Best Type of Air gun for SHTF

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Last Updated on December 23, 2020

There has been a lot written about using an air gun for a SHTF situation. Which caliber to use, the type of air gun, cost of ammo and so on and so on.

Well, after reading all those articles and doing some deep thinking, I came up with what I think is the best type of air gun for SHTF that will serve you the best. Now, this is not a must-have. You must weigh your own needs want’s and physical ability to find the air gun that suits you best. Those are the factors that will help you make the right choice.

Factors to consider before purchasing an air gun for SHTF

A factor that most people don’t understand is that when your using an air gun to hunt is a difference between an air gun and a powder burner. Both an air gun and powder burner depend on energy to take down game. The difference is how this energy is delivered.

A powder burner does this by a combination of mass (bullet weight + velocity) to transfer a large amount of energy to game to take it down. Heavier bullets and greater velocity allow you to take down large game at distances over 100 yards and depending on the size of the game, out to 1000 yards. This creates a large wound cavity with hyodrostatic shock causing damage to the tissue and taking down the game animal.

Read More: Airguns for Preppers – a Primer & Practicalities

An air gun depends more on penetration than shock to the game to take it down. The energy used to do this is measured in foot pounds. The higher the foot pounds the greater your ability to take game down will be. There are two main types of air guns that should be considered for a survival situation; break barrel or PCP.

PCP stands for Pre-Charged Pneumatic. This is an air gun where the air that is used to propel the pellet is compressed externally. This air is compressed using either a special mechanical or hand compressor to reach up to about 3000 psi . The pro side of this is that you can send a heavier pellet down range and take down larger game. PCP’s have taken game the size of American bison, buffalo quickly and humanely. Also a lot of PCP’s have a magazine that allows you work a bolt for fast repeat shots. On the con side you will have to buy at a minimum a means of compressing the air and a portable air tank if you want to extend hunting time.

Break Barrel: On the other hand, if you are using a break barrel you charge it by “breaking” the barrel , thereby cocking it. This compresses the air or the gas in a gas piston type, then you load a pellet and then you’re ready to shoot. Your effective range is shorter due to lower foot pounds delivered to the game animal.
With a break barrel, you can take small game such as rabbits, squirrels and dove out to about 30-40 yards. Your effective hunting success will depend on the environment you’re in, range to the animal pellet choice and your skill level.

The pros of using a break barrel are it’s cheaper to buy and use. Once purchased all you need are pellets and you’re shooting. No additional equipment needed. A con is the size of the game you can take and the range you can be effective in taking this game. Another con is that a break barrel is a single shot, you miss and you might spook the game as you re-cock the gun. Your physical strength is a factor when choosing between a break barrel or a PCP. The break barrel requires more physical dexterity than a PCP. Using a PCP that is charged requires average strength and dexterity to pull the trigger and load the magazine. The break barrel requires you to cock the gun which can be difficult if you have physical limitations.

In my research, I have come across a new break barrel that claims to be the most powerful production break barrel available. This is the Hatsan 135 QE Carnivore Big Bore in .30 caliber.

Hatsan BT Big Bore Carnivore QE Air Rifle air rifle
Hatsan BT Big Bore Carnivore QE Air Rifle air rifle

Some of the specs are:

  • Caliber 0.30″
  • Max Velocity 550 fps
  • Muzzle Energy 30 ft/lbs
  • Barrel Length 10.6″
  • Overall Length 47.2″
  • Shot Capacity 1
  • Cocking Effort 50 lbs
  • Barrel Rifled Yes
  • Front Sight Fiber Optic
  • Rear Sight Fiber Optic
  • Scopeable Weaver & 11mm dovetails
  • Trigger Two-stage adjustable
  • Buttplate Rubber
  • Suggested for Small game hunting/target practice
  • Action Break barrel
  • Safety Automatic
  • Power plant Gas-piston
  • Function Single-shot
  • Body Type Rifle
  • Weight 9.9 lbs
  • Shrouded Yes

This is a robust air gun that will meet your needs in most situations, either hunting or a SHTF situation.

When used as a hunting gun the first thing I think you should do is decide if you want to use a scope or not. The gun comes with open sights. This means you can use it straight out the box. Open sights mean you can acquire the target a bit quicker and they are less likely to be knocked out of alignment.

Do you need a scope for your air gun?

A scope on the other hand lets you place your shots a bit more precisely. It also helps if your eyesight is less than perfect. A scope does add cost to the purchase and while modern scopes are well made, you will get what you pay for. If you put a cheap scope on the gun, it will cost you twice as much as you will end up buying a better scope. Make sure you get a scope that is rated for use on air guns. This is due to non PCP air guns having a double shock when firing. While a gas piston may not cause much damage, it’s best to check with the scope manufacturer before purchasing.

Once you choose between open sights or a scope, your next step is to find the best pellet for the air gun. While it will shoot any .30 pellet, it will be more accurate with certain pellets. The only way to find the best one is to buy several brands, go to a range and sight it in. You need to do this no matter which type of sight your using. This rifle also has an Integrated Sound Moderator (Shrouded). What this does is to reduce the sound of firing down-range. Depending on how close your neighbors are you might be able to practice in your backyard. Make sure you check before shooting and make sure your not violating any local or home owners association rules

Read More: Weapon of Choice: The Benefits of Purchasing an Air Rifle

Ok, your air gun is sighted in, you’re got the pellet your accurate with, so what can you hunt with the rifle?

Depending on your state you may be able to hunt game up to deer size. Now you will not be taking deer at 200 yards. That is way beyond the capability of the rifle. For most deer size game I would not go much farther than 50 yards. If your state has a feral hog problem this rifle will work on hogs also. Treat it as if your bow hunting. For smaller game like squirrels and rabbits, I would add about another 20 to 25 yards.

Shot placement is very important when hunting, it’s even more so when using an air rifle.. Head shots are the most humane way to take most game. You should be able to place most shots in a dime sized shot group before you go hunting.

So there you have it, my idea of the best air gun for an SHTF situation. Is it the most powerful? No. Nor is it the most accurate air rifle you can buy. Are there other calibers that can be used? Of course. They are just not as versatile. This is one that will do most of the jobs you need it to do at a cost, ease of use, and maintenance most people can afford. As with any tool, the more you practice, the better you will become in its use.

Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Truth Seeker.

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I have two air rifles, one a mk7 BSA Meteor 12 ft pound, break barrel springer, that is my essential basic single shot vermin and small critter rifle. Its simple, insanely reliable and out to 45 yards superb in pigeon and bunny bashing. My other is a modified Air Arms S410 Carbine 10 shot PCP which I use for general hunting and as a home security deterrent. both are in 22 Calibre.

R. Ann

I’m sorry to derail the train…
Raider, do you have any problems with the BSA Meteor spitting out and crunching the pellets at the last second when it’s being closed? How muddy and thick is the trigger pull?
Thank you!
-Rebecca Ann


Rebecca, Sometimes loading technique can cause badly fed pellets to jam, that used to happen a lot on an old Benjamin I had but I believe that it was more likely ME not fully pushing the pellet home. The BSAs Meteors have unusually high quality barrels so they can be slightly fussy on ammo choice. the problem across many brands of air rifle is that barrels can be cut to IMPERIAL sizes IE 22 but the ammo is METRIC IE 5.5mm and vice versa. Sooooooooooo some ammo brands are a bit tight (5.52) or slightly loose (5.48). Often cheapo Eastern… Read more »

R. Ann

I cheat and use one of those loading “pens” with the little flip-side prong that lets you seat to the same depth. Maybe the level of airguns I buy (I buy pretty decent pellets) but I can get the repeatable accuracy for bird and squirrel head shots with it, whereas finger loading and then just “tamping” (lack of a better word) with my pinky I could get an inch or play even forearm-bench or forearm-tree rested at 15-25 yards. It doesn’t sound like much, but I started with and out of respect for the critters, and 1-2″ is a difference… Read more »


What ever works for you is good a probe is often used by shooters over here to seat pellets better. I even use Air bullets or Sabot / Nylon /Alloy air rifle rounds when it suits. Defiant in the UK offers or used to offer trial packs containing 5.48/5.5/ 5.52 samplers of ammo to try and find what works best.. The Meteor MK7 is only a few years old so your friends probably had the far weaker and less consistant Mk6 Meteors.

R. Ann

Re. scopes: “While a gas piston may not cause much damage, it’s best to check with the scope manufacturer before purchasing.” – Break barrels are the ones with the severe reverse recoil that will chew through $30 redhead scopes like Paula Dean chews through butter. Some multi-pumps can hit the damaging levels, but pretty much any CO2, PCP and variable pumps are fine with standard scopes. Gas ram/gas piston or spring operated over ~600-1000 fps by caliber do need watched or you can dent your tube or the interior optics start being less of a cross and more of an… Read more »

R. Ann

“Break barrels are the ones with the severe reverse recoil that will
chew through $30 redhead scopes like Paula Dean chews through butter.” – I should have clarified that it’s the HIGH-POWER break barrels.

They’re the ones most appropriate for hunting more than a couple body lengths away. 600-800+ fps for a .22 or .25 usually, 1K-1200+ for .177 starts being caution zones about scope damage and long-term scope durability.


Agree with Becca, even the best air rifle can be ruined by a cheapo or unsuitable scope, you DO need a decent scope often 4 x 32 or better with GOOD quality scope mounts to deal with the capability of being able to take the recoil thwack from the spring. Also compared with a 22 rimfire you do need to hold steady and follow through longer with an air rifle than you do with a 22LR s the pellet takes time to get out of an air rifle barrel, its only fractions of a millisecond but technique is as important… Read more »

Any Amy

I’m sorry… but did you actually TEST the air gun you recommend? Your article makes it sound like you didn’t. Just because it looks & sounds good on paper doesn’t mean it’s so… not to mention the $999 price tag. I’ll pass.


I still have a hard time getting my head wrapped around the concept of an air gun in a survival situation. Regardless of the brand, caliber or psi, I would never consider an air gun for use in a defensive situation. Imagine asking your adversary to hold their fire while you pump up the air or replace the cylinder. Imagine further that they are 200 yards away (armed with semi-automatic weapons, no less) and your trusty single shot air gun has a range of 40 yards. Beyond that crucial fact, I can see no advantage of an air gun to… Read more »


Bolo consider a few points Mon Ami, places like where I live and even some places like new york where gun ownership is either banned or bloody difficult, in those cases very often an air rifle is the ONLY option. Next consider an air rifle like my Air Arms S410 is a magazine fed ten shot PCP that can fire 80 pellets before it needs recharging, and to recharge it takes about 2 seconds from a diving bottle. My S410 is recoiless and utterly silent when its moderator is fitted. I can buy 500 22 grain match grade pellets for… Read more »

R. Ann

I actually carry one when I hunt with larger caliber firearms and crossbow (I have a NP Benjo. Trail pistol that goes in a mare’s leg on a bag really well) when I’m overlapping a dove or small game season with a rifle or bow season. The range of a lot of my air rifles is pretty equivalent to the .22LR subsonics and to #7-9 shot (I’ve yet to try or be willing to chance a primer-only .22LR round at 100-200yards since they caution about tight and long barrels, and bullet drop – I might reconsider and see). The pistol(s)… Read more »


hmm..intersting topic..i guess if that is all you can legally have in your area, its better than nothing. I am suprised at the cost though. I can buy a bolt action 3006 cheaper than the weapon shown and have money left over for bullets! having access to refill the air would be a challenge unless your bunkering in. It looks like the more shots you shoot, the air pressure goes down after approx 20-30 shots.(.per some u tube videos). i wonder how much quieter it would be if you compared it to a 22 with a supressor. I guess in… Read more »


Here in this part of the UK I can easy take rabbit, hare, pigeon, dove, quail, grouse, pheasant, seagull, squirrel with my air rifle and being a silenced pcp its insanely quiet to a point I can hunt in urban areas.


OMG. So much wrong here. 1. The physics is wrong. Mass is not a function of velocity and weight. I think he means energy which is a function of velocity and mass 2. The main difference between an air rifle and a normal rifle is projectile energy. Energy is what provides the range and what kills prey. There is a huge discrepancy (generally) between high power air rifles (up to around 30 ft lbs a shot) and even a low power .22 rifle (over 100 ft lbs) 3. So PLEASE don’t try and shoot hogs and deer with air rifles… Read more »

Stubba1961 .

The Hatsan is a PCP not a break barrel, you must have your specs mixed up with another model. Hatsan though do offer good value for money air guns in PCP and break barrel. I have an Air Arms S200 in 22 with 10 shot mag and silencer which is excellent and a Webley 22 break barrel which is also very good just noisier. You don’t need a bottle for a PCP if you have a stirrup pump you can recharge in the field, bottles are quicker but you would need to consider how you are going to fill it… Read more »

Justin Case

This is the rifle that someone want and not what is best. 22cal break barel with nitrogen instead of spring. 22 has more mass and will not lose speed and power as fast as a .177. Also a .177 is fast than a 22cal and once you break the sound barrier the accuracy drops dramatically. PCP are not consistent in their power just like CO2. Anything larger than a 22 is also more difficult to find and more expensive as it is not a standard round. Personally I think preppers are nut jobs. The world is not going to come… Read more »


What a load of BS, Regulated PCPs are totally consistent in their power output The rest of your post is just racist rubbish.

R. Ann

If you have to fake what you’re typing, maybe you shouldn’t be typing it. I’d have been happier not knowing that level of blatant racism was here. PCPs and CO2s lose power at a predictable arc after a predictable number of shots. Potentially, there are rubber pieces that can create inconsistencies in power due to damage, but are no more likely to do so than a firearm is to have a FTF or FTE due to a dinged-up mag or (.22 pistols) ammo sensitivity, or the odd inconsistent powder load or bullet defect. Yes, .177 is faster than .22 in… Read more »


R Ann, not quite true mon ami, modern european PCPs often have inline pressure regulators these days which precisely measure the amount of air released. EG my old BSA ULTRA UNregulated gave me about 24 reasonably consistent shots before the drop off curve, but after I had it fitted with a regulator I got 44 to 48 fully consistent shots, then the pressure dropped so the regulator would fire no more. My air arms S410 is fully regulated and I get at least 75 fully consistant shots before the curve 🙂

R. Ann

Now that’s pretty cool.
I know your ultra is an after-market upgrade. You said “often”. Is it now standard to include the regulators (particularly at the high-end prices) or do you need to specifically hunt them up gun by gun?


Over here it appears to be a growing trend for regulators to be fitted now, plus the custom tuning market is busy with aftermarket regulators which is driving ever more manufacturers to fit them as OE, couple more years and it will be the standard because you end up getting more full power shots per fill as only the exact amount of air needed is released on firing.

Andre Gillies

The Hatsan 135 QE is NOT a break barrel, it is a PCP, as you can clearly see the air cylinder. The writer clearly needs to do further research.

R. Ann

It’s not just the picture – whether that came from Pat or the author. The link takes you to the PCP version, not the break-action that the specs are listed for.



Hello, I run a new up-and-coming air rifle website, and I would definitely be interested in guest posting a similar article as this one if given the chance. thank you! -Mike

Frank Vazquez

I understand the author’s thinking here, but there are many airguns and several good choices. The problem I have with “best” is that it is often out of reach for many buyers. Pre-charged pneumatics are generally the highest priced and most impressive airguns. For many, a survival air gun should be one that can work without the need for special equipment. The tank will eventually need to be replaced plus it’s valve could fail. So the point is that a spring piston or gas piston break barrel requires nothing else. The same applies to pump type air guns. One of… Read more »


At the risk of resurrecting a dead thread. This article needs to be deleted. It has so many errors it is embarrassing. The Hatsan Mod 135 Carnivore is a break barrel .30 cal (7.62mm) producing aprox 33 fpe. The image supplied is the Hatsan BT65 Carnivore which comes in 7.62 & 9mm. It is a PCP that produces 84 ft/lbs & 104 ft/lbs respectively. I have both the Mod 135 Carnivore & the BT65 carnivore both in .30 cal. For SHTF situations the BT65 is a great choice as it will take medium sized game, including feral hogs, without alerting… Read more »

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