Best Air Pistols for Self Defense [2020 Update]

Can you use an air pistol or pellet gun for self defense?

…some say NO but let’s examine the facts that few people know.

Why Air Pistols Are an Option for Self Defense

  1. Velocity 400+ fps – penetrates 3-4″ of soft tissue
  2. Multi shot magazines – shoot 10-50 shots without reloading
  3. CO2 Power – provides continuous shooting without cocking the action….and lots of power
  4. Easy to Purchase – no regulation or background checks
  5. Low Noise – no ear protection and will not disturb neighbors or set off car alarms
  6. Easy to shoot well – no recoil or noise…pinpoint accuracy is easy to obtain
  7. Lightweight – men and women can handle and shoot easily
  8. Inexpensive – air pistols for self defense cost around $40 while air rifles are a bit more expensive at around $100 – $200

Best Air Pistol Choices for Self Defense

Daisy Powerline 415 BB gun out of the box

Daisy Powerline 415 Air Pistol – Muzzle Velocity – 495 fps.

I bought this air pistol. I love it! And YES I’m a Glock lover too. Go figure.

The Daisy 415 is a great air pistol. It’s plastic but feels nice in your hand…a little light but not bad. It’s CO2 powered which is great because you get more power and fast follow up shots when needed. I prefer to not have to pump an air pistol or rifle between shots.

The 415 is one of the most powerful air pistols available. The muzzle velocity runs around 495 fps with steel BB’s. It will penetrate 3″ of ballistic get with a steel BB. I shoot in my backyard all the time and it never disturbs my neighbors or makes any dogs bark.

The Daisy 415 air pistol is great for target practice, pest control like mice, birds or squirrels and self defense.

BB Penetration in Ballistic Gel

Here is a block of Ballistic Get that I used to test the penetration of the Daisy Powerline 415 BB gun. You can see 2 sets of BB’s…Black Diamond and Copperhead BB’s. They are sitting at the 3″ mark. Both penetrated the same distance.

If I had the choice of an air gun or no weapon…I would naturally choose the air gun. I would chose an air gun over a knife also. But I would much rather have a firearm. Multiple shots from a medium powered air gun will definitely stun an intruder to say the least. If nothing else, it will give you some time to escape and call 911. The ideal target is the face and particularly the eyes. Eye shots will blind the intruder and most likely kill them immediately. Once the brain is penetrated, it’s almost always “Lights Out”.

There are real human tissue tests performed in a lab by medical professionals entailing bb and pellet penetration on human skin, human eyes and human bones. Don’t worry, the human body parts were from deceased. This is real scientific proof of the capabilities of bb guns and pellet guns for self defense.

Air guns or pellet guns are limited in power which is why most people say you cannot use one for self defense BUT some have enough power to stop a human if shot placement is correct. A 1000 fps pellet pistol would be the ultimate. A heart or lung shot with most pellet guns is useless however a Temple or Eye shot could be fatal. Steel BB’s traveling at 400-500 fps will penetrate the human eye and hit the brain. A temple shot will most likely hit the brain also resulting in a stunned, disabled or dead target. If you look at some gelatin air gun penetration tests, you will see that pellets and BB’s will penetrate about 3-4 inches. That much penetration in the human brain will be fatal or serious paralysis. Some pellet guns can penetrate 1/4″ plywood.

There are a few considerations to think about when choosing a pellet gun for self defense.

  1. Power
  2. Rifle or Pistol
  3. Semi-auto or bolt action [blowback or manual bolt action]
  4. Single shot or repeater [magazine or clip]

Ideally you want multiple shots in a semi or fully auto mode. The size of the gun is up to you but smaller is handier and easier to bring into action. More powerful air guns are better but you have to also consider if they are multi-shot and semi-auto. A break barrel air gun might not be the best choice since you will only have one shot. Break barrel pellet guns have enough power to easily stop an intruder with a single shot. But do you want to bet your life on that one shot? I prefer to have 4 or 5 + shots available in short order.

Best Air Pistol Sights for Self Defense

Another consideration is sights. Open sights are the standard on all air pistols and they will work but there are better solutions. You could opt for a Red Dot optical sight if the pistol has a mount or is drilled and tapped for an optical sight. They mount with scope type mounts or a rail. A Red Dot does require you to raise the pistol and look through the sight in order to aim. This is not ideal but it is better than open sights. It’s quicker and more accurate.

The best sight is a Laser Sight. It requires no eye alignment and you can aim with the pistol in any position. A laser sight puts the dot on the target and does not require any eye alignment. It’s also great in low light situations where open sights and red dots are not the best. A laser sight typically mounts on a rail. The Daisy Powerline 415 has a rail mount under the slide which is perfect of a laser sight. Laser sights are also pretty cheap. There are lots of models for $20 – $30.

Pump, Break Barrel, PCP or CO2 Air Guns for Self Defense

So what type of air gun is best for self defense?

Let’s look at pump air guns. Pump air guns certainly have the power to stop a human and are available in .177 and .22 calibers. They shoot steel BBs and lead pellets which are great ammunition against soft targets. BUT they are a SLOW 2nd and 3rd shot. You have to pump them 10 times and then load a pellet or BB. This takes too long in the heat of the moment. If your 1st shot does not stop the threat, you may be in for some hand to hand combat real quick or dead if the threat has a gun.

Break barrel guns fall into the same category as the pump guns. Break barrels are slow to reload but do have plenty of power.

PCP or Pre-charged Pneumatic guns are a little faster to reload than pump guns and break barrels but are basically a single shot gun. A 2nd shot will not be as fast as you would like. PCP guns are however very powerful and available in calibers up to 12 gauge.

CO2 guns are just about ideal for self defense with the exception of power. If CO2 air guns had velocities of 800 fps, they would be perfect. Most CO2 air guns are in the 400-500 fps range with .177 BBs or pellets. 450 fps will provide about 3-4 inches or so of penetration in ballistic gelatin. This is ample to penetrate the human brain with an accurate shot. Small game are easily dispatched with a BB or .177 pellet at 450 fps. And the advantage of multiple rapid fire shots can really “put the brakes” on a would be intruder.

Best CO2 air pistols for self defense

  1. Daisy Powerline 415 BB Pistol – 495 fps
  2. Crosman PFAM9B BB Air Pistol – 450 fps
  3. Crosman SR 357 CO2 6 Shot BB Revolver  – 450 fps
  4. Daisy Powerline 5170 CO2 Air Pistol [discontinued] – 520 fps
  5. Winchester Model 11K CO2 Pistol – 410 fps

Crosman SR357

The Crosman SR357 features a heavy metal frame which gives it a weight of 2 lbs. It really feels like a real firearm. It also has a real 6 shot swing out cylinder that accepts reusable cartridges. Nice job Crosman!

The SR357 is a double and single action revolver that shoots .177 cal BB’s. It is CO2 powered for maximum power and has a muzzle velocity of 450 fps.The barrel is a steel smooth bore and is quite accurate non the less.

The SR357 is a great air pistol for target shooting, small game hunting, pest control like mice and rats and self defense. It’s realistic design would make a good deterrent against an unarmed intruder. If that fails, I would fire until empty.

Winchester Model 11K

Power – The Model 11K is a dual CO2 powered pistol with a maximum muzzle velocity of 410 feet per second with steel BB’s
Construction – The 11K air pistol features a steel frame and smooth bore barrel. The grip is black composite and very durable.
Action Type – blow back semi auto action design to simulate real 1911 semi auto firearm. The slide stays open after the last BB is shot. Nice!
Magazine Capacity – the magazine holds 16 steel BB’s and is easily inserted and ejected. The magazine is easily reloaded in short order
Uses – target practice, pest control and self defense.
Appearance – The Winchester 11K is a super nice two tone air pistol that looks and feels like a real Colt 1911. The weight and grip feel are very good. It has a realistic weight of 3.8 lbs. It really feels nice in your hand.

Crosman PFAM9B

Power – a single CO2 cartridge provides muzzle velocities of 400+ feet per second with steel BB ammunition
Construction – The frame and slide and metal and have a realistic weight. Grips are composite material with checkering. It weighs 2.44 lbs.
Action Type – blowback action with semi auto and full auto modes.
Magazine Capacity – the magazine capacity is 20 rounds of BB’s
Uses – target practice, pest control and self defense.
Appearance – the PFAM9b air pistol resembles the Beretta 92/M9 semi auto handgun. It is a ton of fun to shoot in full auto mode…holy cow!! It’s powerful and operates like the real gun.

Daisy Powerline 5172

Power – CO2 powered by a single cylinder and produces a muzzle velocity of 520 feet per second. It is one of the more powerful CO2 pistols available
Construction – metal and plastic
Action Type – blowback semi auto action
Magazine Capacity – 21 shot clip
Uses – target practice, pest control and self defense.
Appearance – this air pistol resemble a Colt 1911 with a tactical flair. It feels realistic in your hands and is fun to shoot.

Sig Sauer M17

Power – CO2 powered by a single cylinder and produces a muzzle velocity of 430 feet per second. It is one of the more powerful CO2 pistols available. It uses pellets for ammunition. It does not shoot BB’s however.
Construction – Metal slide and polymer frame. The barrel is steel and rifled for accuracy.
Action Type – blowback semi auto action
Magazine Capacity – 20 pellet clip. This has a cam lever drop magazine just like the real M17
Uses – target practice, pest control and self defense.
Appearance – The M17 is a very close replica of the real military M17 handgun. It looks and feels like the real gun.It field strips exactly like the M17. Very cool! It has a rail mount under the slide and can accept real M17 accessories like laser sights, flashlights, etc.

Best Ammo for Self Defense Air Pistols

So what air gun ammo would be most effective in a self defense situation?

Steel BB’s – steel bb’s have the advantage of being hard and not deforming when hitting a target. This means they will typically penetrate deeper even though they are lighter in weight than a lead pellet. The round shape also promotes deeper penetration compared to some of the lead pellets with a hollow point or flat nose.

The other advantage is that air pistols that shoot BB’s will have a large magazine capacity whereas pellet pistols will not. So you get multiple fast shots without reloading. Some magazines will hold 20 rounds of BB’s. That’s a lot of shots and fast.

Lead Pellets – lead pellets have the advantage of being heavier in weight. Heavier projectiles will penetrate deeper than lighter ones. Pellets also come in pointed designs that will increase penetration. Hollow point and flat point pellets are not recommended as this shape decreases penetration. Look for heavier pointed or round nose lead pellets for self defense.


Here is why I would choose one of these air pistols for self defense. They are the most powerful and offer multiple shots with the pull of the trigger. These 4 are also very reliable and well made. To make these ever more formidable would be to add a laser sight. This makes it very easy to make a fast and accurate lethal shot.

Just because I keep getting asked this…”What’s the most powerful air pistol?”

…here it is…

Top 10 Most Powerful Air Pistols

Here are the top 10 most powerful air pistols available today.

  1. Benjamin Marauder – .22 cal at 700 fps
  2. Umarex Strike 22 – .22 cal at 520 fps
  3. Umarex Strike – .177 cal at 650 fps
  4. Benjamin Trail NP – .177 cal at 625 fps
  5. Crosman P1377 – .177 cal at 600 fps
  6. Crosman P1322 – .22 cal at 460 fps
  7. Daisy Powerline 415 – .177 cal at 495 fps
  8. Crosman SNR357 – .177 cal at 450 fps
  9. Gamo PT-85 – .177 cal at 450 fps
  10. Crosman Vigilante – .177 cal at 435 fps

The Gamo PT-85 is a realistic blow back type air pistol in .177 caliber. It designed extremely well and looks like the Ruger Security 9 handgun. It is a CO2 powered air pistol with a 16 shot magazine.The realistic blow-back slide action is pretty sharp. It fires .177 cal pellets only and has a muzzle velocity of 450 fps. It has a steel rifled barrel and is fairly accurate. It retails for $89 on the website. It’s a bargain.

The Gamo PT-85 CO2 air pistol has many uses. It’s great for target practice, small game hunting/pest control and self defense.

Best Air Rifles or Pellet Rifles for Self Defense

The same requirements go for air rifles for self defense. They must be a multi-shot semi or fully auto BB gun and be powerful enough to penetrate the human skull. Let’s look at some good semi-auto CO2 air rifles with multi-shot capabilities. I’m looking for velocities of 400 + fps.

  1. Sig Sauer MPX ASP CO2 Airgun – 30 round magazine, .177 pellets, short assault type air gun, up to 700 fps with hyper-velocity alloy pellets, semi auto platform.
  2. Crosman Comrade AK CO2 Air Gun – 22 round magazine, short assault type air gun, up to 600 fps with BBs and semi auto operation.
  3. Crosman RepeatAir 1077 CO2 Air Gun – 12 sot rotary pellet clip, compact traditional rifle style, up to 625 fps with hyper-velocity lead pellets, semi-auto operation.

Sig Sauer MPX ASP CO2 Air Rifle

This air rifle is very popular with target shooters and people wanting a self defense air rifle. It’s compact and powerful. Anyone can shoot it well, especially women. There’s virtually no recoil or muzzle blast. It shoots .177 pellets at 700 fps.

The MPX is definitely the nicest looking and handling pellet rifle available. But it’s not cheap at $260+. Once again, if you can find one. They sell out quickly.

Crosman Comrade AK CO2 Air Rifle.

If you’re a AK-47 fan, and I am, then this air rifle will satisfy your taste. It’s well designed and manufactured with a good feel. It’s powerful and fairly accurate out to 50 yards or so. The muzzle velocity with steel BB’s is 600 fps. It functions in a semi-automatic mode with a magazine capacity of 22 BB’s and a reservoir of 150. The weight is a nice 4 lbs. Not too light nor too heavy. You could use this air rifle for hunting, target practice and definitely self defense. It retails for about $59.99 [if you can find one] These are a hot seller and most online stores are out of stock.

Crosman RepearAir 1077 CO2 Pellet Air Gun

The Crosman 1077 pellet gun is very reliable and features a nice 12 shot rotary clip. It is quite powerful, shooting .177 caliber lead pellets at 625 fps and alloy pellets at 780 fps. This rifle has enough power for hunting, target practice and self defense. Because the 1077 is a semi automatic action, it may be well suited for self defense where a quick 2nd and/or 3rd shot may be necessary. It has a rifled steel barrel and is very accurate with the right pellets. The open sights are fiber optic however this rifle can accommodate an optic sight. A Red Dot sight would be ideal on this gun.

The Crosman 1077 retails for $85.00.