The legalities of target shooting on private land
What do you need to know? Bill Harriman advises
If you have a good amount of land that is isolated from the public you might well have considered setting up an area for private target shooting. But it is legal? Alternatively you might have access to land well away from public use but are you allowed legally to buy a firearm and carry out target shooting there with the landowner’s permission? Or would you be better off joining a target shooting club and using their land. (You might also like to read “Can I set up an air pistol range in my own garden?”)
If you’re keen to improve your markmanship then practising regularly is the way to do it. (Check out our list of the best shooting sticks here.)
So what’s the answer?
Target shooting on private land
In fact, anyone can build and operate a range for private or commercial use. The circular (031/2006), issued by the Home Office when the Ministry of Defence withdrew support for range assurance, moved responsibility to the operator under the Occupiers Liability Acts, with public liability insurance as a minimum. (Read more about shooting insurance here.)
Indeed, all target shooting firearms certificate conditions are worded to say the holder may shoot on any range so long as it is covered with “adequate financial arrangements in place to meet any injury or damage claim”. There are plenty of shooting ranges in the UK without Home Office approval or with approved clubs based on them.
A range does not have to be governed or run under the auspices of a Home Office-approved target shooting club. It can be but it is not mandatory, it all depends simply on whether the people wishing to shoot either own firearms for established approved target shooting clubs or rely on your range to acquire them. Operating a range and Home Office approval are different jurisdictions for different purposes. Put simply, range operation relates to insurance. Home Office approval is a matter of good reason.
Constructing a range safely
The way to tackle this is to construct a range. This needs a really good backstop made from earth, railway sleepers and so on. An elevated firing position confers extra safety as all bullets are being effectively fired into the ground. Another good solution is to make a pipe range using large-diameter concrete pipes to contain any stray bullets. Look at the topography of the land for any natural backstops such as ridges or quarries. Once you have planned the range, discuss the matter with either the licensing manager or an experienced firearms enquiry officer. Once he or she is satisfied with any proposed safety measures, build the range and then apply for a firearm certificate.
This article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated.