Say you were forced to insure your car twice with different insurers, and then found yourself driving on roads where half the other drivers were uninsured. You could be forgiven for thinking the world had gone mad.

Welcome to the whacky world of shooting insurance.

As I write, I have in front of me bills from my woodpigeon shooting club, and from my game shooting syndicate. The former has a group insurance policy with BASC, the latter with the Countryside Alliance (CA). A hefty chunk of both memberships pays for shooting insurance. Both organisations do excellent work and are worth supporting; however I do rail against having to pay out £40-£60 for pointless duplicate insurance.

The cause of my anger is twofold; firstly it’s a monumental waste of hard-earned cash (because in the event of a claim, only one of these policies would pay out) and secondly I know that many thousands of shooters have no insurance at all. I’m paying twice, and they are paying nothing! Get shot and incapacitated by one of these fools and I could be in real financial trouble.

Staggering lack of shooting insurance

In fact according to BASC and CA estimates, a staggering total of at least 200,000 regular shooters have no shooting insurance. They may have limited third party liability cover as part of their home insurance (assuming they have insured that) – but then again they may not. With insurance, the devil is in the detail, and a careful reading of the policy small print can make your blood run cold.

Even BASC and CA’s insurance policies are peppered with clauses limiting liability if other insurance is in place covering the same risk. The CA’s policy is starkest, excluding any liability “where there is another insurance covering the same liability”.

I am far from alone in having this wasteful multiple cover. Some shooters I contacted actually had three memberships, all of which included shooting insurance. An obvious way to prevent this duplication is to ensure that all your clubs or syndicates are members of the same organisation. However this is easier said than done – shoot captains/owners often have their own views about who they want to join and support.

On some shoots, you may need syndicate group cover, in addition to your personal policy, says the CA. This is to cover group liability – say, for example, where a beater gets shot, but the guilty Gun cannot be identified (although at the time we went to press, the CA could not say whether there has ever been such a ‘group’ claim).

Generally speaking, if you have two memberships with the same organisation (CA or BASC) you can claim a refund on the duplicate insurance element. However, not a lot of people know this – and many who do know fail to claim their rebate. Personally I’d rather the £50 was in my pocket, than fattening the account of an insurance underwriter.

Shooting insurance is vital

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not against shooting insurance. In the field I want to be insured, and I want everyone I am shooting with to be insured. In fact, over the years it’s surprised me how few times I have been asked to show proof of insurance when invited as a guest on a driven day.

As BASC’s David Ilsley told me, being insured is just plain common sense. “You would be dumb to go shooting without insurance. If you do have an accident it can get very expensive very quickly.”

Fortunately, serious accidents are rare, however even smaller mishaps can still land you with an eye-watering claim. You might not shoot someone, but what if your dog runs onto a road to make a retrieve and in so doing causes a fatal road accident? You could be sued.

BASC’s 130,000 members generate around 55 insurance claims a year. The average claim is just under £10,000 and the largest £1.5 million. Do you really want to shoulder this level of financial risk without insurance? You may be the most careful shooter in the world, but claims against you can spring from surprising sources.

Apparently the only upside of having duplicate cover is that although you can only claim once for public liability (harm to others) you can claim off each policy if you injure yourself. However the sums involved are relatively paltry (around £7,000 for a loss of limb or eye) and the one policy may still be have a ‘small print’ exclusion clause if you have other cover.

So, what’s the answer? Thousands of shooters are over-insured, and many thousands have no insurance at all. One Gun I spoke to suggested that proof of insurance should be mandatory for shotgun certificate renewal. I’m not convinced, but has anyone got a better idea? Comment below to share your thoughts.

Cautionary note from the insurer’s ledger:

Guns continue to shoot cars, caravans, telephone and power lines – and drop pheasants in the strangest of places. The largest number of claims against BASC insurance used to be for damage to motor vehicles. Guns had parked too close to where quarry was likely to drop, with inevitable results. Three years ago BASC got fed up with these claims and introduced a £1,000 excess for vehicle damage into their policy small print. Since then, there have been no vehicle claims!

The current leading cause of BASC insurance claims is for damage to livestock caused by shoots leaving out wheat in bags, loose, or in unguarded hoppers. A claim for £30,000 was recently settled following the death of a breeding boar that had gorged on wheat. In another case a keeper had gone to feed a flight pond. Finding it frozen he had left the sack of wheat by a tree. Sheep had eaten the grain and died of enterotoxemia.

“A surprising number of cows, sheep, horses, and pigs are poisoned by shoots leaving bags of wheat around, or in unguarded hoppers with loose lids,” said BASC’s David Ilsley. “Horses and cows are notorious for knocking over feeders and gorging on the wheat. If you poison a farmer’s horse, there will be all hell [and a hefty insurance claim] to pay.”

CoShooting insurance hot-lines

BASC – 01244 573 030
Countryside Alliance – 0207 840 9300
NGO – 01833 660 869
SACS – 01698 885 206
CPSA – 01483 485 400

  • Rover

    What is stupid, is the fact that you have to do a DSC1 with a school who expect you to find your own insurance, before youve been granted a firearms license. So why join BASC and spend £70, then get refused by the licensing officer? Its money thrown away.
    Why cant I get a 3 days cover note from an insurer to do my dcs1, then if I do get a license, join the BASC then?
    In fact better still, why the heck doesnt the school Im going to, for the DSC1, pay to cover their students?!!!
    I mean what does their insurance pay for?!