Airsoft guns are popular because they’re regarded as lower-risk alternatives to real firearms. They’re safe to use in simulations and games while delivering an experience close to the real thing. But are they powerful enough to kill birds, small animals, and even humans?
Airsoft guns can’t kill humans because they fire plastic pellets at a velocity that’s far lower than the required amount necessary to penetrate the skin and damage organs. However, a precise shot from an airsoft gun on a bird or small animal’s body is enough to kill it.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at just how much damage an airsoft gun can cause to humans. You’ll also learn if you should rely on it to hunt small game or get rid of household pests.
Can Airsoft Guns Kill Humans?
Airsoft guns cannot kill humans because they are not designed to do so. The pellets from the guns are only strong enough to leave minor damage like bruised skin on the impact site. After a while, the bruises wear off. Such bruises can be prevented by wearing the appropriate clothing.
Some heavy airsoft guns with higher velocity going beyond 1,000 fps may look dangerous with the longer and tighter barrels, but even they’re not designed to kill humans. The weight of the pellets and the attendant drag lowers the force of the impact from airsoft guns.
You’ll need to shoot the airsoft gun at really close range to cause significant injuries to humans. However, causing injuries to the skin doesn’t take much to accomplish because you only need to shoot 331 fps with an 8 grains lead pellet.
Guns that kill humans are much more powerful. According to this widely shared calculation, airsoft guns are 500 times less powerful than a standard 9mm (0.9 cm) gun.
Can You Hurt Someone With an Airsoft Gun?
Shooting someone with an airsoft gun will leave bruises if the pellets land on exposed skin. You also risk causing severe damage to the eyes if the shot hits the eyes directly. However, such injuries can be avoided or mitigated by wearing protective clothing.
Other than that, it’s more dangerous to throw rocks at the person. Of course, hitting a carotid artery repeatedly with multiple close shots can lead to a rupture, but that’s a near-impossible scenario.
The depth of the bruises you’ll get from an airsoft gun will depend on the distance between you and the shooter. Your clothing can also take off the bulk of the sting. If you’re wearing a denim jacket and you’re shot by someone standing 20+ feet (6+ m) away, you won’t feel anything.
If you’re hit directly on open skin from a closer distance, you’ll feel the sting and maybe get some bruising. The level of hurt will vary from one person to another, though, as we all have different pain thresholds. So, while someone else might recoil after getting hit in the neck, you might brush it off.
Heavier airsoft BBs have a greater effective range and can hurt more (but they won’t go further). To find more about this, read this article.
How Airsoft Guns Can Kill Humans Indirectly
We’ve established thus far that airsoft guns just aren’t powerful enough to kill humans directly. However, there are several scenarios where they can lead to human death. They include the following:
Misunderstanding With Law Enforcement Agents
Airsoft replicas are generally manufactured to look like real guns. At a glance, it’s hard to see the distinction, so people can call the police on you for carrying one. When the officers arrive, things can get pretty hairy as they only have a few seconds to determine if your airsoft gun is a threat to them or not.
Unfortunately, misunderstandings from such scenarios can lead to a fatal conclusion. There are examples of people killed by law enforcement agents because the airsoft guns they were carrying got mistaken for real guns.
Some recently documented examples include the Lakewood incident from April 2021 and the Durham one from 2015. Granted, the Lakewood victim was shooting at officers with the airsoft gun, but he’d probably still be alive if the “weapon” was something else.
Self-Defense That Went Bad
Using an airsoft gun in self-defense can end badly in a life-threatening situation. If an assailant has a real gun and you point an airsoft gun in defense, they can impulsively fire their weapon and fatally harm you. There are examples of people who scared off burglars using airsoft guns, but that’s a big risk to take.
Similarly, if you’re out in the woods and come up against a wolf, coyote, or bear, firing your airsoft gun at the animal can enrage them and make them come at you with more force.
Accidents in Crowded Environments
Shooting a cyclist or a driver on a busy road with an airsoft gun can lead to a chain of reactions culminating in a fatal accident. Regardless of whether some is injured or killed, you could be staring at lengthy jail time if you fired the shot.
So, airsoft guns can’t kill humans directly—at least not without a combination of one or more near-impossible scenarios. However, fatalities can occur indirectly from handling the gun at the wrong time or firing it off in some environment.
Can Airsoft Guns Kill Birds?
Airsoft guns can kill very small birds if the shot lands on the part of the bird’s body thinly protected by feathers and scales. The shot also has to be fired from a distance that allows delivery of maximum force.
If you’re going after medium to large-sized birds in flight, your chances of killing them with an airsoft gun are slim to none. The movement of any type of bird in flight will make them less likely to get hit by airsoft gun pellets. If you land the shot on anywhere other than the bird’s head, it will likely shrug it off and carry on.
For example, if you’re shooting at ducks or geese, the only way you can leave any dent on them is to hit them in the eye. Anywhere else, and you’ll only manage to scare the bird away momentarily.
Shooting at birds with underpowered guns like this isn’t a good idea if you can’t guarantee a kill shot. If you wound the bird, you’ll only end up making it suffer unnecessarily. An infected wound might kill the bird after prolonged suffering. In some cases, the injury can make daily living harder for the bird. That’s animal cruelty.
Also, before shooting at any birds, you need to ensure they are not endangered or protected species. Even if you don’t run into trouble with the law, killing or wounding such birds means you’re doing your bit to push the species closer to extinction.
Can Airsoft Guns Kill Small Animals?
Airsoft guns can kill small animals if you hit them in unprotected parts of the body. The pellets won’t penetrate the skin of most small animals unless you’re ultra-close before making the shot.
Even when you land a close shot, you’ll likely only leave a wound if the pellet doesn’t hit the animal’s eyes or other sensitive bits. However, some wounds may cause more serious damage that can kill the animal later.
Cats, rats, snakes, squirrels, and possums are examples of small animals people may try to kill with airsoft guns, but will it work?
Airsoft Gun Injuries in Cats Are Often Fatal
You’ll run into the occasional report of someone killing a cat with an airsoft gun. However, one thing you’ll notice is that the cat rarely dies from the shot. Injuries sustained often lead to death much later.
The cat has to be shot from a close range, especially on sensitive parts like the head or the sides. Shooting a full-grown cat on the leg most likely won’t do any serious damage. Similarly, the pellet will likely not cause any real damage if the cat is a very hairy breed.
Cat’s getting killed by airsoft guns isn’t impossible because they are typically small with far less muscle and bone density than dogs, for example. If you’re thinking of using a cat for target practice, don’t. They’ll feel pain even if the shots are not life-threatening.
Around 50% of cats injured with air guns end up dying, so causing them injury is bad. That bit of statistics is also a good reminder that airsoft guns are not harmless to cats.
Shooting Rats at a Close Range Will Kill Them
Airsoft guns can kill house mice if you shoot them from a close range. These small animals have a weaker skeletal structure, and their bodies are only protected by very soft hair. Even when the rat braves the shot and runs off, it will likely die a few hours later from injuries.
If you’re dealing with large rats, you’ll need to be a lot more precise with your shots as they have more cushioning against the impact of the pellet.
Shooting Squirrels Is Pretty Hard But Doable
Squirrels are slightly bigger than the average rate, and they are a lot faster. Killing them with airsoft guns is more difficult, but doable.
Just like rats, all it takes is a well-timed shot around vital organs and from a close range. Squirrels also have thicker protection on their skin, so adult squirrels will need a lot more precision to kill.
However, many people are taking on the challenge. Squirrel hunting with pellet guns is now a full-fledged niche with lots of discussions around pellets to use, how to shoot them, and more.
Opossums Usually Don’t Die From a Single Shot
Opossums are marsupials that are common across the America. They look very similar to rats and are thus treated in the same way in most places. Their open-mouth hissing and drooling contribute a great deal to their poor reputation. However, most of your fears concerning these animals are likely based on misconceptions.
Pulling out your airsoft gun to kill an opossum in the yard may or may not work. All the variables that apply for other smaller animals are also applicable here. Opossums are fairly bigger than rats and squirrels, so they have more hair and muscles to cushion the impact from airsoft gun pellets.
An opossum certainly won’t die from a single shot unless you’ve got the barrel directly on its head before pulling the trigger.
Using Airsoft Guns on Snakes Is a Risky Business
If you want to protect yourself from snakes, an airsoft gun is the worst weapon to use. Like other small animals, you can only really harm a snake quickly by landing a headshot from a close distance. Shots to its body will likely bounce off because of the thick outer skin and the amount of fat directly under it.
Going close to a snake to land a shot with an airsoft gun is a bad decision. First, you probably don’t know the species you’re facing. If you don’t know the species, you won’t know how fast it can move and the potency of the venom in the event of a bite. Secondly, injured snakes can still lounge for a bite in self-defense. Severed snake heads can also still release venom.
So, although you can kill a snake with an airsoft gun, the probability of that happening is too low. Compared to the risk involved, it’s best to stay away.
Should You Hunt With Airsoft Guns?
You shouldn’t hunt with airsoft guns because it’s unrealistic, so it’s best to avoid it. Airsoft guns aren’t powerful enough to land kills consistently, even when hunting small rodents and reptiles.
As seen above, too many variables have to come together for you to inflict enough damage to kill a bird or small animal with an airsoft gun. Even when everything lines up perfectly, the animal will most likely only die from injuries days or weeks later. Putting animals through that level of suffering is inhumane.
If you decide to try hunting with airsoft guns, you should check the laws in your area. For example, shooting deer with airsoft guns can land you an animal harassment charge in some places.
Airsoft guns can kill birds and small animals. However, the probability of success with the average unit is very low. Even heavily modified units may increase your chances only marginally. The guns also can’t kill humans directly.
If you’re looking for a hunting weapon or a weapon for self-defense, it’s best to look at real firearms you can legally own within your jurisdiction. Airsoft guns are recreational by design and should never be used in serious situations.