Humane Killer

A purpose-made, single-shot weapon, which has a chamfered muzzle and vented barrel to facilitate its use with the muzzle end of the barrel in full contact with the target.

There are two types of purpose-made humane killers; the Greener ‘Bell Gun’ (no longer available new, but still widely used; originally manufactured in .310 calibre, but many have now been converted to .32); and the single-shot pistol (usually .32 calibre).

Both can be operated in full contact with the target and fire a single, round-nose, lead bullet which will kill outright conventional farmed animals of all sizes. Certain types of humane killer can only be used in full contact with the animal’s head, because they feature a double safety action which requires the muzzle to be pressed against the target in order to overcome an internal safety device and put the breech block into contact with the firing pin. The most common of these is the Greener ‘Safti-Killer’ (originally manufactured in .22 and .310 calibres, many have now been converted to .32).

The single-shot pistol resembles a traditional handgun, but differs in that it has no magazine and the muzzle is chamfered and vented to facilitate shooting when in full contact with the target. It is held and operated with one hand; this allows the operator to restrain the animal, if necessary, while shooting. The Greener ‘Bell Gun’ requires two hands to operate, but it is favoured by some users, especially when killing horses.

When using humane killers it is of utmost importance to use only the specially loaded ammunition for killing animals at close range (round-nose, lead bullets, available from the manufacturers and specialist gunsmiths). Anything else may increase the chances of the projectile not penetrating adequately; or passing through the animal without killing it, and posing a grave danger to the operator and anyone nearby. It is very important to ensure that if the bullet should pass out of the animal’s body it will not ricochet off concrete walls or floors. Hence, great care must be taken to get the direction of the shot correct when inside buildings.

Purpose-made humane killers are designed to be used in full contact with the animal’s head. However, in practice some animals will move if contact is made. If this should happen, fire from as close as possible, preferably within 5 centimetres. 

It is possible to obtain multi-shot humane killers which have been crudely adapted from standard weapons, e.g. 9mm, .38 Special and .357 Magnum. The modifications have often proved to be inadequate, therefore the HSA recommends that these types of weapon should not be used.


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