Survival Gun: Air Rifle versus .22 Rifle

Survival Gun: Air Rifle versus .22 Rifle
Survival Gun: Air Rifle versus .22 Rifle
Survival Gun: Air Rifle versus .22 Rifle
Survival Gun: Air Rifle versus .22 Rifle

I was about 10 years old when my father bought me my first air rifle. I’d been begging for one for years but mom had always told me no. One day, my father and I were at Sports Authority and I talked him into wandering over to the gun section.

If my memory serves me right, I really don’t remember having to do too much convincing and before I knew it I was walking out of the store with a Crosman 2200 Magnum air rifle. (The only reason I know the exact model is because I still have the gun today.)

Of course, as soon as I got home with the gun I was running around with it like a kid in a candy shop. Mom immediately sat me down and told me I could only use the gun when someone was supervising me and that I always had to wear eye protection. Being a 10-year-old boy, I quickly broke both of those rules.

I used to shoot tin cans in the woods before my mom would get home from work. Then, I decided to build a little platform in the trees and I would shoot tin cans I had set up on the platform from my bedroom window. I’d also take the gun out in the woods where my friends and I would have “pellet gun wars.”

It’s a miracle that none of us are blind, although one of us did have to go to the hospital once. Needless to say, my air rifle was confiscated by my parents (mom) multiple times and I’d go months on end without seeing it. It’s been years since I actually fired the air rifle and I keep it for nostalgic purposes and to pass down to my son when he’s 10 years old, or whatever age I think he’s mature enough to handle it.

I bring all of this up because I know there’s a segment of people in the survival world who swear that an air rifle is a must have “survival gun” and that I should have mine ready to go or in the back of my vehicle at all times. However, I tend to disagree.

Certainly, the ammunition is cheap, it’s only a few bucks for a box of BBs or pellets. And yes, you can take down small game, such as squirrels and rabbits, with it. Plus, air rifles are extremely quiet and don’t draw much attention. But, a .22 can also bring down small game and doesn’t make much noise either. The only way it doesn’t really compare to an air rifle is that .22 rounds cost a lot more than BBs do.

But, in a survival or emergency situation I want a real gun. I don’t want to take up valuable space in a survival bag or in a safe with an air rifle. In fact, the only reason I would use an air rifle as a survival gun is if I had no other choice, for example, if I lived in a horribly unfriendly gun state or city and an air rifle was my only option of having a gun.

I know there are going to be many people who disagree with me on this but just think about the purpose of a survival gun. If you need it, that means something has gone horribly wrong, such as a natural or other disaster. In that situation I want my .22 rifle (at the very least), and more specifically, my Ruger 10/22.

But, to each his own. If you do go with the air rifle just hope you only have to use it for practice purposes because you’d never want to come face to face with a criminal who had a real gun and all you had to depend on was a BB or pellet.

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Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry. He is also the creator of the Ultimate Concealed Carry Experience, which allows you to take your concealed carry training without leaving home. For full details about this training, please visit Concealed Carry Academy. You can also follow him on Google+ and Twitter.
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Personally my “Get out of dodge” bag has a Glock 19 and a KelTec Sub 2000 both chambered in 9mm. Yes they are loud and the ammo is a lot heavier than 22lr, but the magazines are interchangeable and I have a boatload of bullets before I have to reload. As far as it being a survival rifle, well the combo sure beats a Sharp stick or a board with a nail in it.

Eric Reynolds

I disagree somewhat. Of course I would opt for the most powerful weapons and ammunition I can carry, but when you look at a long term survival situation, what is better than a weapon that you can easily make projectiles for.once I run out of ammunition for my AR and Glock, they become very awkward clubs, while I can scrounge lead from nearly any vehicle, melt it over a fire and cast it into improvised molds. There is always a propellant available, which might not be the case for our other choices. So I think an air rifle would be a good stash item, “just in case”.


I can relate to the store above… I had fun with my air gun, knocking down cans, having bb gun fights with neighbors, and a few of us had bruises but no one went to the hospital. AT the end of the day it wiser to have something that does make noise, can take a large person down, and easy to keep with you at all times. I prefer to carry a small 380 or 9mm and then keep at home a fully loaded 12gage with magnum buck shots to make sure I it what’s not welcomed… Good article and good points. Thanks!

Sky Soldier

Personally, my emergency go to survival weapon (aside from my easy to carry .357 mag Ruger GP100 and Walther .40 cal SA M&P pistols) is my Browning take-down .22 LR rifle. It is such a sweet light weight but very effective gun to put in a bug out bag.


Allow me to start by saying I don’t own an air gun. However, In response to air gun vs 22 LR . I refer you to Recoil Magazine issue 8 page 142. They cover air guns from daisy through PCP models with rifled barrels capable of 1200 FPS and of putting a 22 pellet on target at a considerable distance and even $2000+ models capable of taking big game . In addition Olympic shooters can put 10 shots through the same hole at 10 meters with an air pistol and still have another 90 rounds available ! A lot has changed since your Dad bought you that air rifle.


It’s odd that you are against air rifles. There are plenty of VERY powerful models on the market today. The Girandoni air rifle used by Lewis and Clark during their expedition could take down a deer. Just saying.


“While the detachable air reservoir was capable of around 30 shots it took nearly 1500 strokes of a hand pump to fill those reservoirs.” Have fun pumping that rifle when faced with a criminal!


I think they are refering to more the hunting aspect of it than self defense….


If you could still readily a campfire mold to smelt ammo for the air gun,it will be tough to beat for survival. Lead could be extracted from game and reused.


Air guns, especially some of the newest ones, would make great survival weapons if there wasn’t another choice. I have a Gamo that’ll send a .22 pellet down range at 1k fps and i dropped a coyote with it at 60 paces. Would i reach for this in a SHTF situation? HELL NO. Is it do-able for keeping at your bugout location? HELL YEAH. Especially if you are trying to keep a low profile. Take more than one shot with a .22 rifle and everyone within a mile knows where you are unless you are using special ammo. Nowadays they have pellet guns that range upwards to .50cal… I’ve personally shot a 9mm and a .45. Not the punch that you’d get with gunpowder behind it but strong enough to take down a wide range of critters….


Air guns in .177 and .22 calibers are no where close to a .22 rim fire. But there is a bad boy air rifle that can knock the socks off some of the bigger center fire cartridges.


Your right, but you can put a lot of meat on the table with a .22 cal pump action air rifle. Anything that walks or crawls up to and including rabbits will die and pretty quietly.


Including Feral hogs if you have the guts and skill to face down one of these “big tuskers!”


Josiah . although Jacqueline `s stori is surprising,
last week I bought themselves a Chrysler from having made $5060 thiss month
and-in excess of, 10/k last-month . it’s realy the easiest-work I have ever done
. I started this 4 months ago and pretty much straight away was bringin in at
least $78 per-hour . why not look here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

Steve AC

An air rifle is an excellent supplement to an arsenal. I have a well stocked armory, but recently added an air rifle. I conducted research on air rifles, and as others have stated, air rifles today are awesome. I chose the break barrel spring piston, as it does not require any outside source for compressed air. I know, it is a single shot, but it will only be used for hunting when stealth is a necessity. My opinion is that an air rifle can be a great supplement to an arsenal. I would not depend upon an air rifle as my only source for self defense (unless the only option I had left was a knife, in which case I would put their eyes out before I stabbed them. haha). Likewise, I would not like to depend upon a .22LR as my only source for self defense, but it is another great resource for small game hunting, just louder… way louder.

Ted A Sames II

I enjoy my RWS in .22 caliber and have taken much game with it. There’s a big difference in performance between .22 and .177 in regards to hunting small game. Air rifles are somewhat fragile and would be a poor choice in a survival setting. A quality .22 bolt action is by far a better choice because of their durability and the availability of different munitions. The CCI Quiet uses a full sized 40 gr bullet but travels below the sound barrier so there is no distinctive “CRACK” as a HV round. This round is an excellent killer of small game and is actually quieter than an air rifle. There’s two weapons in a professional poacher’s arsenal: The 22 bolt action and a 38 Special/357 lever action rifle. The 38 Special, in standard 158 gr lead round nose, also travels right below the sound barrier and within certain ranges is deadly on deer. (I have interviewed many poachers in my L/E capacity) If you are a accurate shooter and know where to hit a game animal, it really does not take a Magnum Whiz Bang to down deer and hog. SISSTRAINING.COM


I’d tke the .22. Using shorts I can hunt less than 50 yards from you and you won’t hear me. And killed a 15 lb groundhog with one shot -and those are tasty critters. Using a .22LR other folks have killed game as big as moose, and thugs are smaller by far.

Sir TuberKopf

In a SHTF situation, to use an air rifle for small game, for target practice, and to save the firearms for defense and large game only sounds prudent.

In a total SHTF situation expect rats, birds and other assorted critters to flock to your gardens and to home in on your stored foods to ravage them. Please read the little house on the prairie series to grasp the possibilities.

Ten thousand rounds of air rifle ammo goes for about $25 bucks and takes up very little space.

Big Picture

Here’s what I think: Have a decent air rifle. Since .22LR has become so hard to come by, we’re losing a generation of shooters who otherwise would have sent thousands of very cheap .22LRs downrange. Use the air rifle for marksmanship training for yourself and your kids, keep the .22LR ammo for when you really need it, or at least for a once-in-awhile range session rather than an every-time range session.
Why the scarcity? Government buys; Civilian hoarding; no additional production capacity. As you contemplate your stash of multi-thousand rounds of .22LR sitting on your shelf, consider that maybe you’ve stashed enough. If kids today don’t get to shoot we lose our core constituency in the next generation, and lose our 2nd amendment advocates along with them. My son is young, and I see it in his generation.
Or go and take some of your own stash and find some kids that would enjoy some time on the range, and make an investment in them and in our future.

Sir TuberKopf

On the scarcity of 22 LR.

I shoot at times at a military base range that is open to the public. I can often hear military machine gunners training at the next range down the road. Just like you can buy a 22LR conversion kit for your AR15, 1911 etc. the military has practice weapons that fire 22LR, with a rate of fire so fast they sound like a cicada not a gun. I’ll bet they burn through more 22 in an afternoon than the entire civilian range does in a season with our little semi-autos.

With the rate of fire of these weapons, they would make a formidable weapon, even in 22, they could cut a person in half. They must be a hoot to shoot!

Pete Phillips

I have an air gun and do agree it is not a great survival life saver by any stretch. If I had to defend my home I would not grab the air rifle . . Am I glad I have one? A big yes. Almost no noise . great for teaching marksmanship safety rules and a lot of fun Tin cans had better think twice about invading my back yard . .

Biff Sarin

On the one hand, certainly a Pellet, BB gun would not be my FIRST go to gun for a whole list of reasons. That said, I can see an argument for having one at a bug out (or bug in) location.

Being a ‘prepper’ means making personal decisions about what you view to be the biggest long term threats to your families survival, let’s face it, no one care prepare for every possible future. Most ‘preppers’ focus more heavily on short term disasters; hurricanes, tornadoes, winter storms, or power grid failures all with anticipated time horizons of less than 90 days. This makes sense given that these are the most likely and logical threats.

If you are someone who believes that a long term (years) SHTF scenario is possible, then it is conceivable that even a generous ammo supply could be exhausted. A lead mold for BB’s or pellets would be all you would need to convert old car battery lead or wheel weight lead into ammo. reloading conventional bullets takes significantly more equipment and supplies than reloading an air gun. Once ammo and gunpowder for reloading are no longer available, then a high powered air rifle with a simple, and portable lead BB mold suddenly becomes worth ten times it’s weight in gold.



Using an air gun for self defense, no. Using an air rifle as a survival tool, absolutely. As stated before they are much quieter, you can carry a thousand rounds in something the size of two snuff cans. No shell casings around for someone to detect, and trace back to you. If I want a gun for self defense, it will be a shotgun or one of my .45, but will I take a .22 cal pump action air gun along for survival…, DAMN RIGHT!!


You need a Girnadoni rifle, it was developed in 1779 has a 20 round magazine effective range 150 yards and is (was) an air rifle (came with a pump to pump up the air resavor in the stock that was exchangable). Too bad they don’t make them any more, only a few remain in existence.


Funny the air rifle should be in question as a survival weapon the same day I bought a top line slingshot as a last ditch survival tool. .30 cal. steel shot will drop a lot of game at 30 yards. If your good with a bow you will be with this(many shared principles). I guess it is the terminology survival vs self defense.


The problem here is the TITLE of the thread. not the rifles being discussed…

People think noise, ANYTHING that sends a round faster than 1,125 ft/s
will be heard. Period no device will suppress the sound, and it doesn’t matter if it is a true firearm or an air rifle, so we have to toss out that argument for the time being. People who claim Air rifles cant match a .22 rim fire are extremely Dim. There are Precharged Pneumatics that perform in low centerfire .22 caliber power ranges. And if you go to the .25 caliber Precharged rifles they get stronger yet. and they are capable repeating arms as well. Do your research folks. Now going back to the weaker multi pumps, these offer an advantage in controlling their report, by controlling the speed of the round, however their drawback is the time it takes for a second shot… So bringing this full circle, I would not call a air rifle a survival gun, that is too broad of a name. I wouldn’t even use it for anything with less power than a .22 hornet or .22 magnum rimfire. its an issue of power needed to defend oneself from predatory animals, even if it means EXTREME shot placement. As for food procurement, hunting, unless the area is literally over run with wildlife, expends more energy than it generally is capable of producing, IN EMERGENCY SITUATIONS (SURVIVAL). Learn snare use and other traps that work while you are gathering plants to eat. once you have build up a larder of dried foods to fall back on, use hunting as an activity that is part of something else, like planting, wood gathering and so forth ( wood gathering is another activity that you need to moderate, Chopping limbs and trees uses too much energy, stick to dead fall, larger branches small to medium fallen trees should be fed end first into a fire and moved in as needed, save effort means saved energy needs, but have you ever seen this noted in any online forums? nope…)

Mark Watts

Don’t forget that the ave airgun has only one shot…Your stuffed if you miss with the first shot in a SHTF situ?…….I have Xbows….missed with that..and your up shit creek without a paddle.