Diana RWS Model 34

An air rifle (pellet gun) is definitely part of my preparedness tool chest.

I chose the Diana RWS 34 break action (spring piston) in .177 caliber.

There are lots of air rifle brands, models, and charging types (described below).

For preparedness, I prefer the break action type of air rifle. I’ll tell you why after I briefly describe / compare the different types of airguns:

Types of Airgun Charging Mechanisms



Power comes from CO2 in a pressurized cartridge/canister. The most common size is a 12 gram cartridge. Airgun pistols often use them. (This is what they look like)

CO2 cartridges are typically pressurized to about 1,000 psi. How many shots from a CO2 cartridge in an air rifle? You might get about 50. Though some may be less. Be aware that consistency may become an issue. CO2 pressure will lower on each shot. CO2 is affected by temperature.

One of the most popular and economic CO2 air rifles is the Crosman 1077 (see it here) .177 caliber; 12-shot rotary pellet clip; muzzle velocity 625 FPS.

CO2 air rifles are relatively inexpensive. They lack in velocity compared with other charging mechanisms. With that said, they can be fine for plinking, one’s budget, and even used on small pests.


Break Barrel – Spring Piston

RWS-34 break barrel

I believe this type is best for SHTF preparedness. Why? It requires no external charge source (compressed air). It’s the easiest to air rifle to shoot and maintain.

To cock it, you simply ‘break the barrel’ at the breech (it’s on a hinge). Then load a pellet and snap the barrel back up into position.

RWS-34 insert pellet here

The break barrel action moves a piston backwards and compresses a strong spring behind it. The trigger sear engages in a notch and holds the piston-spring under tension until triggered. It’s recommended not to leave the spring compressed for long periods of time (e.g. when not in use).

These air rifles produce power velocity ranging from 600 FPS to well over 1000 FPS on some models. My RWS-34 is spec’d at 1000 FPS.

The most popular break barrel air rifle on AMZN is the Gamo Varmint air rifle. Its popularity is likely due to very inexpensive price vs. specs (1250 FPS muzzle velocity), and it comes with a scope.
Gamo Varmint Air Rifle .177 Cal

The most well reviewed (5-star) break barrel air rifle on some of the airgun websites that I’ve checked happens to be the model I own (Diana RWS-34). Why did I choose that one? Because it was the most well reviewed! I didn’t want to be disappointed after using it for awhile. And I have not been disappointed! I’ve had it for a few years.

Diana RWS 34


PCP Precharged Pneumatic

The Pneumatic precharged air rifle takes its charge from compressed air in a scuba tank. These tanks may hold 80 cubic feet of air at 3000 psi. The air rifle is charged by siphoning off some of that air using a special hose with pressure gauge.

Advantages include variable power, high velocity, incredible accuracy, easy cocking, no recoil and lots of shots from an air charge.

You can pay a lot of money for these, and they are great air rifles. The only reason I don’t prefer them for ‘worst-case’ SHTF preparedness is the requirement to have availability of recharging a scuba tank.

Variable Pump Pneumatic

There are actually two additional types of Pneumatic air rifles. Multi-stroke (pump up) and single-stroke.

As the names imply, one type pumps up the charge by successively levering a pump handle until enough air has been compressed for a shot. Each pump gets harder and harder. This type of air rifle is reportedly not that accurate – too many variables.

The other is a single stroke pump. The problem here is low power – although apparently can be quite accurate.


Air Rifle Sights

RWS-34 sight line
My goodness there are LOTS of air rifle sights out there. Iron sights, peep sights, open sights… Describing them all goes beyond the scope of my intent with this article.

However you should give it some thought. It makes a difference. Stock sights on some inexpensive air rifles may not be that good (although good sights on a cheap air rifle might be a waste of money).

The Diana RWS-34 for example has (in my opinion) excellent sights.

Diana RWS 34 front and rear sights
Fiber-optic sights (red front sight dot, green rear sight dots)

You might even put on a scope. There’s a dizzying array of choices out there. (Here’s some)


Choosing – Comparing Air Rifles For Preparedness


The Action

In my view, it’s better not to rely on external charging devices for the air rifle to function. That pretty much leaves the break barrel action. That’s what I chose.

Velocity – Energy

You need enough to get the job done.

I am using 10.5 grain pellets (considered heavy). At 1000 FPS this converts to about 23 foot pounds of energy. If my air rifle only produced 600 FPS, the equivalent energy would only be about 8 foot pounds (a big difference!).

Formula: Multiply the pellet weight (in grains) times the square of the velocity and divide that number by 450240.


All air rifles are quiet compared with firearms. With that said, some are more quiet than others.

Mine is what I would consider ‘normal’. The spring goes TWANG when you shoot it. Varmints and critters nearby will of course hear it – so make your shot count.

From a human perspective, unless you know what you’re listening too, you probably wouldn’t know what that sound was from… And if you’re 100 feet or more away, you might not hear it at all. (I should test this with Mrs.J and report back)


It really is remarkable how much money you could spend on an air rifle. Some of them are really quite expensive. There’s a price range for everyone though. Just do your research within the range you can afford.

Lets hear from you. What’s your experience with air rifles? Do you agree that it would make for a good SHTF prep? They’re fun to shoot too!

I have this target which is fun. It can be ‘reset’ by simply hitting the top paddle:
Caldwell Air Resetting Target
Best air rifle targets

Picture of the safety on my RWS-34:
The safety automatically engages when you break the barrel to load a pellet.
RWS-34 safety

Related: Silent Hunting After The Collapse

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