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BB Guns for Self-Defense: A Practical Overview

Growing up just a few miles from the Daisy BB Gun factory, airguns were a big part of my childhood. While we generally viewed them as toys, albeit dangerous ones, I became more intrigued with BB guns after living in Europe, where many people keep them in their homes instead of traditional firearms. Like many people, I would like to know if you can use a BB gun for self-defense.

You can use a BB gun for self-defense, but it’s not the best choice for this purpose. Although it can cause pain and injury, it can’t incapacitate an attacker to the extent necessary to protect yourself or your home. Instead, there are numerous alternatives to airguns that you can use.

This opinion is based on over 30 years of experience with BB guns and self-defense, as well as research into the power of these weapons and their alternatives. This article will discuss this in detail so you have the information you need to keep yourself, your family, and your property safe.

A pile of BB Gun BBs

Why Aren’t BB Guns the Best Choice for Self-Defense?

Nothing can stop you from using a BB gun to defend yourself or your home. However, it might not be the most effective choice for several reasons.

They Have Limited Stopping Power

As a kid, my mom regularly repeated the maternal mantra that I could “shoot my eye out” with my BB gun. 

While she was right, and BB guns can cause injury, even severe and permanent injury, it’s rarely incapacitating at the moment. In other words, BB guns don’t have the same stopping power as traditional firearms, so whether you’re defending yourself against an animal or another person, it’s unlikely to serve your purposes.

They Risk Escalation

Because a BB gun can cause pain and injury yet lacks the stopping power of a traditional firearm, it can often irritate and provoke your attacker rather than deter them. This is especially true if you are trying to defend yourself against a large animal such as a bear or an attacker with a more powerful weapon.

So instead of stopping your attacker, it could escalate the situation into life or death.

They May Not Be Legal

Depending on your jurisdiction, using a BB gun for self-defense may not be legal. Doing so could result in criminal charges and liability for any injuries you inflict on your attacker. So like a traditional gun, if you harm someone else with it, you might find yourself in the back seat of a police cruiser.

Related Can You Carry a BB Gun in Your Car? | What You Should Know

Why Do BB Guns Have Limited Stopping Power?

bb gun with white bbs

A BB gun, sometimes called a pellet gun or airgun, is an air-powered weapon that shoots a small, rounded projectile called a BB, usually made of metal. By cocking the gun, you build up air pressure, which then shoots the BB at high speeds when you release it by pulling the trigger.

This can be highly effective, and many people employ BB guns for hunting small game and recreational activities such as target shooting. Still, their power is nothing compared to that of traditional firearms. 

For reference, even the fastest BB guns worldwide shoot around 1,500’ per second (457.2 meters per second), while modern rifles fire bullets at more than twice that speed. 

Plus, bullets are much heavier than BBs, meaning even weak firearms often produce five times the kinetic energy of an airgun. In other words, while BB guns can definitely hurt someone and even cause severe, permanent injuries such as blindness, they simply don’t have the power to kill or incapacitate someone except in rare instances.

The Legality of Using a BB Gun for Self-Defense


Even though BB guns are not regulated under federal law, 23 states have laws that apply to them. 

Some, such as New Jersey and Rhode Island, even define them as firearms, while many define them as dangerous weapons or limit or restrict their use, sale, and transfer. Similarly, many cities like New York regulate airguns. As a result, you should always research and understand the laws where you live before considering a BB gun for self-defense. 

For instance, if you were illegally carrying the airgun, you may be criminally or civilly liable even if you were acting in self-defense.

Alternatives to BB Guns for Self-Defense

If you’re looking for self-defense options but do not want to own, carry, or use a traditional firearm, you have several alternatives that work better than BB guns, such as:

  • Pepper spray: Pepper spray uses chemicals to cause severe eye and respiratory irritation that can incapacitate your attacker. It’s highly effective and easier to carry than a BB gun. While it’s legal in most jurisdictions, it may have certain regulations.
  • Stun guns or tasers: A taser delivers a high-voltage electrical shock to your attacker that can hinder or incapacitate them. State and city governments regulate Tasers extensively, so check your local laws.
  • Self-defense classes: Martial arts such as Karate and Krav Maga can be effective for self-defense, fun, healthy, and emotionally empowering. 
  • Security systems: If you’re looking for options for your home, security systems offer an effective first line of defense. These may include alarms, heavy-duty locks, cameras, and motion-activated lights. You may need to hire professionals to install the system and combine it with other methods. 
  • Personal alarms: Similarly, you can carry a personal alarm to attract attention and scare off an attacker in a public setting. This could be an electronic alarm you press in emergencies, making a loud noise, and contacting law enforcement. It could also be a simple whistle that you can blow when attacked.
Close-up of red-haired woman holding pepper spray in hand

Final Thoughts

While BB guns can cause injury and even have the power to hunt small game, I don’t recommend them for self-defense. They don’t have the stopping power to disable an attacker and may even escalate a dangerous situation, resulting in legal issues. 

Instead, I suggest a traditional firearm for self-defense or other options like pepper spray, tasers, martial arts classes, or security systems. By using an effective method, following local regulations, and getting the proper training when necessary, you can confidently protect yourself and your home.

For more, check out How Much Does a Taser Cost? (With 5 Examples).