Can an air rifle disable an attacker?

I keep being asked this and I answer the same way everytime.
It depends on how accurate you are.
But it seems that’s not enough for some so here’s some thoughts for you.

Consider this. The old bone dome is typically 3 mm thick.
An interesting make up of two “solid bone” layers sandwiching a “honeycomb”.


It’s about 3 mm (1/8 th) inch thick.
Doesn’t seem much does it but in the grand scheme of things, at 50 yards, live bone will slow an air gun pellet from a sub 15 ft.lb .22 weapon down to walking pace AND the human brain itself takes a lot of killing.

Hows about the heart?
Generally that’s behind clothing and the sternum (breast bone) is a flat bone about six inches in length, around an inch wide, and around 1/4 inch thick plus your ribs, making a heart shot almost impossible.

So what use is a ‘pathetic little air gun’ of the sub 15 ft.lb power range.
Outwardly little as even the most basic of clothing will slow a pellet down if not stop it.
Only lets return to my first question, Can an air rifle disable an attacker?
That and my statement, it depends on how accurate you are.

I could talk about taking out the major arteries in the neck and all that high accuracy shooting but why bother?
If you can’t stand, breath, or SEE, it’s not possible to pursue your target.
Stand and breath are largely out of the scope of an air gun of this power but as for see?

The orbital cavity, which holds the eyeball, might seem an easier target as it is:-
1.5 inches High, 1.3 inches Wide, and some of the bone at the back is less than 20 thousands of an inch thick.

As for the eyeball? That’s just under an inch across and as vulnerable as hell!
At 50 yards a 15 ft.lb .22 weapon will deliver around 10 ft.lbs of energy.
The orb can be penetrated by a 1/3 of a foot-pound.

Think you can keep within an inch at 50 yards? 2 MOA?
That’s something most UK rabbit hunters do as standard.

So I’ll ask the question now.
How safe would you feel if you were in an urban scenario where an almost silent weapon (60-65 db aka soft speech and that’s without a sound moderator fitted) was being used in an ambush (sniper) mode?

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5 Responses to Can an air rifle disable an attacker?

  1. DM says:

    I love how you break this stuff down, in practical terms!

  2. Brittius says:

    I recall having responded to a building construction site long ago, where a pneumatic nailing gun had caused some wicked injury when a work accident causes a worker’s thigh to be shot with a nail.

  3. If I have time to set up a sniper ambush on an attacker, that means I probably had sufficient warning to escape, evade, hide, booby trap etc. You’ll never lose the fight that doesn’t happen. How many urban attackers will come alone? Can I stop his friends too? 50 yards on a fairly stationary target is one thing but the human head is a pretty mobile target. Clothes can even cause issues on an eye shot; a baseball cap pulled down low on the forehead, a hoodie pulled down low, or even eye glasses could all block or deflect that shot…

    For a single attacker, an airgun might make a good first line of defense but be prepared with something more potent like a bat, blade, brick or whatever. For groups of attackers a chemical approach might work better. Lots of household chemicals can form irritating and even deadly combinations. Even fireworks (if legal in the UK) can be pretty intimidating. Crazy as it is there are people in the US who would not shy away from a gun or blade who would run when faced with flaming, exploding balls of gunpowder from something like a roman candles. They loose a lot of their deterrence during the day though.

    Take care

    • Interesting thoughts but I continue to push air as an alternative to firearms, especially in the UK.

      Air power is cheap, ammo is small and light so you carry loads. No flash, hush power comes as standard, the only problem for me is the speed of recharge of a PCP using a hand pump.

      Why push PCP as opposed to spring or even air-spring power? Simple, it’s quieter and easier to tweak to achieve more ‘smack’.

      I’m also thinking full power air weapons are in use today in the US on deer and preditors. Weight for weight, there’s not a lot of difference between animal and man.

Go on, grade me!

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