Mike Morton has 10 tips to help you get the best out of your garden range so you can fine-tune your shooting skills and have a ton of fun
1. Be Aware Of Your Legal Responsibilities
We have the freedom to use our airguns on our own land, and that includes our garden, but we must make sure that shot pellets do not go over the boundary of our property. It’s an offence to fire a pellet beyond the land where we have permission to shoot, unless the occupier of the neighbouring land has also given us permission. That means pellets must therefore be completely and safely contained.
2. Always Use A Suitable Backstop
A backstop is anything that will safely stop a pellet dead should you either miss your target or should it penetrate the target. In the case of knockdown targets and spinners, the spent pellets should be caught by a suitable backstop. Depending on the lie of the land, a backstop can be the ground itself or a brick or stone wall, but in many cases you’ll have to create your own, with suitable materials including piled-up bricks, paving slabs or a purpose-built design made of sheet metal.
3. Inform Your Neighbours
Some shooters try to be secretive when using their airgun in the garden, but this approach is usually counter-productive. Your neighbours aren’t necessarily opposed to you shooting, they probably just don’t know anything about it, so it’s a good idea to pop round to their house and explain what you’re going to be doing. You should also reassure them that you’re a safe shooter and you’ll only be firing at targets with a proper backstop. You will probably have to explain what that means and why it’s important.
4. Keep The Noise Of The Gun Down
Airguns can have quite a bark, even at the relatively modest legal limit of 12 foot pounds, so we should do all we can to minimise the sound of the gun being fired. A pre-charged pneumatic fitted with a moderator is the quietest option, followed by a tuned and moderated springer. If you are using a louder springer or gas-ram, don’t shoot during unsociable hours and try to minimise the number of shots you take as a courtesy to the people living either side of you.
5. Keep The Noise Of The Ammo Down
Any metal target will make a loud noise when struck – and that includes knockdown targets and spinners as well as steel pellet-catchers – so again, minimise the number of shots you take to minimise the noise. Alternatively, line a pellet-catcher with off-cuts of carpet and stuff the resulting gap with old clothes. You can also make your own pellet-catcher from a box that’s been packed with old clothes that have been laid over a kitchen chopping board. A pellet-catcher like this combined with a moderated PCP is the quietest combination for garden shooting.
6. Account For All Your Shots
When shooting spinners or any other type of target where the spent pellet is not being directly contained, it’s important to know where the pellets are ending up. Don’t forget, none must ever leave your property. If you have a new target, it’s always a good idea to set it up in a secure area, shoot a set number of pellets then retrieve them all afterwards. If you can’t account for the pellets, or suspect they may be ricocheting off the target, don’t use that particular target in a garden setting any more.
7. Tell Your Family What You’re Doing
It’s vital to ensure nobody is able to walk into your line of fire, and that means family members and anyone else that shares your house or has access to your garden. Make everyone in your household aware you’ll be shooting, and lock any gates and garage doors. Confirm the exact whereabouts of everyone in the house before you start shooting. Don’t assume your partner is out shopping if they are actually down the bottom of the garden where you can’t see them.
8. Be Aware Of Pets
Your pets should either be kept away from the garden when you’re shooting or be kept under strict control. Some dogs will sit patiently by your side while you shoot, while others will happily run into your line of fire if they spot an invader such as a grey squirrel or next door’s cat. If you’re in any doubt about the way your pet will behave when you squeeze the trigger, keep them indoors.
9. Deal With Your Gun, Then Deal With Distractions
When shooting in the garden, your phone may ring, someone may come to your door or a family member may call out for you. Whenever you find your concentration broken like this – and you will – always deal with your gun first, making it safe by removing the magazine and/or firing the pellet into your target or backstop. Only then should you deal with the distraction.
10. Introduce New Shooters
Your garden range offers a wonderful opportunity to introduce people to the sport in a relaxed and informal setting, including people who would either never have thought to try shooting in the first place, or just wouldn’t contemplate joining a club. It’s a great way to bring families together too. But it’s important to remind them that although the garden is an informal and relaxed place to shoot, safety always comes first.
Shooting is one of the safest sports in the world, and that’s down to responsible shooters paying attention to gun safety at all times, and that includes when they’re shooting in their garden.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has a simple assessment carried out by accredited assessors called the Airgun Safe Shot Award. The assessment takes just 20 minutes and can be done at a game fair or organised by you anywhere in England and Wales. To find out more about the Airgun Safe Shot Award contact BASC’s Training and Education department on 01244 573018.