No matter if it’s a BB gun or pellet rifle, the air gun is a fundamental building block of marksmanship training for hunters of all ages. Not only that, in Mississippi there are worthwhile opportunities for hunters to take their air guns to the woods. With the escalating cost and limited availability of ammunition lately, those nice big tins of pellets are looking more and more attractive with each passing day.
BB guns are low powered but are great for learning the basics of marksmanship (grip, sight alignment, trigger control) cheaply and in the comfort of your own home. Modern air rifles of good quality are by nature far more accurate than most 22LR rimfire rifles. Rimfire rounds are by nature handicapped because of low quality control when firing bulk grade ammunition and the use of a heeled bullet. In comparison even inexpensive cast pellets and BBs are more aerodynamic and coupled with a modern air rifle will deliver consistent performance.
Air guns are so popular for training youth in shooting basics that most of the hunter’s education courses being taught in the state use one for the mandatory live fire section of the course. They are cheap to shoot, accurate, and limited in range.
During the winter especially, there are always issues with mice, rats, and other little creepy crawlies that are classified as pests. A good pellet rifle even in.177 caliber can take care of these without much issue. Be sure that you obey local laws as some cities in the state have town ordinances about shooting an air gun in the city limits, but otherwise feel free. Obey your basic firearms safety rules with pellet guns as they can still inflict bodily harm, shoot out windows, and generally disturb the neighbors. For these types of vermin as well as nuisance birds, a good quality, medium weight, wad-cutter (flat tipped) pellet will minimize the chance of over-penetration.
According to state laws, “all species of blackbirds, cowbirds, starlings, crows, grackles, and English sparrows may be killed without a permit when such birds are committing or about to commit depredations on shade or ornamental trees or agricultural crops.”
It’s best to remember that Mississippi is home to a number of endangered species of bats, turtles and rare snakes they are best to be avoided if you are unsure of the exact species in your sights.
It’s legal according to MDFWP regulations to hunt all small game (rabbit, squirrel, bobwhite quail, raccoon, possum, and bobcat) with air rifles during the normal season by a licensed hunter.
While almost any BB gun or pellet rifle will take vermin sized animals (mice, rats) and pest birds such as sparrows, you will need a high-powered air gun that shoots pellets only to go after anything larger.
These hunting level guns start at about $59 and go rapidly up from there. To make sure you have a strong enough air gun, make sure that the FPS (feet per second) rating is 700+ for a.22 caliber, or 950+ for a.177 caliber gun. Benjamin Sheridan pump line and Daisy’s cock-action Powerline series can be had new for about $100. Slightly better rifles such as the Gamo Big Cat and Crosman Vantage are just $30 more expensive but deliver a lot more performance. Moving up the scale are Ruger Air Magnums, German-made RWS guns, Hatsans, Sumatras, and the Benjamin Marauders that go for as much as $400.
For hunting these tree rats and flop ears, look for a good quality, medium weight, domed pellet like the Crosman Premiere Light, RWS Superdome, or the JSB Exact. These can be had extremely cheap, the 7.9 Grain Crosman Premier run about $25 for 1250 pellets for example. Gamo has a new 0.36 gram.177 pellet that can penetrate 1.5mm rolled galvanized steel sheet and keep going. Called the “Lethal,” it’s a two-body design pellet with ultra-high ballistic coefficient, more terminal penetration, a stable flight trajectory, and a polymer skirt. These top of the line pellets cost about $20 per 100. With high-end pellets and a high-powered air rifle, lethal shots as far as 50-yards out are possible.
When going after bobcats, raccoons, and possums, 22 caliber or 25 caliber pellets from high-powered air guns should be the minimum.
With all small game taken with an air gun, it is absolutely required to get good, accurate shots in the small 1-2 inch kill zones of your target to ensure it goes down. Headshots are the rule to live by. Unless you can hit a nickel sized target repeatedly with your air rifle at 25-yards, practice until you can before heading to the woods.
The State of Mississippi by Public Notice LE6-3779 lists beaver, coyote, fox, nutria, skunk, and wild hogs as nuisance animals. As such, the hunting of nuisance animals is allowed during daylight hours on private lands with no caliber restrictions–, which include air guns. While.177/22 caliber guns can take polecats with no issue, going after some of the larger game on this list may be problematic unless you have a big bore air rifle.
Speaking of which deer and turkey hunting with big bore air guns, while practiced in some states, is currently off the board in Mississippi– for now. In 2007, an Alabama man took two deer, including a trophy 9-point with a.50 caliber air rifle and one 200-grain pellet. With precedents such as that one, it’s likely just a matter of time before whitetails are being taken with air guns in this state as well.
Just be sure you don’t shoot your eye out.