Pellet guns aren't what they used to be. They've come a long way since the old days when they weren't much more than tricked out toy Daisy BB guns. Today's high-powered air rifles are excellent for hunting, as they're as capable of taking small game as many popular rimfire cartridges, but are even quieter than a .22 LR with a suppressor. While they don't pack quite as much of a punch, they're still great squirrel hunting guns thanks largely to their precision, which allows you to take perfectly ethical head shots. To take a squirrel, you need a minimum of 10 foot-pounds of energy, regardless of muzzle velocity. This is a mark most hunting pellet guns meet without much trouble, making them an affordable option you can buy right off of Amazon. Additionally, they're great tools for dealing with pest control, as ammunition is inexpensive and you don't have to worry about startling a neighbor with gunfire. Many of the more powerful offerings on the market will allow you to take larger varmints as well, but just do your research beforehand to make sure you're working with enough firepower.
Today we're going to take a look at some of the best pellet guns available for purchase in 2022, providing you with a wide variety of options should you have an interest in trying to harvest a squirrel without gunpowder.
RWS Diana 48 Sidelever Action Spring Piston Air Rifle
This spring-pistol rifle from RWS is a powerhouse that produces enough energy to take animals of 25 pounds or more. This model is particularly consistent and accurate, but it's still affordable and is definitely built more for the field than the range.
It features a beechwood stock (that contains the large spring). Be warned, it takes exactly 39 pounds of force, according to RWS, to compress the internal spring and cock this gun via a side lever that can handle that kind of force. The result is about 22 foot-pounds of energy and a muzzle velocity of 900 fps with a .22-caliber pellet. It's also available in the smaller .177 chambering and the larger .25 chambering, capable of taking mid-sized game at reasonable distances.
Hammerli 850 AirMagnum
This gun is powered not by a piston but by a cartridge of compressed CO2 gas. That means you have to change 12-gram CO2 cylinders when they run empty, but it also means you don't have to pump or cock the gun to shoot it.
The 850 is one of the few CO2 guns powerful enough for ethical hunting. This eight-shot repeater fires .22-caliber pellets at 760 fps with about 13 foot-pounds of energy. This is aided by using large 88-gram CO2 cartridges instead of the little 12-gram ones. An 88-gram cartridge will provide about 225 full-powered shots from the 850. The air gun comes with very capable fiber-optic sights and the receiver has standard 11mm dovetails for mounting scope rings.
Benjamin 392S Variable Pump
Crossman's multi-pump .22-caliber air rifle is beautifully simple and yet more than strong enough to harvest a few squirrels. Essentially an updated version of the popular Benjamin Silver Streak, this air gun features a synthetic stock, a rifled brass barrel, a single-stage trigger, a manual safety, and a pump action to regulate power. You can get about 500 fps out of three pumps, and 650 fps out of six pumps. If you decide to max out with 10 pumps, you can get up to 800 fps of muzzle velocity and 15 foot-pounds of energy. This bolt-action air gun is a great option for small-game hunting, and one that should last you for years to come.
Hatsan FlashPup SYN QE
Bullpups make firearms shorter overall without sacrificing barrel length, and the idea works even better in an air rifle, especially since there is no spent brass to eject.
All bullpups suffer from the same problem, whether an air rifle or a firearm: it's hard to make a good trigger, considering it has to be connected to an action that is all the way in the buttstock instead of directly above it. The FlashPup endeavors to overcome this shortfall with an excellent two-stage adjustable trigger. The gun has more than enough power for squirrels and small game, propelling .22-caliber lead pellets at about 1,000 fps with 38 foot-pounds of energy. The shrouded QuietEnergy barrel also reduces the already diminutive sound by up to half.
Gamo Wildcat Whisper
This break-barrel airgun is a simple single-shot option, but it's dead simple. Just open the action to cock it, insert a pellet, and close the action. It's then ready to fire.
Early break barrel air guns used springs to propel a projectile, but modern versions like the Wildcat Whisper use a piston filled with a gas, typically nitrogen, that stores energy when compressed that is released when the trigger is pulled. This gun features a polymer stock and fires .22-caliber pellets at around 975 fps and the .177 version moves at 1,350 fps. Gamo sells a combo version that comes with a 4x32mm scope.
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