Do you need a licence for a .22 air rifle?

8 March 2024  |  Air Arms

Do you need a licence for a .22 air rifle?

Do I need a licence for a .22 air rifle?

If you've clicked on this blog, you've likely stumbled into the wonderful world of air rifles and want to know its legality. Owning an air rifle can be a great way to enjoy shooting sports or engage in pest control activities.

However, it's essential to understand the legal requirements surrounding the ownership of air rifles and whether or not you need a licence to use one. In this blog post, we will explore what a .22 air rifle is, how it works and whether or not you need a licence to own it.

The difference between air rifles and firearms

Air rifles and firearms are two distinct types of weapons, each with its characteristics and legal implications. Understanding their differences is essential for compliance with the laws and regulations surrounding their possession and use.

Differentiating between air rifles and firearms:


Firearms, on the other hand, are devices that use an explosive charge to propel a projectile. They include handguns, rifles, shotguns, and more. Firearms can discharge bullets, shots, or other projectiles at high velocities, depending on the type of ammunition used. They are regulated more strictly due to their potential for causing severe injury or death, and so require a firearms licence.

Air rifles:

Air rifles, also known as pellet guns or air guns, are designed to propel projectiles using compressed air. They come in various configurations, including spring-piston, gas-piston, and pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) systems. The projectiles used in air rifles are typically small lead pellets or BBs.

The law with air rifles

Legal Limit Air Rifles:

You do not need a licence to own a legally limited air rifle in England and Wales. A legal limit air rifle is defined as an air rifle producing a muzzle energy below a certain threshold. The specific limit may vary, but generally, it should be below 12 (foot-pounds). You can purchase, possess, and use legal limit air rifles without a licence, provided you are 18 years of age.

Air Rifles Exceeding Legal Limit:

If you wish to own an air rifle that exceeds the legal limit of 12, a Firearms Certificate (FAC) is required in the UK. The police issue an FAC, and the application must be made through the firearms licensing unit of your local police force. The FAC allows you to possess and use more powerful air rifles legally.

Licensing in Scotland and Northern Ireland:

Scotland and Northern Ireland have their licensing laws for air rifles, which differ from those in England and Wales. It is essential to check the specific regulations and requirements in these regions if you reside there.

So, what is a .22 air rifle?

The '.22' in a .22 air rifle refers to the calibre of the pellets. A .22 air rifle resembles a traditional firearm, but it operates on the principle of pneumatics rather than using gunpowder. 

The ".22" refers to the diameter of the pellets used in the rifle, which is approximately 5.5mm. These rifles are typically used for target shooting, plinking, small game hunting, and pest control. They can come in various designs, including break barrel rifles, PCP air rifles, CO2-powered or spring air rifles, as well as different powers - those with a muzzle velocity under 1200 feet/ lbs or those with a muzzle velocity over 1200 feet/ lbs.

So, what does this mean in terms of licensing?

In short, a firearms licence is not always necessary for a .22 air rifle. The only time a person will need to obtain this certificate is when the muzzle velocity of the .22 air rifle is over 1200 feet/ lbs. Let's take a closer look at what is required in order to apply for a firearms certificate.

Firearms certificate and what you need to know

Laws and regulations governing firearms vary significantly between countries, jurisdictions, and even states or provinces within a country. It's important to consult the specific laws applicable to your location for accurate information. However, here are some common aspects of firearms laws:

Age restrictions: the minimum age requirement to obtain an air rifle licence is 14. However, it is illegal to sell, use, hire, or gift an air weapon to a person under the age of 18. While some provisions allow individuals under 18 to use an air rifle under supervision, purchasing your own air rifle requires you to be recognized as a legal adult under the law.

Prohibited persons: Individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes, such as violent offences, domestic violence, drug-related offences, or felony-level offences, may be legally barred from owning firearms. These restrictions aim to reduce the risk of firearm misuse by individuals with a history of violence or criminal behaviour.

Due Process: It is important to note that individuals with prior convictions or mental health histories have the opportunity to appeal or have their eligibility for firearm ownership reviewed. The exact procedures for appealing or regaining firearms rights vary by jurisdiction, but they generally involve a legal process that allows individuals to demonstrate their rehabilitation or improvement in mental health.

Mental Illness History: Individuals with a history of mental illness may also face limitations or restrictions on firearm ownership. The specific criteria and processes for determining these restrictions can vary between jurisdictions. In general, the focus is on individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility, have been deemed mentally incompetent by a court, or pose a significant risk to themselves or others due to their mental health condition.

Background Checks: To enforce these restrictions, background checks are typically conducted while purchasing a firearm. These checks involve reviewing an individual's criminal record and, in some cases, their mental health history. These checks aim to identify any disqualifying factors that would prevent an individual from legally acquiring a firearm.

Public Safety Considerations: The restrictions on firearm ownership for individuals with criminal convictions or a history of mental illness serve to balance individual rights with public safety concerns. By preventing individuals with a higher risk of misusing firearms from possessing them, these regulations aim to mitigate potential harm to society.

Transportation and storage: Laws may dictate how firearms should be transported and stored safely to prevent unauthorised access or theft. This can include requirements for using locked containers or gun safes.

Why is a .22 air rifle a good choice?

Among air rifle enthusiasts, the .22 calibre air rifle holds a special place. It is popular due to its versatility and effectiveness in various shooting disciplines. The .22 calibre pellets are larger and heavier compared to their .177 counterparts, resulting in higher energy transfer and better knockdown power. This makes the .22 calibre air rifle well-suited for small game hunting, pest control, and target shooting at longer distances. Additionally, the availability of a wide range of pellet types and designs specifically designed for .22 calibre rifles further contributes to its popularity among enthusiasts.

Small Game Hunting:

Due to its higher energy and knockdown power than smaller calibres like .177, a .22 air rifle is suitable for hunting small game such as rabbits, squirrels, or pigeons. Always ensure compliance with local hunting laws and regulations.

Pest Control:

If you have pests on your property, a .22 air rifle can be an effective tool for pest control. It offers a quieter alternative to firearms while providing enough power to dispatch pests like rats, mice, or nuisance birds.


Plinking refers to casual shooting at targets like tin cans or paper targets for recreational purposes. The accuracy and versatility of a .22 air rifle make it a popular choice for plinking, providing hours of fun and entertainment.

Training and Skill Development:

For those interested in honing their shooting skills, a .22 air rifle can be a valuable training tool. It allows shooters to practise fundamentals such as accuracy, breath control, and trigger control without the noise and recoil associated with firearms.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, the question of whether you need a licence for a .22 air rifle depends on the power output of the rifle and the country or region in which you reside. In the United Kingdom, you do not need a licence if you own a legal limit air rifle with a muzzle energy below a certain threshold (generally below 12 However, if you wish to own an air rifle that exceeds this limit, such as a more powerful .22 air rifle, you must obtain a Firearms Certificate (FAC) issued by the police.

It is important to research and understand the specific licensing requirements in your area, as regulations may vary. Always prioritise safety and compliance with local laws when considering firearm ownership.

Here at Air Arms, as one of the leading manufacturers, we would love to help you find the best air rifle for you. Whether it's a spring air rifle, a pcp air rifle, co2 air - from pest control to target practice, we can help find the perfect air rifle for you. For any enquiries please contact us.