by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

I periodically get inquiries about which airguns are best for self-defense. These generally come from countries other than the U.S., though I’ve had some come in from this country, as well.

The inquiries come from two directions that I would like to address today. The first group thinks that certain airguns look so realistic that they should have the ability to stop or to deter violence just because they’re present. Let me be very specific. I’m talking about the very realistic-looking handguns like the Walther CP99, the M1911A1 pistol and the Beretta 92FS.

Beretta 92FS air pistol

The Beretta 92FS air pistol looks very realistic.

These are very realistic guns, make no mistake. But the premise the people are using is flawed. They think that if they’re able to display a realistic-looking gun, any danger will be averted. They’re counting on the dangerous people having the same common sense they have. After all, if they saw a gun they would feel threatened. They respect guns, and they imagine that others do the same.

Well, they don’t! Most criminals and bad people have either a low sense of respect for things like guns, or they figure that you will not have the nerve to follow through on the threat you seem to be making. In other words, these kinds of people are not threatened by real firearms, either. The realism of your pellet pistol is lost on them.

The other thing about criminals is they aren’t always sane or in their right minds. Either they’re deranged and will ignore what rational people see as a threat, or they may be so high on drugs or alcohol that they can’t reason. Either way, they’ll behave in irrational ways and the idea they can be threatened is either foolish because they don’t care or dangerous because it provokes them.

Defensive gun training
They teach you in a concealed handgun course to never threaten with your gun. If you pull the gun, be ready to use it immediately. In fact, in most places it’s illegal to show a concealed handgun in public. Either shoot or don’t shoot, but never threaten with a gun!

The only defense use a realistic airgun has is to train the shooter to use the firearm it mimics. You can learn how to draw the gun, how to control the trigger and how to breathe when you shoot with a realistic airgun. But that’s it. Take it no farther because a pellet gun is not a self-defense weapon.

What about powerful airguns like big bores?
The other group that considers using airguns for self defense has looked at the power an airgun can deliver. They see the big bore airguns and read about people taking deer and wild hogs with them, so they wonder why they can’t use them for protection.

Here’s the reason — a deer will never stalk you and wait till your guard is down to kill you. Not that deer can’t kill humans — they certainly can. But they normally don’t try to. Shoot a deer and it runs away almost every time.

Now, substitute a grizzly bear for the deer and ask the same question. Would you use a powerful air rifle to hunt a grizzly bear? If you do, you’re foolish because a grizzly bear will try to kill you if you don’t kill him first. Even a wild hog has been known to charge a hunter after being shot, which is why most hog hunters carry a large-caliber sidearm to back themselves up.

And a big bore airgun only has a few shots before the air pressure drops so low that the gun isn’t useful. So, if you don’t have a perfect first shot you’re quickly headed into some very risky territory.

Nothing is ever guaranteed
And even firearms aren’t always enough. Think you have enough gun? Maybe, but don’t bet on it. Every big-caliber gun has failed to kill in some circumstances. There was an intruder who took a 240-grain jacketed bullet from a .44 Magnum revolver in his left eye and he fell down a flight of stairs, then got up and walked out of the house. Police found him dead by his car around the block, but that’s not the point. The point is, even Dirty Harry’s gun wasn’t enough to drop him in his tracks.

No doubt there’s someone somewhere in the world who needed a second .50-caliber BMG round to put him down for keeps.

Play for keeps
If you have to use deadly force, make certain that it’s really deadly. Be prepared to go all the way or don’t go in that direction to start with. You are far better off using a tactical flashlight and some kind of club than to pull a pellet or BB pistol and have your bluff called.