A girl aiming down the scope of an airgun with a coach beside her
A girl aiming down the scope of an airgun with a coach beside her

What you can shoot

With an airgun there are two main types of shooting you can do; target shooting and live quarry shooting – which often takes the form of pest control.

Target shooting

Air rifle target

There are numerous clubs across the UK that cater for this fast growing sport and they can offer a range of shooting opportunities to both the novice and the experienced shooter alike.

You can find a full list here.

As long as you follow some safety rules and always act sensibly, you can even practice airgunning at home using these targets.

What you need to safely create an air rifle range at home:-

  • A garden with a range of at least 20m.
  • Secure boundaries – not a single pellet can stray beyond your garden or you will be breaking the law.
  • Accepting neighbours – as noise can be an issue so make sure you talk to them.
  • Permission from and the understanding of everyone in your household so no one wanders out into the range unexpectedly.
  • A solid backstop is essential too, so when placing your targets they need to be on a material which prevents ricochet, as you never want stray pellets being sent back towards the shooter.

A brick, stone or concrete wall works well or you could build a backdrop using paving slabs which are relatively cheap and easy to get hold of.

Do not use chipboard, plywood or any thick composite material with a polished surface, as there is a risk of ricochet.

*Remember that you can be prosecuted if any pellet goes beyond your land, whether it is directly fired or an accidental ricochet.

Anyone aged 14 to 17-years-old can borrow an airgun, and its ammunition, and use it without supervision on private premises with permission.

Those under 14 can still use an airgun, but they must be under the supervision of someone over 21 on private premises.

Live quarry

A shooter aiming down the scope of their air rifle
©BSA Rifles


Many people shoot live quarry, either on their own land or where they have permission. The species which you can shoot are limited by the law and by the effective power of an air rifle.

As long as you are complying with firearms law, you can shoot certain pest bird species.

These are covered by general licences which, in simple terms, means you can shoot the birds listed, provided you have the landowner’s permission and provided you are doing it for one of the reasons allowed by the licence.

These reasons include:

  • To prevent serious damage (e.g. to crops and livestock) or to prevent disease.
  • To protect and conserve flora and fauna.
  • To preserve public health or safety.

The general licences vary by country and are annually reviewed, so BASC recommends that anyone wishing to take these species should regularly read BASC’s advice on general licences, which can be found here.

You can shoot mammal pests at any time provided you have the landowner’s permission. Air rifles are suitable for: brown rats, grey squirrels, stoats, mink and rabbits.