Air Rifle For Survival Preparedness – Why it’s a Good Thing
An air rifle (pellet gun) is definitely part of my preparedness tool chest. You might call it a survival air rifle.
I chose the Diana RWS 34 break action (spring piston) in .177 caliber as my air rifle for survival and preparedness.
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. Regardless though, I do feel that this type of rifle (air rifle) has its place for survival / prepping / preparedness.
Types of Air Rifle 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 too.
12-Gram CO2 Powerlet Cartridges (40 count)
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 economical CO2 air rifles is the Crosman 1077. It’s .177 caliber; 12-shot rotary pellet clip; muzzle velocity 625 FPS.
Crosman 1077 RepeatAir Semi-Automatic CO2-Powered
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. A decent survival air rifle.
Break Barrel – Spring Piston
My break barrel air rifle (spring charged) shown above.
I don’t see it on amzn anymore. However, there’s lots of this type available to choose from.
Search Break Barrel Air Rifles
I believe this type is a better charging mechanism for a so called survival air rifle for SHTF preparedness. Why? It requires no external charge source (compressed air). It’s the easiest 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.
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
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
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.
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.
Search Air Rifle Scopes
Choosing – Comparing Air Rifles For Survival & Preparedness
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.
Tip: I believe the following to be one of the most accurate air rifle pellets…
Haendler & Natermann H&N
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? Do you have a survival air rifle? 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:
Picture of the safety on my RWS-34:
The safety automatically engages when you break the barrel to load a pellet.
[ Read: Silent Hunting After The Collapse ]
Great article Ken! I have been a firm believer in air rifles and pistols for many years. While firearms are great air rifles and pistols have a real place in anyone’s plans. They can be used by anyone from kids up to develop skills indoors or out and have a place for quiet rodent and bird control when the law doesn’t allow for firearms. In these days of ammunition shortages you can easily put 500-1000 pellets ( in a tin of course lol!) in your pocket. If you are into the spring or pump models you may want to think long term regarding seals, springs and other things that might wear or break over time. Some seals require special oil that is better to have on hand. I have noticed a shortage in some Crossman parts over the last 2 years and this may be true with other manufacturers.
Excellent article and I personally believe air guns are an essential part of preparing. I have an older Gamo break barrel air fifle that fires .177 pellets at approximately 1000fps. It’s accurate, quiet and light weight. In addition to many boxes of various types of pellets I purchased several spare o-rings (they are seated where the barrel breaks) which will wear out eventually and reduce the velocity.
I guess we can call you the e-rat-icator! 🏆 🐀
An air rifle is much better inside a building like a barn as you still have your hearing when you leave unlike .22’s and you don’t upset the critters. BTW, I have a couple of the Crosman loaders and they are great to keep in your pocket and as you said make loading easy.
I like eating tree rats but barn rats?…I think I’ll save them until the time comes when they are all that’s left and then it’ll be rat fricassee..rat ala mode..rat chowder..rat boy-ar-dee..rat a roni..rat n dumplings..rat b que….maybe even……rat helper! Gonna need lots of hot sauce, gravy and imagination.
Thanks for the info, didn’t know that handy tool existed. GGM
Are you saying that there is a difference between two legged rats and four legged rats ?
The Louis and Clark expedition to the west carried air rifles with them for game and defense. pump up pneumatic with an air tank in the stock i think. they could fire several shots from one charge.
i had a friend growing up that had a Benjamin air rifle, it was awesome. me i’m going to keep stacking my .22 CB’s and shorts. i have an old daisy but all it will do is make something mad and chase it off. you can see the BB come out the barrel.
I would love to have an air rifle like the The Girandoni rifle that Louis and Clark carried. It could fire 22 .46 caliber balls at around 900 fps without the typical muzzle flash or smoke cloud signature of black powder rifles of its day in under 30 seconds.
I have two co2 pistols for fun and when I got my granddaughter started in shooting. Coupla years ago, I bought a Umerex pump up .177 pellet/BB rifle at Wally World…mainly because they had marked it down from $79 to $20 for clearance…nothing fancy but came with a cheap scope. After sighting it in, I killed 9 squirrels in one day…first time out, using pellets. Since, I’ve taken numerous squirrels using just BB’s (stores and feeds them in bolt action from a reservoir). It earned a place in my preps…cheap to operate, super quiet, kills squirrels (the breakfast of champion survivors) efficiently….
Like others, I’ve also stockpiled .22 cb longs, .22 cb shorts, regular HV .22 shorts, and Aguilla .22 Super Colibri.
The “Super Colibri” is an interesting cartridge…light bullet (17 grains) propelled by just primer, very quiet. Will feed from your 10/22 magazine…won’t cycle the action of course…just manually eject and feed by operating the bolt by hand.
I also have a .177 air rifle. Recently I have developed an interest in a .22 or .25 caliber air rifle. Anyone have any experience with these?
I have been looking at .22 cal on pyramyd air. ( i also have a .177 ) they make very good rifles but are a little pricey. you would be starting in the 300.00 range
True but… 22 or 25 caliber the price is close either way. The reason I am looking I shot a squirrel out of a tree, it fell, then got up and ran backup. Probably died later but I don’t like for a wounded animal to suffer, even a tree rat. I know, I know, shoot ’em in the head. This is where I aim but I may have hit the shoulder or such.
If I were to start raising my own chickens, I would obtain a new air rifle in order to manage both pests and predators. I live within city limits and I cannot legally discharge a firearm here. These make a lot of sense these days where guns and ammo may be difficult to obtain and the use of poison is indiscriminate.
These days, with the current ammo situation (available but expensive. Rifle ammo is iffy dependent upon caliber). I have been taking note of what Kula has been saying. (Still raising crops and dealing with creatures that eat the crops). I have read that he is using a Benjamin Marauder PCP air rifle and/or maybe a compound or crossbow. Kula also has different pests that he has to deal with compared to those of us on the Continent. I would like to know what subsistence growers are using to manage pests on their farms and fields.
To answer SS’s question about shooting rats over bait being legal: yes, they are a non-game species that can be taken through a variety of means to include baiting. Pellet guns are more work than poison but if you ever saw a cat or a fox convulsing due to secondary poisoning, you would stop using it too.
Just as a FWI there are some multi pump pneumatics that are very powerful. Also the more powerful your spring piston gun is the harder they are to learn to shoot well. Many folks think they will shoot just like a powered burner, this is not the case. Most Americans buy their first air rifle based on what they know from shooting powder burners. This is the wrong thing to do. ( On gateway to airguns forum I have read many posts with people complaining that they’re new thousand foot per second air rifle won’t group.) Get on some of the air gun forums and do some learning and save yourself some headaches and money.
One factor was omitted; WEIGHT. My son has a break-action air rifle. It’s accurate. One pump does it. Unfortunately, it weighs more than an M1! I have a Crossman pump-action pellet/BB rifle. Yes, it takes around ten pumps to get full velocity out of it, but it’s feather light and shoots straight. The downside is that the time it takes to pump it up often results in your target getting away.
We had a rabbit explosion last year that decimated my garden. I lost most of my garden. I lost count of the rabbits that little rifle took out, even at distances that made them almost too small to sight in on!
As for the legality of air rifles, check your local ordinances. Some jurisdictions actually consider air rifles “firearms.”
Have 1each pump/break barrel/co2 air rifles, 2 co2 pistols & plenty pellets. Also have BB guns, sling shots, crossbow rifle & pistols, bows & arrows even a blow gun (really close contact). Tried to think of all defensive tools. Played years of softball into 30’s, went to throw a rock at a squirrel, rock landed 20’ in front of me, lost memory muscle, forgot how to throw, would have been funny if it wasn’t so pathetic, relearning now. GGM
the native americans would throw large sticks to kill or stun small game.
Just FYI, they make a high pressure hand pump to charge the pre charged pneumatic pellet guns. I have a Benjamin Marauder .22 , it operates at 3000 psi maximum down to 1900 before significantly dropping off velocity. Its a good workout to charge it back up but can be done in a few minutes.
A 14.3 grain pellet gives 15 ft lbs energy at 100 yards. My best group so far is .155 at 25 yards. It is very quiet and accurate and is a tree rat killer. You can buy this with a walther barrel and it supposedly is more accurate at longer distances. I have not tried it past 50 yards. As far as PCP guns go, they range from .177 to .60 caliber. The .35 and up guns can kill pigs, deer and other large game. One of the youtube videos I watched had a guy shooting a .50 with 350 grain bullet. Thats crazy.
I also have an old Blue Streak Sheridan and its just been rebuilt. Should last another 30 years.
Airgun depot and pyramid air have tons of options to fit any type airgun you desire and what fits your need. Just my 2 cents.
Reply to GreatGrandMom and scout: I am ashamed to say it again on this site butt: I throw like a girl so that is why I have as many rifles in my home. When I throw a rock, I can hear the critters and my sister laughing at me. If I had to hunt by throwing rocks, I would be a vegetarian.
LOL, don’t feel like the lone ranger on that one friend. i know many girls that can throw better than me. tossing softballs from the left field fence to home plate and the ball never gets higher than 6ft off of the ground. you can hear it when it comes by, the air sizzling off of the stitches.
Many years ago while on a bull’s eye pistol shooting team, the subject of a ” air rifle / handgun ” team come up, after a bit of discussion we had a new shooting team. I purchased a Daisy 717 handgun for the shooting matches I still have it, still in the box that it came in, but put away ( hmm, maybe I should dig it out and start playing with it again ). My youngest son got to be pretty good with it, to the point he was using it in the garden for pest control.
No matter what caliber, pellet, or BB, if it breaks the skin, it is considered a ‘Deadly Weapon”.
Good article Ken and timely. Link to story in Thermopolis WY. Good in the school board for standing their ground.
A well placed BB can be a memory of do not go back to that house again. Back in the farm days our friends Lab and Retriever use to follow us home when they saw our truck. My Heeler would be ganged up on. Nope not gonna happen when good friend would not keep his dogs up. So one day a well placed BB on the rump of the Lab took care of that. Ruffin and Big John never followed us home again. Nice dogs but they are not going to hurt my Red Man.
To Mrs U: My first pellet pistol was purchased for the purpose of shooting a neighborhood dog in the butt when I saw it crapping on my parents lawn. 3 pumps with a lead pellet, you could see the pellet bounce off and it must have felt like a bee sting. No permanent damage when fired within my front yard. It was my job to cut the grass and edge the lawn so I would pop it in the butt in order for the dog to go to another green lawn to do its business.
I dare say, a pellet pistol and rifle are some of the best ways to learn and practice marksmanship these days. (I have a newer model Benjamin pump-up pistol that fires 177 cal pellets).
– There are several air rifles of assorted calibers around the house. Long ago I was told that .177 was for feathers, and .22 was for fur. That said, my first air gun was a pump-up .177 Benjamin that my granddad had used to keep rabbits out of his garden. It made a good number of pot pie and stew entrées, too.
That gun worked quite well for a couple of feral dogs that thought my little brother and I would make a nice entrée, too. Not recommended for that use, but sometimes needs must. Actually, it or similar guns have accounted for about six medium sized dogs over my lifetime. Just a matter of what was at hand when it was needed.
The following is extracted from the Texas 2021 – 2022 Outdoor Annual hunting, fishing, and boating regulations (you get a copy when you get your license) under Air Guns and Arrow Guns. “Alligator, bighorn sheep, javelina, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn and turkey (EXCEPT eastern turkey) may be taken with pre-charged pneumatic arrow guns or pre-charged pneumatic air guns.” “pre-charged pneumatic air guns must fire a projectile of at least .30 caliber and at least 150 grains in weight with a minimum velocity of 800 feet per second, or any combination of bullet weight and muzzle velocity that produces muzzle energy of at least 215 foot-pounds of energy.” “squirrel, pheasant, quail, and chachalaca may be hunted with air guns that fire a projectile of at least .177 caliber (4.5 mm) in diameter producing a muzzle velocity of at least 600 feet per second…”
I have an air pistol, a Crosman 1377 single-shot, capable of producing 660 feet per second. It would be a legal hunting arm for the last few. Rabbits, hares and frogs are part of a long list of non-game animals that may be hunted by any legal means or methods on private property, no season or bag limits.
– Papa S.
I also felt bad and worried about hurting ole Big John but upon seeing dog a few days later at friend’s house there was no wound. The sting was enough.
I have a gamo.177. It seems to shoot the most accurate with the gamo pellets. Holds a decent group up to about 50 yards. My son has the Rugar impact max .22 cal. Both are a blast to shoot. Great practice on the cheap.
Bought a Gamo Swarm break barrel 22 this year. Love it for squirrel and rats. I’ve had a .177 pump for years and use both for target practice. Love my Swarm with 10 pellets.
I had several Daisy BB guns growing up. But my favorite was a Daisy gas-powered semi-auto BB pistol that I received one Christmas. Five shots as fast as I could pull the trigger. Reload five more using the load lever and do it all again.
This article got the wheels turning. A quality/dependable pellet rifle is indeed an asset. Might have to do a bit of shopping.
Pellet gun is great. Small game and easy to carry ammo.
Breakopen is a must, no CO2. .22 caliber and not the .177
About quiet…more than 1125 FPS will crack loudly, breaking the sound barrier.
A .177 pellet is more likely to do so, given its weight.
A .22 caliber rifle, using a heavy pellet (20 grain) will pack a hard punch at 900 FPS, depending on your rifle. Even a much lighter pellet through a .22 cal can crack as well.
I have a Hatsan model 95 .22 caliber break open rifle, and it is absolutely lethal. It comes with a suppressor as well, but even a say…14 grain pellet, can be pushed to crack that sound barrier in that rifle.
I also own an old Benjamin pump .22 cal, as well as a Crosman CO2 .22 cal, which are both actually louder than my Hatsan.
I’m weighing the pros and cons of a decent-quality air rifle. I am not clear on the maintenance and longevity of air rifles. Are parts expensive? Hard to obtain? How often do worn parts need replacement?
– In response to your questions; expensive, not really. Depends on the part. Hard to obtain? not ordinarily, current supply issues may dictate otherwise. How often? Maybe every 20 or 30 years.
– Papa S.
Great article. I have several bows and have been thinking about an air rifle and possibly a pistol for quite hunting. After reading your post I will definitely get a pump action. I have used a pump in my childhood for small game and pellets was my choice.
Yea, it doesn’t matter the speed of the pellet just matters where you hit your target is the concern. The bigger the caliber is more take down weight.
Back in the days of jurassic period they would propell rocks out of a hand sling and if the shot was to the head it would kill them or at least knock them out. At probably no more than 200 ft per second. Everyone’s into speed it’s the speed it’s where you aim. In the head is the best bet.