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Air Gunner - - Contents -

Neil Price ad­vises on how to shoot safely and con­sid­er­ately in your own back gar­den

It is le­gal to fire a le­gal-limit air­gun in your gar­den as long as the fol­low­ing cri­te­ria are ad­hered to: It is an of­fence to fire an air ri­fle pel­let be­yond the con­fines of your gar­den boundary. If the shooter is un­der 14 years of age, then both the young per­son and the su­per­vis­ing adult can be pros­e­cuted. It is also against the law to dis­charge an air­gun within 50 feet of the cen­tre of a high­way – which con­sists of, or com­prises a car­riage­way – if in con­se­quence a user of the high­way is in­jured, in­ter­rupted or en­dan­gered.

Sum­mer is the per­fect time to en­joy some air­gun­ning fun in the gar­den. The fol­low­ing guide­lines will ex­plain how to do it legally, safely – and with­out up­set­ting the neigh­bours.

Any­one who has any size gar­den prob­a­bly has suf­fi­cient space to set up an air­gun shoot­ing range. This can be used for im­prov­ing your ac­cu­racy, whether for shoot­ing small game of for com­pe­ti­tion shoot­ing.

As with any type of shoot­ing, safety is of the ut­most im­por­tance, es­pe­cially given the like­li­hood of other peo­ple be­ing in close prox­im­ity when you are in the gar­den. Airguns are rel­a­tively low­pow­ered com­pared with other guns, which is one of the rea­sons they lend them­selves to back­yard prac­tice, but they still have the po­ten­tial to cause a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent, so there is no ex­cuse for any lapse in safety aware­ness. Nonethe­less, by fol­low­ing a few sim­ple guide­lines and ex­er­cis­ing com­mon sense at all times, there is ab­so­lutely no rea­son why you can­not en­joy safe air­gun­ning in your gar­den.

CON­SIDER YOUR NEIGH­BOURS

Un­less you are for­tu­nate enough to live on an isolated spot in the mid­dle of nowhere, you will need to con­sider your neigh­bours or any un­ex­pected vis­i­tors. Whether your gar­den is in a re­mote and well- en­closed lo­ca­tion or in the mid­dle of a town and sep­a­rated from neigh­bours by lit­tle more than flimsy fenc­ing pan­els, you will be break­ing the law if a sin­gle pel­let strays be­yond your boundary. It is there­fore es­sen­tial that ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures are taken to elim­i­nate any risk of this hap­pen­ing. It is also im­por­tant to make sure that your in­for­mal tar­get shoot­ing, or ‘plinking’ ses­sions do not cause a noise nui­sance. For­tu­nately, there are plenty of ways to re­duce the dis­tur­bance caused by your shoot­ing ac­tiv­i­ties — take the right steps, and it should cer­tainly be less dis­rup­tive than the noise of some­one mow­ing their lawn.

The best way to min­imise con­flict with neigh­bours is to tell them what you are do­ing be­fore you start shoot­ing. Of­fer to show them the set-up. You could even ask them if they would like to have a go. I have done this my­self and have ended up spend­ing the rest of the af­ter­noon top­pling tar­gets with neigh­bour and son. Ad­mit­tedly, not ev­ery­one is go­ing to be that rea­son­able, and you will have to adapt your ap­proach ac­cord­ingly.

THINK SAFETY

En­sure that shots are taken in the safest pos­si­ble di­rec­tion and avoid set­ting up any­where that fea­tures an un­locked down­range ac­cess point. Be­fore you start

shoot­ing, make sure that ev­ery­one in your home knows the gar­den is a no- go area un­til you have fin­ished. Chil­dren and pets need to be kept safely out of the way. Most air­gun shoot­ers use tele­scopic sights, which can have a blink­er­ing ef­fect at what is po­ten­tially the most dan­ger­ous time, so it is vi­tal to elim­i­nate all risk of peo­ple or pets stray­ing in front of the gun.

Air­gun shoot­ers are spoilt for choice when it comes to in­ter­est­ing and chal­leng­ing tar­gets. For ze­ro­ing and work­ing out the down­range per­for­mance of pel­lets, card and pa­per tar­gets are best be­cause they give a clear in­di­ca­tion of where pel­lets are strik­ing and how they are group­ing. If you can get away with mak­ing a bit of noise, knock- down tar­gets are great fun be­cause a di­rect hit causes the tar­get to top­ple over, of­ten with a grat­i­fy­ing clang. Most knock­down tar­gets re­set by means of a long cord, although you can also get mod­els that au­to­mat­i­cally pop back up when you land the next shot on their re­set disc. Spin­ning tar­gets are an­other op­tion; hit the kill area to send them whirring around be­fore they are au­to­mat­i­cally re­set by grav­ity.

PEL­LET STOP

Stop­ping pel­lets from trav­el­ling be­yond the in­tended tar­get is vi­tal when it comes to safe and le­gal shoot­ing in the gar­den. Wood is one of the worst ma­te­ri­als you can use as a back­stop. Even if the piece of tim­ber you are us­ing is tough enough to re­main in­tact af­ter a bar­rage of pel­lets, its fi­brous na­ture means it can cause dan­ger­ous and un­pre­dictable ric­o­chets, of­ten send­ing pel­lets back in the di­rec­tion of the shooter.

The best back­stop to halt air­gun pel­lets with­out risk of ric­o­chet is a wall of brick, stone or con­crete. On meet­ing with solid re­sis­tance, lead pel­lets are left with scant en­ergy to bounce even a foot or two. This will keep spent pel­lets within the con­fines of your boundary, and keep you on the right side of the law.

If you do not have a wall in the right place, large pav­ing slabs can be used to cre­ate the same ef­fect. Slabs can be cheaply ac­quired from a DIY store or gar­den cen­tre and are rel­a­tively easy to move if you want to change the range to your tar­get.

Reg­u­lar prac­tice will make you a bet­ter shot

Lock your pets in­doors, no mat­ter how sad they look

Any ac­cess to your gar­den should be locked be­fore you be­gin

This slab stops any pel­let that misses the tar­get

Metal pel­let catch­ers work well but are noisy

Thick wads of pa­per can stop a pel­let silently

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