The editor asks: body shots ver­sus head shots?

Are body shots eth­i­cal? - asks the editor

Air Gunner - - Contents -

As reg­u­lar read­ers will know, I strongly rec­om­mend that head shots are the only safe ones when us­ing a 12 ft.lbs. airgun, whichever quarry you pur­sue. How­ever, read­ers have told me again and again that they make body shots work with no prob­lems. Un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances I agree that they are pos­si­ble, and there are some I will take. For ex­am­ple, when you have a wood­pi­geon or col­lared dove fac­ing di­rectly away from you, a shot between the shoul­ders is fully ef­fec­tive. There is lit­tle pro­tec­tion for the heart and lungs from this an­gle and a well-placed pel­let will drop the bird in­stantly. The re­sult from the front is to­tally the op­po­site. The thick mus­cles and breast­bone are al­most im­pen­e­tra­ble to a 12 ft.lbs. pel­let and will only wound the bird, and that’s some­thing we’re hon­our bound to avoid.


When it comes to rab­bits, the de­ci­sion is far clearer; only head shots are ever ac­cept­able. An airgun pel­let has enough pen­e­tra­tion to go through the ribs and pierce a rab­bit’s heart, but that’s not the prob­lem. It’s how you iden­tify pre­cisely where the heart is. If you miss by so much as half an inch, you will not stop the rab­bit cleanly and if it makes it back to its warren, you’ll never re­cover it ei­ther. This means that you can’t know if it’s dead or ly­ing wounded to die slowly. The part of the skull that con­tains the brain is the op­po­site, be­ing very ob­vi­ous and easy to aim at, and any pel­let of any cal­i­bre pass­ing through will give an in­stant and clean kill.

Switch­ing off the pump

When you dam­age a rab­bit’s heart you haven’t killed it. What you’ve done is stopped the pump that drives fresh blood to the brain. It takes some time be­fore the lack of oxy­genated blood causes the rab­bit to pass out and sub­se­quently die, and dur­ing that de­lay they can and will run, some­times quite far.

The same ap­plies to squir­rels. Sure, their chest cav­ity is much smaller but then so is their heart, and squir­rels are in­fa­mously tough, tak­ing solid hits and still cling­ing on to the branch. Again hit­ting the pre­cise spot is dif­fi­cult, whereas a solid head shot causes in­stant death, even if the claws re­main driven into the tree bark as the dy­ing mus­cles con­vulse.

I hope I’ve con­vinced you that head shots are al­most al­ways the only choice. If we have a good rea­son to take an an­i­mal or bird’s life, then we also have a duty to make the death as clean as pos­si­ble and head shots are the key to that chal­lenge.

“If you miss by so much as half an inch, you will not stop the rab­bit cleanly”

Main: The po­si­tion of the brain is much eas­ier to de­fine than the heart

Left: A chest shot rab­bit will al­most al­ways run

Right: Shot di­rectly between the shoul­ders, this pi­geon would drop in­stantly

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