Best Air Rifles & Pellet Guns For Long Term Survival

by Sam Bocetta
Many serious preppers consider a good air rifle a necessity in their bug-out bags. but what ones are the best air rifles for a survival situation.

Best Air Rifles
Best Air Rifles: While fancy high end Air rifles may have all the looks and power, what you really need when SHTF is a good old reliable air rifle. (read below for my picks)
Sam Bocetta
Sam Bocetta

USA – -(, the humble air rifle, scourge of squirrels.

Like me, you probably had some of your earliest shooting experiences with an air rifle, and it was this that got you hooked on guns.

And, though you might not have used one since you were a child, it might surprise you to know that many serious preppers consider a good air rifle a necessity in their bug-out bags.

A lot of people point out that an air rifle is never going to deliver the stopping power of a ‘proper rifle’, and they are right. However, in a survival situation where you are after small game, this can actually be an advantage. Hitting a rabbit with your AR-15 is going to produce rabbit pate, rather than usable food.

If you’re still not convinced, read on. Today I’ll take a moment to explain why you should definitely have a good air rifle (or three) in your survival kit, take a look at your options, and then tell you about my own personal favorites.

Why An Air Rifle?

I’ll say again what I said above – an air rifle is never going to be as powerful as your main hunting rifle. Shooting at moose (or bears?) with a pellet gun is a great way to get killed. However, remember that in a survival situation you are not only going to be hunting big game. In fact, the majority of your sustenance is likely to come from much smaller animals: think squirrels, rabbits and birds.

For hunting smaller game, nothing beats an air rifle. If you didn’t shoot at rodents with an air rifle when you were young, let me reassure you that a good .22 has more than enough power to kill most small animals stone dead.

Dove Hunting with Air Rifles
Dove Hunting with Air Rifles : IMG : Andys Range
GAMO Red Fire pellets
GAMO Red Fire pellets

When you are out hunting, the fact that air rifles are much smaller, and lighter than full-sized rifles makes you a much more effective hunter. In addition, carrying around even a dozen rounds of typical rifle ammunition is a real hassle in comparison to a container full of tiny pellets. Pellets are also much cheaper, and easier to store [easy to stock up on].

Lastly, one factor that is often overlooked is that almost anyone can shoot an air rifle, including your kids. If you are in a survival situation with your family, and feel (rightfully) worried about your 12-year-old going out armed with a “real” rifle in a survival situation, getting an air rifle is a great option. You are adding another hunter to your band, and this could make all the difference.

Types Of Air Rifles

If you haven’t used one since you were a kid, it’s worth reminding yourself that air rifles come in a variety of different designs. One of the most popular is CO2-powered rifles, where a canister of compressed gas provides the power. These are hugely popular among air rifle shooters, perhaps because relying on a pre-pressurized canister takes all the effort out of shooting them, but have a huge disadvantage in survival situations. Those CO2 canisters are going to quickly become unavailable if the SHTF.

To my mind, the best air rifles you should be considering for a survival situation are the more basic, older types. The classic design, and perhaps still the best for a survival situation, uses a spring design. These rifles are generally ‘pump-action’. You pump the rifle, and this compresses a spring. The spring is released when you pull the trigger. As the simplest design of air rifle, this type is really reliable, and can be maintained and fixed pretty easily. The only slight problem is that the spring can wear out after a (very long) time, so get a few spares.

A newer type of air rifle, but largely using the same design, are ‘gas-ram’ air rifles. These work on pretty much the same principle, except instead of a spring they use a compressible gas piston. This piston does not need to be replaced, so your only consumables are the pellets, and has the advantage that it will never wear out.

Beyond the reliability and simplicity of these designs, they have another huge advantage. By compressing the spring or canister less, you can easily modulate the amount of power given to the pellet. This is great if you are hunting small game, because with really high-powered air rifles, your shots are likely to go straight through your target, and cause much less damage.

Our Choices for Best Air Rifles

Air Rifles
Air Rifles can easily be purchased online and ship to your home. (Sorry NJ not you…)

There are a huge number of great air rifles available, but to our mind the most important features in an air rifle for survival is reliability. What you’re looking for is a rifle that has built up a great reputation in the field.

Here are our three picks for some of the best air rifles for a potential survival situation:

  • Diana RWS 34 Breakbarrel Rifle
  • Gamo Varmint Air Rifle .177 Cal
  • Gamo Whisper Silent Cat Air Rifle

Diana RWS 34 Breakbarrel Rifle

Diana RWS 34 Breakbarrel Rifle
Diana RWS 34 Breakbarrel Rifle

If you are looking for a simple, reliable air rifle that has built up an enviable reputation among hunters, consider the Diana RWS 34 Breakbarrel Rifle. The simple design used here mean that this gun is easily maintained in the field, even with the limited means you are going to have in a survival situation. It is also extremely accurate, which could make all the difference.

Gamo Varmint Air Rifle .177 Cal

Gamo Varmint Air Rifle .177 Cal
Gamo Varmint Air Rifle .177 Cal

Another great choice is the Gamo Varmint Air Rifle. Whilst this is a .177, it delivers 1250 fps of muzzle velocity, which means that its stopping power is on a par with larger caliber air rifles. In addition, if you are looking for the ultimate in portability, those tiny .177 pellets are even easier to carry around and store.

Gamo Whisper Silent Cat Air Rifle

Gamo Whisper Silent Cat Air Rifle
Gamo Whisper Silent Cat Air Rifle

If you’ve got a bit more cash to spend on a truly great air rifle., have a look at gas ram rifles. My choice here would be the Gamo Whisper Silent Cat Air Rifle , which offers huge power in a compact design. The skeleton stock on this rifle make it even more portable than your average pellet gun, and when out hunting it feels like a full-sized rifle. In addition, the incorporated scope makes it an even more accurate hunting weapon for small game.

I hope this info helps some make a good choice when looking for the best air rifles for a SHTF situation, but more than that, these air guns are some rock solid picks for just fun plinking and hunting.


About Sam Bocetta:

Sam Bocetta is a retired engineer who worked for over 35 years as an engineer specializing in electronic warfare and advanced computer systems.  Sam now teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part time engineering professor. He's also a writer at Gun News Daily, his favorite rifle is the AR-15.

  • 6 thoughts on “Best Air Rifles & Pellet Guns For Long Term Survival

    1. “Beyond the reliability and simplicity of these designs, they have another huge advantage. By compressing the spring or canister less, you can easily modulate the amount of power given to the pellet.” This quote taken from above is very misleading! In fact, with the break barrel design that he is discussing, it cannot be done. Period!

      1. Seriously, what is he talking about? Pumpers and PCPs are the only adjustable airguns and I wouldn’t consider them survival rifles. The RWS 34 in .22 is the best choice here. With some easy to carry lubes it will last a lifetime. Maybe one extra spring and seal, maybe. I personally own a RWS Model 54 in .22. I wouldn’t trade it for anything mentioned here.

    2. I agree with everything the author said. After shooting my older brother’s .22 Cal. Benjamin NP-1 pellet gun and having a lot of fun doing it, I decided to buy one. I bought a .22 Cal. Benjamin Trail NP-2 All Weather, with the included rail mounted scope. It is a break-barrel pellet gun and uses a piston, to compress the nitrogen gas-filled cylinder. It doesn’t have a spring, which will weaken over the years. And ever so often, if you put a drop of Crosman Silicone Chamber Oil in the breech, it should give you trouble-free service, for years. This system propels the pellet at up to 1100 fps, depending on the weight and shape of the pellet! I replaced the scope, with an inexpensive, red-dot sight and like it much better. The red-dot sight makes the target much easier and quicker to acquire! This setup is very accurate and makes it even more fun to shoot! Round nose 14.3 gr., .22 cal. pellets run $7 to $9 per 500. Try carrying around 500 rounds of regular ammo, in your shirt pocket and you will understand what the author meant, about the difference in weight! BTW I am 73 and have been shooting guns since I was 5 years old, when my daddy bought me a .22 Hornet, to hunt deer. I traded it, for a .222. One other item you should consider buying, is a Pellet Pen. Mine holds 16 pellets and makes it very easy, to reload your gun, without dropping your pellets, on the ground. When he was visiting us, my brother liked my pellet pen so much, he took it home with him! Knowing my brother, I had an idea that might happen. So, I went ahead and bought two pellet pens. Did I mention that today’s pellet guns are fun, reliable and cheap to shoot? Take care, be safe and always be prepared!

    3. I have break barrel FEINWERKBAU 124 SPORTER in .177 caliber no problem with critter’s up to and including racoons out as far as 50 to 75 feet .

    4. The one thing I think you did not address is the 3 guns you list are all break barrels. Break barrels will after time miss align due to the pivot pin/hing. Your best choice would be an under lever.

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