How Not to Kill a Snake

Pro Tip: It Ain’t Supposed to be a Fair Fight

Jeremy will leave it to Dr. Dabbs to tease out the finer points of copperhead bites.
Suffice it to say, they’re venomous, aggressive and you do not want to tangle with them.

“It” was about 2′ long or so, big for its breed, and facing away from me where I couldn’t see the sinister smile concealing its fangs. I’d seen plenty of copperheads before and knew one this close to the house had pretty much signed its own death warrant. I’d seen him — though not until I was waaay too close, but I might not the next time.

This Cold Steel Recon Tanto split Jeremy’s kindling for five years without
being sharpened. It also eased a couple serpents into their slithery afterlife,
something we can’t in good conscience recommend.

Multitasking Geometry

Still carrying on my business call, I pondered my options. To this point, I had only ever killed copperheads with a knife. A dangerous business, but geometrically logical: Intersecting a line (the snake) with another line (the blade of my Cold Steel Tanto) was easier than intersecting a line (the snake) with a point (read: bullet). To be fair, I hadn’t actually graphed all this out the first time I did it.

This titanium Commander Jeremy built on a long trip to Novak’s was state
of the art for the time with its matching .22 conversion, G10 grips and Answer
one-piece backstrap. Unfortunately, he didn’t drive it well going mano a mano
with a pit viper while on the phone.

Slither At Me, Bro

I was walking back to the car one night in the national forest after showing off my camp cooking skills to a girl when a particularly aggressive copperhead showed up in the halo of my Coleman lantern and headed my way. I snatched the Cold Steel out of its scabbard and decapitated the serpent with a swipe before I realized I had just gotten into a knife fight with a venomous snake. I won, but was a bit shaky about it. Then I justified it by the angles, and the feeling turned to “slither at me, bro.”

I’d done it again, also in the dark, when my friend I was following down a trail nearly stepped on one. This snake took two hits to kill, but kill him I did.

This time, though, with a hand holding the phone to my ear, I knew I didn’t have the range of motion to make it work with a blade, and trying meant I would almost certainly get bitten. Inexplicably, I completely ignored the shed in front of me, with its hoes, rakes and shovels, as well as an entire barn next to me filled with all the implements previously used to work the land. Instead, I fixated on something entirely new: My .22 suppressor.

I’d seen him — though not until I was waaay too close, but I might not the next time.

There’s more than one wrong way to kill a snake, and using a knife
is one of them. Don’t let the two copperheads this one killed fool you;
it’s a bad idea with anything. Try it with a rattler and you’re likely to
attain immortality in the Darwin Awards.


The paperwork had just cleared for my first silencer. Even better, I had a new titanium-framed 1911 freshly built on a recent trip to Novak’s, along with its matching .22 conversion. My plan was simple: Walk into the house, carrying on the conversation with el presidente, assemble the conversion onto my new pistol, screw on the can, walk outside — doing my best 007 impression — and pop, Bond’s your uncle. With the low report of the suppressed shot, it wouldn’t be heard through the phone and there would be no interruption to the call, which was important. As I said, I didn’t really know this man, and I wanted to impress him.

All went well until first contact; I walked up behind the snake, lined him up over those Novak LoMounts and pressed the trigger. The pistol made a gentle “pop,” and the earth exploded beneath the copperhead as the bullet nicked him. He warped around at the speed of heat, immediately striking and striking again while I desperately crab-walked backward, one-handing shots at him while he, equally fervent, continued trying to kill me. Pop. Pop. PopPopPop. Pop.

The photo Jeremy sent that night. This whole thing really wasn’t the best idea.

End Times

The end of the mag was near, and my options with it, when I finally anchored him with a solid head shot. By now, the president had long since gone silent.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m sure you’re wondering what that was.”

“It sounded like a .22 rifle,” he responded drily.

“Close. It was a suppressed pistol. I, uh, had to kill a pit viper.”

I’ll never really know whether he believed me in that moment or not; I only know he asked for a photo of me, the snake and the gun.
Which I sent. He and I are friends to this day, and I like to think that near-lethal phone call cemented the relationship. Of course, I may just like to think that. 

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