Range Safety Rules
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Air Rifle/Pistol Laws

Authored by Simon Barker - BARPC Training Officer

The following section covers some of the common laws covering air rifles and pistols as they currently stand in March 2019 for England and Wales only. As the law does change, it is the readers responsibility to always check, with relevant police and government websites, that they are fully up-to date on their understanding of the current law. Other countries have very different laws and if you intend to take your guns to, or shoot in, any country outside of England and Wales (including Scotland, Eire and Northern Ireland) you should check the law relevant to that country.

In addition this section is only concerned with low power air rifles (below 12ft/lb muzzle energy) and pistols (below 6ft/lb muzzle energy). The law terms these as air weapons and regardless of any personal opinions on the terminology we will use the term air weapon(s) throughout this section to refer to these low power air rifles/pistols.

The information in this section is taken from the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Hampshire Police websites.

Age Restrictions

Aged 18+ you can;

Aged 18+ you cannot;

Aged 14-17 you can;

Aged 14-17 you cannot;

Aged under 14 you can;

Aged under 14 you cannot;

Points to Note

If you have been prohibited from owning weapons due to a custodial prison sentence (including suspended sentences) you will have been informed at the time of sentencing/release. If you are unsure you should check with your local police firearms licensing team.

Examples of a ‘reasonable excuse’ to have an air weapon in a public place include travelling to/from a place you have permission to shoot and travelling to/from a gun shop or gunsmiths. Public places include public transport and private vehicles travelling on public highways. Air weapons must be unloaded in a public place and should be covered at all times.

Parents/Guardians who buy an air weapon for use by someone under 14 must exercise control over it at all times even in the home or garden.

It is illegal to sell, hire, give or gift an air weapon to anyone under the age of 18.

The Crime and Security Act 2010 made it an offence to fail to take reasonable precautions to prevent someone under the age of 18 from gaining unauthorised access to an air weapon.

Crime and Punishment

Below are examples of some of the crimes that could be committed with an air weapon alongside their respective punishments.

A Closing Thought on Airgun Law

There are at least 38 different offences that could be committed with an air weapon and the law makes no distinction between air weapons and other firearms meaning any offence committed could carry substantial punishment.

Air Rifle/Pistol Safety

This section will cover air rifle and pistol safety with specific regard to shooting at the BARPC ranges however the vast majority of these points should be applied wherever and whenever you are shooting.

Safety is everybody’s responsibility, not just the Range Officers’ or the Committee’s, all members need to understand this section before shooting at any of the club’s ranges and if they are unsure then they should raise their questions to a Range Officer or committee member.

If a breach of these safety rules and guidelines occurs (or if it appears that they are about to be breached) then the matter should be raised with the Range Officer immediately by whoever sees it. If the situation warrants it (ie likely to cause injury if allowed to continue) then anyone involved with the club is empowered to shout ‘Stop!’ and address the matter directly with the assistance of the Range Officer.

All humans make mistakes from time to time and shooters are no exception. Highlighting safety issues allows the individual(s) concerned and all club members to learn from mistakes. By being honest and open about accidents, incidents and near misses we can understand what caused them and work to prevent them being repeated.

Most situations can (and will) be dealt with by means of a discreet conversation highlighting the error along with the correct course of action. All accidents, incidents and near misses will be reported back to all the Range Officers to allow any trends to be identified and to ensure the training delivered by the club continues to be relevant and as effective as it can be.

The Committee may (if the situation warrants it) temporarily remove a member’s right to shoot at the club ranges until they receive additional safety training. In extremis the Committee reserves the right to revoke the membership of anyone deemed to be unsafe.

Whilst this page makes for sombre reading it is worthwhile pointing out that we have not had to revoke anybody’s membership during the club’s forty plus year history and if all members continue to be vigilant with regards to safety then we won’t need to start anytime soon.

All shooters must attend an induction course before being allowed to shoot at BARPC ranges. The only exceptions to this are guests from other clubs (with the prior agreement of a Committee Member) and non-members attending a have a go session who must be directly supervised.

Air Weapons.
Only air rifles making less than 12ft/lbs and air pistols making less than 6ft/lbs muzzle energy may be used at BARPC ranges. The club has chronographs and all air weapons will be checked periodically.

Muzzles must be kept pointing in a safe direction at all times. The safe direction is either down at the ground or down range (only if preparing to take a shot). This includes when in transit and when being removed from their case, cocked or loaded. Due to their short barrels particular care needs to be taken with pistols. If conducting any form of maintenance to an air gun at the club ranges the gun should be checked that it is clear at the shooting line before being taken to a bench for maintenance. When on the bench the muzzle should be kept pointing away from all personnel. Weapons are only to be shouldered/aimed when at the shooting line.

Shooting can only commence when the range is active.
At outdoor ranges the signal to stop shooting is a single whistle blast or deploying the orange flag. The signal to commence shooting is two short whistle blasts or retracting the orange flag. At the indoor range shooting is controlled by coloured lights; a red light indicates danger – the range is active and shooting can commence. A green light indicates safe – the range is not active and no shooting may occur.

Actions on a signal to stop shooting.
All guns are to be unloaded and actions cleared into a safe backstop (either the ground or a purpose made backstop). Guns must then be rested (with hands/fingers away from triggers) before each shooter reports ‘Clear’. Only once all shooters have reported clear will the Range Officer allow anyone to move forward of the shooting line. During a ceasefire no guns are to be shouldered, aimed or pointed down range.

Rifles and pistols must be unloaded when moving.
This means magazine removed (if a multi shot) an empty breech and the guns being un-cocked. The only place guns should be loaded is at the shooting line/gate/peg and guns must be unloaded before moving away from the shooting point.

Ammunition.
Only lead, copper coated lead or frangible (Dust Devils TM) ammunition may be used at BARPC ranges. Under no circumstances may steel or plastic BBs be used. This is to reduce the risk of ricochets.

Targets.
The club has a wide selection of paper, card and reactive targets (purpose made metal bells, spinners, knock downs etc plus improvised targets such as coffee stirrers, mints, used shotgun cartridges etc) members may bring their own targets but should check with the Range Officer before using them to ensure they do not pose a ricochet risk. Whilst not directly related to safety it should be noted that the club does not allow the use of human form targets at BARPC ranges.

Target placement.
No targets are to be placed closer than 8 yards from the shooting line. Targets placed between 8 and 25 yards must have a steel backstop directly behind them. Targets placed between 25 and 35 yards from the 55 yard shooting line must have additional steels placed to the side nearest the 30 yard shooting line. All these rules are to reduce the risk of ricochets causing injuries.

Spring/Nitro/Gas-ram guns.
When cocking a piston powered air gun the cocking arm/barrel must be kept under firm control at all times. This is to reduce the risk of injury should the gun be discharged during the loading process.

Always treat a gun as if it is loaded.
This is fundamental to safe gun handling and means following all the safety rules all of the time and not just when you think your gun is loaded. Whereas a powder burning firearm is completely inert if a round is not loaded an air gun can still discharge high pressure air regardless of whether a pellet is anywhere near it.

Understand how to operate your gun.
Airguns are becoming ever more diverse and complex and you must know how your gun works in order to use it safely. Always read the manual for your gun (if you bought it second hand then most are available on line). Understand how it functions, what safety features it has incorporated in the design and also how to recognise/rectify common faults. If you are unsure speak to fellow club members, someone is likely to know the answer.

Ensure your gun is safe to use.
Airguns are the same as any mechanical device and require a degree of maintenance in order to continue working correctly and therefore safely. Check your guns regularly for signs of damage, for loose bolts, rust etc and to ensure that all the controls are working correctly. If something ‘doesn’t feel right’ it probably isn’t. If you are ever in any doubt about the serviceability of your gun and your ability to fix it then we would always recommend making it safe and taking it to a reputable gunsmith.

Never trust a mechanical device.
Having learnt how your air gun works and the safety features incorporated never rely on them. Safety catches, anti-bear traps, anti-double loading devices etc have all been known to fail. They are there to enhance good gun handling not replace it.

Alcohol and drugs.
You should not shoot or handle air guns whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This includes illegal recreational drugs but also prescription and off the shelf medicines. If you are taking any form of medicine check the potential side effects for drowsiness or an impairment to operate vehicles or machinery. If in any doubt speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Finally, please remember that if you are ever unsure of anything at the club then it is always better to ask than act. The Range Officers are always willing to help answer any questions.


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