Vermin and Deer
Apart from target shooting, some Section 1 firearms, mainly rifles, can be authorised for the shooting of quarry on farmland and other suitable areas, where the certificate holder has permission to shoot and it is safe to do so. Quarry is a general term for live animals shot over land, and includes game and pest species.
In such circumstances a condition will appear on the firearms certificate relating to the authorisation. In the case of a grant for the first time, a limited condition will normally be allowed. That is to say that the actual address or location of the land or area in question will appear on the certificate, plus "any other land deemed suitable by the Chief Officer of Police". Needless to say, this means that those weapons specified for vermin control can only be used for that purpose on such land.
A less restrictive condition, in line with Home Office guidance, is not generally considered until the first renewal of a firearm certificate, or after a period has elapsed, and the holder has proved himself to be a safe and competent shooter. Once this condition is obtained, the shooter must still obtain permission of the land owner, agent or other person holding the shooting rights. Responsible shooters will, of course, satisfy themselves before shooting, that land is suitable for the firearms in question; the land owner's/occupier's and police land registers may be of some assistance in this regard.
More information on game shooting can be obtained from:
This subject generally refers to the control of certain pests, on farmland and other suitable areas, and includes rats, rabbits, grey squirrels and foxes.
.22 rim-fire: small pests such as rats, rabbits and grey squirrels.
.22 Hornet, .220, .222, .22/250, .223: pest species including foxes.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Shooters should acquaint themselves with The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) and comply accordingly. Particular note should be made of the restriction imposed by Section 5, which makes it an offence to use an automatic or semi-automatic weapon which has a magazine capacity of more than two rounds, to kill any wild bird. The definition also encompasses Section 1 (Firearms Act 1968 as amended) pump-action and semiautomatic shotguns, and any rifles whether bolt-action, pump-action or semiautomatic, with such magazines, including air weapons. However, a person will not be guilty of this offence if they have obtained a specific licence for themselves from the (DEFRA) - 0117 372 8903 (general enquiries). Any person committing this offence may also commit an offence of failing to comply with the conditions of his/her firearm certificate if he/she is only authorised for vermin control.
Any landowner giving permission to anyone who does not hold the appropriate DEFRA licence to use a Section 1 shotgun or any rifle with a magazine capacity of more than two rounds for such activities, will also commit an offence under Section 5.
The shooter does not need to have even taken a shot. If he/she is in possession of such a weapon with the intention of shooting wild birds, he/she commits an offence under Section 18 WCA, which is treated as if the offence had actually been committed.
On conviction, a court can order the forfeiture of anything used to commit the offence, including firearms or even vehicles (Section 21 WCA).
Whilst there is little dispute that birds such as wild geese and Canada geese are destructive and a nuisance to farmers, etc., they are not legally classified as vermin by either the RSPB or DEFRA. In fact all birds are protected.
Notwithstanding this, the Secretary of State for the Environment issues an official decree every two years which amounts to an exemption from the usual prohibitions placed on the killing of specific species of wild birds with Section 1 shotguns. The following thirteen species are at the moment included in this exemption:
On 10th February 2005, under Section 16 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, DEFRA issued an amendment to their general licence (WLF18) list. As from 28th February 2005, (commencement of new licence year), House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus) and Starling (Sternus Vulgaris), are removed and Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis) added.
There are many species of animals which are protected - far too many to list here. They are all included in The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is every shooter's responsibility to ensure that they do not kill or harm such species.
More information on this subject can be obtained from the British Association of Shooting and Conservation.
Deer stalking takes place in many parts of England, Wales and Scotland, however it should be noted that Scottish law is different in certain respects of this activity.
In England and Wales rifles must be at least .240 inches in calibre. The bullet must be expanding/hollow nosed with a muzzle energy of at least 1,700 ft/lbs.
In Scotland, for Roe deer rifles must be at least .222 inches
in calibre. The bullet must be expanding/hollow nosed with a muzzle energy of at
least 1,000 ft/lbs and a muzzle velocity of at least 2,450 ft/sec.
For more information contact the British Deer Society.
The Firearms Act 1968 (as amended) prohibits the possession of expanding ammunition.
However, Section 5A(4) allows a condition to be added to a firearm certificate for possession of expanding ammunition for:
Schedule 2 of The Deer Act 1991 prohibits the use of any ammunition, other than soft-nosed or hollow-point, for the killing of deer.
It will therefore be seen that if you use a weapon for deer stalking, you will require an authority on your firearm certificate to acquire and possess expanding ammunition.
Similarly, expanding ammunition should be used for the killing of large vermin, such as fox, in order to ensure a quick kill and prevent unnecessary suffering.
Section 57(1) Firearms Act 1968 defines a "firearm".
It should be noted that this definition includes "any accessory to any such weapon, designed or adapted to diminish the noise or flash caused by firing the weapon".
This "accessory" is known as a moderator or, more commonly, a silencer. So it will be seen that to possess a moderator you will need to have the authority on your firearm certificate, the same as you would for any firearm.
As with any other requirement for a firearm you will need to satisfy good reason.
The most common reason for requiring a moderator is, in the destruction of vermin, to prevent additional quarry from being frightened off when the first round is fired.
Every application for a moderator, as with any firearm, will be treated on its own merit, but if you feel you need one, then it should be included on your application form, in addition to any weapons requested.
You cannot legally possess a moderator unless you have the authority on your firearm certificate.
Some rifles have built-in moderators and if you feel you need one of these then your application should read along the lines of:
It is an arguable point that moderators are not effective with full bore rifles which project a missile above the speed of sound. Although diminishing the sound of the discharge, the missile then breaks the sound barrier with a sonic crack thus defeating the object of the moderator.
Any ammunition fired supersonically will create a similar problem.
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