When contemplating the purchase of a hunting rifle for the purpose of wilderness survival, most hunters automatically think of the venerable .22 LR. They are relatively inexpensive, readily available and the ammunition is both cheap and easy to transport. However, they also are noisy to shoot and a bullet fired from a .22 LR can travel over a mile.
An excellent alternative to the .22 LR is a modern air rifle. They cost about the same and are quieter when fired. In fact, members of the Lewis & Clark expedition carried air rifles for hunting in hostile Native American territory for this very reason. Also, depending on the rifle and caliber chosen, they can be used to hunt both small and large game.
Before purchasing an air rifle it’s important to know they are available with four different types of power plants – spring pistons, gas pistons, pre-charged pneumatics and pumps. Air rifles with pre-charged pneumatic power plants are the most accurate of the four different types, but they also are the least suited for wilderness survival. That’s because they require the use of a pre-charged scuba tank (or similar reservoir) and a special regulator valve, or a special type of manual pump to charge the integral air reservoir.
In addition, air rifles with pump-up power plants also are not the best for wilderness survival because they have a relatively low pellet velocity and as a result do not generate enough kinetic energy to humanely harvest even small game species. Both spring piston and gas piston power plants, on the other hand, are great choices. Neither type requires any sort of special equipment to charge their air reservoirs and both are capable of generating a significant amount of kinetic energy. Plus, they are plenty accurate for the purpose of hunting since precise accuracy is only required when participating in formal air gun competitions.
Modern air rifles also are available in a myriad of different calibers and it is important to choose the appropriate caliber for your needs. For instance, neither the .177 nor the .20 caliber models are capable of firing pellets that are heavy enough to be particularly useful for hunting. While .22 caliber are by far the most popular choice for air rifle hunting, air rifles also are available in .25, .357 (9mm), .45 and .50 caliber. By simply choosing the proper type of power plant combined with the appropriate caliber, a person could easily hunt most any game species that is available in their area – and supply themselves with enough protein to remain healthy in a wilderness survival situation.
Lastly, there is the matter of appropriate pellet type. For instance, .22 caliber pellets are available in weights as light as 9.8 grains and as heavy as 32.4 grains (440 grains equals one ounce). They also are available with flat noses, round noses, pointed noses, hollow point noses and ballistic tips. However, it should be noted that although lightweight pellets move faster than heavy pellets, they do not penetrate as deeply. Therefore, it is important to choose both pellet type and the pellet weight according to the type of game species you intend to hunt. For example, if you’re shooting small birds, lightweight pellets with hollow points work well. But, if you’re hunting squirrels and rabbits, somewhat heavier pellets with either round noses, pointed noses or ballistic tips are a far better choice. In addition, .357, .45, and .50 caliber pellets are all available in your choice of flat-nosed, round-nosed and hollow-point designs and they are an excellent choice for species such as wild turkeys, feral hogs and whitetail deer.
By purchasing a modern air rifle with the appropriate type of power plant and using the correct type of pellet, a hunter can easily get fresh meat and do so without the noisy blast of a .22 LR. An added bonus is that the lead pellets for an air rifle are significantly cheaper to purchase than a .22 LR’s metallic cartridges and also not as bulky to carry.
Have you used an air rifle for survival or hunting? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below: