For many years the go-to air rifle choices for most hunters have been those that are classified as either.177 or .22 caliber weapons. More recently however a growing number of air rifle manufacturers are offering what have become known as ‘big bore; airguns; weapons boasting calibers of .257, .357 , .45 and even, at the highest end, .50.
These rifles are not designed for target shooting or backyard varmint pinging though. These are powerful, accurate weapons that are for hunting larger prey and, in those circles, big bore air rifles are gaining popularity all the time.
Choosing the best big bore air rifle can be challenging though, especially if it’s the first time you’ve decided to think about purchasing an air rifle whose power, in many cases, can rival that of some standard rifles. Making the right choice, however, is a must, both in terms of hunting success and safety.
To help you make the right choices we decide to take a look at some of the best big bore air rifles available right now. To make our choices, we relied not only on our own field tests but also on the reviews and opinions of those who already own, and use, these powerful guns.
We are going to go into more detail about each of our picks, but for those in a hurry to start shopping we’ll start off by revealing our overall top pick right off the bat.
Our Top Pick
Hatsan Model 135 Vortex QE Air Rifle .30 Caliber
Billed as the world’s first break barrel big bore air rifle the higher caliber models of the Hatsan Model 135 Vortex QE Air Rifle – it’s actually available in .177,.22, .25 and .30 calibers – The .30 version of this powerful big bore air rifle – the perhaps aptly name Carnivore – has fast become a big favorite among air rifle aficionados looking for more power as well as accuracy and reliability.
Reviews of The Top 6 Best Big Bore Air Rifles
The lower caliber versions of this air rifle were already big sellers, but the .30 caliber Carnivore is proving just as popular. According to users it offers all that makes the lower caliber versions stand out – a responsive Quattro trigger, high quality Turkish walnut barrel stock with cheek mounted sights and built in scopes – while adding – almost unheard of in the air rifle industry for a lighter weight gun – fire power.
Users report being able to reliably pick off medium-sized live prey at distances of 40-50 yards (46 meters) and shoot through targets of up to 5 inches (12.7 cm) thick. They love the power for sure, but also the fact that for such a powerful gun it is surprisingly quiet and reasonably fast – around 585 fps.
The price is impressive too; under $500 for a reliable, big shooting gun. As an introduction to the concept of big bore air rifle shooting this is undoubtedly an exceptional choice.
Powerful – For the live prey hunter this air rifle packs more than enough power to take down even medium-sized prey at a reasonable distance.
Accurate – Users report that for a big bore air rifle the Hatsan Model 135 Vortex QE Air Rifle .30 Caliber is surprisingly accurate.
Affordable – Getting a high performing big bore weapon for under $500 is a real bargain.
If you want to see the Hatsan Model 135 Vortex QE Air Rifle .30 Caliber in action, you can do so here https://youtu.be/8f5GeApxPQc
Buy the Hatsan Model 135 Vortex QE Air Rifle .30 Caliber on Amazon here.
Years ago, the idea of a .357 air rifle might have sounded like a hunter’s pipe dream, but led by the Seneca Recluse they are becoming more common. Not an inexpensive purchase – don’t expect any change from $900 – this is a serious air rifle with a huge amount of power that, when respected – can produce some impressive live prey hunting results.
The gun boasts two easily adjustable power levels – the first bolt stop is low power and the second is high – and can reach up to 983 fps, impressive for a single shot big bore. Users report being able to accurately – and humanely – bag a wide range of prey – from crows to foxes and even smaller deer – and while it’s loud some are more than happy to swap stealth for power.
High caliber – A .357 caliber air rifle is a relatively new concept but one welcomed by serious live prey hunters
Adjustable power levels – the rifle can be adjusted to better suit prey types.
Durable – Users report that this well-made .357 is very durable and well worth its price tag.
Buy the Seneca Recluse .357 Caliber PCP Air Rifle on Amazon here
Unlike the previous entrant on our best big bore air rifles list this is a .357 that offers multi shot capacity. It offers 10 shots from a single fully charged tank and those shots can be fired at a very respectable 910 fps.
Users report that the Benjamin Bulldog BPBD3S PCP Air Rifle is very well-made with a ‘solid feel’ rather than a very heavy one and left-handed shooters appreciate the fact that the side lever bolt can be reversed to make it far easier for them to fire.
Those who already own this gun also love it for its accuracy, with many stating that they are able to pick off live prey as large as a coyote at distances of 50 to 60 yards (55 m) or more. And despite all the power it packs they also claim that it is surprisingly quiet.
Multi shot capacity – capable of firing off ten rounds on a single pump
Solid – The barrel stock is solid without being too heavy
Versatile – Ambidextrous features make it accessible to all hunters.
Buy the Benjamin Bulldog BPBD3S PCP Air Rifle .357 on Amazon here.
Perhaps the biggest thing that stands out about this big bore air rifle is the fact that considering its high caliber – a whopping .357 – it is small, compact and lightweight, weighing in at just 5.5 lbs.
This is, according to those who own this firearm, very deceptive in many ways as for a smaller rifle in size it offers both exceptional power and a surprising amount of speed. The gun is able to be fired off speeds of up to 1, 000 fps and has an accurate range of 60-70 yards.
This is also, users say, a quiet firing rifle, meaning that prey hunted at closer range will be spooked away by louder bangs. This quiet, some users say almost silent, fire is thanks to a built-in noise dampening system that is, they say, reliable and effective.
Lightweight – The rifle itself weight less than 6 lbs
Quiet – A built-in noise dampening system makes for stealthy shooting
Fast – Capable of being fired off at up to 1000 fps
Buy the Gamo Big Bore TC35 on Amazon here
If you talk about classic rifles, the Winchester name will come up quickly. Long an icon in the hunting world, this powerful big bore air rifle does the legacy proud.
This gun is a .35 or .45 caliber PCP repeater capable of reeling off up to 12 shots at a time at an average of 850 fps. It features a built in noise muffling system, a two stage adjustable trigger and while it is a long rifle – 37″ inches – it is also surprisingly lightweight, weighing in at just over 12 lbs.
The thing that is repeated over and over again in user reviews is how much fun this gun is to shoot, as it operates seamlessly but efficiently, easily and as an all day hunting companion is an excellent choice. And people LOVE the way it looks as it retains that iconic Winchester profile.
Iconic – A classic air rifle from an iconic name in the gun world
Fun – Ease of operation makes this a fun gun to shoot.
Long, but lightweight – For a longer barreled gun this is still a fairly lightweight choice.
Buy the Winchester Big Bore 70 on Amazon here
At .25 caliber this is one of the lower caliber air rifles on our list but that does not mean it does not have a lot to offer, especially for those making their first investment in a larger capacity air rifle.
A ‘close relative’ of the wildly popular Benjamin Marauder, this gun offers accuracy at up to 70-80 yards (73 m), a maximum fps 1000 and ten shot capability on a single pump. It also boasts an adjustable two stage trigger and while not as quiet as some other options on this list, not hugely, disruptively loud either.
Some who own this gun report they have also purchased one for an older teen marksperson, as its accuracy, lighter weight and reasonable price make it an excellent choice for these shooters.
Accurate – Users report an accurate range of 70 to 80 yards (73 m), with some stating it is good up to 100.
Versatile – A two stage trigger allows for better shot control
Good for Novices – Ease of use and a lighter weight makes this a good choice for novice PCP air rifle shooters.
Buy the Benjamin Armada BTAP17SX PCP on Amazon here.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Big Bore Air Rifle
What’s Your Experience Level?
The bigger the bore, the harder the shot. While some smaller caliber air rifles can match their big bore counterparts in terms of metrics like fps and range there is no doubt that these larger caliber offerings are a lot more powerful, something that calls for more skill in order to be used accurately and safely.
In other words, these are not guns for air rifle novices and anyone buying one should have racked up considerable experience with a lower caliber air rifle first. This does not mean that they cannot be used by older kids, especially as by the time they reach their mid teens many air rifle enthusiasts are as skilled and experienced as any adult. Proper supervision is key though; these guns are not toys.
This is one of the biggest reasons that the Hatsan Model 135 Vortex QE Air Rifle made it as our top pick. The caliber variations available are suitable for lots of different markspeople, and that versatility can be the key to getting the right air rifle for you.
What are Your Plans for Usage?
Big bore air rifles are not designed for simple backyard critter picking. These guns were created for longer live prey hunting trips and for serious target practice with heftier targets, as they will blow a paper target into smithereens in seconds. Many who own a big bore air rifle own lower caliber air rifles as well, reserving these for longer hunting trips and bigger prey.
The guns on this list are of several different big bore calibers – from .25 all the way up to .357. Before you buy make sure that you are choosing the level you are comfortable with and that you have the experience to match it. If you are unsure, sticking to a lower caliber choice, at least initially, may be a wiser choice.
Big bore air rifles can get pretty expensive, and while most air rifle fans are more than willing to part with cash for a great weapon that will give them hours of shooting enjoyment it’s important that you do some research – like reading this list – to help ensure that the price you pay is reasonable for the ‘amount’ of gun you get.
The best big bore air rifles can open up a whole new world of air rifle shooting pleasure for live prey hunters. We hope this list is helpful as you shop around and make the right buying decisions for you. And that you have a lot of fun when you do make that final choice!