A reader wonders if it's legal
Q: I am thinking of running an air rifle range at a church fete. Is this lawful and if so, what do I need to look out for when running it? Any pointers would be useful.
A: An air rifle range at a church fete is a “miniature rifle” range in law.
Section 11(4) of the Firearms Act 1968, provides that: “A person conducting or carrying on a miniature rifle range (whether for a rifle club or otherwise) or shooting gallery at which no firearms are used other than air weapons or miniature rifles not exceeding .23in calibre may, without holding a certificate, have in his possession, or purchase or acquire, such miniature rifles and ammunition suitable therefore; and any person may, without holding a certificate, use any such rifle and ammunition at such a range or gallery.”
Section 22(2) of the same act provides that there is no age limit for anyone taking advantage of the 11(4) exemption. Consequently, there is no need for you to set any age limit. You do not need to tell the police that this activity is taking place; neither should you.
In deciding the level of supervision required for a shooter you need to have regard to that person’s experience. There is a spectrum that ranges from complete novices or children, who should have one-to-one supervision, to an adult experienced in airgun use, who needs none.
If you are using spring airguns, be aware that people of slight build may have trouble cocking them safely; have people on hand to do it for them. If using pre-charged pneumatics, great care is needed to make sure the rifle is really clear after use. Pellets lodge in barrels and magazines. In general terms, you need someone to have overall conduct of the range while shooting is going on, as well as others who can coach or otherwise assist the users.
A good way to introduce children to guns
If you have a moderate sized garden then you probably have enough room to set up a shooting range for…
A safe backstop
The range needs to have some form of pellet traps for each target and a general safe backstop. Very good pellet catchers can be made from pieces of old carpet attached to dowelling or garden cane along the top edge and allowed to swing. This takes a lot of the pellet’s energy away when it hits it. The range area also needs to be secure to prevent anyone from straying into it. Knock-down targets are very satisfying, but you will need somebody to re-set them. Cream crackers also make fun targets and “explode” when hit.