In recent years, there has been an ever growing interest in hunting with air rifles, it started with small game, then as technology and power advanced and the caliber sizes increased, the next logical step was trying to hunt big game animals with air rifles instead of firearms.
In 2008 Missouri was one of the first states to legally allow airguns to be used to harvest large game. Since that time the advancements in airgun technology has progressed in leaps and bounds much to the delight of large game air rifle hunting advocates.
Today we are blessed with many choices of big bore rifles for hunting, single shots, repeaters. Many are made with futuristic lines and modern lightweight synthetic furniture. Also many fine rifles are made with wood and blued steel for people that want a more traditional-looking hunting arm.
With calibers ranging from .257 up to .50, there is sure to be a rifle that fits the bill for your hunting needs.
Large game air rifles are perfect for hunting:
With many options to choose from it's difficult to narrow down our top picks, but here is where we would start.
First on the list is the AirForce Texan LSS, the rifle is available in either .45 or .50 caliber, and delivers up to 800 foot-pounds of energy, and 1,100 feet per second muzzle velocity.
This rifle is made in the USA in Fort Worth Texas. When their customers started asking for a quieter big bore hunting rifle, the Texan LSS was the result, they not only made it quieter than the standard Texan, they also made it lighter, and more powerful.
The engineers incorporated an internal sound suppression system, and a carbon fiber tank, that is both lighter weight, and can fill to a higher pressure than the original Texan air reservoir.
The AirForce Texan LSS coupled with the Lothar Walther precision barrel ensures you have the accuracy and power you need to harvest big game cleanly and humanely.
The rifle has an easy to operate, low-effort, side cocking lever with an adjustable 2 stage trigger. The power is adjustable for up to 800 ft. lbs. of energy.
The LSS model is fully moderated with an acoustic baffle system and comes standard with a precision Lothar Walther barrel. The automatic safety on this rifle is ambidextrous so it is left hand friendly.
All of the rifles on this list are pre-charged pneumatics and will require an external filling system to charge the onboard reservoir. The rifle is a single shot, so follow up shots will not be as fast as a repeater.
The Texan LSS is long, right at 50 inches but that length is necessary to generate the speed and power needed, and incorporate the sound reduction system. It does not come with a scope, but optics are a very personal choice and if an optic was included it may not be what you like.
The Umarex Hammer has been a few years in development, but they wanted to make sure it was perfect when it hit the market, and did it ever hit the market like a Hammer.
The Hammer is a magazine-fed .50 caliber bolt action repeating air rifle, (it actually uses .51 caliber slugs) that is capable of delivering 3 regulated power consistent shots. Shooting a massive 550 grain weight slug at a whopping 700 ft-lbs of energy. With a 4th shot available at a slightly less energy level.
The Hammer uses a straight pull speed bolt design that cocks with a mere 2 pounds of effort. The rifle also incorporates a 3 step safety that consists of a manual trigger safety, a hammer block safety, and a magazine lockout that prevents the rifle from being fired without a magazine being inserted.Each Hammer magazine has a 2 round capacity, so the company included 2 more extra magazines to keep the shots coming.
The German precision made .51 caliber barrel is fully moderated, and is reported to be able to put its first three shots within 1 inch at 50 yards. With the level of accuracy, and power generated by the Umarex Hammer, you have the ability to take any large game you may legally hunt with an air rifle.
The Hammer is made in the USA. It comes with extra magazines so you don't have to reload the 2 round magazine every time you want to send more lead downrange. The rifle also uses a lightweight carbon fiber bottle that fills to 4500psi, and has a regulated output of 3000psi for consistent accurate shots.
The trigger comes set for a 3 lb pull, perfect for a hunting gun, not too heavy to throw off your shot, not too light as to be unsafe in a hunting environment. The rifle can use any ar-15 style pistol grip so you can tailor the feel of how you grip the gun to your individual preference. The forearm includes 3 slots for any M-LOK attachments you wish.
It is a pre-charged pneumatic rifle, so it needs a way to fill it to 4500psi and you only get 4 shots per fill, but they are very powerful and accurate shots.
The rifle uses .51 caliber ammo, so standard .50 caliber bullets or projectiles will not fit properly, and will give substandard accuracy and reduced power.
For some reason, it has an integrated rear sling stud, but no provisions for a front sling attachment point are included with the gun.
The AirForce Texan was one of the first big bore airguns brought to the mass market by a major American airgun company. The rifles immense popularity influenced many other companies to rush their own big bore designs into production to get their piece of the pie.
The AirForce Texan is available in several calibers .257, .308, .357, .457, and .50 caliber, one is sure to fill the niche you need for your intended game. Each caliber has its own strengths, and power levels, up to 700 ft lbs of energy in the .50 caliber option.
In its standard configuration, it uses a 490cc steel air reservoir at the rear of the gun that is also the but stock. The direct flow of the air in a straight line from the bottle to the valve to the barrel, means the air is not disturbed and gives more power, and more shots from the 3000 psi fill bottle than other designs where the air has to make many twist and turns and becomes more turbulent when it finally gets behind the bullet.
The Texan has many features, some of which are an easy cocking and loading side lever, it comes from the factory with a 2 pound trigger pull, an automatic safety, the main frame is made from one piece of aluminum for rigidity, and has extended dovetail rails running the length of the gun both above and below the barrel, allowing for the mounting of lights, lasers, bipods, open sights, sling mounts and almost anything you want to mount on the dovetail rails.
At its heart, the AirForce Texan is a single shot pre-charged air rifle that seems simplistic at first glance, but the technology it incorporates makes it a powerful, accurate, reliable and robust hunting gun able to take any large game on the North American continent.
The Texan is available in several calibers and power levels so you have the option to choose the right caliber for your hunting needs. It fills to 3000 psi, so it can be filled with a hand pump if you do not have access to a fill station.
The rifle has an extended optics rail, and extra rails along the frame for mounting other accessories. The power adjustment wheel allows you the flexibility to fine-tune the power level to get the most accuracy and power from the gun.
The AirForce Texan is easy to carry in the field, and shoots well offhand or from shooting sticks.
The rifle is not suppressed from the factory, but aftermarket moderators are available online.
The Texan is 48 inches long, but the longer barrel gives you more velocity than a shorter barrel will. This is since the buttstock length is not adjustable, an air tank is the buttstock.
The trigger is only adjustable for its position, not its pull weight.
The Seneca Dragon Claw is a single shot .50 caliber big bore air rifle imported by Air Venturi, that has a very special capability that few other air rifles are able to do. Like other big bore airguns on this list, it is a precharged pneumatic air rifle capable of taking medium to large game with .50 caliber bullets of various weights with over 200 ft lbs of energy with a slug.
But it is also able to shoot the Air Venturi Air Bolts.
The Air Bolts are a 23 inch carbon fiber arrow that is specifically designed to be shot from the Air Venturi big bore airguns. They can be shot with either field points, and broadheads for target shooting or hunting. Weighing 430 grains, they fired at about 475 fps from this rifle, and grouping at about 1 inch or less at 30 yards.
The Dragon Claw is a tried and true design that incorporates a dual air chamber that gives you more shots than other guns with smaller air cylinders. It is a beautiful rifle with traditional wood and blued steel construction, a laser engraved receiver and a checkered forearm and grip.
The Dragon Claw has the flexibility of shooting .50 caliber slugs, or 430 grain arrows (Air Venturi Air Bolts) giving you multiple choices of how you can take your game.
It also allows you to choose 2 levels of power when cocking the rifle, letting you select the correct power needed for what you are shooting. The rifle fills to 3000 psi with only a 500cc tank so it is handpump friendly for backwoods excursions.
It comes standard with fully adjustable iron sights, and a scope rail for mounting optics.
The Dragon Claw is not regulated, so your velocity will drop as your air pressure in the tank goes down. Because of the power of this rifle you only get about 10 shots per fill on high power, but you may get as many as 20 shots on low power.
Compact size scopes are recommended as longer scopes may block the loading port for the bullets. The monte carlo stock is geared for right hand shooters only.
AirForce airguns first created the Texan, one of the most powerful airguns on the PCP market, a lot of great things can be said about the Texan except it being quiet was not one of them.
Until AirForce introduced this gun, the Texan SS. The SS stands for Sound Suppression, that's right, it incorporates all of the great innovations of the Texan, but in a much quieter package. Unlike the Texan this rifle is only available in .30, .357 and .45 caliber configurations.
Because of the sound suppression system, game animals and predatory animals like hogs and coyotes do not associate the sound of the Texan SS as a gun being fired and are not spooked by it nearly as much as the sound of a firearm.
The 3000 psi 480cc tank is capable of being filled by a high pressure hand pump making this a sustainable hunting gun in the backwoods. The trigger is adjustable for position, but comes preset from the factory with an amazing 2 pound trigger pull, with a crisp clean break.
The side lever cocking is effortless, and the bullet can be loaded from either side of the gun. The gun has extended 11mm rails allowing for the mounting of larger night vision devices for night time predator or hog hunting.
The AirForce Texan SS is powerful yet accurate and most of all, a quiet hunting weapon available in several calibers so you can tailor your power requirements to your intended game.
The AirForce Texan SS is 5 inches shorter, and almost a full pound lighter than the standard Texan. Making it a quiet, lightweight hunting gun that is easily carried for all day hunting trips. A high-pressure hand pump can fill the 3000 psi tank when you do not have any other fill sources available.
The easy to operate side lever cocking makes loading extremely easy even for hunters with disabilities. The rifle has adjustable power, and an extended optics rail that is perfect for mounting larger scopes and night vision devices.
There are no provisions for open sights, so you will have to buy an optical sight. While the rifle can be loaded from either side, the cocking lever is not moveable to the left side.
The trigger is only adjustable for its position, not its pull weight. The buttstock length is not adjustable since the air tank is the buttstock.
What do you get when you squeeze a 28 inch .357 caliber barrel into a 36 inch long 3000 psi precharged big bore air rifle? You get the Benjamin Bulldog.
The bulldog is a powerful, and accurate hunting gun with a lot of innovations compressed into a small package. It has a 28 inch barrel, a trapezoidal sound suppression chamber, a 5 shot magazine, and a side lever that is reversible for left handed operation.
Put on top of that a 26 inch top Picatinny/Weaver rail for optics both day and night vision, and a short rail section below the barrel for a bipod or light. The rifle has a 340cc reservoir that fills to 3000 psi, so it is very easy to charge with a high-pressure hand pump when in remote areas away from fill stations.
Air Venturi also makes .357 caliber Air Bolts that allow you to hunt with arrows in states that allow them. The speed and accuracy of the Air Bolts when fired out of the Bulldog exceed even the most powerful crossbows, and the cocking effort is minimal.
The Benjamin Bulldog is a light, compact, slim and fully self contained 5 shot repeating big bore air rifle capable of taking big game with either bullets or AIr Bolts, making it an extremely attractive option for hunters with disabilities.
The rifle is a 5 shot repeater with a side lever for easy cocking. It is ambidextrous as the side lever is reversible, and the magazine loads from the top of the rifle. The Bulldog is hand pump friendly with a 340cc reservoir and a 3000psi fill.
It is compatible with Air Venturi Air Bolts for added flexibility in your choice of projectiles. It is suggested you use 37mm tall "absolute co-witness" rings and optics that are readily available as they are compatible with AR platform rifles.
It is handicap friendly as it requires minimal cocking effort to load from the 5 round magazine, and the rifle requires no extra support equipment to fire 10 full power shots.
You will have to use taller than average scope rings or optics to get a comfortable sight picture due to the straight line design of the stock.
It is a precharged pneumatic air rifle so you will need a fill source for high pressure air. While it is not as loud as an unmoderated air rifle, it seems louder as your face is against the stock, and the sound of firing is transmitted through your facial bones.
There's that name again, Seneca. If you haven't noticed, there are 4 Seneca big bore airguns on this list.
Each of them are a different caliber, and different power level, intended for different game animals. The Seneca Big Bore Light Hunter is a .45 caliber single shot air rifle with absolutely gorgeous traditional wood and blued steel construction.
The rifle gets about 20 shots per fill of the 500cc dual airtube. The rifle fills to 3000psi, and the 500cc main tube makes it hand pump friendly for when no other air sources are available.
The flexibility of the Seneca Light Hunter is nothing short of amazing. You can shoot .457 round lead balls with great accuracy, heavier bullets also perform well, and give you more energy than the round balls, and you can even use the .45 caliber Air Venturi Air Bolts that can be tipped with either field points, or razor sharp broadheads that will give you the most power and lethality the Seneca Light Hunter has to offer.
The Seneca Light Hunter has the flexibility of shooting .45 caliber round balls or bullets, and 400 grain carbon fiber Air Venturi Air Bolts giving you multiple choices of how you can take your game.
No matter what projectile you are shooting it allows you to choose 2 levels of power when cocking the rifle.
The .45 caliber rifles gets about 20 shots per fill, almost twice the shot count of other big bore air rifles. It comes standard with fully adjustable sights, and a removable 11mm scope rail for mounting your choice of optics.
The rifle is not regulated, so your air pressure drops after every shot so does your velocity. It is a .45 caliber air rifle so it attains slightly less power than a .50 caliber air rifle, but you do get more shots per fill than a .50 caliber.
The stock is designed for right handed shooters so may not be comfortable for left handed people. The wood stocks may be scratched easier than synthetic stocked rifles.
Power, Speed,and Accuracy? It's got it. Want to shoot birdshot, bullets, and arrows? It will do that. This airgun is capable of taking both small and large game of any type, it has the flexibility of using birdshot for small fast moving game animals that run, hop or fly.
Then it has the ability to accurately shooting round lead balls, lead bullets or even carbon fiber razor-sharp broadhead tipped arrows for the largest game on the planet. The Wingshot II also has a removable choke that can extend your birdshot range by condensing the shot pattern.
The sighting arrangement is a ventilated rib over the barrel, and topped with a brass bead front sight like traditional gunpowder burning shotguns. No other airgun offers the flexibility the Seneca Wingshot II offers, coupled with the fine materials and craftsmanship, it would surely have a special place in your collection.
It's an air-powered shotgun that can also shoot bullets and arrows, nothing else even comes close. The removable choke allows you to adjust the size of the shot pattern as needed.
It weighs less than 7.5 lbs, so it is easily carried for a day in the field. The stock is ambidextrous, so it is friendly to left handed hunters.
The traditional styling, and with the engraved receiver, and checkered stock make this a beautiful airgun that you would be proud to own and shoot.
The shotgun is not regulated so the pressure drops after every shot, but it gives 5 full power shots before having to be refilled to 3000 psi.
The velocity of the shot column is about 1/2 of the velocity of a firearm shotgun, so you will have to learn a different lead of your target for crossing shots of flying birds.
Being a .50 caliber shotgun, you have a smaller number of birdshot "pellets" per shell, than a larger bore firearm shotgun, so your shot pattern will not be as dense.
The Seneca Recluse air rifle (there's that Seneca name again) is a .357 caliber air rifle in the same family of other Seneca branded airguns, they all share the same basic platform, and share the same exquisite build quality, but each comes in different calibers and power levels. So you know the level of quality you are getting when you buy any airgun in the Seneca line.
The .357 Recluse is designed for somewhat "smaller" big game, but still giving you the accuracy, power and flexibility of using .357 round lead balls, .357 lead bullets or pellets (yes they make .357 caliber diabolo pellets), and the ability of using the Air Venturi Air Bolts that are made in .357 caliber just for this air rifle.
You may not need the full power of a .50 caliber air rifle for the size animal you hunt, so the .357 Recluse will be the perfect air rifle delivering the power, accuracy, shot count and flexibility needed for your task at hand. The fact that it is a very beautiful and finely crafted air rifle is just icing on the cake.
The Recluse is available in .357 caliber and fires with a maximum velocity of 983fps. The rifle fills to 3000 psi, with a 500cc dual tank, so it is hand pump friendly.
It comes with a fully adjustable rear sight, and an included 11mm dovetail rail for mounting your choice of optics. It has a straight pull side cocking knob with 2 preset power levels for you to choose from.
It has the ability to shoot the .35 caliber Air Venturi Air Bolts using field tips, or razor sharp broadhead points.
The Recluse is not regulated, so your air pressure drops after every shot so does your velocity. It is a .35 caliber air rifle so it attains slightly less power than a .50 caliber air rifle, but you do get more shots per fill than a .50 caliber.
The stock is designed for right handed shooters so may not be comfortable for left handed shooters. The wood stock may be scratched easier than synthetic stocked rifles.
The Hatsan Hercules Bully PCP air rifle is a bullpup design that manages to put everything you could want in a hunting airgun into a small 36 inch long package. The Bully is available in all of the common calibers from .177 all the way up to the bone crushing, game getting .45 caliber. The rifle is powered by a 500cc carbon fiber bottle that fills to 250 bar (3625psi) to give you the maximum shots available from the gun.
The Hatsan Bully does not skimp on features and amenities, it comes with removable flip-up Tru-Glow sights so you do not need to purchase an optic to go hunting. The rifle has an "anti-double feed system" to prevent you from accidentally loading 2 bullets into the barrel.
It incorporates 2 onboard magazine holders to store extra ammunition until it is needed. Because this is a hunting rifle, the Weaver/picatinny rail system is extra long so you may mount your regular optics, and any night vision, or photography camera/phone mounts you need to enhance or record your hunting experience.
The Hatsan Bully uses the proven QE (Quiet Energy) barrel and shroud technology to ensure your rifle is as quiet and as accurate as it can be. In the trigger guard you will find an adjustable 2 stage trigger that can be adjusted for travel, and weight, and a manual safety located conveniently for left or right handed shooters. The ambidextrous bullpup stock has an easily adjustable cheek piece, and side lever action that is located right above the trigger for ease of operation.
With up to 290 ft lbs of energy, the Hatsan Bully has the accuracy and the power you need to harvest any large game you may have the opportunity to hunt.
The amount of features and the quality the rifle has is amazing for the price. The rifle has an ambidextrous stock and safety, making it left hand user-friendly.
The anti-double feed system is a much appreciated addition, normally found on guns costing much more than the Hatsan Bully. The rifle has sling attachment points already on the stock so you don't have to buy them.
The large carbon fiber tank fills to a higher pressure than other tanks, thereby increasing the number of shots you get from this powerful air rifle. The QE shrouded barrel quietens the bark from such a powerful big bore air rifle.
It is a precharged pneumatic rifle that fills to 3625 psi, with a 500cc bottle, so it is not exactly handpump friendly, so you will need a carbon fiber fill bottle or portable compressor capable of at least 4000psi.
The Hatsan is a little on the heavy side at 10.3 lbs, but the weight is all at the rear of the gun so it handles like a much lighter gun. At the max power level in .45 caliber, you only get about 7 full power shots per fill.
Yes, an air rifle can kill big game, but with certain caveats. You should always use the correct power and caliber air rifle suited to the size and weight of the animal you are hunting.
That is the reason big bore airguns come in several calibers, and corresponding power levels. You would not want to use a .50 caliber air rifle to shoot a squirrel, as there would be very little usable meat left to cook for dinner.
On the flip side you do not want to use a .177 or .22 caliber air rifle on an animal the size of a feral hog or bigger as it lacks the power to humanely dispatch the animal, and will only wound the animal and cause needless suffering.
That is the reason most state laws now require a .30 caliber or larger air rifle producing over 200 ft lbs or more of energy to legally harvest fur-bearing animals larger than a squirrel.
People have successfully taken animals as large as African Cape Buffalo with a .50 caliber airgun using the Air Venturi Air Bolts equipped with broadhead points. The cape buffalo is considered one of the "Big Five" most dangerous animals to hunt in the world.
So when hunting most types of big game, a .357, .45, or .50 caliber airgun will be more than powerful and accurate enough to provide a quick and humane kill.
Remember the old saying: You can shoot a mouse with an elephant gun, but you do not want to shoot an elephant with a mouse gun.
In the world of muscle cars and drag racing there is a saying, "there is no substitute for horsepower". In the world of big bore air rifles, it is the same.
If you are shooting a feral hog that weighs 50 lbs, or a bear that weighs 500 lbs, a .50 caliber air gun producing 900 ft lbs of energy will transfer more "knockdown" power to the animal than will a .30 caliber air rifle producing 200 ft lbs of energy.
Rifle caliber firearms operate at around the 45,000-60,000 psi range. As airgunners, our current technology pretty much limits us to about 4,500 psi maximum or less than 1/10th of the pressure. So the power levels generated by big bore airguns are much less than rifle caliber firearms, and are closer to the power levels of muzzle loading rifles, and magnum powered handguns. As such, the larger frontal area, and heavier weight of the .45 or .50 caliber projectile, will have a greater impact on the animal than a smaller lighter caliber.
To humanely harvest game animals, you want to use the caliber that will give you the most energy that can be delivered accurately into the vital area of the animal. Larger animals tend to have a larger vital organ area (heart and lungs) than smaller animals do.
Smaller calibers (.30 and .357) are best suited for lighter weight smaller game, as they tend to be more accurate at longer ranges than bigger air gun calibers are, and have a flatter trajectory to the target.
Other factors to consider:
The air rifles in .257, .30 and .357 caliber generally shoot flatter at longer distances than larger calibers, and get more shots per fill, so they are well suited to hunting game like coyotes and hogs, in open fields where you will be likely to be shooting more of them from a single position at longer ranges.
The AirForce Texas LSS is ideally suited for this style of hunting, for several reasons:
If you are eradicating nuisance coyotes, the Texan LSS is the proper tool for the job, it delivers the unequaled accuracy and power you need.
White tail deer are typically hunted at shorter distances and in a more densely wooded environment with trees, bushes and other thick vegetation that could hinder the performance of the smaller calibers.
So you would want to use the .45 and .50 caliber options on deer and other large game as those calibers have a heavier bullet weight and more energy so as to not be affected by underbrush.
Given the options available as of this writing, I would choose the Umarex Hammer for deer hunting at 50 yards and less. It will shoot a monstrous 550 grain lead slug with over 700 ft lbs of energy, and the ability to shoot 1 inch groups at 50 yards, It is both powerful and accurate, it is also quiet with the shrouded barrel.
The straight pull, easy to operate speed bolt coupled with the 2 shot magazine makes second shots almost effortless. It will bring home the venison.
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