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Airgun law in the UK

PUBLISHED: 16:43 28 October 2011 | UPDATED: 19:01 09 July 2012

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Gun law in the UK is among the world’s most severe, and yet airguns are still unlicenced...

The law on the use and purchase of airguns has only recently been changed, in the 2007 VCR Act. This act, with Violent Crime Reduction as its theme, included a change in the age at which you can legally buy an airgun, raising it from 17 to 18 years of age. It also changed the way in which airguns can be bought from shops.

From October 1st 2007 shops selling airguns as part of their business have become Registered Firearms Dealers and you can only buy from them direct, and not by mail-order. This restriction only applies to airguns and silencers, not to scopes, mounts or any of the huge range of airgun related accessories available from gunshops, and neither does it apply to private airgun sales as available, for instance, in Airgun World Bullseyes or Air Gunner Swapshop.

Our sport is governed by laws that are among the most strict in the world and all responsible airgunners see it as their duty to conduct themselves in accordance with those laws. Running alongside the laws of the land, are another set of rules that in their own way are every bit as important. These rules cover general and specific points of safe gun handling and must be learned, used, abided by and taught to others, every time we handle our airguns. Our total respect for safe gun-handling isnt just a requirement of airgunning, its a fundamental shooting skill without which our sport would not exist. Shooting safely and with full regard for the law is the only way to maintain our high standards and to represent our sport as it really is.

The penalties for breaking the laws that govern airguns are, rightfully, severe and those penalties bring airgunners entirely under the jurisdiction of the full firearms laws. In simple terms, when used unlawfully, airguns are regarded by the legal authorities as firearms, and carry exactly the same legal status as shotguns and live-ammunition guns, with no concession in law for the airguns vastly reduced power levels. Criminals using airguns face huge penalties, including terms in prison, again fully in-line with the laws covering firearms.

Using an airgun

It is legal for anyone above the age of 14 to shoot an airgun, unsupervised, on private land where full permission to shoot has been given. Those below the age of 14 may shoot airguns only if closely supervised by someone over 21 years of age. The supervising adult is legally responsible for the actions of the junior shooter.

Airguns may be used only on land where the user has full permission to shoot. This may be your garden, or private land owned or leased by an individual or club. Remember, wherever you shoot, you must ensure that all of your pellets remain within the boundary of the land to which your shooting permission applies.

It is illegal to shoot an airgun on any land, including common land, river banks, public land, recreation areas or playing fields and land covered by water, i.e. lakes, ponds, canals and rivers where you do not have full permission from the lands owner or its tenant. It is also illegal to fire an airgun closer than 50 feet (15 metres) from the centre of a public highway, bridleway or footpath, if your shooting causes upset or inconvenience to those using the highway.

It is legal for persons authorised by the landowner or tenant to carry out vermin control with an air rifle. The legal airgun quarry species include brown rats, magpies, carrion crows, rooks, jays, squirrels, woodpigeons, feral pigeons and collared doves. Other species, such as lesser black backed gulls, herring gulls and greater black backed gulls are best left to professional pest controllers.

Airgun power

The legal muzzle-energy limit for air rifles is 12ft.lb and for pistols, 6ft.lb. You do not require any form of licence for sub legal-limit airguns. For rifles producing more than 12ft.lb,a Firearms Certificate (FAC) is required. Air pistols that produce more than 6ft.lb are prohibited.

Transporting airguns

Airguns must always be transported in securely-fastened cases that do not permit the airgun to be fired whilst in the case. Since the implementation of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, 2003, airgunners between 14 and 18 years of age are no longer allowed to transport an airgun to the venues at which they shoot. These shooters must be accompanied and supervised by someone of 21 years or above. Remember, too, that it is now illegal to have an airgun loaded or not in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. This restriction applies to all airguns, even those that are being carried in securely-fastened gun cases.

As with all airgun laws, the responsibility lies with the user and the potential penalties are extremely severe. You must therefore make it a priority to learn and understand these laws as they apply to you and your shooting.


  • Is it legal to shoot in your back garden aslong as you are keeping the pellets from going anywhere out the housing association rented property by seeing a large back board of wood with you targets on it because iam useing an old wardrobe to stop wide pellets please reply

    Add your comment |

    Philip Mathers

    Wednesday, November 27, 2013

  • hi, i recently applied to change the calibre of my fac regisered.177 mk2 to .22 using the barrel and probe from my .22 12ftlb legal gun both are theoben both with the carbine 16' barrel my firearms officer has informed me i can do this but cannot put the barrel off my section1 gun back on my sub 12ftlb gun and it must be destroyed. is this correct ? thanks

    Add your comment |

    phil c

    Thursday, November 7, 2013

  • Hi. Just to clarify. If i am over 21. Which i am. Is it illegal for me to carry my rifle to and from my permission in its rifle case on a pushbike ? Unloaded obviously. Are the roads that i travel on classed as a public place ? Thanks in advance.

    Add your comment |


    Monday, July 9, 2012

  • Hi. I currently live in South Africa, but my wife and I are looking at relocating to the UK in the next few months. I currently target shoot using a Gamo PT80 with muzzle velocity of 410 fps. Would I be able to bring this pistol into the country, obviously in hold luggage, for private use and for joining a club in the UK. I am a British Citizen and was (many years ago) a member of a shooting club in my home town with both live ammunition (.22 calibre mostly) and .177 air rifles. I look forward to the advice.

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    Tuesday, December 24, 2013

  • I should add, that the law says that you must have a reasonable excuse to carry an air gun. For example- to and from a gunsmith or dealer. Or in your case to and from your permission.

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    Friday, August 10, 2012

  • hi i have recently been in touch with our local fire armes department for cleavland and north yorkshire police they told me it is leagal to carry an air rifle public place aslong as you have good reason to do so altho you may be stoped by officers asking why n were you are going but they have no authoraty to ceze the gun without good reason

    Add your comment |

    Ben Shutt

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012

  • Thanks for the informative article, I was given a Walther CP 88 pistol by a relative of a friend of mine who passed away, and I was wondering if I was allowed to use it in my garden, which as it's 70ft long and has an 8ft wall at the back I'm comfortable it's safe (I also have experience with firearms from firing them in the cadets and with the army). My one question is, regarding travelling with the pistol, the article says it must be a securely fastened case, does that mean locked, or just one that won't open on it's own? Many thanks.

    Add your comment |


    Tuesday, April 8, 2014

  • hi axel, i have found out recently that, yes, it is legal to carry an airgun securely in its case to your permission. As long as your over 21. Hope this helps.

    Add your comment |


    Friday, August 10, 2012

  • I have recently joined the Warrington District Rifle and Pistol Club, because I have got myself the Umarex Walther PPKs CO2 Pistol so that I can do target shooting. BASC AirGun member no:500077370 WDRPC membership no:P3404

    Add your comment |

    Darren Anthony Tynan

    Tuesday, November 5, 2013

  • hi all. just getting into air rifle shooting. own a second hand weihrauch HW 77 which I'm happy with. made a steel cased trap from a 600mm x 600mm light fitting then lined with package protecting foam. having fun with targets but after something more. in Bridgend, South Wales and looking for something more challenging. only so many aluminium rabbits and rats, cut from pop cans I can shoot. any ideas?

    Add your comment |

    Dav and big dog

    Sunday, March 2, 2014

  • id like to know this two as i dont drive and have found a place to shoot which is like a 10 min walk would we get in to trouble? thanks

    Add your comment |


    Tuesday, August 7, 2012

  • Sorry it's taken so long to comment, I am just Shooting into my trap in my garden at present but feel I am ready to hunt again, I live by many farms but it is confusing to who owns what land, so i am at present trying to sort out some shoot's, cheers for the welcome :)

    Add your comment |


    Friday, January 24, 2014

  • Shoot in garden if at least 50ft away from a highway or public right of way,as long as a pellet does not leave your boundaries.so using a backstop to absorb energy and stop any ricochets will make sure you know where the pellet will end up.

    Add your comment |


    Thursday, December 5, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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