by B.B. Pelletier
I have been asked many times to write about the best airgun to chase animals. Today, I will answer that question in detail. The specific question to which I’m responding asked, “How about a recommendation for the novice user looking to shoot squirrels, chase seagulls and geese from a dock on a waterfront property?”
Airguns are not for discipline!
It only takes about 300 f.p.s. for a small projectile to break the skin and penetrate the flesh of a human. Animals will vary from that to a small extent, with smaller animals being somewhat thinner-skinned than humans. A pellet or BB from even a weak airgun can cause a wound that the animal cannot treat. If the wound becomes infected, the animal will suffer and may even die in extreme cases. If the animal you injure is a family pet, you might be liable for veterinary costs, damages and certain misdemeanor charges for discharging an airgun within the city limits. My advice is to never shoot an animal with an airgun unless you intend to kill it.
What does it take to kill pests?
The question seems to imply killing squirrels, so I thought I would address that. Some animals are easy to kill, while others are tougher than you can imagine. The squirrel is in the latter category. While squirrels are thin-skinned, they seem to take a lot of abuse. That’s why I recommend head shots with at least 12 foot-pounds on target and .22 caliber for them. Rats, on the other hand, die pretty quickly and a good body shot in the heart area will take them. The huge roof and barn rats are a whole different matter. Shoot them with a gun that can take a woodchuck!
On last thing about shooting rats. Try to dispose of the carcasses if you can. If you don’t, you’ll be providing a fancy meal for the rats you didn’t see. Carry large plastic bags and insert your hand through the bag (inside-out) to grab the rat’s tail. Then you can pull it into the bag without touching it.
Birds are very tough, especially large birds. Crows, seagulls and geese can take as much punishment as a woodchuck, so shoot them with a gun that has at least 20 foot-pounds at the muzzle and don’t stretch out too far. Pigeons are much easier to kill, as are starlings, grackles and some other small pest birds.
Songbirds are protected just about everywhere, as are buzzards, all raptors and all species of vultures. Many other birds and other animals may be protected in your area, so check with your local fish and game department before deciding that a particular animal is a pest. In Rapid City, South Dakota, for example, deer wander into town and may eat your flowers and kill your family dog but you can’t legally do a thing about it.
Here is a trick I learned while traveling in rattlesnake country. If you point the muzzle of a gun at a snake and he sees it, he will align his head with the open muzzle of the gun! The first time I did that, I shot a rattler with a .22 revolver from 15 feet away! I couldn’t believe how well I had shot until it dawned on me that the snake was more responsible for the shot than I was. Since then I have made many astounding shots on poisonous snakes with this trick. A warning, however! Don’t try it on aggressive snakes such as water moccasins, or they’re liable to charge you before you can get off a shot! If you do decide to use an airgun for this, make sure it’s a powerful one! I have used a .22-caliber Beeman R1 on rattlers out to 15 feet.
Pest shooting is one of the ideal applications for an airgun, as long as you understand what you’re doing. Don’t try to “discipline” the animal. Either kill it outright or find some other way to shoo it away.