Air rifle squirrel hunting or using a BB Gun


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
Here are a couple Nice Air Rifles that you can pick up at Click the image below to see more details on each model:

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.


  1. [...] BB guns and Air rifle hunting Preserving a squirrel tail Early season squirrel hunting [...]

  2. You’ve had an amazing idea with the making of a list of pros and cons. About the rifles, I like to shoot either a .177 air rifle or a .22LR rifle. These are the best for hunting squirrels. That’s what I think.

  3. Mike m says:

    I have used airguns to hunt . 1000-fps is to fast in 177 cal it will just poke a clean hole . You must have a head shot. I found that 600-700 with a wad cutter 2 b the best if you must. .22 short or long rifle . Is really the best place to start. Thats my 2cents worth……….

  4. Squirrel Hunter says:

    Thank you for your 2 cents. You seem to have some good insight on this and we appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  5. Dan says:

    hey im 25 i live in jersey and im new to hunting in general, just got my license and im looking to start off with squirrel. we cant hunt squirrel with a .22lr here but this year they changed the rules so we can use air rifles. as i said im new to hunting and know nobody who hunts so i could use some help. thanks to websites like yours i think i got the idea of how to hunt squirrel but im wondering what i should bring. do you have an article on this or better yet what do you bring when you’re squirrel hunting for a few hours?

  6. Squirrel Hunter says:

    If you are asking what type of air rifle you should hunt for we have an article on that but if I’m reading your question right, you are asking what to take with you while you hunt. If I am correct in my assumption let me give you my input.

    Take a small backpack with you, it’ll be light and out of your way while on your back. First, take toilet paper! There is nothing worse than not having some handy in an emergency.

    Next, take a cell phone on vibrate. You never know when you might get hurt and need assistance!

    Also, take some water. A bottle or two should be good if you are going for a couple hours. You may want to take a granola bar as well to snack on while you wait.

    Lastly, take your common sense with you. Be safe, don’t shoot at anything that you aren’t 100% of what it is and wear orange so you can be seen by other hunters. And have fun!

  7. andrew says:

    I have hunted squirrels with everything from 177, 22, and 25 caliber air rifles to .22 lrs and shotguns. The 177 that shoots an 8 gr pellet 900 ft/sec is lethal medicine out to about 40 yards. I have one air rifle that bragged 1500 ft/sec and with lead pellets I found it to be more in the range of 1066 over a chrono. This pellet was so fast that it literally exploded inside squirrels, causing massive damage but also massive lead fragmenting that pretty much destroyed the meat. I have also used a .22 cal pellet traveling around 600 ft/sec and accurate enough for 50 yard shots to the brain and this proved a squirrel stopped every time. Four squirrels, four shots, all for less than 8 cents worth of lead. No meat damage and no chasing squirrels. The .25 cal air rifles are becoming popular and I have a pcp air rifle in this caliber that can put enough punch to mushroom my 28 gr. pellets out to the size of a dime and punch through an inch thick board with authority. It is pretty much like using a 22 short with a silencer.
    I just wanted to say this for those who are thinking about getting a pellet gun because there are many options out there whether you are budgeting for 100 dollars or as much as 2000 dollars there is a tool that can do the job and do it well. The key is to learn about “hunting” grade air rifles, get one that you can afford, and practice, experiment, and practice some more until you find the right pellet for your gun so you can nail a quarter at the range you are hunting at. A firearm is a good tool to have but in many cases an air rifle can open up tons of hunting opportunities that would otherwise be off limits and I find the quiet, stealthy sniping more enjoyable as the squirrels don’t run off. I feel that an air rifle is more of a tool than a toy and well worth the investment.

  8. Squirrel Hunter says:

    Awesome input! People looking for some extra input on air rifles with benefit from your expertise. Thnx!

  9. Bob Rich says:

    I used to think that airguns are not as accurate as rimfires. This year I’ve discovered the opposite is true. They are actually much more accurate and they are silent. I have a Browning Semi-Auto and have had just about every Henry on the market, but I have discovered that I’m taking more squirrels with my break barrel Gamo piston .177. Almost every shot is a head shot, and that wasn’t true with my rimfires. The UK squirrel hunters have a good facebook group, and they use very high quality PCP rifles (guns go from $1,000 – $2,000). They bag an enormous amount of grays. Often 10 – 20 in a hunt and all head shots. I’ve seen these guys bag more squirrels and rabbits in one airgun hunt than I sometimes see in an entire season! Until this year I agreed with you. I’ve proven myself wrong. In fact, I started a facebook group and a blog around the airgun this summer. In CT the season is Sept 1st thru Feb 31. Bag limit is 8/day and 40/season. I’ve already reached over half the total season limit. I read a post that says the hi-velocity pellet explodes in the game and destroys the meat. I’ve never seen that happen. I use PolyMags and Gamo’s Red Fire version as well, which is a pellet with a red ballistic tip. I’ve dug them out of the squirrels to check expansion and the .177 pellets expand beautifully. There’s photos posted on my blog that I’ve dig out of squirrels. Every pellet was in tact. Most penetrate most of the way through the squirrel, but they rarely blow through. I consider the penetration perfect, and I rarely take a shot at a squirrel that I don’t kill. Just about every shot is a head shot and if the pellet doesn’t drop it stone dead, it puts them down so I can put them away with a second pellet. One of the nicest things is that it’s like hunting with a rimfire with a suppressor. They basically make no sound. I can drop a squirrel off a branch and the one standing next to it often won’t run. I’ve missed longer shots, the pellet hit a branch and the squirrel actually ran towards me because because it heard the pellet hit the trunk but had no idea that it came from the ground. I love it! Now when I shoot my Browning .22LR, it sounds like a cannon. One shot and I have to lay low for 20 minutes until anything moves again. I’ve checked my sights and sighted in my rifle right under the tree that I’m hunting without scaring the squirrels. Squirrels aren’t plentiful in CT these days due to the increase in predators (especially hawks), so when I do find a couple I sure don’t want to scare them away. Unlike some areas, where I hunt is full of old, hollow trees covered with holes. Take a shot with a rimfire and in a second the squirrel disappears into the tree and rarely shows itself again. The airgun has ended that problem. They really are great guns. I recommend buying a Gamo for about $250 and putting the rimfire around for one season. I bet you don’t go back. Regards.

  10. Bob Rich says:

    Correction one the last sentence: “… putting the rimfire AWAY for one season…”

  11. Squirrel Hunter says:

    Awesome.. awesome.. awesome insight! Thank you for your input.

  12. Adam says:

    Hey I have been hunting this year for the first time in many years. I was on a budget so I bought a .22 Beeman pellet rifle for about a hundred bucks. Finding .22 LR in my area is a bit tricky if your not in the loop. I honestly have not seen but one other squirrel hunter since the season started in Western North Carolina. I have to say using a pellet rifle has really opened up my hunting areas. The public game lands in my area are mountain bikers day hikers and campers saturated. They all get a little nervous seeing someone with a rifle going down the trail. I usually have to take the trail to get into an isolated area to hunt but while on the trail my eyes and ears are open and I have bagged a few very quietly with hikers bikers etc in the area with no one the wiser. Looking forward to Thanks giving week gonna put a few in the pot for a great game dish this year.

  13. Squirrel Hunter says:

    Great tip! I have always hunted on private property so it’s interesting to see how other people do it when they don’t have a private place to hunt. I just may have to invest in a pellet gun myself for next season.

  14. white wolfe says:

    I have 30 years experience airgun hunting starting out with a used 760 pumpmaster. My three oldest sons srarted out with the same little gun. It didnt have a rifled barrel but was stout and accurate out to 15 yards. A lot of tree rats fell from our fruit and pecan trees because of that gun. I’m not saying this to brag, but to make a point. Just like when I got older and started deer hunting, I was taught to know not only my limitations but the guns. Weaker power .177 guns can kill squirrels and even fill your bag, but you have to be a good hunter to do it. I also have several high power and modified air rifles I hunt with, but choose the tool according to the job. Just keep all shots within both yours and the guns limits.

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