Can You Kill a Squirrel With a BB Gun?

Almost every youngster dreams of getting their first BB rifle, especially if they have ever seen “A Christmas Story”. For a while, they will be content with prowling the backyard in search of imaginary advisories and taking aim at soda cans, plastic cups, or paper targets.

Eventually, they will want to experience their first hunt and, due to their abundance, squirrels are a likely target. But can a BB gun kill a squirrel?

What is a BB Gun?

The first question is “What do you consider a BB gun?”.  By the strictest definition, a BB gun is a specific type of air-powered firearm designed to shoot metallic spherical projectiles call BBs. These BBs are approximately the same size as BB-sized birdshot.

Some of the more common BB guns include Daisy’s Red Ryder or Crosman 760 Pumpmaster. Both are variable pump-action, meaning the air power is provided by pumping a handle multiple times. 

The power available varies depending on how many times the handle is pumped. They are good introductory models for first-time users. They also utilize a traditional BB projectile, and some may allow for pellets as well.

On the downside, these types of air guns can be difficult to cock, require additional time to cock/reload, and offer only mid-range power.

There are four other types of air rifles commonly available, each distinguished by the operating system used to provide air or power.

Can You Kill a Squirrel With a BB Gun?
  • Spring Powered – the chamber contains a coiled spring and piston. As the gun is cocked the piston compresses the spring. When the trigger is pulled the decompressed spring is released and the piston is pushed forward. The movement of the piston causes air in the chamber to compress and propel the projectile. 
  • Gas Piston – this type of air gun operates like a spring-powered model except the spring is replaced by a gas-filled cylinder. When the rifle is cocked the air in the cylinder is compressed. When the trigger is pulled the compressed air is pushed into the chamber and propels the projectile. 
  • Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP) – this type of air gun utilized a high-pressure air tank or cylinder to supply air for operation. Once an air supply is attached all the user needs to do is load and shoot. This makes them very easy to use and ideal for all ages, due to there being no need to cock the rifle.
  • CO2 – this type of air gun works virtually the same as the PCP, except it utilizes a small carbon dioxide cartridge (CO2) as a power source. When the trigger is pulled CO2 is released from the cylinder and propels the projectile.

Can you Kill a Squirrel With a BB Gun?

Now that we have expanded what is considered a BB gun we are back to our original question “Can you kill a squirrel with a BB gun?”.

The answer is yes, you can kill a squirrel with a BB gun, but not all BB guns are as well suited for this as others.

Let’s look at what it takes to achieve clean, quick kills on a squirrel time after time.


Experts agree that you need between 800-1000 fps to ensure a clean kill. Even at these pressures, accuracy will play an important role.

Headshots are your best bet for a clean, quick kill. Hits to the body are unlikely to cause enough damage to kill the squirrel. 

Selecting an air rifle that is too powerful does not guarantee a kill either. At extreme velocities, the projectile may pass through the body without dispersing enough energy to be fatal. Even if the squirrel eventually dies it may run off any be unrecoverable.


Another concern is the caliber and type of the projectile. Along with the traditional BB several types of pellets are available for air guns. 

  • Wadcutter – flat head designed to cut a round hole in the target. Best suited for target shooting.
  • Domed – rounded nose increases aerodynamics for increased range & accuracy.
  • Pointed– like the domes pellet but with a sharper tip for increased velocity.
  • Hollow Point – hollow cavity in the head increases expansion on impact.
  • Lead Free – environmentally friendly, lighter weight design.

The suitability of a specific projectile for hunting is based on multiple factors including composition, shape, and weight.

A traditional BB for instance, is generally constructed from steel with a copper coating. This combination provides a good combination of weight for accuracy and penetration, but lacks the expansion needed for clean body shots. 

There are four main caliber pellets available: .177, .20, .22, and .25. Although larger calibers are available, they are generally limited to specially designed or custom air rifles.

Plus, these large calibers would be far more than is needed for squirrels especially if you wish to harvest the meat.

Can You Kill a Squirrel With a BB Gun?

A .177 pellet will dispatch rats, mice, and small birds effectively but will still require mostly headshots for a squirrel. The .25 pellets tend to be less accurate which limits their use to relatively close ranges. 

It is recommended that you select a .22 air rifle for small game, including squirrels. The larger pellet or BB can be lethal at lower velocities, limiting the possibility of passing through on body shots and increasing the chance of a clean, quick kill.

If you must choose between accuracy and velocity accuracy wins every time. A well placed hit to the head or vitals increases your chances of a successful kill.

If possible, select a model that will accommodate a scope as this will increase your range as well as accuracy.

When selecting a scope remember that although an air gun does not have the recoil of a traditional firearm there is still a substantial amount of vibration. Make sure the scope you select is designed to withstand this abuse.

Is it Legal to Kill a Squirrel With a BB Gun?

Whether it is legal to kill a squirrel with a BB gun depends on where you live and where you plan on hunting.

A growing number of states do allow the use of air guns for hunting; however, some local municipalities still prohibit their use within city limits.

In those states that do permit the use of air guns, you will still need to follow all the normal hunting regulations. This may include being licensed as well as following season and bag limits.

It is also important to note that there are several different species of squirrel and not all can be legally hunted. It is important you check local and state regulations before heading into your backyard or local wood plot.

What is the Ideal Setup for Killing Squirrels?

If you can pick any air gun the ideal setup for killing squirrels would be a break barrel spring powered or gas piston model with the ability to add a scope in .22 caliber.

This will provide you with an air rifle with the accuracy and velocity needed to provide clean kills on small game, including squirrels. It will also be easy to use, suitable for all ages, and require very little maintenance. 

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