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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

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Planning a shooting activity

Planning a shooting activity

Benefits of shooting activities

The sport of target shooting has many benefits, including:

  • It's challenging on an individual level and is very personal to the shooter.
  • Although competing as an individual, shooters are part of a team.
  • It is very inclusive, with disciplines and equipment suitable for many levels of ability. This includes people with physical impairments and also visual impairments, often competing on equal terms with able bodied people.
  • It helps to improve personal skills such as self-discipline and control, co-ordination, focused concentration, patience, and self-awareness.
  • It promotes dedication and attention to detail which is needed to improve shooting technique and to improve scores.
  • Anyone participating will learn about and apply safety rules, control and discipline whilst on the shooting range.
  • It teaches people about the law and the consequences of breaking it.
  • It helps people to make decisions about their own behaviour and what is or is not acceptable to others.

For more information about disability shooting visit Disability Shooting Great Britain.

For more information about visually impaired target shooting visit British Blind Sport.

Types of shooting activities

Airgun shooting is target shooting with airguns (air rifles and air pistols). It is the most accessible form of the sport, as it is possible to set up a safe airgun range in most Scout meeting places. Airguns are types of gun that fire pellets using compressed air. Air rifles have a long barrel. Air pistols are smaller and designed to be held in one hand.

Airgun shooting is typically on indoor ranges that are either 6 yards (approx. 5.5 metres) or 10 metres long. The National Small-Bore Rifle Association (NSRA) is the National Governing Body (NGB) for this sport. Field target shooting is also a recognised air rifle discipline. It is shooting at reactive targets outdoors at a distance of between 7 metres and 50 metres. Field target shooting is supported by the British Field Target Association (BFTA) who are affiliated to the NSRA.

Small-bore rifle shooting uses a gun that usually fires .22-inch rim fire cartridges. They are more powerful than air rifles. The ranges can be either indoors or outdoors and will usually be 15 yards (approximately. 13.7 metres) to 100 metres in length.

The NSRA also govern the use of small-bore rifles. This is through a system of affiliated clubs that meet a strict set of criteria and are approved by the Secretary of State for the relevant Government Department (The Home Office, The Scottish Office, and the Northern Ireland Office as appropriate to the part of the UK).

Members of Scouting may practice small-bore rifle target shooting as a member or guest of a Home Office approved club. The military, the NSRA or the National Rifle Association (NRA), must inspect the ranges small-bore rifles are used on and will issue a range safety certificate.

Full-bore rifle shooting uses a gun with a calibre (internal diameter or bore of a gun barrel) of 5.56mm/0.223 inches or overShooting is generally outdoors over distances from 50 to 1200 yards. The NRA are the governing body for this sport. Clubs carrying out target shooting with full power rifles and muzzle-loading pistols must also be approved by the Secretary of State for the relevant Government Department. Scouts may take part in full-bore rifle target shooting as a member or guest of an approved club. Ranges are inspected by the military or the NRA and will have a range safety certificate.

Clay pigeon shooting is another common target shooting discipline. It is an outdoor activity, shooting at moving targets using shotguns. The target is a clay (a disc) which is projected into the air or along the ground from a trap. The clay breaks when hit. The NGB for Clay Pigeon Shooting is the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association (CPSA)Scout members may participate in clay pigeon shooting under the standards and controls of the CPSA. This is normally achieved by participating in the activity as a member or guest of an affiliated club.

Crossbow shooting uses equipment consisting of a small, powerful bow that is fixed across a piece of wood. It also has a trigger and is aimed like a gun at archery style targets. Crossbows with a draw weight of 1.4kg or greater are subject to the controls of the 1987 Crossbows Act. Depending on the power of the bows used, crossbow shooting typically takes place indoors on ranges of between 6 and 25 yards or outdoors on ranges, generally of 25 metres and upwards. Outdoor ranges are similar to those used for archery, although crossbow shooting requires a bigger safe overshoot distance beyond the targets. The National Small-Bore Rifle Association (NSRA) are the governing body for sport and match crossbow.

Target Sprint is a discipline which uses air rifles and combines running with target shooting. The course is usually 3x 400 metre runs, interspersed by shooting at knockdown targets, however this can be adapted to suit local facilities. British Shooting is an umbrella organisation for International Target Shooting and champions the target sprint discipline.

Muzzle Loaded Shooting uses muzzle-loading rifles and pistols, often with a focus on historical re-enactment. The Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain is the NGB.


The rules for shooting in Policy, Organisation and Rules (POR) apply only to the use of firearms and crossbows as defined in law. However, many of the core principles should be applied to target shooting games with non-lethal equipment to ensure safety and to encourage young people to develop a good safety culture.

Target shooting has an excellent safety record, with one of the lowest accident rates of all Olympic sports. Shooters have an excellent safety culture because of the obvious hazards of handling of firearms. This essential and very clear concern for safety and discipline is recognised as being valuable training in the development of young people.

How to arrange the activity

Local sensitivities and parental concerns of shooting activities must be taken into account when planning to incorporate target shooting into your programme.

Many sporting disciplines (including archery, fencing, javelin throwing, parachuting, gliding and orienteering) have origins in military skills, but their adoption as sports where friendly competition takes place at an international level has had a positive contribution to the world of sport.  

Target shooting is both an Olympic and Paralympic discipline and is very much removed from the military style and purpose.

The law does not specify a minimum age for the handling of firearms under supervision and on private premises. However, as with all Scouting activities, the activity should be appropriate to the maturity and ability of each participant and that equipment should be of the appropriate size.

The mental maturity of potential participants is very important because this is a matter of safety. They must be able to understand the need for the safety rules, the rules themselves, they must be able to obey them. They must also be able to distinguish reality from fantasy and understand the very real responsibilities of being entrusted with a firearm. Studies suggest that for most children this occurs at some time between the ages of 8 and 10. The responsibility for inviting young people to take part in target shooting as a Scout activity rests with the Leaders who know them well and can judge their fitness to take part.

It's a requirement of POR that parental consent for anyone under the age of 18 is gained prior to the activity.

Details of the particular type of shooting should be given with as much detail as possible; an example permission form is available to download. Parental opinions must be respected. For example, for some, the shooting of an air gun may be considered acceptable but not the shooting of a cartridge firearm.

Although not strictly a legal requirement, it is good practice to obtain a declaration that participants are not prohibited persons under Section 21 of the 1968 Firearms Act. It may conveniently be combined with the parental consent. This declaration should also be obtained from any adults who may be invited to participate in or assist with the activity.

The prohibition applies in all circumstances and to all categories of firearms and ammunition including those such as airguns or shot cartridges for which a certificate is not needed.

A sentence of 3 months to 3 years attracts a 5-year prohibition, shorter ones no prohibition but a longer one means a life ban.

The target shooting national governing bodies, H.M. Armed Services and the Police Forces issue qualifications recognised by the Scouts (UKHQ) in range safety and the proficient use of firearms and crossbows. Recognised qualifications can be found within the Shooting – Qualifications page.

The size of gun is very significant. Young people do not benefit from being invited to have a go with an air rifle which is far too big for them. This sets them up to fail with the result that they may easily be put off the activity.