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How to use air guns for pest control

Contrary to popular belief, using an airgun is the best method of eliminating pests on your premises. There are plenty of air rifles that are powerful enough to humanely and sustainably dispatch pigeons, rats and other species of pests whilst also being quieter, simpler and less restricted than a shotgun or firearm. There are a number of rules and etiquettes you should follow in order to conduct a safe and appropriate procedure, but on the whole, it's quite a straightforward task.


Here are some of the key things to consider when using an airgun for pest control…


Why should you choose an air rifle for your pest control?


An air rifle is a fantastic pest control tool for a number of reasons. Firstly, they are much quieter than firearms, so you're less likely to disturb your neighbours or alert the pest to your presence. This means you can be far more consistent and efficient with your shots and stay in the good books of your closest neighbours.


Secondly, they're cheaper and more readily available than shotguns - you don't need a licence to own a regulated air rifle in the UK, unlike shotguns. There's no need to go out and spend a fortune on a tool that's only needed to perform a routine job. At the same time, the current waiting lists for obtaining or renewing your shotgun certificate are incredibly long - you'd be waiting a very long time to get rid of those pests.

Air rifles are also more humane than other pest control methods such as poisons or traps. A well-placed shot will kill the pest instantly, meaning they’ll experience very little pain or suffering and require a lot less setup in the process.


air rifle out in the field


What are the rules and etiquettes of pest control?

Just like with any pest control method, there are specific rules and etiquettes you should follow in order to stay safe and legal. In the UK, it's illegal to use an air rifle to shoot certain species of birds and any large mammals such as deer. It’s also unlawful to discharge an air rifle within 50 feet of a public highway. If you need to familiarise yourself with the laws of what you can and can't shoot (especially regarding birds), read this helpful article from Fieldsports Channel TV.

When using an air rifle for pest control, you should always:


- Wear appropriate safety gear, including eye protection

- Use a suitable backstop to catch the pest or bullet - you can even make your own backstop, as demonstrated in this great article!

- Check your surroundings for people or animals before taking a shot

- Only shoot at pest animals - never at people, pets or livestock

- Be aware of the legal limits on how far you can shoot from a public highway

- Follow the manufacturers' instructions for your air rifle


garden backstop for air guns

Picture from Airgun Shooter Magazine


How to coerce a pest towards a backstop


Once you’ve responsibly placed a backstop in a suitable area of your land or garden, you of course have to encourage pests to sit in front of it. That can be done very simply by scattering food in front of your backstop. It’s very likely that the reason these pests are hanging around your premises is due to a source of food, so providing it to them with easy access will be your best chance of some quick success. Different species will be attracted by slightly different things and will also be active and different times of the day.


If you’re targeting rats for example, many people have had great success using sweetcorn as bait for them and particularly in hours of darkness. This of course means that you might need to use a lamp, torch or night vision to complete the job, but you’re more likely to get plenty of activity.


Regular birdseed or nuts will work very well for most species of pest bird and will often attract squirrels too. Magpies can tend to be a little more tricky, but breadcrumbs or leftover vegetables will be your best bet.




In summary, you can easily use air guns for pest control with excellent results. Once you know what you can and can’t shoot, how to prepare your setup and how to attract pests, you’re pretty much ready to get started. All you need now is to find the best air rifle for pest control shooting. PCP air rifles in either .22 or .177 are the best options for pest control shooting - you can view all of our pest control air rifles for sale here!