Plenty of people out there are skilled hunters.
But when it comes to post-SHTF scenarios, stealth may mean the difference between life and death.
You wouldn’t want your firearm to give away your or family’s location, would you?
Why Air Rifles?
Understanding Air Rifle Calibers
Choosing the Best Air Rifle
Top Air Rifles for Hunters
Getting Pellets Post-SHTF
A few months ago, I found the Crosman Pumpmaster 760 online.
It was exciting because I have fond memories of this rifle. It was my constant companion throughout my childhood. I brought it with me every time we went on campaign trips.
I even brought down my first squirrel using the Pumpmaster 760. That’s why it will always have a special place in my heart.
Truthfully, this is actually what prompted me to even start writing about air rifles in post-SHTF hunting scenarios.
Okay, moving along.
Why Air Rifles?
Historically speaking, even Lewis and Clark relied on their trusty Girandoni air rifle during their expedition across North America circa the early 1800s. Back then, the air rifle required over 1200 pumps to generate enough pressure to fire 40 bullets at 450-650 fps. It was enough to penetrate plywood as far as 100 yards away.
But the technology today is a ways off from the time of Lewis and Clark. Today, air rifles are more powerful and accurate than ever, which would come in handy for post-SHTF situations.
In fact, may people prefer to hunt using air rifles.
Here are some reasons why:
- They don’t create a lot of noise.
The noise level of your weapon can determine your survival in SHTF situations. That’s where air rifles have the advantage over other firearms. Because it relies on intense pressure coming from air, it doesn’t generate a lot of noise.
This can be beneficial in two ways:
First, enemies and predators won’t be alerted of your location. This is paramount to you and your family’s safety. This gives you the freedom to move around, shooting your firearm without giving a hint of where you are.
Second, prey won’t be aware of your presence. In rare instances where you miss your target, you still get a second chance to shoot.
- They are now more powerful.
Today’s air rifles have high calibers well suited for hunting. High-caliber air rifles are more powerful than low-caliber rifles and have more muzzle energy, which generate enough power to knock down boars, coyotes, and even deer.
- They’re easy to handle.
Think of air rifles as a rifle/bow hybrid.
They’re high caliber and powerful just like a rifle but are light and easy to handle just like a bow. Even inexperienced users can easily get the hang of using them without too much training. This makes it easier to hit your target with much precision.
- They don’t need much space to operate.
Because they’re lighter and easier to handle, you won’t need much space to use them unlike, say, a high-powered 22 caliber rimfire. Lead pellets flatten upon impact, which lessens the chance for a ricochet. In cramped spaces, this gives you more leeway to operate.
When prepping for an eventual SHTF situation, cost figures quite a lot into the equation.
We all know that in this economy, you can only buy a box of 500 rounds for double what you used to pay 5 to 10 years ago. But you can now actually start hoarding tons of hunting pellets at a fraction of the cost for air rifles. That’s not even factoring in the cost when you buy in bulk, which is a lot less.
- They’re legal to own and stash.
Because air rifles only use compressed air to fire pellets, most states don’t classify them as firearms, making them an ideal stash weapon. Because they don’t require a primer and powder, they’re legal to own in most states and can be used without needing a permit to carry firearms.
- They can be easily stashed.
Air rifles are easily stashed and are actually ideal stash weapons. They don’t take up a lot of space and only need to be sealed in an air and watertight container, which can easily be retrieved at any time. There is also no risk of ammunition going stale since all you need are pellets – no powders and primers.
Understanding Air Rifle Calibers
The beauty of the modern air rifle lies in its variations.
While in the past you only had a one-size-fits-all kind of deal, the air rifles of today have different calibers that can be used for hunting different game. If you’re unfamiliar, the caliber is a measure of the internal diameter of the gun barrel. It dictates the size of the bullet, or in this case pellet, the firearm uses.
Two terms are associated with the firearm caliber: muzzle velocity and kinetic energy.
The muzzle velocity measures the speed of the pellet, usually in feet per second (fps), as it leaves the air rifle barrel.
Kinetic energy, on the other hand, is the amount of energy the pellet contains as it travels to the target. This explains how rifles with higher calibers can handle bigger game since higher-caliber pellets carry more kinetic energy.
0.177 Caliber Air Rifles
The .177 caliber air rifle is by far the most popular and the most commonly-used air rifle due to its ubiquity.
You can find it just about anywhere that sells air rifles and don’t usually cost too much. Pellets are small, ranging from 7 to 20 grains with 7.9 to 10.5 grains being the most popular.
Because these pellets are light, the rifle becomes so much easier to handle while still retaining its ability to shoot at high speeds. One downside, however, is that pellets are susceptible to strong winds, making them less reliable in windy areas.
One of the best .177 pellets I’ve used is the Crossman Destroyer Pellets.
These babies pack 7.9 grains of .77 caliber power. This revolutionary pellet combines the best attributes of a pointed pellet with a hollow point, resulting in complete expansion and energy transfer. Compared to traditional pellets, these will sometimes expand to twice their size.
In my independent, soda can tests, they caused considerably more damage than traditional flat-tipped pellets, pointed-tip pellets, and even the hollow point pellets. Truthfully, if I had these pellets as a young hunter, perhaps we would have had a lot more rabbit and squirrel for dinner.
0.22 Caliber Air Rifle
The .22 is also one of the most popular air rifles in the market today for one good reason: it’s more versatile. Its pellets range from 13 to 31 grains and are heavier than the 0.177, giving it greater ability to resist the wind while also delivering more force upon impact.
.22 caliber pellets are heavier. Even if they do travel more slowly than .177 caliber pellets, they significantly more damage as they deliver more force during impact and are less likely to over-penetrate, making for more humane kills. They also produce a larger wound channel, which makes them more effective with a body shot.
With a kinetic energy of 15 to 35 ft/lb-s, they pack so much power at a lower muzzle velocity, which creates a more pronounced trajectory. This can make it harder to accurately place pellets, unfortunately, making range estimation more critical.
0.20 Caliber Air Rifle
There’s a reason why the .20 caliber air rifle was listed out of order. It’s more of a hybrid, being the middle ground between the .177 and the .22 and also carrying their best features. Its shot trajectory is flat similar to that of the .177 while packing more weight and delivering more force per shot just like the .22.
Sadly, this quality of the .20 is often overlooked, which is also why it’s not as commonly found in air rifle stores as the others. Pellets are even harder to come by. But you can still find them easily online.
0.25 Caliber Air Rifle
The .25 caliber is the most powerful of them all, with most rifles capable of carrying pellets with masses of 0.05 to 0.1 ounces easily. With a minimum kinetic energy of 40 ft/lb-s, this is definitely one of the most capable air rifles for hunting mid-sized game like a deer or a moose. With that said, does this automatically mean it’s the best air rifle for hunting?
Yes. And no.
Choosing the Best Air Rifle
Choosing the best air rifle is actually all a matter of preference and is also situational. Some situations call for more power, such as when faced with larger animals such as a coyote or a boar. Others require precision and efficiency, such as when hunting for food in post-SHTF situations.
When comparing two identical air rifles, with the only difference being caliber, you won’t be getting a substantial difference in power. The air rifle’s power-plant, and not the ammunition, produces the energy.
When the same amount of energy is applied onto pellets, lighter pellets are fired at a higher muzzle velocity.
Meanwhile, heavier pellets will go slower. That is why a .177 caliber pellet that gets 1000 fps produces roughly the same amount of muzzle energy as a .22 pellet that gets fired at 800 fps.
But do also take note that firing pellets require energy produced by compressed air. The heavier the bullets, the more air it needs so it travels at a high enough muzzle velocity. The .25 packs the most raw power but is also quite the air guzzler. It requires a massive amount of air, which limits the number of shots you can make.
Silence is Golden
Air rifles can range from silent to louder than a .22 rifle, depending on its muzzle velocity. If the pellet is pushed from the barrel faster than the speed of sound, it creates a very loud “crack” as it breaks the sound barrier.
A truly silent air rifles shoots pellets just under the sound barrier. This is done by using lower-caliber air rifles or by using heavier pellets like lead.
I am confident that the .177 caliber Pumpmaster 760 will not break the sound barrier, even at 10 pumps.
It shoots powerful pellets at muzzle velocities of up to 615 fps, which is way below the sound barrier. The Gamo Whisper and the Gamo Silent Cat are supposed to be quiet too, but I’ve seen different reports that say otherwise.
To make sure your rifle remains quiet, you may want to do your own research before trusting claims made by the manufacturer.
Dual Caliber Air Rifles
Dual caliber rifles like the Beeman RS-1 or the Beeman Silver Kodiak come with 2 barrels: a .177 caliber and a .22, giving you the ability to use ammunitions for either caliber. All you need to do is replace the barrel when the situation calls for it and you’re good to go.
Dual caliber air rifles offer you serious advantages in certain situations. For instance, you may need to use the .22 when you need to take down a bigger target. Or you may have run out of ammo but you only .177 pellets.
Top Air Rifles for Hunters
1) Gamo 6110017154 Varmint Air Rifle .177 Cal
The Game Varmint Air Rifle is a durable air gun that can weather any storm. It features a long-lasting spring piston that is capable of shooting Gamo PBA Platinum Pellets (.177 cal) at muzzle velocities of up to 1250 fps. For lead bullets, you get around 1,000 fps.
It has a steel barrel that comes with a fluted polymer jacket and features a break barrel design, which can accommodate both left and right-handed shooters. It comes with a shock-proof 4x32mm fully-adjustable rifle scope and mount.
As a low-cost Gamo air rifle, it really doesn’t feel like a budget selection owing to its high quality make. Some reviewers have noted, however, that the scope may be a little difficult to sight in so you may need to spend a little more time for adjustment.
|177 Caliber Pellets||4X32 Air Rifle Scope||Weight: 5.47 pounds||Total Length:43.3 in.|
2) Ruger Blackhawk Combo Air Rifle
Ruger, a well-trusted ammo brand known for its exceptional rifle designs and affordable pricing brings yet another quality air rifle to the market with the Ruger Blackhawk Combo Air Rifle.
The Ruger Blackhawk Combo air rifle features an ambidextrous design with adjustable trigger for both right and left-handed rifle enthusiasts.
Its 4x32mm scope sports fiber optic sights and 4x magnification. Its 18.7” barrel houses can equip .177 caliber pellets and is capable of delivering accurate shots with muzzle velocities of up to 1000 fps. It comes with an automatic safety and a flexible grip.
For most reviewers, this air rifle gives off slightly more noise than a standard BB gun. Nevertheless, it is still one of the quietest air rifles you can buy while on a budget.
|.177 Caliber Pellets||4×32 airgun scope with mounts||Assembled product Weight: 32 lbs||Total Length:44.8 inches|
3) Crosman Thrasher Break Barrel Hunting Rifle
The Crosman Thrasher SBD .177 Break Barrel Air Rifle is perhaps one of the best break barrel hunting rifles introduced by Crosman. This air rifle was specifically manufactured for hunting as it features a rifled/overmolded steel barrel with a dovetail mounting rail.
Using alloy pellets, this baby can get you a muzzle velocity of up to 1,400 fps and up to 1,150 fps on lead pellets. At those velocities, you would think you’d have to worry about it making too much noise.
But it comes with SBD market-leading sound suppression so you don’t have to worry about noise. It comes with a CenterPoint 4x32mm scope for higher accuracy.
Just a quick note though. This rifle might be on the heavy side so this might not be the air rifle for you if you’re looking for a lighter firearm. Sighting may also take longer than usual. But overall, I like this product very much.
|.177 Caliber Pellets||CenterPoint 4×32 mm scope||Assembled product Weight: 9.8 lbs||Total Length:44.8 inches|
4) Daisy 990901-433 .177 Cal Pellet Rifle 901
This .177 Cal Pellet Rifle is Daisy’s PowerLine Model 901 air rifle features a black advanced-composite and forearm. It comes with a rifled steel barrel capable of carrying 50 .177 rounds of pellets or BBs at a max muzzle velocity of 750 fps.
It boasts superior sighting capabilities with the TruGlo fiber optic front sight and an adjustable rear sight. Its multi-pump pneumatic action capabilities give you countless hours of fun and adventure while hunting small game.
|.177 Caliber Pellets||750 fps max. velocity||Assembled product Weight: 3.70 lbs||Total Length:37.5 inches|
5) Gamo Swarm Fusion 10X GEN2 Air Rifle
Our pick for the best break barrel air rifle goes to the Gamo Swarm Fusion 10x GEN2. This is easily the best air rifle, especially for post-SHTF situations with its combination of power, accuracy, dependability, and durability.
This air rifle features a 20.5 in barrel with an ambidextrous grip and 10-shot repeater action. It uses Inert Gas Technology (IGT) in a pneumatic cylinder, giving pellets more terminal velocity. It is capable of delivering a muzzle velocity of up to 1,300 fps using .177 alloy pellets and around 975 fps for .22 cal pellets.
With lead pellets, expect around 1,000 fps for .177 pellets and about 750 fps for .22. With IGT, the Gamo Swarm Fusion is able to draw more power while also creating less vibration and a constant, smooth cocking effort, giving you more accuracy in your shot.
Its constant power output, along with its superior iron sights and scope mount, recoil-reducing rail, and Whisper Fusion, makes the Gamo Swarm Fusion our pick for the best break barrel air rifle for post-SHTF.
|.177 Caliber Pellets||IGT 10X GEN2 Quick Shot||Assembled product Weight: 5.78 lbs||Total Length:45.7 inches|
Getting Pellets Post-SHTF
Ammunition might be an issue in post-SHTF situations since you might run out of pellets every so often.
In such cases, you can easily make your own pellets using a pellet mold. You can make one out of a pair of cheap pliers. You can then use molten lead as your ammunition. Just pour the molten lead in your mold and let it cool.
Air rifles are a good choice for post-SHTF because they don’t make much noise while still delivering high amounts of damage.
Depending on your preferences, you might go for .177 and .22 caliber air rifles, which can take on small to medium-sized game. When selecting the best air rifles, you must consider its dependability, efficiency, power, accuracy, durability, and noise level. These qualities will matter most especially when the situation calls for it so choose wisely.
16 thoughts on “5 Best Air Rifles for Post-SHTF Hunting & FREE Buyers Guide!”
I agree! I just ordered a Benjamin 392 .22 cal multi-pump and cannot wait to play with it!!!
Editor, EDC Knife Reviews
If an extended warranty is an optuon, GET IT! My Benjamin last 2 years and replacement parts are impossible to acquire. The spring Latch snapped so now it is worthless.
Some years ago , Dr Beeman (Beeman Air Rifles –the classic hunters gun) stated that an air gun which puts out 5 to 7 ft pounds of muzzle energy (which your 760 does Only if Fully Pumped) is sufficient for a humane kill on a squirrel out to 15 yards, (3 car lengths ) and a rabbit , can be killed humanely with such a gun at no more than 5 yards (1 car length) ..And,, those are IF the shooter places the pellet in the hearts or brains,, which means you Must be capable of reliably and regularly hitting a target dot of 1 inch or less at those ranges.. A shot anywhere else MAY kill an animal.. or disable the animal enough to go finish it off with a head shot up close , or break its neck with your hands .. but may more likely not kill it rapidly, and the shooter may assume he missed entirely, but in reality the creature ran off to die slowly and miserably from bleeding or infection, A reasonable Minimum velocity is 800 with .22 pellets and 1000 with .177. A muzzle speed less than 1100 will not break the sound barrier and will not make that loud crack.. A 1200 FPS Air gun is rated with light pellets,, if you use heavy hunting pellets.. the speed will be about 1000 fps and therefore meet your need for quiet shots.. I suggest a Gamo, ($150-$200+, or the lesser known Hatsun Air rifles about $110… in .22 cal. Also please do not shoot squirrels and rabbits in the spring,, if you kill a female,, there will be about 6 less critters to shoot next year, as the babies will die inside her or starve in the nest.
Good sound advice 🙂
John, my daddy gave me a crossman for perfect attendance in the third grade. I harvested squirrel and other small game with it even after I ‘graduated’ to rim fire rifles. Love it.
Lost it somewhere in a one of my moves. I was heart broken! Now I have a .22 cal Benjamin that my nephews used growing up. Makes a great back yard squirrel slayer!
Great article, man!
I am also agree! I just ordered a Benjamin 392 .22 cal multi-pump and cannot wait to play with it!
Nice collection of guns you have there. I bought one of the Tempest several years ago from Doc Beeman, and regretted selling it but needed to finance some other airgunning projects. Have fun shooting!
There is a whole complete market place for airguns. They can teach marksmanship and accuracy for a lot less money than bullets. There are numerous forums. Calibers range from .177 up to . 50 caliber, pumper a, break barrels and pcp that need bottles or pumps to fill.good article!
I have to say I love shooting the Gamo Silent Cat and it really is as quiet as they say.
Ok if anyone interested I would check out Youtube air gun revievs…I like the Hatsan mod 95 in 22 cal its at about 800 fps I would go with a springer or a gas piston (check out airgunweb channel on youtube)….
I love hunting with the Gamo Silent Cat.
I really liked your post! I’ve been thinking about buying an air rifle, and after reading your post I think that I’m going to do so! I liked that you mentioned how air rifles are a fantastic option to hunt small game, because of how quiet they are. Since I love to hunt small game when I go camping, I think that an air rifle would be great to bring along! I’m going to start looking for a rifle right away! Thank you for the information!
.22 Benjamin trailmaster NP Hands down the best money can get …
In 22 caliber a Beeman RS2 sportsman,
In 177 caliber any crossman is excellent.
I have a Ruger,,trigger snapped off first time out with it ! Parts none to be found , had to build a new trigger myself (hacksaw, file and dermal tool,,, I’m not impressed with it ,, other then that it has a beautiful wood stock?
A good story about .177..My next door neighbor called me on the phone at 8 in the morning. In the woods in front of my house a coyote (which I have had a run in with my dogs) had her and her dog pinned against a tree and she calling for help. I grabbed my Gamo Whisper Fusion, one pellet and hustled to intervene. The coyote was so caught up in them it didn’t hear me coming. At 20 yards I put a round right behind his ear. His feet went up and he hit the ground. Graveyard dead. This rifle shoots at 1300 fpm. Some of the new ones are faster. If you know how to shoot, and where to shoot, this is an awesome air rifle.
The airguns are great, but in many countries (in Europe especially) the air rifles are limited to 7.5 Joul, which is making them unsuitable for SHTF situation. In the other hand, a big-caliber blowgun – like the hunting Cold Steel .625 Magnum, is cheap, even more silent, do not break or wear-off. It could be even DIY. You may cover this option in a separate article?