Air rifle squirrel hunting or using a BB GunBy
Air rifle squirrel hunting or using a BB Gun
A visitor to the site (Josh) emailed me and asked: “I am a beginning Squirrel Hunter. I am just wondering what kind of BB gun would kill a squirrel?“
This is a very good question but it is surrounded by debate. Instead of trying to have you believe that I have tested 20 different air rifles/BB Guns to answer this questions, I’ll tell you upfront that I have only tested a few. Some of the information I’ll provide about air rifle squirrel hunting is gathered from other hunters’ opinions and put together to give the best answer I could come up with.
First, let’s start with the basics; the PRO’s and CON’s
PRO’s for Air Rifles and BB Guns
- -they are usually cheaper to purchase than a .22 Long Rifle or Shotgun
- -Ammo is definitely cheaper
- -usually lighter to carry
- -safe to use than a .22LR as far as personal danger however they can still be very dangerous
- -great for beginners and youths
- -can aid in building the fundamentals of firearm use
- -can often be fired in your backyard (if done safely) for practice where other firearms could not be used
CON’s for Air Rifles and BB Guns
- -usually made with cheaper material and break easier
- -limited range and stopping power
- -not scalable for larger game
- -the need for an accurate shot is raised to get a humane kill
- -not as accurate
Let’s look at the differences between a basic BB Gun and Air Rifles.
A BB gun is not a good hunting gun for many reasons. First, some BB guns (such as the Daisy Red Ryder) are too weak to reliably kill anything larger than a small insect. When we hunt, we want to kill as quickly and humanely as we can. BB guns cannot reliably achieve this for you.
The second reason BB guns are bad for hunting is the projectile being used, the BB itself. It’s usually made from steel and, therefore, does not deform one it enters a game animal. You might think this is a good thing, it’s not! Deformation causes tissue and organ damage, speeding up the death of your prey, giving it a fast and humane death.
Finally, a steel BB is too small in caliber to do enough damage, no matter how fast it travels. Even when it goes 750 fps. it’s still too slow to do the job in a humane way. Remember that a weak BB gun can break the skin and start a septic wound in a small animal, not killing it and only causing it to suffer. You want to be able to take your game as efficiently and humanely as possible.
Air Rifles can come in different pellet sizes and power configurations making it far better than a standard BB Gun. Even with that said, I consider a .177 caliber pellet too small for hunting, but there are a great number of air gun hunters that hunt with it successfully all the time. I chalk this disagreement up to personal preference. This is why I prefer to use a .22 LR (Long Rifle) for hunting squirrels. But if I was starting out or wanted to hone in my shooting fundamentals, I’d likely use an Air Rifle over a BB gun any day.
Here’s what you want to keep in mind:
You need an accurate pellet that will penetrate past the skin, to a vital part of your prey, and not pass through completely. A pure lead pellet will deform the best, and deformation causes tissue damage and expends energy in your prey. You want a projectile that does these two things well.
Synthetic, lead-free pellets often travel completely through the animal, exiting the other side and leave a painful, but not immediately deadly wound. Ultimately, the animal may run off to hide and may suffer a slow and painful death. BB’s are as bad as synthetic pellets when it comes to inflicting non-lethal wounds.
You must try to limit your shooting distance to the range at which you can hit an American quarter (a 1″/25mm circle) every time.
I’m going to assume you agree that a BB Gun will just not be a good hunting firearm and from here out were are going to look at Air Rifles.
There are plenty if different models with lots of confusing numbers on their boxes. I’ll try to jeep this simple and give you my opinion on what will work best for you.
If you choose a .177 gauge Air Rifle you should aim for one that shoots between 1000-1200 FPS (feet per second). If you go with a .22 gauge Air Rifle you can get away with one that shoots 800-900 FPS. Try to stay close to these ranges because too little power will likely only injure the squirrel and too much power will likely pierce right through it and may not kill it either.
The bottom line is that I do not recommend hunting game with any BB gun. For hunting, I usually recommend a pellet gun shooting lead pellets in .22 caliber. I know a lot of hunters will disagree with my opinion but keep in mind that this is merely my personal and humble opinion. Use it as a reference for your own research and find what works best for you!
It’s not specifically SPEED that kills your game. It’s the transfer of energy of the pellet as well as the shot location that ultimately become lethal. Since BB’s and pellets often have such a small amount of mass, your shots need to be accurate and hit areas like the heart, lungs and head. Remember the equation E=MC2? That breaks down to ENERGY (E) being equal to an objects MASS (M) times its Velocity (C) squared. So, smaller pellets means less mass which in turn means less energy expended.
Try not to focus only the numbers because they are only a guide. Most Air Rifles are not guaranteed to meet the numbers they claim they can reach accurately and consistently because there’s a lot of factors involved with firing a projectile under air or CO2 pressure. Remember that you must shoot accurately, hit the correct kill zones and try your best to hunt humanely and efficiently.