A small bore, long-barrelled gun, usually fired from the shoulder, the bore of which has been scored with spiral grooves to impart spin on the bullet. 

Rifles are capable of driving a bullet of a given mass at a greater velocity than would be the case for a handgun. They are, therefore, extremely dangerous and should only be used as a last resort. The most common rifles in use on farms are general purpose .22 inch rim-fire, telescope sighted .22 inch centre-fire, .243 inch centre-fire and larger bore centre-fire weapons. The .22 inch rim-fire are usually used for vermin control (rats and rabbits) but can be used effectively, when loaded with the correct ammunition, to kill young cattle, horses, sheep, deer*, goats, and pigs up to 100kg, when shooting from a short distance (from 5-25cm away). However, they do have limitations in that there is no margin for error in respect of position and angle of incidence.

If a .22 inch rim-fire rifle is to be used for killing livestock, the muzzle should be held from 5-25cm away from the animal’s forehead and aimed down the length of the neck into the main bulk of the body; on no account must the muzzle of a rifle be held directly against the animal’s head, as this will result in severe injury to the operator. Always use a round-nose, lead bullet; if there is any doubt about the ammunition available, call in outside help, e.g. a knackerman. The same precautions for operator safety apply as for the free-bullet humane killer. These weapons fire a bullet with a muzzle energy of approximately 145J only: therefore they should never be used in an attempt to kill aged animals with very hard skulls, such as boars, bulls and rams.

The larger calibre, centre-fire rifles are more specialised weapons, often used for shooting deer. They offer greater projectile velocities and subsequent kinetic energies than the common .22 inch rim-fire, and as such they do not fall into the categories of weapon which can be used at close quarters. These weapons can effectively kill all sizes of cattle, horses, sheep, goats, deer and pigs, but they should only be used from a suitable distance, in an outdoor location with a safe backdrop, and by an expert marksman. They come into their own where an injured animal cannot be approached, but is in a suitable environment to be shot safely from a distance.


*in England and Wales, under the Deer Act 1991, it is illegal under any circumstances to shoot deer with a rifle of less than .240 calibre. Anyone doing so may be liable to prosecution.


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