How Dangerous Are BB Guns?

Bringing up a son can be difficult at the best of times. I was the same at this age, always wanting toy guns so I could play soldiers. Of course, 40 years ago we didn’t have as much choice as we do now. Back then, my options were typically plastic replicas that used to break after a few weeks, much to my Dad’s dismay. Now though, things are different. He started wanting Nerf guns. I thought these were awesome and he actually now has a collection of over a hundred guns. As he grew up a little though he wanted more. More authentic looks and more power. With power comes danger though and it’s a balance between keeping your son safe and letting him enjoy his childhood.

So, he pleaded with me to get him a BB gun so what do I do first? Go onto google and search. What I wanted to know was how dangerous were these things? I had an idea but wasn’t sure and the information I got online wasn’t as clear as I was expecting. So, I did my own research – spoke to people and shops about the dangers of BB guns.

A BB Gun should be considered as dangerous and the same safety procedures applied as a regular firearm. Although the projectile isn’t as massive and the power behind the BB gun isn’t as much, the BB can still do significant harm if it impacts the human body, especially the eyes.

BB Gun Facts and Safety

The Basics

Let’s quickly make sure we all understand what exactly a BB gun is. Simply put, a BB gun is a type of airgun that shoots projectiles. These projectiles are spherical and usually made of steel. The size of these BBs (known as the caliber) is typically 0.177 inches. This is the same size as the most popular pellet which is why some airguns can shoot both BBs and pellets. This isn’t the only thing the BB gun shares with the airgun. The different methods of powering an airgun can also be used to power a BB gun. This is typically CO2 (carbon dioxide) or via spring-piston.

The BB Gun

How Fast Will It Shoot?

How hard a BB gun will hit doesn’t depend just on how fast it can shoot. It depends on the mass of the projectile it’s shooting. As the vast majority of BB guns are 0.177 caliber, we will assume this is the ammunition being used.

The majority of BB guns will be capable of shooting faster than 200 FPS (feet per second). Convert this to mph and that projectile is traveling at about 135 mph. Some BB guns can shoot up to approaching 500 FPS, that’s around 340 mph.

So, we’ve ascertained that a BB gun can shoot a metal projectile at a very high speed. It’s not going to be as high as a pellet, which is more aerodynamic but it still contains a lot of energy. But, what will that energy do to you if it hits you?

What Happens If A BB Hits you?

The BB only needs to be travelling at 150 FPS for it to penetrate your skin. We’ve already ascertained that most BB guns can shoot at higher speeds than this. So, it can certainly penetrate your skin from close range. In fact, to be sure of safety you really need to be at least 500 yards away but there’s a lot of variables to consider and we’re not interested in that level of detail here. For instance, a sprint-powered BB Gun will typically deliver a projectile at higher velocities than CO2. A variable pump gun’s velocity will depend on how many times you pump it. Of course, other variables such as the weather have an obvious part to play too.

The biggest risk of injury is to your head and particularly to your eyes. A BB will blind you without much effort and from short range will easily penetrate your skin, possibly causing damage to the bone and internal organs if particularly unlucky.

So, based on the above we can safely say that a BB gun is not a toy, far from it. A BB gun is a weapon and the same safety controls that are considered for a firearm should be adopted by a user of a BB gun.

If you’d like to check out some of the best BB rifles, do take a look here (opens in a new window).

Can A BB Gun Kill?

Unfortunately, yes. A BB gun has enough power to kill, particularly at short-range. Injuries and fatalities have decreased in the last 20 years, due mostly because of the increase in awareness and the acceptance of safety gear. The biggest risk, in my opinion, is complacency. Just because your child has been shooting without any problems for a little while, remember they are still a child. They do childish things, as they should. But, we need to keep an eye on them 🙂

Safety

There are some simple steps that should be applied when using a BB gun and if you follow some simple rules you can have some great fun and stay safe at the same time.

Minimum Age

It depends on where you live. I’ve found that not only does the minimum age vary from country to country but in the US it varies from state to state and also from city to city.  In most places though, you need to be 18 or older to buy a BB gun and younger than that you need to be supervised by an adult. In summary though, if the young shooter is less than 18, they will need to be supervised.

Safety Procedures

There are a number of things you can teach to ensure the shooter and those around them are kept safe.

  • Always assume the weapon is loaded – however sure you may be, even if you’ve just shot the thing. Adopting this one rule will ensure that there can never be any accidents relating to a loaded gun.
  • Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction – the rifle should not be pointed at anyone, regardless of how sure you that it’s loaded (see the first point).
  • Load and cock last – only load your gun when you’re ready to shoot if possible. You want to try and avoid walking around with a loaded/cocked gun if at all possible.
  • Everyone wears glasses – I was shooting a little .177 caliber pellet gun the other day. The pellet hit a tree about 20 yards away, rebounded and hit me just under the ear. It was still traveling at a high speed and if it had hit an unprotected eye, it would have caused damage. Proper safety glasses must be worn by everyone in the vicinity – if you need some, just get these (opens in a new window).
  • Use a decent backstop –  If you’re just shooting in the backyard you want to ensure your BBs don’t ricochet all over the place. You need to shoot into something that will absorb the energy, obliterating the BB – metal works. I’ve always liked this – certainly does the job.
  • Store safely –  When you’ve finished for the day, store your BB gun somewhere safe. If possible, make sure the gun, magazine (if it has one), pellets and CO2 are in different locations. 

There are many things you can do to improve safety when shooting, the above is just some of them. I’ve written an article about this actually so if you’d like to check this out click here (opens in a new tab).

Summary

So, after reading this I think you will agree that yes, a BB gun is dangerous. However, arguably so is flying a plane, right? That doesn’t mean we don’t do it. There’s a balance, as I mentioned earlier, between safety and enjoying a sport the way. I believe there can be a happy compromise. Once you’ve adopted the basic safety processes it will soon become second nature and you won’t even think about it. What I’ve found is that the safety rules that I’ve applied in my house, although different to what they were forty years ago, don’t distract from the love of the sport one bit.

If you’re interested in buying a BB gun, either for you or your family you could do worse than check out my reviews on the best BB guns available today. Any of these will keep you happy for a very long time, click here for more info (opens in a new window). By the way, if you’re not sure what the difference is btween a BB gun and an airsoft gun, find out here

Interested In Buying Something New?

If you’re in the market for a new gun, be it a BB, Air Rifle or Pistol, check out my totally unbiased reviews on what’s best out there right now. These have all been tried and tested so you don’t have to worry about buying something that isn’t up to the job: