Survival Pellet Gun?

By on November 12, 2012
gamobigcat-08

My father in law sent me a link to a site a while back that showed a man taking down a full grown hog using only a pellet gun.  I thought, “this can’t be real…” how can something that isn’t much bigger than a grain of rice take down a feral hog?

I started doing a little bit of research and turns out it is completely true, when said pellet is traveling at 1250 feet per second (many .22 caliber rim fire rifles only reach around 1100-1200 fps).  I decided to purchase one of these air rifles and give it a test.

After a few days of research I had settled on brand.  From all of my research GAMO seems to be the top name in air rifles that are widely available.  After choosing the brand I then needed to choose the caliber of ammo to be used.  After a visit to a sporting goods store I opted for the .177 caliber based mainly on the price and the amount of ammo available.

The .22 caliber would have a slightly higher knockdown power but the .177 had more variations of ammo, higher rounds per box and a cheaper ammunition cost.

With prices ranging from $80- $800 I decided that I wanted to keep my budget at around $200 simply I couldn’t fathom paying much more for an air rifle.

I ended up picking the GAMO Big Cat as it fell right into my $200 budget, and headed out to my grandparents’ home for a little target practice.  After several hours of testing, here is what I have found

Pro’s:

The synthetic stock is rubberized and has a good grip, which since this is a break action style rifle it is imperative to not slip when you are loading it.

Cheap ammo (1250 rounds for under $15.00 on amazon)

Large variety of ammo.  I found at least 10 different varieties of .177 caliber ammunition sitting on the shelf.

Low maintenance.  This gun does not actually “fire”, and as such there is little to no residue and not much is required in the way of maintenance.  The only thing you will need to do is add a couple of drops of oil every 100-200 shots fired and the occasional cleaning out of the barrel.

No waiting period.  This is about the best pro I can think of,   you can pick this rifle up off the shelf and buy it without having a 3 day waiting period (Check your local laws to  verify this). There are currently no laws requiring a background check on an air rifle, at least here in Texas.

There are a few cons with this rifle as well:

Accuracy. The first 75-100 shots have very bad accuracy.  This is a normal break in period for just about any air rifle and can be frustrating.

Stiff cocking mechanism.  It takes about 40lbs of pull in order to break over the barrel and load the pellet. Make sure of your hands are out of the way when you cock it. I was unfortunate enough to rack one of my knuckles several weeks ago and it is still sore.

Single Shot. Unless you go with the more expensive PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic), your normal break action gun will only hold one pellet at a time. This can be very taxing on your morale when you are trying to take down a few squirrel and are forced to reload after each shot.

Bottom Line:

An air rifle like the GAMO Big Cat that I purchased is great for practice and small game.

Once the gun has been sighted in you should be able to kill any small game less than 20lbs with no problem. Just bear in mind that most small game has a successful kill spot of around 1” so you will need to practice. If you have the right ammo and a well-placed shot you could potentially take down larger game like a hog .

Even if you do have other rifles for larger game and self-defense, the inexpensive and highly available ammo will make this an extremely useful gun to have on hand in a survival situation.  What do you think about using an air rifle for survival?



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38 Comments

  1. Leonard

    “Spring guns” are quite powerful and fairly quiet, but it does take a bit to learn to shoot them accurately. Do a search on the “howitzer hold”. My groups were miserable until i learned to shoot one properly.

  2. Doc

    An air rifle is also makes far less noise when shooting for food. This is an essential point to condsider if you are concerned about giving away your
    location to unfriendly elements. One concern is that the usual air
    rifle is not constructed as ruggedly as a conventional firearm so care must
    be taken not to put a great deal of stress on one either by a fall or by inadvertant use as a pry tool. Availablity of repair parts will not be likely in a survival situation. As it is for all firearms, a good cover or case is important. Another concern is for keeping a large supply of assorted pellets and enough piston lubricants. I keep a spare plunger spring
    just in case the orignal breaks. Know your rifle and how to repair it.

    • William

      Great Advice on spare parts. I own three air rifles and could not even begin to count the amount of pellets I have for them. Own multiple other guns but with the air rifle, “quiet” is the key word. Also buy the best scope you can afford. Practice and more practice will give you an amble supply of small animals to survive on.

      • SmokeHillFarm

        I looked into pellet guns abou 25 yrs ago to get rid of all the trash birds that were robbing me blind, eating dog food in my kennel and bird food in my chicken pens. This flock of thieves was costing me SERIOUS money, and I was spending real money on reloading shotgun shells to fight the problem. Then we took in a rescue dog that was terrified of gunshots ….

        Anyhow, I had an FFL then, and a lot of contacts in the gun world, and the advice from everyone was to buy the RWS Model 34. It was about 189 retail then and hasn’t gone up much since. They’re readily available, deadly accurate, and as near as I can tell, almost indestructible.

        Even without a scope I can hit squirrels and small birds up to 90 feet away (maybe 90% hits). I got the .22 for the extra weight on target (based on what squirrel hunters advised). Muzzle velocity is around 900 fps, and I believe that a well-placed head or neck shot on a human might be fatal — certainly put them out of action. It’s entirely possible that spending more for a “higher” model of RWS might get you more power; I haven’t looked into it. My advice is to buy the RWS, regardless. You can’t beat that German engineering, and they’ve been making these airguns for a LONG time. My son & other kids learned about shooting on this one, and I suspect we have put about 4000 pellets through this in 25 years with ZERO repairs or maintenance beyond occasional cleaning & shooting an oily “cleaning pellet” through it. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

        I suspect there is probably a spring or something I should order as a spare, just in case, but never get around to checking that out.

        Can’t recommend air guns enough. They’ll do most of what a .22 will do, almost silently, and for virtually NO money in ammo. And the ammo NEVER goes bad. No serious prepper can afford to be without one, and it’s smart to get as high a quality airgun as you can afford — unlike most of our firearms, where a Ruger .357 is at least as good as a Colt or Smith, and it’s certainly a better choice for long-term use than a high-end semi like the Kimber. Ditto with shotguns — I believe my Mossberg 500 pump will be shooting long after those pretty imported semi-auto shotguns will become sloppy & unreliable.

  3. Lee H

    I agree with the concept. About a year ago, I bought a Gamo Whisper (with a silencer). It is quiet and accurate, it comes with a scope, and there is no restriction on silencers for air rifles.
    Now, I am looking at the Benjamin Rogue in .357 caliber. It is truly a serious air rifle that uses a 3000 psi air reservoir to propel 357 caliber lead pellets at about 700 fps, and it is a repeater. You can fill the reservoir with a SCUBA tank or a compressor, or you can use a high pressure hand pump (sounds like a lot of work). It will bring down big game, and all that you need to keep it running is lead to cast projectiles.

  4. Mike

    As a kid, I successfully and routinely hunted squirrels, rabbits, and large birds like crows and grackles with a 1970′s era Benjamin pump air rifle that had maybe half the velocity of the Gamo. As long as I kept the shots to 20 yds and less, the air rifle performed admirably. I would imagine the Gamo’s velocity would add at least 10 yds to the killing range. I would also add, that in a true survival situation, even smaller non-traditional “game” can be a life saver. One might have the opportunity to harvest small birds, rodents, and reptiles; animals of the size were a .22 round would be overkill. A pellet gun with plenty of cheap ammo would certainly be the more efficient method of collecting such “game”.

  5. Danmo43

    I had a friend who was forced to watch squirrels play on his deer stand while he was hunting for deer. After buying a pellet gun, he now gets to eat squirrel even if he doesn’t get a deer that day.
    I wouldn’t want to rely on a pellet gun for my survival, but anything that shoots a projectile is better than nothing.
    They used to use rocks, so a pellet gun is definitely better. I use one to take out beaver in an area where normal guns are illegal.

  6. Ed

    In the Illinoisistan any air rifle with 700fps or more is classified as a firearm and requires a state permit to purchase. I have a RWS Diana in .177 and one in .22. very sarisfied with this German brand and craftsmanship

  7. SergeantMajor

    Lewis and Clark carried a .50 caliber air gun on their expedition. Air guns were originally developed for armed combat and employed as such due to the fact powder was expensive. You can currently purchase air guns up to .50 caliber if you feel the need for that much “knockdown”. Any prepper who does not have an airgun in his armory is lacking a very useful and capable tool.

    • Joe

      Joe

      Well thank you Sergeant Major, I learned something new today, I had no idea that air rifles went back that far. According the research I just did, they go back as far as 1580 and are known as one of the first pneumatic machines. Thanks for the post !

      • Richter

        Hi Joe, Here are some tips you might like to check out.
        1. Purchase a Good, 2-Pc. Blow-gun & the books you find at Amazon, the reading alone is very informative. If you check around, there are many types of ammo & after a little practice, You can take down Many Small Game animals, Such as; raccoons,Squirrels, Rabbits, And almost any Bird.
        Blow-guns are easy to care for & clean, Making the ammo is easy, with practice & the best part, Your own Breath supply’s the air to shoot a dart, about 50 to 75 feet. depending on your ammo.

        • Joe

          Joe

          Hey Richter, thanks for the idea, I had actually forgotten about blow guns, I used to use them to take out pesky grackle’s in my back yard. Its amazing how accurate you can get with them.

        • James

          What books?

    • SmokeHillFarm

      They also make some modert high-powered air rifles for taking big game — I mean REALLY big game. They are very expensive, but the main reason I don’t consider them a practical prepper tool is that they all seem to need a big air tank to charge them. Not good when the tank runs out and you probably don’t want to waste scarce fuel in your generator to charge an air tank.

      Old airguns, like Lewis & Clark’s, used to be chargeable by pumping, and I see no reason that couldn’t be an option now — certainly would sell well to preppers. But if there is something like that available I didn’t see it when I casually looked over some websites that sold airguns for moose, elk or bear.

      Incidentally, those unfamiliar with airguns should be aware that a regular scope will NOT last long on an airgun, or so everyone told me. The shock of the piston hitting will damage the optics, so you have to get a scope specifically designed for airguns. Fortunately, they are not too expensive, either.

  8. njcountyofficer

    In NJ an air rifle of any kind (even a Red Ryder BB rifle) is considered a firearm. The same permit to buy a shotgun or any caliber rifle is needed to buy an airgun/BB rifle, and a handgun purchasing permit is needed to buy any air or BB pistol (waiting period for 1 handgun permit takes many months, you can only get a single handgun then wait a month if you want to get another permit).

    The same carrying laws apply to air or spring guns as they do to regular guns here, don’t get caught with one in your possession outside your home, literally!

    NJ is a “may issue” state, basically that means a law abiding citizen will never get carry permit.

    Also, killing “any” animal in NJ is a crime without the proper hunting permit or permission.

    Consider yourself very lucky if you don’t live in the Nanny state of NJ, where “everything” is illegal!

    • Ticktockoma

      njcountyofficer. I can surely sympathise with you. We in NYC are in the same situation. Wait 3-6 months to get a premise license,(cost $400 plus $95 for finger printing. then wait another 3 months to get another gun. No BB guns or rifles allowed at all in NYC. What a police state this is.

    • Mick J

      Wow… And I Thought The Constitution State Was Bad. I Have Several CO2 Pistols, And Here In Connecticut, You Cannot Carry it, And Is Allowed For In Home Only. You May Transport Pellet/BB Guns In Your Vehicle Only To Bring It To A Repair Shop, Or Another Home Where The Owner Has Given You Permission Ahead Of Time. Any Air Powered Rifle/Pistol In The Hands Of A Sharp Shooter, Is A Deadly Weapon. A Properly Place .357, and/or .40 Cal, .50 Cal, etc etc, Is Deadly, Period. A Good Rifle (air) With A Scope, In A Stand Your Ground Situation, Like Sniping A Bad Guy About To Invade Your Home During The ZoMbIe Apocalypse…*cough*, …Well, You Play That Scenario Through Your Mind, And Be Sure You Have A Good Shovel…You’ll Be Digging A Hole. We Will Need To Bury The Trash. TIP: If there are any bad guys reading this…try Knocking and asking if the home owner can spare a canteen of water, or a meal. Beats a .50 Cal lead rifled ball between the eyes every time.

      • SmokeHillFarm

        I am looking forward to the occasional two-legged predator dropping by my farm and becoming a threat. It solves another very real problem for a long-term SHTF scenario — how am I going to feed a couple of dozen dogs when my regular two-ton stash of dog food runs out?

        It beats wasting tractor fuel to dig a hole somewhere out back.

    • Allen

      njOfficer,
      I feel for you.

      I think people will start leaving these places that have so many laws restricting firearms, hunting and so many other freedoms. The worst ones are also the areas with the worst fiscal woes and as hard working tax payers who love freedom leave these places, it will only get worse.

  9. njcountyofficer

    I own a German RWS single pump .177, 1000 fps scoped air rifle that I bought over 20 years ago. It’s built like a tank and still hasn’t lost any velocity since. Might check out the new GAMO’s just to have a spare.

  10. Ken

    If I may make a few observations based upon my own experience.No.1,Do not purchase any air guns that require pumping.You will scare away all of the game after your first shot.No.2,Pass on CO2 powered guns.The gas cartridges are temperature sensitive,and your aiming point will vary depending on the temperature of the day.Also,as you deplete the gas,so will the aiming point change.No.3,The only two drawbacks to having a PCP (pre charged pneumatic)repeater is (a)you will need a pump and carry it with you,and (b)you may lose your clip,at which time your rifle becomes useless.Now,there are a number of really good guns out there that are well below the $200 mark.Gamo,Crosman,Ruger,and Beeman are but a few.Surprisingly,most can be found at Wal Mart.You will need to find a rifle rated at 1000 fps.You will NOT find a 1250 fps rifle for under $200.The 1250 fps is when you use the non metallic PBA pellets in a 1000 fps rifle.Beeman has a rifle that has 2 barrels in a set.One is .177,the other is .22.It is rated at 1000 fps for the .117,850 fps for the .22.This sells at Wal Mart for $125.This is a spring propelled break open that takes about 29 lbs. to break.A better system to buy is a Nitro Spring type.Crosman makes one called the “Nitro Venom” in .22 or .177 either with a wood or synthetic stock.Around $145 at Wal Mart.It has been my experience that it is better,when using an air rifle,to get a .22.Heavier pellet,better wind bucking,greater shock.Don’t get all jazzed about the plethora of different styles of pellets.When you buy your rifle,get a 250 can of cheap pellets to break in the gun,then get a pellet assortment pack(they have them),find out which shoots best in your gun,and stick with that one.If you keep messing with different pellet weights,you will be shooting all over the place and getting no game.I regularly collect wild game with my Beeman,in both calibers.

    • SmokeHillFarm

      Thanks for that good info. I’ve used a .22 cal RWS Model 34 for about 25 years now — actually, back then it was called RWS-Diana. I’ve run many thousands of pellets thru the thing on my farm, mostly killing grackles, starlings, crows, etc. that were eating large amounts of dog food in my kennel and in my chicken & pigeon pens. I’m very happy with it & never had a minute’s problem. It’s so accurate that I didn’t bother to put on the small scope I ordered with it. I had heard from some airgun old-timers that this was a great gun, and I certainly agree.

      Current prices on the Model 34 seem to run around $225, sometimes down to $189 on sale, or refurbished. That is a bit over your $200 mark, but I wonder whether you are getting the same type of accuracy & reliability with the Beemans, Gamos or Rugers?

  11. Mike

    I am something of an expert on airguns-They have been a hobby of mine for over 40 years. I own 18 spring airguns now-and most I have tuned myself & installed aftermarket springs & seals etc. The Gamo is allright for an economy airgun but They & other inexpensive airguns are light years apart from the truly good ones. You get what you pay for. Among my air rifles are models from Weirauch (HW), RWS, Fienwerkbau,Air arms,Webley etc. I bought a gamo as an inexpensive knockaround gun & after shooting the higher end guns I could hardly stand to shoot it-very harsh firing behavior. lots of vibration & a horrible trigger. Don’t mean to bag on the inexpensive guns and I am no snob- But for $300 – $600 you can get something really nice-much smoother, much better accuracy & trigger-all in all it would only serve you better in a survival situation.

    • Joe

      Joe

      Hey mike,
      thanks for the response, I am glad to hear of your exploits with the high end air guns, have you used them for hunting actual game? I’d love to hear what you’ve been able to take down with one. And like I said in my post I couldn’t push myself to buy a gun more than $200.00 and still consider it a practical purchase. However for anyone of your caliber ( no pun intended) these higher end guns would be a great investment. thanks again for the comment and keep them coming!

      • Allen

        Joe and all,
        They can be ordered by mail order in all of the states that I have lived in, with no waiting period except waiting for delivery.

        Allen

    • FireAntMan

      I beg to differ with your assessment of air rifles. I purchased a Remington Model 77 with attached scope at WalMart for less than $100. It has 1255 fps with only four pumps. I can hit a Vienna Sausage can at 55 feet from a standing position consistantly with a nice close pattern. The scope is hard to use in bright sunlight, but one shot to the head of a squirrel is deadly shooting bb’s. The rifle is fairly rugged and I have not had any trouble with it (it does leak down some overnight, but then I probably shouldn’t leave it charged anyway). Hope this helps…I ‘lucked out’ when I selected this one for I had no reference as to what to buy. It compliments my 35cal lever action. Remember to buy all ammo and weapons with cash so there is no paper trail…in my state no permit is required to buy air rifles.

  12. gena

    What is available for older women without the arm strength to cock a break barrel air gun? I bought a Gamo break barrel air gun and was totally unable to cock it – just did not have the arm strength. I have been in a car accident that left me with nerve damage which has cost me much muscle strength in both arms, plus the whole upper arm muscle in the left arm was torn almost the length of the upper arm by the air bag slamming me into the driver door. I have a nice Gamo air pistol, but ended up just giving the air rifle away, I think it was the one spoken of above with the 2 barrels, one the .177 and the other the .22. I was never able to cock it and you would not believe how much energy I put into trying to cock it. I saw one on the Gamo site the other day that uses CO2 canisters, and kinda think with my strength issues that might be all I can use. Is there an option I am not aware of?

    • Joe

      Joe

      Hi Gena, sorry to hear about your arm.
      For you the only option may be a CO2 gun or a more expensive PCP gun. The benefit to these is you get multiple shots, but you just have to keep in mind the air temperature affect the pressure. Depending on what you are using this for you may also be able to get a multi pump gun and still take out small game. Benjamin makes a pretty good bolt action multi pump for around 150-160. The Benjamin 392 is a .22 single shot that shoots up to 685 fps, more than enough to take down a jack rabbit.
      I cant get a lock on what the cocking pressure required for it is but it cant be anywhere near the 38lbs of my GAMO

    • Mike

      In your situation, I think I would stick with a traditional .22lr they have ammo that is “super quiet” because it’s primer only and it gets like 600fps. Or if you must get a pellet gun get the pistol, I think it’s a Benjamin (single cocking, 12″ barrel) it should be easier, though you’d lose some range.

  13. Richter

    The best Gun out there is only as good as the shooter pulling the trigger. As with anything worth your time, Learning about the use of your weapon is essential, to a good shot.
    As a youngster, My Dad taught us kids to build & use our own Slings. No, not those “Y” sling-shots every Country boy tends to make, No my sling is the type we first heard about from the Bible. Remember DAVID & his taking down the Giant?
    It’s true, with the right Stone, (or Lug-Nut) You can Kill most any Animal that has 4 or even 2 legs!!
    Next we come to the Cross-Bow, Easy to make & maintain, And the arrows or Bolts, can be made from those old Flex-Poles from that Pup-tent you may have laying around. Myself, I like the smaller Hand-gun type,
    Of course, there’s the Long-Bow, and arrows, They’ve been around almost as long as Man & have changed very little over the years.
    My whole point is, What ever you choose to use, PRACTICE, PRACTICE & PRACTICE AGAIN, and when you think your good enough to Hunt your own food, Try it, But NEVER Wound an animal & let it get away, Track it & finish the job!
    Have fun shooting with what ever you choose to use.Before Every State becomes a Twin of New Jersey!

  14. krispkritter

    Have shot primarily .177 pump actions since I was 10 with assorted CO2′s. Last year I bought a nitro piston Crosman GP for less than $100(rlairgunsupply com) along with 1500 rounds of various types of .22 ammo. Also got both Crosman C11 and 1377′s as refurbs and their ammo for about $210 total. The Crosman pistols are what you’d expect and are really for the kids to use. The GP has nearly 1000 rounds through it and has been the biggest surprise of all. It’s very accurate, has no noticeable issues with staying ‘armed’ for days at a time, does not appear to be affected by temperature, and while I haven’t ranged it on paper, it’s been effective on squirrel-size targets to 30-40+ yards with mostly one-shot kill effectiveness. The ammo seems to make the biggest difference, with the best being RWS Superpoint and Super-H-point so far. Rated as only 21# for cocking, this should be manageable for even small teens. It’s very quiet and seems lighter(6.6lbs) than the old spring guns I remember. The GP even came with a basic but effective 4×32 scope. I think I’ll up the ante next time around and look at a higher end .22 and stick with the nitro system. Anyone else used the nitro’s? (PS. not affiliated with RL in any way except as a customer)

  15. David Cook

    Lewis and Clark took with them on their trek across the Country back in 1802, an air rifle along with their regular flinklocks. Apparently this air rifle was powerful enough to take down big game such a deer, elk, wolves, etc. I would like know what the caliber of air rifle they had that was that powerful and how it worked. What was the range, mussel velocity and how they pumped the darn thing up. Why did they have a much better air rifle 200 years ago than we have now? I would really like to know what we have in our inventory that could match what they had.

  16. Johnny B

    @David Cook,
    Read up. Sgt MJR covered L&C was a 50 cal.
    Personally, I like subsonic 22′s in a norinco bolt action, quiet but has the distance and accuracy. JBG

  17. you leave me speechless – I had no idea that these possibilities even existed !! thank you much ,all of you !!

  18. again – thanks for all the info – it will be used exten sively by me !!

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