Shooting Rats With an Air Rifle

I appreciate that this blog post is going to divide opinions, with many people arguing that rat shooting is an inhumane way of getting rid of rodents. I, however, firmly believe that if carried out in the correct way, shooting rats is actually far more humane than other forms of pest control, such as poison, which often causes rats prolonged suffering.

Is Shooting Rats the Best Way to Eradicate Them?

Over the decade’s rats have been eradicated using a number of different methods both humane and inhumane. This includes everything from traps to cats, gassing, poisoning, and of course shooting.

A perfect aim from a rifle can result in instantaneous death, however, it does require the expertise of someone responsible and with a steady hand in order to execute it correctly. You should always check the regulations regarding the use of air guns beforehand, as these vary from state to state.

Below I will explain the best ways to lure a rat and the easiest way to shoot them successfully.

How to Lure Rats to Shoot Them

We really should give rats more kudos, because these little pests are smart. They can sniff out a food source from quite a distance away but can also smell danger when it’s put in their path. Therefore, in order to successfully shoot a rat, you should keep all activity around it as normal as possible and use equipment that is quiet and unobtrusive, such as air guns and night vision lamps.

You are more likely to notice these nocturnal animals in the colder months, as they come out in search of scraps. Therefore, it stands to reason that the best time to shoot a rat is as night falls or the sun starts to rise, as this is when they are at their most active.

When it comes to shooting rats, in order to get a direct aim, you need to ensure that the rat is as still as possible as a moving target is harder to hit. The best way to do this is with bait. I have written many blogs on the best baits to trap rodents, and in this scenario, I would recommend using a sticky bait that is difficult for the rat to remove instantly and may leave them quietly licking leftovers from the whiskers. Peanut butter, maple syrup, and strawberry jam are all great tantalizers and require the rat to stop and nibble rather than snatching and scampering off.

How to Shoot Rats With an Air Rifle

For everyone’s safety, air rifles must always be handled in a responsible manner and only used for the intention of shooting pests and not surrounding wildlife. Always ensure that the pellets are kept within your own boundary as failure to following these rules may result in penalties.

There are a number of air rifles and BB guns that are designed for killing rats. From spring-loaded to pre-charged pneumatic, gas ram, CO2, and many more, it generally comes down to personal preference. Spring-loaded air rifles do tend to be cheaper to buy but take longer to load. Pre-charged pneumatic air rifles allow you to fire multiple pellets and because there is no spring, tend to be almost silent.

shooting rats with an air rifle
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Depending on the range that you are shooting the rats at, will make a difference to the pellets you choose to use. I prefer a .22 as they are slightly larger, have more power, and provide you with a bigger aim. If you are a confident shooter, however, you may prefer a slightly lighter pellet such as a .177 for a quickfire.

If you are outdoors whilst vision is limited, I strongly suggest you invest in a telescopic sight to magnify and help with light transmission as well as a gun lamp. Just be cautious of when to switch it on or better still buy one with variable power, as you don’t want the rat spotting you before you’ve spotted it! Night vision equipment is becoming much more affordable now and will certain give you the edge in the fight against the foe.

The best place to aim when shooting a rat is for the head. As gruesome as it sounds it guarantees an immediate death. It is tricky to shoot a rat, especially if it’s on the move, so I would suggest practicing on tin cans. Start with them static and then place them on a string and let them sway before taking a snapshot. When you feel confident that you have mastered the skill, it is only then that I would head out and hunt for vermin.

Shooting rats is not for the faint-hearted as you are likely to witness some unpleasant sights, especially as you should always clear up before leaving. That said, it is a means to an end, if you are overrun with rats on your property then this is an effective form of evicting them.

You may be interested in: Is an air rifle powerful enough to kill a rabbit?

More Humane Ways of Killing Rats

It is incredibly hard to get rid of rats, no matter how big or small the infestation. But, if you are looking for a humane way to remove rats, there are other solutions that you can try.

If you are a cat lover, then when not employ the help of a feline friend and let the circle of life commence. Or invest in a humane rat trap and release them back into the wild, far away from your property?


Shooting rats is not a singular solution to solving your pest problem. It will certainly make their living arrangements less comfortable, put them on edge, and may give you some satisfaction as you fight back. But unless you constantly take aim and keep numbers down then you are unlikely to get rid of them for good. I would therefore suggest that you use multiple methods in order to discourage rodents.

Always make sure that you seal up any access points, keep food in plastic containers with air-tight lids, and ensure that the environment around you is clean, tidy, and hygienic. I have written many blog posts on ways to get rid of rats, but prevention is always better than cure.

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