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Shooting AT animals with airguns

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.

Poisonous snakes
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.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

83 thoughts on “Shooting AT animals with airguns”

  1. BB,

    Another great blog! A lot of people need to learn this lesson. It amazes me the cruelty perpatrated, especially by older people who should know better! Even to the extent of injuring neighbors pets. They give all airgun hobbyists a bad reputation, and in theese days of paranoid ignorance certain groups would love any reason to take away my toys. It’s the same thing when in gradeschool the teacher was made an ass of in class and she couldn’t figure out who did it, the whole class would be punished. It wasn’t right then. It aint right now, but it happens! So be responsible, and remember knuckleheads your stupidities hurt all of us! To the majority of you, keep on shooting! Thanks.


  2. Amen to both entries!
    If you intend to shoot raccoon I would recommend a PCP for its accuracy and power. Also, as has been said before, be sure the ‘coon is dead before you bag and dispose of it. They can be really mean critters particularly if they are protecting young.

  3. My sister lets he son chase geese of there dock with a paint ball gun, He hasn’t hit any yet, he gets to excited and charges like Brave Heart. Could a paint ball gun actually harm Canadian Geese?


  4. Another possibility is to fire blanks to scare animals, but I have found that deer often just ignore it. Perhaps other animals respond. Blanks are loud and you might need ear protectors.

  5. Airsoft,

    As a shooter I would never recommend pointing anything that shoots at something you don’t intend killing, however a case could be made for a lower-powered airsoft gun used that way. I have no experience so I’m not qualified to say.


  6. Keep in mind folks that we as airgunners and shooters in general are constantly having to defend our right to own our guns. Surely you can think of a better way to scare off an animal rather than to shoot it with something. Imagine the fuel we are giving the anti gun liberals by allowing ourselves and our children to run around and harrass animals by shooting them with paintballs and airsoft guns. I believe if you check your local laws in most states this is illegal anyway to ‘harrass or molest’ wildlife. I’m with BB on this that if I point a gun, be it airsoft, airgun, or firearm, I want to kill it.
    Now an adult shooting at a pest with an airsoft or paintball gun, thats one thing. The adult can determine the extent of damage that may occur, but to allow a child to do so is irresponsible at best.

  7. Dear BB, I’m interested in a talon in .22cal but even though I read the article in pyramid’s website I want to know if I get the condor for it having the hi-flow valve can I get a “kit” that changes it into a SS? I would rather do that than buy a talon SS and then have to send it to the factory for the valve job. or by buying the talon SS and later on buying the 24 inch barrel will I get the same energy/fps as the condor?


  8. Sorry about the off-topic questions but I have a real problem and I realy need your advice.I own a Maxima air rifle and it’s a realy bad drooper for an airgun.A few days ago I have bought a Bushnell Trophy 3-9×40 scope and with this scope mounted on the top of my gun,adjustable mounts are a must.First I need to know what type of adjustable mounts do you advice me to use for my Maxima.Gamo or B-Square adjustable mounts?I fear B-Square won’t fit on the rail of my gun but I need an adjustable mount which has both elevation and side-to-side adjustments.Second, I did a little shimming on the rear mount of my scope,about 1mm,and now I’m worried if I bent my scope.Though my scope is made from an alluminium alloy,very tough, I’m still worried.I fired my air rifle only a couple of dozens of times with the scope installed that way,then I dissassembled the mounts because I was feared not to bend the scope tube.How can you tell if a scope tube is bent or not?

  9. May I BB.

    Condor guy, YES! the condor is idealy suited to recieve the shorter barrel sold as a simple switch out. Airforce sells the “kit” your’e talking about right at pyramyd. It’s the 18″ barrel. It takes a few min to change to the shorter barrel that will have it’s muzzle well inside the reciever shroud acting much as the SS. you’ll probably spend more time resighting than actauly switching the barrels, it’s that easy. Thh video with your new gun will even show it being done and give you a tip on aligning it.

    most people who have owned or own several of the air force guns suggest exactly what you are thinking.

  10. I agree, if you point your weapon at an animal/pest you had better be sure that it will be a kill shot. Live animals are totally different than shooting a non-moving paper target. I have purchased a Webley Scott Xocet 0.25 caliber, I use the Eun Jin heavy weight pellets. This combination has been very effective for suburban hunting/elimination of armadillos. Practice, practice before you hunt, the worst thing you can do is injure an animal. Just kill it the first time.

  11. Dear turtle,

    So just to get it my mind right on track, later on I’ll get the 12 inch barrel make the swap BUT does the shorter barrel come with the end cap that I see on the SS rifle to make it just like the SS but with more power?


  12. Well i took down a good size bird from 40 ft witrh my crosman powermaster 66sb which hits 700 fps in .177 cal,so in my oppinion any gun in .22 that shoots about 620 fps or a .177 that hits 900 fps is easily enough poer for small game I mean if a gun like the powermaster 66 sb can take a good size bird in one shot(not even a head shot) than I think 8 to 10 foot pounds is enough for small game hunting without worrying about a inhumane kill but squirrels and crows more than 10 foot pounds at medium or short range

  13. Sorry I said 18″. your right 12″. Hmmmm, Im just not certain if the end cap is included. Very good question.

    I dodn’t see it listed as included. but see that they say you just switch barrels when you buy it…it is a little vague. I made the mistake of getting several of thier guns….poor me bwahahaha

    you can just call Pyramyd they’ll tell ya…let me know.

  14. Adrian,

    A bent scope tube will have a dent in the tube that can easily be seen. I recommend the B-Square AA adjustable mounts for you. They put no strain on the scope tube when adjusted, plus they adjust in all directions.


  15. Condor to Talon SS,

    Turtle was correct except for the barrel length. The Talon SS has a 12-inch barrel that hides inside the frame. The 18-inch barrel extends to the end of the Condor frame, which is the same length as the Talon SS frame, so there will be no sound muffling with that length of barrel.

    The 12-inch barrel does not come with the Talon SS end cap, but you can buy the cap from a dealer or directly from AirForce. It’s a little more than 10 bucks. The reason they don’t bundle it with the barrel is not every buyer is doing a Condor/SS conversion. Some people are just adding a .177 SS barrel to their .22.

    When you buy an 18-inch or 24-inch barrel it does come with the correct tapered Delrin end cap for that barrel length. There are thousands of SS rifles, and most people are installing the longer barrels on one of them, so they need the end cap. Plus that Delrin end cap is a lot cheaper than the SS end cap.

    The Condor powerplant works about the same as a standard powerplant when using the standard SS air tank. So a Condor owner needs a standard tank, a 12-inch barrel and an SS end cap to convert a Condor to an SS. With the 24-inch Condor barrel installed while using the standard air tank you would also have an SS with a 24-inch barrel, which I think is the best gun AirForce makes.

    These air rifles are so flexible and interchangable that it’s scary. We start thinking all air rifles should be made this way, but of course they aren’t.


  16. Thanks for the help, I read somewhere if your really into airguning and you have one rifle it’s probably not the last one you’ll have.

    Thanks guys


  17. BB,

    My next rifle will be either a Condor or Talon. Your comments about converting a Condor with a 24″ barrel to a Talon SS is intriguing. I read you could add a 24″ barrel to an SS but didn’t know you could modify a Condor the other way.

    Would you please add details to your comment, “With the 24-inch Condor barrel installed while using the standard air tank you would also have an SS with a 24-inch barrel, which I think is the best gun AirForce makes.” You can have Condor power (24″ barrel) and get SS quiet by adding a “standard tank”? This sounds like what I’ve been looking for–Condor power but quiet. I’m probably missing something; sounds too good.

    So, are you able to kit a Condor (24″ barrel) to approach the quietness of an SS other than adjusting power level and adding a “silencer” which apparently is a hassle?

    Where can I read more about this?

    Turtle, you mentioned a site selling end caps? What does the end cap do? URL?


  18. “Venom”, “Poison”, loseness of terminolgy sometimes is no big deal, as I think here … either way, you DON”T want a snake like that to bite you !

    As for the Condor Talon SS power / noise discussion, I have read about everything BB and Air Force have posted on that, as well as Tom Gaylord’s articles on PyramydAir … What you’d get with a Condor using a Talon tank is less power than if you used the HiFlow tank designed specifically for the Condor as standard equipment … yes, the power reduction would also lessen the noise a bit, but prob not near as much as going to the 12″ barrel and SS end cap configuration … the SS end cap is different in that it redirects turbulent air back in toward the hidden muzzle of the barrel, which is how it strips the decibels off the firing report. Also, however, you have to consider the ballistics of how a shorter barrel length affects your MV … so, maybe at some point, since it is detrimental to accuracy for an airgun pellet to go supersonic, and arrive at the skull of that pest animal before the firing report hits his eardrums and tells him he’s been fired upon, maybe that’s when you have to consider switching to a 17HMR, 17Mach2, or 22Magnum rimfire or .223 centerfire rifle … just be damned sure what is behind that critter when your ammo possibly exits the other side and keeps on going !

  19. If you really want to scare away pests use the largest pneumatic watergun you can find. I have a supersoaker out of the sixties that will knock a crow off it’s pirch at 30 feet or so. It’s nonlethal and costs next toi nothing!

  20. I’m sorry but there are no semiautos that inexpensive. However, you only need ONE shot to kill a snake! I’ve killed plenty of rattlers, and the worst job I ever did was with 7 rounds of .45 ACP. But a 20 foot-pound air rifle will kill them with one shot. And you don’t need to aim.

    I will tell how next Wednesday (Aug 30th).


  21. i Mean Witch Would Be Better Overall at Killing Those Squirrels The Crosman Phantom 1000 Or The Crosman 2250B And What Pellets Would You Reccomend And Would Those Guns Be better With Or Without A Scope

  22. Since price seems to be an issue, I recommend the 2250B, and you get a scope with it.

    The 2250 is .22, which you want for hunting, and the Phantom requires a lot of technique to shoot well.

    I recommend JSB Exact Diabolo domed pellets.


  23. Price may be a serious consideration, but sportsmanship should always come first. If you can make clean head shots, a Benjamin 392 can do the job with Beeman Kodiaks. You should be able to hit a nickle every time offhand at 15 yards.


  24. Well I Got The 2250B And Logun Penetrator Pellets It Will Be Here THe 11th Hope It Meets my Expectations Witch Im Wanting It To Be Strong Enough To Put Down A Coon OR A Oppossum Well Thanks For The Advice

  25. Thanks For The Advice Ive Killed 5 Squirrels With My 2250b With A Bushnell Scope And Logun Penetrators from about 30 Yards Each But Im Buying Some Pellets For My 2250b And I Need To Know If The Will Be Effective on Squirrels those pellets are BEEMAN .22 Silver Bear hi-impact pellets ,BEEMAN .22 Silver Ace ,BEEMAN .22 Kodiak Extra Heavy ,BEEMAN .22 Crow-Magnum ,BEEMAN .22 Silver Arrow ,Hyper-Velocity Lead Free Field Pellets (Type 1 – For Standard Guns) ,JSB .22 Diabolo Exact Jumbo .

  26. I would avoid any non-lead pellets for hunting. The Silver Arrow and the Crow Magnum aren’t very accurate in most guns. The Kodiak is a great pellet. Silver Bears are good. The Silver Ace is probably good, but I don’t have any experience with it.

    Yes, the JSB Exact Diaboilo Jumbo is likely to be the best of all, though I make no promise.


  27. daniel,

    I haven’t tested the Quest 800X, but I have tested quite a few similar air rifles from Crosman. My guess is the velocity with medium-weight .22 pellets is in the high 600 f.p.s. range.

    I would hope you could get one-inch groups at 25 yards. If true, squirrels and cottontail rabbits are your largest animals.

    Try Beeman Kodiaks and JSB Exact Diabolo Jumbo pellets. Don’t shoot hollowpoints because you need all the accuracy the rifle can offer.


  28. Ok I Have 2250b And I wanted Step It Up A Notch for Longer Range To The Sumatra 2500 Carbine I Understand it is pneumatic Does It Come With The Pump And Everything , And What Is The Range On It ?

  29. For more power with the 2250, please read Tuesday’s blog.

    The Sumatra comes with what the description tells you. If the pump is not mentioned as being included, you have to purchase it separately. A pneumatic carbine is always less powerful than a rifle, so I would say the effective range is around 60-75 yards, depending on the shooter.


  30. I have a c02 powered airsoft gun that shoots 400 fps and it can kill squirrels and such only if you make a head shot. I don’t recomend it for it’s cruelty to animals unless you kill it because a lot of times it leaves painful wounds but doesn’t kill them.

  31. I see no reason to kill snakes, poisonous or nonpoisonous. If you leave them alone, they won’t bother you. Most people that are bitten by snakes are trying to capture or kill the snake that bites them. In either case, they deserve to be bitten.
    Killing ANY animal just for the sake of killing it is stupid.

  32. Now that Alberta has *RATS* :@ I've bought a Crosman 2240. We'll see how that goes…

    I dispatched mice (Mus musculus) with a Crosman BB gun, in my house. Of course, the best method is a well-placed foot.

  33. packersplayer119,

    I deleted your comment for 2 reasons:

    1. You used a four-letter word that we do not allow on this blog.

    2. Water moccasins are protected by the federal gov't. They are an extremely aggressive species. Even if you were allowed to shoot them, an airgun would not be the right gun to use.

    On this blog, we want to keep it clean and legal.

    Thanks for understanding!


  34. packersplayer119,

    I'm a long time reader and contributor to this wonderful blog that is a free (no charge to you or me) site that provides a wealth of information on airgun related topics.

    The rules are few but we must all abide by them.

    You need to get control of yourself and reflect on your actions. Maturity requires that we communicate without foul language.

    There's a lot of seasoned airgun and firearm guys here that will provide you with great information if you're willing and able to communicate like an adult.


  35. I use to use a Gamo .177 ~1,000 fps and found that it really didn’t TCB. So I moved up to a .22 cal rifle with shortened, quieter rounds and they’ll get the job done. However, they jump straight up and leave a blood trail that would make Norman Bates cringe. So I switched to .22 longs which were much louder and would still frequently get the “jump of death” and occasionally have to track one. At this point I’m feeling like Goldilocks. “This soup’s too hot, this one’s too salty, etc etc,” and so I pull out the trusty old .357 mag with the 4″ barrel and load her up with some 158 gr hollow points. Buddy, let me tell you, if you wanna see an armadillo play possum you do just what I’m sayin’! I don’t know of exactly why but all that jumpin’ and a flailin’ and other bs stopped immediately and I haven’t tracked one since… THE END

  36. hello people
    i live on a small chicken hobby farm and i have been having problems with some rats. i have no gun and i probably wont be allowed to get one being only 14. but. would a strong enough air-soft gun be good enough to take out a rat? right now i don’t have the air-soft gun but I’ve been looking into one.

    • Welcome to the blog.

      No, an airsoft gun is not powerful enough to kill rats. But a slingshot is. In fact, a slingshot will kill more effectively than an airgun, until you get into the models costing many hundreds of dollars.

      Dood luck!


    • When you consider that there are groups of people who shoot at each other with AirSoft guns, relying on goggles, face shields, and heavy cloth for protection, the most you are likely to do to a rat is create a few bruises and maybe draw some blood. Now you have a wounded ANGRY rat to attend to.

      And the single shot (cock each time) sub-$40 stuff is likely to be even weaker. True, my father managed to take out a basement window with one of mine — but that was a $200 electrically powered “sniper rifle” (meant for long range) running on full automatic… One pellet would likely have bounced, but put 30 of them into the same spot in a very short time and vibrations build up.

      Heavy AirSoft balls run around 0.20 gram — or 3 grains, for a 6mm ball (about .24 caliber). Even the lightest .177 caliber lead pellet is around 7 grains. AirSoft velocity, as I recall, runs around 350fps in the more powerful guns… 0.8 ft-lbs of energy. The pellet, in slow single stroke pneumatic (target) pistol… 1.9 ft-lbs.

      Recommendations tend to be for 5 ft-lbs at the target (not the muzzle) for small game/pest control. That means over 600fps for the pellet.

  37. i forgot to mention that the chicken coop is pretty small so when i would be shooting at the rat i would be pretty close to it
    probably the farthest away from the rat i would be would be about 2 meter/yards. would that increase the chance of actually killing, one of those rats?

  38. So, what if you don’t want to shoot at it or hit it at all, but shoot past it to scare it away?

    We have Blue Jays that become increasingly aggressive as their baby or babies leave the nest. For about 6 weeks the parents both feed the baby where ever it happens to fly, often in shrubs.

    So when you go into your yard the parents will dive at your head. I don’t want them to die or not be able to feed their babies, I just don’t want to spend 6 weeks NOT being able to go into my yard or have my pets in my yard when these birds are protecting their babies.

    Clapping your hands etc. moves them but doesn’t make them leave for any great length of time.

    • Christine,

      Guns should never be used for warnings. Also, most people aren’t going to be good enough shots that they shoot past a birds head and know for a fact that they WON’T hit it. In fact, people aiming for a bird’s head often miss. So, if you try to miss, you may inadvertently kill or injure the bird. Animals make unexpected movements; and you may think you’re shooting past a bird, yet you may actually hit it.

      Also, Blue Jays are protected under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Despite the name, it also protects birds that do not migrate. In almost every county or city, there are gov’t agencies that can help and advise you.

      Since the birds are caring for their young, you may not be able to do anything legally and humanely. However, next year, you can probably do some preventive work so the birds feel unwelcome in your yard and go annoy someone else.

      Incidentally, I can sympathize with you. When I lived at home in the 1960s, we had a bunch of fruit trees in our backyard in Orlando. My mother would run outside to pick fruit and then run back inside as several birds dive-bombed into her head.


  39. Thank you Edith. Two years ago we did remove one large bush/tree that the birds would build nests in. Also, we have Starlings here (and we should not) and they are more aggressive than the Blue Jays so the Starlings are actually killing other birds (raiding nests). It’s very sad. Once the baby Blue Jays do make it out of the next it really is about 6 weeks before the parent’s don’t have to feed them anymore. Why they find my property to land in and then hate me I don’t know LOL. Just lucky I guess. They could easily go to the house next door where no one is home 85% of the time (vacation house).

    • Christine,

      Starlings are pest birds and are not protected. They are not native to North America and were introduced in the 1800s by a group of people who wanted every critter mentioned in the works of Shakespeare to be present in the U.S. So, 60 starlings were released in NY.


      • I should be glad the Starlings are sticking to a different part of the neighborhood this year and be happy with the Blue Jays! LOL Thanks again Edith!

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