Every once in a while, you’ll see on the Yellow Forum a topic centering around the topic: “What would be the best survival air rifle?”
I always read these forum threads with great interest because the topic of survival in the wilds has always fascinated me. I remember reading the tale of a group of young men who made an exceptional canoe passage on a Canadian river in high northern latitudes. The passage of the full length of this particular river had never been done before; they had a limited time window in the arctic summer, and they would be beyond communication and beyond outside help, completely on their own. As I recall, they had some accidents, lost some of their supplies, and scarcity of food became an issue.
As I read the account, I began to wonder: if I had to select an airgun to take with me on such a trip – one that would be suitable for collecting food – what would it be?
A while back in this blog, I came up with a list of characteristics that I would like to see in a survival airgun. Looking back at it, I have decided to modify some of my thinking, and I have noted the changes in italics.
1. Portability. That means either a pistol or a rifle than can be readily broken down or at least a rifle that is not overly heavy.
3. Sufficient power for taking small game.
4. Stealthy report to minimize scaring game.
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. Further, springers tend to be “fail soft,” that is, you can break a mainspring, burn a piston seal, and many springers will continue to launch pellets, albeit much less efficiently. By contrast, some multi-stroke pneumatics can fail in storage simply because the seals dry out or lose flexibility.
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. Also, a high level of weather resistance.
You’ll notice that some of these characteristics are at odds with each other, so you have to make your gun selection based on what’s most important to you.
A couple of weeks ago, the folks at UmarexUSA sent me an air rifle that would make my short list for a survival airgun – the RWS Model 34 P.
The 34 P, a variant of the classic Model 34 breakbarrel air rifle, stretches 46 inches from end to end and weighs just 7.7 lbs with its fiber-optic iron sights. At the aft end of the buttstock is a black plastic butt pad with “Diana” (the name of the German manufacturer) and some horizontal ridges molded into it. Moving forward, the entire stock – buttstock, forestock, and trigger guard – is molded of an all-weather engineering polymer that has a very fine-grain pebble finish. At the pistol grip and foregrip, there are high-profile ridges molded into the polymer that do an admirable job of providing grip.