Ever think about airguns for survival?

Well there are plenty of things they can do but some they can’t.

Let’s look at some easy to get air rifles and examine the question of airguns for survival.


First off before I get started, yes airguns would be pretty dismal at self defense (especially against many adversaries). There are big bore airguns that fire in a repeating fashion fueled by a scuba style compressed air tank but they are big and heavy for the job (and expensive). Better stick with conventional centerfire cartridge firearms for that dangerous task.

What are the traditional affordable air rifles good for? Small game and pests. The previous mentioned big bore air rifles can drop wild boar and deer but face it, they are pricey. That being said most of our wallets are pretty lean in diameter to order those. The most affordable air rifles will be in number one, .177 caliber, and number two, .22 caliber. They can be bought online and shipped right to your house too in most places without any special licensing or paperwork.


What type of system is better at serving tiny lead pellets at small game killing velocities? For the sake of affordability, I will examine the traditional multiple pump and the springer style systems. The pump up air rifles are the cheapest in price. I grew up using a now discontinued Crosman Powermaster 66 pellet rifle in .177 caliber pellet or steel BB shot.

If your airgun can use pellets or BB’s, stick with pellets. The steel BB’s are not spun for accuracy well through the rifling (if your air rifle has them) and will ultimately destroy that rifling. I did just that and turned a rifled barrel on a pellet pistol into a smooth bore as a kid. Lead pellets are certainly the easiest on rifling and your gasket air seals will go before your barrel will for certain.


Currently I am testing out for the concept of an affordable pump up pellet rifle for survival a Crosman 2100 Classic .177 caliber air rifle. This 10 pump air rifle with a rifled barrel can zing pellets out at 725 fps. at the muzzle with pellets. This is the power of the old Crosman pellet rifle I had as a kid and it took many pests. This little pellet rifle will zing an ordinary flat nose lead pellet right through a soup can. A head shot on a rabbit or squirrel would be a sure dinner.


The better bet (but a bit larger in size) is a springer type air rifle. It only takes one pump to cock the powerful spring into ready position. Gone is the compressed air in a compartment like the pump up airguns have. Power is the name of the game here and yes increased accuracy. My favorite for close to the last 3 decades has been a RWS Model 48 Air Rifle in .177 caliber. It is scoped with an air rifle capable scope (be sure of that as the reverse recoil can destroy conventional rifle scopes). Head shots on squirrels with hollow point lead pellets at up to 30 yards is explosive with 1100 fps. in muzzle velocity.


Will it shoot farther? Yes it will but I hold my shots to the closer ranges. While it’s a bit heavy to carry it will drop small game and pests well with head shots (that I always recommend with regular air rifles). The sound is more of a smack than a bang! It is far from completely silent but much more quite than a standard (not CCI Quiet .22 or CB) .22 rifle cartridge. I have however often contemplated my original choice (well actually a Christmas + birthday gift) in that powerful air rifle of the .177 caliber over the bigger .22 caliber. I could have lost some velocity from the smaller pellet but launched a heavier pellet (more punch but at 900 fps.) but with a more arced trajectory. Researching for this article I also spot now a .25 caliber model at 800 fps. is available. Now that would be very interesting but the ammunition might be harder to find in a pinch. Also the prices have gone up quite a bit since the early 1990’s…


Is there no love for the classic Red Ryder BB Gun or equivalent? Well for training it could be handy (and cheap) to shoot. Also, if frogs are legal to take with one a steel BB to a bullfrog’s head would make some fine frog leg dining. Work with what you have at the moment.


Some air pistols can be pressed into service but generally lack the power and accuracy the rifles do. The below Crosman 1377 air pistol can actually be fitted with a plastic rifle stock. Figure it then a short pellet carbine of sorts.


In summary while ammunition for firearms and even reloading supplies are hard to find (and expensive when you find them) airgun pellets are still relatively easy to find and cheap. I have noticed supplies at the local stores go quicker than before but they are still generally in stock. For quiet practice, vermin control and small game they will serve the purpose. Save your powder when you really need it most and use some free air. You wallet will ultimately thank you these days and beyond.

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