Is an air rifle powerful enough to kill a rabbit?

Rabbits breed at a startling rate and can cause a lot of economic and environmental damage to crops and pastures. Quite often the only way in which to control rabbits is through shooting. But in order for it to be as humane as possible, you want to make sure you get a clean shot every time.

Is an air rifle powerful enough to kill a rabbit? An air rifle is powerful enough to kill a rabbit cleanly, and is often safer too, as you do not have to worry about ricochets. Distance and precision play their part when shooting rabbits with air rifles, so it is always advisable to practice first.

Is shooting rabbits legal?

From the backyards of suburban neighbourhoods to the arid bush plains, you’ll find a variety of different rabbits species hopping around.

The Nuttall's cottontail rabbit, Eastern cottontail rabbit, and snowshoe hare are all classified as game animals in America, although a hunting license is still required to hunt them. That is unless you meet a license exemption.

There are no restrictions in the United States, however, regarding the legal limits of the type of airgun you can hold (with the exception of New Jersey, Delaware and Michigan), although limitations may apply within some cities depending on which state you are in.

is it illegal to shoot rabbits

Things to consider when shooting rabbits

Air rifles can be deadly to a rabbit, once you have mastered the correct distance from which to shoot. This all comes through practice and from learning the correct technique. That said, when selecting an air rifle for shooting rabbits you should consider the following:

Hunting normally takes place in the winter season, between November and February. As a CO2 air rifle is dependent on warm temperatures for its power source, you may want to avoid using this type of air rifle altogether. Rabbits also tend to come out at dusk to feed, so you need to make sure that your air rifle has the capabilities to carry a night scope.

The air rifle must be able to kill rabbits over longer distances. Always make sure that you are pointing at the head and from a range that will allow you to let off a good whack. This means you should look for an air rifle that can hit a one inch mark at the appropriate distance every time you shoot.

As rabbits are relatively small in comparison to other game, you should only require an air rifle capable of providing eight pounds of energy at target – anything over this, carries a lot more power and is more suitable for shooting something like deer.

Depending on the range that you are shooting rabbits at, will make a difference to the pellets you choose. There is a general rule of thumb in the hunting world that says .177 for feathers and .22 for fur. In other words, for non-avian game such as rabbits you should consider a .22 caliber. We prefer these as they are slightly larger, have more power and provide you with a bigger aim.

best air rifles for shooting rabbits

Best air rifles for shooting rabbits

Ideal for small game hunting and rabbit pest control, we have highlighted a selection of high-powered air rifles that we believe offer the accuracy and power needed to take down a colony of rabbits.

One of the greatest appeals about choosing shooting as a form of pest control, is its affordability. For just a few hundred dollars you can pick up a good quality air rifle that should give you years of successful shooting.

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Gamo Swarm Magnum

This .22 cal high power air rifle comes equipped with rapid reload technology and sound suppression, allowing you to sneak up on your prey and wipe out more than one unsuspecting bunny at a time. Its 10x quick shot technology provides faster loading for repetitive shooting whilst the Inert Gas Mach delivers extra power.

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Gamo Whisper

The Gamo Whisper air rifle has become one of the mainstays of air gunning. With its spring piston it has the power to serve as a hunting rifle for rabbits and effortlessly combines precision with accuracy. This air rifle is great for shooters of all skill levels.

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Crosman M4-177 Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle

This air rifle is lightweight, compact and recoilless – so rabbits beware. We like this air rifle because it not only looks good but fires great, making it one of the most sought-after guns on the market. The Crosmans M4-177 uses a multi-pump pneumatic system giving you greater control over the power of the gun.

Best air rifle pellets for shooting rabbits

Rabbit shooting takes a lot of practice to achieve the necessary skill. It is important that you try out a variety of different pellets to choose the one that works best for your shooting style.

Some people prefer domed pellets (see on Amazon), where others find it causes over-perforation and therefore prefer to shoot with wadcutter pellets (see on Amazon) instead.

Smaller pellets will not produce as much kinetic energy as a larger .22 will, but it will give a much flatter trajectory and is likely to be much more precise. It stands to reason that the larger the pellet, the more killing power it has, however if you aim at the head of a rabbit this should not be an issue.

Is a night scope needed for shooting rabbits?

Rabbits are easy prey for a lot of predators such as owls and hawks, so tend to be less active during daylight hours, choosing to come out at dusk and dawn making them harder to spot.

Therefore, it is not unusual to be hunting when there is very little light. We would suggest opting for a night scope in order to aid your shoot. Not only does this increase your chance of accuracy, but it works to help locate rabbit colonies in the first instance.

As well as a night scope, you will need a good spotlight or torch in order to identify your targets – as you should never just shoot at an unidentified pair of eyes. Bright lights also have the added effect of temporarily stunning rabbits, which will make them a much easier shot.


As you can see, air rifles are powerful enough to kill rabbits, but it is important that you equip yourself with the correct kit beforehand. A powerful air rifle, the correct size pellets, a night scope and plenty of practice will provide you with enough ammunition to clear a colony of rabbits over a few nights of shooting.

Whilst we don’t always condone rabbit shooting as a form of pest control, we appreciate that if it is done cleanly to the head, it can be a much more humane way for controlling large numbers.

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