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Air rifles in Scotland: this is the law you need to know

Under the terms of The Air Weapon and Licensing (Scotland) Act, 2015, airgunners in Scotland need a Scottish Air Weapon Certificate (AWC) to possess or use an airgun

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How to apply for a Scottish Air Weapon Certificate (AWC)

If you own any currently licence-exempt airgun – sub-12ft/lb air rifle or sub-6ft/lb air pistol – you must apply to Police Scotland for a Scottish AWC. Application forms are available from them, or online from here.

How easy is it to get granted a Scottish AWC?

The standards expected for the grant of a Scottish AWC are similar to those for a firearm certificate (FAC). Your application will require two, identical ‘passport type’ photographs and will need to be countersigned by someone who’s known you for at least two years.

You will not need a police-approved gun safe, nor a high security alarm system installed, although the application form does ask what type of security and storage you have in place. It would be prudent – and in line with The Crime and Security Act, 2010 – to store your airguns in a locked cabinet or room to keep ensure against ‘unauthorised use’, especially if you have minors in (or visiting) your property.

You will need to provide a ‘good reason’ for possessing an airgun, such as target shooting, pest control or collecting. If you simply plink in the garden, the police will need to assess the safety of the land on a case-by-case basis and it may be better to apply now to become a member of an ‘approved’ airgun club. (Read our advice on garden airgunning.)

The same applies if you are a collector, as it’s possible the granting of a Scottish AWC may restrict you to simply owning – not firing – your collection.

If you inherit an airgun, you will either have to hand it in to the police or get a Scottish AWC for it. In some circumstances, Police Scotland will consider issuing a short-term police permit to allow you to sell it. A police permit will not allow you to use the airgun, however. (Read our list of the best air rifle pellets.)

How much does a Scottish AWC cost?

The Scottish parliament has set the fee of a Scottish AWC at £72, which covers a five-year period.

Is there an age limit for the application?

You can apply for a Scottish AWC from age 14. Airgunners under the age of 14 cannot apply for a Scottish AWC; in that event, their normal shooting supervisor should apply.

Will I have to list all my airguns on the certificate?

No – the Scottish AWC licenses the person, not the airguns themselves. Once you have been granted a Scottish AWC, you can own and shoot as many airguns as you wish, subject to their power level not requiring a Section One FAC.

However, you will need to advise Police Scotland of any ‘variations’ from your original application, such as moving address or changing your shooting permission. There is a £20 fee for this.

Will I need a licence if I shoot at an approved airgun club?

No – not if you use the club’s airguns on loan. But if you want to bring your own airgun to use at the club’s target shooting facilities, you will need to be in possession of a Scottish AWC.

Do I need a licence to buy airgun ammunition?

No – you just need to be 18 years of age.

Will I need a Scottish AWC for just the ‘component parts’ of an airgun, like a silencer?

Yes. You will need one to own or acquire individual components that are required to fire the airgun – such as a spring, bolt or piston. More general components, like sights or bipods, will not require a certificate, though.

I already have a shotgun / firearm certificate. Can I simply add my airgun(s) onto it?

No – the Scottish AWC is an independent licence, and you will need to apply separately for it.

I live in England/Wales, but want to bring my air rifle/air pistol with me when I visit Scotland. Does the new law apply to me?

After 31 December 2016, you will need a visitor permit to own, use, purchase or acquire an airgun while in Scotland. These are issued by Police Scotland, and you will need to apply before your planned trip. An individual permit costs £20. Group permits (up to parties of 20) are also available, up to a maximum of £100.

If you currently hold either a firearm certificate (for a live round or high-powered air rifle) or a shotgun certificate that’s valid past 1 January 2017, you’ll be covered by that pro tem – but once it’s expired, you will need to independently apply for a visitor permit specifically for your airgun whenever you want to bring it into Scotland.

What about soft airguns?

The Scottish AWC only applies to guns which are defined in law as airguns. Soft airguns are exempt (though subject to their own legislation by way of the Violent Crime Reduction Act, 2006).

For more information on airgun legislation, and to make any online applications, visit the Police Scotland’s dedicated airgun website, here.

This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.