You might not know it, but I am the person who reads and responds to almost all emails sent to Baker Airguns. A question that I see asked with alarming regularity is, “What’s the best airgun you have for self-defense?” My answer to that question, every single time, is precisely the same. “We at Baker Airguns do not recommend any airgun for self-defense. We would recommend that you search for other options.” Today’s blog will explain why an airgun is an inappropriate choice for the task.
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1) Airguns are not powerful enough for self-defense
Did you know that more people shot with handguns (real firearms) live than die? According to the Centers for Disease Control, info available at bradyunited.org, over twice as many people survive handgun wounds than die from them. Of those that do die, not all deaths are immediate. Many die hours, days, or weeks after being shot. When one considers that even a common 9mm load produces about 350fpe, and even the more powerful air pistols are hard pressed to produce 50fpe, the chances of delivering a fatal shot with an airgun are exceptionally slim. Far less than the already small chance that you would do so with a firearm.
2) Guns are not for scaring people
I know. Some of you are right now thinking something along the lines of, “Well I don’t need to kill the attacker. I just need to scare him off.” Good luck scaring off a hopped up meth-head by shooting him with your look-alike Colt 1911 BB gun. I’ve seen those kinds of people get hit by cars, laugh, get up, and walk away like it didn’t happen. Your defensive weapon needs to be able to stop anyone on this planet from doing what they’re doing immediately. Even legit firearm bullet wounds are commonly unable to do this. Take the infamous 1986 FBI Miami-Dade Shootout as evidence of this….though it would not be hard to find 20 more examples. Little stings from a BB or pellet gun almost certainly won’t scare off a drugged up or determined attacker.
Under this same heading, we’ll discuss brandishing. This is another one of those terrible ideas I mentioned in the title. Just in case nobody has ever told you this before, you DO NOT pull a gun on someone for any reason other than to immediately shoot them. Hollywood might have given you the idea that people will become calm and compliant when you point anything that looks like a gun at them. That is not reality. Nor is it legal to do so in any jurisdiction that I’m aware of. I’m no lawyer and I’m not giving legal advice, but I know of nowhere that it’s legal to point a gun at someone for any reason. In fact, I’m absolutely certain that it’s a prosecutable offense where I live. If you’re entertaining the idea that you can buy an airgun that looks like a real gun and scare people away with the sight of it, you are wrong….and you’re betting your life on that.
3) Airguns are not reliable enough for self-defense
I shoot A LOT of airguns. From the oldest of the old to the newest of the new. From dirt cheap to as expensive as they come. The reliability of semi-automatic airguns isn’t even approaching reliable enough to bet your life on. Some of them run better than others, and their reliability is perfectly suitable for appropriate airgun use…but self-defense is not an appropriate use of an airgun. You might say to yourself, “Well, I’ll just use one that isn’t a semi-auto!” True, you could do that to help solve the feeding issues…but what about leaks? Do you know how many times I’ve found that a $1000+ airgun has lost all of it’s air even though nobody touched it?
Let me set the stage for you… It’s 3:30am and you hear a noise downstairs. It was breaking glass, and now you hear the back door being opened because you were smart enough to hang some sort of noise-maker on your doors to alert you when they’re opened (write that down and do it if you’re not already, btw). You grab your 50fpe .25 caliber bolt-operated airgun and head downstairs. When you get there, you find two armed intruders trashing your house. You take aim from a covered and concealed position, point it at the closest bad guy, pull the trigger, and hear “CLICK.” Nothing. You frantically rack the bolt again, even though you’re sure you already did. Now they hear you, and they’re coming. At point blank range you take aim again and “CLICK.” The air leaked out, and you’re about to die. Don’t feel too bad, though. Seeing as how you were trying to take on two armed intruders with a single shot airgun…you were probably going to die anyway.
Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly airguns that are extremely reliable. Some of mine have been running for years and years without issue…but I wouldn’t use a single one of them as a defensive weapon. The level of trust necessary for the role of self-defense just isn’t there.
4) Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight
My father used to say this to me quite often. Lots of people did, actually…and it’s fantastic advice applicable to many aspects of life. I touched on this a little bit already with all of the previous points. This is the bottom line. You may replace “knife” with “airgun”, and it still means the same thing. Do not face any attacker if you are lesser-armed than he is. Sun Tzu said, “Do not engage an enemy more powerful than you. And if it is unavoidable and you do have to engage, then make sure you engage it on your terms, not on your enemy’s terms.” The first sentence is the most important one for our discussion. Chances are, the gun in the hand of the guy in the ski mask who just broke into your home is not an airgun. That’s probably a real gun.
What’s more is that in this day and age, a single shot weapon of any sort is a poor choice for a defensive gun…whether firearm, airgun, or any other type. Sure, some airguns these days are just as powerful as some real firearms…but almost every one I can think of is a single shot weapon. This is just as unsuitable for defense as a 5fpe semi-auto BB gun. The operating action alone makes it so, but you can add the fact that these are typically large, heavy, and unwieldy airguns. None of them were designed with defensive needs in mind.
No, ladies and gentlemen….you would do yourself a terrible disservice to arm yourself with an airgun and believe that you have a legitimate counter to an invader or attacker. Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Period. I don’t want to delve too deeply into the discussion of alternatives for self defense, but a real modern firearm combined with proper training and practice is the very best option available to you. If for whatever reason that option is not available to you, a baseball bat would serve you better than an airgun. They are cheap, readily available, legal for anyone to own, take little training to master, and can be VERY effective.
Still, the most valuable things available to you in any defensive situation will be your warrior spirit (get one if you don’t already have one), your wit, and the level of preparation you have put into this scenario. Did you hear them come in because of the noise-makers you put on every door and window? Are they now on video once inside because of your strategically placed cameras? Is your alarm system blaring because a door was opened? Have you called 911 because it’s on speed-dial in the phone next to your bed? Have you locked the dead bolt on your bedroom door so you can call the police on that phone? Any of those preparations will serve you better than an airgun, and probably even a real gun. Guns don’t make people safe. Training and preparation do.
I don’t mean to give a lesson on home defense, but I do mean to dissuade you from believing you can buy an airgun and that it will adequately protect you from the evils of the world. I mean to tell you that there are a myriad of things that can be done to help keep you safe that you might not be doing. Airguns are fantastic for their intended purposes, but self-defense just is not one of them.
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Donnie Reed is our Sales Manager and general airgun guru here at Baker Airguns. He was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, and qualified as both a Rifle Expert and Pistol Expert. Donnie is now a competitive airgun shooter, focusing primarily on field target and benchrest competitions. He has won both PCP and piston class field target matches, as well as local benchrest competitions. Donnie also runs the Youtube channel and Facebook group ALL THINGS AIRGUN. His first college degree is in Mathematics and Sciences, but he is still pursuing another in Physics and Astronomy.