Steven Fletcher tells us how to shoot safely – and qui­etly – at home

Reader, Steven Fletcher, has some sound ad­vice for us all

Air Gunner - - Contents -

I’ve been shoot­ing air­guns for over 50 years, now, and since re­tir­ing from the hunt­ing field, most of my shoot­ing is done in my back gar­den. Dur­ing the past few years I’ve de­vel­oped con­cerns that we, as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of this great sport of ours, could do bet­ter on a pub­lic re­la­tions front; es­pe­cially those of us who shoot in our gar­dens, or on prop­erty where non- shoot­ers can be af­fected by what we do. It’s not just abid­ing by the law, ei­ther.

LE­GAL AND MORAL RE­SPON­SI­BIL­I­TIES

For in­stance, it’s my le­gal right to shoot inan­i­mate tar­gets in my gar­den, pro­vided my pel­lets all re­main within my prop­erty and I don’t cause ‘alarm and distress’ to any­one us­ing a pub­lic foot­path, road or ac­cess area, the cen­tre of which is within 50 feet of where I shoot. That’s all sim­ple enough, but what the purely le­gal re­quire­ments don’t cover, is con­sid­er­a­tion for my neigh­bours.

There are no pub­lic ac­cess ar­eas of any kind near my gar­den, so I can if I wish, hang a metal pel­let catcher on my gar­den fence and shoot away to my heart’s con­tent. Imag­ine what that would sound like to my next- door neigh­bours, though, es­pe­cially if they were in their gar­den at the time.

QUIET AND CON­SID­ER­ATE

That’s why I’ve used con­crete slabs to build a sand-filled ‘bunker’ as a per­ma­nent, low- noise pel­let- catcher, and I al­ways do my best to let my neigh­bours know I’m shoot­ing. On the rare oc­ca­sions I go hunt­ing, I of­fer my neigh­bours a rab­bit or pi­geon. All of my neigh­bours and I are keen on feed­ing the wild birds and this can re­sult in the oc­ca­sional rat prob­lem, so ev­ery­one thor­oughly ap­proves of my shoot­ing any rats I see, and that’s an­other way to get peo­ple ‘on side’.

BE BACK­STOP AWARE

I re­cently at­tended a gath­er­ing at a friend’s house and his son is a keen air­gun­ner. The lad showed me his ‘shoot­ing range’ and I was dis­mayed to see he was re­ly­ing on a thick growth of wis­te­ria grow­ing above his fence to act as a sec­ondary back­stop. The lad’s air­guns were low- power plink­ers, but even so, I knew that con­tin­ual pep­per­ing with pel­lets would even­tu­ally see some of those pel­lets go­ing be­yond the bound­ary fence – and break­ing the law. Some prac­ti­cal ad­vice soon averted any prob­lems and my friend’s son has been given per­mis­sion to build a bunker like mine.

FI­NAL AD­VICE

Be­ing a good neigh­bour and a pos­i­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tive of our sport isn’t about ‘giv­ing in to the an­tis’ or ‘be­ing ashamed of what we do’. It’s about hav­ing con­sid­er­a­tion for those who might not un­der­stand our pre­cious hobby, and whose only knowl­edge of guns and those who use them comes from a sen­sa­tion­al­ist tabloid me­dia. I be­lieve it’s our job to re­dress the prej­u­dice im­planted by the me­dia and to show us, and our sport, as they re­ally are, which is le­gal, safe, con­sid­er­ate and per­fectly ac­cept­able.

RIGHT: Dou­ble wrong! That fence panel is way too flimsy for a back­stop, and can you imag­ine how ir­ri­tat­ing the clang, clang, clang of pel­lets hit­ting that metal tar­get would be?

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