Diana RWS Model 34

Break Barrel Air Rifle – Why it’s the Best for Survival & Preparedness

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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  1. Air rifles are very accurate and tack drivers at 5 yards. My BSA Meteor was the classic starter air rifle for country boys. They are excellent for training, target practice and hunting small game at shorter ranges, esp rabbit and pidgeon.
    My Meteor came with a selection of open barrel mounted sights and aperture reciever mounted and I had a cheap scope. All gave similar groupings.
    Pellets are cheap and compact and pellet moulds can be had.

  2. Air rifles, now you’re talking! I have several and so fun and inexpensive to shoot. My preference is the nitro .22, mine is a Remington.

  3. I love my Gamo air rifle! It is a break barrel as well. It is pretty accurate at 25 yards and quiet enough to plink in my suburban backyard. Lately I’ve been stalking a pesky woodpecker with it… the little bugger keeps coming back and pecking on my eaves!

  4. I actually thought about getting one of those air rifles that you charge up with the scuba tank. Mainly because of the availability of bigger bores. Bores of .357, .44, or even .50 cal sounds appealing but lugging around a scuba tank doesn’t. Then I found out that you also have the option of pumping it up manually with a 100 psi bicycle pump. Although it will require lots of pumping. I suppose you could forego the scuba tank if you found a way to automate a bicycle pump. I still air up my car tires with a bicycle pump and let me tell you it’s quite a chore. And that’s only 35 psi, imagine pumping 3000 psi.

    So yeah, break barrel is the way to go!

  5. Like Grits posted above, I am also looking at purchasing a Benjamin PCP air rifle for the following reasons: 1. The PCP air rifles have much better triggers on them. 2. The PCP air rifles can be mounted with good optics and night vision equipment ( there are also Infra Red lamp holders on said rifle set ups.) 3. This set up has a proven track record in Great Britain where firearms ownership is greatly limited but the issue of pest control still exists.

    Likewise, here in American cities and larger towns, a set up like this will open up new hunting opportunities at the edges of towns and farming communities. As I approach retirement, I know of many that will spend more time hunting locally. In my nearest larger city, there is a need to cull the local pigeon population as well as rats around granaries and grass seed farms.

    The package I mentioned above will not be cheap but it is a specialists tool which can be used to solve local problems. ( side effect of leading to job references and more areas in which to hunt.)

    1. Calirefugee…..

      I found a Benjamin Steel Eagle .22 cal Nitrogen on sale last year for almost 50% off. Watch the sales ads!

      The scope it comes with has a reputation of being ‘not the best’. But it seems to fairly decent up to 50 meters. The lubricating oil is a bit pricey, but can be found for 1/2 of what the sellers want for it.

      I have blown holes in 2x4s at 5 meters and ventilated quite well 3/4 plywood at 10 meters. It is not ‘silent’, nor is it very quiet, but a lot less noise than a .22 rifle or hand gun. I have to be careful with it when shooting targets around here since it will go through the 3/4 cedar fencing in the backyard.

      Most .22 cal pellets are junk. One has to try a lot of types to find something decent. Most of the junk pellets tumble beyond belief. Best ones I have found are the ones with a BB stuffed in it. Lead pellet with copper innards. They work very nicely. And don’t seem to tumble until they get out 30 or so meters.

      I am The Vulture, and I approve this evaluation.


  6. I have a Gamo .177, tis fun to take to the range and shoot next to an old boy out there plunking with e 300 Win-Mag… HAHAHA Of course I than take out something that’s a little bigger and shoot a nice ring around his bulls-eye… hehehe AND yes I know how to pizz some off.. LOLOL

    Will do mighty good at 20-40 yards for sure. and is literally heck on Pack-Rats that just loveeeeee to infiltrate the firewood piles.

    1. Tommyboy;
      Dude…… It would take 20 times the cost of the firearm to ship it… HAHAHAHA

  7. Have had a Gamo Big Cat .177 , break barrel for about 5 years. Great plinker and good for squirrels and other smaller varmints.

  8. Ive got mine but it won’t be used till after I run outta sub sonic 22s like the CB or Aguilla

  9. Matt in Oklahoma;
    Agreed, those 22-longs and shorts are kinda nice, But plinking with an Air is fun also. making holes in a Beer Can… HAHAHA

  10. I purchased a fairly cheap pump up .177 cal pellet/BB rifle last year on a whim/prep. Marked down at Wally World from $70 to $20. Came with a cheap scope. Terrible trigger, but good accuracy if you concentrate on the trigger pull. Made by GSG in Germany. Deadly on squirrels, fun to shoot, substantially quieter than the break barrel design on discharge. Not so much when pumping it up, as the pump lever is next to impossible to keep from banging against the stock when pumping.

    I’m in the market for a good break action for the reasons Ken listed, but like Matt in OK, I’ve stocked quite a few rounds of CB’s, CCI QUIET, and Super Calibri for my various .22’s. I shared my latest project with the little “Davy Crickett” single shot youth rifle with y’all a while back. I’ve found it exceptionally accurate, deadly on squirrel and quieter than the pellet gun on discharge when using the Super Calibri ammunition. This (or any .22 using this ammo) meets my desire for a near silent small game getter, but a pellet costs around a penny apiece, whereas the quiet .22 rimfire ammo runs around ten cents a round. That can be a huge benefit when storing ammo that will never go bad to boot.

  11. Have a Ruger break barrel, .177 with scope, multiple cans of pellets. Cleaned out some pests last summer and fall.

  12. I bought a used Gamo that the previous owner negligently oiled the barrel with 3-in-one oil. The barrel went BANG!*%#! with fire shooting out. Use only airgun oil.

          1. Chevy, thanks for the info, was not clear to me, probably was to everyone else.

          2. I don’t really know what kind of oil it was, but I know what kind it wasn’t. A lot of people use the wrong kind, like WD-40.

        1. – Chevy, the process is called dieselling. FWIW, there some idiots out there that do this sort of thing regularly for the fun of it. It supposedly gives a bit of a boost to the power, but there is no telling what it does to the accuracy of the individual shot. (IMHO, it can’t be good) There is no apparent permanent damage to the gun, however. Just a little bit of information about it.
          – Papa S.

  13. Grey
    I probably have the same as you.
    Bought for a prep along with several canisters of pellets.
    When I first shot a few it was louder than a .22. I was very disappointed, then I read online that it would get quieter as the factory oil broke down.
    And several shots later it has. Heavy bugger for an air rifle.

    1. Joe c, yup sounds like the same one. 7 point something pounds, lookes like a sniper rifle with ” air minimizer” on the end. I usually rest it on something for a longer shot. Same with mine, after the first couple of shots it quieted right down. I shoot rifles left handed, shotguns and handguns right handed. Right handed person, never could close my left eye with the right open, can close the right eye with the left eye open. After a few bloody lips and nose using a rifle right handed with the left eye I wised up as a kid.

      1. Ouch!
        I finally put a .22 scope on it as the one it came with wouldn’t adjust appropriately.

        1. Joe c,

          A word of caution when scoping a break barrel air rifle. Either buy one purpose built for those guns or a high quality shock proof (not shock resistant) scope. My understanding (heard, not from personal experience) is that the vibrations and reverse recoil of that heavy spring being released upon firing will destroy many scopes fairly quickly. A different recoil than standard scopes are built to handle. You might want to research the subject. Maybe some of the air gun experts can chime in.

          1. Hey thanks for the info Dennis.👍
            Good to know as I thought a .22 scope would hold up.
            I’ve had it a few years and so far so good, but I haven’t shot it lately.

          2. A quick check of an air gun site found this quote.

            “Because of their unique whiplash recoil, spring-piston and air ram airguns require an airgun-rated scope. By contrast PCP, pump-up, and CO2 powere airguns do not require an air-gun rated scope.”

  14. I have several air rifles and a co2 glock trainer. A Gamo silent cat, some unknown Chinese break barrel, a crosman 760, a daisy cobra, 2 daisy red riders ( great for kids) and the crosman T4 glock trainer. Great for practice to keep cost low and removing pests.

  15. A friend gave me a Gamo .177 a few years ago and I love plinking with it. It’s rated at 1000psi and it’s very accurate to about 25 yards. I replaced the “o” ring that seals the breech and bought a few extra to put back for spares. Great tool to take squirrels, rabbits and birds without making a lot of noise.

  16. Amarex 1000 fps and came with a scope that has held up so far. If it comes down to eating birds and squirrels this will do the job. Anyone know of a mold maker for air rifle pellets?

    How would a BB do in a break barrel rifle? Size should be pretty darn close.

    1. me,

      If your air rifle is .177 cal, that is what a BB is (approximately anyhow). My .177 pump up shoots either/or, but it may not be that simple. The pump up operates sort of like a bolt action rifle and has a reservoir that holds BB’s in the receiver with a feed ramp to the side of the bolt that allows one BB at a time to fall in front of the open bolt when it’s pulled to the rear. The bolt is magnetized and the steel BB is held in place by this magnet as it is moved forward into the barrel when closed. The BB, not having the flared hollow base like a pellet does, may just roll down the barrel of a break open. On this rifle (mine) pellets are fed by hand, one at a time into the breach end of the barrel and the flange on the pellet stops flush with the rear of the breach edge.

      More simply, yes a BB will shoot in your break open, if it will stay in place until shot after being placed in the barrel. To be sure, find a BB and test it. In my pump up, which was designed to shoot both BB’s and .177 pellets, the BB’s are less accurate, especially at distances more than 10-15 feet.

      Hope my answer didn’t muddy the waters more for you.

      1. Dennis, My Crossman, pellet/BB .177 is exactly as you explained. I have had this gun for over 40 years and shot it every day as a kid. I had the seals replaced in it 12-15 years ago (Which cost more than the gun did). Has been a great gun for plinking and have even taken squirrels with it. My main target of course, hundreds of Starlings.

      2. – Dennis, you are probably correct about the springer being able to take a BB. OTOH, the manufacturers generally say not to do so as you can damage the rifling if the gun is not built for dual use. accuracy will likely be poor to very poor, but i would definitely use a BB if i were in a pinch.
        – Papa S.

        1. Papa Smurf,

          Most BB guns (not all) are not as accurate as pellet guns. I shoot a lot, under all kinds of conditions, with all types of guns. Many times, with slower moving bullets like .22 rimfire and BB’s that have a bright copper or silver surface, when the sunlight is just right, you can see them in light traveling downrange. Those instances when you do see them in flight, you can see that BB’s appear to have a sort of an elongated corkscrew flight. Most times it appears the flight path is about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter for the first 20 feet or so, which would suggest that it would hit somewhere in a circle that size if your aim is good. Problem is, the farther the BB travels, the larger the diameter of that corkscrew flight grows, so at longer distances, no matter how good you are, the size of the possible impact point has grown significantly. I’ve never seen this corkscrew phenomena with the elongated projectiles of conventional weapons.

          Those times I’ve been able to observe bullets in flight have been on bright sun-shiny days, with the sun behind me. I once was shooting at targets some 300 yards away with a .22 rimfire. I was visually tracking the projectile to impact and adjusting elevation accordingly, much like we did with tracers in another life.

  17. I have a single pump break-barrel Gamo (1050 FPS) .177 air rifle. It’s well made, way more accurate then I can hold it, can kill a rabbit or squirrel at 40 to 50 yards. A great gun.

    I also have a variable pump pneumatic air pistol, 3-pumps gives me 700 FPS out of it. It’s a Webley Alecto. Also a great gun, only drawback is that it cost over $300.00. But well worth it. And like the Gamo the Webley is accurate, It’s almost an Olympic grade gun. It’s big, about as big as a Desert Eagle 357 Auto Mag.

    I have at least 50,000 pellets for them, I will never run out.

    I have a target set up in the basement and shoot all winter long, Summer time I shoot in the back yard.

    PS: My basement target box is just a cardboard box filled with newspaper. Works great, it last for thousands of shots and then some.

    One warning about spring action air rifles.

    Do NOT ever put a regular firearm scope on it. It will destroy it with 50-shots or so. Springers kick forward and back so fast that it will knock the cross hair ring out of even the best rifle scope in no time.

    The reason for this is that a firearm scope is only made to handle recoil pushing back so the ring is only supported on one side with a lock ring, they have no lock ring on the other side of the cross hair ring and the cross hair ring will loosen up and fall out.

    No firearm scope is covered for this damage, if you put a firearm scope on a springer you will destroy it and then eat the cost, not the company that made it.

    Springer air rifles kick hard and very fast forward and then back just as fast, air rifle scopes are much more brutal on a scope then even the biggest firearms made. They have 2 lock rings to keep the cross hairs from falling out.

    Another things is that with a springer air rifle you need scope mounts made for air rifles as regular rings simply will not clamp on hard enough to not move. I’ve tried, it will not grip enough to not move. Shot it 20 times and you can see the mounts move on the gun. You need mounts with a lock pin that goes down into a hole drilled into the top of the barrel. Or you need to buy a barrel stop clamp thing to stop the scope from moving.

    It seems hard to believe that a springer air rifle kicks more then a 3006, but it does and it kicks forward.

  18. Break barrel springers are great for property owners for inexpensive vermin eradication and inexpensive llong term small game for the many reasons above given. What they AREN’T is lightweight.

    My RWS 350 Magnum is as long and heavy as my M1 Garand. If I wanted a dedicated pack rifle, I would take a hard look at the standard pneumatic (pump) air rifles. The old Daisy 880 / 22SG / 822, and similar. Much lighter weight, about half of a springer rifle’s weight. The pump Crosman pistols like the 1377 / 1322 are also worth looking at. Because they aren’t powder burning, laws like stocking an air pistol is not illegal. So you can install a rifle stock, making a very short packable carbine a reality. Pneumatics are also much easier on scopes. If you want to learn more about air guns in general, Pyramyd Air has an excellent air firearm blog.

    Will these replace the spring ? No. But these do bring other features to the table and will compliment them. Proper tools for proper uses.

  19. I have had one for 10 years or so…awesome fun for taking out chipmunks and red squirrels raiding my chicken feed.

  20. Even when sellers were asking $90 for a brick of .22 LR in the post-Sandy Hook ammunition insanity, air rifle pellets were commonly available and the prices were not inflated in the stampede. (Walmart, to its credit, was a rare vendor that did not jack up its ammo prices in order to reap quick profits. I know of one gun show where a vendor asked $120 for a brick. Whether anyone bought the ammo at that price, I don’t know.)

    I expect that, like me, serious preparedness-types will find it necessary to train shooters after a great societal meltdown. Those individuals who refuse to engage in firearms training now–(“Oooo. It kicks so much!” “Oh, my. I could never shoot at another human being.”)–may have an epiphany about the need to shoot firearms after the balloon goes up.

    That’s when BB guns and air rifles will provide an excellent first step in firearms use, as well as an economical first step in firearms use.

  21. I like the pump up airguns made by Crosman and I grew up using one as a kid. If taken care of, they will last for years. ( mighty big “if” there regarding kids taking care of air rifles.)

    Only the dumbest creature on the planet will stand still and watch me pump up an air rifle 8 times with the CLACK…CLACK…CLACK associated with a pump up rifle. Any creature that continues feeding or looking at me at that point deserves to be removed from the gene pool.

    For pest control, I have had best luck with rifles as they have the power generated and preserved via the longer barrel. I have a pump up pellet pistol and have had starlings fly off after being hit by a pellet. My older brother has had better luck with a Benjamin pump air rifle that uses 20 caliber pellets and he hunted pests over bait station in his backyard. ( learned a thing or 2 from me over the years.)

    1. – Calirefugee, i have a Crosman 1377 which i have used for several years. I have killed grackles primarily with it, which are tough birds. I have seen them fly away after being hit poorly with a friend’s .410 (Convinced me for years to avoid the .410) I have also used the 1377 for rabbit, raccoon, opossum, rattlesnakes and skunks with satisfactory results. i have even used it once for a feral dog, which it worked, but reinforced the need not to go around without at least a pocket pistol at hand.
      When I was about 11 years old, I ended up defending myself and my 3 years younger brother from a pair of feral shepherd mixes with an old Benjamin pump-up. (that thing originally kept rabbits out of my grandparents garden, and provided a few meals along the way). For the dogs, it worked well twice, and was a whole lot more effective that the rocks and stick my brother had. None of the dogs took more than one step after the shot.
      – Papa S.

      1. – Meant to mention, I have, with my son’s, BIL’s, the one my wife inherited from FIL, and the one I owned, there are 4 Crosman 760’s around the house. They are good for what they are, but the little 1377 is more potent than them. Had, but apparently it was in the stuff not moved yet, a gamo .177. I have to agree on the weight and unwieldiness of the springers, though.
        – Papa

  22. German brands seem to lead the field in quality. Weihrauch and RWS are both good but Weihrauch is the more over-built. The trigger is target grade.

  23. The speed of sound at sea level is 1125 fps. Certainly, a 10 grain .177 pellet can attain such a velocity, but if one goes faster than that, you get a loud crack breaking the sound barrier…there goes your “quiet” shooting.
    I own a Hatsan model 95, which shoots a .22 cal. I have literally thousands of pellets, and prefer the heavy ones; at least 20 grains that pack a real punch without cracking the sound barrier..I can also shoot a lighter one that would give off the sonic crack.
    It’s about preference.

  24. I have had air rifles for over 45 year now. I currently have three, two in working conditions. I have one RWS 34 and two older Sheradon blue streak. I like the blue streaks because they are pump and I can control the pellet speed to prevent over travel of the pellet after it hits an animal. And to keep the pellet subsonic. The RWS is good but the recoil of the spring can cause me accuracy issues that I don’t have with the pump rifle when taking shoots over 75 to 100 yards. I have taken squirrel rabbit dove quail pheasant raccoons and possum with air rifles. They would be a good choice for people living in city’s or towns. That’s where I used mine for years growing up. Very quiet when shooting in the neighborhood.
    The RWS broke the spring a few years back and I had to replace it and I just put a new seal kit in the sheradon this year it is at least 25 years old.

  25. I realize this is a year old, but for anyone that reads this i have had great results with Hatsan .30 cal break barrel air rifle. Using .310 round ball and loading it with a .32 cal muzzleloading cleaning jag set in a drawer knob, using the jag as a short starter due to the ball being a hair oversized. It works out around 600 fps and 34 fpe, it will go through coconuts and beef rib bones and has been very accurate. It is fairly quite with a twang and thwack with the impact being the loudest. It is heavy at around ten pounds and a beast to cock! But with a mold some lead and some spare parts i believe is a great shtf tool.

  26. My Benjamin 22 caliber multipurpose Air rifle is very accurate. You are wrong on saying they are not.

  27. My opinion is a Weihrauch HW95, I’ve owned Gamo, Crosman, Benjamin, Hatsan, Diana, etc. Never again. Weihrauch has the best trigger, and nothing on the gun is plastic, maybe the buttplate. Their not cheap, but as always, “buy cheap, buy twice”. I only wish the sold it with a synthetic stock. Good luck

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