There are a lot of pieces that compare and contrast similar items to determine what is the best .177 air rifle, or the best .22, or the best hunting rifle, etc. But what I’ve always wanted to see was a comparison of vastly different weapons to see not only which performs a given task better, but rather what combination of options gets the job done the best in the aggregate.
That’s why we’re going to take a look at two very different .177s today and see which one, overall, is going to be a better deal and accomplish what you need it to. Our contenders are the Ruger Blackhawk .177 cal. Air Rifle and the Crosman M4-177 Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle (.177).
Ruger Blackhawk .177 cal. Air Rifle
The Ruger is the more traditional of the two by far, with a standard hunting rifle look and feel to it. One of the first things you’ll notice about it, however, is that it doesn’t shoot like most .177s.
Now, there are a couple of schools of thought at play with how best to go about hunting. On one hand, there is a general rule of thumb, “.177 for feathers, .22 for fur,” which basically says that a .177 is made primarily for hunting birds, and a .22 for other types of small game. The other thought is that in order to have a humane kill, you need to have plenty of power, and what the .177 lacks in size, it more than makes up for in the fact that it flies a lot faster, making a clean kill more likely.
There are a lot of thoughts on the matter, and it’s not always that simple, but if you’re hunting with the Ruger your shots are very likely to sail right through whatever you’re shooting at and making it a humane death. At 1000 fps, it can punch through layers of plywood without slowing down significantly, and forget about hay bales.
The trigger pull is nice, and it’s surprisingly easy to sight this gun. Usually, you can get it sighted through the iron sights within five shots, which is absolutely unheard of.
The problem with this gun is that it could use some better materials. The sight mounts are cheap metal, and the screws are aluminum. The scope that comes with it is ok – should be fine for sighting varmints in close range. You may want to order some better brackets and screws to keep it in place.
Other than that, with the right ammo (I think rounded tip hollow points work well), this is an incredibly solid gun that will perform well for you. The gun also has some pretty interesting reviews.
Crosman M4-177 Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle (.177)
And now for something completely different. The Crosman M4-177 is also a .177 caliber gun, but just by looking at it you can see that it’s not the same thing at all.
The biggest selling point for this rifle is the look of it, which is modeled on the AR15. It is made of heavy plastic, primarily, with the “magazine” actually being hollow and able to store additional ammunition and some adjusting tools.
It makes good use of its design, including with the adjustable stock that makes it comfortable no matter who’s using it. And at around $60 bucks, its hard not to take a flyer on this one, for the looks alone.
This is actually primarily a BB gun, with the reservoir in the stock and a rather odd, but efficient way of loading. Basically, you tip it forward and open a small switch that allows a BB to chamber itself, then you’re ready to go. That being said, it can and does fire pellets in a five shot “clip” that feeds through.
It’s moderately accurate most of the time. It took a little getting used to and the pellets fire better than the BBs, but that’s to be expected. Even without a scope, I was able to get some decent shots while just looking down the barrel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with sights, which is a huge disappointment, specially since they’re generally pictured in the advertisements. It’s also really powerful, and only four or five pumps will get you some great shots.
Maybe the biggest problem with it is that it’s made mostly of plastic. Sure, it cuts down on weight and cost, but it also means that within three or four months there’s a good chance that the air chamber will simply burst and you will no longer be able to get any pressure, rendering your gun useless. Considering how much air it takes in and how powerful the shots are, no weight of plastic is going to be able to handle the forces involved. It also becomes a problem if you try to mount a scope on the plastic rails that just can’t handle the weight of a good one for very long.
If you are interested in this rifle, you can read more reviews on the Crosman M4-177 here.
Bringing It Together
What you have here is a competition between style and substance, form and function, and it’s pretty clear that form wins hands down.
When Crosman designed their gun, they were trying to make it look like an AR15 hoping that people would buy into the fantasy of it, which I suppose is interesting and valid, but there’s no reason for it at all. They did a lot of clever things with the design as well. But that is because they started with a look and then started asking what could fit in where. Like they took all the pieces they needed and wanted, then tried to fit them in like a puzzle.
The Ruger is not the greatest gun on the planet, but it started with a goal in mind, a purpose. It wanted to make a gun that would be good for hunting, would be accurate, and would ensure humane kills. They succeeded in that despite their other flaws.
This is not to say that all guns that look interesting are necessarily bad, only that the best .177 air rifle is one that shoots well before it even considers looking like something else.