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What’s the air rifle age limit? How old do you have to be to shoot one?

At what age can youngsters start target shooting with a rifle? Can children use rifles?

Girl and father squirrel hunting

The smooth performance of air rifles makes them a great choice for getting youngsters started

If you know a youngster who has expressed an interest in starting shooting, you may be wondering what the air rifle age limit is. And what about rifle shooting? For example .22s?


Shooting consultant and Shooting Times contributor Graham Downing advises on starting with air rifles: “The circumstances in which young people may lawfully use Section 1 firearms are limited. Under the age of 14 they may do so only as members of a cadet corps, at a home office-approved rifle club or in a shooting gallery. If a person is 17 years of age or over then they may borrow a rifle from the occupier of private premises and use it on those premises in the presence of the occupier or his or her employee. This is assuming that the occupier lending the rifle is over 18.

“Thus you could, in principle, allow over- 17s to use your .22 rimfire in your presence on your own land, provided they comply with the conditions on your firearms certificate. For practical purposes, however, it might be easier for you to stick to air rifles under 12ft/lb, for which there are no age restrictions, provided, of course, that shooters are supervised by a person aged over 21.”  (At what age can you get a firearms and shotgun certificate?)

Starting with air rifles and rifles

  • Safety is the first and only priority. Make sure the youngster is fully aware of the shooting safety rules.
  • Joining an approved rifle shooting club is an excellent idea. The youngster will receive good tuition.
  • Young Shots should consider joining a shooting organisation like BASC
  • Be guided by the youngster’s keenness and actual physical strength. You don’t want them put off by the physical exertion of carrying and mounting a rifle.
  • Don’t push offspring into shooting if they continue to show no interest. Just because you’re keen on the sport doesn’t mean they have to be.

What about the air rifle age limit? Under the age of 14 an airgun can be used under supervision on private premises with permission from the owner but the supervisor must be at least 21. (Read more on air rifle law and youngsters here.) Between the ages of 14 and 17 a youngster can use an air weapon, without supervision, on private premises where they have permission. But they cannot buy or hire an air weapon, or ammunition, or receive one as a gift.

(Read should I get my son a junior air rifle or a full-sized one?)

The Shooting Show presenter and Sporting Gun contributor Mark Ripley says: “Bringing youngsters into shooting is imperative to keeping the sport alive and an airgun is the perfect place to start. Primarily teaching safe shooting and gun handling as well as basic marksmanship skills, the air rifle offers younger shots a chance to practice cheaply and not be knocked around by recoil. (Read more on recoil here.)

“For the budding hunter, the air rifle teaches the necessary fieldcraft to get close enough to one’s quarry, and also good shot placement. An airgun club or simply the watchful eye of a sensible adult, can be all that’s needed to set a youngster on the right path, and with age and experience he might well progress on into rimfire and centrefire sports, as no doubt the vast majority of us have done”

This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated.