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.

Hatsan Escort 
.22LR rifle

Should I get an air rifle or a rimfire?

Air rifle or a rimfire Q: I am thinking of buying an FAC-rated air rifle for pest control. Would this be better than a .22 rimfire? A: I like FAC-rated air rifles for certain pest control duties. They offer a significantly higher energy rating over the legal standard 12ft/lb energy.…

fixed-barrelled guns wildfowling

Here’s what you need to know about fixed-barrelled guns

Semi-auto and pump-action shotguns have been around for a long time but have not been as popular in the UK as they have in the USA. Shooters shy away from them mainly because of the uncertainty of how to operate and handle them in a safe way. Those that use…

black powder

Black powder licences … what you need to know

Thinking about using black powder? You’ll need a licence from the local police and a reason for using it. Having a gun proofed for black powder should be enough. Of course you can make your own black powder cartridges and you can also buy them if you prefer.  But first…

choose a stalking rifle

Choosing the right stalking rifle

Perhaps you have already done a bit of stalking, possibly as a guest using the estate rifle, and now you have been truly bitten by the deer bug. It’s time to choose a stalking rifle – but where to start? Your biggest decision, and one you need to make even…

shooting rabbits

Are pump-action rifles really a valid vermin tool?

Q: I see quite a lot of classic .22 rimfire pump-action rifles at auctions. Are they really a valid vermin tool? A: They certainly are! Your first choice would be a newer bolt-action or semi-automatic rimfire for rabbits, but some older model rimfires are tremendous value for money and have…

steel bio wad cartridges

What did our tester make of the latest ‘eco-cartridges’?

Margaret Heffernan, the writer and entrepreneur, said: “For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument and debate.” Shooting has had this in spadefuls of late, largely on the topic of cartridges. In February 2020, the British shooting organisations unanimously voiced their support for the phasing out…

famous guns

Five famous guns and their owners

Should my guns eventually be catalogued by an auctioneer, I expect my ownership to make not a jot of difference to the valuation. Frankly, nobody is going to pay 
more for the bragging rights of owning a gun once waved at pheasants in my distinctly average hands. If, however, a…

Shooting from pigeon hide

What to look for when buying a gun

It always amazes me how many people are seduced by the aesthetic of a gun before they’ve even analysed how well it’s built and given some serious thought to how it handles. I suppose, in many ways, that’s the point. We all like pretty things, it’s simply human nature, so…

airgun laws

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? Talking lead-free-airgun pellets A: Many of the reputable airgun pellet manufacturers,…

Hatsan Escort Magnum semi-automatic

The gun every shooter should have in their gun cabinet

I give my shotguns names. My AYA No 3 I dubbed ‘Lazarus’ because, thanks to my friend Adam Bragg’s craftsmanship, it was brought back from the dead. My Lincoln Premier is named ‘John’ (as in Wilkes Booth). I don’t like the Lincoln and am determined to get rid of it.…

proof marks on shotgun

Proof marks, serial numbers and how to re-proof a gun

A frequently asked question in our postbag is “how old is my gun or can I date my gun from its serial number?” It’s usually asked by somebody who has just bought a second-hand gun or who is considering it. The guns in question are usually around 20 years old…

24gm shotgun cartridges

Taking a look at 24gm shotgun cartridges

The advantages of 24gm shotgun cartridges are often underrated and misunderstood. In addition to costing less and producing lower recoil they give you better patterns. This is due to less damage being done to the pellets during ignition and as they travel through the bores.  The upshot to this is…

airgun laws

Air rifle questions we’re often asked

  Q: Do I need a licence for an air rifle?  If you live in England or Wales and have an air rifle with a muzzle energy level of 12 ft lb or less or an air pistol with a muzzle energy of 6 ft lb or less you don’t…

best clayshooting cartridges

13 of the best clayshooting cartridges reviewed

Forty or so years ago when clayshooting wasn’t as big as it is now shooters used whatever cartridges were around. Then clayshooting started to really catch on and now there is a whole host of cartridges specially designed for smashing clays. Dedicated competition cartridges are available for 12-bore, 20-bore, .410…