In this guide, I personally review three of the best PCP air rifles available. PCP air rifles, or “Pre-Charged Pneumatic” still provide us with the conveniences of an air rifle, but with the knock-down power approaching that of a .22 LR. Air Rifles provide an inexpensive, easy, and convenient way to hunt small game or practice our marksmanship in our own backyards, and PCP air rifles take this to the next level. PCP air rifles are quite popular in some European countries as they are not bound by their stricter gun laws. But first..
WHY ARE PCP RIFLES THE BEST TYPES OF AIR RIFLES?
PCP air rifles do not rely on a break-action or multi-pump system within the rifle itself. Instead, PCP rifles rely on an external air source in order to fill its internal air tank. The external air source is commonly either a pump (similar to a bicycle) or a large tank (such as scuba divers or welders use). Because of the external air source, PCP air rifles are able to achieve very high PSI numbers (2000 + psi). This translates bone-crushing knock down power. What truly makes PCP air rifles the best type is its ability to make consistent shots. If you are already looking at PCP air rifles, you are already looking at some of the best air rifles. By this I mean, you already in the top 10% of performance. Better than break-barrel, multi-pump, CO2, etc…
1) BENJAMIN MARAUDER
The cheapest and best value air rifle of the bunch. Large support community with the largest selection of aftermarket parts. Because the Benjamin marauder community is so big, there are more modding guides and overall more parts available .
2) HATSAN AT44-10
The Hatsan AT44-10 has longest rifle of the bunch. It measures a total length of 39.4 inches with a 19.4 inch barrel. At 7.3 lbs, the Hatsan AT44-10 weighs the same as the Benjamin Marauder. The Hatsan is a little less customizable than the Marauder, but with a little know-how and googling, it is possible. The unique feature to this air rifle is the removable air tank, which allows you to go out hunting with multiple tanks and change them out as needed.
3) BSA ULTRA SE
There’s something special about the look and feel of a short barrel air rifle. Since it is a short barrel air rifle, so it won’t have the same kind of power as the longer rifles. Where it lacks in power, it makes it up with controlability and crafstmanship. It is still a great short to medium range air gun. The Ultra BSE is highly tunable, more-so than the Marauder. Build quality also seems better than both the Marauder and the Hatsan. Hold each 3 air rifles side by side, and you will find yourself admiring the BSA Ultra’s fine wood stock. The deep brownish-red seems to have a special “depth” to it. It is a better put-together air rifle than our other contenders, but comes at a higher cost. BSA has been making air rifles for over a century and is known to be on the high end quality air gun construction.
POWER (USING .22 CALIBER VERSIONS)
Although all 3 air rifles are tunable (meaning you can adjust the air pressure), the Hatsan AT44 comes out on top when it comes to delivering drop-dead power. Using heavy pellets, the Hatsan AT44 displayed blistering speeds of 950 fps. The best PCP air rifle for power goes to the AT44.
The Benjamin Marauder comes in at second, giving us a still-impressive 800 fps. This is still plenty enough power to take out small to medium size game. One thing we noted was that the Mrod (Marauder for short) allowed us to shoot longer without refilling for air.
With the shorter barrel, the BSA Ultra SE provides us the lowest FPS numbers of the bunch. It will yield approximately 580 FPS using the same heavy pellets as above. This is geared more for short/medium range hunting and target shooting. The short barrel makes it inherently less powerful, mainly because the air inside the chamber has less distance to accelerate the pellet.
I big contributor to accuracy is the trigger pull. A light and predictable trigger will allow the shooter to pull the trigger rather than the entire rifle. At least that’s the idea. All 3 air rifles have fully adjustable triggers, which include adjustments for length and pull force. The Benjamin Marauder gave us the best trigger feel overall without any adjustments. A novice shooter may not even notice the difference between the trigger pull between the 3 contenders. In my opinion though, the Marauder just feels the best right from the case. With some slight adjustment, all 3 air rifles can achieve excellent trigger feel.
All 3 air rifles use free floating barrels. What is a free floating barrel and how does it relate to accuracy? A free floating barrel does not contact the stock at any point along its lenght. It means that the slight wood swelling that occurs due to heat will not interfere with the barrel. On a non-free floating barrel, the wood may slightly move the barrel and cause inconsistent oscillation. Every rifle has barrel harmonics, meaning the barrel slightly “wiggles” after every shot. We can’t get rid of the wiggle, but the best we can do is make the “wiggle” consistent shot after shot. This is what a free floating barrel accomplishes. Now back to the air rifles…
Accuracy is a difficult thing to describe, especially when it comes to 3 air rifles that are evenly matched. Ultimately, 90% of accuracy will comes down to the shooter.
At long range (100+ yards), the Hatsan AT-44 will end up with the best PCP air rifle for accuracy. due to its higher power output. It will simply put a pellet down range quicker such that there is less time for wind or gravity to take its toll.
At medium ranges (less than 80 yards), the Marauder and Hatsan AT-44 are about equal, with the Marauder coming out slightly ahead. Again mostly comes from the shooter. As an aside, the Marauder feels more comfortable in the hands and against the cheek. This may also play a part in accuracy. The Ultra BSA also does great at this range, but I would not recommend hunting anything more than small game at this range.
At short ranges (Less than 50 yards) the BSA Ultra SE really shines. With its short barrel, it is lightly weight and easy to control. Unlike the AT-44 or the Marauder, you could hold this rifle for hours without getting tired. Fatigue is a big part of competitive shooting, and that is where this rifle shines. The BSA also features an ultra-ergonomic stock which feels absolutely great.
WINNER FOR BEST VALUE
…goes to the Benjamin Marauder! For shooters of all levels, there is just about no better value in the PCP world than the Benjamin marauder. The sheer amount of help and support from the aftermarket community makes dealing with this air rifle a pure pleasure. If you are going to be shooting at less than 100 yards away, there is no reason not to go with the Marauder. At this r
Winner for best PCP air rifle
…goes to the Hatsan AT-44. Its sub-1000 fps numbers are nothing less than impressive. If you plan to do serious shooting at 100+ yards, I would recommend the extra power of this air rifle. But keep in mind!..your air won’t last as long.