is a favorite due to its excellent performance, great ergonomics, and smooth operation. Grab a handful of pellets, and you’re ready for a day of squirrel hunting, and you’ll have a classic rifle that you won’t outgrow.

Key Features

  • Weight: 7.9 pounds
  • Length: 46 inches
  • Cocking Effort: 38 pounds
  • Max Velocity: 800 fps
  • Nitrogen-piston 
  • Beech stock
  • Two-stage adjustable trigger
  • Anti-beartrap mechanism

Pros

  • Smooth, low-effort cocking
  • No spring torque or fatigue, can be left cocked
  • More hold tolerant
  • Lightweight, streamlined dimensions
  • Quality of build is outstanding

Cons

  • Iron sights not to same standard as rest of rifle
  • Moderately expensive

Product Description

The spring piston and gas piston gun space is packed with guns that typically fall into two groups: The mass-marketed guns found in big box sporting goods stores in the $150-$300 range and the premium and heirloom level guns that are found in dedicated airgun shops in the $400 to $800 range.

The 340 N-Tec is definitely a premium air rifle but not that much more expensive than some of the mass-marketed rifles. The Diana 340 N-Tec has become one of my favorite gas piston air rifles. It has one of the most ergonomic stocks that I’ve found on a production gun. The fit, sight alignment, and foregrip provide a consistent and stable hold. The rifle just about jumps to the shoulder when you’re shooting offhand. There is a medium cocking effort of about 38 pounds, but with the long barrel and smooth cocking action, it can be easily managed by most shooters. This premium quality rifle is intrinsically accurate, and importantly, easy to shoot accurately. It generates a bit over 20 foot-pounds, and in my view is a perfect 40-yards-and-in squirrel gun.

Best Compact: Hatsan Flashpup .25

Hatsan

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Why It Made the Cut

This is a very compact and ergonomic bullpup design available in .177, .22, and .25 calibers that hits hard, is accurate, shoots well offhand, and carries like a dream. 

Key Features

  • Weight: 6.1 pounds
  • Length: 32 inches
  • Velocity: 1100 to 900 fps
  • Bullpup design
  • Shrouded barrel
  • Adjustable trigger

Pros

  • Accurate and powerful (40 foot-pounds in .25 caliber)
  • 25 full power shots per fill in .25 caliber
  • Compact and lightweight, a pleasure to shoot and to carry
  • Quiet
  • Attractively priced

Cons

  • Proprietary fill probe
  • Sidelever situated directly below the cheekpiece

Product Description

The Hatsan Flashpup QE is short and handy squirrel rifle
The author’s squirrel hunting gear. Jim Chapman

I first carried the Flashpup .25 caliber when hunting big invasive iguanas in the tropical woodlands of Puerto Rico and found it easy to navigate through the dense vegetation. I’ve since carried this handy bullpup on many squirrel and rabbit hunts, and it has always proved to be a reliable game getter. I would prefer if the cocking lever was moved a bit farther forward, but I found with practice I was able to cycle the gun without breaking the cheek weld. The Flashpup is not only reliable, compact, and maneuverable, but it does it at a surprisingly low price point. If you are looking for a bullpup to carry into the squirrel woods, and don’t want to break the bank, I’d suggest you look at this gun.

Best Pump: Seneca Dragonfly MK2

Seneca

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Why It Made the Cut

The Dragonfly is an easy rifle to pump, self-contained, and far less expensive than a PCP, while offering a recoilless and variable power shooting platform. And compared to springers, the Dragonfly is lighter, has a lower effort to charge, and is easier to shoot accurately.

Key Features

  • Weight: 6.5 pounds
  • Length: 40 inches
  • Max Velocity: 850 fps
  • Seven-shot rotary magazine (.22 caliber)
  • Hardwood stock
  • Integrated scope rail

Pros

  • Easy to pump
  • Self-contained
  • Variable power
  • Attractive pricing
  • Recoilless 

Cons

  • Must be pumped before each shot
  • On lower end of power range

Product Description

The Dragonfly is nothing like your old Red Ryder. It’s a powerful and capable hunting rifle with great accuracy. 

This streamlined multi-pump rifle is light and provides the shooting characteristics of a PCP without the need for an external air tank. I think it’s a great choice for heading out on a multi-day hunting trip because you don’t need an air supply, compressor, or hand pump. 

In previous multi-pump designs, the cocking effort increases with each subsequent pump, but the proprietary Butterfly High Efficiency Pump system both reduces the pumping effort and ensures that the effort is consistent. I believe this gun is an excellent platform for shooting with the standard iron sights, but unlike most multi-pumps, a scope can be mounted without requiring an adaptor. This rifle is on the lower end of the power spectrum, but is a viable 40-yard squirrel gun.

Best for Youth: Diana Stormrider

Why It Made the Cut

This is one of the best air rifles for squirrels and it’s a particularly great rifle for younger shooters because it’s lightweight, has a basic but nice feature set, and is inexpensive so that if the stock needs to be cut down for the smaller shooter it can be done without having a major financial impact. The Stormrider ticks all the boxes for an entry-level small game gun in my opinion.

Key Features

  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Length: 40 inches
  • Max Velocity: 900 fps
  • Lightweight
  • 100 cc air reservoir is handpump friendly
  • Effective suppressor
  • Seven-shot rotary magazine

Pros

  • Fits a smaller shooter
  • Easy to fill with a handpump
  • Entry-level price
  • Solid performance, accuracy, and power (26 foot-pounds)

Cons

  • Would benefit from adding a barrel band
  • Serviceable but not great trigger
  • Bolt is stiff until broken in
  • Proprietary fill probe

Product Description

The Stormrider is one of the best air rifles for squirrels, and it especially excels for youth shooters due to its weight and price. But the low entry cost doesn’t mean it lacks power. The Stormrider easily drops squirrels at 50 yards, and with the inclusion of the integrated suppressor, is fairly quiet. I have used this rifle on several squirrel hunts, and it is quite capable.

While the gun is certainly an OEM product for Diana, this airgunning giant has had a major influence on the design, specifications, and quality control you would expect from one of their inhouse products. As mentioned, this is a no-frills gun in that the cocking mechanism, trigger, and valving system are average, serviceable but not outstanding. On the other hand, this base price includes a multi-shot functionality, ergonomic hardwood furniture, and an integrated suppressor. I think most young adults would be thrilled to own this rifle.

How to Choose an Airgun for Squirrel Hunting

In this article I have presented several rifles in various categories, but there are certain attributes all share. A good squirrel rifle must be accurate; my criteria is sub 1-inch groups at 50 yards shooting off sticks and considerably better off the bench. However, since I don’t hunt off the bench, the ability to group from field-oriented positions is more relevant. The gun must generate appropriate power. If it’s less than 35 foot-pounds, I’ll stay inside of 50 yards, and over that, I’ll reach out to 75 yards. Note, this is arbitrary and offered as a rule of thumb. Each hunter needs to define their own guidelines. 

Jim Chapman hunting squirrels with an air rifle
Suppressors are useful for small properties or holdings where gunfire might be problematic. Jim Chapman

Capacity

The gun should cycle fast enough to allow a follow-up shot if necessary, and a crisp predictable trigger will improve accuracy, but it doesn’t need to be match grade. The gun should provide at least 20 shots per fill, which ought to be more than enough to get you through a daily limit of squirrels.

Magazine

I also think that a magazine fed rifle is preferable because fumbling with pellets in cold weather, under low light, or when in a hurry will lead to missed opportunities.

Rifle Specs

Other features are more flexible and determined by individual requirements: The shooter’s size and physical characteristics, how the gun will be used, budgetary constraints, and individual preferences. Some hunters like a full-sized rifle, others a carbine, and others still a bullpup. With respect to caliber, a .177, .22, .25, or even a .30 are all acceptable options, though I have found myself gravitating to the .25 for squirrel hunting. 

Optics

My preference for optics is a scope in a 3-9x40mm configuration, though I don’t mind a slightly higher magnification if there isn’t a weight penalty. Higher magnification isn’t tremendously advantageous in the 50–75-yard range; it might help on occasion, but you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the added bulk. Good low light performance is a must, and a reticle with clear, uncluttered, and easy-to-see aimpoints is very helpful.

Suppressors

Squirrel hunting is one of those activities in which a good suppressor is useful. Hunting opportunities often exist around small holdings and properties where firearms are not allowed, or the sound of gunfire might be problematic, so having a whisper quiet rifle is beneficial. 

FAQ’s

Q: Which is better for squirrels, a .22 or .177 air rifle?

A .22 or .25 caliber is better for squirrels than .177. Consider that a .25 caliber air rifle generating 60 foot-pounds is still far less powerful than a .22 rimfire. A good pellet and shot placement are key for making ethical kills. 

Q: Which type of air rifle should you use to hunt small game?

A PCP air rifle is easy to shoot accurately, especially at longer ranges. PCP guns are usually repeaters and tend to be flatter shooting with larger calibers. For those reasons, PCP airguns are the choice of serious small game hunters.

Q: Are air rifles good for squirrel hunting?

Modern air rifles are quiet, accurate, powerful, and handy in the woods—all the characteristics you want in a squirrel gun. 

Final Thoughts

Squirrel hunting is available to most hunters, regardless of the region you call home. Populations are high in most areas, and there are more potential spots to hunt than for just about any other game species. The bag limits are generous, seasons tend to be long, and some states have both a spring and winter season. I believe hunting with some of the best air rifles for squirrels is about as good as it gets for a small game hunter. If you love being in the woods, stalking, and using field craft on the hunt, give squirrel hunting with an air rifle a try. I would argue that based on the power profile, accuracy, and low sound signature, airguns are the perfect tool for squirrel hunting. Any one of the rifles discussed above might be your ticket into an enjoyable new hunting experience.