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Can you shoot foxes with an air rifle?

Mark Ripley wouldn't advise it and this is why

shooting foxes with a rifle

Mark Ripley carrying out fox control at lambing time

Humane killing of foxes

I was recently asked whether it was legal to shoot foxes with an air rifle. If so, would the air rifle kill the fox humanely?

Is it legal?

This is a question that causes a lot of controversy. Firstly, yes, it is legal, provided it does not cause undue suffering to the animal.

A centrefire rifle is the best option

Now on a more practical level, let’s be clear, an air rifle isn’t the ideal tool for shooting a fox in my mind and a centrefire rifle will always be the best option. However, there are many circumstances where a centrefire rifle can’t be used, and a smaller calibre firearm is called for. (Read what is the best rifle for shooting foxes.)

Here, I would favour the .22 rimfire or .17HMR for example. But what of the air rifle? Well, these days air rifles are not only precision tools, but they also come in some very high-power options (FAC) and in larger calibres. (Read more about FAC air rifles here.)

Just recently I found myself in the lambing field armed with an FAC air rifle in .25 calibre with a fox 50 yards away. The fox dropped on the spot never knowing what hit it with the little pellet placed in the right spot. Ultimately, an FAC air rifle at close range with a well-placed shot will humanely kill a fox. Although I know of people who regularly shoot foxes with an air rifle at very close range with sub 12ft/lb airguns, I wouldn’t recommend it. (Read more on how to use an air rifle for pest control.)