The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

What are the legal calibres for foxes and rabbits?

David Frost advises

running fox in field

It is pointless putting down birds if they are going to be hoovered up by foxes

When you’re carrying out pest control with your rifle, doing some foxing or rabbiting, what are the legal calibres to use? I was recently asked the question below by a reader who wanted to know what was lawful. Here’s what I said.

Legal calibres for foxes and rabbits

Q: After many years shotgun shooting my partner and I have been looking into carrying out pest control of foxes and rabbits by rifle at the various farms where we shoot. Not being firearm certificate holders (FAC) we would have to start from scratch. Would you please let me know the current legal rifle calibres for fox and rabbit control?

A: It is only deer that have a minimum legal calibre. There is no legal calibre for rabbits and foxes. For rabbit control the .22 lr rimfire fitted with a sound moderator and firing sub-sonic ammunition is most people’s preference but other calibres such as .17HMR are also suitable.

For foxes the preferred calibre is one of the .22 centrefire rifles such as .222, .223, .22-250 or a 6mm equivalent. However these are too powerful for rabbits.

Roe deer

Only deer have a minimum legal calibre

Chinese water deer and muntjac

Most .22 centrefires also fit the minimum criteria for shooting Chinese water deer and muntjac in England and Wales or roe in Scotland. Muntjac are spreading rapidly so if you cull some you could be very popular with the farmer.

Another possibility is the .243 which is suitable for foxes and all deer.

Fit a sound moderator

Whatever rifle, or rifles, you get I strongly recommend fitting a sound moderator.

Unless this is integral with the rifle (which it seldom is) you will need to have an authority to purchase a sound moderator entered on your FAC along with that for the rifle. If you’re unused to rifle shooting then find an experienced friend and have a go with his.

Can I shoot muntjac with No.3 shot?

Muntjac are deer and are therefore protected by the Deer Act which prohibits the use of any smooth-bore gun, except in very specific circumstances.

If you find a deer caught in a fence, injured by dogs or hit by a car, you could use a shotgun to end its suffering but otherwise you should use a proper deer rifle.

This means, in England and Wales at least a .240 calibre and in Scotland, where no calibre is mentioned, a bullet of at least 100 grains which effectively also means .240 minimum. (Read more about rifle calibres here.)