Every once in a while someone on one of the airgun, survival or preparedness forums raises the question: “What would be a good choice of airgun for a survival-type situation in which you need to shoot small game for food?”
I love to watch disaster movies and read books about people suddenly thrust into survival situations (when I’m in this mode, my wife just looks at me, shakes her head, and sighs), and I’ve thought about the question of which airgun would be best.
For a survival airgun, here are the characteristics that I would prefer:
1. Portability. That means either a pistol or a rifle than can be readily broken down. That eliminates many air rifles.
2. Self-contained. I want to reduce the need for ancillary equipment and consumables. That eliminates all CO2 airguns (which don’t work well in cold weather) and pre-charged airguns which require a tank or pump for recharging.
3. Sufficient power for taking small game. Target air pistols won’t get it done. Some springer pistols make 6 foot-pounds of energy, which is sufficient if you skills allow to stalk within 10-15 yards on small game. Some multi-stroke pneumatic pistols make 8-10 foot pounds of energy. Most air rifles generate enough energy to do the job. I have reliable reports of one shooter killing a feral goat with a multi-stroke pneumatic rifle, and another shooter inadvertently killing a deer with a cheap Chinese spring-piston rifle (he was trying to chase it away from the plants in his yard and caused a pneumo-thorax).
4. Stealthy report. I don’t want to be noticed. Spring-piston powerplants are inherently quieter than most others because of the smaller quantity of air used to drive the pellet. Multi-stroke pneumatics tend to generate more noise than springers, but can be quieted with barrel shrouds or by reducing the number of pumps (which reduces the power).
5. Easy to shoot well. Spring-piston powerplants are the hardest to shoot well because of their whiplash forward and back recoil. Multi-stroke pneumatics are easy to shoot well.
6. Reliability. Airguns dealers tell me that springers are the most reliable powerplant. You can usually put at least a couple of thousand rounds through one before a rebuild is needed, and some are far more reliable.
7. Ease of maintenance. Spring piston powerplants typically require a spring compressor for assembly and disassembly. MSPs usually can be taken apart with hand tools.
The careful reader will have noticed that sometimes these characteristics are at odds with each other, so you have to make your gun selection based on what’s most important to you.
Recently, the folks at UmarexUSA sent me a sample of the Browning 800 pistol in .22 caliber and it appears that it meets many of the criteria above. The 800 Mag is a large air pistol. It stretches 18 inches from the muzzle to the end of the receiver, weighs 3.9 lbs., and has an anti-recoil rail system that reduces felt recoil and makes it easier to shoot well. For a more detailed physical description of the Browning 800, please check out my blog on the .177 version here.
What makes the .22 version of the Browning 800 of particular interest is that launches .22 cal Crosman Premier 14.3 gr. pellets at an average velocity of 501 fps (516 high; 485 low), for just about 8 foot-pounds of energy, which ought to be sufficient for dispatching small game at modest ranges. Further, the .22 version seems to shoot much smoother than the .177 model, making it easier to hit what you’re pointed at. From a Creedmore position outdoors with a red dot mounted, I shot a .65 inch CTC 5-shot group at 13 yards with Gamo Hunter .22 pellets. Because of the energy transmitted to the sighting system by the anti-recoil setup, you will still need a high-quality scope or red-dot if you plan to mount one.
In all, I found the Browning 800 in .22 has a lot going for it: portability, self-contained, sufficient power for taking small game, stealthy report, easy to shoot well (for a springer pistol), and probably highly reliable (although only time will verify that). I keep one with a Bushnell Trophy red dot handy by my desk in case the bird feeder needs defending.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight,
– Jock Elliott