Are you new to shooting?

So your new to shooting or simply fancy having a go? Welcome to the wonderful world of shooting sport. Shooting is an increasingly popular sport that embraces a range of shooting disciplines. It enjoys universal appeal across a wide social spectrum whether you’re a member of a target shooting club, join an organised game shoot or attend a local clay pigeon ground.

Shooting is a great recreational activity and one in which Great Britain excels internationally – two gold medals were won at the 2012 Olympics! BASC recently estimated that shooting contributes £2 billion to the national economy whilst also playing an important part in rural life. It is a sport that is both competitive and social, plus it’s open to all abilities. Many first take up shooting as youngsters with an airgun or air pistol; this is probably the easiest way to get started as currently neither type of gun requires a licence. However, before you venture any further into the world of shooting you do need to know a few basic rules. Owning a firearm comes with responsibility and it is YOUR responsibility to know the law and get it right. If you’re not sure there is a lot of help out there and your local Registered Firearms Dealer will always be happy to advise. Always ask first if you’re not sure!

Know the rules

Since 2007 air guns have to be purchased from a licenced firearms dealer. You must be 18 years of age or over to own an airgun but you may shoot an airgun from age 14 on private land with the owner’s permission and even under that age if supervised by an adult of 21 years or over. The power of the air rifle must not exceed 12 lbs per foot otherwise it is considered a FIREARM and will require a licence!

Moving up to a shotgun, hunting rifle or anything more powerful can appear daunting as ownership and usage is strictly supervised under the law. Correct licences are required depending on the type of gun acquired (See licences below). Harsh penalties apply to misuse of all gun types including airguns and these laws cover not just their use but also their storage and transportation. However, the necessary close scrutiny of gun ownership by the police and authorities should not deter responsible citizens who wish to participate in the sport.


Before purchasing any gun (other than an airgun subject to age) you will need to apply for a shotgun or firearm certificate by contacting your local police force. Full details of the different types of licences and how to apply for one are in our support section here.

So now you’ve got to grips with the serious bit – lets start looking at the fun bit and deciding which sport is for you . . .

The Different Types of Shooting


This either involves shooting game birds: grouse, pheasants, partridges, pigeons and wildfowl (ducks and geese) or ground game which includes rabbits and deer. Generally speaking you use a shotgun to shoot birds and a rifle for ground game although this is not always the case. There are pre-determined times of the year when shooting live game is permitted. Check on the BASC website for details.

Traditional shotguns are 12-bore gauge with side-by-side barrels although over and under guns, where one barrel is on top of another, have become increasingly popular in recent years. Depending on your physical size and use proposed of the gun there is a variety of barrel lengths typically from 24” to 32”, a normal barrel length is 28”. There are other shotgun gauges, commonly 16 and 20 gauge bore. Some prefer these lighter bore guns which fire smaller cartridges; traditionally it was fashionable for ladies to opt for smaller gauge guns because of their ease of use and less recoil when discharged. 20 gauge bore are often preferred for pigeon shooting.

Much ground game shooting involves rabbits and other vermin on farmland. Depending on the terrain and personal preference either a rifle (often with a telescopic sight) or a shotgun would be used in these circumstances. In the case of deer stalking a high powered rifle with a telescopic sight would be employed.


This is an exciting and exacting sport where ‘dummy’ biodegradable clay discs are fired from traps towards/away or across the shooter’s line of vision. They are designed to replicate the flight path of a game bird or ground game. Sometimes multiple discs are fired to test the quick reaction and eye of the shooter. Clay pigeon shooting events are organised at licensed clubs and often involve teams of people in competition. Shotguns, particularly the over and under variety, are used in this sport. The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association is the national governing body and will provide details of clubs near where you live Clay pigeon shooting is a recognised Olympic sport.


There is a selection of Home Office Approved Target Shooting Clubs throughout the UK where full bore and small bore rifles and muzzle-loading pistols maybe used on club ranges. Anyone wishing take up target shooting (unless they are a prohibited person) will require a club’s sponsor. Initially the applicant will be given a probationary course of instruction in the safe handling and use of firearms on a one-to-one basis.

After a period of at least three months (it varies from club to club), dependent upon attendance and a satisfactory completion of the probationary period, the prospective member can apply for full membership. This brings with it the opportunity to apply for a personal firearms certificate (rules may vary slightly from club to club). To apply for a certificate you must ‘demonstrate good reason’ for possessing a firearm. The police will make enquiries to check club membership. Certificate holders will also need to demonstrate their intention to use their firearm on the club premises on a regular basis – at least three times a year.



Shooting is a wonderful sporting pastime but every time you handle your gun you are in possession of a lethal weapon. Safety is something that all aspects of the sport take as their No1 priority.

Here are some basic principles all firearm users should always follow:

  • Never point your gun at any person
  • Never carry your gun in a way that it can point at any person
  • Never swing your gun across the line between yourself and another person
  • Never shoot where you cannot see
  • Never cross an obstacle without first unloading your gun
  • Never leave your gun loaded\
  • When in the field with others always have your gun broken.

Finally, when handling your gun remember to check it:

  • When taking it out
  • Before handing it to any person
  • Before laying it down
  • Entering a vehicle
  • Taking it home
  • Putting it away under lock and key.

Here are some really useful contacts to help you get started:

Birmingham Proof House
British Association for Shooting & conservation
British Deer Society
Clay Pigeon Shooting Association
Muzzle loaders Association of Great Britain
National Rifle Association
National Small-Bore Rifle Association
United Kingdom Practical Shooting Association

A Final Note . . .

Gun Maintenance

It is vitally important that whatever gun you possess it is kept in tip-top order. Always clean your gun after use and ensure that every season your gun is seen by a recognised gunsmith or firearms dealer who will arrange for safety check and any maintenance to be carried out. or google ‘gun repairs’ for someone in your locality. Better still, use word of mouth recommendation.


Not only should your firearm be insured against theft but you should also take out personal liability insurance for when you go shooting. BASC is the leading organisation in this field and any game shoot captain will ask for sight of your membership card before you commence your day in the field.