Are field sports and the shooting industry still suffering from a post-Covid hangover or getting to grips with new legislation? Both are likely to be true, but what is clear in the latest data from Home Office statistics on shotgun certificates is that the last three years have recorded an unprecedented fall in the number of shotgun certificate holders in England and Wales. At 500,894 shotgun certificates on issue in 2022/2023, this is the lowest number since comparable records began, while female shotgun certificate holders recorded a smaller decline to 31250.
Across England and Wales, as expected, new shotgun certificate grant applications took a huge hit throughout Covid lockdowns while police forces were dealing with a large build-up in renewals. Several police forces were turning away new grant applications due to a lack of resource within the firearms department, it is not a surprise numbers suffered.
Progress has since been made and the horror stories of wait times in excess of 12 months have been addressed, but changes to the process is adding additional complication and cost.
Yet while there has been a recovery in the number of new grant applications being processed, these remain well below pre-Covid levels and the number of overall certificate holders has continued to decline.
The report highlights that there has been a fall in certificate holders amongst women, over the last 3 years, which has been evenly spread across the ages of 18 – 64. As a demographic, the largest group are within the 50-64 age category.
More encouraging despite the overall number of certificate holders slightly contracting, as a percentage of overall shotgun certificate holders, women have been more resilient and proportionally, have increased from 6.1% pre-Covid to 6.3% of all shotguns certificate holders across England and Wales in 2022/23.
With the industry having undergone numerous challenges and ongoing legislative changes it is down to us, the lovers, advocates and protectors of country living to rebuild support, engage and educate.
Rebuilding the industry requires everyone involved in the sport from participants to rural businesses and those that benefit from sustainable shooting to do their part. This could be through encouraging participation; bring a friend to The Game Fair, attend a BASC women’s introduction day, joining a ladies’ shooting club, take them beating or to their local clay ground.
Ladies’ shooting clubs
All-female environments offer opportunities for women who fancy a go at shooting, here are just some of our favourites: