Best Airgun Rifles for Hunting Urban Predators

Ask yourself a few simple questions to come up with the ideal airgun rig for urban predators.

Best Airgun Rifles for Hunting Urban Predators

Chapman’s Sniper Carbine is compact yet packs in the performance he needs for urban predators. (Photo: Jim Chapman)

I’ve noticed over the years that predator hunters using airguns generally fall into two camps — those who are already airgunners and want to expand their hunting opportunities, and those who are already predator hunters who need to get at those coyote and fox in more built up areas.

For either, building up an air-powered urban hunting rig makes sense. I’ve been hunting predators with airguns for almost 20 years now and have gone through several different versions, but over the past couple years have settled on an outfit that works well for me.

To get started I always suggest that you ask yourself what you want to hunt, when and where you will be hunting most of the time and why you want to use an air rifle? That information will help you determine the key requirements. Do you want maximum power, or to limit power? Is it important for the gun to be quiet? Will you be hunting in the day, the night or both? Will the gun be specifically used for predators, or will it also be used for deer or hogs? Do you need a gun that can be transported quietly?

When putting my rig together, I considered my particular situation — I wanted to hunt fox and coyote around my suburban area. Where I live, there are small suburban developments juxtaposed within a traditional farming area. I have permissions from the four biggest farmers in the area to hunt their property (located within city limits), which in some cases extends right to the border of a housing development. It’s legal to discharge a firearm within city limits when hunting, however, if there is a complaint, you will be stopped, questioned, required to show letters of permission and, by the time it’s all straightened out, your hunt is done! I learned that from experience, and it was enough of a detriment that I stopped hunting those permissions for a while, even as the coyote population skyrocketed.

Second Chance

I decided to build a task-specific rig when the urge came to give it another go, and determined what features were important to me. I needed to get from my car to the hunting areas discreetly, as moving from my car to the field often put me in plain sight of houses. While I didn’t need to go so far as a break-down rifle, I did want something that wouldn’t stand out too much as I walked down the road. I wanted the gun to be quiet, but again I would usually be far enough away that it didn’t need to be suppressed. Even a non-suppressed mid-bore is often much quieter than a .22 rimfire. I did want the gun to be in the .30- to .35-caliber range, and wanted it to shoot pellets rather than slugs. I wanted the gun to kill a coyote at 60 yards, but didn’t want the projectile to travel a couple hundred yards past that.

Diablo pellets are very effective at closer range but, because of a rather poor ballistic coefficient, they shed energy quickly and don’t carry far. I wanted the gun to fill to a pressure of 3,000 psi and generate six to 10 full power shots on a fill. As far as power, my requirement was for the rifle/pellet combination to generate 65 to 90 ft./lbs. energy.

That doesn’t sound like much power to a hunter using firearms, but there is tremendous knock down power produced by a slower moving, larger caliber pellet. I have shot many feral hogs with such guns, and with a well-placed shot, they drop on the spot. And that brings us to the next consideration — accuracy. Since an airgun projectile doesn’t produce a hydrostatic shock, the kill comes from a perfectly placed shot and a clear understanding of where that is on your target. I wanted my gun to deliver at least sub-inch groups at 60 yards.

Much of my predator hunting takes place in the frigid northern winter, so I wanted a rifle that was easy to cycle and magazine-fed so I didn’t have to worry about loading the rifle while wearing gloves or with frozen fingers. I wanted a crisp trigger that broke cleanly, but would not adjust it too light for the same reason (gloves and/or frozen fingers).

Looking back over my field notes, I realized that I’d only gone out on daylight predator hunts in the area a couple times the previous year, and never shot anything. Based on that, my optic selection would be set up for night hunting, which meant either thermal or IR scopes. In the past, I’d used lights, but this led to problems. It seems that next to a guy running down the road with a gun, or random shots popping off in the middle of the night, lights sweeping across an empty field are most likely to see a complaint filed.

Final Decision

I analyzed my situation and the conditions I’d be hunting in, and had an idea on the platform the gun would be based on. I’d taken a lot of game with the Evanix .357 rifles, both the traditional sporter styled Rainstorm and the tactical Sniper. Those rifles worked off the same simple, proven power plant, and offered many of the things I was looking for. The guns provided around eight shots per fill, generated about 75 ft./lbs. energy, and most of the guns I’d shot were very accurate. With these guns, I’d taken everything from bobcats and hogs in Texas to springbok in Africa.

I’d decided a tactical design best suited me because I wanted accessory rails to mount adjunct gear, however, the Sniper rifle was too long and heavy for what I wanted. The solution came when I tracked down a hard-to-find carbine version of the Sniper. 

I zeroed the Sniper at 60 yards, using the JSB Diablo Exact 81 grain pellet. With this ammo, the rifle averages 650 fps or around 75 ft./lbs. energy and is dead accurate, consistently producing 1/2-inch 60-yard five-shot groups. The combination permits effective brain or heart shots on a coyote at my maximum 60 yard distance. The gun is not suppressed and, though I do have a suppressor that will fit it, it’s quiet enough that it’s really not necessary.

I use the Picatinny rails under the air reservoir to mount a sling swivel and occasionally a bipod though I generally prefer to shoot off sticks. I’ve also used the rails to mount lights and IR illuminators when required. The rifles air storage is a 240 cc tube under the barrel that fills to 3,000 psi, and that charge provides six full power shots. Though you can get up to eight with a shift in the POI as the pressure falls off. The action is cycled by a side lever mechanism, which auto indexes the six-shot rotary magazine.

On top, the carbine wears an ATN ThOR Lite Thermal scope, which is a phenomenal thermal scope for airgunners. The performance is solid, the feature set (outside off no video capability) is good, and the price very competitive, even compared to the IR NV market. On my sets, I use a FoxPro E caller and scan for incoming with a set of ATN BINOX 4K binoculars, moving to the thermal scope on approach. I found that took some acclimatization after moving from traditional lights, but it was worth the learning curve.

In the end, I had the urban hunting rig I’d envisioned — accurate and quiet enought with appropriate power for the conditions; multi-shot, fast cycling, reliable, compact yet still adjustable and ergonomic with a perfectly suited sighting solution. 

If you want to build up an urban hunter, start by asking yourself the same questions I did. You might come up with something completely different, but if the approach to building your requirements is based on a firm understanding of how you will use the rifle, it will probably be the right hunting instrument for you. Even if you never plan to become a dedicated airgunner, there is probably a lot of value to adding one to your lineup.

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