So, you want to join the world of air pistols? Welcome aboard! But before you get too excited and try to dive right into picking the coolest looking pistol, as you learn more you should look through an overview of not just the fundamentals of owning an air pistol but also the best models out there. If you’re looking for long guns, you can find our list of the top air rifles here.
After reading through this list of the ten best air pistols on the market and buyers guide, you’ll understand the nuances of the different models and the things you should consider before diving into a purchase. You’ll learn that an authentic design doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best on the market and you’ll be able to comprehend what makes a quality air pistol.
Take a look at the following handguns and read through the included buyers guide (located at the bottom, just after the last pistol review) to ensure you make the most educated decision when it comes to purchasing an air pistol.
Our Top 5 at a Glance
You know Winchester as the prolific gun manufacturer that’s made firearms its business since 1866 and while this model air pistol isn’t nearly as powerful as its real counterparts, it was still built with the same quality craftsmanship.
Powered by a 12-gram CO2 cartridge, the Model 11K is a semi-automatic BB gun capable of a mid-range velocity of at least 410 FPS. Firing off its clip of 16 BBs is a breeze thanks to the light trigger, which requires only 4 lbs of pressure to engage.
The Model 11K fires accurately but does require steel BBs. Using plastic pellets may cause damage to the unit. This model comes with a case, two CO2 cartridges, and 750 Winchester BBs to allow for immediate use upon arrival.
- Included Accessories: There’s nothing worse than buying an air pistol and forgetting you still need a CO2 cartridge and BBs. The 11K comes with everything you need to use it right out of the box.
- Light Trigger: At only 4 lbs, the trigger is easy to pull, making it easy to fire off shots in succession without a struggle.
- No Plastic BBs: Being required to use steel BBs can be more expensive over time.
The smooth barrel of this hunting pistol gives it an authentic feel while the semi-automatic firing makes it great for target practice. Powered by CO2 cartridges, the BB repeater fires off at a maximum velocity of 500 FPS.
A BB magazine comes built-in and can hold up to 21 shots, so reloading isn’t necessary too frequently. The design of the Daisy 985415-442 may lend to authenticity, but it also makes changing out the CO2 cartridge more difficult. Get past this very minor flaw and you have yourself one of the most powerful air pistols on the market.
- Great for Competition: The high velocity and rapid firing makes this pellet gun great for target practice and competitions.
- Hidden CO2 Cartridges: The CO2 chambers aren’t obvious and require a little work to get to, which can be a pain if you use your pistol often and are frequently swapping out cartridges.
When you shop for a product, chances are you try to stick with a brand you recognize. If you did that with air pistols, you’d completely glance over Umarex, a small-time player among the larger manufacturers. Though it may not have a recognizable name, Umarex’s 2254821 TDP 45 is a quality model air pistol that stands up to the well-known manufacturers.
The maximum velocity of the TDP 45 reaches 410 FPS, so don’t expect to do much vermin hunting. Stick to target practice with this beginner’s pistol. The TDP 45 caters to the beginner market and includes a loader, which you can use until you’re comfortable without it.
The included weaver rail allows you to add whatever accessories you deem necessary for a more complete experience. This small air pistol may not look like much, but it is comparable to models from better-known manufacturers.
- Easy Trigger Pull: Umarex wants to appeal to an amateur crowd and the light trigger pull makes this an accessible model for
- Small Build: The TDP 45 fits comfortably in your hand thanks to its smaller size.
- Average at Best: The TDP 45 will not cater to hobbyist and intermediate shooters. It’s an average shooter that is intended to market towards amateur shooters.
Looking to go hunting with a powerful pellet gun but don’t want to upgrade to a rifle? While many air pistols aren’t intended for hunting use, the Gamo P-25 Blowback is a lightweight model with a sizable velocity of 450 FPS. This makes it a great option for hunting small game and its smaller size, coming in at 1.7 lbs, is easy to carry around and aim.
The double magazine holds 16 pellets while a manual safety system will prevent any unwanted firings while out stalking your small game. The textured grip fits comfortably in your hands, providing for a steadier aim.
- High Velocity: At 450 FPS, the velocity of the P-25 Blowback is stronger than many models on the market and is ideal for hunting pests and small game.
- Blowback Action: The Blowback creates a more authentic fire while automatically cocking for the next shot.
- Limited Ammo: The P-25 is only capable with standard-skirt pellets. If you enjoy shooting with a variety, this could hinder the experience.
This smooth-looking air pistol could easily be mistaken for the real thing thanks to its detailed construction. Though it may look heavy-duty, it’s an easy-to-use model that is accurate with each shot. Powered by single-stroke pneumatic firing mechanic, you’ll only need to cock the overlever once before it’s ready to go.
Worried about trigger control and accuracy but don’t want to waste pellets? Thanks to the pneumatic firing system, the P3 can be dry-fired without concern for damaging the gun. The steel and polymer construction will stand up in various weather conditions and over extended periods of use, so your first fire should feel a lot like your 100th.
Designed to be ambidextrous, the Beeman P3 appeals to all kinds of shooters. Though its build may say “hobbyist,” its offerings certainly call out to beginners, too.
- Solid Construction: Built from steel and polymer components, the P3 will withstand prolonged periods of use, inactivity, and extreme weather conditions.
- Impressive Accuracy: Center-to-center, the P3 boasts an accuracy of .20”. That’s one of the best on the market and makes it a great target pistol.
- Difficult to Cock: Though you only need one cocking stroke, generally cocking the P3 is more on the difficult side and will require multiple attempts before getting the hang of it.
This two-pound air pistol has a unique design, looking similar to the Walther P38 semi-automatic. Like the gun it was modeled after, the C41 BB air pistol is also semi-automatic, though it fires 4.5 mm steel BBs instead of real bullets.
The construction is mostly metal, including the drop-out magazine, lending to the authenticity of the firearm. Otherwise basic, sturdy construction is amplified by a quick trigger pull and ambidextrous use. When it comes time to swap out the CO2 cartridge, the compartment is hidden to not ruin the aesthetic of the sleek-looking air pistol.
This double action gun is equipped with a 5.19” rifled barrel though its grip has been pegged as being a little too big.
- Inexpensive: Despite being made entirely of metal, the C41 is rather inexpensive.
- Hidden CO2 Compartment: Though this can sometimes be a hindrance with some models, the hidden cartridge lends to the authenticity of the Walther P38 design.
- Too Big: Users with smaller hands may find the grip of the C41 to be a little too big and uncomfortable to fire.
The plastic and metal build of this blowback-enabled air pistol lends to a light frame of 2 lbs. A non-rifled barrel of 5.5” sticks predominantly from a metal and plastic body, which fires off BBs from a magazine chamber at a velocity of 390 FPS. It’s not powerful compared to other models, but the accuracy is impressive.
While there is a safety in place, you’ll need to manually check it as it won’t automatically engage, and the loading process is more difficult than it needs to be; but other than this, this is a fine model air pistol that fits well within a hobbyist’s collection due to its unique design. Though you won’t go hunting with it, it is well-suited in competitions.
- High Accuracy: Every shot from the M712 Blowback will land on or near where you were aiming thanks to its impressive accuracy.
- Blowback Action: The auto-cocking blowback makes using the M712 easier with each firing.
- Lower Power: At only 390 FPS, the M712 is far from the most powerful model on the market, though it will serve beginners and hobbyists well.
- Tough to Load: The BB magazine can be difficult to load as the magazine has a tendency to pop out if not handled with a steady hand.
If you know anything about firearms, chances are you’ve heard the word “Beretta” before and know it’s trusted standard firearm. This moderately priced replica BB pistol carries the Beretta name and the quality that goes with it.
The power of the Elite II falls mid-range with a maximum velocity of 410 FPS fueled by a 12g CO2 cartridge. This .177 caliber pistol is semi-automatic, bears a trigger with double-action and single-stage adjustability, and weighs a considerably light 1.5 lbs. It’s a balanced and sturdy replica that, for hobbyists, may be more of a showpiece thanks to the accurate build. Others will enjoy the realistic feel of this excellent air pistol.
- Quality Replication: The Elite II looks exactly how a Beretta should, making it difficult to want to put it to use and not keep it on display.
- Drop-Out Magazine: Adding to the realism of the Beretta replica, the Elite II has a drop-out magazine.
- Difficult CO2 Replacement: Housed in the pistol’s grip, the CO2 cartridge can give the user a little trouble during replacement.
The unmistakable revolver build of the CCP8B2 already makes this a favorite air pistol among beginner, intermediate, and hobby owners, but the classic style is only a piece of the puzzle as to why it’s a favorite. As with a classic revolver, 10 pellets or six BBs are loaded into the interchangeable and removable clips, which easily pops in and out of place for convenient reloading.
With the revolver-style build also comes a higher-powered velocity of 435 FPS, an adjustable rear sight, and a tactical rail system to add a scope to later. Whether you prefer shooting single or double-action, the CCP8B2 Vigilante serves both purposes.
If it’s a balanced air pistol you’re looking for, the Vigilante is one of the best on the market, offering power, accuracy, and durability all in one very authentic looking package.
- Powerful: At 435 FPS, the Vigilante is one of the most powerful pellet guns you’ll find – fitting for its revolver build.
- Single and Double Action: Catering to users with varying preferences, the Vigilante is equipped for single and double-action firing.
- Light Pulling Weight: At only 3 lbs of pressure, the pulling weight makes it a surprise that the Vigilante is capable of its powerful velocity.
- Loose Grip: Complaints of the grip being loose are frequent. A loose grip can lead to hindered accuracy in an otherwise accurate model.
Affordable and reliable, the Colt Defender is a 16-shot BB air pistol with a built-in magazine and sturdy, all-metal construction. Fixed front and rear sights provide a more accurate firing while the spring-powered grip release is bound to last over the years.
It’s a lightweight model that packs a surprising velocity of 450 FPS, making it one of the more powerful BB pistols on the market without having to increase the overall size and weight. While it’s mostly featureless, the Colt Defender stands on its own as a dependable model that will fire every time if taken care of.
- Front and Rear Sights: Though the Defender isn’t feature-rich, it does have a fixed front and rear sight for improved accuracy.
- High Velocity: Each CO2 cartridge is capable of firing off BBs at a velocity of 450 lbs.
- Troublesome Loading Mechanism: Loading a CO2 cartridge into the Defender can start off as a bothersome task and will take several tries before you get accustomed to it.
- Lack of Features: The Colt Defender is a bare-bones model that doesn’t come with much beyond the front and rear sights.
Air Pistol Buyers Guide
With a clearer picture of which air pistols are best for beginner, intermediate, and hobbyist use, you then need to determine which pistol works best for you personally. To do this, you need to stop shopping for a moment and ask yourself a series of questions. Once you’ve answered them, you’re able to look at the air pistol options out there and determine which model suits your needs best.
What’s My Bottom Line?
Everything costs money, there’s no getting around that, so when you get into shopping for a BB pistol or pellet gun, you need to ask yourself how much you’re willing to spend. Luckily, even higher-end air pistols don’t cost a lot, but do you want to spend more for a more advanced model or keep things cheaper for a bare-bones pistol?
Feature-rich pistols will cost quite a few bucks more than those that may just come with the bare essentials needed to use it. Knowing where you stand in regard to price is your first step in determining what model air pistols you should even bother considering.
Why Do I Want an Air Pistol?
Are you a casual shooter just looking to let off steam? Do you intend to go hunting (where legal)? Or do you have aspirations to join a competition at some point? Pinpointing why you want to own an air pistol is another means of deciding what you need from your pistol.
Casual shooters aren’t in need of high-velocity pistols while hunters will need an FPS that ranges around 435 to 450 and a moderate distance. Competitive air pistol users will be looking for more feature-rich models, maybe one with a rail for an attachable sight and light trigger pull weight.
It’s incredibly easy as a beginner to purchase an air pistol that winds up being too advanced or technical. Be mindful of what the pistol comes with and how it was designed. If you’re new in the field, you may want to consider a model that’s easy-loading or has a CO2 cartridge that’s easily accessed.
How Far Do I Want to Shoot?
Do you have a distance in mind? Especially if you’re hunting or plan to just shoot at stationary targets, you’ll need to consider how far out your target will be. Variable pump air pistols will only get you a range of 15 yards while guns powered by CO2 can increase your range to 20 yards. Break barrel guns will go even further, sometimes even hitting 35 years. Pistols that are pre-charged pneumatic will provide maximum distance upwards of 60 yards.
When it comes to perfecting your accuracy, you may want to start with a model with a shorter range until you get used to the weight and feel of an air pistol.
Types of Air Pistols
You may have caught on from the list of ten above, but while you’re shopping you’ll come to find that there are three different types of air pistols. That is, three different ways in which air pistols can fire. All three options serve various purposes, so knowing what separates them is ideal when moving forward to the purchasing stage.
The three options are:
Also known as a “break-barrel air gun,” anything that’s spring-action involves having to cock the gun by pulling the barrel down. This sets a heavy spring into place which, when the trigger is pulled, causes air compression to propel the pellet forward.
While not the most powerful method of firing, it does deliver a moderate velocity that works well for target practice. Some spring-action pistols offer a higher velocity depending on how difficult the cocking effort is. The harder it is the cock, the more powerful of a shot it will produce. Lighter pellets will also increase velocity.
- Great for Beginners: There’s no need to swap out CO2 cartridges and no need to pump like with PCP models, making the spring-action pistol one of the simplest models on the market.
- Manual Cocking: Having to cock the pistol can be a little tiresome after frequent firing, especially for younger or smaller users.
Pistols powered by CO2 require individual cartridges good for a set amount of trigger pulls. When the trigger is pulled, a burst of CO2 propels the pellet. While the most convenient model that allows for quick-firing without the need for constant cocking, CO2 air pistols are also the weakest option, firing at low- to mid-range velocities.
Unlike with the other two forms of power, CO2-powered pistols are charged by a finite source that needs to be replenished by replacing cartridges. CO2 models can wind up being more expensive in the long run as you’ll be buying BBs and CO2 cartridges.
- Easy-to-Use: CO2 cartridges make firing off pellets easy. There’s no need to deal with a pistol’s stubborn cocking mechanism or hand-pumping as the cartridge releases a burst each time the trigger is pulled.
- Higher Long-Term Cost: CO2 cartridges are not infinite, meaning after so many trigger pulls, you’ll need to replace the cartridge. Coupled with having to buy BBs and pellets, this can be costly in the long run.
- Low-Power: If you’re looking for a high-velocity shot, the CO2 mechanism won’t deliver it compared to spring-powered and PCP pistols. Lighter pellets are recommended for more effective firing.
Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP)
The most powerful model on the market, pistols that are Pre-charged Pneumatic are fired via a high-pressure tank that shoots pellets off at high velocity. A built-in tank is charged to around 3,000 psi, depending on the pistol, via a hand-pumping method. When the trigger is pulled, a hammer connects with a valve that releases the compressed air, propelling the pellet.
The higher velocity makes PCP pistols ideal for hunting, though cocking can be more difficult than other models.
- High Power: This air-powered firing mechanic delivers the highest velocity on the market.
- Low Cost: Since the mechanism that works the PCP pistol is pretty simple in concept, this model is often on the cheaper side.
- Hand-Pumping Required: The higher power does come at the expense of having to hand pump the air pistol after shots. If you need to fire in quick succession, having to stop to pump for 5 – 10 times can get in the way.
Air Pistol Accessories Guide
Just because you’ve purchased your air pistol doesn’t mean you’re done just yet. Most air pistols come with minimal or no accessories, and outfitting your weapon can completely alter the experience. When it comes to air pistols, there are a multitude of accessories you can buy to perfect your gun.
Common accessories include:
- Gun Scope: Pistols with longer range benefit from the magnification of a gun scope, which assists with accuracy.
- Targets: It’s always best to have something stationary to shoot at, especially as you’re getting more comfortable with your pistol.
- Lasers: For closer targets, a laser sighting can greatly increase accuracy and can mount on many air pistols with track railings.
- Pistol Holster: If you’re out hunting or even while you’re at target practice, a holster keeps you from having to carry the pistol. It also protects your gun when you’re not using it.
- Cleaning Kits: Like anything, air pistols will get dirty over time. The grimier they get, the harder they can be to shoot, load, or get to generally work. Cleaning kits will keep your air pistol in pristine condition over the course of its life.
- Flashlights: While hunting or shooting in the dark isn’t necessarily recommended, if it’s unavoidable, a mounted flashlight can help keep things safer.
- CO2 Cartridges: For CO2 powered pistols, having sparing CO2 cartridges on hand is a necessity.
- Pellets / BBs: Without these, there’s no way you’ll get any use out of your air pistol. Stock up a lot. You’ll go through them a lot quicker than you probably expect to. You can find some great deals on BB”s and pellets here.
- Repair Kits / Spare Parts: While not mandatory right off the bat, you’ll want a repair kit and spare parts for your air pistol on hand after you’ve been using it a while. Looking into what options are out there may also help you determine which pistol is best for you as some are harder to repair.
Can I Hunt with an Air Pistol?
While there are models of air pistols designed for hunting – typically PCP or spring-action powered – that doesn’t mean you’re able to purchase a pistol and go out on a hunting spree. Before you even consider purchasing for this purpose, check with your local and state laws to determine if hunting is legal and, if so, when you’re able to hunt certain game.
Even smaller game may require you to wait for a specific season and most hunting requires at least a general license. Laws will typically outline what and when you can hunt and what you’re allowed to use to hunt, though you likely won’t find many restrictions against using air pistols.