The Top Small and Budget Friendly Air Rifles for Garden Plinking

Best Small and Budget Friendly Air Rifles for Garden Plinking

  1. Weihrauch HW 30S
  2. Crosman Inferno
  3. Webley Eclipse
  4. BSA Ultra JSR

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When it comes to picking the ‘best’ air rifles for garden plinking, the choice is as personal as selecting your favourite spot in the garden to relax. ‘Best’, after all, is a term that’s as varied as the blooms in a spring meadow – everyone has their unique preference. In this diverse landscape of air rifles, each with its own charm and quirks, I’m here to share my perspective, honed from years of hands-on experience and countless hours of target practice. My journey through the world of air rifles has been as much about discovering the subtle differences that make each model special, as it has been about hitting the target but like I say everything is subjective and the best way to truly pick the best for you, is the test different rifles out yourself. Often if you find a shooting range, and make friends with the owners or regulars you can get to try a whole spectrum of rifles. Anyways, here are the ones I’ve tried and can recommend for garden plinking.

Plinking – Backyard Markmanship

Garden plinking – it’s a pastime as quintessentially British as a cup of tea on a sunny afternoon. But what exactly is it? Picture this: a tranquil garden, the gentle hum of nature in the background, and the satisfying ‘plink’ as your pellet hits the target. Garden plinking is the art of casual, recreational shooting, typically done with air rifles, in the comfort and privacy of one’s own garden. It’s about honing your shooting skills, yes, but it’s also about relaxation, enjoyment, and a deep connection with the simple pleasures of life.

Why do people indulge in this charming activity? Well, for starters, it’s a splendid way to practice marksmanship without the need to travel to a shooting range. It’s convenient, accessible, and offers a delightful way to unwind and focus the mind. For many, it’s a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life – a chance to engage in a hobby that requires precision and patience, all while being surrounded by the natural beauty of their garden. Whether it’s aiming at traditional targets, tin cans lined up on a fence, or bespoke plinking targets, the joy comes from the challenge, the focus, and the gentle thrill of each successful shot.

From the backyard enthusiast to the serious hobbyist, there’s a rifle for every level of interest and expertise. So, let’s explore the best air rifles for garden plinking.

Richard Saunders: An experts view

All of our reviews are based on Richard Saunders’s opinions. Richard has been shooting air rifles for nearly forty years. Today he hunts and carries out pest control on more than a thousand acres spread across different locations in the south of England. He is a regular contributor to Airgun Shooter magazine, writing mainly hunting features and product reviews, as well as The Airgun Show on YouTube.


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1. Weihrauch HW 30S

At a modest 990mm in length and weighing a comfortable 2.7kg, the HW 30S is clearly designed with the younger or smaller shooter in mind. But don’t be fooled by its size. This rifle, with its unassuming beech stock devoid of chequering, is a testament to Weihrauch’s commitment to quality. It stands proudly alongside the company’s top-end models, a testament to the fact that good things often come in small packages.

The HW 30S is a showcase of Weihrauch’s engineering prowess. The Rekord trigger unit is a prime example – a feature where Weihrauch could have cut corners, but chose not to. Why? Because it’s simply one of the best airgun triggers globally, offering a crisp, clean break that would make any enthusiast nod in approval. The rifle also boasts the same breech lock engineering found in other Weihrauch break-barrels and the reliable cross-bolt automatic safety characteristic of the company’s springers.

The all-metal open sights on the HW 30S are nothing short of top-notch. The hooded post foresight and the fully adjustable rear sight, complete with a reversible plate, allow for a level of precision that is both surprising and delightful. These sights are not just functional; they are a nod to the shooter who values the art of shooting without optics.

With around seven ft-lb of muzzle energy, the HW 30S might seem modest, but it’s in its performance that this rifle truly shines. The 390mm barrel is a breeze to break and locks up securely, a feature that speaks volumes about its build quality. In my own garden, using those open sights, I found myself hitting an array of typical plinking targets – from plastic toy soldiers at 20 yards to more challenging setups – with remarkable consistency.

And when you mount a scope on the dovetail rail – thoughtfully designed with holes for arrestor studs – the HW 30S transforms. It allowed me to achieve sub one-inch groups with ease, a feat that speaks to its versatility and precision. Whether you’re a backyard plinker or a budding marksman, this rifle adapts to your needs, offering a shooting experience that’s both rewarding and immensely enjoyable.

2. Crosman Inferno

At just-over-a-metre length and feather-light weight of under two kilos, the Crosman Inferno is a masterclass in finding the sweet spot between adult usability and junior-friendly design. Its robust black synthetic stock is as enduring as the most steadfast garden shed, ready to face whatever your outdoor shooting range throws its way.

While the Inferno is unapologetically budget-conscious and exclusively available in .177, it doesn’t skimp on delivering a fulfilling garden plinking experience. Its 7 ft-lb output, complemented by fully adjustable fibre-optic open sights, makes for a shooting experience that’s as clear and straightforward as a well-pruned garden path. The foresight’s green dot, flanked by twin red dots at the rear, ensures a sighting experience that’s both intuitive and effective.

The skeleton stock, a nod to ergonomic design, aligns the shooter perfectly with the sights, encouraging a natural and comfortable shooting posture. While it offers a dovetail for additional optics, the true essence of the Inferno lies in its no-frills approach to shooting – it’s about getting back to the basics and savouring the simplicity of plinking.

The synthetic-coated barrel, ending in a practical muzzle weight, is effortless to break and secure. The automatic safety catch, a thoughtful feature for novice shooters, engages reliably with each cocking action. The metal trigger, with its distinct stages, is a practical tool for teaching the fundamentals of disciplined shooting.

The Crosman Inferno stands out as an ideal companion for those venturing into the world of casual backyard shooting. It’s a harmonious blend of lightness, quiet operation, and user-friendliness. The trigger, while simple, is perfectly suited for the rifle’s purpose. This rifle is a testament to the idea that starting guns for plinking should be accessible, enjoyable, and unpretentious – a perfect match for both young enthusiasts and adults seeking a casual shooting experience.

3. Webley Eclipse

The Webley Eclipse challenges any preconceived notions about garden plinking being mere child’s play. It’s a fusion of style, functionality, and adaptability, perfect for those who view plinking as a serious, yet immensely enjoyable pursuit. The interesting thing about the Webley Eclipse (in addition to the price) is that it’s an air pistol that transforms into a rifle with the addition of a stock.

As a standalone pistol, the Webley Eclipse is undeniably substantial, measuring 710mm in length and tipping the scales at nearly two kilograms. This heft, however, is part of its charm, offering a sense of solidity and purpose. Most users will likely attach the superb polymer stock and keep it that way, transforming the Eclipse into a carbine that’s as comfortable in the hands of a junior as it is in an adult’s. The stock’s adjustability, ranging from 205mm to 285mm, along with a modifiable comb, ensures a custom fit for any shooter.

The absence of open sights on the Eclipse nudges you towards the addition of optics on its Picatinny rail, enhancing its precision capabilities. The option to add a silencer to the ½” UNF thread is a thoughtful touch, allowing for a quieter shooting experience – ideal for garden environments. The air capacity of the Eclipse is generous, with Webley’s 105cc cylinder providing a substantial number of shots per fill, ensuring prolonged enjoyment before the need for a refill.

The Eclipse’s sidelever, designed for ease of use in its pistol form, remains functional when converted into a carbine, albeit with a slight learning curve. The adjustable trigger is a highlight, offering a crisp and predictable let-off that enhances the shooting experience. This airgun is more than just its individual features; it’s the sum of its parts that creates a harmonious shooting experience, whether you’re casually aiming at garden targets or engaging in more focused shooting sessions.

With a scope attached and the stock fitted, the Webley Eclipse comes into its own. It nestles into the shoulder beautifully, thanks to the adjustable butt and the ergonomic AR-15-style pistol grip. This grip, while designed with right-hand users in mind, is versatile enough to accommodate left-handed shooters with minimal adjustment.

4. BSA Ultra JSR

The Ultra JSR, or Junior Stock Rifle, is a testament to BSA’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of shooting enthusiasts. It’s a rifle that doesn’t just mimic the adult version in functionality but is thoughtfully designed to suit younger hands and statures.

The Ultra JSR, has a length of 690mm in length and weighs a manageable 2.3kg unscoped. It’s not just a scaled-down version of an adult rifle; it’s a full-fledged shooting tool that children and teens will find equally delightful. The ambidextrous beech stock, with its tasteful chequering on the pistol grip and forend, and the comfortable rubber butt pad, speaks volumes about BSA’s attention to detail. The finish on the metalwork is solid, and the 300mm cold hammer-forged barrel, ready for a silencer attachment, is a nod to the importance of maintaining neighbourly harmony.

The JSR, while compact, doesn’t compromise on performance. Utilizing BSA’s standard cartridge magazine, it promises around 120 shots per 232-bar fill in both .177 and .22 calibres. The reloading process, involving sliding a clip at the front of the action and installing the magazine from the left, is a simple yet secure system. While the rifle doesn’t come with open sights, necessitating a scope, this little gun’s performance is on par with, if not superior to, many adult-sized rifles at this power level.

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