Rifle shooting can seem daunting for anyone who hasn’t done it before. With so many sub-disciplines, calibres and bits of kit to choose from, not to mention the level of skill you need to build, how does anyone get started? Thankfully, with help available online and through associations such as BASC, it’s never been easier. Follow the steps below to get started, and if all else fails, seeking the guidance of an experienced stalker or rifle shot will see you well.
1. Applying for a License
Permission to possess, buy or acquire a firearm will be granted to an individual who is assessed by the licensing authority, the police, as not posing a threat to public safety and having good reason to own the firearm.
The police are the licensing authority for firearm and shotgun certificates as well as for firearms dealers. Authority rests with local police forces rather than a central licensing authority because of the local information that police will use to inform their judgement.
New application forms came into effect on 1 January 2018 and are available to download from the BASC website, www.basc.org.uk. Only one photograph is required and the medical question has changed significantly. Make sure you pay particular attention to what the question is asking you and please refer to the notes at the rear of the form before completing the forms.
In England and Wales you will not need a licence for an air rile with less than 12 ft/lb muzzle energy, but in Scotland and Northern Ireland, airguns are subject to licensing. Scotland has only had airgun licensing for around a year so make sure you are up to speed with the new laws.
2. Sort out your Security
As the holder of a firearm or shotgun certificate, you are required to comply with the security conditions on your certificate.
The security requirement relates to all firearms, sound moderators and ammunition held on a firearm certificate.
In practice, this means that when you’re not using your guns, they should be locked away from anyone who hasn’t got a certificate. This includes family members. Undoubtedly the best option is a purpose-built gun cabinet.
Your gun cabinet should be secured firmly so that it can’t easily be removed – usually by bolting it to a wall, floor or joists. It is best secured in a corner to make it difficult for a thief to attack it.
You should ensure that you keep the keys to the cabinet in a place where they can’t be found easily. Remember, you are responsible for the security of the guns, and letting people who do not have a certificate (including family members) know where the keys are is not taking reasonable precautions to ensure that they don’t have access to the guns.
Criminals are aware of the habit of ‘hiding’ keys in a drawer, so think carefully about the hiding place. It would be sensible to consider changing that hiding place from time to time. Another option is to put the keys into a small combination safe, for which only you have the combination. Another option is a gun safe with a combination lock. Equal care should be taken to prevent anyone else knowing the access codes.
If you are in a vehicle and need to stop and leave it with guns or ammunition in it for any reason, make sure nothing is visible that might indicate that there might be guns in it.
3. Join the club
Target shooting is an excellent way to start off your shooting career, and is largely conducted within clubs. These clubs will usually have guns and equipment so beginners can try the sport at minimum expense.
Air rifles and pistols are a popular and cost-effective way to enter the sport, but they should not be regarded only as an entry because they can be developed up to Olympic standard!
Small-bore rifles (of .22 calibre) are generally used at shorter range such as 25 yards but sometimes out to 100 yards, whereas larger (fullbore) rifles are shot at targets over much greater ranges, even up to 1000 yards.
Muzzle-loading pistols are either original antiques or modern replicas, which are loaded by pouring gunpowder down the muzzle or into the front of the cylinder of a five- or six-shot revolver, and are shot at targets over ranges of 20/25 yards.
Another branch of this popular sport involves muzzleloading rifles, muskets and shotguns, both flintlock and percussion (caplock), again using either genuine antique guns or modern replicas. These are shot at targets over greater ranges than the pistol. Muzzle-loading target rifles were originally shot at ranges from 100 to 1200 yards and the same competitions are available to enthusiasts today.
There are many different competitions that shooters can enter once they feel competent enough – from simple short-range club competitions right up to Olympic standard. The great thing about the sport is that you can choose your own level of competition and compete against others of similar skill. In fact you compete against yourself every time by trying to improve your last score and aim eventually move up to a higher grade.
4. Train with BASC
People who are new to the sport must accept that the onus is on them to develop the knowledge and skill to use a firearm safely, this could be through being ‘mentored’ by a more experienced shooter for a while to ‘show you the ropes’ or, if this is not possible, through a training course.
There are many courses available from BASC for the rifle shooter, such as:
• Firearms Awareness Training (Rifle)
The aim of the course is to provide the knowledge and experience required for basic rifle shooting. It is ideal for beginners or novices to improve their shooting skills.
This is a one-day course that will provide the less experienced rifle shot with a sturdy foundation of knowledge. Basic rifle safety, firearms law and different rifle types and calibres will be dealt with in a classroom before candidates move on to the range for the practical aspects, dealing with shooting positions and rifle technique. The course will offer you time on the range using both .22 rimfire and centrefire rifles.
You do not need to have a firearms certificate or your own rifle. Rifles and ammunition will be provided. If you have your own rifle, you may bring it to use it on the course provided you also bring your current FAC and suitable ammunition.
• Pre DSC Level 1
The aim of this course is to equip the candidate with the knowledge, understanding, skills and awareness required to undertake basic rifle shooting as required for the Deer Stalking Certificate 1 (DSC1) Shooting Assessment. It is an ideal course aimed at the beginner or novice shot to improve shooting ability before undertaking the DSC1.
There is no requirement for you to have a firearms certificate or your own rifle. Safety issues will be dealt with in a classroom before moving on to the range for the practical aspects which will deal with shooting positions and rifle technique. The course will offer the candidate plenty of time on the range using various centre-fire rifles and to practise the shooting test positions. There will also be some time for discussion and explanations of other areas of the DSC1 course and assessments.
Rifles are available and ammunition will be provided. You may of course bring your own rifle; if you do please bring with you your current FAC.
5. Get Qualified
The BASC DSC1 courses are designed for the sportsman or woman who has recently taken up stalking and is seeking further advice and guidance. The courses provide insight into stalking techniques and deer management. The successful delegate will be awarded the Deer Management Qualifications Deer Stalking Certificate One and Large Game element of Wild Game Meat Hygiene requirements to meet the Food Hygiene regulations 2004.
If bringing your own rifle, it must be a deer-legal calibre. Ammunition should be factory produced (no home loaded ammunition), a .22 centrefire ammunition with bullet weight 50 grains or more and 1,000 ft/lb muzzle energy. Rifles will be provided for those who do not own one.
Course Length: four days. Accommodation or lunch each day is not included in the cost of the courses. The course fee includes DSC1 registration with the awarding body. The training manuals will be sent on receipt of your course fee and booking form. BASC reserves the right to remove a candidate or halt the course due to unsafe or inappropriate behaviour or situations.
Please note that no training takes place on the course for the shooting assessment and therefore it is not suitable for beginners. If training is required for the shooting assessment you might like to consider a Pre-DSC1 course.
The Intermediate Deer Course (IDC) is a two-day course designed as a step between DSC1 and DSC2. The aim of the course is to prepare students for undertaking their DSC2, and to help DSC1 holders gain further practical experience in the field.
The course is designed to show the safe and correct way of shooting deer, retrieving, gralloching, inspecting and lardering the carcass. It allows everyone to be supervised on their first cull and provides practical experience in preparing the carcass for human consumption.
On completion of this course you will be issued with the BASC Intermediate Deer Course certificate.
The BASC Intermediate Deer Course comprises:
• Stalking the deer or shooting from a high seat
• Taking the shot and reaction to shot
• Approaching the deer and follow up
• Extracting and transporting the carcass
• Gralloching and inspection of the carcass
6. At the end of the day…
When you come in from shooting, it’s best to clean your guns immediately then put them into their cabinet and lock them away as soon as possible. Leaving guns out “to dry” could compromise security. Modern lubricants and water-dispersants have made drying simple and quick.
When you return from a shoot make sure you haven’t dropped any ammunition in your car, or left any in the glove compartment or door pockets. Check your own pockets to ensure that you haven’t left any there as well, and put it all in your separate ammunition storage.
7. Join an association
If target shooting is your ideal pastime, then you can join organisations like the British Field Target Association or Hunter Field Target Association for air rifles, the National Small Bore Rifle Association for rimfire rifles and the National Rifle Association for full bore shooters. These organisations run local and national competitions, and offer help and advice on target shooting.
If you are a live quarry shooter then organisations like BASC will be a better fit as they offer insurance cover within their membership, discounts on courses and some events, and a range of other offers to add value to the membership package.
Above all, the organisations are here to help protect the future of the sport. The more support the organisations get the more secure the future of shooting will be.