I have read my share of articles on “what is the best rifle for an SHTF situation?” but never was there a mention of an air rifle. To me, there is as much of a place in my gun safe for my air rifle as there is for my .22 or my main battle rifle (MBR).
I suppose many still think of air rifles as they do in the movie A Christmas Story. Remember, Ralphie: “I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle! Mrs. Parker: No, you’ll shoot your eye out.”
The Daisy BB Gun the Most Popular Since 1940
I remember as a kid carrying around a Daisy BB gun, trying to hit and bust bottles. It was so much fun to sit back and shoot at mice that were darting around the barn. If you had one, you can remember being able to see the BB leave the muzzle and fly randomly through the air.
It wasn’t very accurate but boy was it fun. I didn’t go anywhere on the farm without my Daisy.
Later on, I moved up to my father’s Benjamin Sheridan pellet gun and that was a whole new world. I could actually squirrel hunt with this rifle. It also brought on a whole new respect for guns in general.
Air Rifle Technology Has Changed
Today, air rifles have come a long way from the days of the Daisy. They are more powerful and more accurate.
Keep in mind, an air rifle is not going to be nearly as powerful as a 22 or any other firearm. You have to understand your target, you are going to be limited to small game for the most part. In an STHF or survival situation, small game will be more plentiful than big game anyway.
That is why I think for small game in a survival situation, you can’t beat a quality air rifle.
Pros of an Air Rifle in an SHTF or Survival Situation
- Ammo is cheap
- Air rifles are quiet
- They are more accurate than people give them credit for
- There is plenty of power to take small game
- Storage of ammo is much easier than firearms (takes less space and weight)
- Air rifles will make you a much better hunter (similar to hunting dear with a bow compared to a 308)
- You can carry much more ammo on your person
- Compared to other forms of hunting rifles, they are affordable
- In most cases, they don’t require a background check, although, I have heard some select stores running background checks on rifles that shoot over 1200 fps
Cons of an Air Rifle in a Survival Situation
- Not good for long range shots
- Won’t take down large game although I know there are videos out there of some .50 cal air rifles taking down 250 lb hogs, it is not likely that you will want to purchase an air rifle for this
- Not a good option for self-defense unless you are defending yourself from killer rabbits.
- Single action and must be cocked, unless you are using CO2 cartridges
Different Types of Air Rifles and Caliber Sizes
There is a plethora of air guns to choose from these days. You can see the many different brands, types and calibers available with a simple web search. Like anything else, you can become overwhelmed with all the choices. So, you will want to do some research before you settle on a type and caliber and I have put together some of the basics below.
Common Air Rifle Caliber Choices for Air Rifles
- .177 (pellets and BB’s)
- .22 (pellets)
- .30 (pellets)
- .045 (pellets)
- .50 caliber (pellets)
My personal preference is either the .177 or .22 caliber pellets. They are readily available and can take most any small game or birds you have in your area. There is very little recoil and they are fairly quiet. The .177 will have more velocity but less stopping power while the .22 will have less velocity but pack a bigger punch.
Single Cocking Spring Piston Air Rifles
Among all the new technology in air rifles, the spring piston air rifle is my favorite option. I believe it is the best style air rifle for targets shooting, hunting small game and controlling pests. They are simple yet effective, all you need to do to get this rifle ready is cock it, load a pellet, take aim and pull the trigger.
There is no need to carry anything extra such as C02 cartridges. The pellet leaves the muzzle at the same velocity every time, unlike a CO2 gas-operated rifle where the velocity decreases as the tank is emptied. This makes a “springer” more accurate and consistent especially when you find the right ammo for your gun.
Like any other type of rifle, you need to shoot a few different brands and types of ammo to find the one that works best. And remember, do not leave your springer cocked for a long period of time, it will weaken the spring over time… albeit a long time.
Multi-Pump Action Air Rifles
With a multi-pump air rifle, the power of the projectile is directly varied depending on the number of pumps you apply to the gun. The more pumps you apply, the more power you will have behind the pellet.
Although these rifles have a lot of power, it will take some getting used to and some more work to get the velocity you want. You are compressing the air with every stroke and for some it may be quite a struggle and awkward.
CO2 Compressed Gas Rifle
When I was younger, I used to love to shoot my CO2 BB gun. You could shoot the gun as fast as you could pull the trigger and they were powerful. Of course, that was a BB gun powered by a CO2 cartridge, today’s CO2 pellet guns are a whole new story.
The drawback for me was the cost, you had to purchase the pellets and the CO2 cartridges or find a way to charge the cartridges. They can also be sensitive to temperature; low temps cause the CO2 to be less effective and higher temps increased the pressure and could cause malfunctions.
Another issue I found when shooting the semi-auto CO2 BB gun was that the cartridge would freeze up in rapid-fire situations.
As long as you understand the pros and cons of this style, you should have a lot of fun. That being said, I don’t personally recommend this style of air rifle for a prepping or survival situation simply due to the extra gear needed. But boy, they are fun.
There is one more that deserves a mention here. In recent years, the Nitro Piston by Crosman has come a long way. Instead of compressing a spring or air, nitrogen is compressed in a cylinder and when fired, the cylinder is pushed forward and compresses air then. I have read that they are lighter and have less vibration and you can leave the rifle in ready mode longer than other types.
Since in am not as familiar with this style, I am going to stop here. If I get a chance to use one or find out more information, I will update this section as needed.
I really believe that air rifles are sadly overlooked in the prepper and survivalist arsenal. We see so much written on what is the best rifle to have in an SHTF situation or the dreaded “what is better, an AR or an AK.”
They are powerful, accurate, affordable, and easy to shoot. Anyone in your family can be a game hunter with this awesome addition to your safe. If you have a chance, take a look at as many as you can and decide what type fits your needs the best.
Further, buy the best quality gun you can afford and put a bunch of different types of ammo through them to find the perfect fit.
I will be honest, when I first started writing this article, I knew the importance of an air rifle for an SHTF situation. But this article made me really stop and think about it a little deeper. I don’t think anyone who is serious about prepping should be without one so add it to your prepping list today.