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How many of us took our first ever shot with an airgun? Probably at a tin can?

Airguns are rifles and pistols that fire small pellets using pressure generated from a gas canister or a spring mechanism; because no gun powder is involved, the fire power of an airgun is comparatively low, so most airguns can be used inside for activities such as pest control and indoor target shooting. Airguns are a very safe and reliable way for children to learn the basics of safe shooting. Airgun shooting is also a fun hobby for grown-ups, whether plinking in back gardens or competition shooting at decicated air rifle and air pistol clubs.

In Scotland, England and Wales, you do not need a Firearm Certificate to own an airgun unless its power is over 12ft/lbs for air rifles or 6ft/lb for air pistols. In Scotland to possess an airgun under those limits from 1st January 2017 you need to apply for an Air Weapon Certificate (further information below). In Northern Ireland, you cannot own an airgun with power over 0.737ft/lbs without a Firearm Certificate.

Most airgun users take part in plinking, pest control, Field Target, Hunter Field Target or Olympic Target disciplines. Shooters tend to use either .177 or .22 calibre airguns, fitted with either telescopic sights or open ('iron') sights.

Plinking is shooting an airgun at objects such as tin cans and plastic bottles in a safe environment. Plinking is very low-cost and accessible, and can be set up however it suits you – as long as you have a safe backstop and permission! Plinking is a fantastic way to improve marksmanship and safety practices, and many adults started their shooting career in this way as children.

Pest Control with airguns could be dispatching a rat in a cage trap, or culling feral pigeons in a barn, or shooting a rabbit in your vegetable patch. Airguns for pest control are often used in short-range situations where a more powerful firearm would not be appropriate; airguns are an essential pest control tool on farmyards across the country.

Field Target Shooting takes place outside, with participants shooting a ‘kill-zone’ on a series of metal targets that drop backwards once hit. The targets are set up in natural situations such as on banks or within woodlands, at a mix of distances from the shooter. Field Target competitions may be time-limited and specify the firing position of the shooter.

Hunter Field Target shooting also happens outside; the targets are shaped like quarry species such as rabbit and crow and are set up to mimic natural hunting situations. Shooters earn points by hitting the targets, shooting from specified positions in lanes where a peg marks the firing point. HFT competitions are run by the UK Association for Hunter Field Target, and there are many UKAHFT affiliated clubs around the UK.

Air rifle shooting is a popular Olympic discipline using paper targets. The UK is particularly successful at Olympic shooting of all kinds, and airgunners rising through the ranks can be assisted by development programmes at British Shooting.


Scottish Government recently brought in legislation which requires airgunners to apply for an Air Weapon Certificate and licences came into effect on 1st January 2017. At SACS we say things like they are; this is a stupid and pointless law, which will adversely affect responsible shooters and do little, if anything, to stop airgun misuse.

Why 'weapon'? This is simply legal wording from the Firearms Act, where airguns are deemed to be both 'firearms' and 'lethal-barreled weapons'. Sensible folk would never regard an airgun as a true 'weapon'.

SACS fought vigorously against the disproportionate and pointless exercise that is Air Weapon Licensing, but ScotGov would not listen to even its own. With a large number of airgunner members, both clubs and individuals, SACS has worked tirelessly to help them through this change in law.

There are licensing exemptions for Approved Air Weapon Club members, as well as transitional exemptions for current Firearm and Shotgun certificate holders, who are alowed to possess and use their currently held airguns until their furthest away renewal, at which time they will also need to apply for an Air Weapon Certificate (does not apply to Northern Ireland Firearm Certificates). If exempted FAC or SGC holders want to buy or acquire another airgun, they will need to apply for an Air Weapon Certificate - daft, but don't get us started on this absurd new law.

Visitors to Scotland who cannot make use of the above temporary FAC or SGC exemption, will need to apply to Police Scotland for a Visitor Permit, which is a fairly simple process. If you are from outwith Scotland and regularly shoot airguns here, then you can always apply for your own Air Weapon Certificate. More details can be found at:

Air gun shooting Scotland
HFT air rifle shooting

If you are a SACS member and need help with an Air Weapon Certificate application or just some guidance then please contact us. We are here to help you where we can. Remember, if you are going to apply for an air weapon licence then you should think about applying for a Firearm and/or Shotgun Certificate as well. We can help you with that too!

SACS is a huge supporter of airgunning in all its forms, and we are grateful to have a competitive HFT shooter on our Management Committee. SACS has hosted airgun shooting events, including the 2016 SACS HFT Masters, sponsored by SACS and BSA Airguns.

Get in touch with us for any airgun questions or advice – we’d love to hear from you. And you can help us to fight for your rights to use airguns by joining HERE.

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