What You Need To Know
When it comes to handling an air rifle, remember that it's not the equipment which is dangerous in itself, it's how a person uses it that can be dangerous. In essence it's all about being responsible.
A Safe Shoot
First and foremost never point an air rifle, whether it's loaded or not, towards a person, or in any unsafe direction. Being aware of where you are pointing your rifle at all times will become second nature, but to begin with you will need to make a conscious effort to keep checking. Familiarise yourself with the area where you are shooting so that you know what is behind your target. Bear in mind how far a pellet can travel - potentially crossing several hundred yards.
When you are walking to and from a shoot, always carry your air rifle in its cover or a good quilty gun slip and make sure it is not loaded. During a shoot, always engage the safety mechanism as soon as you have your rifle loaded, and only disengage immediately prior to taking a shot. Check pellets before use, and reject any which are distorted.
If you have ammunition remaining in your rifle after a shoot, always be sure to discharge it, ideally into the ground, before you pack up and leave. You cannot rely on a safety mechanism to secure a loaded weapon. Although useful, safety mechanisms are not infallible, so the only way to be certain that you cannot cause any harm with your air rifle is to discharge it.
It is your legal responsibility to ensure that people aged under eighteen are not able to access your firearms. Failure to take "reasonable precautions" to prevent such access constitutes a criminal offence under the Crime and Security Act 2010. If someone does manage to access your gun, even without your permission, you will be held responsible if it has been accessible through your negligence. When not in use, air rifles must always be kept in a locked cupboard, with the key stored separately. It is recommended that you check your rifle is unloaded before storing it.
The law requires you to be eighteen or over to buy a rifle or ammunition, and you may shoot wherever you like provided you have the relevant permission, for example from the landowner. Teenagers from 14-17 years old are permitted to use an air rifle unsupervised on private land where authorised, but may not own a rifle. However, the maturity of teenagers varies enormously, and if you're in any doubt about the readiness of your teens to take on the level of responsibility required, be sure to accompany them on a shoot until they are ready to go it alone.
You Should Also Know...
For any air rifle with a muzzle energy greater than 12 foot-pounds, you are required by law to have a firearms certificate, which you can apply for from the licensing department of your local police force.
For more information and advice on the use of air rifles contact the British Association for Shooting and Conservation: www.basc.org.uk. Finally it's worth remembering that there are actually very few incidents of people getting hurt where an air rifle is involved, but of course the rare cases that do occur tend to get lots of publicity. To avoid people getting injured and to avoid bringing shooting into disrepute, it's essential to act responsibly with your air rifle at all times.
The information contained herein is for general guidance only and the author cannot be held responsible for any accidents arising from this being used as a substitute for proper training. We make no representations about the completeness or accuracy of information contained on this website. Reliance on this information is entirely at your own risk.