Unless specifically noted otherwise all of the photos of ‘firearms’ on this page represent legally owned low powered air rifles or air pistols.

Defining an Airgun

In contrast to “firearms” airguns fire small pellets, and sometimes BB’s (small round balls) by the means of compressed air, rather than bullets which are propelled by the combustion of a propellant. Airguns are divided by UK law into two categories based on their power in ft-lb’s. Air rifles bellow 12 ft-lb’s and air pistols bellow 6 ft-lb’s are considered low power and don’t require a licence, however the Scottish Government have begun a consultation on whether to force licencing on all air rifles, see the No to Airgun Licencing in Scotland campaign for more details. Airguns with a greater power rating than the above are classed as high power and require a Firearms Certificate (FAC).

Comparison of Airgun Pellets and BB's

Comparison of Airgun Pellets and BB’s

Airgun Power Sources

The power for airguns to propel their projectiles can come from various sources including: Spring Piston, Gas Piston and Pneumatic and C02.

Break barrel spring piston air rifle

A break barrel example of a spring piston air rifle

Spring Piston ariguns are typically on the cheaper end of the price spectrum, but they offer no recoil reduction. Gas Piston airguns use a gas ram to compress the air chamber instead of a mechanical spring, and offer some reduction in recoil.

Pneumatic airguns either come with a built in pump mechanism to create air pressure or are classed as pre-charged (PCP) which utilizes are reservoir of compressed air. The compressed air reservoir of a PCP can be charged either by a gas bottle, like those used in diving or by a specialized 3-stage pump. PCP airguns have the benefit of eliminating recoil which will greatly improve accuracy. CO2 airguns utilize a detachable cylinder of compressed air.

Gas Powered Air Pistol

Gas Powered Air Pistol

Further Reading

BASC have produced a number of guidance notes and fact sheets related to airguns, which cover the associated laws and good practice in depth, both of which we recommend you become familiar with if you wish to own or take up an activity involving airguns.

Please also remember to check our blog for more content related to Airguns.


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