So you're interested in learning to shoot? Whether it's clays, game shooting, airgunning or stalking - here's our guide on how to get started.
More and more people are taking up shooting in the UK every year and in 2016 over 5% more shotgun and firearms certificates were issued, according to Home Office figures. Read on for the various routes in if you want to get into shooting.
Starting with airguns
Airguns have a variety of plus points.
- They are relatively inexpensive
- Air rifles with muzzle energy levels of 12ft-lb or less and air pistols with muzzle energy levels of 6ft-lb or less do not have to be licensed in England or Wales
- In Northern Ireland and Scotland the laws are very different
- The British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) has an useful section on air rifles and the law.
- Using an airgun in your garden is legal but you need to have a secure backstop to stop pellets.
- Make sure you cause no damage if you miss your target.
The law on air guns and young people is complicated, and the Airgun Training and Education Organisation has an excellent website covering all aspects of airgun use.
Clay pigeon shooting
You don’t need to have a shotgun certificate to shoot clays if you are at an approved clay ground or practice range, a game fair or a country show. In fact, these venues are a good way of discovering whether the sport is for you. You can read more about starting clay pigeon shooting here.
- Always have lessons from a professional shooting instructor first
- Lessons from a professional coach will prevent any bad habits being created
- Even top clay shooters have lessons to improve their technique
The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association has a list of grounds across the UK so you can see what is convenient for you. Most will have professional instructors and welcome new shooters.
For conservation reasons, deer need to be carefully managed and the UK has a thriving deer population that offers spectacular sporting opportunities.
If you are over 18, you are legally allowed to borrow and use a rifle provided you are under the close supervision of the certificate holder. Doing this is a useful way of seeing if deer stalking has an appeal for you.
Shooting lessons: what you need to know! So, now you are at the shooting ground, what happens next?
Beginner's guide to shooting: Here we have the answers to some of the questions you have asked about starting shooting.
When clay pigeon shooting as a beginner, being prepared is essential for getting good scores.
Some books to read when you’re starting shooting
- The Deer Stalking Handbook – Graham Downing
- Total Airguns – Pete Wadeson
- The Sporting Rifle – Robin Marshall-Ball
- The Sporting Shotgun – Robin Marshall-Ball
- The Shotgun Handbook – Mike George
- Firearms Law: Guidance to the Police 2002 – The Home Office
What about insurance?
Public liability insurance is an excellent idea. It isn’t a compulsory requirement but is certainly recommended. Many shooting organisations, including BASC, offer insurance as part of their membership benefits.
How do I get a shotgun certificate?
- If you are a UK resident, you apply to your local police force (more information on how to apply for a shotgun certificate here)
- Leave plenty of time for it to come through – in some licensing areas it can take several months.
What about a firearms certificate?
- UK residents apply to the police. A firearms certificate covers rifles and shotguns with magazines which hold more than 2 cartridges. Application and referee forms can be obtained from police stations or the forms can be filled in online and printed.
- Applicants must give a good reason for every firearm they wish to acquire. The police will want evidence you have permission to shoot on land. There is no legal requirement to provide written permission, but this may speed up the process if you can.
- You must supply the names of two referees, who must be resident in the UK (they cannot be members of your immediate family) who are of good character and who have known you for at least two years.
- There is no legal requirement to pass any test or undertake any training prior to the grant of a firearm certificate.
- A firearm certificate is valid for 5 years and a variation must be obtained before any firearm can be added to it. It will be issued subject to restrictive conditions.
- Again allow plenty of time for your firearms certificate to come through.