What you need to know about the Law
Shooting the the UK is governed by extremely strict firearms laws. These laws exist to prevent their misuse and there are sever penalties for anyone who breaks them, even if they do so unintentionally. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of the laws relating to shooting and to comply with them. As most people start with airguns we have set out some of the main regulations regarding their ownership and use. Please remember this is for your guidance only and is not a full statement of law, for full information we suggest you contact a suitably qualified solicitor.
What you should know about owning an airgun
You do not need a license to own and air rifle or pistol providing it is not capable of exceeding certain power limits. The power limit is set at 12 ft. lbs. for air rifles and 6 ft. lbs. for air pistols. These power limits are for any brand of pellet and it is your responsibility to ensure that the gun has a legal power output at all times. Special rules apply however, in Northern Ireland.
You may not possess an air rifle that exceeds the 12 ft. lbs. Power limit unless you have a firearms certificate (FAC) which allows you to possess it.
Possession of an air pistol capable of exceeding the 6 ft. lbs. Power limit is totally prohibited.
You must be at least 18 years of age before you may purchase an airgun or airgun ammunition.
Under the age of 14 you may not own an airgun.
Any airgun regardless of it's power is considered a 'firearm' if it is used to commit a criminal offence. Simply possessing one when committing an offence may greatly increase the any sentence a court may award.
Using an airgun to commit an offence carries prison sentences varying from three months to life depending on the seriousness of the crime.
It is now also a requirement to keep an Air Rifle or Pistol Safely so as to prevent the unauthorized access to them by persons aged under 18.
What you should know about shooting an airgun
You can only take your air gun onto land over which you have permission to shoot, regardless whether you intend to shoot it or not. If you trespass with your airgun you are committing the offence of 'armed trespass' this offence carries a maximum penalty of 3 months in prison and or a £2500 fine.
You may, provided that you have the necessary permissions to shoot on that land, shoot with out supervision if you are aged over 14 years.
If you are aged under 14 years, you may only shoot your airgun under the direct supervision of someone aged over 21 and on private land. The supervisor is legally responsible for the actions of the person they are supervising, no pellet may go outside of the boundaries of the private land where the shooting is taking place. A person aged under 14 may also shoot an airgun at a home office approved shooting club or at a shooting gallery for target shooting.
You cannot shoot your airgun within 15 meters of a public highway if doing so would cause a nuisance or endanger the public. It is now also an offence if any projectile leaves the boundaries of the land where you have permission to shoot.
Your airgun is considered 'loaded' if there is any form of projectile in the breech, regardless of whether or not the gun is cocked. A rifle or pistol is also considered to be loaded if there are pellets in any magazine attached to the rifle (fixed or removable), as the magazine is then considered to be a part of the 'Breech'. We would recommend only filling separate magazines while actually shooting to avoid any misunderstanding with the Police.
You must be aged 18 or older to carry an air rifle or air pistol in a public place even if it is cased. It is now a offence to cary an air rifle or pistol in a public place without reasonable excuse.
It is a serious offence to kill or injure any bird or protected animal with an airgun unless you are a person 'authorized' under the wildlife and countryside act 1981.
Advice for parents
Parents wishing to buy an airgun for for use by a person under 14 years of age must keep control of it at all times. You are committing an offence if you allow your child to shoot unsupervised even on land where permission to shoot has been given.
You are committing an offence if you give an airgun or ammunition as a gift to a person under the age of 18.
Although a person between the ages of 14 and 18 may shoot without supervision it strongly recommended that you keep control of the airgun when it is not in use. It is preferable that no airgun should be used by a person of these ages without the prior permission of a parent or other responsible adult.