When it comes to survival weapons most people don’t give much thought to air rifles or their possible survival applications.
We we moved back to Colorado from Key West a few years ago we found that our 43 acres was nearly overrun by prairie dogs and since we keep some livestock we needed to cut the population down to avoid any broken legs from our livestock stepping in a prairie dog hole.
We started off using .22LR to eliminate the little guys but with the fear of more gun control .22LR became hard to find and when we could find it it was cost prohibitive so we had to find another means of dealing with the prairie dogs that didn’t involve digging into the .22LR or 5.56 we had put up if TSHTF.
That is where the .177 cal Ruger Air Hawk comes in. We were looking for viable alternatives to prairie dog removal that didn’t utilise poisons, traps, etc and we started thinking about using an air rifle.
We were in Sportsman’s Warehouse in Colorado Springs for a totally different reason when we came across their selection of air rifles. We started looking for a decent air rifle with at least 1000 fps muzzle velocity, .177 cal, and priced reasonably. The Ruger Air Hawk fit those criteria (and was the only one they had in stock at the time in .177 cal) so it was onto the smartphone to look up reviews for it. We found a good number of reviews both pro and con and found the pros outweighed the cons so we picked up the rifle and some Crossman Pellets.
Once we got home we took the rifle out of the box and checked it out. It came with a 4×32 Ruger Scope, mounts, adjustable trigger, adjustable, fiber optic “iron” sights, and a trigger lock. Once we had wiped the oil off and cleaned the rifle we took it outside to zero the “iron’ sights.
After putting a few pellets down range we were able to get the rifle to shoot consistent 1/4-1/2″ groups at 25 yards. When we were satisfied the rifle shot straight we mounted the 4×32 scope, that came with the rifle, with the supplied mounts and preceded to zero the scope at 50 yards. The scope carries the Ruger name and comes with a set of removable lens covers. The crosshairs are a little on the thick side, but for what the scope is intended for are more than adequate.
After zeroing the scope, which took a few more shots than I would have liked (or normally used), we did get it zeroed and got used to the crosshairs being on the thick side we were able to shoot consistent 1/2” groups.
After a bit more practice on paper targets of varying distances (25-75 yards) it was time to see what the rifle did to a prairie dog.
Using one of our fences as a rest (the picture above) my wife was able to make head shots out to about 40 yards and body shots at distances out to almost 70 yards (her best) with the rifle.
The Ruger Air Hawk’s report is not all that loud and there is no discernible recoil. The action sits in a wooden stock that is well made and has a nice comfortable shape, though at 6.5 pounds it can be a bit heavy for someone of smaller stature.
After putting about 350 shots through the rifle we started to notice that the action was “dragging” when we cocked it. I removed the action from the stock and found that the pin that connects the cocking lever and the piston was very loose and rubbing against one side of the stock.
I centered the pin and found that it had about 3/32nds of an inch overhang on either side. I pulled the pin measured and marked 1/32nd of an inch on either side then carefully ground the pin down. Once I had “shortened” the pin I put it back in place then staked the pin on both sides to keep it from coming loose again which fixed the problem of dragging when the rifle was cocked.
After another 750 rounds or so we noticed that we weren’t getting the “hit” at the target we had been when a head shot at 35 yards only knocked the prairie dog down and didn’t kill it.
I borrowed a chronograph and fired 10 shots through it and saw that rifle was only producing 450-525 fps. After a thorough cleaning and a part by part inspection I found that the “O” ring in the breach was protruding a great deal and had torn, I found through searches on Google and various forums that this is a fairly common occurrence with Air Hawk so be ready for it. I contacted Ruger about the issue and had a new “O”ring in 3 days free of charge.
After fitting the new “O” ring I saw that it too protruded pretty far from the breach and that it too would catch when the rifle was closed so I started looking on the interwebs for a fix and found one at Brownell’s for $3.35 (.$35 for the “O”ring and $3.00 shipping).
Once the new, new “O” ring got here I installed it and found that it was very nearly flush with the breach a created a very nice seal that didn’t hang.
After replacing the “O” ring I fired 10 more shots through the chronograph with between 983-1051 fps for the 10 shots. I recently (February) shot the rifle through the chronograph and the 10 shot average was 992 fps with a low of 968 fps and a high of 1014 fps.
We have used the rifle to take squirrels, rabbits, and the occasional dove while camping or on practice bug outs all with good effect.
At $120.00, or so, the Ruger Air Hawk is a good entry-level air rifle that comes with a passable scope that will offer many years of service (we’ve had ours for almost 3 years now) with proper maintenance and care and as you can see from the picture above it will put meat on the table when you need it to.
I look forward to seeing your comments and as always, Train to Survive!
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