Airguns, air rifles and air pistols are not required to be held on a Firearm Certificate unless they are of a type declared especially dangerous by the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules, 1969.

It is possible to measure the velocity of pellet discharges, to a satisfactory degree of accuracy, by use of an electronic chronograph. These measurements allow the calculation of the kinetic energy of the pellet, at the muzzle.

The rules state that any air weapon is especially dangerous, which is capable of discharging a missile with kinetic energy in excess of:

  • 6ft.lbs (air pistol)
  • or 12ft.lbs (an air weapon other than an air pistol)

Air weapons, exceeding these prescribed limits can only be lawfully held on a Firearm Certificate and are subject to all the rules and regulations pertaining to all Section 1 firearms, although the 'ammunition' (pellets) are not.

An air pistol over 6ft.lbs is a Section 5 prohibited weapon and therefore cannot be placed on a firearms certificate.

Conventional air weapons not required to be held on firearms certificate are still subject to other legislation, particularly age restrictions.

Under 14 years of age

It is an offence to give an air weapon, or ammunition for an air weapon, to a person under 14 years of age. It is not an offence for that young person to receive it.

It is an offence for a person under 14 years of age to be in possession of an air weapon, or ammunition for it, except:

  • as a member of an approved shooting club for target shooting
  • whilst at a shooting gallery where only air weapons or miniature rifles not exceeding .23 calibre are used
  • whilst shooting under the supervision of a person aged 21 years or over, on private premises, including land, provided the missile is not fired beyond those premises

This effectively means that a person under 14 years of age must be supervised by someone over the age of 21 years at all times, even within their own home and garden.

If a pellet is fired beyond their own property boundaries, the child and adult both commit offences.

Under 18 years of age

It is an offence for a person under 18 years of age to have an air weapon with them in a public place, except:

  • as a member of an approved club for target shooting
  • whilst at a shooting gallery where only air weapons or miniature rifles not exceeding .23 calibre are used

It is an offence for a person under 18 years of age to be in possession of an air pistol in any public place except as described above. A public place means any highway or place or premises to which, at the material time, the public may have, or are permitted to have, access, whether on payment or otherwise. It is also an offence to discharge a firearm, including an airgun, within 50 feet of the centre of a highway. This includes roads, bridle-paths or public footpaths. The offence is complete if a member of the public is injured, endangered or even just alarmed by the incident.

An airgun is deemed as loaded if there is a pellet, dart or anything else in the gun or magazine whether cocked or not.

You may not have an airgun in a public place without proper reason.

Air weapons licensing in Scotland

You generally need a visitor permit to use, possess, purchase or acquire air weapons while in Scotland. This includes buying an air weapon, someone giving one to you, or simply having an air weapon in your possession. If you already hold a valid firearm and/or shotgun licence issued in England or Wales, and you are not planning on buying a gun while in Scotland, you may not need a permit until your existing certificate expires or is renewed.

Applications for visitor permits (or full air weapon certificates) should be made to Police Scotland who will decide your application and deal with any questions you have about the process. You can download the appropriate application form from www.mygov.scot or www.scotland.police.uk.

When complete, it should be sent to Police Scotland at:

Air Weapons Team
Police Scotland
Clyde Gateway
2 French Street
Dalmarnock
Glasgow
G40 4EH