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Single-shot vs. repeating air rifle: Which way to go?

by B.B. Pelletier

Some straight talk about what has recently become a controversy among airgunners – the single-shot rifle versus the repeater.

A single-shot rifle has no trouble with pellet shapes. A single-shot usually lets you insert the pellet directly into the breech. On guns with bolts, you have to rely on a bolt probe to seat the pellet for you. Many shooters feel that pellet seating is one of the keys to best accuracy. They seat to a certain depth that’s usually controlled in some positive way, plus they can inspect the pellet before it enters the bore

I’m not just talking about breakbarrel spring guns, either. Many of the top precharged rifles are still single-shots, though the trend for new guns is definitely toward repeaters. All of the top field target champions are shooting single-shot rifles, and no Olympic 10-meter repeating target rifles are even made. Yes, there are a few five-shot biathlon rifles, but that sport is about speed rather than precision.

Why do all the champions go single-shot?
I think they believe that the more control they exercise over their ammunition before it is shot, the better their chances of winning. A repeating mechanism has to move the pellets to the breech somehow, and that movement opens up the possibility for damage. I know that’s how I feel.

The case for hunting with a single-shot
Those who hunt with single-shot rifles often say, “I only have one shot, so I have to make it count.” I think that’s a cop-out. A hunter can always use a second shot. When I hunt, I want a repeater. When I shoot for absolute precision, I’ll take a single–shot.

A repeater gives you backup shots. That is the biggest benefit I can think of. In some cases, you don’t lose much accuracy. Take the Career 707, for example. It has a linear magazine for the pellets, so pointed pellets are out because each would stick in the skirt of the pellet in front of it. However, that’s no great loss. The Career can handle domed pellets fine, and the most accurate ones in .22 caliber are JSB Exacts, Crosman Premiers and Beeman Kodiaks – all of which feed fine in the Career 707.

Repeaters with circular clips such as the FX 2000 can use pellets with all different shapes, but the pellets are limited in length by the thickness of the clip. As long as you choose a reasonably sized (weight) pellet, this doesn’t present a problem. When you try to shove a 28-grain Eun Jin into one of them, it’s too long!

The repeater lets you carry extra loaded magazines
This is an advantage for hunters. They can load many magazines and put them in a pocket for the hunt. No fumbling with a pellet tin or a loose pouch in the middle of an important hunt.

Which is best: single-shot or repeater?
Unless you’re going for the absolute ultimate in precision, a repeater will be as accurate as you need, so don’t let my prejudices sway you. I own several of them, and the ones I have are very accurate. But, a nice single-shot is still a good air rifle. It’s a little more flexible when it comes to ammo choices, and it can cost less money. The choice is yours, because both types of air rifles have a lot going for them.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

3 thoughts on “Single-shot vs. repeating air rifle: Which way to go?”

  1. BB Does the FX “8”er series use the same clips? It would be a shame not to be able to use those 28GR pellets in them too. I tried them recently out of a tallon and they smack good n’ hard.

  2. What about the single shot pellet, BB repeaters? Like the Airmaster 77 or the Crosman 760? I started off with a Daisy Airstrike 240 pistol, got hooked on shooting things, bought a Red Ryder to move up a little, and now I’m trying to decide on a decent, inexpensive airgun.

    Crosman 760 is cheap and has a 200 BB reservoir, but I don’t know if it’s an upgrade from a Red Ryder. BAM B4 is very inexpensive, but I don’t know if it’s any good. Crosman Phantom looks nice. The Rem Airmaster 77 is also nice and has a BB reservoir, but is double the price of the 760…

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