Video: UK Firearms Certificates and Legalities Explained

7th Nov 2019

Video: UK Firearms Certificates and Legalities Explained

Owning an air weapon in the UK is a very grey area. In this video, we explain some of the basic rules around ownership and where best to use your air weapon.

Air guns in the UK are classed as firearms and therefore require a firearms certificate to own. That is unless they have a power output of less than 12 foot pounds of energy or less than 16.2 joules of energy. Pistols however must have a power output of less than six foot pounds of energy or less than 8.1 joules. If an air weapon falls below these limits they are legal to own without a firearm certificate.

Age limits of owning or using a firearm

The legality surrounding whether you can buy and shoot an air gun is determined by your age and it's broken down into 3 specific groups;

  • over 18's 
  • 14 to 17 year olds
  • under 14's.

If you're over 18 there are no restrictions on purchasing an air gun or ammuntion and you may shoot it wherever you have permission.

If you're aged 14 through to 17 then shooting an air gun becomes a little bit more restictive. You're not allowed to purchase or hire an air gun or ammunition or recieve one as a gift. However, you may borrow one and use it unsupervised on land where you have permission to shoot. At this age you're not allowed to transport the air gun in public alone and you must be accompanied by somebody over the age of 21, and you must have a valid reason for doing so such as being on your way to or from a range, a shop or private land to shoot.

If you're under the age of 14 you're not allowed to buy or hire air guns or ammunition and you are not allowed to recieve one as a gift. However you are allowed to shoot an air rifle on private property under constant supervision by the land occupier provided they are at least 21 years old. Parents or guardians who buy themselves an air gun with the intention of allowing their child to use it whilest supervised must be in control of the weapon at all times - be it home, in the garden, or in the field.

Storing a Firearm

Since 2011 and in the introduction of the Crime and Security act 2010 it has become an offence to own an air weapon without taking reasonable precautions to prevent someone under the age of 18 from gaining unauthorised access to the air weapon. What is classed as a reasonable precaution is dependant on your situation. For instance, in the case of having very young children simply storing the air weapons up high is seen as a reasonable precaution. In all cases however a locked cupboard, a gun case or a safe is sufficiant. Even simply anchoring the weapon to a secure part of the building is deemed a reasonable precaution. However a lock which simply stops the weapon from being loaded or fired but does not stop the weapon from being removed from the building does NOT satisfy these requirments.

Transporting a Firearm

Air weapons must only be transported in a secure case which does not allow the weapon to be fired whilst it is in that case. This rules out most fabric cases so a lot of people prefered hard cases. With the introduction of the antisocial behaviours act 2003 in the UK, shooters under the age of 18 are no longer allowed to transport air weapons alone and must be accompanied by someone over the age of 21 Remember that it's an offence to carry an air weapon even in a suitable carry case without a reasonable excuse, and if you are carrying an air weapon in public for legitimate reasons ensure that it's unloaded and uncocked.

Where You Can Legally Shoot

You are allowed to shoot your air guns anywhere you have gained permission from the land owner to shoot. However, there are three things you need to be aware of before you begin: You must be aware of the lands boundaries Shooting past a boundary and into land that you do not have permission to shoot into, is an offence. So make sure you are 100% clear on the boundaries of the property. If you're shooting across boundaries make sure that you have permission from all land owners. Now obviously tresspassing is a serious crime, but it becomes instantly more serious when you do it with a weapon. Before moving around your shooting area make sure that you are 100% certain of the properties boundaries. It's also against the law to shoot a weapon within 15 meters of the centre of a public highway. So when you are choosing where to shoot, even if it's in your back garden, make sure you're away from public roads.

And to cap it all off... if the shooter is under the age of 14 both shooter and supervisor can be prosecuted for any offences. So if your supervising somebody under the age of 14 make sure you are up to date with the rules as well as they are.

What You Can Shoot

You can obviously shoot at targets, just make sure that your backstop is clear and of soft material and that there's no chance of richochet from the target. Your local shooting club will hopefully allow you to shoot at their range depending on their rules. If you're intrested in shooting live quarry then you're limited in the species you can shoot by law. Most bird are protected however there are a number of species that fall under what is know as the open general licence. This allows you to shoot certain pest species listed in the licence providing you have permission from the land owner and you are doing it for a valid reason such as protecting crops, protecting game and wildlife or to protect public health and safety.

Useful Links

List of species: here.
Here's our blog on everything you need to know for a firearms certificate: here.

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