Airguns in the UK are subject to the firearms acts, under the Firearms (Dangerous air weapons) rules 1969 they are classified as low powered Air Weapons and as such they are restricted to a maximum power of 12 foot pounds energy for a rifle and 6 foot pounds energy for a pistol. Air rifles above 12ft/lbs are classified as a Section 1 Firearm and requires a licence (FAC) otherwise known as a firearms certificate, and an Air pistol above 6ftlb is a prohibited weapon.
UK Legal Limit
To calculate the power of an airgun you need to use a chronograph to measure the speed of the pellet (in feet per second) when fired, and you need to know the weight of the pellet in grains. Once you have that information you perform the following calculation:- speed(ft/sec) X speed(ft/sec) X weight(grains) /450240
This gives you the result in foot pounds force (ftlb).
As mentioned the legal maximum for an unlicensed air rifle is 12 ftlb which from changing round the above formula, gives the approximate values as follows:-
A .22 pellet weighing 14.4 grains, maximum permissible speed is 612 ft/sec
A .177 pellet weighing 7.9 grains, maximum permissible speed is 826 ft/sec
The corresponding figures for a pistol are 433 ft/sec for a .22 and 584 ft/sec for a .177
The pellet weights used in the above calculation are typical weights for the sizes of pellet but you must always check the actual weight of your pellet before performing your own calculation.
The following pests are considered suitable for controlling using a sub-12 ftlb Airgun.
BIRDS: (covered by the open general licences) crows, rooks, jackdaws, magpies, jays, wood pigeon, collared doves, and feral pigeons.
MAMMALS: brown rats, grey squirrels, stoats, mink and rabbits.
Information sheet on general licences for the control of certain bird species in the UK please click here to read
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
All bird and animals are protected by law. Certain species are classified as pests or vermin and only these species can be legitimately shot and then only by authorised persons. An Authorised Person is someone who has the proper permission from the land owner to control pests on that land. © Airgunforum.co.uk
The Penalties for breaking current UK firearms laws with Airguns are as follows:-
Carrying a loaded Air-weapon in a public place 6 months imprisonment and / or £5,000 fine.
Trespassing with an air weapon 3 months imprisonment and / or £2,500 fine.
Trespassing on private land with an air weapon 3 months imprisonment and / or £2,500 fine.
Possessing or using an air weapon if sentenced to 3 months or more in custody 3 months imprisonment and / or £2,500 fine.
In addition if original sentence up to 3 years 5 year ban on use of firearms.
Or if for 3 years or more Life ban on use of firearms.
Killing or injuring any bird or protected animal unless authorised £5,000 fine.
Firing an air weapon within 15m / 50ft of a public highway £1,000 fine.
Selling or hiring air weapon or ammunition to person under 17 6 months imprisonment and / or £5,000 fine.
Making a gift of air weapon or ammunition to person under 14 £1,000 fine.
Having air weapon or ammunition with intent to damage property 10 years imprisonment.
Having air weapon with intent to endanger life Life imprisonment and / or appropriate fine.
Using air weapon to resist or prevent arrest Life imprisonment and / or appropriate fine.
Threatening others with an air weapon (even if unloaded) to cause them to fear unlawful violence 10 years imprisonment and / or appropriate fine.
Not forgetting the chance of being shot and killed by the police should you not obey instructions when challenged by them, they cannot tell if you have just an airgun or a more lethal firearm so will treat all arms as lethal and respond accordingly.
It should be born in mind by every airgun shooter that the unexpected could happen and they could find themselves facing a civil action for damage to property or even injury to persons or livestock. Every airgun shooter should have Third Party Public Liability Insurance before venturing out of doors, and joining one of the bodies representing shooters interests is the best way to achieve this.
Following the enactment of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, listed below are the current regulations relating to the purchase, ownership, sale and possession of airguns and ammunition.
Persons under the age of 14:
1) No person under the age of 14 may purchase, hire or be given an airgun or ammunition.
2) A person under the age of 14 must at all times when shooting be supervised by a person over the age of 21.
Persons over the age of 14 but under 18:
1) No person under the age of 18 may purchase, hire or be given an airgun or ammunition.
2) A person in this age group may shoot unsupervised on private land with the permission of the landowner but must be supervised by somebody over the age of 21 if in a public place.
It should be noted that this means that a person aged seventeen and a half who may have a driving licence cannot take an air rifle from home to his club to shoot unless the gun is possessed by somebody over the age of eighteen or the seventeen and a half-year old is supervised by a person over the age of twenty-one.
Persons over the age of 18:
A person over the age of eighteen can buy an airgun and pellets and use them unsupervised.
1) It is an offence to have an airgun in a public place "without good reason", the proof being the responsibility of the possessor.
2) It is an offence to discharge a firearm within fifty feet of the centre of a highway, if doing so would cause a nuisance or endangering the public
3) When shooting over private land it is an offence for the pellet to go beyond the boundary of the premises on which the gun is being used unless there is permission from the adjoining landowner.
4) Persons who by way of trade deal in airguns, pressure bearing parts or component parts must be a Registered Firearms Dealer and any transaction must be face-to-face. Ammunition for airguns may continue to be sold by post.
1) It is not an offence for a person to have with him an airgun or ammunition whilst being a member of a Home Office Approved Club in connection with target practice.
2) Air rifles with a muzzle energy in excess of 12 foot pounds (which require licensing) are not subject to the general restrictions listed above.
3) An "airgun" with the kinetic energy of less than one joule is considered a toy and is therefore not covered by the above restrictions but may be considered a realistic imitation firearm (if it looks like a gun). The sale of realistic imitation firearms is now banned with one or two minor exceptions, mainly for historical re-enactment, museums and television/film/theatrical performances or as a recognized member of an airsoft site affiliated to the Association of British AirSoft. © Airgunforum.co.uk
Crime and Security Bill:
Offence of allowing minors access to air rifles/pistols, The Firearms Act 1968 is amended as follows.
Failing to prevent minors from having air rifles/pistols.
It is an offence for a person in possession of an air rifle/pistol to fail to take reasonable precautions to prevent any persons under the age of 18 from having the air rifle/pistol with him.