While there are very powerful air rifles that exist today, they are most popular as a tool for teaching kids about safe firearms handling. Many a backyard soda can and paper cup has fallen victim to the air rifle. Even so, these are not toys and children should not handle or use them without adult supervision. Serious injury and even death can occur with air rifles.

Air rifles help kids learn the fundamentals of gun safety, firearms handling and the importance of marksmanship. They are a great place to start because they are very quiet and don’t require ear protection, can be shot safely almost anywhere and have essentially no recoil. They are also extremely inexpensive to shoot. The only real piece of safety equipment needed are glasses to protect your eyes, as ricochets are not altogether unknown depending on your target.


My son Nick and I took the new NXG APX from Umarex USA out for a day in the woods to test it out. The APX is .177 caliber, which is the most common for air rifles. It will fire both steel BBs and lead or alloy pellets, and it has a 20-inch, steel, rifled barrel for improved accuracy. Umarex has a good deal of experience manufacturing high-powered air rifles and licensed versions of popular tactical rifles and handguns. Umarex is, in fact, the sister company of Walther Arms.

This rifle is air powered using a pump located under the handguard. Unlike some other designs, the pump action is not actually part of the stock, which makes it easier to operate. It also has a large handle located in front of the triggerguard. This design makes it much easier to avoid getting pinched by the swing arm of the pump.

The APX also has several unique safety features built into it. There is an automatic safety inside the front of the triggerguard, which you can engage manually, though it is automatically engaged as soon as the pump-action lever is used. To fire, this safety must be pushed forward from inside the triggerguard, which can easily be done with the trigger finger. The design reminds me of the safety on the M1 Garand or even the SKS rifle. Umarex is the first air rifle company to include this automatic safety feature.

Another safety feature is that the bolt action must be open in order to pump the rifle. This helps prevent any negligent discharges while the air cylinder is being charged. If you try and pump the rifle with the bolt closed, it will not charge the air reservoir and cannot fire.

Taking Charge

Make sure to fully pump the air charging lever each time. The more you pump, the more energy is stored and children will be tempted to test the limits of this. The manual specifically warns that 10 pumps is the maximum and any more than that risks damaging the rifle. Of course, 10 pumps are not necessary for most close-range shots, especially at soft targets like paper cups and paper plates. For indoor shooting (against an appropriate backstop), the manufacturer recommends no more than two pumps.

The body of the APX is made from a tough plastic and is all black for a more “adult” appearance. The length of pull on the stock is 14.25 inches, which may be long for some smaller shooters, but the weight is only 3.4 pounds and the pistol grip handle is ergonomically designed to make it easier for kids to handle the rifle.

The stock features some distinct cutouts designed to strengthen the rifle and make it more impact resistant. The top of the stock has a rubberized cheekpiece for improved comfort as well. Iron sights are standard with an easy-to-see, red fiber-optic front sight mounted atop the “muzzle brake” at the front.

The rear leaf sight is adjustable for elevation and windage. More impressive, however, is that Umarex has added a built-in, Picatinny-style polymer rail on the top of the receiver, a first for a youth rifle, which makes installing optics and maintaining zero much easier. The APX also comes with a 4×15 scope, which is a great addition that adds to the fun.

The APX fires both BBs and pellets. Pellets must be loaded individually at the top with the bolt open. Here Umarex has added a very easy-to-load ramp, usually only found on more expensive air guns. Simply drop the pellet in, push the bolt forward and the design helps prevent the pellet from falling out or being loaded incorrectly (backwards). BBs and pellets can be loaded from either side of the rifle, but the bolt handle is on the right side.

If you are using BBs, the design is even better. There is a BB reservoir on the left side of the receiver that will hold up 75 BBs. To load a BB from the reservoir, simply angle the rifle so the barrel is pointed upwards and a BB will automatically load on the ramp and stay stuck to the magnetic tip of the bolt (assuming you are using steel BBs). BBs can also be loaded individually though the loading ramp.

Air Strikes

Out on the trail, Nick and I set up a paper target to sight in the scope. This was easy to do with the adjustable dials on the top and side. You can adjust these with a flat screwdriver or the side of a coin. We dialed the scope in at a distance of 10 yards and were hitting the bullseye after about five shots.

Shooting paper is fine to test your accuracy, especially off-hand, but the real fun is found in shooting more reactive targets, and we were eager to test out the power of the rifle. We brought with us an empty can that seemed very durable. With the rifle at the maximum 10 pumps, steel BBs were easily able to punch through both sides of the can. This amount of energy is clearly sufficient to use for small-game hunting, should the opportunity or the need arise. At the maximum energy level, the Umarex NXG APX air rifle can generate projectile velocities up to 800 feet per second (fps), but that is using lightweight alloy pellets.

This is impressive velocity from such a lightweight pump-action air rifle. CO2-cartridge-powered air guns typically max out at 400 fps, and having fired a lot of those, I can attest that this is plenty of power.

The rifle was lightweight and very easy to handle, and pumping it even to the maximum required minimal effort. When shooting BBs or pellets, it is very important to be aware of the risk for ricochets. Most trees have a fairly hard bark and BBs can bounce off and come right back at you with a good deal of force. Always wear shooting glasses when firing any gun, including air rifles. The manual warns that the maximum danger range for the APX is over 500 yards. It is also not advisable to walk around or climb over things with a loaded and pumped air rifle. Only load and pump it when you are ready to shoot.

Unloading the APX is simple for BBs, as the reservoir can just be opened and tipped so the BBs run out on their own. If there is a BB in the chamber, the magnetic bolt tip will retrieve it when you open the bolt. Pellets are another matter however. Once a pellet has been loaded into the chamber it must be fired. Find a safe direction to do so. Otherwise you may use a .177-caliber cleaning rod and push the pellet out of the chamber from the barrel, but make sure it does not become stuck in the BB loading port.

Umarex also warns against trying to reuse BBs or pellets because they may have been deformed after firing. There is really very little reason to even try and do so since BBs are so plentiful, easily available and inexpensive. This is in fact one of the great joys of air-rifle shooting. You provide the never-ending power supply through pumping the air reservoir and can easily carry hundreds of BBs with you.

Beginner’s Choice

For a youth rifle, my preference would have been for a shorter length of pull and perhaps a shorter barrel. As it stands, this is really more of an intermediate rifle suitable for kids and adults and perfect for transitioning a child to an actual firearm.

Maintenance is also a very simple affair with no fouling from burned powder and a minimum of moving parts. The manual calls for the moving parts to get two drops of oil every 1,000 rounds. The Umarex NXG APX air rifle represents a lot of value, and even more so when you consider that it can be had as a complete kit with many extras including safety glasses, paper targets, 500 steel BBs and 500 high-quality pellets.

For more information, visit


  • Caliber: .177 BBs and pellets
  • Barrel: 20 inches
  • OA Length:  39 inches
  • Weight: 3.4 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: Plastic
  • Sights: Adjustable rear, fiber-optic front
  • Action: Pump
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 75+1 (BB)
  • MSRP: $79


This article originally published in AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN®  Issue #191. Print and Digital Subscriptions to AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN®  magazine are available here.

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