Air rifles have been around for quite some time. The Austrian army equipped some of its units with air rifles in the early 1800s, and the Lewis and Clark expedition carried one on its westward journey. Back then, a huge flaw of the air rifle’s design was that it was delicate and had to be pumped over 100 times to fill its air reservoir.
I fondly remember my 10th birthday. It was the day I opened up that beautifully wrapped box to find a Crossman pump action air rifle. The rifle was capable of not just firing your standard BB, but also .177 pellets in single shot mode. I was given a carton of BBs, and a box of wad cutter pellets.
For that glorious summer I was Wyatt Earp, or a big game hunter in the Yukon. Many mourning doves fell to my deadly aim, as did a great many tin cans and hornet’s nests. The rifle was joined that winter by a pellet pistol and now I was armed for whatever situation boyhood could throw at me.
Today, the pellet rifle is starting to come into its own among survivalists and hunters, and is seen as more than just a child’s tool before they own a real firearm – for a host of reasons.
The pellet rifle has proven itself to be a fine small game implement, and can feed a man lost in the woods on squirrel, grouse and rabbit. The pellet rifle is compact, and can allow the carrying of more ammunition than even a .22 long rifle, especially if it is pump-operated and does not employ C02 cartridges. And a pneumatic air rifle can deliver velocities within a range equal to that of many big game rifles.
It is not uncommon to see Internet photographs of hunters who use air rifles posing with their big game kills such as a wild boar or deer. No, I don’t recommend you take even the most powerful air rifle with you on your next Alaskan brown bear hunt. But a proper air rifle is suited to most game found in the lower 48 states and much of Canada.
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As a survival tool, an air rifle equipped with a pump rather than a CO2 cartridge is a fine choice to provide food in a desperate situation. In fact, as long as you have pellets, your air rifle can keep supplying you with needed protein. Pellets, being as small and light as they are, can be easily carried in large amounts in a pocket or backpack. The amount of pellets carried can easily be in access of several hundred, and an equal amount of standard ammunition would be a weight too great for most wilderness travel. In fact, just 100 rounds of ammunition can weigh several pounds.
An air rifle, while not being as long ranged as many rifles, can certainly provide you with more range than a sling shot. An air gun is also silent, a trait that you will not find with your .30-06 or even a .22. Often, an air gun will allow for a follow-up shot if you miss a game animal, since they won’t be spooked by noise.
The Right Air Rifle
Picking the right air rifle is just as important as picking the correct hunting rifle or your home defense weapon. It should come from a reputable manufacturer, and should work every time you need it. I strongly recommend that you pick a rifle that utilizes an air pump system rather than CO2, simply for the fact that if you run out of CO2, you are carrying a giant paperweight. You will not be running out of air to pump into your rifle anytime soon.
There are two manufacturers I really count on for a quality air rifle – Gamo and Benjamin. Both have been in the market for a long time, and both build quality products. They offer rifles in .22 or larger calibers, and their prices are affordable. It will not cost much more for one of their air rifles than if you were to go out and buy a new .22LR rifle.
Depending on your needs, you may even want to put an optic on your air gun. I have done so before, and I use a decent .22 scope. I get around the same results as when I mount one on a rimfire.
So before your next wilderness trip or trip to the firearm store, consider an air gun.
What advice would you add on air rifles? Share your tips in the section below: