UK Law

Knowing the law is necessary but generally easy to pick up. The main links I will give you for this topic are from the official government site which is basically the be all and end all. They make the rules after all.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/air-gun-owners-new-legislation

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/air-weapons-a-brief-guide-to-safety-jan-2011

As usual, for the full information please see the links. But I will try to condense it down to some of the more relevant points. This is probably a good place to say I take no responsibility for this post not being accurate, always check the most up to date info.

For anything you are not sure about you can contact your local firearms officer. Just call the local police force (not on 999 please) and they should be happy to take your call.

So, UK law:

Safe storage:
It is actually now an offense to NOT take precautions against an under 18 getting hold of an airgun. This doesn’t mean you need a gun safe (although this is a good option). You can keep your air rifle in a locked cupboard and remove the key. Or a locking device such as a chain or trigger guard which is securely attached to the building.

Age limit
It is an offense for anyone under the age of 18 to purchase an airgun, and to sell it to them. Even second hand, you should ask for I.D if you are not sure.

Under 18’s can shoot airguns, but must be supervised by someone over 21. Personally I think a proper introduction at a young age is a great way to ensure a good and safe attitude for life.

Airgun power
The power of an airgun is measured by the weight of the pellet and it’s speed as it leaves the barrel. These are combined in an equation to give you the kinetic energy (aka muzzle energy).

The law states a maximum of 12 ft-lb for air rifles, and 6 ft-lb for pistols without having any kind of special license. Going above these limits puts you into the world of the firearms act. I don’t know enough about these laws at the moment, but I may do a post in the future if needed.
(This part of the post has been edited. I previously said going over the limit would mean a firearms license, but it is actually more complex than that. Thanks to ‘bighit'(Paul) and ‘Brian.Samson’ on AirgunBBS for helping me out here).

I am planning a more detailed post on how to test power, possible pitfalls, and how much you actually need. For now a local gun shop or club should be able to help you test this.

Location
It is an offence to shoot on private land without permission.
It is also an offence for a pellet to travel over the boundary of the premises on which you so have permission.

You can carry an air rifle in public as long as you have a valid reason. For example you can cross a public road between your parked car and a club, or walk from a shop to your car.

Finally a point which is sometimes confused and often mis-quoted. The full line from UK Gov is:

‘It is an offence to fire an air weapon without lawful authority or excuse within 50 feet (15 metres) of the centre of a public road in such a way as to cause a road user to be injured, interrupted or endangered.’

This is often mistaken as meaning you can’t shoot within 15m of a public road. This isn’t true. You can as long as it cannot cause road users to become injured/endangered/interrupted.

For example I sometime shoot in my garden. It is round the back of my house, maybe 10m from the road. I shoot to the rear of the garden where I have a 5ft high brick wall and earth backstop. This is fine because the direction and precautions mean  I am not endangering road users.

There are some airgun clubs which operate near public roads. But the direction of fire and other precautions mean they are safe.

If you do want to shoot within your own property you are generally entitled to do so. Problems can arise if:

  • You are being unsafe in any manner
  • Your pellets leave the boundary of your property
  • You cause a noise complaint

Hopefully I have covered enough here. If not please comment and I will try to answer any questions, or get clarification from people cleverer than myself.

I purposefully missed out the hunting and pest control aspects. But if there is any demand for that I can do a follow up.

I have also missed out the law in Scotland (which is now different from the  rest of the UK). I will do a separate post for this which will also include travelling to Scotland from other countries.

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2 Comments on "UK Law"

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Rich
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Law… I find this is one area where a lot is open to interpretation, as such there are plenty of different views. I would urge anyone to read the law themselves.
Whe I got the first gun in our house I sat my boys down and spelt it all out and that if they fall foul of the firearms act and being under 18 it would be me that would be responsible and be hauled in to the police station.