.177 vs .22 Air Rifles: Which is Better?

Sometimes, you may be tempted simply to go for the higher caliber just because it sounds more effective and seems more formidable. That may not always be the case as its effectiveness depends on what you intend to use the air rifle for.

For limited activities up to a certain response, you may only need a limited caliber to do the job and anything further will be surplus. When it comes to target practice and small game hunting, you really should find out which is better out of a .177 and .22 air rifle.

177 vs .22 Air Rifles Which is Better

In this guide, we will look at what a .177 and .22 air rifle is best for, the differences between the two rifles, and which is better.

What A .177 Air Rifle Is Best For?

When it comes to sub 12 ft lbs rifle shooting, you should be looking at placement and field craft rather than a forceful shot. Just ensuring that you can get the pellet just where you want it should be the be-all and end-all of your shooting.

If you can deliver an effective kill shot then it should not wholly matter whether the pellet creates a significant hole in your target, as long as it does the job. With more forgiving ballistics, a .177 will be easier to shoot with and provide more comfortable shooting.

In terms of a forceful shot, the .177 air rifle will do well for penetration and that could be all you need for shooting squirrels and other small pests.

These can be tough creatures to nail down yet the .177 caliber proves effective due to the pellet’s smaller diameter and quicker delivery for better penetration. For those that are new to shooting, a .177 is easier to learn and more forgiving when shot. 

If you want an air rifle for fun plinking at soda cans and target competitions then look towards the .177.

Manufacturers tend to spend more time and attention on assuring higher levels of accuracy to differentiate it from the .22 and other air rifles and it can become apparent when you try both air rifles.

Should you use the .177 air rifle for hunting instead of target practice then you should limit yourself to nuisance pets rather than small game so aim it at magpies, rats, and squirrels. 

What A .22 Air Rifle Is Best For?

For delivering a shot with more force and energy than the .177, the .22 air rifle should be ideal. If you want to shoot game at a distance of between 35 and 40 meters with a sub 12 ft lbs rifle then look at the .22 caliber for your pellets.

Under those conditions and at that distance, the better retention should be useful for downing game yet it does mean having to get closer due to the less forgiving ballistics.

It is possible that you could shoot a pellet further yet it becomes more difficult and would require a lot more hours in practice. 

With a higher muzzle energy than the .177 air rifle, you should be more confident in approaching larger game species simply due to that caliber. That includes rabbits and hares who can be quick off the mark so you want to down them with a single, assertive shot.

A smaller pellet may simply wound an animal, if you want to have an ethical kill shot then you are more likely to achieve it with a .22 air rifle than a .177. 

The Difference Between A .177 And A .22 Air Rifle

One of the main differences between those two calibers is how many adjustments you need to make for a range of shots. For instance, taking a longer or closer shot with a .22 air rifle will mean having to take a range of adjustments just to compensate for the pellet’s arc.

If time is limited on a hunt and you are feeling the pressure to take the shot then this can make a real difference. You are likely just to want to concentrate on the accuracy of the shot, not having to confidently estimate the range too. 

There is a skill you can learn when it comes to the more prominent ballistic curve that belongs to a .22 air rifle. It can be a challenge to appropriately adjust to the more extreme hold-over and under yet once you have overcome it then the capability of the air rifle increases.

That one challenge can take a lot of time to master and you may find yourself guessing until you crack it but it is worth persisting with. 

The .177 air rifle is an increasingly flatter shooter which you can just pick up and go without having to spend too much time practicing.

If you want an air rifle that can perform over more distances and still provide accurate shooting then you should opt for a sub 12 ft lbs .177.

While the .22 air rifle should provide a more forceful shot, there is more weight and it takes a while to ensure the right placement.

However, if you do go for the .22 air rifle then those hours of practicing in the yard for the hold-over and under could firm your interest in shooting and give you confidence that you have learned a new skill. 

The fundamental difference between the .177 and .22 air rifle is the caliber, or the specific diameter of the bullet to be precise. A .177 caliber is currently the smallest in use and is increasingly popular in Europe.

However, the .22 caliber is preferred in the US, though has faced competition from the .177. While the price of the two calibers of air rifles is marginal, if there is any difference at all, you would be getting more pellets with a .177 tin than a .22. 

177 vs .22 Air Rifles Which is Better

Which Is Better: A .177 Or A .22 Air Rifle?

In simple terms, the higher the caliber, the heavier the pellet, and the higher the muzzle energy. If you were simply looking for a more powerful shot then you would always take the .22 air rifle.

For a shooter who is willing to put the practice in, that increased force can be highly rewarding. That’s largely because of the velocity of that larger pellet changes with its increased weight and the higher firing capability of the air rifle.

There is little difference in price between models of .177 and .22 air rifles from brands. It is more down to experience and how much the shooter is willing to put into using the air rifle.

If you are looking for more discreet shooting then go for the .22 as the .177 should be louder due to the higher muzzle velocity. That could change with a silencer, the type of powerplant, and the machining quality associated with the barrel. 

What may be of higher interest to a shooter is simply how far the pellet will travel depending on whether it is a .177 or .22 caliber.

That could make a crucial difference during a hunt in how far away from the target you need to stand or how close you have to get in for an approach.

The first is the angle at which the pellet is shot and the eventual penetration that the shot will provide. With heavier pellets, the .22 air rifle will have more killing power but you will need to get closer to your target if you want to confirm the accuracy.

Final Thoughts

With little difference between the cost of the .177 and .22 models of air rifles from the same brands, you are really looking at what the caliber can deliver for your shooting.

For target shooting, you should be looking at a .177 air rifle which can provide better, more consistent accuracy.

However, for small game hunting, the .22 is superior as long as the target is not too far away. For a more versatile air rifle, you should look towards the .22 as it can be used with confidence for both target practice and hunting.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can You Hunt With A .22 Air Rifle?

With a .22 caliber, you can use the break barrel with that air rifle for increasingly accurate shots of 18-grain domed pellets. Traveling at over 700 feet per second, that should be ideal for squirrels, rabbits, and other small game species.

Certainly, with the .22 air rifle, you have more options to kill more than just pests. 

What Is Known As The Air Rifle With The Fastest Shot?

The Texan .457 caliber air rifle is widely known as the one with the fastest shot. That’s largely down to its propensity to shoot .45 caliber projectiles at a speed of over 1000 feet per second.

Not only that but the energy levels come in at over 600 ft lbs which is very powerful indeed.

Tim Roth
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