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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.
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.
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