While air guns for target practice and pest control are not as powerful as other firearms, they can still do a lot of damage and must be handled with diligence. If you’re just getting into shooting, understanding the laws around buying and owning air rifles is essential.

Do You Need a Gun Licence For an Air Rifle

The good news is, in England and Wales, you do not need a licence or certificate for lower-powered air rifles, as outlined by The Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969.

Provided the air rifle does not fire missiles with kinetic energy in excess of 12ft/lb, you will not need a licence/firearms certificate.

Air rifles that exceed this limit are deemed ‘specially dangerous’ and will, therefore, require you to hold the relevant certificate.

This is applied across different gun types, including bold action, break barrel, PCP and Co2 air rifles.

Is an Air Rifle Considered a Firearm in the UK?

An air weapon is considered a firearm if it fits the definition of a ‘lethal barrelled weapon’. This refers to barrelled weapons that can discharge missiles with muzzle kinetic energy of more than one joule.

The law does not distinguish between lower-powered air guns and higher-powered guns you require a certificate to purchase – they are all firearms and carry the same offences if they’re misused.

However, while an air rifle may be considered a firearm, it is only once it exceeds a muzzle energy of 12ft/lb that obtaining a firearm certificate becomes necessary in accordance with the law.

Note that in Scotland, you will require an Air Weapons Certificate to purchase and own any air weapon above one joule; the 12ft/lb exception is not in place.

Air gun safety tips

How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy an Air Rifle?

You have to be 18 years or older to buy and own an air rifle and ammunition.

For ages 14-17, you cannot own an air rifle but can borrow one and use it on private property (where you have permission) without supervision. If you are under 14, you can borrow an air rifle and use it on private property under the constant supervision of someone 21 or over.

While parents may purchase an air gun for their child younger than 18 to use, they must technically own it and be in control of it at all times.

What ID Do You Need to Buy An Air Rifle?

If you are aged 18 or over and want to buy an air rifle that does not exceed the 12ft/lb power limit, you will need to provide proof of identification that includes your name, date of birth, address and photo. Accepted means of identification may include:

  • - A valid UK driving licence
  • - A valid passport
  • - A valid European Union national identity card
  • - A valid UK Armed Forces identity card

You may also need to produce a recent utility bill or similar to provide proof of a current address.

Can You Buy Air Guns Online?

Due to government legislation, air weapons cannot be delivered directly to customers for free.

At Surplus Store, we offer three delivery options for those looking to buy air rifles, pistols and air weapon parts.

  1. 1. You can collect your gun directly from our store in Crawley.
  2. 2. If you’re within 100 road miles of our store, we can offer to-your-door-delivery.
  3. 3. If you’re further away, we can deliver your items to your local Registered Firearms Dealer (there will be an additional admin charge here).

When receiving/collecting your air gun you will need to provide two valid forms of ID, including an official photo ID (e.g. a driving licence) and proof of your current address (e.g. a recent utility bill or bank statement).

For more information, please refer to our air weapon delivery information page.

Someone aiming an air rifle at targets at a shooting range

Where Can You Shoot an Air Rifle?

You can only shoot on private property with explicit permission from the landowner. If you need to seek permission, make sure you get confirmation in writing.

Trespassing while carrying an air rifle becomes armed trespass, which is a serious offence and carries heavy penalties.

When shooting, you must ensure you do not fire beyond the bounds of the premises, as this, too, is an offence.

Air Gun Shooting Ranges

Or, you can use your air rifle at a dedicated shooting range. When visiting air gun ranges, you will need to bring valid ID. Different gun ranges may have varying minimum age limits, but anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a supervising adult.

The best airgun shooting ranges in the UK

Getting a Firearms Certificate

If you do want to buy more powerful air rifles or other firearms, you will need to apply for a Firearms Certificate (FAC), which is issued by your local police force. This will include filling out a thorough application form and paying the certificate fee.

For a firearms application, you will need to provide:

  • - Photo ID
  • - Personal details
  • - Referees
  • - Health and medical information
  • - Details of offences
  • - Where you’ll use the firearms
  • - Details about the firearms
  • - Details of people who’ll have access to your firearms

If you pass the background checks and other requirements, you will be issued a Firearms Certificate. The certificates usually last for five years before they must be renewed again.

Don’t have a certificate? No problem – our air rifles don’t exceed 12ft/lb in power, so you won’t need to sort out an FAC before buying one. Discover our full air rifle range to take your shooting to the next level.

Shop our range of air rifles