Rifles and ammunition

Rifles and ammunition...
Rifles and ammunition...

Legal limitations

For the killing or taking of deer in Scotland, firearms, ammunition and sights must conform to requirements, laid down in the Deer (Firearms etc.)(Scotland) Order1985. These are stated as follows:

  • Rifles:
Deer Species Min Bullet Weight Min Muzzle Velocity Min Muzzle Energy
for all species 100grains (6.48grams) 2,450 ft/sec
(746.76 mtrs/sec)
1,750 foot pounds
(2,373 joules)
for Roe only 50grains (3.24grams) 2,450 ft/sec
(746.76 mtrs/sec)
1,000 foot pounds
(1,356 joules)

important to know bullet types and expanding ammunition purpose

important to know bullet types and expanding ammunition purpose

NB. Ensure that all three minimum conditions are met for your chosen calibre of rifle

  • Rifle bullets should be of an expanding type designed to deform in a predictable manner.
  • For Shotguns
    Use is limited to certain circumstance1 and must be of not less than 12 bore gauge
Deer Species Non spherical rifled slug Shot size Weight of shot
for all species 380 grains(24.62 g) SSG ie no less that 0.268 inches (6.81 mm) in diameter at least 550 grains (35.64 g)
for Roe only 380 grains(24.62 g) AAA ie no less that 0.203 inches (5.16 mm) in diameter at least 450 grains (29.16 g)
  • It is lawful to use a slaughtering instrument using any ammunition intended for use in it. A ‘slaughtering instrument’ is a firearm specifically designed or adapted for the instantaneous slaughter of animals or for the instantaneous stunning of animals with a view to slaughtering them. Such an instrument may be appropriate for use in capture for culling operations.
  • Any firearm or other method of humane dispatch may be used to prevent suffering to injured or wounded deer.
  • It is illegal to use sights that are:
    • Light intensifying,
    • Heat sensitive, or
    • Other special sighting devices for night shooting

Legal Implications

  • Section 17(3) Deer Act (Scotland) 1996 makes it an offence to wilfully kill or injure any deer other than by shooting with an approved firearm and ammunition.
  • Section 19 Firearms Act (1968): Carrying firearm in a public place:
    A person commits and offence if, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse (the proof whereof lies with him) he has with him in a public place:
    • a loaded shotgun
    • an air weapon (whether loaded or not)
    • any other firearm together with ammunition suitable for use in that firearm
    • an imitation firearm.
  • Section 20 Firearms Act (1968): Trespass with firearm:
    If you trespass in a building or on land with a firearm, or imitation firearm, and cannot prove a reasonable excuse, you commit an offence.
  • Part 1 Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 establishes access rights that must be exercised responsibly. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) provides guidance on responsibilities.
    SOAC includes activities that are excluded from access rights. Section 2.12 includes carrying of any firearm, except where.. crossing land.. to immediately access or return from land where shooting rights are granted.

In addition, there may be a risk of offences around Reckless Discharge1, Breach of the Peace/Fear and Alarm2 and Causing Unnecessary Suffering3

Ref: BPG Deer In and Around Towns, Guidance on Responding to Situations.

Why use expanding ammunition?

results on a heart show(left) solid ammunition, little transfer of energy and (right) expanding ammunition, good transfer of energy

results on a heart show(left) solid ammunition, little transfer of energy and (right) expanding ammunition, good transfer of energy

The severity of a bullet wound is directly related to damage caused by the path of the bullet and the amount of kinetic energy that is transferred from the bullet to the tissues of the body.

(left) cross-section showing heart and lungs and (below) expanding bullet before and after impact

(left) cross-section showing heart and lungs and (below) expanding bullet before and after impact

Expanding bullets suitable for deer are designed to deform in a predictable manner, and concentrate their destructive energy in the vital organs, following an accurately placed shot.

Expanding bullets deform faster at higher impact velocity and deform less at lower velocity. This results in much less tissue destruction at longer distances where the velocity is lower.

Permanent wound cavity showing early expansion and energy transfer to the 'tissue'. The outer (purple) area is the temporary cavity whilst the inner (red) area is the permanent cavity

Permanent wound cavity showing early expansion and energy transfer to the 'tissue'. The outer (purple) area is the temporary cavity whilst the inner (red) area is the permanent cavity

In the diagram the permanent cavity represents the shape or wound profile of tissue destroyed by expanding ammunition.

The temporary cavity relates to tissue reacting elastically. This tissue recovers after the bullet has passed.

The contribution of shock (temporary damage) to death is through the nervous system. It brings about unconsciousness until the blood loss from the permanent damage renders the beast dead.

Wound tracts

Permanent wound cavity with plaster cast of permanent wound tract being taken. The same rifle/ammunition was used to produce these two 'wound tracts' (this shows 'wound track 1')

Permanent wound cavity with plaster cast of permanent wound tract being taken. The same rifle/ammunition was used to produce these two 'wound tracts' (this shows 'wound track 1')

When a bullet is fired into ballistic soap the cavity produced is directly comparable with the tissue destroyed by that bullet. This represents the permanent cavity. The cavity or wound tract can be better visualised if filled with plaster, this allows comparison of the effectiveness of bullet types and calibres at different ranges.

'wound tract 2' was shot at 4 times the range of wound track 1. The bullet shot at longer range was therefore going much slower and resulted in slower expansion and a significantly smaller wound tract. The larger wound tract simulates the difference between using expanding v solid ammunition.

'wound tract 2' was shot at 4 times the range of wound track 1. The bullet shot at longer range was therefore going much slower and resulted in slower expansion and a significantly smaller wound tract. The larger wound tract simulates the difference between using expanding v solid ammunition.

'wound tract 3' Use of solid (non-expanding) ammunition for culling deer is illegal. The wound tract produced by non-expanding ammunition relies upon the bullet destabilising to create sufficient tissue damage. When de-stabilisation occurs, tissue penetration is deep and unpredictable, so destruction of vital organs cannot be guaranteed, even with an accurately placed shot.

'wound tract 3' Use of solid (non-expanding) ammunition for culling deer is illegal. The wound tract produced by non-expanding ammunition relies upon the bullet destabilising to create sufficient tissue damage. When de-stabilisation occurs, tissue penetration is deep and unpredictable, so destruction of vital organs cannot be guaranteed, even with an accurately placed shot.

Ballistic tables

Ballistic tables will ensure you are aware of the technical capabilities of your rifle ammunition combination. These tables can be generated either by using the information provided on the manufacturer’s box or through the use of commercially available ballistic software.

Key to symbols

  • This symbol highlights a legal requirement. It is an offence not to comply.
  • This symbol highlights an action or task required in order to safeguard public safety, food safety and animal welfare.  
  • This symbol highlights an action or task required in order to carry out the task effectively.

see further key to these symbols