This guidance document is designed specifically with air weapons in mind. This subject matter is complicated as there are guns that feature in the prohibited category, those which require a certificate and those that do not.
The law has developed piecemeal over the years and is fraught with complexity.
This guide aims to consolidate laws relevant to air weapons for ease.
This fact sheet is not an interpretation of law; it contains direct extracts from the legislation.
Explanations given thereafter by BASC are established from known facts and the meaning of a words plain ordinary everyday meaning i.e. “Where the meaning of the statutory words is plain and unambiguous” (Lord Diplock in the case of Duport Steel -v- Sirs ) BASC views the legislative extracts to be unambiguous in their meaning.
What are air weapons?
Section 1(3) of the Firearms Act 1968 exempts certain items from the Section 1 firearm certificate control. Subsection 1(3)(b) specifically exempts ‘air weapons’. Section 57(4) of the Act (Interpretation) adopts the description shown at Section 1(3)(b) as definition for the Act. Therefore when the term “air weapon” is referred to throughout the Firearms Act it means those items described in the definition
only. The definition is as follows; “an ‘air weapon’ (that is to say, an air rifle, air gun or air pistol) which does not fall within the prohibited category and which is not of a type declared by rules made by the Secretary of State under section 53 of the 1968 Firearms Act to be specially dangerous.”
This means; air guns, air rifles and air pistols are exempt from the Section 1 certification requirement but only if they are not prohibited in the first place or of a type declared specially dangerous by the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969 or the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) (Scotland) Rules 1969 (both amended in 1993). These are commonly referred to as ‘low powered air weapons’.
Additionally Section 48 of the 1997 Firearms (Amendment) Act includes air weapons powered by compressed carbon dioxide (CO2). Firearms using other gases are not so exempt and require a firearm certificate in order to possess them, regardless of their power.
The Rules provide that any air weapon is “specially dangerous” if it is capable of discharging a missile so that the missile has, on being discharged from the muzzle of the weapon, kinetic energy in excess, in the case of an air pistol, of 6 foot lbs or, in the case of an air weapon other than an air pistol, 12 foot lbs. Therefore specially dangerous air weapons fall outside the definition of “air weapon” for the purposes of the Firearms Act 1968 (as amended).
NB: “Air gun” in law means an air weapon with a smoothbore barrel.
Are air weapons firearms?
“Firearm” means a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged, and includes any prohibited weapon.
All air weapons capable of lethality are caught by the definition of “firearm” and fall into the following three categories;
• Air weapons as defined in Section 1(3)(b) of the 1968 Firearms Act (capable of lethality but not subject to certification); e.g. as per the definition of air weapon (above) certain air weapons not declared to be specially dangerous or prohibited i.e. kinetic energy remains below 6 ft lbs for pistols and for any other weapon 12 ft lbs.
• Those declared to be specially dangerous by the Secretary of State and require a firearm certificate; e.g. Section 1 firearms i.e. air rifles or airguns that exceed 12 ft lbs in muzzle energy or those that operate using other gasses than air or CO2.
• Prohibited weapons (Section 5) requiring the Secretary of State’s authority to possess them; e.g. high energy short firearms that exhibit over 6 ft lb kinetic energy, those specifically prohibited such as disguised air weapons (air canes), and those that incorporate the self-contained aircartridge system.
The test for whether or not something is a firearm is firstly whether it is a weapon with a barrel and secondly whether it is lethal. Lethality is a complex issue and although case law exists (Moore v Gooderham (1960)), only a court can decide whether any particular weapon is capable of causing a (potentially) lethal injury and therefore is a “firearm” for the purposes of the Acts. It is widely accepted that guns discharging shot, bullets or other missiles in excess of 1 joule (0.74 ft lbs) kinetic energy (often referred to as muzzle energy) are capable of lethality. In a court case, each case would be taken on its merits and tests conducted with the firearm in question.
What about guns not capable of lethality?
Plastic BB firing (airsoft) guns and projectile firing toys that exhibit a kinetic energy of less than 1 joule are widely accepted as not being lethal and thus fall outside the definition of a firearm. However imitation and realistic imitation firearms are controlled with respect to purchase ages and permitted activities. This subject is not covered by this document, for more details see BASC’s guide the Violent Crime Reduction Act.
What about paintball guns?
It should be noted that the majority but by no means all guns powered by carbon dioxide which discharge paint pellets and which are used in adventure games are unlikely to cause serious injury, nor were they designed as “weapons”. As such, they should not be considered to be “firearms”.¨
So what types of air weapon are prohibited?
Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 (as amended) contains various descriptions. Any firearms (regardless of kinetic energy) that fall within any of the following definitions are prohibited weapons.
1. Any firearm which is so designed or adapted that two or more missiles can be successively discharged without repeat pressure on the trigger. [Section 5(1)(a)] e.g. this means fully automatic and burst fire weapons of any type are banned.
2. Any self-loading or pump-action rifled gun other than one which is chambered for .22 rim-fire cartridges. [Section 5(1)(ab)] (See definitions below).
NB: Although it was not Parliament’s intention that any low powered air weapons should be banned by the 1997 Acts, there is now considerable uncertainty as to whether a rifled airgun of the description covered by 5(1)(ab) has become prohibited even though it may be a very low powered weapon not hitherto held on certificate.
The Home Office have consulted ACPO and the Crown Prosecution Service about the legal status of these weapons and have agreed, in the absence of a court ruling, that the issue should be resolved formally at the next legislative opportunity. In the meantime chief officers are advised that self-loading or pump-action rifled airguns should continue to be regarded as falling outside the certification process
provided that they are low powered and do not fall within the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969.
3. Any firearm which either has a barrel less that 30 centimetres in length or is less than 60 centimetres in length overall, other than an air weapon, a muzzle-loading gun or a firearm designed as signaling apparatus. [Section 5(1)(aba)] e.g. a low powered air weapon (i.e. one which is not declared by Rules made by the Secretary of State under section 53 of the 1968 Act to be specially dangerous) such as an air pistol with a muzzle energy of over 6 ft lbs.
¨ Extract from ‘Firearms Law’ – Guidance to the Police [Home Office 2002] Extracts taken from Home Office Circular 068 of 1997
4. Any self-loading or pump-action smooth-bore gun which is not an air weapon or chambered for .22 rim-fire cartridges and either has a barrel less than 24 inches in length or is less than 40 inches in length overall. [Section 5(1)(ac)] This (See definitions below)
5. Any smooth-bore revolver gun other than one which is chambered for 9mm. rim-fire cartridges or a muzzle-loading gun [Section 5(1)(ad)] (See definitions below).
6. Any air rifle, air gun or air pistol which uses, or is designed or adapted for use with, a selfcontained gas cartridge system [Section 5(1)(af)] (i.e. Brocock and Saxby-Palmer type).
7. Any firearm which is disguised as another object [Section 5(1A)(a)] (e.g. air canes)
Note: where the law excepts “air weapon” in the categories above this only excludes those air weapons defined in Section 57(4) of the 1968 Firearms Act. That is to say those not declared specially dangerous i.e. below 6 ft lbs for pistols and for any other weapon 12 ft lbs kinetic energy; or those that have already been prohibited. e.g. an air pistol that exhibits a kinetic energy greater than 6 ft lbs no longer falls within the definition of an air weapon and is then subject to Section 5(1)(aba).
Further definitions relating to the categories above are provided in Section 57 of the 1968 Firearms Act: "self-loading" and "pump-action" in relation to any weapon means respectively that it is designed or adapted (otherwise than as mentioned in section 5(l)(a)) so that it is automatically re-loaded or that it is so designed or adapted that it is re-loaded by the manual operation of the fore-end or forestock of
the weapon. “"revolver", in relation to a smooth-bore gun [Section 5(1)(ad)], means a gun containing a series of chambers which revolve when the gun is fired.” NB: this means mechanical action rotates the cylinder on firing; this does not include guns which work on the revolver principle that are manually operated such as by a bolt)
“’rifle' includes carbine;"
So what sets the energy limitations for a firearm to fall within the definition of air weapon?
The Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969 and the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons)(Scotland) Rules 1969 (both amended in 1993) prescribes the kinetic energy limits which dictate how air weapons are categorised in law. Items exhibiting a kinetic energy (often referred to as muzzle energy) in excess of the stated limits are declared ‘specially dangerous’ and cause air weapons to fall outside the definition of air weapon. In essence they are no longer low powered air weapons that you can possess without a certificate.
The rules say: air pistols capable of discharging a missile with a kinetic energy in excess of 6 ft. lb. or, in the case of an air weapon other than an air pistol, of 12 ft. lb or which is disguised as another object (regardless of energy) are declared to be specially dangerous.
These Rules does not apply to a weapon designed for use only when submerged in water i.e. spear guns.
In practical terms air rifles or air guns that exhibit kinetic energy of greater than 12 ft lbs are subject to Section 1 of the Act and require a firearm certificate in order to possess them.
Any short firearm (which either has a barrel less than 30 centimetres in length or is less than 60 centimetres in length overall) that is declared especially dangerous becomes prohibited weapon. Only the Secretary of State may permit these weapons to be possessed, but will only do so if there is a trade or professional need to do so, such as forensic practitioners and museums. Illegal possession of such a prohibited weapon attracts the 5 year mandatory sentence.
Conversion not to affect classification – changing an air weapon’s power
The wording of Section 7(2) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 is complex, but in essence once air weapons are prescribed as ‘specially dangerous’ they cannot be back converted and remain in their relevant categories (Section 1 & 5) regardless of what is done to them other than de-activation or destruction.
However the only exception is for airguns (smoothbore air weapons) or for air rifles which have barrels in excess of 24 inches in length. These are the only types of air gun that may be converted back below 12 ft lbs legally.
A dealer who tests an air weapon and finds it to be specially dangerous may not hand the gun back to the owner. The owner maintains ownership but may not legally possess the air weapon unless he has a firearm certificate allowing him to do so. It would be an offence for a dealer to return such a gun to someone without such a certificate. In the case of prohibited pistols; deactivation or destruction is the only way forward but the owner must permit this to take place.
Transactions involving low power air weapons
Since 2007 the Violent Crime Reduction Act made it an offence to sell low power air weapons, their ammunition, components and accessories such as sound moderators “by way of trade or business” without being a registered firearms dealer (RFD). The law also required such sales to be conducted face to face between RFD’s and the purchaser or their representative. Private sales were unaffected. For specific details of these laws, see BASC’s guide to the Violent Crime Reduction Act.
Possession and use of low power air weapons
Any offence you commit can carry a very heavy penalty – and there are at least 38 different offences.
Following this guide will help you to keep on the right side of the law, but, if you have any doubt, seek advice from BASC (www.basc.org.uk) or your local police firearms licensing department.
From February 2011, the Crime and Security Act 2010 makes it an offence for a person in possession of an air weapon to fail to take “reasonable precautions” to prevent someone under the age of 18 from
gaining unauthorised access to it. The legal advice contained within this publication remains unchanged e.g. 14-17 year olds may still use air weapons unsupervised on private premises where they have permission etc.
For further advice about reasonable precautions for storing for air weapons not in use please contact
BASC or see www.basc.org.uk for a copy of our fact sheet ‘Young People and Airguns’.
Who can use an air weapon?
If you are 18 years or older there are no restrictions on buying an air weapon and ammunition, and you can use them wherever you have permission to shoot.
• borrow an air weapon and ammunition
• use an air weapon, without supervision, on private premises where you have permission
• buy or hire an air weapon, or ammunition, or receive one as a gift. Your air weapon and ammunition must be bought and looked after by someone over 18 – normally your parent, guardian or some other responsible adult.
.have an air weapon in a public place unless you are supervised by somebody aged 21 or over, and you have a reasonable excuse to do so (for example, while on the way to a shooting ground).
Under 14 years
• use an air weapon under supervision on private premises with permission from the
occupier - normally the owner or tenant. The person who supervises you must be at
least 21 years old.
buy, hire or receive an air weapon or its ammunition as a gift, or shoot, without adult supervision.
Parents or 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 an air weapon or ammunition to a person under 18 years of age.
Possession of firearms by persons previously convicted of crime - prohibited persons.
Under Section 21 of the Firearms Act 1968 any person who has been sentenced (anywhere in the UK)to a term of imprisonment, youth custody or detention in a young offenders institution for a period of more than three months but less than three years is subject to a five year prohibition from having any firearm or ammunition in his possession. A person who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment or youth custody for a period in excess of three years is prohibited for life. Suspended sentences do not attract any prohibition.
Where can you shoot?
Where you intend to shoot, always ensure that you are authorised by the landowner or person with the sporting rights and that you know precisely where the boundaries are. Get permission in writing, if possible, to remove any doubt.
Whenever you are in a public place you should carry the weapon in a gun cover and always ensure that it is unloaded and not cocked.
Going on to private land, or water, where you do not have permission or a reasonable excuse is trespassing, and if you are carrying an air weapon it becomes armed trespass. Whether it is loaded or not, or whether you are carrying pellets, is irrelevant – armed trespass is a serious criminal offence carrying heavy penalties.
Only shoot where you have the permission of the landowner or tenant.
Having an air weapon in a public place
Whilst this is touched upon above within the age advice; a person commits an offence if, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse (the proof whereof lies on him) he has with him in a public place;
(i) an air weapon (whether loaded or not),
(ii) any other firearm (whether loaded or not) together with ammunition suitable for use in that firearm.
Note: Part (i) above relates to air weapons as per the definition at the beginning of this fact sheet and part (ii) relates to all Section 1 firearms including especially dangerous air rifles and air guns. “public place” includes any highway road within the meaning of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 and any other premises to which at the material time the public have or are permitted access, whether on payment or
Firing pellets beyond your boundary
It is an offence to fire an air weapon pellet beyond the land where you have permission to shoot, unless the occupier of the neighbouring land has also given you permission. Where someone under 14 is shooting, both the young person and the supervising adult can be prosecuted.
Highways & other matters
It is also against the law, in England and Wales, to fire an air weapon within 50 feet of the centre of a highway if this results in someone being injured, interrupted or endangered. These offences could be committed, for example, when someone is shooting in their garden close to a road and the pellets ricochet onto the highway. For specific details about footpaths and bridleways see BASC’s fact sheet:
‘Rights of Way and Shooting’
It is an offence in Scotland to discharge any gun in a culpable or reckless manner. This means shooting without caring about the safety of others.
For further details about the possession and use of Section 1 air weapons and firearm certificates contact BASC’s firearms department.
ENQUIRIES TO: FIREARMS DEPT – 01244 573010
© BASC June 2012
Grampian Air Rifle Club will
hereinafter be referred to as GARC or The Club
The aims and objectives of GARC are:
To promote and support the sport of airgun
shooting including the safe use of legal air weapons.
To provide diverse facilities for the shooting of air rifles for the benefit of
its members and to assist in the development of members’ shooting skills.
To offer instruction and training to members and educate them in the rules of the
sport and the regulations affecting the use, ownership and safe possession of
To support and affiliate to such regional,
national and/or international bodies whose aims and objectives coincide with
those of the Club.
The Club will be known as an unincorporated members’ club. Each member
contributes to the funds by way of membership subscription and range fees out
of which the expenses of conducting the club are paid. The club is not
recognised as having a legal existence apart from the members of which it is
composed. Unless the rules prove to the contrary, the property and funds
of The Club belong to the members in equal share. The property and funds
of The Club is in the hands of the committee, and the business of The Club will
be conducted by the committee in accordance with the rules.
The Club shall affiliate with the United Kingdom Association for Hunter Field Target (UKAHFT) and any other bodies deemed appropriate by the committee.
It is the intention that the club be run in an informal manner whilst maintaining the levels of safety and regulation commensurate with the sport and to maintain adequate and appropriate insurance for activities at the clubs ranges during formal club days. The Club shall not provide insurance cover for any activities performed by members at
other times or at other locations.
The Club shall be run by a committee consisting of a Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer to be elected annually at The Clubs’ AGM by majority vote. Additional committee members may be elected at the AGM to assist the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer to perform their duties and obligations.
After completing one year’s continuous membership any full member over the age of 21
may stand for election for any of the committee posts. Associate members cannot hold office unless they convert their membership to full.
Only the appointed committee members may be the exclusive point of contact for any
external organisation or individual. This includes but is not limited to Waulkmill Fisheries, UKAHFT and other national bodies
The committee shall receive no payment or benefit from their positions and are subject to the same rules and subscription fees as all other members.
Any member of the committee may be suspended from duty or removed from office at
either an AGM or EGM by a majority vote of 50% of the current membership or with immediate effect for a breach of the club rules and regulations by a majority vote by the committee.
Committee members are expected to attend the club on at least 50% of the confirmed club days in any given year.
If any person ceases to be a member of The Club they immediately also cease to
hold office on any committee or subcommittee of The Club and may no longer
represent The Club or its interests. The committee may at its choice appoint another member to perform duties as required in their place without the requirement for ratification by vote by the membership. Any member so appointed must step down at the following AGM but may be elected as a member of the committee at that meeting.
The Club shall hold an AGM by December each year at a time and location to be decided by the committee. The agenda must be made available to all members no less than 14 days prior to themeeting. All current members may propose additions and/or changes to the agenda in writing no less than 7 days prior to the meeting at the discretion of the committee. Only current members of The Club may attend an AGM.
Notice of the AGM will be given at least 28 days prior to the meeting and will be
posted on The Clubs website at http://www.grampian-air-rifle-club.co.uk and also at The Clubs’ ranges
covered in the AGM will include.
Approve the Minutes of the previous year’s AGM,
Receive reports from the Chairperson and Secretary,
Receive a report from the Treasurer and approve the Annual Accounts
Consider any changes to the Constitution,
Consider any changes to the Club Rules,
Elect the Committee,
Deal with any other relevant business.
Any resolution agreed at an EGM must be voted upon by a minimum of 50% of current club members. In the event that 50% of members are not available to vote
and have been given at least 7 days notice of the EGM and the agenda, the committee may at its option allow a majority vote of those present to be decisive and binding.
If the subject of the EGM is one relating to safety or law, the committee are not
required to give notification of or to hold an EGM and can ratify any decision by a vote held between the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer.
Special General Meeting – The Chairperson shall have the right to call a Special
General Meeting (SGM) of all the paid-up members of the Club on 7 days written notice to them. This notice must state the reason for the meeting, the venue, time and date.
Every full member is entitled to vote at the AGM and all votes carry equal weighting
with the exception of 3.3.
Junior members do not have voting rights except on issues of Junior concern.
The committee shall advise members of the dates of both club days and external
competitions by means of The Club website.
The committee shall make reasonable endeavours to offer the members a minimum of 12 club days per annum. Club days will only be on dates where at least two committee members attend.
In the case that two or more committee members are not available to attend a club
day, the club day may be abandoned on grounds of safety and without prior notification.
The Club is not bound to offer 12 club days per annum and shall not offer a refund
if this is not met.
Membership of the Club is open to all, irrespective of age; sex, race or religion and no
application for membership shall be refused on other than reasonable grounds.
Any person seeking to join the Club shall submit an application to the Management Committee. The Management Committee shall determine an applicant’s suitability as a Member of the Club.
The membership shall comprise the following Categories: -
The membership year will run from the 1st December to the following 30th November.
The annual subscription will be decided at the AGM on an annual basis.
Members are required to pay their membership subscription on or before due date.The Club will hold membership open for one calendar month after the date it is due but will not permit the member to use The Clubs’ ranges or facilities until payment is made in full and backdated to cover any period that has elapsed between expiry and renewal dates. Any member that does not renew within this one month period will be deemed to have resigned their membership, reapplication will be assessed as a new member and may be refused renewal if there is a restriction imposed on membership numbers unless permission for late payment is sought from the committee and approved prior to their subscription being due.
All Members joining the Club shall be deemed to have accepted the terms of this
Constitution and any Rules adopted by the Club. In particular, without prejudice
to the foregoing generality, members accept the requirement to conduct themselves in accordance with the Club’s ethical framework and the rules as to discipline set out therein.
Membership to prospective members may be granted after a probationary visit and safety assessment. Payments made in advance will be refunded in the event the
prospective member is refused membership.
Associate (Guest) members will be charged as per the charge schedule until which time
their membership is converted to a full membership, conversion to a full membership will be discounted as per schedule. Visiting as an Associatemember does not guarantee full membership being offered.
The committee may refuse membership to Associate members at their discretion should
the conduct of the prospective member not be of a safe standard or has behaved in an inappropriate manner.
Associate members are to demonstrate an awareness of safety and also to comply in full to the clubs rules and regulations. A failure to do so may result in the access to facilities being withdrawn.
The committee may at any time impose restrictions upon the maximum number of club members as they deem appropriate.
(Left blank to 4.13.1)
Junior membership is granted on the condition that they are supervised at all times by
a parent or assigned guardian who is a member of the club over the age of 21.
Non shooting membership is available.
The Club assumes no responsibility for the supervision of Junior members who must
at all times be accompanied and supervised by a parent or guardian who is a member of the club.
The committee is solely responsible for the interpretation of the rules.
In the instance of a disciplinary matter arising, the committee shall represent the interests of The Club and may suspend or terminate membership without refund. The member shall have an opportunity prior to the committees’ decision to be heard, however, the committees’ decision shall be final and conclusive.
Neither The Club, nor any officer of The Club, shall be liable to any member, guest or
visitor for loss or damage to any property occurring from whatever cause in or about The Clubs’ meeting place. Nor for any injury sustained by any persons whilst entering or
leaving The Clubs’ meeting place.
Members are expected to treat each other with respect and courtesy and to promote our
sport in a positive light. Any behaviour which includes but is not limited to: bullying, threats, physical abuse, inappropriate language, sexist, racist or ageist may lead to suspension from the club. The Club respectfully requests that members, guests and visitors do not seek to promote political, racial or religious beliefs whilst on club property.
If there is any reason why any member or prospective member is prohibited under
law from using, acquiring or owning an air rifle or air pistol this must be brought to the attention of the committee immediately. Such members shall immediately be suspended from using any air rifle or air pistol at club ranges in accordance with law until such prohibition is lifted.
In the event of GARC being wound up, all remaining assets will be disposed of in a manner to be decided upon by the committee and endorsed by a minimum of 50% of current members at that time by means of a vote held at the AGM or an EGM. In the event that a decision cannot be reached by this process the committee may elect to allow a decision to be made by majority vote of those present except under 6.2
If The Club is being succeeded by a new enterprise, or to be merged with another
organisation duly agreed under the conditions required of an AGM or EGM then all funds and assets shall be transferred to the new enterprise