Air Rifle Safety 101

  • Written By Eric Crouch on April 14, 2020
    Last Updated: January 31, 2021

Air rifle safety should be at the top of your concerns when shooting your air rifle. Whether plinking in the backyard, shooting targets in the field or hunting game in the forest safety should be of high priority to you.

Good safety is key to making a good marksman and enforcing the correct practices in your shooting not only keeps you safe but also keeps others safe around you. Please read on if you want to brush up on your safety when using your air rifle.

How Can You Ensure That Your Rifle is Safe to Use?

Periodically check your rifle over for any damage or mechanical weaknesses that could ultimately increase your risks when using the rifle and sacrifice yours and anyone else’s safety.

This is good practice and ensures that you are not putting anyone at risk when firing your rifle. If you do find any mechanical failures or damage to your rifle then see to getting your rifle fixed as soon as possible and don’t risk taking it out shooting and causing more damage to the gun, the user or anyone else in the vicinity.

Make sure you’re using the correct pellet for your air rifle, for instance, don’t try and stuff a .22 caliber pellet into a .177 firing rifle. To most, this is common sense however you would be surprised at the types of ammunition some people try to fire through their air rifle.

As well as making sure you are using the correct caliber pellet for your air rifle, make sure you are using the best-suited pellet for your gun, this will ensure that your accuracy is optimum thus reducing the risk of a pellet getting projected to anything other than your target or quarry.

What is Good Practice When Hunting?

Always make sure you have a sufficient backdrop (or backstop) and the angle of projection is not above the horizon, this prevents unnecessary travel of the pellet if you miss your quarry.

When shooting in the field, the first thing you think of when regarding the safe use of your air rifle should be making sure you have a sufficient backdrop behind your prey.

No one wants to miss a shot on their target, however, if this does happen then you want to make sure that your pellet doesn’t travel an unsafe distance beyond your quarry.

An air rifle pellet up to .22 can travel up to at least 450 yards when fired at an angle of 35 degrees, this is the length of 4.5 football pitches. When you consider the distance a pellet can travel uninterrupted, you can fully appreciate why an appropriate backdrop is such an important factor to consider when thinking about air rifle safety.

Make sure you have a sufficient backdrop (or backstop) when shooting at game or pests, this will ultimately reduce your chances of injuring an innocent walker/ pedestrian when shooting in the field, and this should be a priority concern to every marksman.

If you are shooting with friends while hunting, always make sure that they are standing behind the shooter when a shot is taken. You don’t want to be able to see anyone in your peripheral vision or in your line of fire.

Another thing to keep in mind when shooting and tracking in the field is that you keep your barrel free from dirt. If you do notice your rifle’s muzzle touching the dirt, just be sure that the muzzle is cleaned before the next pellet is fired.

Make sure if you do need to clean your barrel that your rifle in un-cocked and unloaded at the time of cleaning, check and check again to ensure this.

What is Good Practice When Shooting in The Backyard?

When shooting in your backyard, safety should be your main priority. Have you got friends round for a bit of social target practice and casual plinking? Well then, making sure your rifle safety is at the top of its game for both you and your friends should be of top priority.

As well as making sure your shooting practices are safe for both you and your friends you should also make sure that your hobby is safe for the neighbors that border your property.

Make sure your rifle is suited for your surroundings, you shouldn’t be using an overpowered pre-charged pneumatic rifle (PCP) in your back yard when plinking cans.

A high-powered shot increasing the chances of a dangerous ricochet that could either injure your neighbor or damage their property.

Be considerate when choosing a rifle to shoot in your backyard, pick something that is both quiet and has a responsible power limit to reduce the risk of damage or injury to you, your friends, your neighbor, or their property.

Make sure your gun isn’t hugely over-powered for your backyard to reduce the chances of unneeded pellet travel and dangerous ricochets. If you have a variable-pump rifle then make sure to not over pump the rifle for the situation you’re shooting in, keep pumps low and adjust power accordingly.

A multi-pump (or variable-pump rifle) is ideal for back yard plinking as you can keep the pellet velocity low and the muzzle energy at a safe power to keep everyone safe.

What is Good Practice When Shooting Targets Long Range?

Make sure you have a sufficient backdrop and your target isn’t elevated too high off the ground, check your maps to make sure that your shooting in the safest possible place in the field.

For example, make sure there are no buildings or roads in the path of your shot if you do miss your target, or that there is a decent enough backdrop between your target and the safety hazard (building or road), that will stop your pellet dead in its tracks.

The same practices as the previous paragraph about hunting safety should be enforced when shooting long distances. Even though you are only shooting paper targets, make sure that (if it is not your land) that you have the permission of the landowner to shoot on the land you intend to use.

Make sure your backdrop is sufficient for your range and follow the 12 basic air rifle safety rules (listed below) to ensure you are shooting in the safest and most hazard-free way.

12-Point Safety guidelines to follow

  1. Never rely on your air rifle’s safety mechanism. Mechanicals can fail so keep leave your gun un-cocked and unloaded whenever possible
  2. Only cock and load the gun when you intend to shoot it. Never keep your air rifle cocked and loaded unnecessarily
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you have your target in sight and are ready to shoot
  4. When your gun is not in use it should be kept unloaded
  5. Treat every air rifle as if it were loaded. Check and check again to ensure that rifle is not loaded with a pellet
  6. Never leave an Air rifle unattended
  7. When storing your air rifle keep it locked away and out of reach from children
  8. Always transport your air rifle in a suitable case and never carry an uncovered air rifle in public
  9. Never aim at another human being, whether the gun is loaded or unloaded
  10. Always aim your air rifle safely at a target with a sufficient backdrop
  11. Keep your rifle well-maintained in order to ensure it is safe to use when shooting
  12. Never play with your air rifle. Although an airgun isn’t a traditional powder firearm it is still definitely not a toy and should be treated with the same respect as any traditional igniting firearm.

Safety Checklist For Use in the field

  • Check your rifle, is it safe to use?
  • Make sure there is no one down range
  • Check your maps, are you shooting in a safe location?
  • Is there a sufficient backdrop (backstop) behind your target?
  • Is your rifle unloaded and un-cocked when walking in the field?


To conclude, make sure you are always firing at a target with a substantial backdrop behind it and assess the area you are shooting in to ensure it is safe.

Make sure your rifle isn’t too overpowered for short-range, backyard situations and there aren’t any hazards in your line of fire or people in your peripheral vision. Keep your rifle well-maintained, always keep it un-cocked and unloaded when not in use, and always lock it away in a safe place that’s out of reach from children.

Follow our safety rules whenever handling your air gun and utilize our checklist for use in the field.

Be mindful when using an air rifle and treat it with the same respect as a traditional powder burning firearm, air rifles are not toys and should be used with caution.

Follow the tips in this article and you will be sure to reduce risks and keep yourself and others safe when using your air-arm. Be safe everyone and happy shooting!

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