Air Rifle & Air Gun Law in the UK
As with most firearms the duty of care is very much on the gun owner and no one else.
If it’s your weapon then you need to make sure it safe, secure and unlikely to get into the hands of children as well as transporting it lawfully and using it safely.
Who can buy an air rifle.?
To purchase an air rifle or pistol you must be over 18 years of age and show a photo identity as proof of this.
You will also require two methods of identity from your authorised suppliers, including proof of address as well – you cannot buy on-line.
However, you can only freely buy an air rifle that has a muzzle energy of below 12 ft lbs or a pistol below 6 ft lbs – anything with a higher velocity than this will require a FAC ( Fire Arms Certificate ) – Air pistols that produce more than 6ft.lb are prohibited.
The FAC is not necessarily difficult to obtain but you will need to fulfill a very strict set of criteria and be inspected by your local police as to why you actually need a more high powered rifle in order to be granted permission to have one.
This process applies to all high velocity rifles in the UK including semi automatics and gauges up to .50 cal.
*this does not include Northern Ireland..
Your duty of care..
As the gun owner, you, and only you, are responsible for that weapon – and you must behave in the appropriate way and take all the necessary precautions to ensure you act in a common sense way that will not cause injury to anyone, including yourself…
Special attention should be given to storing your rifle or air pistol in a manner where it cannot be removed from its ‘safe store’. – this now means, you must keep any rifles or pistols in a sensible place – for example, a sensible place would NOT be in a garage or outbuilding.
Under the amended laws of February 2011, the Crime and Security Act 2010 now makes it an offence for a person in possession of an air gun (the gun owner) to fail to take “reasonable precautions” to prevent someone under the age of 18 from gaining unauthorised access to it.
*the obvious thing to do here is store your gun in a cabinet under lock and key – that way you are completely covered and within the law – however, for a sub 12 ft lb air rifle you do not necessarily need to do this – just reasonable precautions. This can mean out of sight and high up away from prying eyes and stored separately from any pellets.
Of course, if you own several air rifles I would very much suggest a gun cabinet at best or a securely locked cupboard.
I will also add that sensible precautions means that the rifle is NOT loaded with a pellet or cocked ready to be fired – in the case of a PCP rifle I would also suggest it has no charge in the air cylinder.
You are simply taking all the precautions available to you to ensure it cannot be accidentally picked up and fired.
As a final step, I would also keep the pellets and guns separate from each other – preferably in a different room.
Using an airgun
It is legal for any person over the age of 14 to shoot an airgun, unsupervised and on private land
Full permission to shoot has to be been given by the landowner.
Anyone under the age of 14 may also shoot an airgun but only if closely supervised by someone over 21 years of age. The supervising adult is legally responsible for the actions of the junior shooter.
You must have the full permission to shoot on any land – this includes your garden or on private land, or land that is owned or leased by any club or an individual owner.
*All pellets must remain within the boundaries of that land.
It is illegal to fire an airgun on the following land:
- common land
- recreational land
- playing fields
- land that is covered by water e.g. ponds, lakes, canals and rivers *where you do not have the owner’s permission
It is also illegal to fire an air rifle:
- closer than 50 ft [15mtrs] of the centre of a highway, if by doing so you cause any member of the public, using that right of way, to be injured, interrupted or endangered.
*This offence could be committed, for example, by someone on private property close to a road who uses an air rifle in a way which endangers people on the road.
- closer than 50 ft [15mtrs] from the centre of any bridal path or footpath
Anyone over 18 years of age can transport their air rifle or pistol, however, all airguns should be transported in a securely fastened case – this case must prevent the air gun from being freely picked up and fired.
The gun cannot be cocked and ready to fire.
The gun cannot be loaded with a pellet (whether cocked or not)
Anyone between 14 and 18 years of age cannot transport an airgun – they must be accompanied and supervised by someone over 21.
*it is illegal to have an airgun, loaded or not, and whether in a secure case or not, in any public place without lawful authority to do so, or reasonable excuse.
**REMEMBER THIS: it is illegal to have an air gun in a public place – so, if you have an air gun in the boot of your car, even if travelling to/from a shooting range, you cannot stop and get it out for any reason. I, personally, would not get my rifle out of its case even if asked by a police officer..!!
If you keep to these basic rules you’ll be safe and within the law. But remember, the onus is very firmly on you, the gun owner.
Failing to comply with any of the above laws you risk potential penalties, which are extremely severe.
Please make it your priority to learn and understand these UK airgun laws as they apply to you and your shooting.