6 Best Air Pistols for Self Defense [2021 Update]

Best Air Pistols for Self Defense in 2020

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/low 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
  9. More effective than a tactical knife, pepper spray, baseball bat or alarm/whistle
  10. Better option than electric stun guns

6 Best Air Pistols for Self Defense

  • Daisy Powerline 415
  • Crosman SR 357 CO2 Revolver
  • Winchester Model 11K Pistol
  • Crosman PFAM9B  Air Pistol
  • Sig Sauer M17
  • Gamo P-430 Air Pistol

Daisy Powerline 415 BB gun out of the box

Daisy Powerline 415 Air Pistol for Self Defense

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 when used in home defense.

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.

I bought my Daisy Powerline 415 CO2 air pistol at Amazon.com at the best price online.

BB Penetration in Ballistic Gel

Using CO2 Air Pistols for Self Defense – penetration test

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 pistols and 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 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 result in serious paralysis. Some pellet guns can penetrate 1/4″ plywood.

Here are a few considerations to think about when choosing a air pistol for self defense.

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

Ideally you want multiple shots in 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 for a laser sight. Laser sights are also pretty cheap. There are lots of models for $20 – $30.

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

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

Pump Air Pistols and Rifles
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 BB’s 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 Pistols and Rifles
Break barrel guns fall into the same category as the pump guns. Break barrels are slow to reload but do have plenty of power. It is likely that one shot could kill a human easily. Some break barrel rifles produce 1200 – 1600 fps with pellets. This is about the same power as a 22 long rifle which can easily kill a person. This is not a bad choice if you have nothing else. Look for a shorter barreled break barrel gun, so you can bring it into action quicker.

PCP or Pre-charged Pneumatic Air Guns
PCP 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. These guns can easily kill a human. They are very powerful. The Umarex .50 Hammer shoots a 550 grain bullet at 790 fps. Bison have been taken with them. These could work very well if you have one and nothing else.

CO2 Air Pistols
These are just about ideal for self defense with the exception of power. If CO2 air pistols had velocities of 800 – 1000 fps, they would be perfect. Most are in the 400-500 fps range with .177 BB’s 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 well placed shot. Small game are easily dispatched with a BB or .177 pellet at 450 fps. The effect of multiple rapid fire shots can really “put the brakes” on a would be intruder/attacker. And that’s only Semi Auto mode. There are Full Auto BB/pellet guns too.

Most Powerful CO2 Air Pistols for Self Defense

  1. Daisy Powerline 415 BB Pistol – 495 fps
  2. Gamo P-430 Air Pistol – 495 fps
  3. Crosman 40001 1911bb – 480 fps
  4. Crosman PFAM9B BB Air Pistol – 450 fps
  5. Crosman SR 357 CO2 6 Shot BB Revolver  – 450 fps
  6. Umarex SA10 CO2 Air Pistol – 420 fps
  7. Winchester Model 11K CO2 Pistol – 410 fps

Crosman SR357 CO2 Air Pistol

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 CO2 Air Pistol

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 Full Auto BB Gun

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 – blow-back 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 a full auto BB gun…holy cow!! It’s powerful and operates like the real gun.

Crosman 40001 1911BB CO2 Air Pistol

Power – CO2 powered by a single cylinder and produces a muzzle velocity of 480 feet per second. It is one of the more powerful CO2 pistols available
Construction – metal barrel and polymer frame
Action Type – semi auto action
Magazine Capacity – 20 shot magazine
Uses – target practice, pest control and self defense.
Appearance – this air pistol resembles the Colt 1911 with a tactical flair. It feels realistic in your hands and is fun to shoot.

Sig Sauer M17 Air Pistol

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.

Gamo P-430 Air Pistol

Power – 12 gram CO2 cartridge that produces an alloy pellet muzzle velocity of 495 fps. This is one of the most powerful CO2 air pistols available. It can shoot both BB’s and pellets.
Construction – The barrel is steel and smooth bore. The frame and grip are a combination of plastic/composite and metal. It is very durable and feels good in your hand.
Action Type – Semi auto CO2 non-blow back action.
Magazine Capacity – rotary type pellet clip holds 16 rounds.
Uses – The P-430 is ideal for target shooting, small game hunting/pest control and self defense. It is a lot of fun shooting.
Appearance – The P-430 resembles the Sig Sauer P-226 handgun.

The Gamo PT-85 Air Pistol

The 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 Gamousa.com 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.

Umarex SA10 CO2 Air Pistol

Power – CO2 cartridge that produces a BB or pellet muzzle velocity of 420 fps.
Construction – The barrel is steel and smooth bore. The frame and grip are a combination of plastic/composite and metal. It is very durable and feels good in your hand.
Action Type – Realistic blow back action and full functioning slide
Magazine Capacity – 8 round rotary type pellet clip
Ammo – both BB’s and pellets in .177 caliber.
Uses – ideal for target shooting, small game hunting/pest control and self defense.
Appearance – The SA10 is a unique tactical looking air pistol. It’s is cool as heck and looks like a real firearm. It has a under slide rail mount and a threaded barrel extension.

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 won’t deform 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.

Air Pistols for Self Defense Conclusions

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. They are also very reliable and well made. To make these even more formidable would be to add a laser sight. This makes it very easy to make a fast and accurate lethal shot.

I would much rather have an air pistol for self defense than any other lethal weapon such as stun guns, tactical knives, pepper spray, baseball bat, batons or an alarm/whistle. There is a higher probability of serious injury inflicted by an air pistol than any of these other options. If I can’t or don’t have a firearm to protect myself, then I will have an air pistol.

Air Pistol vs Stun Gun For Self Defense

My first objection to using a stun gun over an air gun is the fact that you must get really close to someone in order to use a stun gun. You have to be in contact with them and I would rather not get that close. If a stun gun was the only option then I would of course use it in lieu of nothing.

But an air pistol or air rifle is a much better choice. The air gun can be used at a safer distance of 10-25 feet or more. This gives you some “breathing” room to take action. You don’t have to wait for the attacker to come within inches of your body or in actual contact.

When using an air gun on an attacker, you can shoot fast and then escape while the attacker is recoiling from the shots, if he/she doesn’t back off or drop. This is not possible when using a stun gun where the attacker may already have a grip on you. When you fire the stun gun, the attacker may or may not drop/fall immediately. It’s not 100% effective. If the attacker is on drugs, the stun gun may not be effective. Whereas the air pistol can physically blind a person, drugs or no drugs.

The Air Pistol can actually kill someone. The Stun Gun cannot.

Stun Gun Cons

  • Batteries must be fully charged
  • Stun Gun must be turned on.
  • Safety switch must be off
  • Stun gun must be applied to optimal areas; upper hips, below ribcage and upper shoulders
  • Apply stun gun for 3-5 seconds to incapacitate
  • Attacker will regain composure in minutes
  • Restricted use in some states

Best Pellet Pistols for Self Defense

Pellet guns certainly are powerful enough to kill a human, especially a pellet rifle. Some pellet guns have a muzzle velocity of 1,600 fps with pellets. That’s as powerful as a .22 LR cartridge. The .22 LR can certainly kill a human as it has done many times in the past.

For self defense, it is beneficial or recommended to use a shorter pellet gun/rifle or a pellet pistol since it will be easier to bring into action quickly. Pellet pistols will work perfectly.

CO2 Pellet Pistols for Self Defense

  • Crosman Vigilante CCP8B2 – 435 fps
  • Umarex SA10 Pellet Pistol – 420 fps
  • Gamo P-430 Pellet Pistol – 495 fps
  • Gamo P-25 Pellet Pistol – 450 fps
  • Sig Sauer M17 Pellet Pistol – 430 fps

Pump Pellet Guns for Self Defense

  • Crosman P1377 Pistol – 600 fps
  • Umarex Strike Point Pistol – 650 fps
  • Crosman 2100 Pellet Rifle – 755 fps
  • Crosman PumpMaster Rifle – 650 fps
  • Umarex NXG APX Rifle – 490 fps
  • Daisy Powerline 880 – 800 fps
  • Crosman 760 Rifle – 650 fps

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most powerful air pistol on the market? The most powerful air pistol available in 2020 is the Benjamin Marauder pistol with a muzzle velocity of 700 fps with .22 caliber pellets. The Marauder is a PCP or Pre-charged Pneumatic pistol that is powerful enough to hunt large game like deer, hogs and bear.

Can an air gun be used for self defense? Yes, many air guns are powerful enough to kill a human. Most break barrel and PCP air guns are powerful enough to kill a human easily. Muzzle velocities approach 1,600 fps by some models. That’s faster than a .22 LR. CO2 pistols may also be used for self defense. They provide a moderate velocity of 400+ fps plus semi auto and/or full auto operation. This can be lethal on humans.

What is the best air pistol for self defense? In my opinion, the Daisy Powerline 415 is hard to beat. It’s moderately powerful with a muzzle velocity of 495 fps and has a good semi auto mode plus a 21 round magazine. It’s reliable and accurate. It’s a top contender for only $35.

Are full auto BB guns legal? Yes, in most states where BB guns are legal, you can legally buy and own a full auto BB gun. You do not need a permit, background check or license like a Class 3 for firearms.

How fast do full auto BB guns shoot? Some full auto BB guns shoot BB’s at a rate of 1,400 rounds per minute or rpm. The Crosman PFAM9b pistol can shoot 850 BB’s per minute.

Are BB Guns Lethal? Yes, BB guns can be lethal. It depends on where a person is shot with a BB gun. If a person gets shot in the chest, it will not be lethal. However the face is very vulnerable to BB penetration because the brain is very close to the surface of the head. The eye sockets and temple are areas where a BB gun can be lethal.