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Long post - Shooting in UK

Discussion in 'General Firearm Discussion' started by tac, May 14, 2015.

  1. tac

    tac UK, Oregon and Ontario. Well-Known Member

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    I was chatting to the webmaster the other day, who happened to mention my different POV and that it was welcome here on our great site. So I then thought, hey, let's try out all this fuzzy and huggy fellow-shooter feeling by telling you about what is actually entailed in getting into TARGET shooting sports in the UK these days. Game-shooting- that is to say, what you call deer-hunting/goats and so on, as well as shotgunning for clays, is a whole different ballgame, and if anybody is interested in that, I can do a similar post based on it.

    Here goes - I warn you now, it's pretty hard reading for most Americans, used to a different style of gun ownership, but here we just get on with it, or do without and, take up spoon-collecting. Even so, some of us, like me, do both. Remember that shooting sports here in UK are the invisible earner, with well over $3Billion going into the coffers every year from shooting sports and associated business of one kind or another. We also have, right here in UK, the second largest group of .50cal and associated large-calibre rifle shooters outside of North America, as wells as the largest and longest rifle ranges in entire Europe and Scandinavia.

    Oh yes, apologies, in advance...

    Here in UK, you - a never-before-interested-in-shooting-person-who nevertheless would like to know what all the fuss is about - goes along with a pal to his gun club as a guest [12 a year, for members to show their spousal units and pals/colleagues what they get up to], and think to yourself, WOW!!! I could get interested in THAT for sure!

    Sooooooooooooooooooooooooo,

    1. You join a gun-club that does the kind of shooting that you think will appeal to you. Apart from a few commercial ranges - not open to the general public who are not part of the firearms industry, and a VERY few private individuals who have their own land and facilities, there are NO ranges that do not have gun-clubs, and NO gun-clubs who do not have ranges. EVERY range in the country is an official government-sanctioned range, and EVERY gun-club per se is part of the National Rifle Association or National Small-bore Rifle Association. So every member of every gun-club right from the start is also a member of either or both of these two national associations, by association. That's the insurance thing settled.

    2. You serve a six-month probationary time, during which you learn all about shooting lots of different guns and disciplines by shooting lots of different guns and taking part in different disciplines. Most noobs get a mite bewildered by the club members offering them lots of different guns to shoot [I have nineteen, so it can take a while], and most, at first, ask if they can pay for the ammunition. The answer to tosh like this is simple - when YOU are a full member, YOU let a noob shoot your gun, and pass it all on along, right? You CAN buy ammunition at the club, in the five calibres for which we have club rifles and carbines, but you cannot take it away with you. However, you can, if you wish, take empties away for future use for reloading when you get your FAC. Here in UK, and in the rest of the world, except for the Republic of Ireland, an empty cartridge case is a piece of brass with a hole in each end, and not any kind of live round. The only guns you cannot shoot are shotguns that shoot more than three rounds [yes, we do practical shotgun here], or any shotgun firing slugs [yes, we do practical shotgun here], or any kind of long-barrelled handgun of the kind permitted on mainland UK. Northern Ireland does NOT subscribe to this latter geas, BTW, and you can shoot anything that another club member puts in your hand. This sad stricture is a Home Office thing, and applies to EVERYBODY, not just noobies/probies.

    3. During this time, you are, of course, being watched like a hawk by everybody for anything odd that might give people cause for concern about your suitability to own firearms of any kind. Standing in a corner muttering to people that only you can see is a surefire way of NOT getting any kind of gun certificate, and after a while, when it's obvious that you have a real problem distinguishing the REAL reality from YOUR version of it, you'll be asked to leave and not come back, thanks . Many of us shooters are a mite odd, but just not THAT odd. And anyhow, shooting is a social thing - people who do it like to talk to other people about it. This is called 'instinctive teaching' or, more correctly, 'bragging'. If you don't like to talk to people, then you are most likely not a suitable candidate for any kind of shooting sport. Michael Ryan, the Hungerford mass-murderer, wasn't a member of a gun club, and didn't like people much, as he later proved by killing sixteen of them, including his mother, and wounding over thirty others. Here in yUK we like to think that the way that the application form is laid out, and the conditions demanded in it, render this kind of appalling act of violence 99.999% unlikely these days.

    4. You are tested, at least twice, on safety and safe handling and general knowledge on the firearms scene.

    5. At the end of the six months, the secretary tells you that you have done just fine, takes a pile of money off you for full membership of the club and advises you to go ahead and fill out your application for a firearms certificate - the FAC - on which you may ask for the guns that you think that you would like to shoot. It is at this point that you suddenly realise that the very first referee in the application IS the club secretary, and weren't you glad that you behaved and did all that was required of you in terms of attendance and demonstration of good and safe handling an gun etiquette et al? So, your first application will be multiple firearms - usually a .22 rimfire rifle or carbine, a .223 centre-fire rifle or carbine, maybe a .308Win for target work, maybe a 38/357 or .44/44 underlever rifle or carbine for the sheer fun of it, any kind of black powder firearm or rifle, carbine or handgun [of the kind permitted on mainland UK]. You also ask for as much ammunition for each gun that you think that you will need at any one time. You provide two referees who have known you for at least two years - NOT a serving police officer, or official of the club or any person with a police record, and give permission for the licensing authority to ASK your GP if you are a drugee or epileptic or habitual user of hallucinogenic powders or liquids. Alcoholism IS a problem, if you are a noted or documented sot, as is any record of violence, threat of violence or the threat of or use of threatening behaviour. Having such a record on, uh, record, will usually stop your application dead in the water. However, carrying out acts of extreme violence, such as the killing of sundry foreigners on behalf of the wishes of the government of the day, either singly or en masse, does not count, as you were plainly carrying out your patriotic duty in obeying your superior officer at that time. Note that you will have made a declaration to the fact that you are NOT a drugee or epileptic, nor in the habit of taking mind-altering meds etc, in the body of the FAC application form. Lying about this will get you 3 - 5 years grey hotel vacation time, as the application form is, in UK legal terms, a sworn document, and you will be rightly guilty of attempting to obtain a firearm/firearms by deception.

    6. You buy and fit a suitable gun-safe - there in UK they are ALL made in UK, unless, of course, you are stupendously rich, and can afford the Browning items - they are all evaluated and physically tested to the same standard. Nothing else is permitted, not even, as I saw once, a refrigerator converted into a 'gun-safe' and painted a natty shade of Hammerite silvery blue. Note that the fitting of a domestic alarm is NOT a compulsory requirement, until you have around 12 or 16 Section 1 firearms. I live in an outlying village, so it makes sense to have one, so I have two. Here it makes not the slightest difference in the level of police response, no matter how many and of what kinds your alarms. If you get burglarised then the police will come round the next morning, maybe flap a few bits of paper around - even take a photograph or two for the station album to show willing, give you a crime number and b&gger off. You are unlikely ever to see them or hear from the again unless your guns were stolen, in which case they get a trifle concerned, make a note of your FAC details and circulate a list of your guns around the nation. Given the extreme unlikelihood of any self-respecting crook holding up a corner store with your 1862 Snider or F-Class target rifle and getting caught in the act, that is the last you'll ever hear of it. When I asked if any enhanced level of response in terms of rapidity of attendance might accrue from having a monitored alarm system fitted, one wag in uniform said that tearing round to the location with 'blues and twos' alight in an immediate response to 'attend the scene of the crime' was unlikely in the extreme, since the miscreants were, at that very moment, armed, albeit with MY guns. Suffice it to say that where I live, the Chief Constable supports the idea of people having monitored alarms, in spite of the fact that the Home Office guidelines make absolutely NO mention of the necessity for fitting even a basic system. The words say ' secure accommodation', so if you have seen any crime-buster TV programmes where the boys in blue have been trying to gain access to some scumbag's dreary little domestic unit on a sh&tty estate in Buttwipeville-on-Glum, you'll have seen with your own eyes just how hard it is to gain any kind of access to a house fitted with even the most basic modern double-glazing uPVC doors and windows, let alone do it surrepticiously.

    We digress.

    Back to the process.......A couple of weeks after sending in your application, the Firearms Enquiries Officer [a civilian from the County police HQ who works for the Explosives and Firearms Licensing Department] comes around for coffee and biscuits, finds that you are what you say you are, checks out your safe, mentally agrees with your referees, shakes your hand and bids you good day. In our club - that straddles two county boundaries and has members coming from as far away as the south Coast - at least 150 miles in a straight line - there are six such people - invariably shooters of all kinds themselves. Widely experienced in most, if not all aspects of the shooting sports, they are usually retirees from the police or military or conservation, in one case, all three. Two other club members are also instructors and authorisers for the British Deer Society, and can teach you how to carve up a dead deer. Apparently there is currently a super-abundance of things - like about 180,000 too many, and to hear BASC talk, you might imagine that the roadsides are piled high with their starving corpses. This is not so. In spite of what you might think, the UK is not all like London, and there are substantial open spaces for the blighters to live and breed. One pal of mine has 48,000 dreary acres of featureless granite hillsides in Scotland, and along with many American shooting tourists, kills around 1200-1500 a year...

    Concentrate, tac....

    7. Your FAC plops into your mail box a couple of weeks later, and off you go to the gun dealer to spend all your money on guns, and, if you want to give it a try, any and all reloading gear to get you started making your own ammunition, like 90% of all other shooters do here.

    8. After a while, you give another discipline a try and find that it takes your interest, so you apply for a variation to your FAC for another firearm of the type you wish to shoot. It costs £40 to do this, but if you wait until renewal time, it's free. Same if you wish to swap out same-calibre guns on a one-for-one basis.

    9. Your FAC lasts five years and costs, ATM, £60. Renewing it does not require you to justify your reasons all over again - you've already done that over the previous five years, and, in any case, anything aberrant that might cause concern has been notified to the licensing authority by the club secretary...it is not being a snitch, it is his or her legal duty to do so as part of the Home Office guidelines he or she has agreed to abide by on taking on the duty. Any infringement of range safety that shows that you are acting irresponsibly where live firearms are concerned is, of course, a matter for everybody around you, and whereas a simple and thoughtless action such as touching your gun while folks are forward of the firing point will earn you a loud ticking off, pointing it at anybody with obvious malice will get you kicked out of the club instantly and permanently. The club sec is obliged to inform the licensing authority without delay, and you WILL lose your FAC as a result. No club membership = no 'good reason' to own any target firearm, since that is THE condition under which you are able to acquire and possess a firearm in the fust place. Since the inception of the UK's HOLMES [yup, true], that information will have been passed to all 51 mainland county licensing departments and the PSNI, and you'll have to take up knitting or something like it. Unless you live in Maryland, where knitting is banned, at least, in public view.

    As with most things, the more you do, the more you learn, and you improve as you get more familiar with your guns. There are always club coaches, like me, an NRA coach and British Disabled Shooting Association instructor, to help and advise, and the opportunity for you to put something back into the club by doing an RCO course, like almost 30% of our 300+ membership has already done.

    I've been asked by an interested person on another site if all this personal instruction/mentoring and so on costs the probie anything extra to his or her initial joining fee.

    'course not. Everybody HAS to learn initially and safety is of paramount importance where firearms are concerned. It stands to reason that somebody who is safe and sure in his or her handling of guns is, uh, safe and sure...experience comes with confident handling of the firearm, and that comes with use and 'doing it' under the watchful eyeball of the person alongside you on the firing line.

    The only things that cost are extra-mural courses like those run by the NRA at Bisley, and the RCO qualification course that so many of our club have successfully completed. It is usual to save up the number of applicants to around ten or so, and get the peripatetic NRA RCO course instructor to come to us - cheaper all round, too. I mentioned already that we have a number of club members who are instructors for the British Deer Society qualifications, at all three levels of expertise, but that's really outside the remit of this post, which is primarily concerned with the target-shooting aspect of shooting sports.

    I'll answer questions put to me in a civil manner - what else, you might ask, on THIS site? Friends, you'd be amazed at the cr*p I get on a few other sites I write on, and if you think my handle is familiar, then you'll know what I'm talking about.

    Shooters in UK are a taking part in a minority - but withal one that is growing in spite of all the flaming hoops we have to jump through. I'm also the president of the Vintage Classic Rifle Association of Ireland, too, and, trust me on this one, if you want wacky rules/laws/hinderances inflicted on you in stellar amounts, it is to Ireland that you'll have to go, not UK.

    By comparison with Ireland, the UK is getting no hassle at all.

    Hope this is useful.

    tac
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2015
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  2. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    I'd sharpen my spoons.
     
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  3. jbett98

    jbett98 NW Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Tagging this thread, so I can come back later and finish reading it.
     
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  4. PrDubi

    PrDubi Deep in the heart of Dirty South Salem Active Member

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    I reside part time in Hungary... and I am a Hungarian citizen.. Does this FAC count as a firearms permit for the EU?
     
  5. tac

    tac UK, Oregon and Ontario. Well-Known Member

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    Nem, egyáltalán nem. Ez a tanúsítvány csak akkor érvényes, az Egyesült Királyságban. Ha szeretnék utazni Európában rendelkeznie kell az európai lőfegyvertartási engedélyt. Ez a dokumentum lehetővé teszi, hogy vigyem én engedéllyel lőfegyverek különböző országok az EU-ban, abból a célból, versenyeken való részvétel, de nem engedély vásárolni fegyvereket vagy lőszer ezen országok bármelyikében.

    No, it doesn't. For that you need a European firearms Pass. That document allows you to travel around the EU with your firearms, to take part in competitions, but it does not allow you to buy guns or ammunition in any other part of the EU.

    tac
     
  6. Mikej

    Mikej Portland Gold Supporter Gold Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    Thanks for that tac.....

    You make little mention of hand guns. What's the deal with hand guns in UK?
     
  7. tac

    tac UK, Oregon and Ontario. Well-Known Member

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    On mainland UK, that is England, Scotland and Wales, cartridge-firing handguns as you understand them are prohibited firearms in the wake of the Dunblane School massacre in 1996. Instead of blaming the inadequacies of the police in not taking away the guns of a known pedophile and probable police informant who was tied into a ring of high-up police pedophiles, all legally-owned cartridge-firing handguns were made illegal and handed in. By US standards it was a drop in the ocean - only around 100,000 handguns were involved. However, the cost of this exercise in futility was prodigious - each and every handgun handed in eventually cost the tax-payer about $200,000. Northern Ireland, with its own legislature, told the Westminster gubmint to go swivel, since, in spite of the troubles, there had been no instance of crime involving LEGALLY-owned handguns since some time before WW2. They have kept their handguns. Here in mainland UK we have long-barrelled revolvers and pistols - look them up on google. You can still have any kind of BP front-loader though.

    There are two specific types of permit for handguns here on the mainland, depending on whether you want to look at them or to shoot them. They must be firearms of particular historical or technical merit - not sure who decides that though. One permit lets you keep it at home in a glass case to drool over [but you must already have an FAC for other firearms] and the other one lets you go and visit it at one of six or seven centres where it is kept, and you can shoot it for 'technical or historical interest' under close supervision. :mad:

    Having commanded troops, neither option appeals to me. I'm sure you understand.

    tac
     
  8. shootnscoot

    shootnscoot Wa Well-Known Member

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    Can you have an AR15 or an AK and use it? Are there magazine limitations? Is your license only good for one caliber at a time?
     
  9. tac

    tac UK, Oregon and Ontario. Well-Known Member

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    No semi-auto centre-fire RIFLES of ANY kind - only man-op versions are allowed here in UK after the 1986 Hungerford Massacre. Look up UK straight-pull rifles - Southern Guns or Mark Bradley or South Yorkshire Guns or Rimfire Magic etc.

    No limitations on magazines - if you have a semi-auto shotgun like the Russian Vipr you can have as many hundred-round mags as you like. We have a thriving practical shotgun chapter in our club. You need a semi-auto shotgun with at least an eight round capacity for that.

    I have ONE CERTIFICATE, not a license - look up the definition of them to see the real difference. On it I have nineteen Section 1 rifled firearms in eight different calibres. May members of my club have between twenty and fifty rifles firearms of all kinds and calibres on their 'ticket'. One pal collects 19th century Winchesters of all calibres. Obsolete calibres do not need any kind of a permit unless you want to shoot them - so you get it/them put on your FAC. My Snider is not only obsolete, but an 1862-dated antique. I shoot it, so it has to go on my 'ticket', just like any other modern firearm.

    See Youtube - tac's guns, to see what we get up to.

    tac
     
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