As of February 2011 owners of air weapons must take reasonable precautions to prevent persons under 18 years old from from gaining unauthorised access to such weapons.

Essentially if there are under 18s present in the home (even if just visiting) measures must be taken store air weapons securely.

What is considered safe storage is still open to dabate but The Home office suggests that a robust lockable cupboard or security cable fixed to a brick wall will usually be sufficient.

Air Rifles - A Code of Practice

The most important rule of gun handling……


It is estimated that there are four million air rifles in the UK, the vast majority of which are used in a safe and responsible manner. This leaflet offers guidance and advice to those who acquire and use them.

Above all, safety is the most important consideration. Always know where the muzzle of your air rifle is pointing and NEVER point it in an unsafe direction.

Whenever you shoot, make sure you know where the pellet is going to end up before you pull the trigger.


Firearms Acts 1968-1997/Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2004/ Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006

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.

Public Places
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.


All birds and animals are protected by law. It is often thought that those birds and animals designated as pest species can be shot at any time and by anyone. This is not so. Only ‘authorised persons’, that is those who have proper permission, are allowed to do so. For this purpose the Secretary of State issues a general licence every year.

Always ensure that you are authorised by the landowner or person with the sporting rights to shoot where you intend to and that you know precisely where the boundaries are located.


There are numerous clubs catering for this growing sport throughout the UK and they can offer great help and guidance to both the novice and the experienced shooter alike. If you wish to practise on your own premises, you should ensure that your pellets do not go beyond your own premises, where they may cause damage or injury. It is also constructive trespass if your pellets stray onto someone else's land. You should make sure that you have a suitable backstop behind your target.

(The term ‘quarry’ covers the species you may lawfully shoot.)

It is the responsibility of the sportsman to be able to recognise his or her quarry and know when and where he or she may shoot it. Never shoot unless you have positively identified your quarry.
Always shoot well within your capabilities. Practise on targets, never on live quarry, to establish the maximum range at which you and your rifle can consistently hit the positive kill area on your quarry; this is usually the head and is normally about three cms (an inch and a quarter) diameter maximum. Practise regularly to maintain and improve your skills. There is more skill in stalking close to your quarry, than taking a long shot. You should zero your sights (check their correct alignment) before starting any hunt.

Always despatch wounded quarry quickly and with the minimum of suffering. Wounded rodents should be despatched with caution as they are capable of inflicting painful wounds. DO NOT TOUCH RATS. They may carry fatal diseases,  so you should lift them with a fork or shovel.

Always ensure that your air rifle is suitably powered for the quarry you intend to shoot and do not attempt a shot of more than 35 metres.  Never shoot at partially obscured quarry or shoot at quarry which could escape into cover before it can be retrieved. For example, do not shoot rabbits which are less than two metres from cover.

BASC supports the legitimate right of any member to possess and to shoot at sporting quarry with any lawful air rifle of his or her choice. However, we consider that air rifles of the type for which no Firearms Certificate is required (those producing 12 ft/lbs muzzle energy or below) are insufficiently powerful to ensure humane kills of certain quarry species.

We recommend that you refrain from using them on live quarry other than the following: crows, rooks, jackdaws, magpies, jays, woodpigeon, collared doves, feral pigeons, brown rats, grey squirrels and rabbits.

Certain types of air rifle are more suitable for hunting than others. Rifles to be avoided are those which take excessive time to charge, load and fire, and those which are in a poor state of repair. All air rifles must be well maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations. If in doubt - consult your local dealer.  

Pellets used for hunting should be well made, consistent and compatible with the rifle. 

Apart from your rifle and pellets you may need a knife and suitable clothing. You must have a good reason for carrying a knife in a public place. Always remember to remove the knife from pockets or car after use. Apart from certain applications such as pigeon shooting, (where you will find decoys and hides useful) carrying excess equipment will only weigh you down.

Always wear suitable and sensible footwear and clothing to suit your surroundings and the weather. If shooting in company, appoint a leader and always ensure that each member knows the plan for the day.


- Do not shoot at, or near, power lines or insulators.
- Do not use power line poles or towers to support equipment used in your shooting activity.
- Be especially careful in wooded areas where power lines may not be as visible.
- Take notice of warning signs and keep clear of electrical apparatus.
- Avoid the use of lofting poles near overhead power lines - remember, high voltage electricity can jump a considerable distance.

Remember -
a loss of power supply can have serious consequences to local communities.
If accidental damage does occur:
KEEP WELL CLEAR - dial 999 for the emergency services and contact your local electricity company immediately (under 'Electricity' in the telephone directory)


- Always advise the owner and/or tenant, in good time, if you want to go shooting and check that it is convenient.
- Always confirm with the owner and/or tenant what quarry you may shoot.
- Always respect the owner's property, crops, livestock and fences and follow the Country Code. Open gates rather than climb them, and close them after you. Climb a secured gate at the hinge end. Never break fences, walls, rails or hedges. Never walk in standing corn. Keep your dog under control if you use one. Avoid disturbance to livestock at all times.
- Never leave litter and, whenever possible, collect that left by others.
- Always treat an air rifle as though it were loaded and keep its barrel pointing in a safe direction.
- On picking up or being handed an air rifle, check immediately to ensure it is not loaded, ie that it is uncocked and that there is no pellet in the breech.
- Before you fire your rifle, consider where the pellet will go. Should it miss your intended target, ensure that no damage or harm can result.
- Always bear in mind the possibility of a ricochet.
- Never put down a loaded air rifle or leave it unattended.
- Use of a sound moderator can minimise disturbance to wildlife, livestock and other countryside users.
- Remember that all shooters will be judged by your actions and ensure that your conduct is always above reproach.  Always try, whenever possible, to encourage the same attitude in your shooting companions and in any other shooters with whom you  come into contact. Above all, be safe and be sensible.


Always leave your shoot in the condition in which you would like to find it. Make sure that you collect all your equipment.
It is courteous to thank the owner and occupier and to offer him something from the bag if you have shot any edible quarry.
Take care of your edible quarry, store it in a cool place. Never waste it.
Non-edible vermin quarry should be disposed of discreetly and very carefully and in a manner which will not create a health hazard. This is a legal requirement.


Do not attempt to strip an air rifle without having the proper tools, facilities and knowledge to do this safely. Many air rifles contain powerful springs which can cause serious injury if released in an uncontrolled manner. After shooting, ensure your air rifle is dry and free of dirt before storing it away. Metalwork may benefit from a wipe down with a lightly oiled rag. The barrel should be cleaned using a proper barrel cleaning kit, and again lightly oiled. Only use the correct lubricants in accordance with the gun manufacturers instructions. Always carefully wipe the oil from the bore before shooting. Ensure scratches to the stock are repaired without delay, there are many products on the market for this. Small dents in the woodwork can be removed with a damp cloth and a hot iron.

The BASC Ideal is ...
That all who shoot in Britain conduct themselves according to the law and to the highest standards of safety, sportsmanship and courtesy, with full respect for their quarry and a practical interest in wildlife conservation and in the countryside.

The BASC gratefully acknowledges the Shooting Sports Trust for its permission to reproduce elements of 'Airgun Law' in the Code of Practice.

Never guess at what the Law allows.
If in doubt, contact BASC or your local police firearms licensing department.

A BASC publication revised July 2004 in association with ACPO

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