UK airgun law
The following is an abridged version of current UK airgun law but covers all the most important points - for the full legal documentation and to check for future alterations to current legal standing, please visit the Metropolitan Polices' website.
- In the UK airguns are defined as firearms and controlled by the Firearms Acts.
- Airguns with a muzzle energy not in excess of 12ft lbs, in the case of air rifles, and 6 ft. lbs, in the case of air pistols are not considered to be especially dangerous and do not require firearms certificates.
- Airguns may only be used on property owned by either the shooter or with permission of the landowner.
- It is an offence to shoot beyond the boundary of the land on which permission is held.
- Airguns must not be fired within 50 feet of the centre of a public highway.
- It is an offence for someone under the age of 18 to purchase or acquire an airgun or ammunition for that airgun.
- Young persons under the age of 18 may shoot an airgun under the supervision of someone aged 21
Air Rifles and Young Persons -
18 years and over
You may buy, borrow or hire an air rifle and its ammunition and may use it where you have permission to do so.
Aged 14 - 18 years
- You may not buy or hire an air rifle or ammunition.
- You may not receive an air rifle or ammunition as a gift but you may borrow one.
- If you are under 18 then your air rifle and ammunition must be bought for you by someone over 18 - normally your parent, guardian or some other responsible adult.
- If you are aged between 14 - 18 years you may use an air rifle on private premises without supervision with the consent of the occupier - normally the owner or tenant. However, if you allow a pellet to go outside of the premises whilst you are shooting then you commit a criminal offence.
- You may not carry an air rifle in a public place unless you are supervised by a person of 21 years or over and you have a reasonable excuse to do so, for example, whilst on the way to a club or land where you have permission to shoot. It is common sense to carry the air rifle in a gun cover and you should always ensure that it is unloaded. Young people under 14 years If you are under 14 you may not buy, hire or receive an air rifle or its ammunition as a gift.
- You may borrow an air rifle and use it under supervision on private premises with permission from the occupier - normally the owner or tenant. The person who supervises you must be of or over 21 years of age. If a pellet leaves the premises whilst you are shooting then both you and the person supervising you commit a criminal offence.
- Parents or guardians who buy an air rifle for use by an under 14 year old must exercise control over it at all time even in the home or garden.
A public place is anywhere where the public are allowed to go even though they may have to pay to be there. Roads, streets, footpaths, public parks, play areas and canal towpaths are all examples of public places. It is an offence for anyone to have an air rifle - whether it is loaded or not - in a public place unless they have a reasonable excuse for doing so, for example, whilst on the way to a gunshop or to a shooting club.
It is against the law to trespass on any land (including land covered by water) or in any building, while you have an air rifle with you. Whether the gun is loaded and whether or not you have pellets with you is irrelevant. If you go onto land without permission, you are trespassing, unless there is some right of access for the public. If there is a right of access for the public the restrictions set out above will apply. Trespass with an air rifle is 'armed trespass', a criminal offence, the penalties for which can be severe.
As well as the offences already mentioned, it is against the law, in England and Wales, to fire an air rifle within 50 feet 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.
Protection of Birds
Most birds are completely protected by law. It is sometimes thought that those birds which are often called vermin can be killed at any time by anyone. That is not so. Birds which are often regarded as pests (crows, pigeons, starlings, etc.) may only be killed by what the law calls an 'authorised person', that is the person who owns the land or who has permission to shoot pests. A trespasser or a person who shoots at such a bird in a public place will commit offences against the Firearms Act for having a gun and also against the law on the protection of birds by killing, or even trying to kill, a wild bird when he is not an authorised person.