Archery UK Laws

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What is the Archery (UK) law around owning and using bows? See our comprehensive guide below.

As a new archer, you might be wondering whether it’s legal to practice archery at home in the UK. The truth is it can be difficult to practice archery at home unless you are fortunate enough to own large private land. Of course, you can always practice archery legally and safely at an official club or archery range. However, you may want to know what the law says regarding buying and using bows in the UK, so that you can practice on your own if you want to.

So without further ado, here’s the breakdown of laws concerning archery in the UK:

1) There are no legal requirements to owning bows and arrows

They are not listed as prohibited weapons, meaning you can also make your own bow and arrow and sell the equipment yourself, with no legal risk. You do not need a license and you can legally purchase archery equipment without any restrictions. The only exception is the crossbow; as it has a high-powered mechanism (similar to a rifle), it is illegal to purchase this unless you are over the age of 18.

2) You must conceal your bow and arrows in public spaces

Having something that could be construed as a weapon, visible in public, will go against the 1953 Prevention of Crime Act. This applies even more to Crossbows. Keep your bows in carry cases when transporting them. It is also good practice to remove the string from the bow in transport. This means if you are questioned by police, your equipment is not set up to cause harm. Likewise, you would be better to practice without sharp arrows. If you must, then keep these contained separately from your bow.

3) Hunting in the UK is illegal, due to the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act

OK, so you may know of organised events in certain parts of the country which sometimes supersede these rules (fox hunting, anyone?) but generally, hunting and shooting in the UK is a restricted activity. Special licenses can be granted in order to hunt some deer, and farm pests like pigeons or rodents. But whilst it might be tempting to explore a nearby forest and hunt some rabbits or moles, you’d be breaking the law to do so!

4) Recurve and traditional bows can be used legally on private land where you have permission

UK archery laws do not prohibit you from practicing archery on your own property. However, common sense must prevail, or you will be in danger of the Civil Liberties act. What this means is, if you have a small garden with thin fences, it is highly dangerous to practice shooting. If you miss the target, your arrow may pierce through your garden fence and hit someone or something behind it. You will of course be liable for criminal offences if this occurs. However, if you have a big enough garden or land to shoot on, with a safety backstop (such as a hard wall), and no neighbours within 50m – you may be alright!

Want to find out how to ‘safety proof’ your garden or home setup for practicing archery? See our full guide here.

Image of a group of friends practicing archery safely in a large backdoor garden with no neighbours
This is the type of garden that’s safe to practice in (no neighbours behind the back fence)

5) You must have explicit permission to practice archery on private land

If you are on someone else’s property, you must have explicit permission from them to practice archery. Remember that parks, fields, forests, farms and other ‘public spaces’ in the UK are always owned by someone. Most of the time, it’s the Royals! Or your local council.

6) Be more careful with Compound bows in UK Law. They can only be used at a dedicated club or your own personal property

Partly due to their reputation as a hunting bow, archery UK laws do not like compound bows. The UK law does not specify a difference between compound bows and regular bows. However they may draw more attention from law officers if not used at a registered club.

7) Your local council is NOT obliged to provide land or facilities for the practice of archery

This is due to a common misconception based on historic archery laws (see below). Nowadays, archery does not fall under the criteria of public sports that your local council must provide. However, it is worthwhile speaking to your local council member to see if they have funding to support your local leisure facilities. You could always be the one to set up a new archery club in your area!

An image of a man just as he releases an arrow in archery

So that’s about it for any modern archery (UK) laws.

However, a blog on this subject wouldn’t be complete without reference to two historic laws concerning archery, which, technically, are still written in law today:

  1. Except on Sundays and if you live in York, you can shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow (not recommended to actually try this)
  2. All English males over the age of 14 must carry out at least two hours of longbow practice each week. This is genuine – look it up! And we do recommend you follow this one.

Happy practice!