Is it OK to shoot a squirrel with a BB gun?
December 4, 2008 12:41 PM   Subscribe

If I shoot a squirrel with my BB gun will it just sting the little birdseed thief or will it injure it? Assuming, of course, that I am not hitting it in the eyes.
posted by zzazazz to Pets & Animals (42 answers total)
What range? And what BB gun? Some pellet guns can put enough steam on a BB so that at close range (say, 20 meters) they'll penetrate and cause a bleeding wound.

Because of that, in some places with draconian gun control laws, pellet guns are included along with firearms.

The powerful ones tend to use CO2 cartridges. I doubt any pump BB gun is that dangerous.
posted by Class Goat at 12:48 PM on December 4, 2008

You'll kill it.
posted by geoff. at 12:49 PM on December 4, 2008

It's an older model (my father's from the 50's). The rifle guard cocks once to charge up the gun. It shoots the standard metal bbs.
posted by zzazazz at 12:54 PM on December 4, 2008

You should probably look into the laws governing hunting in your area.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:55 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's depends on the gun and the load. Some spring guns have a higher muzzle velocity than a .22 rifle. My old Remington .177, with one pump and copper BBs, just stings 'em. It can also kill squirrel sized animals with more pumps and/or pellets.

It is still possible to kill a squirrel with a low-powered gun. I've accidentally killed chipmunks with a shot to the spine and, even as somebody who isn't bothered by killing vermin or hunting in general, it wasn't pleasant to watch. If you can't deal with the possibility that you might kill it, you shouldn't shoot at it at all.
posted by indyz at 12:56 PM on December 4, 2008

I have a one pump pellet gun and even the blunt pellets go clean through the squirrel. Granted these are lead pellets and not bb's but I think the effect will be the same.
posted by JJ86 at 12:57 PM on December 4, 2008

You can use a slingshot with BBs to scare off the squirrels. Or trap them, but that's a lot of work.

(The BB gun is reserved for scaring off the deer.)
posted by smackfu at 1:00 PM on December 4, 2008

Possible kill. Only way to find out would be to take the shot.

Or use a squirt-gun.
posted by aramaic at 1:02 PM on December 4, 2008

I should add that my attitude towards "shooting to teach a lesson" has changed over the years. Partly because it doesn't work, and partly because I have somewhat of an ethical issue with shooting to wound. I still shoot the occasional vermin, but I don't shoot at anything that I don't intend to kill.
posted by indyz at 1:05 PM on December 4, 2008

I'd even be wary of the slingshot if it's one of those high powered ones that straps to your arm. Those can get some nasty velocity behind them.

Water gun. Or suction-cup/plastic (not sharp ended) darts?

From personal experience, I've shot a squirrel with a BB gun before. Hit it in the ass, which was actually kind of funny. I didn't kill it, but reading this now, I'm glad I only took the one shot. I don't know if it was bleeding, it was out of the yard before I could see, but it wasn't injured enough to slow down its running.
posted by Hactar at 1:06 PM on December 4, 2008

You can, as others have noted, definitely kill with a BB gun. I'd advise against a slingshot as well since they can deliver a larger rock or BB at the same velocity.

Maybe you should look into an ultrasonic repeller?
posted by fenriq at 1:07 PM on December 4, 2008

My friend used to chase away raccoons with a slingshot loaded with malted milk balls. They hurt like heck, but were the equivalent of the police "bean bag" gun, and did not injure the animal.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:10 PM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'm not trying to be a smartass, but you could shoot yourself in the foot to find out. We used to have BB gun duels as a kid, and no one was ever seriously hurt. There was one kid that got a BB permanently embedded in his hand, but that's because he bought a superfancy CO2 pistol instead of the cheap spring air ones everyone else had.

Generally, the cheaper the BB gun the less powerful it is. One of those $20 Daisy pistols from walmart should be about right. Or even better, airsoft or paintball. Both sting, neither of them should do any real damage. The wrist rocket/surgical tubing type slingshots can definitely kill, but you have a lot more control over that by what you shoot and how far you pull back the sling.
posted by electroboy at 1:17 PM on December 4, 2008

I've seen big plastic, round-tipped darts for blowguns. I know blowguns can get a dart moving pretty fast, but I bet a big, blunt plastic dart would make a better less-lethal deterrent than a BB. Heck, they're big enough that a near miss would scare a squirrel off, I'd bet. Here's some.

And hey, blowgun. They're fun.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 1:19 PM on December 4, 2008

Yes, shooting a squirrel with a BB gun will injure it. Depending on the distance from which you shoot, you'll either kill the squirrel outright or injure so that it limps off and dies a slow, painful death from its wound.

Consider instead attaching one of those cone-shaped tin squirrel/chipmunk shields over your bird feeder. It's the humane and decent way to keep squirrels out of your bird feeder.
posted by mattdidthat at 1:19 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

You would do more than scare it, but it would likely survive a single shot. They seem pretty tough. As others have said, it just depends on where you hit it, from what range, with what power gun. With the right shot, you could do more damage than you may wish to, and you never know how it will hit. A friend and I killed one as stupid children. It took numerous shots to knock him off a high branch and then one point blank for the mercy kill when it was clear he was too messed up. It felt really bad in our case given that it was just cruel sport. Maybe a vermin situation would be different.

Maybe you could use an AirSoft weapon that fires plastic bbs. They come in all your favorite assault weapon styles!
posted by Askr at 1:23 PM on December 4, 2008

They do sell plastic BB's, but a quick look at the site and the air/BB rifles they sell, its pretty clear they are selling weapons that are a hair's breadth away from being regular firearms. So, not sure if there is any practical difference in the non-lethality of plastic vs metal. In your old rifle though, might make all the difference.

On preview, what Askr said.

That being said, it seems unduly harsh unless you actually want to kill the critter. In which case get an air rifle and do it right without causing undo suffering. A good high velocity water rifle/pistol will do the trick and probably be more fun.
posted by elendil71 at 1:24 PM on December 4, 2008

It sounds like you don't want to kill them, you just want the thievery to end. Get a havahart trap, take your captives to work with you for a week or so (very high-energy commuting companion), release them when you get there, and once you've rid the territory of its occupants, you should be good.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:25 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Never point a gun at something you aren't willing to kill.
posted by pixlboi at 1:27 PM on December 4, 2008 [8 favorites]

Get yourself a squirt gun, or just stop buying the seed. It's not worth injuring and possibly killing innocent animals that are just doing what they always do. They eat things that are outside. They don't understand that you bought the seed at a store and that it isn't for them. I could see you shooting them if they came into your house and started raiding your fridge, but they're outside, where their food is!

We've squirrel-proofed two of our feeders. One is a wooden tray filled with seeds, nuts and berries, and it's hanging from a very thin wire suspended from a tree. It's too high for them to jump up and they can't seem to manage to climb down the wire. The other is just a regular feeder, hanging from a shepherd's hook, which we've greased with shea butter.
posted by iconomy at 1:28 PM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Even if it doesn't kill them you may be sorry.

Growing up outside the city limits in a very pro-gun family I spent a good chunk of my youth shooting anything that moved including birds, squirrels, rabbits, and prairie dogs. I had a multiple-pump, single-pump, and CO2 BB guns that I used. I probably unloaded thousands of BBs and never managed to kill or seriously hurt a single thing.

One day when I was about nine I was playing around a pile of railroad ties and caught sight of a small rabbit trapped in a corner of them. I crouched down and immediately fired at it from maybe eight feet away. The little thing charged me and in fact jumped on me as it bolted out of it's confines. It dropped to the ground and started writhing around in a very sickly fashion. Even though it kind of sickened me I was proud at my "first kill" even though it wasn't yet dead. I grabbed it by the neck and took it into the garage only to have my parents scream at me for bringing it back. Looking at it closer it became obvious the critter had somehow broken or injured it's leg extremely bad. My father yelled at my older brother to take it out back with his .22 and finish it off.

As we are walking way back to the end of our property my brother casually mentions that they used up all their ammo and he didn't have anything to kill it with (which our father would not have been happy about). So instead of killing it he tosses it over the fence and goes "When you're in bed tonight I want you to think about this poor rabbit dying out here afraid and suffering and it's all your fault."

I haven't shot at an animal since.
posted by Octoparrot at 1:31 PM on December 4, 2008 [11 favorites]

Get a dog. Our beagles do a great job of keeping the squirrels from the bird feeder. Of course, I did have to surround the bird feeder with some fencing when the damn dogs started eating the bird seed!
posted by COD at 1:32 PM on December 4, 2008

I think a beanbag might be a better approach here...
posted by arimathea at 1:33 PM on December 4, 2008

Same situation. Red Rider BB Gun. Squirrel jumped a foot in the air and went halfway up a tree. Same squirrel was back at the feeder in under 5 minutes. I shot the squirrel and the squirrel won.
posted by firelizard at 1:37 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

i have killed several squirrels with a gun as such described. often, just the shock of the bb hitting their chest would kill them--the bb never penetrated their hide.

you don't say what kind of environment you're in, but when you shoot at these squirrels, you'll probably be pointing the gun up ... and raining bb's down on someone a few hundred yards away. your neighbors might not appreciate bb holes in their windows when you miss.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 1:41 PM on December 4, 2008

Squirt it with water
posted by fire&wings at 1:42 PM on December 4, 2008

The Red Ryder was one of our weapons of choice. They market it to kids because the velocity is too low to travel much outside 20 feet.
posted by electroboy at 1:48 PM on December 4, 2008

Twirl a squirrel is a better idea.
posted by idiotfactory at 2:07 PM on December 4, 2008

If you want to scare it/discourage it, I would use an airsoft gun instead like Askr mentioned. Get one of the 6mm caliber with plastic bb's. A real bb gun or a slingshot will almost certainly maim or kill something the size of a squirrel. Squirt gun will probably just confuse it, and it will come back later.

And aim for its backside as opposed to its chest/head area.
posted by barc0001 at 2:14 PM on December 4, 2008

You can gauge the velocity of your gun by shooting some practice shots at a target. Create a target by gluing or taping together 10 or so stacked pieces of corrugated cardboard. Shoot a few BBs at this target from the distance you plan on shooting the squirrel. See how deeply the BB penetrates the stack of cardboard pieces - does it only go into the first one or two or does it go through 5 or 6 pieces or cardboard?

From my experience, a spring powered BB gun will only startle a squirrel. They'll be back to a birdfeeder minutes after being shot.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 2:15 PM on December 4, 2008

Seconding using a toy airsoft gun. Even then you might kill it. My understanding is that they have delicate hearts and painful little surprises can give them a heart attack.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:25 PM on December 4, 2008

Switch to safflower seed. Squirrels aren't supposed to like it. We've also had very good luck with one of these squirrel-proof feeders. Watching them try to figure it out is hi-larious.
posted by jquinby at 2:25 PM on December 4, 2008

Before you do something regrettable and stupid (what will your neighbors think if they see a guy with what they think is a real rifle pointed at their windows) check out this link on how to properly repel squirrels.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:26 PM on December 4, 2008

rule of thumb: don't point guns at things you don't want to kill.

why not get one of those air horn things and scare it away with that?

but really, that squirrel, and his buddies, are going to keep coming back as long as you keep providing them with tasty, tasty bird seed.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:28 PM on December 4, 2008

Get a havahart trap, take your captives to work with you for a week or so (very high-energy commuting companion), release them when you get there,

I'm picturing a careful reader following these instructions, and releasing the squirrel at work where it shoots off under the cubicles. Please bring a video camera if you do this.

Like so many people here, I too injured a squirrel with a bb gun as a child, and then had to put it out of it's misery. (And to prove that I was a bad child who didn't learn my lesson, that same year I did the exact same thing to another squirrel, but with a slingshot.) Even if you can shoot your foot with the bb gun with no serious effects, are you prepared for the possibility of the bb hitting the squirrel's eye? Yes, you don't intend for that to happen... but bb guns are not always accurate and squirrels move fast.

Shoot the squirrel if it is injured and needs to be killed, or if you are going to make squirrel stew. Otherwise, just buy any of a thousand squirrel-proof bird feeders and prevent the problem before it happens.
posted by Forktine at 2:29 PM on December 4, 2008

I don't see why you can't just invest in a squirrel-resistant feeder (as mentioned by others), instead of punishing a wild animal for eating food that you are putting out with the very intent of feeding wild animals. Squirrels aren't suddenly going to realize that this delicious seed is meant for some aesthetically-pleasing subset of the local bird population, and politely excuse themselves to forage elsewhere.

If you don't want them to have the food, it's on you to make sure your preferred wildlife can access it, and squirrels can't. It's ridiculous to fire BBs at a squirrel for such a minor infraction, when the situation is really your fault in the first place.
posted by Coatlicue at 2:47 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Really, the rule of thumb with any sort of gun (outside of toys--and bb/pellet guns are not toys), is never point a gun at something you do not intend to kill.

It is entirely possible that you could just sting the squirrel and scare it off, however, that is not something that you can control very well. If you shoot the squirrel, you could indeed kill it.
posted by anansi at 2:51 PM on December 4, 2008

What about one of the various Nerf guns? The Vulcan perhaps? Sure you eventually have to pick up the darts, but I think pestering the squirrels that way would be much more fun as well as non-lethal.
posted by MasonDixon at 3:40 PM on December 4, 2008

There could be bigger issues here. This Washington Post article reports that in many areas oak trees produced no acorns this year. The little guy might be starving.
posted by spork at 4:25 PM on December 4, 2008

Squirrel hunting season in North Carolina ends on January 31.
Make sure to only shoot what you can eat. Here are some squirrel recipes for you. Report back, especially if you try the bacon wrapped squirrel.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 7:14 PM on December 4, 2008

We used to use a slingshot with dog food pellets in it.

I'll also say that I've watched chipmunks and occasional squirrels die simply of fright when a dog bears down on them (like, seriously, no contact, just a buzz). Whether a BB would be too much for their little hearts, I can't say.
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 AM on December 5, 2008

I bought a pellet gun to kill rats. It shoots fast (i.e. supersonic), and was able to almost completely penetrate 1/2" plywood. So... what many others have said - it depends. Take a sample shot at some wood, and see.

And, I'll re-iterate what TPS said. Check with laws in your area. Where I am, it is illegal to hunt/shoot squirrels. And there are other laws about firing pellet/BB guns in residential areas. So, be careful.

Also, as per the title of your question, I'd say, no. It's not OK to shoot squirrels. But that's just me. Ethical discussions can be taken to MetaTalk.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:47 AM on December 5, 2008

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