What is the "right" level of alcohol when it comes to a day in the field and beyond? It isn't as simple as it may seem, says David Frost, who takes a sober look at the facts

One of the questions we 
must answer when applying 
for a shotgun certificate is whether we suffer from alcohol abuse. It set me wondering about drinking and firearms. Alcohol abuse is defined as the “habitual excessive use of alcohol” but there is not much guidance as to what that means in practice. Certainly you are in that category if you go out and get plastered several days 
a week. But what about those who drink more modestly?

Official Government guidelines

These are 14 units per week for both men and women. The medical advice is given because of concerns about health risks such as cancer and heart disease, not in the context of social behaviour or gun safety.

Drink drive limits

The drink-drive limit in England and Wales —it is lower in Scotland and on the Continent — is 80 milligrams for every 100 millilitres of blood. Between 7-8 per cent of your bodyweight is blood and the average man has about a third more blood than the average woman. It follows that the larger you are the more you can drink before going over the limit. If you spread your 14 units evenly over six or seven days, you would be unlikely to go over the limit as men can typically consume up to four units and women up to three while remaining in the safe zone. These figures are for guidance only as individuals vary widely.

alcohol, guns and the law

A responsible shooter will wait until the shooting has finished before truly indulging

Drink driving and your shotgun certificate

If you have a conviction for drink-driving, the police will take that into account when assessing suitability to hold a shotgun certificate. 
A conviction may be seen as demonstrating impaired judgement or loss of self-control. One conviction on an otherwise unblemished record may not matter but get two or three and your judgement will certainly be questioned.

Alcohol, guns and the law – the facts

The Licensing Act 1872  makes it an offence to be drunk in charge of a loaded gun. The Firearms Act 1968 makes it an offence to transfer a firearm or ammunition to anyone believed to be drunk. This can be relevant on a shoot day where bibulous lunches are not unheard of. What does a loader do if he thinks his Gun has overindulged? If the loader is right and he hands a gun over at the start of the first afternoon drive both parties commit an offence. If you use a loader don’t embarrass him by overindulging.

cartridge safety rules

Cartridge safety rules

Reloading your shotgun cartridges is popular in places like America but nobody in the UK (with the possible exception of…

A difficulty is created because drunkenness is not clearly defined. 
It is largely a matter of perception and case law is of limited help. Essentially, if your faculties are impaired you may be deemed to be drunk. If your eyes are glazed, your speech slurred and you are unsteady on your feet, you are certainly in no fit state to be shooting. Not only that but you will be at 
risk if you drive home at the end of the day.