It’s certainly not as simple as popping down to your local shop and picking up an air weapon. There are strict laws which govern their use and ownership.
What’s the legal age? (Over 18s, aged 14-17, under 14)
Much like most things in life, different age ranges are granted access to differing privileges when it comes to air rifle usage. The changes between age groups are subtle, but very important to note and adhere to.
In order to ensure safety when shooting, there are strict rules which must be adhered to – both with and without the weapon in your hands. As well as that, keeping your firearms safe from inquisitive hands is also integral to maintaining high safety standards.
Ensuring safety when shooting
Naturally, guaranteeing it’s safe to shoot should be a priority for any air rifle enthusiast. There are several steps which can be taken to confirm a shot can be fired safely in an area:
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings – This one sounds obvious, but keeping a close eye on everything around you is imperative to maintaining high levels of safety. Your fellow hunters won’t always know where you are, so make sure you keep an eye on their location before wildly letting loose with a pellet.
- Keep your gun broken when not shooting – If you’re standing around and not taking part in a shoot, then always remember to keep your gun broken and by your side. Doing this prevents any loose bolts being fired off, unbeknownst to you.
- Loading up – Along that train of thought, it’s important to make sure you keep your gun unloaded at any time when you aren’t firing. Regardless of whether you think the gun’s loaded or not, make sure to act at all times as if it is. This will lower the chances of an accident happening even further. Also make sure you check if a gun is loaded when someone hands it to you (even if they say it isn’t – don’t let their lack of concentration be your downfall).
- Never U-turn – When firing on a stand, resist the urge to turn around after shooting just one of the pellets from your chamber. It’s a common habit and often results in a weapon being pointed directly at your own groin. If you’re going to turn around, at least make sure to break your gun first.
- Never point the gun – Avoid pointing the gun at anyone, at all times. Whether you know the gun is unloaded or not, it saves people a world of worry if you make sure you don’t aim the rifle in the direction of one of your fellow shooters.
PROHIBITED FIREARMS IN THE UK
Unsurprisingly, owing to the extreme nature of the weapons, there are several different types of firearms which are banned from legal use in the UK. These guns will see you slapped with either a significant fine or prison time – and in some cases both.
The banned list is primarily targeted at ‘real’ firearms, but does also encompass a couple of air rifles. These include:
- Semi-automatic and pump-action rifles which utilise centre-fire ammunition
- Guns which are camouflaged as another item (for example a pool cue or a mobile phone)
- Fully automatic or burst-fire weapons (this can include some varieties of air guns)
- Any weapon modified to release noxious liquid or gas (usually tear gas or pepper spray)
- Rocket launchers and mortars
- Air guns which are chambered to self-contain gas cartridges
- Any previously prohibited firearm which has been modified to reach the standards required of it. If a weapon is banned, it stays that way regardless of modifications.
The possession of any of these weapons will see you receive an incredibly lengthy prison sentence. Simply owning, purchasing or borrowing an illegal firearm will see you land with a 10-year prison sentence in the UK.
Just to hammer home the point, the manufacturing of these types of guns will more than likely result in someone receiving a life-sentence. Needless to say, firearm laws are taken very seriously in this country and must be adhered to at all times.
Safety rules for storage of an air weapon
While the storage of firearms might not sound like much of a focal point, keeping your weapons lying around loosely is technically illegal. Breaching the rules could result in a fine, a six-month prison sentence or, in the case of extreme negligence, both.
As such, it’s very important to make sure you take all the steps you can to guarantee you’re storing air weapons in a manner which sticks to the rules set out by the Firearms Act of 1998 – which sees the poor storage of firearms as no excuse if someone who is unauthorised to use them gains access to a weapon.
1. GUN CABINETS
This is likely to be the most probable method of storage for most people, with specially designed gun cabinets widely available for purchase across most stores. There are standard requirements for gun cabinets in the UK and storage units are strongly urged to meet these.
If you’re purchasing a cabinet from a vendor, make sure you ask them to see a test certificate to guarantee the unit is up to scratch. While it is not illegal to use a cabinet which doesn’t meet this standard, it makes your chances of keeping your firearm legally safe considerably higher.
It is advised that cabinets:
- Should be made from sheet steel that is at least 14 swg (standard wire gauge) or 2mm thick
- Have continuously welded seams or have been formed by bend construction to ensure there are no cracks or weak points
- Use hinges which are located on the inside of the cabinet. If the hinges are situated on the outside then bolts, blocks or anti-lever bars should be utilised
- Should use a lock mechanism which is also located on the inside of the cabinet and contain at least 5 levers
- Contain a separate lockable storage unit to keep ammunition safe
- Full-length side hinged cabinets should also have two locks – with these located one third and two thirds of the way up the unit
While these requirements are perhaps not as stringent as some of the other laws we’ve encountered, it is still important to keep your gun cabinets as up to spec as possible. Keeping your weapons safe means you eliminate a potential threat before it can even begin to take shape.
Gun cabinets are without question the safest way to store you weapons and are as such highly advised to be used.
2. GUN CLAMPS
Gun cabinets are certainly not the only alternative, however. Gun clamps are another popular method of storage – with these units being considerably smaller for those worried about a cabinet taking up a large amount of space in their home.
Similarly to the cabinet, these clamps must be made out of steel which is 14 swg or 2mm thick, have seam-welded joints or be forged via the use of bend construction and have a lock which meets the requirements of the BS 3621 standard issue.
At worst, a very good quality padlock can be fitted to negate that step – but it is actively encouraged the required standard is met in order to ensure there’s as much safety as possible in the storage process.
3. STEEL CABLES
While it is advised you use one of the previous two methods to store your guns, the use of a regular steel cable is at times also an option. In this instance, a reinforced or industrial strength padlock will probably be enough to secure your weapon.
The complicated part of this storage device comes in the form of the installation process. In order to install the steel cable in a manner which ensures heightened safety, it is encouraged you:
• Place the cable in a room which does not have direct access to the outside (making it harder for someone to stroll into and pick the gun up willy-nilly)
• Prevent the cable from being installed in a shed or an outside building
• Make sure you take into account the load bearing strength of your floors if the device is of a heavier variety
• Try to attach the cables in such a way that they’re connected to either concrete blocks, a brick wall or the floor
• Keep the container out of view when someone walks into a room. Keeping a firearm in the corner can help prevent it from being noticed by intruders
• Avoid fixing the container near a heat source
Barrel blocks and trigger guards are also considered by some to be effective storage devices, but it is generally advised to avoid them in favour of the units listed above.
Failure to properly secure your weapons could result in a thief or, even worse than that, a loved one, getting access to them and causing damage to themselves or others. Should that occur, the blame falls on the owner of the air weapon as they are legally the person who is responsible for the gun itself.
LAWS ON TRANSPORTING AIR WEAPONS
You can’t just walk down the street freely wielding a pneumatic weapon. It perhaps comes with no surprise there are fairly stringent regulations on transporting your rifle or handgun from one place to another.
TRANSPORTING AIR WEAPONS AS AN ADULT
If you don’t regularly transport your air weapons, you shouldn’t need to add a fitted device in order to store them safely in your car. Instead, keep your gun secured in a tightly fastened transporter case and do not leave it unattended at any time.
According to air rifle laws, a gun cannot be cocked or ready to fire while being transported, nor can it be loaded with a pellet of any variety, regardless of whether or not it is cocked or even unbroken at the time.
It is also important to remember if you do not have the authority to own an air gun, it is illegal to carry one at any point – regardless of whether you’re using a secure storage case and keeping it unloaded or not.
Should you regularly transport your gun from one place to another, it is likely you will need to fit a special device to your vehicle to ensure the gun is protected at all times.
TRANSPORTING AIR WEAPONS AS A CHILD
As previously discussed in the section tackling age requirements, it is illegal for anyone aged under 18 to carry an air weapon without the supervision of someone aged 21 or older.
There are absolutely no exceptions to this rule, regardless of how much experience a minor has with the weapon. A child is, in the eyes of the law, unable to take the responsibility that’s required to transport an air rifle safely.