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Monday, 23 June 2014

Bushcraft and the Law; Air Rifles

The second in the series on bushcraft and the law.

For those of you who want to take furred and feathered quarry as part of their involvement in bushcraft air rifles are normally going to be the most easily accessible and affordable option for you (unless you are planning to collect road kill; and bear in mind that animals killed on the road are often mangled beyond the point where you would want to eat them and the meat often tainted by burst guts, massive bruising, and the beginnings of decomposition).

Despite not needing a 'firearms' licence for most air rifles, the exception is for air rifles which fire a projectile with a muzzle energy of 12ft/lbs or more, all air rifles are still  classed as firearms. The definition being a weapons which has a barrel and fires a projectile. This means that by law you could be punished as harshly for a crime which involves an air rifle as with a full bore rifle.

There are several age limits that apply to air rifles; 

Under 14; you can use an air rifle under the supervision of someone at least 21 years of age on private premises with the permission of the occupier. You can't shoot without supervision AT ALL nor can you own an air rifle having received it by purchase, hire or as a gift, this also applies to air rifle ammunition.

14-17; you can borrow an air rifle and ammunition and use it without supervision where you have permission. You can't own an air rifle having received it by purchase, hire or as a gift. If the air rifle is 'yours' it must be purchased and looked after by someone else who is at least 18 years old. Although you can shoot unsupervised where you have permission you can't have an air rifle in your possession in a public place unless supervised by someone over 21 or have a reason; "I'm on my way to go shooting".

18; no restrictions on purchasing or owning an air rifle, it can only be used on ground where you have permission to shoot.

Permission to Shoot

You must have the permission of the land authoriser to shoot over land, this can be the owner or tenant of the land. If you access land where you do not have permission to shoot while you have your air rifle with you you are committing armed trespass. You can carry it in a public area as long as it's in a case and unloaded but not on private property without permission. The permission to shoot, whether given by a land authoriser or you are using your own land extends only to that land, this means that not only must you fire your air rifle from within the boundaries of the land but the projectile must land within those boundaries, if the projectile goes beyond your boundaries you can be prosecuted. It is also an offence in England and Wales to fire a weapon within 50 feet of the centre of a public highway if a user of that highway could be injured, interrupted or endangered.


Although powerful enough to kill game birds such as pheasants and partridges with a well placed head shot it is not 'the done thing' to shoot game with air rifles. Land owners will rarely, if ever, give permission to shoot game with your air rifle in the first place and bear in mind that if you are caught shooting game without express permission not only will you loose your shooting permission but will leave yourself open to action from the landowner. You should restrict your pursuit of live quarry to pest birds as set out by the general licences and the smaller pest mammals; rabbits, squirrels, rats etc.. This does not mean that all pests are suitable quarry for air rifles and legislation does state that animals should not be caused to suffer so you have a responsibility, moral as well as legal to kill your target with the minimum of suffering and distress. This means you should practice and be confident in your ability to hit a target consistently before you shoot at a live target and that you should only take on live quarry which are suitable for taking with the air rifle. So quarry as large as lesser black baked gulls, mink and foxes although pests should not be shot at with an air rifle.

There is something satisfying about being able to take food from the countryside whether that food is from plants or animals/fish/birds and an air rifle is going to be a fairly cheap and hassle free way of achieving that.


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