Cute thing downed by bb gun
October 29, 2007 9:27 PM   Subscribe

In the 1950s, what small game might a young boy in rural Louisiana be able to fatally or severely injure with a bb gun?

I'm thinking a jackrabbit, or squirrel. Something cute and thus regretful in hindsight. What kind of terrain would it be? Tall and grassy, wooded? Also looking for a location that may not be too far from his house.

(Creating a small backstory for a character.)
posted by typewriter to Pets & Animals (25 answers total)
Birds. Cats. Ducks.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:29 PM on October 29, 2007

Crawdads. (I think they're cute).
Squirrels. Certainly frogs.
When I think rural LA, I think tall-tree-filled swamp.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:33 PM on October 29, 2007

Could you hurt a nutria with a BB gun? I doubt you could kill one. I'm not sure if they're considered universally cute, but I think they are.
posted by padraigin at 9:36 PM on October 29, 2007

Response by poster: * runs off to google 'crawdad' and 'nutria'*

Also, it's for an opera if that makes a difference!
posted by typewriter at 9:42 PM on October 29, 2007

Stereotypical answer: Sparrow.
posted by boo_radley at 9:48 PM on October 29, 2007

I think it would depend on the BB gun. The one we had when we were kids couldn't kill anything even at point blank range. Neighborhood kids used to shoot them at each other. (Not us; our parents would have spiked if we'd done anything like that.)

A BB has no mass, and the muzzle velocity isn't very high. I don't think it would have enough punch to penetrate skin.

Our mom bought ours because she was tired of having robins making white messes all over our back yard, and told us we could shoot robins with it any time we wanted. And we used to hit them, too, but we never killed anything. It just scared the hell out of them and made them fly away.

Rural kids who hunt for varmints don't use BB guns. They use .22 rifles.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:51 PM on October 29, 2007

Wikipedia: Varmint rifle
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:54 PM on October 29, 2007

seconding Steven. Any of the cheap BB guns available to a rural Lousiana boy would have had little power. You might be able to kill a song bird with one, but not much else.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:56 PM on October 29, 2007

Actually, that's much too heavy and expensive for a kid. It'd be a smaller rifle that fired a .22 long rifle cartridge.

Youth Rifles
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:01 PM on October 29, 2007

posted by clh at 10:04 PM on October 29, 2007


praying mantis

yellow garden spider

newly-hatched turtle?

just-born kitten
posted by amtho at 10:11 PM on October 29, 2007

Best answer: Let's get geeky. The US Army guideline is that it takes 60 foot-pounds (81.3 joules) for a projectile to produce a disabling wound in a man. Presumably it would be somewhat less for a varmint, but probably not all that much less, since you have to penetrate fur or feathers and then skin.

"Ballistic Ball" ammunition is .17 caliber and weighs about a third of a gram. Muzzle velocities vary from 275-450 feet per second (84-137 m/s). At the maximum speed, with kinetic energy == m*v*v/2, and with mass == .00033 kg, it's 3 joules at the muzzle. A lot less after it travels 10 meters; BB's slow down pretty fast.

You're not going to kill anything with that unless you hit it in the eye.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:14 PM on October 29, 2007

Best answer: I regret having killed chipmunks with a BB gun, but that was in Michigan in the 1980s. My grandmother saw them as pests eroding the foundations of her cottage, which was situated in a pine forest on the shore of a lake.

They were adorable, and took multiple short-range shots to finish off due to the aforementioned low power of BB guns. Fuck, that was awful.
posted by contraption at 10:21 PM on October 29, 2007

Now the new guns are a completely different story, more pics here. And look at this kid with his first sparrow - he can't even hold it with his hand - it's yucky.
posted by bigmusic at 10:22 PM on October 29, 2007

BigMusic, I don't think those guys are shooting anything that a normal person would refer to as a "BB gun".

Wikipedia Air Gun:
Today's modern air guns are typically low-powered because of safety concerns and legal restrictions; however, high-powered designs are still used for hunting. These air rifles can propel a pellet beyond 1100 ft/s (330 m/s), approximately the speed of sound and produce a noise similar to a .22 caliber rimfire rifle. Using very light plastic or alloy pellets, many current spring powered .177 pellet guns can break the sound barrier, and one, the Gamo 1250, can reach 1600 fps with these new pellets.
At 330 m/s, that same .00033 kg pellet delivers 18 joules, which is much more believable as a fatal shot.

But those things aren't level-charged. They're using CO2 cartridges.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:37 PM on October 29, 2007

An air rifle firing pellets would be much more effective. But I agree that a 22 would be a more likely choice.
posted by 6550 at 10:38 PM on October 29, 2007

One of my uncles would shoot his younger brother.

He'd cock the gun, say Run!, then start firing.

It apparantly stung like the dickens.
posted by Pants! at 3:19 AM on October 30, 2007

Best answer: My younger brother pretty much eliminated squirrels from my parents' suburban yard in the 1970s with a BB gun. It was a Daisy or Crosman pump model, if I remember correctly. For the really nice guns, though you need a Benjamin or Sheridan; I have a vintage model that when pumped 10 times is almost like a .22.
posted by TedW at 5:45 AM on October 30, 2007

A $30 .177 Crossman pump airgun from Wal-Mart loaded with pointed pellets can kill rabbits, squirrels, turtles, doves and lizards.
posted by Uncle Jimmy at 6:51 AM on October 30, 2007

Best answer: Having been a young boy in south rural Louisiana, birds and squirrels were the game of choice for me. Much else would've required a more powerful BB gun than would've been readily available in the 50's.

However, it wasn't uncommon for a 10-12 year old boy to have a .22. All kinds of fun and game can be had with one of those.

(my first "real" gun was a breakover 20 gauge. Montgomery Ward circa 1940s. It was my great grandfather's.)
posted by chrisfromthelc at 7:47 AM on October 30, 2007

Nutrias would laugh in your face. Also: not cute.
posted by gimonca at 7:56 AM on October 30, 2007

Best answer: Don't mock the BB-Gun. The "Red Ryder" spring powered guns may be weak, but the air pumped powered guns are rather lethal. Anything smaller than a dog is fair game. Birds, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, groundhogs, rats, skunks, possums...

(used to play "Army" with the neighborhood kids following the "one pump only" rule). Probably lucky to still have both eyes.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:19 AM on October 30, 2007

A mockingbird? You could possibly even kill one.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:26 AM on October 30, 2007

A One Eyed Cat?
posted by leapfrog at 10:04 AM on October 30, 2007

Best answer: I was a kid in the fifties and I killed a bird with an air rifle... not a BB gun, but a pump up pellet rifle. I think the bird was a grackle. The gun wasn’t the safe kind they sell now. You could pump it as many times as your strength allowed. One time I laid it on some boards on the garage floor, so I could get on top of it, and pumped it 40 times and shot a pellet most of the way through a 2x4.

I was walking down a creek bed when I saw the bird. I aimed at its eye and was surprised to actually hit it there, surprised to have killed it and amazed at how much blood a small thing could bleed into the water.

It was the first time I had ever shot at an animal, and after that I didn’t want anymore. The whole thing was pretty grim. I was proud of having made a tough shot. But I never told anyone about it.
posted by Huplescat at 4:52 PM on October 30, 2007

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