When you have to shoot a potentially 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 tiny as a snake's head. Many folks prefer a .410 shotgun loaded with birdshot for managing snakes. Back in the day, in parts of the U.S. where venomous snakes were common, folks often kept 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 contenders when it comes to the best guns for killing snakes.
A handgun makes for a great snake/trail gun, but choosing the right ammo is also important. A reliable handgun that fires snakeshot is great. Still, you can use a revolver loaded with ammunition like CCI's Blazer centerfire shotshell ammo in any firearm. CCI offers their snakeshot ammo in .17 HMR, .22 LR, .38 Special/.357 magnum, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and others. Retailers offer these tiny shotgun shells in No. 12 shot (great for snakes and vermin) and No. 9 shot. The latter is equally effective but offers 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 a distance. But at close range, like snake-killing range, that doesn't matter. Historically, revolvers are more reliable for this kind of duty.
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. Still, it's imperative that you know the laws around snakes in your area and that you work on your snake ID skills as well.
Bond Arms Snake Slayer IV
This little two-shot derringer comes chambered in .38 Spcl/.357 Mag, or .45 LC/.410 bore. It can be carried anywhere, along with a few spare rounds. A pocket holster or belt will ensure you can draw it 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.
Henry Repeating Arms Garden Gun
The "garden gun" is a term older farmers will be familiar with, a concept Henry revived with this modern model. The idea is simple. Garden guns are similar to snake charmers but less potent for use on various farm pests, 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 relatively quiet shooters, which is suitable 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 the .22 LR rat shot and snake shot. It weighs just 5.25 pounds, and you can even fit it with a scope or red dot sight in addition to its adjustable iron sights. Plus, the tube magazine holds 15 rounds.
Colt King Cobra Carry
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 infamous of two-legged creatures. CCI's .38 shotshells also come in No. 4 for even more versatility.
Smith & Wesson Model 442
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 from 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 lightweight handgun, weighing only 15 ounces.
Whatever you choose as a snake gun, make sure it's quick and agile, powerful enough but not too powerful, and it has to be accurate at short distances. While buckshot is overkill, it will certainly work if it's all you have when a pit viper comes at you.
This article was originally published on June 11, 2021.
READ MORE: HERE ARE 5 QUICK SUMMER SNAKE ID TIPS
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