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It is estimated that there are more than 1.5 million shotguns legally held in Great Britain, the vast majority of which are used in a safe and responsible manner. This leaflet provides a code of practice for those who acquire and use them and if followed will ensure a safe and responsible future for the sport.
High standards underpin public and political support for shooting, now and in the future.
The code provides advice at two levels
Advice that must be followed in order to deliver sustainable shooting – unless otherwise stated the term ‘must’ only applies to meeting the standards set by this Code of Practice and does not refer to a legal obligation.
Advice that should be followed in order to achieve Best Practice, any deviation from which would need justification.
The following Golden Rules apply:
1. The most important rule of gun handling – you should never point a gun, loaded or unloaded, in an unsafe direction.
2. The safe conduct of shotgun 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. When passing a gun to someone it must always be proved empty; that is open, empty and passed stock first so that the empty chambers are visible.
4. Remember – ignorance of the law is no excuse. If in doubt, always ask.
Above all, safety is the most important consideration. Always be aware of the direction in which the muzzle of your shotgun is pointing and never point it in an unsafe direction. Whenever you shoot, you should know where the shot will fall before you pull the trigger.
Follow these simple directions to be safe:
Always ensure that your shotgun is in a safe and serviceable condition.
Hammer guns require particular care, such as carrying them uncocked, except when a shot is imminent.
Pump-action and self-loading shotguns, such as semi-automatics also require care, as it is more difficult to check their status (i.e. whether they are loaded or not) than the standard single or double-barrelled shotgun. For added safety it is always good practice to store such a gun with a breech flag in the chamber to indicate that it is empty and safe.
Always clean and dry your shotgun after use. Never put a damp gun into a steel cabinet.
If a fault develops, have it rectified before using the gun again.
Never use a gun with badly dented or pitted barrels. Have your gun serviced regularly by a competent gunsmith.
Ensure that the cartridge type and shot size are suitable for both your purpose and your gun. If you use non-lead shot make sure gun and cartridge are compatible, otherwise damage could occur. Information is available from BASC.
Never imagine that a heavy load and a tight choke justify shots at extreme range.
Do not allow cartridges of different bores to become mixed. A smaller size (say a 20-bore) can be inadvertently loaded into a 12-bore gun and lodge in the barrel. If a 12-bore cartridge is then loaded and fired, it can burst the barrel and cause fatal injuries.
In the case of a misfire, keep the barrels pointed in a safe direction and open the gun cautiously, after waiting 30 seconds.
It is an offence (except in certain circumstances) to possess a shotgun without a current shotgun certificate or temporary police permit.
It is an offence to give or sell a shotgun to someone who is not authorised to possess it – usually by virtue of a shotgun certificate.
When acquiring a shotgun, you must inform the police force which issued your certificate. If you give or sell a shotgun to anyone (or lend a gun for more than 72 hours) you must enter it on the other person’s certificate and also notify the police force which issued your own certificate within seven days by recorded delivery or by email to the specified address given by the police.
It is an offence to sell or offer for sale a shotgun which is out of proof.
One certificate holder may borrow a shotgun from another for 72 hours or less without notifying the police, or entering the details onto the borrower’s certificate.
It is an offence to sell cartridges to someone without seeing their shotgun certificate except where the recipient is a crown servant or where a person produces a certificate authorising another person to possess such a gun, together with that person’s written authority to purchase the ammunition on his behalf.
You are responsible for the security of any shotgun(s) in your possession at all times.
When not in use, shotguns must be stored securely, in order to prevent – so far as is reasonably practicable – access by unauthorised persons. When in use, reasonable precautions must be taken for their safe custody.
It is an offence to sell or hire a shotgun to someone under 18 years of age.
It is an offence for a person under the age of 15 to have with him or her, an assembled shotgun except while under the supervision of a person of 21 years old or more, or while the shotgun is so covered with a securely fastened gun cover that it cannot be fired.
It is an offence to be in possession of a loaded shotgun in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.
It is an offence to shoot game on Sundays and Christmas Day in England and Wales. In Scotland there are no statutory restrictions on the killing of game on Sunday or Christmas Day but it is not customary to do so.
In Scotland and certain counties in England and Wales it is an offence to shoot wildfowl on Sundays. Always check if you are unsure – never guess at what the law requires.
All birds and many animals are protected. There is an ‘open’ season for quarry species and it is an offence to kill or attempt to kill them at other times of the year or possibly at night.
If you are complying with firearms law you can shoot certain pest bird species. These are covered by general licences 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 licence.
These reasons may 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 is available online at http://basc.org.uk/shooting/general-licences/
It is an offence to shoot wildfowl or game with a self-loading shotgun having a magazine capacity of more than two cartridges.
A non-certificate holder may only borrow a shotgun under the statutory exemptions. This is typically under s11(5) of the Firearms Act 1968. This allows an occupier to lend a shotgun to another person to use on private premises and in the presence of the occupier:
or; at a clay pigeon shoot where the chief constable has approved the time and place for the shooting of artificial targets under s11(6) of the Firearms Act 1968.
REMEMBER – Ignorance of the law is no excuse. If in doubt, always ask.
Keep your shotgun secured – for preference in a purpose-built gun cabinet – when not in use. Ensure that no-one else has access to the keys – remember it is your responsibility to ensure that an unauthorised person (which includes anyone who hasn’t got a shotgun certificate) does not have access to your guns. Store your shotgun ammunition separately from your guns. The law does not require you to keep shotgun cartridges secure; however, it is good practice to do so. They are best stored in a cool, dry place where inquisitive children cannot get hold of them.
When travelling in a vehicle, keep your guns and ammunition out of sight, preferably in the locked luggage compartment. It is preferable to keep the guns in their slips or cases. If you have to park your vehicle for any reason, park it where you can see it – if at all possible. The vehicle must be locked and any anti-theft devices set. It is a good idea to park in a manner that prevents easy access to the part of the vehicle containing your guns, such as backing the car very close to a wall to make it difficult for a thief to get at the boot.
Where possible, remove the fore-end of the shotgun and take it with you. There are also various security devices that can be used if necessary.
BASC has a simple assessment carried out by accredited assessors called the Safe Shot Award. It is not a test of competence. The assessment takes just 20 minutes and can be done at a game fair or organised by you anywhere in the UK. To find out more about the Safe Shot Award please contact the BASC Sporting Services department on 01244 573018.
If you require a shotgun coaching lesson or want to learn more about shooting sports contact your local BASC accredited Shotgun Coach. Details of your nearest coach can be found on the BASC website.
It is advisable to have adequate legal liability (third party) insurance when shooting. Membership of BASC currently provides insurance.
The BASC Ideal is that all who shoot conduct themselves according to the law and to the highest standards of safety, sportsmanship and courtesy, with full respect for their quarry and a practical interest in wildlife conservation and the countryside.
Never guess at what the law allows. If in doubt, contact BASC (firstname.lastname@example.org) or your local police firearms licensing department. Training courses are available from BASC on the safe and proficient use of shotguns; contact BASC Sporting Services on 01244 573018.
Always follow the appropriate code of practice for the type of shooting you are undertaking. These can be obtained from the BASC website at www.basc.org.uk
BASC is the largest representative body for sporting shooting.