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Best Air Rifle for Survival in the UK

Best Air Rifle for Survival in the UK

weapons air gun shadow

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 firearm guide here.


Some considerations when choosing the Best Air Rifle for Survival in the UK

  • Your rifle must be capable of hunting small game – in survival this is its primary purpose
  • Choose a .22 cal rifle for a clean kill – generally a .177 is preferred for target shooting, but will still kill a rabbit at the right range and with an accurate head shot 
  • It needs to be light – you may well need to take it with your bug out bag so weight is important
  • It needs to be compact – choose a smaller weapon over a longer barrelled, bulky rifle 
  • Reputable, tried and tested manufacturer – a good second hand British or German rifle will still perform well.
  • For value for money and quality, consider buying a Chinese brand 
  • 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

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 pressurise a gas ram and not a spring 
  • pneumatic – a cylinder mounted within the rifle body is pre charged with air




Spring Piston or Gas Ram rifle -weapons air gun under lever

fixed barrel – underarm cocking – these type of air rifle are known as a ‘springer rifle’






weapons air gun cocking




Spring Piston or Gas Ram rifle -

again a ‘springer rifle’, but with the barrel being used to compress the main spring




weapon air rifle Springpiston


Spring or Gas Ram rifle -

showing loading point for .22 or .177 pellet





weapons air gun bsa



PCP rifle – the barrel is fixed but has a separate gas cylinder where air is stored to propel the pellet  – the cylinder is ‘charged’ by a pump to approx. 200 psi



weapons air gun pump


Charging ‘pump’ method






weapons air gun bottle


Alternative method of charging a gas ram rifle via a air cylinder









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.

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 60 mtrs, but thats highly unlikely and more like ‘old hunting tales’….

So both are very capable weapons – when used in the right hands..

Spring, Gas ram and PCP [ Pre Charged Pneumatic] are all capable as survival rifles. As to the best air gun for survival.

I personally go for the PCP over the other types, but many will disagree with me, mainly for the fact that it has more parts and therefore more to go wrong.

But the PCP enablesweapons air rifle BSA-SCORPION-T10-TACTIC you to do 50+ shots with a fully charged cylinder and you can also have a multi shot magazine [10 shots] which eliminated constant loading as well.

They also have next to nothing in recoil. They are very accurate but also contain many more precision machined parts than a spring piston rifle – so, in theory, more to go wrong again.

They also need to be serviced by a gunsmith with the right tools. That said they rarely go wrong.

Again, a slight downside is you have to recharge the cylinder once empty – use a pump or air bottle [small divers bottle is ideal]

This is the rifle i use – .22 BSA Scorpion T10 – PCP rifle with 10 shot magazine. I have it in the tactical styled black body and as well as being very accurate, light and powerful, it looks a very mean machine too.

So, for me, this is the daddy…..  But always take the advice of your gunsmith and choose the best air rifle that suits you…..

Any gunsmith will give you advice and don’t be intimidated by going into a gun shop purely by your lack of knowledge – they are a very friendly and knowledgeable bunch and will be able to give you far more advice than I could ever do here.

man wit air rifle

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


Remember, 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 need to be strictly observed.

*also see Air Gun laws


Choosing the best air rifle can be quite a personal choice – but do take your time and consider exactly what you will be using it for and find the right rifle for you.