For those that haven’t been given the opportunity to learn as a child or whose family and friends don’t shoot this is an attempt at providing a comprehensive guide on how to get into the shooting world. The shooting community can appear at first glance to be quite insular and elitist. Firstly let me assure you this is not the case. The truth is shooting is a sport for every man and woman to partake and enjoy. Whether it be shooting live quarry, clays or target shooting. For the purpose of this article I will start with how to start clay shooting. Clay shooting is the place to start specifically in the shotgun world. This is because it is not acceptable for anyone to take a shot at live quarry without knowing how to do so safely and humanely.
I want to try shooting, where do I start?
If your reading this it’s likely you don’t have friends or family that already shoot, or you have friends that shoot but you want to know a little more before asking to go out with them. So where to start, the answer is google your nearest clay shooting ground. Book a lesson or taster experience and see how you get along. Once you’re happy you want to continue I would suggest getting on google again and finding an instructor close by try contacting CPSA The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association for a qualified instructor. This will be much cheaper than going to a clay ground direct you can look to pay about £30 an hour. An instructor will be able to provide the gun and and ammo (at additional cost.)
Once your a few lessons in you will likely be wanting to get your own shotgun, your instructor will be able to help you out with fitment, a gun fitting correctly is most important. Your instructor will also be able to help you choose between 12/20 bore or other calibers and you will cover this in your lessons. Obviously you can’t just go down the gun shop and walk out with a nice shiny 12 gauge, it’s not Walmart and were not in the USA. We have a reasonably sensible system in the UK for Shotguns and Firearms and you will require a Shotgun Certificate.
How do I get a shotgun certificate?
Firstly when it comes to a shotgun certificate it is a privilege to have one and NOT a right.
I’ve heard many tall tales around procuring of shotgun certificates etc. You do not need a thousand acres and land owners permission (unless your shooting over someones land then get permission….) and the many other falsities people perpetuate down the pub. What you need to know is, if you have any criminal convictions this will likely mean you will not be approved however this is not concrete. If you have any violence related criminal convictions you will certainly not be approved but in either case call the local police forces firearms licencing team anyway and speak to them. You can call them by calling 101 and asking for the Firearms and Explosives Licencing Department.
You will need to go to your local police forces website and search for the documents relating to this and the application form. Read the documents and the supporting documents before filling it out. You will need a photo and a couple of referees and some patience (it may take 3-4 months.) Expect a phone call to arrange an appointment likely to be at your home when an FEO (Firearms Enquiry Officer.) They will come round and assess you so dress smart casual, clean the house and ensure you have decent biscuits in the biscuit barrel. The FEO wants to see you are trustworthy, he/she may ask why you want a shotgun – Remember it is NOT for protection it is a tool or piece of sports equipment. The FEO and team may check your medical records. When they ask always tell the truth about everything. If you have suffered with Depression in the past tell them, this will most likely not effect your application as it’s in the past. If you are currently suffering with depression this does not exclude you, they will check with the doctor and if the doctor says, yes he/she is managing their condition and they are not a danger to themselves or anyone else.
You may have been told some things about shotgun security but here’s the party line;-
You are responsible for the security of any shotgun(s) in your possession at all times. When not in use, shotguns must be stored securely, in order to prevent – so far as is reasonably practicable – access by unauthorised persons. When in use, reasonable precautions must be taken for their safe custody.
What does this mean? – Likely before you are given a shotgun certificate the FEO may want to see the security, that is his/her personal preference. I was granted both Shotgun and Firearms Certificates without anyone ever having had a look at my security. The point made in the above paragraph is why. Security is YOUR responsibility. It is your responsibility to read and understand the guidelines. Until now I have used the word security, that is because there are numerous types. The 3 types of security are Clamps, Cabinets and Gun rooms. At this level considering you are reading this let’s assume you are not going to have a gun room. That leaves clamps and cabinets. Forget clamps, this is something that allows you to secure a gun to the wall or floor. The gun is visible and the barrel and stock are exposed. I don’t believe for a second that they would really stay on the wall if someone tried hard enough. So go for a cabinet, there are many available in many sizes. You will see things like police approved stamped on things, don’t worry about “police approved” it’s just a sales tactic. Remember you only have to do what is reasonably practicable to secure them. If in doubt ask the FEO. Don’t go out and buy a cabinet if you aren’t sure you will be approved. The FEO can visit without security in place he/she will advise you if you will be approved and then you can get a cabinet. They may choose to come back and check the cabinet at a later date. They may also point out where you can place the cabinet but here’s a little info on placement.
Where can I stick my cabinet? The answer is almost anywhere. It is better against a brick wall or concrete floor. This is not the be all and end all you can put a gun cabinet on a stud wall but you must take extra precautions for example within the stud work placing a metal beam on the other side of the wall for the cabinet to bolt on to. In such cases best practice would be to call 101 and ask to speak to the firearms licencing team and see what they say. Other points to note is it shouldn’t be in view of casual visitors and it must be in the house or adjoining garage (not a separate garage or shed) *. So I have secured my shotgun as is reasonably practicable when I am at home and it is not in use, what about when I am out of the house? travelling with a shotgun it must be kept in a slip when in a public place unless in use (such as the clay ground.) You can buy lock boxes for cars etc. or you can break the shotgun down and keep a component with you if you must leave the vehicle. I have secured my shotgun what about the shotgun ammo?
Where can I store my shotgun ammo?
You do not need to securely store shotgun cartridges however it is best practice to do so, but do not store shotgun cartridges with your shotgun *. Essentially keep them out of reach from inquisitive children in a cool dry place. You can buy Yale safes cheaply enough (£40 ish) that will store about 750 cartridges. It’s a sure fire way to show to the FEO that you are trustworthy and sensible. Now you know where to store ammo but what ammo should I buy?
What Shotgun cartridges should I buy?
The answer is whatever you want, people will always be happy to tell you what they use and why. Sticking to clay shooting and assuming you are using a 12 bore anything from 21 grams – 28 grams will do the job. This is something an instructor will be able to go through or you can research it yourself. For clay grounds they usually have an upper limit of 28 gram cartridges. This is to do with their insurance and exclusion zones usually set to 300m. Shotguns are a short range tool effective up to around 40 yards dependent on ammo unless you are world champion George Digweed then that could be a lot further. A shotgun cartridge will continue much longer than the 40 yards (ish) and up to around 300 yards dependent on the amount of gun powder and shot size. If you progress to shooting outside the shooting ground on land you have permission remember it is your responsibility to know where your shot will land.
Insurance is an absolute must! I cannot stress enough the importance of insurance in the shooting community, however unlikely the event of an accident it is better to have it.
There are many products out there. I use BASC the British Association of Shooting and Conservation. BASC will cover you for all forms of shooting not exclusively clay shooting. CPSA the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association is another good one. These are more than just insurance products and they send you helpful and interesting magazines and give you discounts on shooting related things. These bodies will also help if you have any questions you can’t find a concrete answer too.
This should, I hope, be all the information required for someone to get into shooting (starting on clays)
*Remember security is YOUR responsibility, double check everything I write for yourself. Things can change, check home office and individual force guidelines OR just call the firearms licencing team they will tell you everything you need to know.
** Further useful reading on shooting can be found all accross the internet;-