Air rifles for prepping and survival

Umarex Octane and Surge

My admiration and respect for  firearms began at a young age with my first bb gun. I had lots of fun plinking and shooting pinecones out of trees. I learned basic firearm safety and aiming with my red ryder. Then I got a little older and saved my pennies so I could buy a daisy Powerline 880. It was even more fun than the red ryder. I shot many, many cans with it. Of course like most other kids I wanted to see what else I could shoot with it, so I shot my fair share of barn birds and sparrows.
Don't worry they didn't go to waste, the outside cats loved them. Looking back I realize that this particular rifle was ok to take out a barn bird or two but anything bigger would have likely been an inhumane kill. I'm no longer a kid and we aren't in the 90's anymore. Air rifles have come a long way in terms of reliability and power since then. I feel they can make a great addition to any preppers gun safe.

Why should you have an air rifle in your preps?
  • Quiet
  • No paperwork or registration in most areas
  • Cheap to shoot
  • Very effective for small game and pest control
  • Easy to stockpile 2000 plus rounds
  • Easy to maintain
  • Almost no recoil

Main types of air rifles
  • C02- If you are a prepper or survivalist ignore. Great for plinking but that's about it. As soon as the air cartridges are gone you basically have a cool looking paper weight.
  • Multipump- Pump the rifle up 1-10 times and shoot. Single shot. Not a great choice for hunting because follow up shots take too long.
  • PCP (Pre Charged Pnuematic)- Big game high powered air rifles. You get 5+ shots out of a charge but much like co2 it is useless once the tank is empty. Available all the way up to .50 cal. The cost associated with these rifles puts them out of the running for most of us. You would be better off with a real firearm for the money.
  • Break Barrel Springer- Charged by breaking the action. After the trigger is pulled a piston comes down and creates a pillow of air in the chamber which forces the pellet out of the barrel. NEVER, EVER DRY FIRE A SPRINGER UNLESS THE MANUFACTURE LISTS IT IS OK TO DO SO. EVEN DRY FIRING ONCE COULD DESTROY YOUR RIFLE. The spring powered air rifle is very effective for small game. Typically the cocking effort is between 25 and 45 pounds. Single shot. Some recoil.
  • Break barrel gas piston- My personal favorite. Similar to a springer air rifle but instead of a spring they use a gas charged piston. Unaffected by cold. Can be left cocked for long periods. Powerful. Claimed to last longer than springers.  Almost no recoil.
Caliber and Cost

Air rifles come in calibers from .177 all the way up to .50 but for our purposes as preppers .177 and .22 are the best. A good quality gas piston break barrel in .22 for less than $200. A good quality springer in .177 can be bought for under $140.

FPS and Muzzle Energy

This calculator will help you figure out the muzzle energy of a given rifle and ammo. Remember that fps isn't the same as muzzle energy. A 15 grain pellet traveling at 1000 fps is going to do a whole lot more damage than a 7 grain at the same speed. The majority of manufacturers advertise the fps they have achieved using lightweight pba pellets instead of lead which will give lower fps readings. Most small animals like squirrels and rabbits require a minimum of 5 lbs of muzzle energy with a head shot. Larger game animals like raccoons or turkeys need to hit with 30 to 40 lbs of muzzle energy for a clean one shot kill. A pellet gun is generally only effective for small game.

Hunting with an air rifle
Shot placement is vital with pellets. You do not want to hurt an animal and have it run away to die elsewhere. As a hunter I believe very strongly in one shot kills. Please remember there is a difference between can and will. Just because in theory you could kill a deer if you shot it enough times in the head does not mean you should try it. Most small game should be taken with a headshot if at all possible. Here's some of the game that can be taken with a pellet gun.
  • Rabbit- 5+ ft lbs
  • Chipmunk- 3+ ft lbs
  • Squirrel- 5+ ft lbs
  • Coon- 30 to 40+ ft lbs
  • Pigeon and other small birds- 3+ ft lbs
  • Turkey- 30 to 40+ ft lbs
  • Coyote- 100 to 150 ft lbs
  • Wood chuck- 30 to 40+ ft lbs
  • Duck- 5+ ft lbs
Penetration tests

Umarex surge .177
 7.4 grain pellet
1050 fps 

Umarex Octane .22
14.3 grain
1050 fps

Ammunition Choices
.22 WMR CCI 40 grain
.22 Crosman Premier Hollowpoint 14.3 grain
.177 crosman premier pointed 7.4 grain

  • Lead- The old standby. Lead pellets travel slower than pba because they weigh more. Crosman makes excellent ammunition that is very affordable and effective
  • PBA- Performance Ballistic Alloy. PBA Pellets are quite pricey. They generally fly at a much higher fps than lead due to their light weight. The big claim to fame with pba is speed and penetration. PBA ammo is more likely to break the sound barrier than lead causing the typical .22 crack. There are numerous styles, sizes, weights, and manufacturers to choose from.
I choose to shoot lead pellets. They are a whole lot cheaper than pba and just as effective on small game. 500 rounds of .22 for seven bucks. I can't argue with those prices. Even though .22 lr has come down in price again it still isn't this cheap.

So what kind of air rifle should a prepper buy?
For long term survival you would want to look for a  suppressed, break barrel, gas piston in .22 caliber. I know its just a pellet gun but without a suppressor some of these guns can be just as loud as a .22lr. The .177 is ok but as you can see in the pictures above the .22 makes a much bigger wound channel and has way more impact energy. Look for something with at least 800 fps. Remember the advertised fps will likely be with PBA not lead ammunition so be sure it is 800 fps with lead. Don't buy a cheap rifle and expect it to last. Stick with big names like Gamo, Beeman, Benjamin, Crosman, Umarex, Ruger, just to name a few. A good quality scope is a must for hunting small game. Headshots are very important for humane kills, especially with lower power rifles.
My ideal gun would be the umarex octane. This rifle meets all my requirements. 1050 fps with lead, .22, suppressor, gas piston, not very difficult to cock, and a good quality scope.  I have one and love it.

  • Air rifles have a break in period. Most will be 50-100 shots. During the break in they will be loud even if they have a suppressor. Accuracy will improve and the gun will quiet down after the break in.
  • Clean the barrel every now and then
  • Add a few drops of oil where indicated
  • Apply blue locktite to the screws if there are any that seem to work loose often
  • Every few hundred shots check for loose screws.
Please ignore the bad quality of the video. It is a sound test between an umarex surge and octane. The sound works fine.

An air rifle can be a great tool. I have a few in my arsenal and I feel that every prepper would benefit from having at least one. I am not suggesting an air rifle over a real firearm only as a supplement. I'd rather use pellets than bullets for hunting any day. At just about a penny a round stockpiling is easy and finding room for them is not a problem either. Please remember an air rifle is not a toy but at the same time it is not a defensive weapon either. Don't plan on using any air or co2 powered rifle for self defense. Even if you think you'll be able to bluff your way through an attack at some point someone will call your bluff.

Tell me your thoughts on air rifles? Do you have one in your preps?


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