Pest Control Air Rifle Guide

  • Written By Eric Crouch on April 9, 2020
    Last Updated: January 31, 2021

In some cases, you can drive pests away through creative but non-violent means like getting a dog to chase them away, using a fence to protect your livestock, or otherwise creating barriers that make it difficult for the pests to do their troublemaking. But other times, you need to enact more strict measures and prevent the pests from coming back again and again. This is especially true if you have livestock you need to protect.

In this case, the best option is to put down the pests using weaponry that eliminates the pest humanely and quickly. This prevents suffering on the part of the animal (which is, after all, only doing what its instincts are telling it to do) and stops it from coming back to damage your property again.

While the broad strokes might be the same, note that this is not the same as hunting. Hunting involves stalking and killing an animal for the thrill or sport of the hunt, and is done primarily for pleasure. Some hunters may also use the resources harvested from the hunted animal, like meat or fur, which is an honorable activity.

Pest control can also be honorable if done humanely, but it is primarily done to prevent harm from being done to what’s yours in the first place. You don’t do it for glory or fun. You do it because it’s necessary.

Why Use Airguns For Pest Control?

Airguns are an effective method of pest control because they can produce enough power to kill a small animal without the loud noise or expense that a regular gun requires.

Airguns fire small pellets of metal at speeds that can be somewhat dangerous to things as large as humans but lethal to smaller animals like snakes, rats, and so on. Airguns also shoot these projectiles quietly, so you don’t disturb your neighbors, livestock, or the natural environment to nearly the same degree as you would with a firearm.

Furthermore, airguns are very affordable and safe to use around other people without as many safety precautions. They’re easier to use in general, can be wielded without worrying about accidentally killing someone, and their ammunition can be purchased more reliably for pest control purposes. In short, they’re the perfect weapon to handle this type of job.

Is It Legal to Use Airguns for Pest Control?

This depends on where you live and the local laws of your state. State-level laws determine whether you can both take pest control into your own hands and use an airgun for that purpose. Some states don’t let you do any pest control, while others let you control pests with tools other than airguns.

It’s actually even more complicated than blanket bans or allowances for airgun pest control. Most states have dedicated lists of certain species that you are and are not allowed to kill for any reason.

These lists can update fairly frequently, so instead of writing what the current laws are at the time of this writing, we’ll recommend that you check with your local state laws before making an airgun purchase and settling on a plan. Your state’s .gov website or similar should have the resources you need.

Airgun Types – Which Is Ideal for Pest Control and Why

There are several different airgun types available, but some are better suited for pest control than others. Let’s break each type down individually so you can identify whether you already have a great airgun for the job or if you need to pick up a new one.

CO2 Powered

Some of the most common variations of airguns are powered by CO2, or carbon dioxide, canisters. In most cases, these canisters come in 12 g sizes that are ideal for airgun pistols or 88 g canisters that are better suited for larger rifles.

In a nutshell, CO2 powered airguns use the compressed CO2 gas to push the pellet out of the barrel. This makes them easy to use and cheap over the long-term, as CO2 is not very expensive. The only downside is that this compressed gas is not extremely powerful compared to other airgun varieties.

Thus, we wouldn’t recommend using CO2 powered airguns for pest-control. You have higher odds of not killing the animal in a single shot and dealing with pests humanely. CO2 airguns are better used for backyard fun or target practice.

Break Barrel

Also called “spring-piston” airguns, break barrel airguns are a little more common than CO2 powered ones. These have a primary spring and piston built into the gun’s core that is tightened and drawn by “breaking” the barrel in a lever-like motion. In essence, you cock the whole airgun by bringing its spring into the correct position

Then you place a pellet into the gun breach and lock the barrel back into place. The spring decompresses when you pull the trigger and propels the pellet out of the barrel. A big advantage of this type of airgun is that you never purchase more supplies aside from pellet ammunition. Additionally, break barrel airguns are often powerful enough to be effectively used for pest-control.

The biggest downside is that you can only fire one shot at a time in between cocking the main spring piston mechanism. So you need to be very accurate with your shots as you won’t have time for a follow-up in many cases.

Variable Pump

These airgun varieties are pretty similar to break barrel airguns, although they use a pumping mechanism to control the compressed air within the firing chamber. The more you pump the airgun, the more powerful the next shot will be.

An advantage to this is that you get to control how powerful your next shot is, so you can use these airguns for both target practice and pest-control, although only a few variable pump airguns reach enough power to humanely dispatch small animals.

We’d recommend double-checking the maximum power for a variable pump airgun before deciding to use it as your primary pest-control weapon.


Finally, PCP airguns operate by filling a reservoir with compressed air that can be delivered either via a hand pump or an air tank. This allows the PCP airgun to deliver extremely high power and helps it fire high-caliber pellets across long distances. Thus, PCP airguns are excellent choices for pest-control because of their killing power and accuracy, which will help you take good shots from afar (since many common types of pests are quite skittish).

The big downside is that PCP airguns are usually pretty expensive and they take some time to prepare, either by filling the reservoir with a hand pump or a scuba-like tank.

Ultimately, we’d recommend that you go with either break barrel or PCP airguns if you want to primarily use your airgun for pest control. Other types of airguns can be great choices for everyday fun or target practice, but only these two types reliably deliver enough killing power to humanely deal with your pests in a single shot. Other types may wound the animal or only scare it away: two scenarios you don’t want to happen.

Pellet Picking – Which Pellets Are Best for Pest Control

What about pellets?

The caliber of pellet you choose refers to its size/weight. For instance, a .177 caliber pellet is lighter and less powerful than a .25 caliber pellet. In addition, different sizes of pellets are often made with different materials.

The most common sizes of pellets for airguns across types are .177, .22, and .25 caliber. All three of these can potentially be good enough to let you hunt small game and common pests, but the larger pellets will usually deliver more consistent results and need to be utilized with more powerful airguns.

In general, we’d recommend sticking to .22 caliber or higher pellets if you want to reliably put down pests in a single shot. .25 caliber pellets can even kill small to medium game relatively consistently if your shot is accurate. Of course, higher power pellets are a little more expensive and take more expensive airguns to make the most of.

Pellets will most commonly be made of lead or lead alloy, so you don’t have many choices there.

However, pellets also come in a few different shapes. The most common shapes are domed, hollowpoint, pointed, and wadcutter. The last one is very low power and cheap and is likely not the best choice for reliable pest control. All other types are acceptable for killing small animals at a distance, although hollowpoint pellets are specifically designed for hunting in pest-control. In addition, hollowpoint pellets are a little more accurate than pointed pellets.

Still, you don’t necessarily need the best of the best in every respect in order to reliably hunt the pests that are on your property. You just need good enough in most cases.

In summary:

  • Use a break barrel or PCP airgun for consistent killing power and control
  • Use .22 or .25 caliber pellets to ensure that you kill an animal in a single shot in most cases
  • Use a hollowpoint pellet if possible, but any pellet type other than wadcutter is the real way to go

Humane Pest Control – How to Do This Job Properly

The ultimate goal of any pest-control endeavor is to eliminate the animals in question quickly and humanely. You don’t perform pest-control for fun or for sport, and you certainly don’t do it to cause the animals pain and suffering. In most cases, property owners won’t even begin to control pests unless there’s a proven issue with their livestock or property.

Therefore, there’s a proper way to control pests and an improper way to do so as well. Let’s go over a few basics:

  • You should always be practiced with your airgun before trying to kill a small animal with it
  • You should endeavor to be accurate with every shot you take
  • You need to be safe while using your pest-control airgun
  • You need to double-check any animal you shoot to make sure that it’s dead. In the event that an animal isn’t dead from a single shot, you need to fire a second shot and put it out of its misery. Leaving an animal to suffer or be preyed on by other animals is cruel and immoral

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s go over some more specific strategies based on the animals you might be hunting.

  • Squirrels: these are some of the most common pests hunted with airguns. They’re small and fast, so you should use an accurate airgun when dealing with them. Aiming for the head is wise if you’re a sharpshooter, but otherwise aiming for the heart is effective
  • Raccoons: these animals are much bigger than squirrels and require heavier pellets in many cases. They’re also often difficult to see because they normally cannot. Shoot for the head or heart (the latter may be more achievable)
  • Snakes: snakes are relatively easy to hunt because they can’t escape as quickly as other types of pests. You need to shoot them in the head, as targeting a snake’s heart is an exercise in futility. Stand far enough away from the snake and take your time lining up your shot before pulling the trigger
  • Rats : these are arguably the most common pests around. They can be easily killed with a single shot, but aiming for their hearts is likely easier because of the small size of their heads
  • Birds : to reliably put down pest birds, we’d recommend you invest in an airgun with the scope so you can place a shot in their hearts reliably. In many cases, it’s too easy to hit a bird’s wing and cause them pain before killing them
  • Woodchucks/coyotes/other small-to-moderate mammals : we’d recommend meaning for the head if possible. These animals are much lower than the above-mentioned pests, so hitting this smaller target should be more achievable. In addition, pellets in their chest may not reliably hit the heart, causing the animal injury and giving it time to escape

Other Pest Control Tips

When doing pest-control with your airgun, there are a few last tips we should go over so you don’t run into any trouble.

First and foremost, remember to maintain your airgun and your supply of pellets by storing them in a cool, dry place. You don’t want your airgun to stop working when you have a sudden rat infestation. We’d also recommend practicing with your airgun relatively frequently; at least twice a month is usually good enough to mean you can reliably hunt pests with the weapon.

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to invest in a scope or other accessories that can make your accuracy even sharper. Remember, accuracy is the key to humanely putting down pests. You don’t want your shot to be sloppy or you’ll be causing unnecessary suffering.

Related to this is safety gear: invest in at least a visor to protect your eyes in case one of the pellets you shoot accidentally ricochets.

We’d also recommend figuring out a way to dispose of pest corpses. Leaving the corpse where you shoot it will invite scavengers and even other pests on the scene, as well as create a terrible smell on your property that even your neighbors may be able to detect.

Burying dead animals is always an option, though be sure to bury them deep enough beneath the ground that scavengers can’t easily retrieve them. You can also sometimes call animal control services to recover bodies depending on your state laws.

Another thing: remember to explain what you’re doing your neighbors, so they aren’t surprised and don’t try to interrupt or stop your pest control. You’re already being polite by using an airgun instead of a full firearm, which would be a lot louder and more disruptive.

Being honest about your activities and keeping them in a loop is a good way to get on the good side and, if they have kids, alert them that they may need to keep their children indoors for a time for their safety.

Airgun Recommendations

Umarex Gauntlet PCP Pellet Gun Air Rifle

  • Can be combined with a scope
  • Great power
  • Excellent shot capacity for air tank
  • Easy to hold
  • A bit pricey

This airgun actually comes in three varieties, as it’s capable of functioning with all three major pellet sizes. The .22 or .25 variants are best for pest hunting, and either way, you can take advantage of a 70 shot capacity once you fill its regulated air tank a single time.

This allows it to provide outstanding accuracy for hunting and phenomenal stopping power up to 1000 ft./s depending on pellet size and weight. Even better, it includes an integrated 11 mm dovetail rail to allow you to combine certain accessories like scopes if you want to boost your accuracy even further.

To make loading the rifle easier, you can purchase an electric compressor.

Bottom Line

This high-powered and accurate PCP air rifle is a perfect choice for pest control thanks to its performance at range and pellet lethality.

Hatson Model 135 Vortex Quiet Energy Break Barrel Air Rifle

  • Very comfortable to use
  • One of the quietest air rifles around
  • Great aesthetic
  • Comes with scope
  • Scope quality could be a bit better

This is a quiet air rifle of the break barrel variety. It uses .25 caliber pellets and can project them up to 800 ft./s: more than enough to kill many major pests. It’s one of the quietest arrivals around thanks to its sound moderator included in its design.

It can also be combined with a scope, and even comes with a 3-9×32 optic with the purchase. The trigger is two-stage adjustable and it comes with shock-absorbing features for added comfort.

Bottom Line

This is a quiet, efficient airgun that’s perfect for killing small animals; it has lots of value for money when you consider its scope and shock-absorbing stock.

Hatson Striker Wood .25 Cal Airgun

  • Very affordable overall
  • Comes with scope
  • Has invented rubber butt pad
  • Good killing power
  • Scope quality is so-so

This is another break barrel air rifle that uses .25 caliber ammunition. It can project pellets up to 650 ft./s and uses a vented rubber butt pad for added recoil control and stability on the part of the user. Even better, it includes a 3-9×32 optic within the asking price, which is already quite affordable compared to many other airguns.

Bottom Line

It’s comfortable to use, includes everything you need to be accurate, and protects your shoulder from recoil; what’s not to like?


All in all, airguns are some of the best tools you can bring to bear on any pest problem provided that you pick the right weapon and use it accurately. They can help you eliminate a potential pest infestation before it begins and protect your livestock and property without the expense, noise, and danger of a full firearm. Hopefully, this article has shown you the benefits of airguns in this regard. Good luck and good hunting!

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