Purdey side-by-side

A Purdey side-by-side – highly desired by many and one of the most expensive guns in the world

If you have a question about guns then you’re in the right place. Whether  buying a new gun or wanting to know what proofmarks on guns are. You may need to brush up on certain aspects of gun law, be searching for a particular gun review or want some information on ammunition.

Shotguns What is the main difference between rifles and shotguns?

A gun has a long metal tube (barrel) from which gun cartridges are fired . A rifle has a long metal barrel that is ‘rifled’ inside, which makes the bullets it uses spin as they are expelled, which allows for greater accuracy at a longer range.

Rifling in a rifle barrel

Close up of rifling in a rifle barrel, which makes the bullet ‘spin’ for greater accuracy long distance

Gun reviews

If you’re in the market for a gun then take a look at our comprehensive list of shotgun and rifle reviews. We regularly ask experts to look at the latest models and updates from popular manufacturers, as well as rounding up useful guns to buy second-hand.

Guide to buying guns

There’s a lot to know before you part with your hard-earned cash. In our gun-buying guide here we have listings of the best shotguns for gameshooting, clayshooting, guns for under £1000, how to find a reputable dealer, what bore side would be right for you …

Second hand guns – should you? 

We’re written a lot on the subject of buying second-hand guns. On the plus side you’re likely to pick up a bargain, but on the minus side you may not get a warranty. Here’s how to make sure you end up with the right gun for you when buying second-hand. 

Engraving proof marks on guns

Proof marks are added to a gun at the Birmingham Proofhouse

Proof marks

A proof mark on a gun is a bit like an MOT certificate on a car. It means that it was safe on the day it was examined. However, a proof mark can be many years old. So if you are buying a gun and have some doubts about the proof mark you can take it to a gunsmith for a safety check, which will include checking that the gun closes tightly and safely, and that the barrels are free from dents and bulges and that they are not worn beyond safe limits.

It is legal?

You should also bear in mind when buying a gun that it’s illegal to sell an out-of-proof and dangerous gun, and this applies to individuals as well as to the trade.

Every cartridge firearm must bear valid proof marks if it is sold legally. As the UK is a signatory of the International Proof Commission (CIP), it recognises the proof marks of every other member state.

Keeping guns securely

Part of being a responsible shooter (and obeying the law) is knowing how to store your guns securely, whether that’s in a gun cabinet or whilst you’re at a shoot lunch. 

Fausti XF4

The Fausti XF4. A round body gives this Sporter a touch of Italian style

Different types of guns

A question we’re often asked is what is the difference between a Sporter and a trap gun.

We usually advise newcomers to pick a Sporter as their first gun.

Sporters are known for all-round use, suitable for shooting clays as well as game. They are generally steady to handle, a little heavier and recoil less.

Sporter guns usually weigh between 7.1/2lb and 7.3/4lb. These guns shoot closer to point of aim than a trap gun, are less tightly choked (1/4 and 1/4 being the norm in a fixed-choke), and their handling and balance are designed for fast swinging.

gun barrels for trap shooting

Long barrels on a trap gun help achieve a smooth swing

Trap guns are designed for trap shooting and many weigh over 8lb. When tackling trap targets you don’t have to swing the gun as quickly or as far as you do in Sporting, so the gun can be heavier (which helps to soak up recoil), and also steadier in its handling.

A trap gun is configured so that it shoots slightly high. This enables the shooter to fire with the target in view just above the muzzle end of the rib, and hit it right in the middle of the pattern.

As the target is retreating from the shooter at quite a rapid rate, choking is usually quite tight: 3/4in the lower barrel (which is fired first), and full in the top.


Some believe trap guns can’t be used for gameshooting but instructor Adam Calvert disagrees, saying: “There is no reason whatsoever why you can’t use a trap gun for game shooting, however, I would check the impact point of the gun on a pattern board.” He also notes that trap guns are sometimes used for high pheasant shooting.

Bettinsoli DiamondDeluxe

The handsomely decorated sideplates conceal a standard Italian boxlock action

What are a sidelock and a sideplate on a shotgun? What’s the difference?

On a sidelock, lock mechanisms are built on separate plates which are fixed to the wood of the stock immediately behind the action. These plates carry the hammers, mainsprings and sears.

A side-plated gun is a conventional boxlock, with all parts of the firing mechanism mounted within the action body. However, plates giving the appearance of artificial lock plates are added for cosmetic reasons, providing an area for elegant engraving.

The importance of fieldcraft in airgun hunting

My use of the all-encompassing moniker the “shooting sports” has been troubling me lately. It’s a convenient catch-all term. However, I’ve been wondering if it’s fit for purpose. While part of what I do when hunting does involve shooting, pulling the trigger is a small part of the whole –…

How to lubricate your airgun springer

When people first set out to buy an airgun, they may well decide to pick a springer airgun over a PCP because it’s easier to maintain, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need looking after, and knowing how to lubricate your airgun springer is a must-have skill. So whether you’re…

Charging a PCP airgun – what do to and what to avoid

The evolution of the airgun is a fascinating subject, and one aspect that always amazes me is the plethora of designs that exist, all in a concerted attempt to generate power and consistency. Pneumatic airguns are a big part of the equation, and while they aren’t exactly a modern invention…

Controlling crows using decoys and hides

Crows are a year-round problem on most of the farms where I shoot and particularly on the holding where I’m targeting them today. These birds can be ruinous to cereal farming crops when they descend on fresh drillings and join rooks and jackdaws to devour the seeds. Although crop protection…

Is expensive airgun equipment really worth it?

I am aware that some readers of our magazine will sometimes look at the hardware described by myself and others and think to themselves that if they could afford such expensive equipment, they would be capable of matching or exceeding their normal level of performance, and probably mine as well,…

garden airgun shooting

Garden airgun shooting: these are the things you need to know

If you have access to a garden, and that also includes a smaller one, then you can take part in garden airgun shooting.  (Read our list of best air rifle targets for garden airgunning at home.) Unlike a regular shooting range, a garden is always open for business provided you…

PCP air rifles under £500

Best PCP air rifles under £500 – these are the top picks

PCP air rifles under £500 Wanting to get a pre-charged air rifle but don’t think you can afford one? Well read on, because I’ve found the best PCP air rifles under £500 around. (Read our advice on the best compressor for air guns.)  Air rifle manufacturers love to tantalise us…

Break barrel air rifles in use

Break-barrel air rifles: they’re for the grown-ups too

Modern airguns have come a long way over the past couple of decades. Yet despite all their technological advancements, it is still hard to beat the simple pleasure of shooting basic break-barrel air rifles. Pre-charged powerplants, recoilless firing cycles, multi-shot magazines, adjustable power and even electronic triggers are now considered…

Best gas-ram airguns

Spring-powered rifles have been around for over 100 years and probably account for more units sold each year than any other air rifle category, especially at the affordable end of the market. However, springers aren’t the only alternative to pre-charged pneumatics and the associated inconvenience of having to ensure a…

PCP airguns – breaking down the terminology

Many of you have probably seen Guy Ritchie’s 1998 crime comedy Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. I imagine most non-shooting filmgoers who’ve seen it are vaguely aware that the title is a reference to a double-barrelled shotgun, though few probably understand what the term actually means. The same can…


Childhood airgunning

I recently dusted off my first airgun that my parents bought me for my ninth birthday. This gun, along with copious amounts of enthusiasm, taught me a lot about hunting, fieldcraft and the rabbit. I spent much of my teens shooting with this .22 Weihrauch HW 77 K and accounted…

How to improve your springer airgun setup

I don’t know about you, but I love a challenge, and really enjoy working on a troublesome airgun combo and making it shoot well again to show you how to improve your springer airgun setup. So I jumped at the chance to work on a friend’s recent acquisition – a…

Legend 2 MX8

What to look for when buying a gun

It always amazes me how people will buy a gun based on its looks, even before they’ve looked at how well it’s built and how it handles. Perhaps some manufacturers do that deliberately; if they can churn out well-figured stocks and laser up some pretty engraving, then for some customers it…

Can you shoot heavyweight slugs in a legal-limit air rifle?

Before we answer the question of heavy slugs in a legal-limit air rifle, we need to consider slugs themselves. While air rifle slugs have been around for quite a few years, they seem to have enjoyed a massive boost in popularity recently, possibly because there seems to be a corresponding…

Best pellets for your airgun – how to pick the right one

In terms of best pellets, three things need to be considered before you can even begin to explore the accuracy you crave: pellet calibre, pellet types and pellet weights. In the UK, we are restricted to rifles with a muzzle energy of less than 12 foot pounds. If you want more power,…

steel vs lead cartridges

Steel vs lead cartridges: a pattern emerges

We now have the transition away from traditional lead shot that has served so well for so long and, I hope, will continue to do so, even if some areas are to be denied it. The topic chosen by Sporting Gun for me this month has been time-consuming, but it…