When you hear the term air rifle does A Christmas Story and a little boy’s dream of owning a Red Ryder BB Gun come to mind? For most of us, that is the image we conjure up in our minds when we hear the term air rifle.
However, when I mention air rifles. I am not talking about traditional BB guns, but pellet guns.
Pellet guns, unlike BB guns are air rifles designed to shoot rook shaped chunks of lead known as pellets with high accuracy and velocity, and are also capable of offering hunting level penetration.
Below I have outlined several reasons for adding a pellet gun to your preps and also offered a few suggestions on the various air files available for purchase on the market today.
Prepping Resources’ List of Best Air Rifles
1. Crosman Nitro Venom Break Barrel Air Rifle Review
The Crosman Nitro is hands down one of the best of air files you can purchase at this price point.
- Up to 950fps muzzle velocity
- Nitro piston instead of standard spring coil
- 4 x 32mm Scope
- 5 Year limited warranty
The .22 caliber pellets make this rifle great for things such as plinking, varmint control, and even small game hunting.
This air rifle is capable of firing lead ammunition at 800 fps and alloy ammunition at 950fps. The rifle uses a nitro piston instead of the standard spring coil found on many other break barrel air rifles to propel the pellet downrange.
Since the rifle uses a nitro piston instead of the spring, the rifle is easier to cock, and recoil is lessened. Nitro piston rifles also tend to handle bad weather and long term storage better than their spring counterparts.
2. Gamo Whisper Silent Cat Break Barrel Pellet Rifle Review
Another break barrel rifle, the Gamo Whisper Silent Cat is a .177 caliber air rifle that is capable of firing at 1200 fps, and is cited by many shooters as the best air rifle you can buy for under $150.
- 1200fps muzzle velocity
- Intert Gas Piston that replaced the standard spring coil
- Whisper noise reduction technology
- 4 x 32 Shockproof scope
The key takeaway is this rifle is powerful, it’s accurate, and it’s fun to shoot. What more could you ask for?
Because the gun is so powerful, hunting small game is an easy feat for this rifle. Rabbits, squirrels, and dove will fall easily to the lead this rifle slings. Add in the adjustable sights and adjustable trigger, and you have a recipe for a great rifle.
3. Ruger Blackhawk Combo Air Rifle Review
The Ruger Blackhawk is a .177 caliber air rifle, with a velocity of 1000 fps.
- 1000fpd muzzle velocity
- 4 x 32 scope included
- 3.3lb trigger pull
- Spring piston
This rifle comes equipped with a 4 x 32mm objective scope, making longer shots a breeze. While the scope isn’t a $300 scope it does a good enough job, but you can always upgrade later. With the quality of this rifle, it seems Ruger was putting the money elsewhere in this rifle.
The rifle is a spring piston single stroke break barrel and features an all weather black synthetic stock. It is also ambidextrous, ensuring that both right and left handed shooters will able to shoot this rifle accurately.
One of the cons of this rifle is the noise it creates. Similar to that of a .22 caliber handgun. After the break in period (roughly 20 rounds or so) the gun starts to quiet down but is still pretty loud.
4. Crosman Benjamin Trail NP XL 1500 Review
Another great Crosman rifle, Benjamin has truly created a rifle that will stand the test of time.
- 3-9 x 40mm centerpoint scope
- chambered in .22 caliber
- 1100fps muzzle velocity
- Nitro piston powered
This rifle has an alloy velocity of 1100 fps and a lead velocity of 950 fps making putting down small game and birds a breeze, even as far out as 25 yards.
The rifle comes with a 3-9x40mm centerpoint scope, that is great for the average shooter and is chambered in .22 caliber. Another great feature of this rifle is the sling mounts, something you won’t find on a lot of other air rifles. Because the gun is on the heavier side, the sling mounts are a great addition.
The Crosman Benjamin Trail air rifle features great performance, power, and accuracy. However, all of that comes at a cost. Unlike our previous recommendations, this rifle comes in at a much higher price point, making it one of the most expensive options on this list. But in my opinion, the money is well worth it.
Another thing to be aware of is that this rifle has a break-in period of about 200 rounds, and over 500 rounds for the rifle to really quiet down. This means slinging a lot of lead for a pellet gun downrange. But once it’s broken in, you should be able to hold 1-inch groupings at about 50 yards.
5. RWS .22 Pellet Model 34 Combo Rifle Review
The RWS model 34 is just one of those rifles you just don’t ever want to put down. It is by far RWS’ best selling model.
- 2 stage adjustable trigger
- Adjustable fiber optic sights
- 800fps muzzle velocity
- 33lbs cocking weight
This rifle features a break barrel system in .22 caliber, a 2 stage adjustable trigger, full wood stock, and adjustable fiber optic sights.
Like most .22 caliber air rifles, this rifle will take large game but should have no problems taking small game, when you consider this rifle will fire pellets with a velocity of 800 fps.
One of the great things about this rifle is just how accurate it is. There is an adjustable rear sight and a fixed front sight that allows you to easily zero in on the target.
Like most rifles, there is an initial break-in period (roughly 100 shots) the first 100 shots or so the trigger can be rather tight, and breaking the barrel tends to be more difficult but tends to loosen up after 100 shots or so.
Why You should Consider an Air Rifle For SHTF
Your initial question might be:
Why should I even consider an Air rifle, especially if I have several rimfire or centerfire rifles already?
In all fairness that is a great question. However, there are several reason why owning an air rifle is a good idea.
They’re quiet – In an SHTF situation, silence will be golden. If you can dispatch an animal quickly without giving away your position or alerting someone in the general area to your presence, you will be a lot better off.
Air rifles are good for practicing shooting skills or teaching new shooters – Because air rifles are not firearms, you can practice with them pretty much anywhere. However, do be aware that these guns are not toys, and some cities and suburbs have strict laws concerning pellet rifles so be sure to check your local laws and regulations.
Because pellet guns don’t have the recoil or noise of traditional rifles, these guns make a great first gun for new shooters. They allow a new shooter to learn the fundamentals of shooting such as being able to hold the gun steady, quickly sight the target, and develop trigger and breath control.
Low-cost ammo – Traditional firearm ammo can be quite expensive to stock up on, even 22lr ammo can be expensive. 1000 rounds of pellets can often be found at Walmart and other retailers for under 20 bucks. Try buying 1000 rounds of 22lr or 9mm ammo for 20 bucks.
Since ammo is so cheap, you can reasonably target practice on a regular basis without breaking the bank. You can also stock up on a few thousand rounds of ammo for less than 100 dollars, which is always a great option.
Regulation Friendly – The federal government does not have any laws regulating air guns. That means no background checks.
However, there are a few states that have laws regarding air rifles. However, most of the laws are concerning discharging the gun in public and how old a person must be to lawfully possess one.
Good for hunting small game – The main reason for owning a pellet rifle, is primarily to put food on the table, or controlling pests. Most air rifles are capable of killing small game no problem, and since they are quiet, pellet rifles make an excellent choice as a post SHTF survival gun.
As you can see, there are a lot of positives for making an investment in an air rifle. However, I would not consider them for self defense or hunting large game.
While they could potentially take down larger prey or at the very least stop an attacker, a shot with a pellet gun requires precise shot placement. Not something I am really willing to put my faith in.
Air rifles have their place in prepping, but as all preppers should know is there isn’t one tool that will do all jobs.
Things to consider when choosing an air rifle
When selecting an air rifle to add to your prepping inventory it is important to keep a few things in mind.
Such as the various types of air rifles available on the market today, the caliber of the rifle you’ll be selecting, how far can it shoot reliably, and most importantly what you want it to be able to do (such as kill small game effectively).
Types of Air rifles
When it comes to air rifles, there are typically 3 different types of rifle you need to be aware of. There are PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic), Break barrel, and CO2.
When it comes to selecting an air rifle for your prepping gear, I would suggest sticking with either a PCP style or break barrel air rifle, as CO2 could be harder to find in a SHTF situation, and the overall point of an air rifle is to be reliable.
Pre-charged pneumatic air rifles, are your high end hunting rifles, even capable of taking larger game. They work by propelling the pellet down range using air that is compressed externally.
The major downside to these style of rifle is that you either have to have a compressor capable of reaching up to 3000 psi.
Hand compressors do exist, but it will be an additional cost if you don’t already have one. You will also need a tank capable of holding compressed air like a scuba tank if you want to extend your hunting trip.
However if you want to hunt larger game, or are looking for more than a single shot, pellet rifle PCP rifles are the way to go.
My preferred option for a SHTF air rifle is a break barrel.
Break barrel rifles are able to be charged and cocked by breaking the barrel. This makes them cheaper and easier to shoot since all you have to buy to get started is the gun and some ammo.
However, the downside to break barrel air rifles is that they are single shot. They also require more physical strength and dexterity to use since you have to cock the gun when you break the barrel.
Because they don’t have the high pressure of PCP rifles, your range and size of game are also more limited. Squirrels, rabbits, and doves will still fall to a break barrel rifle easily enough. Since these size animals will be more plentiful than big game in a SHTF scenario, I personally feel that a break barrel will be plenty adequate to put food on the table.
Air Rifle Caliber
Another thing you must consider when selecting an air rifle, is the caliber of pellet the gun will shoot. Typically there are two primary calibers most people use. Those are the .177 caliber and the .22 caliber (not to be confused with a .22lr caliber).
If your intent is to hunt small game, the .22 caliber is the way to go. It is a slightly heavier pellet but will do more damage. Honestly, .177 caliber is so small and light, a lot of times it will go right through an animal without killing it. Resulting in undue suffering for the animal.
Larger caliber such as .357 and .50 exist. These will typically be found in your PCP rifle range. These calibers are great if you are planning to hunt larger game such as raccoon or opossum. But in most cases the .22 caliber will be adequate.
An air rifle may not be for everyone, but it is certainly an item worth considering adding to your preps. While it may not be the greatest hunting weapon ever invented, they do offer a number of benefits including:
Being able to practice and teach shooting skills, hunt small game (which will be more abundant in a shtf scenario than larger game), are much quieter than traditional rimfire or centerfire rifles, and the ammunition cost is insanely low when compared to traditional firearms.
When selecting an air rifle it is important to keep in mind caliber selection, and the type of air rifle you select. Air rifles come in a few different types (discussed above) but for prepping you should either consider PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) air rifles, or break barrel air rifles, since CO2 could be hard to find in a grid down scenario.
Overall I firmly believe an air rifle will make a great addition to anyone’s collection and more importantly their preps.
If you found this article helpful be sure to share it on social media, so others preppers can benefit as well.
As always thanks for reading, and keep on prepping.