The Common Sense Shooters Code: This is not a legal obligation but adherance to a Shooters Code insures High standards that provide a foundation for  public and political support for shooting, now and in the future.  

It is common knowledge that Air Gun shooting is very popular in Great Britain, where for generations a Shooters Code has governed the attitude and behavior of gun enthusiasts. Here in the U. S. the code is less formalized and less spoken of but is still an excellent guide and instruction to everyone  engaged in shooting sports.  Careful review and consideration is strongly suggested.  The following is a universally applicable compilation from various sources derived from British tradition and culture.

The code provides advice at two levels: Advice that must be followed in order to deliver sustainable shooting – and advice that should be followed in order to achieve Best Practice, any deviation from which would need justification. The code is directed to AirGun Shooters but also applies to those who shoot Firearms. The 2nd Amendment guarantees your right to possess and bear arms. Proper exercise of your 2nd Amendment Rights also requires responsibile use and conduct for all shooting, regardless of method or platform.

Steve's Notes: Steve wishes to acknowledge that a good portion of this material has be derived from the  work of BASIC in the U.K. (The British Association for Shooting and Conservation). They are a remarkable association of Airgunners who provide extensive data, legal support, ethical guidance, and training suggestions for shooting enthusiasts. We consider it important to apprise oneself of these issues before picking up an Air Rifle, as an act of good common sense. 


  1. Always know where the muzzle of your air rifle is pointing and NEVER point it in an unsafe direction.
  2. The safe conduct of air rifle shooting must meet the standards described in this code, show respect for the countryside, due regard to health and safety and consideration for others.
  3. Before you shoot, make sure that a safe backstop is present to capture the pellet.
  4. Consider live quarry; do not shoot beyond the bounds of your ability. Do not take chance shots.
  5. REMEMBER – ignorance of the law is no excuse. If in doubt, always ask.


The shooters' code  promotes and insists on safe and sensible behaviour by all shooters in all disciplines. By acting on these points you will reassure shooters and non-shooters alike that you can be trusted with an air rifle.

  • Always check with the landowner, in good time, if you want to go shooting.
  • Always confirm with the landowner what quarry you may shoot.
  • Always respect the owner’s property, crops, livestock and fences and follow the Countryside Code.
  • Always treat an air rifle as though it is loaded and keep its muzzle pointing in a safe direction.
  • On picking up or being handed an air rifle, check immediately to ensure it is not loaded e.g. that it is un-cocked and that there is no pellet in the breech. Be particularly careful when checking pre-charged pneumatic air rifles.
  • Before you fire your rifle, consider where the pellet could go. Be sure that no damage can result if you miss your intended target.
  • Always bear in mind the possibility of a ricochet.
  • Never put down a loaded air rifle or leave it unattended.
  • Use of a sound moderator can minimise disturbance to wildlife, livestock, as well as anyone within ear shot.
  • Remember that all shooters will be judged by your actions and ensure that your conduct is always above reproach. Encourage the same attitude in your shooting companions.

Above all, be safe and be sensible.


Target shooting

There are numerous clubs catering for this growing sport, and they can offer great help and shooting opportunities to both the novice and the experienced shooter alike. The internet is a fantastic place to explore all aspects of air gun shooting and equipment. Check out Facebook, for example, where numerous Groups and Pages have been set up in which the the experience of air gun shooting is covered in amazing detail..

If you want to practice on your own premises you must have an effective backstop. This may be an adequate soft soil bank, without stones, or a brick wall on which an old piece of carpet can be hung to prevent ricochets. 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.

Live quarry shooting

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.

All wild birds are protected, and although there are seasons when you can legally shoot game, and certain wildfowl, they are not suitable quarry for air rifles. However, as long as you are complying with firearms law, you can shoot certain pest bird species. These are covered by general licenses which, in simple terms, mean 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 license.

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

Respect for the quarry

Always shoot well within your capabilities. Practice on targets, never on live quarry, to establish the maximum range at which you and your rifle can consistently hit the point of aim that will ensure a clean kill; this is usually the head, and normally has a maximum diameter of about three centimetres (1¼ Inches). Practice regularly to improve your shooting and stalking skills.

Make sure you know where the kill zone is for each species that you are going to hunt. For mammals the side -on head shot should be the preferred shot placement. For birds, head shots are effective but difficult because the target area is very small and rarely remains still. Shots to the breast or body cavity give a bigger target area but remember that dense feathers or a crop full of grain will limit the pellet’s effectiveness. The area under the wing is a good place to aim for.

You should zero your rifle and sights (check their correct alignment) before starting any hunt; usually a rifle scope will come with instructions; otherwise there are many books which explain the principles.

It is your responsibility to be able to recognize your quarry and know when and where you may shoot it. Never shoot unless you have positively identified your quarry.

Wounded quarry should be dispatched quickly to minimize suffering, either with a second shot or a sharp blow to the base of the skull. Be particularly careful when dispatching wounded rodents as they can bite and scratch with a risk of serious infection.

DO NOT TOUCH RATS. They may carry fatal diseases, so you should lift them with a fork or shovel.

At the end of the day

Always leave your shoot in the condition in which you would like to find it. Make sure that you collect all your equipment.Don't leave trash.  It is courteous to thank the landowner and to offer him something from the bag if you have shot any edible quarry. Take care of your edible quarry – remember it is food, store it in a cool place and never waste it.

Non-edible quarry should be disposed of discreetly, carefully and should not create a health hazard. This is not neccessarily a legal requirement, but it is a common courtesy. .Under most circumstances deep burial beyond the reach of a carnivorous animal would be appropriate.


Always ensure that your air rifle is powerful enough to achieve a clean kill of your chosen quarry. 

Never shoot at partially obscured quarry or shoot at quarry which could escape into cover before it can be retrieved. For example, do not shoot rabbits which are less than 8' from their burrow.

Certain types of air rifle are more suitable for hunting than others. Avoid those air rifles which take excessive time to charge, load and fire. Repeating air rifles give an immediate second shot which is always an advantage. All air rifles must be well maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. If in doubt, consult your local dealer.

Choose pellets which are designed for hunting. These will produce a cleaner kill than those which are intended for target shooting. Check every pellet before loading to ensure that it is not damaged or deformed.


Take care of your gun; it is built to precise standards and damage or mistreatment can seriously affect its performance and safety.

Do not attempt to strip an air rifle without having the proper tools, facilities and knowledge to do so safely. Many air rifles contain powerful springs which can cause serious injury if released in an uncontrolled manner. After shooting, ensure your air rifle is dry and free from dirt before storing it.

Metalwork may benefit from a wipe down with a lightly oiled rag or a silicone cloth. The barrel should be cleaned using a proper barrel cleaning kit, and again lightly oiled. Only use the correct lubricants in accordance with the rifle manufacturer’s instructions. Always carefully wipe the oil from the bore before shooting.


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