Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from
the British Association for Shooting and Conservation concerning
As promised when we spoke on the telephone last
week, I am writing with some observations about air weapons.
(1) The 12 ft/lb limit for air rifles is
about the lowest energy level which is humane for controlling
agricultural pests such as rabbits, crows etc. Air rifles whose
energy value is near to this limit are very useful for shooting
such pests, particularly in places where it would be dangerous
or otherwise inappropriate to use a cartridge firearm. Such air
rifles are capable of killing pests and small game humanely at
ranges up to about 35m.
(2) The 12 ft/lb limit needs to be put in
perspective as it relates to the energy level of other firearms.
The .22 rimfire which is the smallest
commercially available cartridge firearm produces energy levels
between 35-160 ft/lb.
The minimum energy level for shooting
deer in England and Wales as set down by the Deer Act 1991 is
(3) The aim of airgun manufacturers is to
produce air weapons which are consistent in performance. This
means that they will regulate their product to give optimal performance
at a level below the legal maximum. This will incorporate a "safety
zone" which is broad enough to keep energy levels away from
the upper limit in the event that something causes the original
energy level to rise. An example of this might be over-oiling
the air gun which introduces oil into the air cylinder. This can
cause "dieseling" and increased velocities and concomitant
energy level rises. Another cause of increased energy levels can
be the use of a lighter pellet. In my experience most manufacturers
regulate energy limits for rifles at 10-10½ ft/lb. This gives
an energy level which is humane for pest control, but which is
not so close to the upper limit that it will exceed it if the
level should rise for any reason.
(4) In the case of air pistols, this "safety
zone" is particularly important as any air pistol which exceeds
the 6 ft/lb limit becomes a prohibited weapon. In my experience,
most air pistols rarely exceed 3 ft/lb. BB pistols are often as
low as 1 or 2 ft/lb. "Soft Air" guns are normally ½
ft/lb and below.
(5) The energy level at which potential
lethality occurs is very low. Case law has determined that the
proper test for a lethal weapon is that if it were to be misused
then death might result from this misuse. (Moore v Gooderham
1960. 3 All E.R. 5775) (Thorpe 1987. 3 All E.R. 493).
In Northern Ireland, the Forensic Science Service suggest that
the lethality threshold is 3 ft/lb. In the rest of Britain, this
is lower at 0.75 ft/lb. The average muzzle energy of air guns,
which have caused death, is much higher at some 9.44 ft/lb.
I hope that this information is helpful to the
Committee. As ever, if I can be of further assistance, please
do not hesitate to contact me.
Head of Firearms
27 March 2000