Killing snakes with an airgun

by B.B. Pelletier

This is not your normal posting, because I don’t usually discuss killing critters with airguns. That’s not going to change, but a question last week prompted me to write this one post. A reader asked if there was a good semiauto pellet gun for under $100 that he might use to kill venomous snakes. Of course, there is no semiauto pellet gun for less than $100 and even if there was, it wouldn’t be the thing for hunting snakes. What you want is a single-shot breakbarrel.

What I’m about to share with you, I had discovered 30 years ago and have used it successfully ever since. I’ve killed many snakes, venomous and otherwise, with this tip – every one was a one-shot instant kill.

When I was a young man, I went on a camping trip in northern California’s Marble Mountain Wilderness Area with two friends. In those days (mid-1960s) the roads were unpaved, and it really WAS a wilderness area. We camped for four days and never saw another human being. But, I did almost step on a Pacific rattler in a creekbed!

The snake was a young one and his rattles were so high-pitched that he sounded like a large hornet. When I discovered him, he was three feet away and reared up to strike. I drew my M1911 Colt (in California, no less!) and let fly with a full clip, but the bullets all went through his thick body without stopping him. Alright, I MIGHT have missed once or twice. The final shot cut him in two behind the head, and he was finished. But I wasn’t! I shook for 10 minutes, because we were a day’s hike from our car and another day’s drive from the nearest town! We had snakebite kits, but I had no desire to see how well they worked.

About six years later, I was maneuvering with my cavalry unit in the desert at Fort Bliss when another rattler reared up in the middle of the trail. This time, I was in a jeep and again armed with a Colt automatic, but I also had a cheap .22 revolver with me. I had the driver stop about 15 feet from the snake, and I took aim at the snake’s head. When the shot went off I couldn’t believe my eyes. I hit the snake between his eyes! I was a pretty good shot in those days, but not that good!

It dawned on me that the snake had played a part in the shot, too. I started killing snakes with a breakbarrel pellet rifle. My best shot was 20 feet without using the sights! I couldn’t use them because there were none on the gun, but I had learned a secret about snakes and guns.

Apparently a snake lines up to face a threat head-on if possible. They do it so accurately that if you give them a few seconds, they will line up on the muzzle of your pellet rifle (or pistol, but don’t use a pistol unless it has at least 20 foot-pounds). I have eliminated quite a few snakes since learning that trick and every one was shot between the eyes. All were instant kills. I might get lucky once in a lifetime, but never as often as I have. I’ve had help from the snakes.

Let’s talk about safety. Some snakes are aggressive and move too fast to use this method. In the U.S., the water moccasin (cottonmouth) is one such snake. They will charge you aggressively, not leaving time to aim properly. Rattlesnakes are usually less aggressive, but don’t bet your life on it. Avoid them if you can. My experience has been with Pacific rattlers and diamondbacks. The diamondbacks are aggressive, but they normally don’t charge unless you scare them. Non-venomous water snakes can be pretty aggressive when you get too close. Although they don’t have venom, they can draw blood. (Any snakebite, venomous or not, can easily become infected and should be treated immediately.)

Finally let’s remember that most non-venomous snakes are creatures that benefit the ecology. Black snakes get rid of pests, and common garter snakes are as gentle as mice when handled gently in return. Some snakes, such as the California king snake, eat venomous snakes.

So don’t go on a witch hunt for snakes with your newfound knowledge. But, if you have a few bad guys living under the porch, now you know what you can do.

Remember to check your state laws. You could be fined for killing a venomous snake that your state has decided to protect.

38 thoughts on “Killing snakes with an airgun

  1. You mention that non-venomous snakes are beneficial to the ecology. That’s true, but so are venomous snakes. When in the wild, unless I am on ranch land, I leave the venomous and non-venomous snakes alone.

    The only time it makes sense to kill them is if they pose a threat to children or livestock. Otherwise those rattlers and such do the same thing as the harmless bullsnake: eat mice and fill their niche in the environment.

    I’m not a tree-hugger, but sometimes I think we tend to get a bit too snake-phobic. Even the venomous snakes would rather not bite anything they can’t eat. They’ll almost alway’s slither away from humans, if you give them a chance.


  2. I have 2 RWS 34′s (.22) and (.177 )
    These guns are both relativly new 2000 or so shots each .
    I ordered a ARH (Jim McCarrie ) GRT spring kit and tar and molly for the .22 to see what it would do . Took the gun Toatly apart and filed / honed anything that looked like it would slide / slip / move ( very lightly ) but enough to take any burs rough edges off. Then cleaned them VERY WELL with alcohol. Then did the lube process.

    Took the gun out and test fired it with some very heavy pellets Not 1 diesel. and the resulting twang / and feel of recoil and the way the gun fired was unbelivable!!!!!! GONE

    I can’t say too much about the way it cocks? still out a bit on the report on that , there is a stange groan / grind at about the last inch or so of the cocking action ? Hoping whatever it is will wear in or go away ?

    NOW I have a small cup of the Molly and The Thick Tar left. I am wondering if I just take the .177 apart file / hone and clean and then re-lube with these excelent lubes if I will feel / hear a differance VS getting another spring kit ?????

    Thanks to alll ………Jerry


  3. Bob,

    You’re right. I knew this post would draw some negative comments because this is a very sensitive issue. I agree that it’s best to leave snakes alone if they aren’t causing harm or threatening anyone.

    This post was in response to a specific question about killing venomous snakes. I guess there is no way to answer it without raising some ire.

    B.B.


  4. Jerry,

    That’s the spirit! Isn’t it nice to know you can now do this for all your spring guns?

    Thanks for the feedback.

    B.B.


  5. Didn’t really raise my “ire”, BB. I’d just hate to see fellow airgunners out pursuing venomous snakes for no reason, both for the airgunners safety and the sake of the snakes role in the ecology.

    Best wishes.


  6. yeah you should get that gamo viper for them snakes..the gun is named after a snake (viper) plus it has shotshells like rimfire rounds do..


  7. actually bb, that comment isn’t true, the crossman 1077 is semi auto and its only $70 at pyramyd and most likely less elswhere.

    interesting post on snakes!


  8. Dave,

    The 1077 is a double-action-only revolver. The action is both cocked and advanced by the trigger, not by the firing of the shot. The NightStalker is a true semiauto, however.

    Crosman just calls the 1077 a semiauto because that’s what it looks like tho most of their customers.

    B.B.


  9. I had an experience like that, I was behind my house after a couple of squirrels when I heard something on the ground, assuming it was a squirrel, I walked over to it and all of a sudden this snake popped out and tried to bite me (no rattle or warning, just straight to the biting) Well it missed, thankfully, and my first reaction was to not mess with it and get away, well, there was nothing but thorn bushes behind me and I couldn’t get away. So, I reared up to shoot it (this is with my cf-x with a 6-24×50 scope) and tried to find it. At about a meter, I couldn’t see anything through the scope, so I looked down the side of the gun and shot, hit in the middle of the head, one shot kill. I thought it was luck but after what you said the snake probably played part in it as well. I was like you, the scariest part wasn’t so much it getting after me (even though that was pretty horrifying) it was the after-thought that if I missed, it would have probbably bitten me and there would have been no way to get to help in time. The snake was large, measured about 44 inches long. I think it was a timber rattler. Plenty big enough to kill and eat my little dog. Normally if I see a snake, I leave it alone, but there was no way around this aggressive thing. Scary experience, I’ve learned to be a little more cautious while I’m out there.

    lama


  10. Now theres a situation where I have no problem with shooting them….the venomous ones, at least. In your yard they pose a hazzard to unsuspecting adults, children, and pets.

    Relocation, either to snake heaven or the wild, is the only option.


  11. BB,
    This was an excellent post. Where does one get a pistol 20 foot-pounds of power? O.k., I’m dreaming! Anyway, a friend told me about Mac 1 who carry (modify?) what they call the LD Pistol. It seems to be a .22 and can reach up to 550 fps with a 13.9 grain pellet on co2. Have you heard of this gun? Any good? Their web page makes it sound real good!

    Michael in Georgia


  12. In my expereince Mac-1 does good work. He stands behind what he sells so I would go ahead and get one if it is of interest to you.


  13. Michael,

    The Evanix pistol sold by Pyramyd Air gets over 20 foot-pounds.

    The LD is a long-barrelled Crosman Mark I with a long barrel. You need a long barrel to get the performance Tim states.

    The guns are well-made and Tim’s modification is a good one.

    B.B.


  14. BB,
    Yea, I have been looking at the Evanix. Are you going to review it? The Pyramidair web site states:

    Starting at 3,000 PSI with a 11.9gr RWS Hobby pellet

    * 1st shot – 922 fps
    * 10th shot – 685 fps

    Starting at 3,000 PSI with a 28gr Eun Jin pellet

    * 1st shot – 701 fps
    * 6th shot – 628 fps
    * 10th shot – 423 fps
    Does that mean that it loses power with each shot? How can one possibly be consistent (and accurate) with a gun that shoots so inconsistentaly? Or am I missing something about this gun. Perhaps you will review it? And perhaps the LD?

    Michael


  15. Michael,

    The Pyramyd listing for the Evanix velocity is what you get when a site reports the actual numbers, rather than relying on the manufacturer. Yes, it does drop constantly in velocity, so what needs to be done is shoot groups at the distance you wish to hunt. You get as many shots as the groups allow. I’m guessing 5 or 6 shots between fills.

    Yes, I will review the LD for you. I have had my hands on a few of them, though they were not the most radical ones McMurray makes.

    B.B.


  16. 11 years ago we lived in the mountains at 4000 feet elevation. There were a lot of rattlesnakes on our 40 acres. One day we found a huge rattler sleeping on the baby blanket where our baby goddaughter had been playing a short time before. Teenagers being the heros they need to be, my sons grabbed up their Crosman 760s and went on a righteous rattlesnsake jihad, whooping like Apaches. Over the next year they killed a number of rattlesnakes, and our daughter’s husband taught them how to clean and cook them. It seemed like often when I entered our kitchen there would be a new rattlesnake cooking on the stove. I never tried any of the meat myself, although when I was a kid my dad said he had, and that rattlesnake tasted like ‘greasy chicken’.


  17. Hi, a question: Would the Viper Express in shotshell mode be any good for killing snakes at a distance under 20′? We live on waterfront, and encounter snakes in the water daily during the warm months – they regularly scare our children out of the water. We would like to be able to kill them as they swim by. Thanks in advance.


  18. K,

    You can kill a snake with an air rifle if you can get it to stop swimming and poke its head out of the water. Then, it will align its head with the muzzle of a pellet rifle and a shot will hit between the eyes. I have done this many times

    No, I don’t think the Viper Express has what it takes ti kill snakes.

    B.B.




  19. BB-

    What would you think about using a Gamo Multishot for trying to kill snakes. I would think that it would be fine, but I am not sure. What do you think?

    Thanks,

    BL



  20. Hi,

    I’ve killed many snakes with airguns over the years. Rifles are preferred for longer (even swimming) shots but my Dianna 6M pistol (.177/450/open sights) has done the trick several times. After all they’re small, fragile animals.

    anuthabubba


  21. BB,

    Do you think a 600 FPS Crossman RAVEN pellet rifle will be able to kill a bullsnake from 20 – 30ft away.

    ShooterSAM


  22. ShooterSAM,

    I've killed snakes with an air rifle, & you need a more powerful rifle. I shot mine from a much closer distance.

    Edith (Mrs. B.B.)





  23. Thanks for explaining that. You have a legitimate reason to kill the snakes and the gun you mentioned should do the job. I always preferred to use a .2-caliber rifle. My R1 was tuned to about 15 foot-pounds, so the velocity was down in the lower 700s.

    B.B.


  24. Okay, Thanks for the help

    Personally, I prefer fast .177 guns over larger calibers simply becuase they’re generally cheaper and I have a tight budget.

    Thanks again!

    ShooterSam


  25. Shooter Sam,

    I understand the pest that the bull snakes have become in your chicken coop. Nonetheless, please consider catching and releasing the bull snakes since they’re great at controlling the rodent population. Keeping them in a cloth bag, like a pillow case, works great until you take your next car trip and can find a place far away to release them.

    If you must kill them please consider a .22 caliber. Yes, the pellets are a penny more but the energy (ft lbs) for killing is significantly more than .177. You owe it to the animals you intend to kill to be as humane as possible.

    Good luck and good shooting.

    kevin


  26. Hello ,Kevin

    I understand what you mean about snakes controlling the rodent population, (ironicly, we have bad mice and rat problems in the chicken coop too!) but catching a bullsnake in the open is one thing, catching it in that confined space is a much more difficult matter.

    It seems that whenever I kill the bullsnakes (up until now it has been with a shovel, unfortunatly) the mice and rats come back. And whenever I kill the rodents, the snakes target the eggs.

    Also, I understand that .20 and .22 caliber guns do more damage, but since the snakes have thick ‘armor’
    on them, it seems like .177 would have better penatrating power.

    Right?

    Thanks,
    ShooterSam


  27. ShooterSam,

    Penetration is a consideration but at the relatively short distances (inside/around the chicken coop) you’ll likely be shooting I still vote for a .22 caliber (more choices of pellets than .20 caliber) with a red dot mounted. I’m assuming that your chicken coop is typically rather dark so my rationale in recommending a red dot is to aid you in accuracy whereas the lack of light may hinder you with open sights or a scope. A snake should be head shot and bull snakes do have a tough “armoured” head. I think you may find yourself shooting the rats and mice so a .22 becomes an even better choice.

    A .177 may get the job done but will overpenetrate and lack energy compared with a .22. More suffering for the pests.

    kevin


  28. Thanks, Kevin

    I hadn’t seriously lighting problems yet. I prefer to use a scope ,but if can’t see the snake, then what’s the point. Ha Ha!

    Do you think a mounted flashlight would provide enough lighting to do the job with a scope?

    Also, I will consider a .22 ,but regardless of what caliber I use, what type of pellet would you recomend? (pointed, hollowpoint, Etc.)

    Thanks,
    ShooterSam


  29. ShooterSam,

    Understand your desire to use a scope. Just remember that at short distances target acquisition may be problematic. Get a low powered scope. Yes, a flashlight will help with your lighting issue but it will probably encourage your pests to scurry even faster.

    I prefer domed pellets for hunting. They also happen to be the most accurate most times in many guns. Get a pellet sampler (google pellet sampler) when you get your gun and try all the different pellets. The one to hunt with is the one that is most accurate at the distance you will likely be shooting your pests.

    kevin


  30. Thanks Kevin,

    I will remember to get domed pellets at the store. From what I understand they tend to mushroom out like hollowpoints. That is probably a good feature for ‘anti-snake’ purposes.

    There are probably many solutions to the lighting problem. I might have to experiment to see which is best for my chicken coop. I will keep an eye out for a low-cost red dot sight also.

    Thanks,
    ShooterSam


  31. ShooterSam,

    Good luck in controlling your pest population.

    Keep us posted on the active blog (under B.B.’s most current article).

    kevin



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