Best Preppers Air Rifle for Hunting Small Game and Survival in the UK

man with air gun

Best Air Rifle For Hunting And Survival In The UK

There are many different air powered rifles available in the UK.
However, there are two distinct differences to consider when choosing the best air rifle.

The two distinct differences are a matter of the law. To own a air rifle that is more powerful than 12 ft lb you must have a FAC - Fire Arms Certificate.

However, anyone over 18 can purchase and own an air rifle below 12 ft lb rating.

Unless you are a competition shooter and take the sport very seriously, I would not even consider going to the trouble of trying to get yourself a FAC especially as many of the Non FAC rifles are more than capable of doing the job very nicely.

Having said that, you have a perfect right, by law, to own many different firearms in the UK – in fact, the different types of legal firearm would probably surprise you!

If you are of good standing and can prove so, you simply have to pass the required police checks and your ok to purchase and use a firearm

see my FireArms guide here:


Considerations For Choosing The Best Air Rifle For Hunting And Survival In The UK

  • Your rifle must be capable of hunting small game - in survival, this is its primary purpose.
  • Choose a .22 rifle for a clean kill - generally a .177 is preferred for target shooting, but will still take down a rabbit at the right range with an accurate head shot.
  • It needs to be light - you may well need to take it with you in your Bug Out Bag, so weight is important.
  • It needs to be compact - choose a smaller weapon over a longer barreled, bulky rifle.
  • Reputable, tried and tested manufacturer - a good second hand British or German rifle will still perform well enough to hunt with.
  • For pure value for money, consider buying a Chinese brand. (can be risky at times though)
  • It needs to look menacing..! more for personal protection, should you need it. Tactical rifles always look mean.
  • Cost could also be a factor for some - look to pay upto £300 for a mint secondhand rifle

Always remember - 

  • In a SHTF situation any rifle is a good rifle..! So long as it works you're still in with a chance....

TYpes Of Air Rifle

There are 2 main types of air gun – spring or gas ram and PCP [ Pre Charged Pneumatic]:

  • Spring - Piston
    The cocking action puts tension on a spring which becomes the main mechanism to propel the pellet.
  • Gas Ram
    Essentially the same, except the tension is used to pressurize a gas ram and not a spring.
  • Pneumatic
    A cylinder mounted within the rifle body is pre-charged with air, with a small amount of pressure  reducing each time your fire.
under lever arm side view

Spring Piston or Gas Ram
fixed barrel - underarm cocking - these type of
air rifle as known as 'springer rifles'.

side view of air gun cocking arm

Spring Piston or Gas Ram
again, a springer rifle, but with the barrel
being used to compress the mainspring.

side view of air rifle

Spring or Gas Ram Rifle:

This shows the loading point of a .22 or .177 pellet.

One shot at a time - unlike a PCP rifle which can have a multi shot magazine. 

A PCP rifle with multi shot magazine like this BSA Ultra is leaps ahead of the old springers.
The cylinder is below the fixed barrel  and once fully charged will give 70 - 100 shots before needing to be refilled.

air rifle bsa scorpion image
Pre-Charged Pneumatic [PCP]
air rifle bsa scorpion image
BSA air rifle side view

The extremely good BSA Scorpion - an excellent 'value for money' rifle and certainly one of the top contenders for Best Air Rifle For Hunting
70-100 shots on one charge / gas cylinder is charged up to 200 - 232 bar.

There's two methods available to charge the gas cylinder on a PCP:

air rifle pump image
air bottle with guage

Most rifles are available in different livery as well - this PCP rifle offers a solid wallet body, for the traditional look. A  black Polyester Resin Stock for a tactical look, and a Full Camo Print design for the hunter.

The Big Question Is - Which Is The Best Type Of Air Rifle To Choose.?

Do you go for the spring piston, the gas ram or the PCP – there are plusses and minuses for each type.
All are very capable to use as a survival rifle and more than capable of hunting small game like rabbits and pigeons. 
In fact you only need around 6 ft lb to kill a rabbit and less for a pigeon with a head shot.

For a rabbit or pigeon kill shot, you're looking at a  maximum hunting distance of 30 mtrs for the .22 – the .177 may give you a bit more at 40 mtrs.

I have heard stories of people saying they killed rabbits at over 60 mtrs, but that's rare and highly unlikely, and more like ‘old hunting tales’….

But remember, the PCP and the Springer are both very capable hunting weapons, 
when used in the right hands.

Springer or PCP? Both are capable rifles to use for hunting small game and survival.
I personally have two springers and a PCP, and by far prefer my PCP over the other two.
The performance, for me, is much better. 
But.... the PCP has far more working parts that could fail in a SHTF situation.
So the answer, as always, is to try and cover all the options.

Steve Hart UK Preppers Guide

With a PCP rifle like this BSA R10 [shown here in camo livery], you're looking at 70+ shots before a recharge, a 10 shot magazine, it's very quiet, virtually no recoil and deadly accurate.

Weighs just over 7lbs and you can get it on a choice of .22 or .177

What more can I say...! A beast of a rifle for silent, deadly hunting of small game..

Of course there's always a downside to most things.

The main one here is that a PCP rifle should really be serviced regularly and, ideally from the gun shop where you bought it.

Most good gun shops will offer this service, with some it's free if you buy certain rifles from them.

I use a BSA Scorpion T10 and here's an example of the main parts that make up the rifle >

Ask Your

Any gunsmith will give you advice about all aspects of buying and using an air rifle - don't be intimidated by going into a gun shop purely by your lack of knowledge.

They are a very friendly bunch, and always very knowledgeable and eager to help with advice. Remember, airguns are their passion too and they are more than capable of giving you expert advice - far more than I could ever give here.

I highly recommend a trip to your local gun shop before making an decisions on what is the right rifle for your own needs.

I am very fortunate to have one of the very best air rifle suppliers in the country at under 10 miles away from me, The AirGun Centre, based in Rayleigh, Essex, (they also have a superb on-line shop as well).The AirGun Centre, who are based in Rayleigh, Essex. (they do have a very good on-line shop as well) a

Of course the next step, once you have got your new rifle is to go out and practice.

I would highly recommend finding a local air gun shooting range to get to know your new rifle – there are lots of them about and there’s bound to be one fairly close to you.

The advantages of the range are it's far more 'real' than your back garden and there are some fantastic range setups around the UK.

Make sure you are within the UK laws
*also see Air Gun laws

An air rifle is considered an offensive weapon in the eyes of the law and exactly where you are allowed to carry it and use it needs to be strictly observed.

Do not, under any circumstances, have an air rifle or air pistol in a public place and certainly do not have it out of its case and on full view.

Unlike our American friends, who have completely different gun laws to us here in the UK, and are allowed to freely carry a rifle for hunting or even a pistol as concealed carry.

In the UK – just don’t even think about risking it.

judge with gavel image
Final Thoughts

As preppers and especially as we are talking a SHTF situation, one of the main concerns is going to be reliability of your rifle.

That being said, there really is only one type of rifle that you should consider as the Best Air Rifle For Hunting And Survival:
and that is a bog standard Spring Piston air rifle.

The two main reasons are simple:
1/ fewer parts to go wrong.
2/ doesn't need to be charged up

With so few moving parts the spring piston has to be top of the list. 

Don't get me wrong, I love my PCP, but think purely doomsday survival, food procurement and reliability and the Spinger is your best choice.
Not only for the reason above, but for example:
A brand spanking new Weinrauch HK is going to set you back less than £400.

judge with gavel image

the ultra reliable AND very accurate HW80 from the German manufacturers Weihrauch

If you prefer to by British, then BSA is a good choice of established quality brands - the BSA Lightening is a well loved hunting rifle and you can get a brand new one for £350, so great value for money.

The simplicity of the spring piston rifle has a lot more to offer when faced with SHTF - as you can see in this exploded view, the minimum of moving parts to go wrong.
You will still achieve a pellet velocity of over 550 feet per second with a legal 12ft/lb rifle using a .22 pellet, and even more with a .177.
This is ample to give a kill shot for most small game at anything up to 50 yards.

Hopefully this article has helped you out a bit. It's a big subject and quite a specialist one when you really get into it.

My definite advice, before buying, is to visit your local gun shop.
You will get great help from knowledgeable people.

Happy Prepping Folks.


ps: If I have missed anything or there's gaping errors in anything written above, then please feel free to leave your help and comment below. Thanks.

Steve Hart UK Preppers Guide


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  1. STEVE M

    STEVE M 8/3/2017 Great article one thing I would advise is to by a rifle with iron sights cos when the SHTF if you damage the scope you starve but with iron sights you can carry on shooting .I would also fit a silencer as bunny has very good hearing & 1shot will send all the rest running for home .Check which pellet type is best for your rifle as not every rifle is accurate with every pellet type.

  2. baz

    Brilliant,informative,with no bull. Many thanks

  3. Tjs

    Hi have been useing Hw99s in 177 found it real good sprING rifle small light very accurate for under £200 good buy I all so use pcp as well but my hw99s the one take

  4. AK

    This site was extremely helpful for me making my choice on what to pick. In order to survive and protect yourself an air rifle is key. Air pistols don’t have much of a use as far as I am concerned so I would suggest getting both a spring powered and PCP air rifle. One in .22 and one in .177! British, German or Chinese even will do. Personally I can be accurate up to and over 50 metres with my rifles. My advice is to stay as close as possible to the 12ft/lbs figure and not spend more than £500 for a PCP and £250 for a spring. This website is great for making your mind up trust me, very informative. Good Luck!

  5. Malcolm

    Thanks for your interesting blog. Firearm licenses are difficult to get in South Africa these days. There are, unfortunately too many stolen and illegal firearms in circulation here and home protection is a part of everyday living. I own four guns (all licensed) plus two pellet guns – a .177 Norica Star Gold and a .22 Webley & Scott Stingray Mk1 (made in Birmingham) – both with scopes. I’ve not had any experience with PCP guns but find the springers easy to shoot and maintain. The Stingray is in exceptionally good condition and very well made – great to shoot and (I think) well suited to a SHTF situation.

  6. Tom

    I bought the BSA Superstar 23 years ago second hand it’s got to be the best air rifle I’ve owned. Very strong and works in all weathers. No issues whatsoever and I’ve had thousands of hours of shooting with it. Doesn’t really need any maintenance. Very accurate. Furthest kill was a Hare at about 60 meters. If you ever have chance of buying one I would not miss it. I’ve never really wanted a gas ram or PCP rifle I’m very happy with my springer.

  7. Dennis

    Ive used and hunted with air rifles now for 40 years (where did the time go). I ve had FAC rated air rifles in that time, and currently use a bog standard HW 100 for work.
    Ive had, or used, in the field about every new thing I thought was “the cats ass”.

    If I had only one air rifle to use if my life depended on. The thing that has to work time after time. In all weathers, and when it gets a little sandy or muddy, you still have to put food on the table. And you have no door to knock on for spare parts.

    It would be a bog standard HW77.

    1. UK Prepper

      You’ll be hard pressed to beat a Weihrauch.
      They are age old reliability……

  8. Martin Anderson

    I am lucky to get regular permission to hunt rabbits and wood pigeons on a bit of land my friend owns.
    My humble opinion-

    You should only shoot at distances where you get a humane kill, but i try to keep it below 35/40 yards. As for the maximum distance it’s possible to shoot rabbits at 60 yards with a 12ftlb but you would have to be a better marksman than I to achieve this

  9. Michael Tighe

    Killing rabbit’s at 60 meters “highly unlikely” “old hunting tale” you’re joking right, look on you tube “hunting rabbits at 80 meters” and see what you can really do with a sub 12 ft/lbs air rifle, it’s unfortunate people who really don’t understand what 12 ft/lbs in an air rifle can do brush it off as fallacy, obviously you are not a shooter with stupid statements like yours….

    1. SnapShot

      oooo, handbags at 10 paces..!
      I shoot regularly and wouldn’t attempt much over the 60 mtr mark.
      There are too many varriables that effect the shot.
      Maybe perfect conditions but generally go for 40 – 50 mtrs for best results EVERY time.

      just saying…………

      1. UK Prepper

        Hi Michael,
        Thank you for your kind words and encouragement for our fellow readers.
        And also for taking the information out of context.
        The term ‘Highly Unlikely’ means exactly that.
        80mtrs + would constitute having perfect conditions and a good rifle setup, as well as quite a bit of luck, even if you consider yourself an ‘expert’ as you obviously do.
        The essence of the article is on rifle choice for prepping, and for the average person to achieve success, hunting below 60 mtrs then becomes far more viable.

  10. Vince

    Nice one you have covered all the subjects Thank you!

  11. Bob Abbot

    I own a Diana Series 70 air rifle. Can you please advise what it’s energy level is and is a FAC required. Thanks.

    1. prepper 101

      Only way to know exactly is get the muzzle velocity measured at a range.
      Under 12ft lb you do not need a FAC.

      hope this helps…

  12. Kevin

    Hi I am pleased to have found your blog as I have bought a PCP rifle today,i traded a less than six month old Remington express with a 9.5/40 scope & silencer +£450 for a login axsor + pump and a superb tactical scope (laser dot,halosight ect,ect,….)and although I was very happy with the Remington’s power and accuracy it had a lot of spring noise which is not a problem for a single shot at a rabbit or a pigeon ! but can be a problem for vermin , also the very first grouping with the logun today was eight pellets in a pound coin at exactly 40 mtrs needless to say I am extremely impressed and fully understand why you are too. I am ex military and grew up in the country so shooting and fishing are second nature and although I am in love with my new rifle I would recommend that any newcomers start off with a good old break barrel there not to heavy on the pocket and requires very little maintenance , well I,m off to dream about shooting hundreds & hundreds of vermin tomorrow with my new rifle until next time happy hunting bye!

  13. Redditch

    For a GOOD bargain basement springer, don’t forget to check the Spanish ones out.
    I have a Cometa 400 .22 in 18 ft/lbs (yep you can get it in 12 ft/lbs too)
    Okay, it has a plastic trigger, and plastic high glow sights, but it’s very accurate for a beak barrel
    I have it zeroed at 35 metres (about 38 yards)
    I’ve also fitted it with a Bushnell Banner night and day scope 3-9×50 which is ideal for it.
    Cost me £130.00 brand new (RRP is £160-£170.00 )

  14. Tim Henman

    Great article, thank you. I think another thing to consider for a shtf situation is whether the gun has open sights or not, if you bust your scope for whatever reason than open sights could be essential

  15. vps908

    What is best a blackout 800 or hatsun 55? Cheers vince

    1. UK Prepper

      Hi Vince,
      Both acceptable small game rifles when it comes to hunting.
      Its depends on whether you prefer a tactical looking rifle like the Blackout, or more traditional like the walnut wood of the Hatsun.
      Both are fantastic value for money and, to be honest, better than a few of the more expensive rifles.
      A god starter rifle that will perform very well.
      I think it is a matter of personal choice on styling that’s about it really..

      1. vince

        Hi Steve,
        Thank you for your reply and sorry for my tardy response.
        Have spoken to a couple of people and they said You pay for what you get and go down the second hand market to get a semi decent air rifle for £400 (not inc scope or bag etc.) !!! Their suggestions is Weihrauch 77,80,97 or TX 200.

        Just for once I would like to buy brand NEW! Ok have zeroed in (sorry the pun) on the Walther century gt~ combo, fieldsmans am confused. Have read Great reviews about this air rifle except for it’s sub standard finish re spring. There are a couple of mods that can be done to bring this air rifle into the uk spec.

        Would appreciate your advice, opinion and views on this matter.

        Cheers Vince

  16. Randy Johnson

    That being said, a .22 is really the closer replacement to an air rifle (and even cheaper). A Ruger 10/22 is really the best platform out there, in terms of reliability, accessories, etc, and can be found at $200, but other brands make models that work just fine too. You can find a Marlin or Mossberg .22 for little over $100. Carrying 2,000 rounds is going to weigh a bit more, but still possible. And without all the drawbacks of an air rifle

    1. UK Prepper

      Only one small problem with those firearms that you mention there Randy, is the fact that we are talking the United Kingdom here.
      Which has super strict firearms and weapons laws.
      To own any of the firearms you mention would mean obtaining a FAC (fire Arms Certificate) which is quite a drawn out process for the average person living in a town or city.
      But for anyone in the U.S. you make a good point.

      all the best

      1. Michael Tighe

        I have .22lr rifles in the UK, a bolt action and semi auto, it’s not hard to obtain your FAC, as long as you are of good character and the correct security, also have a .44 six shot revolver muzzle loader remington 1858…

        1. Edgar

          Hi Michael,
          Could you, please, advise me on how did you manage to get that legally in the UK and what requirements are?; e.g must be a farmer with acres of land, ex MOD…
          Many thanks

  17. M Dymond

    Guys I’m new to the sport. I’m looking at getting a PCP .22 rifle. I would like to join a club and do some competition shooting eventually when I get my skills up. But for now I will be shooting targets on some private land. I have read so many articles on what gun to get I’m confusing myself! I’m leaning towards a Gamo Coyote technical as it is a good price and what I have read is accurate and a good introduction to the sport any thoughts or advice ? Cheers in advance .

  18. Olly

    If we’re talking survival, I wouldn’t even consider a PCP. Because when you run out of air, you starve. Would get a HW as they’re basic but engineered to extremely tight tolerances. I can shoot a BSA Ultra and a HW97K and both will give me half inch groups at 30 years. Gas rams are a bit too jumpy, and if they leak, you starve.

  19. Phil

    For prepping and living off the land I think a springer like a hw80 would be best as its self contained. And .177 is my choice for vermin control. If you head shot any way it doesn’t make a difference as dead is dead. And .177 is easier to shoot than a point .22

  20. OddJob

    BSA R10… mmmmmmm
    What a machine, definitely on my Christmas list.

  21. Graig101

    Great post – some good points made here.
    My BSA Meteor is old, old, old… and never let me down!
    Basic is better.

  22. Mossy

    I have 2 PCPs and service them myself.
    They normally only need new O rings.
    My best advice is to always keep everything in dry place and always use a good old drop of lube on all the moving parts….
    works for me.

  23. AlanG

    An interesting article, thank you

    1. John H

      Hi guys great article. I’ve never owned a riffle before but with the way the world is at present I feel I’m going to need 1. Got £250 to spend and after reading through this feel a spring loaded weapon would be best. Suggestions please guys on best make and model to buy.

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