Can You Hunt Deer With Air Rifle? Deer Hunting With Air Guns

For most of us, a BB gun was the first rifle we ever fired before we made our way to shotguns and AR-15s. While we cannot deny that we love our 30-caliber rifles, there is still a place for air rifles.

Traditionally, air rifles were reserved for target practice and killing small rodents. But with advancements in technology, air rifles are finding their way into big game hunting.

In fact, in certain states, a prime example being Texas, certain air rifles are classified as legal methods of taking down big game. So can you hunt deer with an air rifle? Yes, however not all air rifles are designed for taking down big game.

More importantly, air guns are still limited in regards to range. Thus this is something to keep in mind when hunting with an air rifle. Also, air rifles used for hunting big games are considerably more powerful than the BB gun you had when you were kids.

For instance, the Texan .457 air gun from Airforce airguns shoots 405-grain projectiles at 785 FPS with a muzzle energy of 500 FPE. However, there are many other things to consider like knowing your state’s law on air rifles when hunting with an air rifle.

Which Type of Air Rifle To Buy For Deer Hunting?

As we have already seen, pellet caliber alone does not determine the success of a hunt. The rifle is shot from also matters a lot. So Which air rifle to buy for deer hunting? There are several different types of air rifles you can purchase. 

However, your best and perhaps only option is a pre-charged pneumatic air rifle, also called a PCP air rifle. These rifles come fitted with a compressed air tank. It is this compressed air that propels the pellet out of the muzzle.

This is the best option for hunting deer because they can fire heavier pellets at high velocities. This is unlike other types such as break barrel air rifles that can only fire lighter and smaller pellets.

While PCP air rifles are suited to hunting big game, you can also use a PCP air rifle to take down small varmints and rodents. The number one downside of these rifles is their cost. Compared to other air guns, these are expensive and not as cheap as other budget air rifles.

Choosing The Right Caliber For Air Rifle

Which air rifle caliber is right for large game hunting? This is a question that has led to heated debates in many hunting circles. And the truth is there is no right answer. The right caliber for large game hunting will depend on several things.

To start with, the same caliber pellet will perform differently in different air rifles. Let’s take a 147-grain hollow point pellet. When used in a .375 air rifle, it generates 150 FPE. Use the same pellet in a different gun, and you may get up to 250 FPE.

There are two standard calibers you can opt for, the .375 and the .475, each with its characteristics. The .375 has more penetration while the .475 delivers more power. So, which between the two should you stick with?

Again it highly depends on your needs. Air guns create a wound channel through vital organs which kills an animal. This is unlike a conventional firearm that kills through the hydrostatic shock delivered when the bullet hits the target.

That being said, the .375 caliber offers a flatter shooting trajectory and high velocity, especially when fired from a PCP rifle. For large game hunting, only I recommend sticking with a high powered .457 caliber rifle.

However, if you are looking for a multi-purpose rifle, the .375 caliber will be a better option. With a flat trajectory and better penetration, it has excellent performance on deer. You can also take down a hog sized game using this caliber.

Deer Hunting With Air Rifles: Shot Placement Tips

So which part of a deer should be aiming at when deer hunting with an air rifle? As mentioned earlier, air guns do not have the same capabilities as conventional deer hunting firearms. Therefore, shot placement is crucial.

The head is the best target with an air rifle. A well placed shot to the head will take down any hog sized animal. However, this is taking into consideration the distance you are from your prey.

Ideally, air rifle hunting should be done from distances for 40 to 75 yards out. Apart from the head, you can also opt for the neck, from the same distances. 

What about the heart and lungs? For air guns, a heart or lung shot can be tricky. Sure this is the largest target on the animal. However, the lack of an exit wound will require you to be extra careful.

Nonetheless, it is still a valid target to aim at, especially since both the lungs and heart are vital organs. All the same, range and accuracy will play a significant role.

Big bore air guns fire at subsonic velocities, meaning your prey will hear the shot’s sound before the projectile hits. This may give a deer time to duck or dodge, most likely when you fire from long range. 

Where can I hunt with an air rifle

Air rifles have come of age as hunting tools, and many states have recognized that. Towards this end, in some states, you will need a license for an air rifle. In others, you will not. In states like Texas and California, air rifles are classified under the same category as conventional firearms.

However, in some such as Alaska and Alabama, there are no laws or regulations relating to air guns. It is essential to know your state’s laws on air guns. And air rifles become widespread, expect state laws on them to change. 


In conclusion, to answer the question can an air gun kill deer, air rifles have evolved over the last couple of years, and today’s air rifles are powerful enough to take down deer. However, not every air rifle is powerful enough to take down deer. PCP rifles are currently the best option for large game hunting. 

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