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:


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

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.



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    • David Revell on October 22, 2020 at 5:42 pm
    • Reply

    I almost fell off my chair when I read your article, At F*&^%”ng last someone who knows what they are talking about, I have hunted for over 30 years with a springer, never left me hungry, the only thing I would add would be a way to make your own pellets. The Nomad kit is ideal. When the SHTF lead can be found everywhere just think about it, Factories, Roof flashings etc, Vehicle batteries, Old water pipes etc.. The Victorians left us with tons of it.

    • Dave swain on October 17, 2020 at 11:12 am
    • Reply

    Hi thanks for a excellent read I’m thinking about a PCP airifle and your information has answered alot of questions for me

    • Karl on June 24, 2020 at 8:48 pm
    • Reply

    As well as a BSA LIghtning SE, I have a Sharp Ace multi pump. pumping can be a pain but it does give the advantage of being self contained like a springer.

    • Paul on June 11, 2020 at 11:10 am
    • Reply

    Great article
    And the gun shop in Rayleigh Essex really is excellent and staff are awesome well worth a visit.

    • Magu on April 30, 2020 at 3:20 pm
    • Reply

    For the real SHTF situation i agree a springer is alomost infallible…however…one also to consider is the chinese co2 rifles (qb78/79 family) theres an absolutely fantastic amount of reference material on these available online and once set up for bulk fill are fantastic,they are also light,very easy to break down and more importantly cheap,replacement seals for them when purchased in bulk are pennies …and as c02 fire extinguishers are everywhere ,you should never conceivably have a problem obtaining it (and why bother paying 6 quid plus for 88 grammes o c02 when you can buy a date expired c02 extinguisher for as litle as 3 quid for 2 kilogramms of c02…thats one hell of a lot of fills)

      • Mr Shaun R Elliott on May 14, 2021 at 10:51 pm
      • Reply

      Hello, & where would I buy these out of date cO2 extinguishers from??
      Best regards

    • Alex McNeil on August 12, 2019 at 6:57 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Steve, I do thank you for your advice, I learned if fire a pellet rifle when I was very young but stopped shooting over 30 years ago. It’s a hobby I want to restart again now I am retired…

    All the best to you.


    • Peter on May 11, 2019 at 11:57 pm
    • Reply

    I’m looking for a 177 Weihrauch where’s best to look I used to buy mags and I’m looking for springer only can you buy 2nd hand quality rifles years ago could walk in to my local gunsmith in Killie and buy almost any gun rifle my little Diana .22 was my first it was simple all theese rules are getting a little to much I always kept mines in its sheath where do you look now

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