Do I need a Licence for a PCP air rifle?

8 February 2024  |  Air Arms

Do I need a Licence for a PCP air rifle?

If you've clicked on this article, it's because you've stumbled upon the wonderful world of PCP air rifles and want to learn a bit more about them. Whether you're wanting a PCP because it's the perfect air rifle for you or because it's the best air rifle for what your needs are, there is one important question you'll needy to consider first - Do I need a licence for a PCP air rifle? Well, you're in luck! In this blog, we're going to take an in-depth look into PCP air rifles and the law and find out if you need a licence for one.

Introduction to PCP Air Rifles

Air rifles have been used for hunting, target shooting, and other recreational purposes for centuries. However, with technological advances, air rifles have come a long way from their traditional spring air rifles or CO2 air powered counterparts. One of the most popular modern air rifles is the Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP) air rifle. In this blog, we will explore what exactly a PCP air rifle is and why it has gained such popularity.

What is a PCP Air Rifle?

Before we dive into the legality of owning PCP air rifles, let's first understand what it is and how it differs from other types of air rifles. So, what is a PCP rifle? PCP stands for Pre-Charged Pneumatic and is a type of air rifle that uses compressed air as its power source. Unlike traditional spring-piston or CO2 powered air rifles, PCP air rifles utilise a high-pressure air reservoir that is charged before use. This compressed air is released with each shot, propelling the pellet or bullet out of the barrel at high speeds.

How Do PCP Air Rifles Work?

A PCP air gun combines two main components – the high-pressure air reservoir and the firing mechanism. The high-pressure air reservoir is typically located under the barrel or in the rifle's stock and can be filled using a hand pump, scuba tank, or portable compressor. It is ready to be used once the reservoir is filled to its recommended pressure (usually around 2000-3000 psi).

When the trigger is pulled, a small amount of air from the reservoir is released into a chamber behind the pellet or bullet, pushing it out of the barrel at high speeds. This process is repeated for each shot, with the reservoir needing to be refilled once it runs out of compressed air.

Licences and PCP air rifles

The answer to this question largely depends on where you live and how you intend to use the PCP air gun. In countries where air rifles are legal, there are usually no specific licences required for owning one. However, if you plan to use PCP air rifles for hunting or pest control, you may need a hunting licence or permit.

In the UK, restrictions apply to both owning and using a PCP air rifle.

Owning a PCP air rifle

In the UK, to own a PCP air rifle, the main restriction that applies is age. To purchase and own your own air rifle in the UK, you must be at least 18. This does not mean anyone under 18 cannot use them - just that you cannot own one. 

14 and Over

If you're under 18, you cannot own an air rifle and ammunition - but you may borrow an air gun (along with ammo).

You can also use the borrowed air gun without supervision - provided it is on a private premises where you can shoot.

Under 14

To use an air rifle under supervision on private premises, you must have permission from the occupier, usually the owner or tenant. It is important to note that the person supervising you must be at least 21.

When using a PCP air gun

However, restrictions on using PCP's not only depend on age - but on power. In the UK, there are only restrictions regarding licensing for the usage of PCP air guns when muzzle power comes into play. When it comes to the power muzzle of an air gun, it can vary depending on the specific model and design. 

Air guns are available in different power levels, with some being more powerful than others. The power muzzle of an air gun is typically measured in terms of velocity or energy.

Velocity is often expressed in feet per second (fps) and refers to the speed at which the pellet or projectile travels when fired from the air gun. The higher the velocity, the faster the pellet will travel and the more kinetic energy it will carry.

On the other hand, energy is measured in foot-pounds (ft/lbs) and represents the force the pellet delivers upon impact. It takes into account both the weight of the pellet and its velocity. Higher energy levels indicate more powerful air guns capable of delivering greater force.

It's important to note that the power muzzle of an air gun can be influenced by factors such as the type of propulsion system used (spring, gas piston, PCP), calibre (such as .177 or .22), and the specific model or brand. This amount changes when looking at an air pistol so always familiarise yourself with the gun you're wanting to use.

What does this mean for licensing? Do you need a licence to use a PCP rifle?

Short answer: yes. Some PCP air rifles will need a licence.

The Fire Arms Certificate (FAC) is a specific type of certificate that allows individuals in the UK to possess firearms and other high-powered airguns. It involves a thorough application process, background checks, and adherence to specific regulations. The purpose of the FAC is to ensure responsible ownership and use of more powerful air rifles.

Air rifles that requires a Firearms Certificate (FAC) typically exceeds a certain power threshold. 

In the United Kingdom, an FAC airgun is defined as having a muzzle energy exceeding 12 ft-lb (foot-pounds). This means that owning and using such an air rifle would require a valid FAC issued by local authorities. Any air rifle that has a muzzle energy under 12ft/lb does not require a licence.

So, what does this mean?

This means that if anyone wants to use their PCP air rifle or borrow if they are not the legal owner - that has a muzzle power is over 12ft/lb, will need a firearms licence.

Who can get a firearms licence?

Unlike ownership, you do not have to be 18 years of age to apply for a FAC. In England and Wales, people from 14 years old are acceptable candidates to apply for a certificate. This allows those under 18 to borrow high-powered PCP air rifles and does not restrict them to lesser-powered machines. 

The criteria needed for a FAC:

To apply for a Firearms Certificate (FAC) in the United Kingdom, specific requirements need to be met. The FAC allows individuals to possess firearms and certain types of air rifles. Here are the general requirements for applying:

  1. Genuine Reason: You must have a valid and genuine reason for needing a firearm, such as target shooting, pest control, or sports shooting. You will need to provide evidence to support your reason, such as membership in a shooting club or permission to shoot on land.

  2. Background Checks: As part of the application process, you will undergo thorough background checks. This includes disclosure of criminal records, medical checks, and character references. The police will assess your suitability to possess firearms based on these checks.

  3. Interview: In some cases, an interview with a firearms licensing officer may be required. This is an opportunity for them to discuss your application, assess your knowledge and understanding of firearms laws, and address any concerns they may have.

Why is the FAC in place?

A Firearms Certificate (FAC) helps create safety by ensuring that individuals who possess and use more powerful air guns have undergone a thorough vetting process. The application process for a FAC typically involves background checks, interviews, and assessments of the applicant's suitability and knowledge of firearm safety.

By requiring individuals to obtain a FAC, authorities can assess whether the person seeking ownership of a high-powered air gun is responsible, mentally stable, and aware of the safety considerations associated with these weapons.

Moreover, having an FAC allows law enforcement agencies to keep track of individuals who own higher-powered air guns. This enables better regulation and monitoring of these firearms, contributing to public safety. It helps prevent unauthorised access to such weapons and allows authorities to intervene if there are concerns about the individual's behaviour or intent.

PCP Air Rifles and safety

So, now that you have a better understanding of what a PCP air rifle is, what different powers they come in and where and when you need a license - it's essential to understand the safety precautions. 

Regarding safety and PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) air rifles, some important guidelines exist. While the safety rules for traditional firearms may not directly apply to PCP air rifles, there are specific precautions to consider:

Shoot Before Storing: 

It is recommended to consistently shoot the pellet out of the PCP air gun before storing it. This helps ensure that the gun is not pressurised when not in use, reducing the risk of accidental discharge.

Follow Fill Pressure Recommendations: 

Never exceed the recommended fill pressure for your PCP air rifle. Each rifle has a specific maximum fill pressure; exceeding it can lead to safety hazards and damage to the gun.

Use Breathing Air Only: 

Only fill your PCP air rifle with breathing or compressed air from a trusted source. Using any other gas can compromise the safety and performance of the rifle.

Proper Storage: 

Store your PCP air gun in a secure location that is inaccessible to unauthorised individuals, especially children. This ensures that the rifle is safely stored and prevents accidents.

Safe Handling: 

Treat your PCP air gun with the same respect and caution as you would a conventional firearm. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction, away from people and property, and observe proper trigger discipline.

Protective Gear: 

When shooting PCP guns, it is recommended to wear protective glasses to safeguard against potential pellet fragments or ricochets.

Final thoughts

Considering all the information we've looked at regarding the requirements for a license for a PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) air rifle in the UK, you can see it depends on certain factors. 

If the air rifle is below the power limit of 12ft/lbs, it can be owned by an 18-year-old without a license or permit. These rifles can also be used by individuals under 18, provided they have permission from landowners and proper supervision when necessary.

However, if the air rifle is over the power of 12ft/lbs, then both the owner and the underaged lender require a firearms certificate. Supervision still applies when necessary.

It's advisable to consult the specific regulations and seek guidance from the local firearms licensing authority for accurate and up-to-date information, as this blog contains information currently legal in England and Wales. If you'd like advice on how to learn more about how to get a firearms licence, you can check our blog here for all the information you need to get going!

Many leading manufacturers offer many different pellet guns with different delivery service options. You can check out the pcp rifles we have for sale here at air arms and contact us with any questions. We deliver airguns at the highest quality with a range of accessories and adjustments.