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

Best Air Rifle For Hunting And Survival In The UK

man with air gun

Air rifle hunting is carried out by many people and 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:

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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.

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
Gunsmith...
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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.

Steve

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.


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50 comments

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    • Dennis on December 28, 2018 at 12:50 am
    • Reply

    Ive been brought up in the country, using rifles, air rifles and shotguns,(for 40 something years now)Ive ran 2 pest control companys for over 25 years, and used air rifles more than most.

    Heres my 2 pence worth.

    I like the German HW air rifles. Ive used a venom arms HW77 to kill thousands of birds and rabbits. I have used a HW100 now for about 18 years as the work gun. Although its been pretty reliable, its not as reliable as the old springer.
    The HW100 is streets ahead in terms of accuracy, and quietness. To eat it youve got to kill it first.

    I was also taught how to snare anything from a bird and up to anything you need, from my grandad who had to feed his family during WW2 and the rationing years after, in rural Aberdeenshire. (make your own snares to suit your needs From single strand copper and upwards).

    Make , growing, rearing,finding,foraging,hunting,fishing,storing,drying,pickling,fermenting,baking, smoking, stewing,mending,making,scrounging,bartering,trading,etc, All a part of your daily life. You will” save money”, learn “life skills , “live healthier”,and “be a more integrated part of your surroundings and environment”. It may also teach you to become a more forgiving and learned person. By focusing on simpler achievements, aims and goals you might achieve, and also what lessons you learned, what daily improvements you could make.?

    Learn the things that work, and dont work for you, well in advance. Some things ive tried and thought “bound to work” were disasters, and
    others ive tried just because “I could”, were great and are part of my day to day life I actually enjoy.

    The only thing Ive had to conceed im really rubbish at, and ive tried and failed at, was making clothes. Buy them its easier. Second hand even better.Make them if youve time on your hands and need to keep busy to occupy the mind. But dont say I didnt warn you.

    Learn where the local wildlife goes at night, This is where you will need to “go shopping”. Get used to this environment, not only to quietly get a meal. But also to avoid others who might object to your nocturnal dinner ticket.

    Getting food and shelter is easy, Surviving within yourself is the hard part. Always be positive, never be too hard on yourself if it didnt go to plan. Being hungry makes you grumpy. Not enough sleep makes you crazy. Make sure you watch for them sneaking upon you.

    No place like home. The vixen fights best at home. Stay at home, and prepare your home for “Hard times”. It wont be like “wild harbour” or “zombie takeover”. But it might be a time of austerity, or general strikes, shortages and outageges like the 70s. Or the inner city riots and civil unrest that has flared up from time to time.

    I sound like me talking to my kids now. But learn to do without social media. Learn to visit people, and actually talk face to face. Read their expressions, share the joys and pains life will bring. At some point you will experiance, or give empathy. We all live to experiance the same things eventually. Life shouldnt be lived through a tv show expectation of “reality”
    Tough as it is, We should be honest about the good and bad parts of life. With others and ourselfs. This will avoid the “terrible shock” when the black dog that follows us all, bites.

    Keep smiling all

    Dennis

    • philip robert martin on December 19, 2018 at 5:51 am
    • Reply

    Steve, can I just say well done on a great article, I am so sick of hearing these narrow minded people go on about their latest fizz bang pop sticks that will simply fail once harsh conditions set in. In a SHTF situation you are going to be running for your life a lot of the time, being stealthy, moving at night, no fixed abode, tired, hungry, thirsty, although MOST people will try take good care of their rifle in that situation there is going to be times when it gets knocked around, when it gets dirty, when you need to reload lots and lots of times, try all that with the additional weight of a gas cylinder or even a stirrup pump its all going to end in tears when the expensive and very lovely PCP gives up the ghost all because water or dirt has wormed its way into a seal somewhere.
    Springers are the way forward and NO air gunner should forget their basic shooting skills with one as it can only improve your pcp performance too. I have PCPs, Rammers and Springers and although I love my BSA Lightning SE GRT for its lightweight compact and accurate performance it’ll be my HW99s or HW95L that is my go to SHTF rifle, I do have a HW80K in .22 which once it is fettled and up to speed with the other two will probably be the beast of choice but until then it’ll be one of the other two. If you have removed your open sights for your optics its worth keeping them in a small bag and to hand as optics can fail if bashed, you can simply refit your open sights and rezero and you are good to go again.

    1. Hi Phillip,
      Good advice, thank you.
      ATB, Steve

    • scott martin on November 20, 2018 at 12:30 pm
    • Reply

    good info

    • Ian Mac on August 7, 2018 at 9:25 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Steve

    Great article, can vouch for Weihrauch HW77 I have had one for years left in storage, pulled it out after 10 years no use and re-zeroed scope and it sticks 5 pellets in one 5p hole @ 20 yards great accuracy reliability cant recommend enough, but like you would much prefer a nice Hi-spec PCP for normal times but still keep skills up on HW77 as back up for harder times.

    Other than that Pellets, Pellets Pellets – quality domed pellets JSB’s, Superdomes, etc are most important bit, try out a variety of brands and weights to check which one your gun likes best, and clean inspect every one (ideally before you go out shooting), consistency and undamaged skirts are key to a nice straight shot, domed type usually more accurate, and then stick with them once zeroed in but try and different ranges, 10,25, 30, 40, 50 yards. Take notes of hold overs. Some places sell pellet test kits ideal to try out.

    Happy & Safe Shooting

    1. Thanks for your comments Ian.
      The air rifle is defiantly an effective methods of taking small game for food, maybe even the best method…
      With the Weihrauch pretty much bomb proof and ideal for this.
      Definitely one of the best.
      Your dead right about pellets as well. Lot of people disregard the importance of getting the right pellet for your rifle.
      Matching rifle and pellet will increase your accuracy and essentially put more food on your table…!
      All the best, Steve

    • Ian Knibbs on April 8, 2018 at 12:52 am
    • Reply

    Steve,

    Being new to the air gun community please excuse my lack of knowledge. I was on the receiving end in a motorcycle and have lost a working (dominant) right-arm, so have learnt to become left-handed for everything and anything. For recreational target practice i have adapted some fishing rods, bank rod supports, into a viable (150cm above grade) shooting stick.

    From your interesting article I think my best option for a air rifle would be the HW80. After registering on the GunStar website, it quickly became apparent there are a very limited quantity of LHD gun orientations available. So to my question, if I was able to source a LHD Walnut Stock, could i buy a suitable RHD HW80, too then fit its hardware to the new LHD stock? And obviously this adaption of the air rifle would need to be completed by my local firearm’s store.

    Any advice you can give would be really appreciated.

    R Ian

    • Marc on December 23, 2017 at 8:37 pm
    • Reply

    This is a prepper channel and in the event of economic collapse you wont give a dam about the UK laws on air guns or firearms for that matter best rifle to have a is a take down airgun that you have checked and you know it works and one that can be fixed when parts are not available, forget fancy makes like theoben or weihrauch too difficult to fix when it breaks get something simple like a Stealth 2000 gunpower or similar.

    Take down guns are easier to hide. also a good option is to bury the rifle in a sealed container somewhere in case shit hits the fan somewhere where you can get to in an emergency along with its pellets and maintenance equipment pump etc.

    1. Excellent comment Marc,

      Interestingly I have been looking this rifle for a while now.
      I believe it will give 500 plus single shots per refil, which is pretty good..
      It’s quite a weird shooting position though, and the trigger is very hard to manage, and I thought it was loud, even with a moderator….
      But moving part are few, again, a good point.

      However, for the meantime I’ll be sticking with my BSA Ulta.

      Thanks for the contributing,
      Steve

      • Terry Hicks on June 11, 2020 at 1:02 pm
      • Reply

      I agree Marc.If and when all hell breaks lose then in some areas(urban)it’ll be down to those who’ve prepared for the worst and “the law” would be almost irrelevant if people are hungry,cold etc.
      A TDR is the best option and I’m surprised there’s little choice out there,and what is available is expensive apart from the Gunpower stuff which are really cool and practical bits of kit.Pity they don’t do a multi magazine option.
      Would I be correct in saying that as in the case of the Stealth,the removal of the air tank would help preserve the seals?I’d be interested to know thought on that.
      Thanks

    • matt on November 25, 2017 at 10:57 pm
    • Reply

    A very good guide and the comments i have read have some great additional information, I would also say that practice, practice and more practice, get good groupings at various distances upto 50 yards, as a personal preference i like the air rifle to be a minimum of 10 foot pounds for hunting small game. I currently use a webley stingray .22 for pest control with great success on my small holding.

    1. Thanks for that Matt.
      Interesting that you say 10 ft lbs.. A lot of people think you must have as much power as possible to take small game down.
      You prove the point that shooting practice and being able to stalk is what really gives you the edge.

    • STEVE M on March 8, 2017 at 2:54 pm
    • Reply

    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.

    • baz on January 30, 2017 at 10:12 pm
    • Reply

    Brilliant,informative,with no bull. Many thanks

    • Tjs on January 25, 2017 at 12:43 am
    • Reply

    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

    • AK on January 24, 2017 at 5:20 pm
    • Reply

    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!

    • Malcolm on January 22, 2017 at 7:10 am
    • Reply

    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.

    • Tom on November 15, 2016 at 2:15 pm
    • Reply

    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.

    • Dennis on October 30, 2016 at 8:54 pm
    • Reply

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

    • Martin Anderson on October 2, 2016 at 6:57 pm
    • Reply

    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

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