In this article, we consider importance sampling (IS) and sequential Monte Carlo (SMC) methods in the context of one-dimensional random walks with absorbing barriers. In particular, we develop a very precise variance analysis for several IS and SMC procedures. We take advantage of some explicit spectral formulae available for these models to derive sharp and explicit estimates; this provides stability properties of the associated normalized Feynman–Kac semigroups. Our analysis allows one to compare the variance of SMC and IS techniques for these models. The work in this article is one of the few to consider an in-depth analysis of an SMC method for a particular model-type as well as variance comparison of SMC algorithms.