This information applies to those who shoot airguns in England and Wales, it does not apply in Northern Ireland or Scotland where firearms laws are very different.
The law makes no distinction between air rifles and more powerful guns for which you need a licence – they are all classed as firearms. This means that any offence you commit can carry a very heavy penalty, and there are at least 38 different offences. Following this information will help you to keep on the right side of the law, but, if you have any doubt, seek advice from or your local police firearms licensing department.
WHO CAN SHOOT
You do not need a licence to own an air rifle or air pistol providing it is not capable of exceeding a certain power limit. The power limit is set at 12 ft/lbs for air rifles and 6 ft/lbs for air pistols. It is your responsibility to maintain a legal power output if you have any doubts contact your local police firearms licensing department for advice. You may not possess an air rifle capable of exceeding the 12 ft/lbs power limit unless you have a firearm certificate (FAC) which allows you to acquire it. You are prohibited from owning any air pistol that is capable of exceeding the 6 ft/lbs power limit.
If you are 18 years or older there are no restrictions on buying an air rifle and ammunition (unless you have been prohibited under Section 21 of the fire arms act) and you can use it wherever you have permission to shoot.
From 14 – 17 years
Borrow an air rifle and ammunition.
Use an air rifle, without supervision, on private premises where you have permission.
Buy or hire an air rifle, or ammunition, or receive one as a gift. Your air rifle and ammunition must be bought and looked after by someone over 18 – normally your parent, guardian or some other responsible adult.
Have an air rifle in a public place unless you are supervised by somebody aged 21 or over, and you have a reasonable excuse to do so (for example, while on the way to a shooting ground).
Under 14 years
Use an air rifle under supervision on private premises with permission from the occupier – normally the owner or tenant. The person who supervises you must be at least 21 years old.
Buy, hire or receive an air rifle or its ammunition as a gift, or shoot, without adult supervision. Parents or guardians who buy an air rifle for use by someone under 14 must exercise control over it at all times, even in the home or garden.
It is illegal to sell an air rifle or ammunition to a person under 18 years of age.
WHERE YOU CAN SHOOT
Where you intend to shoot, always ensure that you are authorised by the landowner or person with the sporting rights and that you know precisely where the boundaries are. Get permission in writing, if possible, to remove any doubt.
Whenever you are in a public place you should carry the rifle in a gun cover and always ensure that it is unloaded and not cocked.
From February 2011, the Crime and Security Act 2010 makes it an offence for a person in possession of an air gun to fail to take “reasonable precautions” to prevent someone under the age of 18 from gaining unauthorised access to it.
Intentionally going on to private land, or water, where you do not have permission is trespassing, and if you are carrying an air rifle it becomes armed trespass. Whether the gun is loaded or not, or whether you are carrying pellets, is irrelevant – armed trespass is a serious criminal offence carrying heavy penalties.
Only shoot where you have the permission of the landowner or tenant.
FIRING PELLETS BEYOND YOUR BOUNDARY
It is an offence to fire an air rifle pellet beyond the land where you have permission to shoot, unless the person holding the shooting rights of the neighbouring land has given you permission. Where someone under 14 is shooting, both the young person and the supervising adult can be prosecuted.
It is also against the law to discharge any firearm (including air rifles) within 50 feet of the centre of a highway (which consists of or comprises a carriageway) IF in consequence a user of the highway is injured, interrupted or endangered. These offences could be committed, for example, when someone is shooting in their garden close to a public highway and the pellets ricochet onto the highway injuring someone.
It is advisable (but not a legal requirement) to have adequate legal liability (third party) insurance when shooting.
Ronnie Sunshines is a registered trade member of British Accossication Of Shooting & Conservation (BASC) For further information on all aspects of shooting please visit www.basc.org.uk or use the link below to download there best practice guide.