Purdey side-by-side

A Purdey side-by-side – highly desired by many and one of the most expensive guns in the world

If you have a question about guns then you’re in the right place. Whether  buying a new gun or wanting to know what proofmarks on guns are. You may need to brush up on certain aspects of gun law, be searching for a particular gun review or want some information on ammunition.

Shotguns What is the main difference between rifles and shotguns?

A gun has a long metal tube (barrel) from which gun cartridges are fired . A rifle has a long metal barrel that is ‘rifled’ inside, which makes the bullets it uses spin as they are expelled, which allows for greater accuracy at a longer range.

Rifling in a rifle barrel

Close up of rifling in a rifle barrel, which makes the bullet ‘spin’ for greater accuracy long distance

Gun reviews

If you’re in the market for a gun then take a look at our comprehensive list of shotgun and rifle reviews. We regularly ask experts to look at the latest models and updates from popular manufacturers, as well as rounding up useful guns to buy second-hand.

Guide to buying guns

There’s a lot to know before you part with your hard-earned cash. In our gun-buying guide here we have listings of the best shotguns for gameshooting, clayshooting, guns for under £1000, how to find a reputable dealer, what bore side would be right for you …

Second hand guns – should you? 

We’re written a lot on the subject of buying second-hand guns. On the plus side you’re likely to pick up a bargain, but on the minus side you may not get a warranty. Here’s how to make sure you end up with the right gun for you when buying second-hand. 

Engraving proof marks on guns

Proof marks are added to a gun at the Birmingham Proofhouse

Proof marks

A proof mark on a gun is a bit like an MOT certificate on a car. It means that it was safe on the day it was examined. However, a proof mark can be many years old. So if you are buying a gun and have some doubts about the proof mark you can take it to a gunsmith for a safety check, which will include checking that the gun closes tightly and safely, and that the barrels are free from dents and bulges and that they are not worn beyond safe limits.

It is legal?

You should also bear in mind when buying a gun that it’s illegal to sell an out-of-proof and dangerous gun, and this applies to individuals as well as to the trade.

Every cartridge firearm must bear valid proof marks if it is sold legally. As the UK is a signatory of the International Proof Commission (CIP), it recognises the proof marks of every other member state.

Keeping guns securely

Part of being a responsible shooter (and obeying the law) is knowing how to store your guns securely, whether that’s in a gun cabinet or whilst you’re at a shoot lunch. 

Fausti XF4

The Fausti XF4. A round body gives this Sporter a touch of Italian style

Different types of guns

A question we’re often asked is what is the difference between a Sporter and a trap gun.

We usually advise newcomers to pick a Sporter as their first gun.

Sporters are known for all-round use, suitable for shooting clays as well as game. They are generally steady to handle, a little heavier and recoil less.

Sporter guns usually weigh between 7.1/2lb and 7.3/4lb. These guns shoot closer to point of aim than a trap gun, are less tightly choked (1/4 and 1/4 being the norm in a fixed-choke), and their handling and balance are designed for fast swinging.

gun barrels for trap shooting

Long barrels on a trap gun help achieve a smooth swing

Trap guns are designed for trap shooting and many weigh over 8lb. When tackling trap targets you don’t have to swing the gun as quickly or as far as you do in Sporting, so the gun can be heavier (which helps to soak up recoil), and also steadier in its handling.

A trap gun is configured so that it shoots slightly high. This enables the shooter to fire with the target in view just above the muzzle end of the rib, and hit it right in the middle of the pattern.

As the target is retreating from the shooter at quite a rapid rate, choking is usually quite tight: 3/4in the lower barrel (which is fired first), and full in the top.

Versatile?

Some believe trap guns can’t be used for gameshooting but instructor Adam Calvert disagrees, saying: “There is no reason whatsoever why you can’t use a trap gun for game shooting, however, I would check the impact point of the gun on a pattern board.” He also notes that trap guns are sometimes used for high pheasant shooting.

Bettinsoli DiamondDeluxe

The handsomely decorated sideplates conceal a standard Italian boxlock action

What are a sidelock and a sideplate on a shotgun? What’s the difference?

On a sidelock, lock mechanisms are built on separate plates which are fixed to the wood of the stock immediately behind the action. These plates carry the hammers, mainsprings and sears.

A side-plated gun is a conventional boxlock, with all parts of the firing mechanism mounted within the action body. However, plates giving the appearance of artificial lock plates are added for cosmetic reasons, providing an area for elegant engraving.

Best gas-ram airguns

Spring-powered rifles have been around for over 100 years and probably account for more units sold each year than any other air rifle category, especially at the affordable end of the market. However, springers aren’t the only alternative to pre-charged pneumatics and the associated inconvenience of having to ensure a…

PCP airguns – breaking down the terminology

Many of you have probably seen Guy Ritchie’s 1998 crime comedy Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. I imagine most non-shooting filmgoers who’ve seen it are vaguely aware that the title is a reference to a double-barrelled shotgun, though few probably understand what the term actually means. The same can…

airgunning

Childhood airgunning

I recently dusted off my first airgun that my parents bought me for my ninth birthday. This gun, along with copious amounts of enthusiasm, taught me a lot about hunting, fieldcraft and the rabbit. I spent much of my teens shooting with this .22 Weihrauch HW 77 K and accounted…

How to improve your springer airgun setup

I don’t know about you, but I love a challenge, and really enjoy working on a troublesome airgun combo and making it shoot well again to show you how to improve your springer airgun setup. So I jumped at the chance to work on a friend’s recent acquisition – a…

Legend 2 MX8

What to look for when buying a gun

It always amazes me how people will buy a gun based on its looks, even before they’ve looked at how well it’s built and how it handles. Perhaps some manufacturers do that deliberately; if they can churn out well-figured stocks and laser up some pretty engraving, then for some customers it…

Can you shoot heavyweight slugs in a legal-limit air rifle?

Before we answer the question of heavy slugs in a legal-limit air rifle, we need to consider slugs themselves. While air rifle slugs have been around for quite a few years, they seem to have enjoyed a massive boost in popularity recently, possibly because there seems to be a corresponding…

Best pellets for your airgun – how to pick the right one

In terms of best pellets, three things need to be considered before you can even begin to explore the accuracy you crave: pellet calibre, pellet types and pellet weights. In the UK, we are restricted to rifles with a muzzle energy of less than 12 foot pounds. If you want more power,…

steel vs lead cartridges

Steel vs lead cartridges: a pattern emerges

We now have the transition away from traditional lead shot that has served so well for so long and, I hope, will continue to do so, even if some areas are to be denied it. The topic chosen by Sporting Gun for me this month has been time-consuming, but it…

Airgun springer advice for newcomers with Mike Morton

When considering airgun springer advice, there’s one question you have to ask first: what’s the difference between a springer and a PCP? Recoil! This can adversely affect the way a shooter interacts with their rifle, and this will affect their results on target. But unlike pre-charged pneumatics, springers and gas-rams…

How to choose the right air rifle bipod for you

An air rifle bipod is a fantastic piece of equipment. Early examples of two-legged props date back to the mid-19th century where they were used to support heavy guns. Later on, bipods were pressed into military service with guns that were expected to deliver sustained levels of fire. One other…

How to improve your airgun marksmanship

Airgun marksmanship is a person’s ability to hit what they’re aiming at, and in order to achieve this there are four basic principles that need to be applied. I was recently asked to teach a lesson on this subject. That sounds easy enough, because we adopt these principles each and…

Feral pigeon control – The Countryman with Mat Manning

Feral pigeon control is a problem for many farmers. These birds love to nest up in the rafters of large barns, especially as there is usually an easy food supply nearby. This prime habitat makes for very comfortable living, and it doesn’t take long for populations to get out of…

Brocock Concept XR review

British gunmaker Brocock has developed a flair for making reliable airguns built for functionality and getting the job done. These rifles are the choice of pest controllers up and down the country. But Brocock airguns aren’t just reliable, they also have an admirable track record in the accuracy department, and…

Buying your first PCP air rifle – what to expect

We’re all more that the last two years haven’t been great, but one of the few positive things to come out of the lockdowns has been an influx of people to our sport. Some are brand new to airguns, while others have returned after a long absence, possibly not having…

Springer vs PCP – which is better to start out with?

When it comes to the great springer vs PCP question, I’ve never actually seen anyone come to blows over it, but I’ve certainly witnessed some very heated debates about which type of air rifle is best to shoot – one powered by a mainspring, or one with an onboard reservoir…

Testing shotgun ammunition – Richard Atkins shares his process

Shotgun ammunition performance is something that has interested me since my youth and still does. Some may not understand why this is so but therein is the key: the more testing you carry out, the more differences you will spot. You must then ponder why some cartridges perform differently from…