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Many many years ago me and my brothers used to go rabbit hunting with air-rifles. I was pretty young TBH and the details are not sharp in my mind. It occurred to me that the .22 calibre air-rifle that we we're using at the time wasn't very powerful. Would this even kill a rabbit cleanly?

In the UK this is pretty much the most powerful gun (there's .175 air rifles too) you can get without a license.

If I wanted to go hunting today would this rifle by adequate?

What weight pellet should I be looking for?

What muzzle velocity would be adequate?

How close would I need to get?

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    the energy delivered by the pellet will depend on the weight of the pellet, muzzle velocity (with that pellet weight), and how far you anticipate being from the target when you take the shot. Can you provide more details? Muzzle velocities vary significantly across different air rifles. – tomfumb Apr 20 '17 at 15:51
  • hi @tomfumb. I've kinda flipped your questions on their head (basically because I have no idea). Hope that makes sense? – Liam Apr 20 '17 at 15:55
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    All I can say is a .22 can take out a bloody big rat. – Dynadin Apr 20 '17 at 20:31
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It looks like because you are in the UK, there is a power restriction, which means that you can either go high velocity, lightweight pellet or a low velocity heavy pellet. If that restriction wasn't there, more power would make for cleaner kills.

Regardless of calibre, all standard air rifles are restricted in power output to a maximum of 12 ft/lb. Whether they are pre-charged or spring-powered.

A full-power legal .177 rifle firing an 8.5-gr pellet at around 800fps, or a .22 air rifle firing a 16-gr pellet at around 580fps would be perfectly capable of killing a rabbit at normal ranges up to 35-40 yards.

Source

As for how close, that depends more on how good a shot you are. What I would do is make a circle that is the size of a rabbit's head on a target, and then see from how far away you can consistently hit it. I would doubt that it would be over 50 yards if that.

  • +1 for head shots - I hunt snowshoe hares with my 22LR and a 36 grain hollow point. Aiming exclusively for the head massively reduces the risk of lead contamination in the edible meat. With small game this is a bigger concern as generally 1 bullet < 3 meals as opposed to most large game where 1 bullet > 50 meals. AFAIK air rifle pellets are typically also lead. – tomfumb Apr 20 '17 at 21:23
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I have used a .177 caliber air rifle with a 1200 fps muzzle velocity to kill rabbits. It is a very quick and clean kill if you hit them in the kill zone. Their hide is incredibly weak compared to larger animals, so you can even get away with longer shots. I have personally killed them up to 30 meters, but I don't think that was the limit of that gun. I have seen rabbits killed with .177 caliber air rifles down to 600 fps.

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When I was young, we would hunt both rabbits and grouse with a .177 caliber air rifle and found them fine for hunting.

We made it a point of using pointed pellets while hunting:

A selection of .22 pointed pellets: RWS Superpoint, Beeman Silver Sting, Beeman Silver Arrow and ARS Cobra.

A selection of .22 pointed pellets: RWS Superpoint, Beeman Silver Sting, Beeman Silver Arrow and ARS Cobra.

Pointed

The head of a pointed pellet is just that. It ends in a very sharp point that provides maximum penetration on small game. Pointed pellets were designed specifically for hunting and field use. The waist area of pointed pellets is larger in diameter for increased weight without unbalancing the front-to-rear weight distribution, which would destroy accuracy. The skirt area is shorter than a wadcutter skirt. Some pointed designs feature forward-driving bands. These are flat bands around the head, in front of the waist, that increase the surface area that engages the rifling. Increased rifling engagement area provides better accuracy and longer range, but also increases pellet-to-bore friction that must be overcome--or velocity will suffer. For this reason, pellets with forward-driving bands work best in magnum air rifles. If you want a standard-velocity rifle or air pistol for hunting, choose a pointed pellet without forward-driving bands--or one of the hollowpoint designs...

The pointed pellet really is the best choice for hunting. I’ve spoken to many airgun hunters who rely on pointed pellets for humane, one-shot kills on small game. Their other advantage is that they're very accurate. In fact, I've shot some air rifles that grouped pointed pellets better than they did wadcutters. But they do cost more, and their pointed design is very destructive on indoor targets. So, for informal plinking and target work, the wadcutter is still your best bet; but if you're in the field and looking for game, the pointed pellet can't be beat. - The right pellet makes a difference

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