A good snake charmer by your side can be a literal lifesaver--here are three great options.
When you are in a situation where you have to shoot a potentially threatening venomous snake in the field, you need a gun that handles quickly, is reliable, and is light enough to carry all day. You also want one that will give you a decent margin of error when aiming at a target as small as a snake's head.
But beware, in some states it's illegal to kill snakes unless your life is in danger. We wouldn't condone eliminating them for no reason anyway, but it's imperative that you know the laws around snakes in your area, and that you work on your snake ID skills as well.
Some type of shotshell and shotgun combination works well, and a lot of folks prefer a .410 shotgun loaded with bird shot for the task of managing snakes.
Back in the day, in parts of the U.S. where venomous snakes are common, folks would often keep a "snake charmer' in their truck or strapped to their pack or saddle. It was typically a cheap, single-shot, break action .410 or 20-gauge shotgun loaded with bird shot. Today, there are a lot more options.
Sometimes, even a .410 is a bit overpowered, depending on the surrounding environment. The goal, as it is with any pest control, is to kill the serpent, but not do significant damage to anything around it, like crops or buildings.
A handgun makes for a great snake/trail gun, but choosing the right ammo is important as well. A dedicated handgun that fires snakeshot is great, but a revolver loaded with ammunition like CCI's Blazer centerfire shotshell ammo, which can be used in any firearm. CCI offers their snakeshot ammo in .17 HMR, .22LR, .38 Special/.357 magnum, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and others. These tiny shotgun shells are offered in No. 12 shot, which is great for snakes and vermin, and also No. 9 shot, which is equally effective but offers a bit more versatility for larger critters and better range and penetration. They will function in revolvers as well as semi-auto pistols.
Of course, firing shot from a rifled barrel will cause the pellets to sort of swirl and spiral away from each other as they fly through the air, which creates a lousy pattern at distance. But at close range, like snake-killing range, that doesn't matter. Additionally, you can carry, say a .45 ACP pistol loaded with CCI shotshells and bring along a spare mag loaded with powerful self-defense hollowpoint ammo for anything larger than a rattler or copperhead that you may encounter. But if you are going to carry a semi-auto, be sure it will cycle with the low pressure snake shot. Historically, revolvers are more reliable for this kind of duty.
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This little two-shot derringer comes chambered in .38 Spcl/.357 Mag, or .45 LC/.410 bore. It can be carried absolutely anywhere along with a few spare rounds, and a pocket holster or belt will ensure it can be drawn quickly. It's great for a hiking snake gun, but you only get two shots before you have to reload and you have to practice with a pistol this small to be accurate and to get used to the recoil. If small, light, and extremely easy to carry is your goal, this is a great option.
The "garden gun" is a term older farmers will be quite familiar with, and a concept Henry has revived with this modern model. The idea is simple. Garden guns are similar to snake charmers, but less powerful for use on a wide variety of pest animals found around the farm, from snakes and rats in the fields to crows and other winged pests on and inside the barn. They're typically smoothbore repeaters in .410 bore or .22 LR designed to work inside 20 yards. Plus they're fairly quiet shooters, which is good for the farm animals and people in the area.
While they're great for shooting inside barns and sheds, as the ammo typically won't penetrate walls or roofs, they're also excellent in the field. The 18.5-inch barrel with a smooth bore gets the most accuracy and best pattern possible from .22 LR rat shot and snake shot. It weighs just 5.25 pounds and can even be fitted with a scope or red dot sight in addition to the adjustable iron sights it comes with. Plus, the tube magazine holds 15 rounds.
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This classic revolver is a versatile carry gun for the field. When loaded with CCI's .38-caliber #9 shotshells, it's a great snake gun that is reliable and easy to use with an excellent double-action trigger. Add a speedloader with .357 Magnum self defense loads and you're ready for anything from water moccasins and small game. to the most nefarious of two-legged creatures. CCI's .38 shotshells also come in #4 shot for even more versatility.
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— Performance Center by Smith & Wesson (@Performance_Ctr) January 30, 2019
If you want something even more lightweight, the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 442 will run CCI .38 shotshells and .38 Spcl P+ ammo, and has an internal hammer for a snag-free draw form a holster or pocket holster. It also features Crimson Trace LG-105 Lasergrips for fast, low-light shooting with accuracy. The aluminum alloy frame also means this is a super lightweight handgun, weighing in at just 15 ounces.
Whatever you choose as a snake gun, make sure it's quick and nimble, powerful enough but not too powerful, and it has to be accurate at short distances. And buckshot is definitely overkill, but if it's all you have when a pit viper comes at you, it will certainly work.