'Snake Charmers:' Best Guns for Dealing With Snakes

posted on December 14, 2017

As a young man, I always heard my chums refer to the fact that they had the finest “snake charmer” available in the desert. I always wondered what they were talking about, but never asked in fear of being dense. Generally, these guys were the ones driving the nicest vehicles and getting all the girls, and they always had those "snake charmers" behind the seat.

I later learned that a “snake charmer” was an inexpensive, (usually) single –shot .410-, or 20-gauge shotgun. Not that there was anything at all wrong with these guns, but they were quite uninspiring. Who really knew what they were designed for except for impressing the novice as to what was needed to dispatch a pesky rattlesnake, or perhaps to impress a girl who knew no better?

Indeed, I was always unimpressed with what my companions to believed to be the ultimate desert firearm. They never understood why. When I thought of the ultimate rattlesnake killer, I always thought of the Ruger 3-screw Flattop .44 Mag. revolver, and there was a darned good reason for that.

My dad and I knocked around the brush country of south Texas starting when I was just a pup. Our initial stomping grounds were on the Ship Ranch near Laredo, TX. The ranch owner, Col. Evan Quiros, and my dad were great friends, so we pretty much had run of the place. Dad’s carry gun invariably was his Ruger flattop .44 Mag. sheathed in a Lawrence belt-and-holster rig. I have little recollection of him ever being without it. One of the reasons he was so fond of the .44 was because of his virtual inability to miss with it. I have no idea how many rattlesnakes I saw him dispatch with that revolver, but it was a significant number – south Texas is teeming with rattlers. 

One particular day, we were arrowhead hunting on the Ship, one of our favorite pastimes. My dad’s eyes were glued to the ground in search of artifacts. I was gazing around, eyes mostly on the brush in hopes to spot a javelina or whitetail deer. We were about 50 yards from a good-size arroyo. Instead of game, I spotted a large diamondback slowly making his way up the side of the arroyo, which I quickly pointed out to the old man. He spotted the snake, drew the Ruger and fired in an instant. The snake folded down the side of the arroyo, dead as a hammer. Upon inspecting the kill, the 240 grain Keith bullet had beheaded the viper.

Had I not seen it for myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. Dad looked at me, shrugged, then went back to arrowhead hunting. 

Since those days, I’ve used a boatload of different firearms to do away with rattlers. My current southern New Mexico place is inundated with them. My porch is made of Mexican Saltillo tile, which the rattlers love since it retains heat on cool evenings. 

Obviously, discharging most firearms on the tile at a snake would do significant damage to the flooring. I’ve discovered an effective remedy for that.

I’ve been shooting a Smith & Wesson Governor for quite some time now and have found many uses for it, but now it’s my full-time snake gun for home use. The Governor is a full-size revolver sporting a 2.75-inch barrel. Even though it looks hefty, it’s lightweight because of the scandium frame, though it does have a stainless-steel barrel. My specimen has Hogue synthetic grips, matte-black finish and fixed sights, although the front sight has a tritium bead. The Governor fires .410 shotshells, .45 Colt or .45 ACP using a moon clip.

Using .410 shotshells, I’ve killed countless rattlers, mostly on my porch. The great thing is, using 2.5-inch shells with No. 6 shot, it does absolutely no damage to the tile, but is absolutely deadly on snakes. I’ve never failed to kill on with one shot. 

No doubt this little "snake charmer" would have been the envy of all the guys back in the old days.


E 17
E 17

Handgun Grip Vs. Hold: What's the Difference?

Grip and hold on the firearm are often viewed by handgun shooters as one and the same. However, seasoned defensive and competitive shooters break down handgun shooting stability into two distinctly but equally essential subcomponents: grip versus hold.

First Look: FN America FN 303 Tactical Less Lethal Launcher

New from FN America is the FN 303 Tactical Less Lethal Launcher with a modular chassis system that allows operators and armorers to quickly customize the buttstock, grip or sighting system.

First Look: Diamondback Sidekick Rimfire Revolver

Diamondback Firearms is introducing the Diamondback Sidekick, a 9-shot, single- and double-action rimfire revolver that has an interchangeable swing-out cylinder.

Wilson Combat Unveils Their Latest Expansion

Wilson Combat recently underwent a $10 million upgrade to its facilities, which will help the company keep pace with ever-growing demand. 

Mossberg 500 and 590: America’s Defensive Shotguns

Since 1961, the O.F. (Oscar Frederick) Mossberg company has sold more than 11 million of its Model 500 pump-action shotguns, making it the most popular shotgun of all time, if not one of the most sold guns in any category, period.

Customizing the Colt Detective Special

Got a gun with that has seen better days? Perhaps Grandpa’s favorite gun was obviously “well loved?” Talented gunsmiths and other artisans are out there who can give your favorite firearm a much-needed face-lift.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.