Are BB Guns and/or Pellet Guns Lethal?
Most people think bb guns are toys...but they are NOT. They can be lethal weapons.
Let's take a look at the various aspects of what makes a gun or weapon lethal. Here are the variables in gun lethality; bullet weight, bullet shape, velocity, rate of fire, distance and bullet composition. The ultimate goal is adequate penetration in the desired target. Adequate penetration could be 3 inches or it could be 10 inches depending on the target area. The human heart is a much deeper target than the brain.
Here is some interesting scientific data regarding bb guns, velocity and penetration on humans.
Penetration of the human eye - 131 fps
Penetration of human skin - 290 fps
Penetration of human bone - 350 fps
Bullet weight and shape are critical factors when it comes to penetration into a target. Bullet weight or more of it will assist in penetration. Heavier projectiles tend to keep going after hitting a target and therefore offer deeper penetration. So you typically want a bullet with more weight. In case of BB or pellet guns, you want steel BB's in .177 caliber and heavier lead pellets in larger calibers like .22 and .30 calibers.
Steel BB's are the best for .177 caliber air guns because they penetrate deeper and do not deform upon impact. BB's are lighter than lead pellets BUT the steel composition makes them retain their shape and keep going. Steel BB's won't flatten like lead pellets. This flattening or "mushrooming" of the lead pellet slows its velocity down and reduces penetration. 177 caliber lead pellets are very soft and will expand upon impact, limiting penetration.Velocity
Velocity is an important aspect but there is no specific velocity that is best. Velocities from 400 fps to 1200 fps can provide the penetration needed to stop an intruder. There are other variables that effect velocity and its effect on penetration like bullet weight, bullet shape and distance to the target. We know that 1200 fps is lethal from a shotgun or .22 rifle even though the bullets and bullet weights are different. So we can't say that 1200 fps is the perfect velocity because the 45 Long Colt and 45 acp have velocities of 750 fps and they are both excellent stopping rounds when used for self defense. It's the combination of bullet weight, bullet design and velocity that make any BB gun a self defense weapon. Look for a BB gun with a muzzle velocity of at least 400+ fps with steel BB's. This velocity will give 4-5 inches of penetration in soft tissue.Distance
The distance from which you fire a gun and the target affects penetration, obviously. So the closer you are to the target, the better the results with a BB gun or pellet gun. Point blank range is the best scenario. Realistically 10-15 feet would be what you would encounter with an intruder in your house. I would recommend not shooting from a distance greater than 30 feet. The velocity declines and it's harder to place an accurate shot into a small target area like the human face. Laser sights are fantastic for a self defense BB gun. It's quick and easy to place several super accurate shots...and in the dark too.Target Areas
The ideal intruder target area for a regular firearm is the chest area. It's large and easy to hit with a "double tap" from any handgun. There are 2 vital organs that lie in this region, the heart and the lungs. Both of these will cause a person to drop when they are disrupted significantly.
When we're dealing with BB guns and pellet guns in a self defense or combat situation, then we need to select a more vulnerable area like the face and even more specific, the eyes. Shooting someone in the face with a descent powered BB gun will result in panic and most likely a rapid flee. However if you hit the eyes, you have a good possibility of stopping the threat with paralysis or even death. The eyes are holes that lead directly to the brain with no bone in between. It's all soft tissue and it is very easy to penetrate with a BB or lead pellet. You only need about 3-4 inches of penetration to hit the brain.Rate of Fire
Rate of fire or cyclical rate is the speed at which bullets or bb's can be fired in a period of time such as 200 rounds per minute. Rate of fire increases the lethality of a gun or in this case bb guns. Even though the bb velocity is the same between a semi auto bb gun and a full auto bb gun, the full auto will be more lethal. Think about this....getting hit with 20 bb's in 5 seconds or in 30 seconds or 1 minute. It makes a huge difference. Penetration and damage is increased with the full auto gun. Any intruder that gets a blast of full auto bb's at 400-500 fps in the face is going down or away very quickly. Eye and brain damage are imminent.Ideal BB Guns for Home Defense or Self Defense
The ideal bb gun for defensive purposes or roles are some type of compressed gas like CO2 and PCP air guns. The reason these types are the best is because they have a lot of power each and every shot with just the pull of a trigger. There's no cocking or pumping of the action. It's just point and shoot. CO2 bb guns also have a large capacity magazines. Most like the Daisy Powerline 415 holds 20+ bb's in the magazine. This allows you to keep shooting 20 times before having to switch magazines. That's a lot of firepower and you can shoot 20 bb's in about 10 seconds with a semi automatic bb gun.
I also like CO2 revolvers like the Crosman SR357 bb gun. It's not as fast as a semi auto but pretty fast. The SR357 is powerful at 450 fps with .177 bb's. It only holds 6 bb's though in the cylinder so you might have to reload quickly in a defensive scenario.
For the ultimate in firepower, take a look at the Umarex Storm CO2 full auto bb gun. In full auto mode, it shoots 6 round bursts. So every time you pull the trigger, you shoot 6 rounds in full auto. Velocity is around 430 fps with steel bb's. The magazine holds 30 rounds plus the reservoir holds 300 rounds. It's a beast!