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 market 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 weight 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 they 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.

Baikal guns

My first gun – a Baikal single-barrel 12-bore

I’m proud to say that my first gun was a Baikal. People may smirk but it carries a weight of nostalgia. Although strictly speaking my Baikal single-barrel 12-bore was not my first shotgun. That honour goes to a BSA Snipe, a single-barrel shotgun given to me by my cousin Geoff Hoyle.…

Thermal imaging for airgunners

Thermal imaging for airgunners – testing out some options

It wasn’t long ago that basic infrared night-vision optics were regarded as being too expensive, too complicated and too bulky to be a worthwhile proposition for airgun shooters. Just a few years later and thermal imaging for airgunners has become standard equipment for anyone who carries out regular after-dark pest…

10.6mm German M83 revolver

Changes to antique firearms regulations

With the passage of the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021, British law includes the definition of what constitutes an antique firearm for the first time in legal history. Previously, there was no such definition, with the law relying on the common or usual meaning of the word ‘antique’ — in other…

lightweight rifles

Best lightweight rifles – we test a selection

I was two-thirds the way up ‘the Ben’ and puffing some when my companion started. “You should get a lightweight rifle, like mine,” he said. At that moment any rifle would have been too heavy, but I refrained from replying that maybe the 40-year difference in our ages ought to…

Which lead-free airgun pellets would you recommend?

Q: After all the talk about shotgun shooters moving away from lead ammunition, I feel inspired to try using lead-free pellets in my airgun. Are there any brands you can recommend, and should I expect them to perform differently? A: Many of the reputable airgun pellet manufacturers, such as JSB,…

best air rifles under £500

Best air rifles for under £500: what made the list?

One of the greatest appeals of airgun shooting is its affordability. For a few hundred pounds you can pick up an air rifle that should give years of reliable service. Many Guns start their shooting career with an air rifle and garden airgunning has been a popular pastime during the…

how to clean a shotgun

How to clean a shotgun

At the end of a shooting lesson I usually give some time to show a pupil how to clean a shotgun. It’s an important part of gun maintenance.  Whilst professional shotgun cleaning at the end of the season is always worthwhile, every shooter should know how to clean a shotgun…

lead free bullets

Non-lead rifle ammunition put to the test

Oh, the joys of moving to non-lead rifle ammunition. No, I’m not being sarcastic. I had forgotten how much fun testing new ammunition can be. Especially when it goes well. Testing non-lead rifle ammunition I have been trying out some new stuff for my 7mm-08 deer rifle. First, I searched…

grey squirrel

Airguns and summer squirrel shooting

Come the summer months when the trees are in leaf you’re likely to find squirrel shooting with an air rifle rather trickier than in winter on bare branches. The dense foliage covering the tree canopy can make greys almost invisible. So what’s to be done about it? How can you…

Eley VIP Steel Pro Eco

Steel shot vs lead – why I switched a while ago

Steel shot vs lead I suspect that most shooters realise that lead is dead. It’s only a matter of when. I am not going to reiterate the arguments for steel shot vs lead, they have been done to death. The inexorable tightening of the legal noose around lead was widely…

best clayshooting cartridges

We looked for the best clay cartridges around – here’s what we found

Nowadays there is a whole selection of cartridges designed specifically for clays. Some are general-purpose, some for specific disciplines like trap and skeet and some are dedicated competition cartridges for 12-bore, 20-bore, .410 and even 28-bore. The golden rule for finding the best clayshooting cartridges is to pick the one…

shotguns for under £1000

20 of the best shotguns for under £1000

Finding a gun at the right price can be tough. We’ve listed 20 shotguns for under £1000 here that we think are well worth a look, both new and second-hand. It’s also worth reading our advice on buying a shotgun second-hand where you might pick up a real bargain. If…

fibre wad cartridge

Fibre wads – it’s time to ditch the plastic

Plastic pollution is a major cause for concern these days and as shooters we have to do our bit to protect the environment and show that we are behaving responsibly. So does that mean we should turn our back on plastic wads and make a wholesale switch to fibre wads?…

history of gunfit

The history of gunfit

It’s quite easy to look at a Best hammerless sidelock ejector and admire the perfection of form and function. It’s far harder to admit that the French have greatly influenced the sport of shooting and, as a result, the fit of a shotgun as we know it today. Gunfit is…

air rifle shooting

How to make your airgun more accurate

Precise air rifle shooting The pursuit of precision is a big deal when it comes to air rifle shooting. Because air rifles have a relatively low power output, it is vital to be confident of landing your pellet in exactly the right place if you intend to shoot live quarry.…

Duck's foot pistol

How the bizarre duck’s foot pistol came into being

The history of the duck’s foot pistol Until practicable revolver designs had been perfected in the 1830s, the only way to increase a gun’s firing rate was to give it multiple barrels that could either all fire at once or could be selected to fire at the user’s pleasure. The…