For some, guns are mere tools of a trade or used for self-protection; for many others, guns are considered lethal weapons that should not be into the hands of ordinary citizens. Czechs have a long tradition of gun ownership and gun-related sport disciplines. Česká zbrojovka, otherwise known as CZUB, is our oldest modern gun producer, currently celebrating more than 75 years of existence. It is therefore of no surprise that currently there are more than 700,000 legally-registered guns in the Czech Republic, with more than 300,000 registered gun-license owners. But how does the country stand in terms of gun-related crime?
In 2007, 6,080 people died of non-natural causes within the Czech Republic. Out of this number, less than 1% is associated with firearms (not limited to guns). Murders associated with a legally held gun could be summarized up as follows: 16 cases in 2003, 7 in 2007, and 2 in 2008. Numbers aside, there are more positive aspects to be discussed. As a gun owner myself, I am going to introduce the process of obtaining a gun license and discuss the associated sports and some of the more popular shooting ranges in Prague. Gun License Process and Associated Legalities
The Czech legal system allows for the legal ownership of guns by its citizens and by foreigners who have legal permanent residence in the Czech Republic. The government, however, reserves the right to reject a license without having to state a reason. Generally speaking, if one meets all legal requirements, a license is issued. A strong and solid system is established laying out the requirements and rules which each prospective gun owner must go through to be able to own a gun. Serious penalties exist for violations. In short, each applicant must pass an extensive multiple choice test (in Czech only), a practical test in front of a police commissioner, a medical test, and finally, if deemed necessary by the GP, a psychological test. Currently, the following groups of gun licenses exist:
A) For collecting guns (21 years old +) B) For sports (18 years old +) C) For hunting (18 years old +) D) For professional reasons (bodyguards, police, soldiers, etc.) (21 years old +) E) For protection of one’s life, health, and property (21 years old +) F) For pyrotechnicians
It may surprise many that people with a group E license are legally entitled, granted that they have permission from the Police, to carry a concealed, loaded gun on the premise of personal protection. In the UK, as a comparison, guns are banned for the public for protection and there are very strict laws governing the use for hunting and sports. In the Czech Republic, it is not uncommon for people to carry firearms, but they are required to keep the firearm from the eyes of the public at all times.
Do you need a gun license to go shooting? Absolutely not, but it has to be on a shooting range. All one needs is a valid ID card/passport and to be under the supervision of an instructor or someone who owns a gun license while shooting. This opens the door for recreational sports shooting.
Example of a Czech gun license
Recreational Sports Shooting
Gun sports, contrary to many people’s opinion, are safe when all required safety measures are taken. Any manipulation with a gun has to be done by a person with a license or under the careful supervision of such a person. The gun should always be checked to make sure it is not loaded and must always be aimed in a direction where no other person is positioned. The person shooting should concentrate on the act of shooting at all times. These logical measures will eliminate the majority of the dangers one could encounter while shooting. In order to decide what gun you may want to try, you would have to first decide whether you wish to shoot short distance or long distance. For short distance of up to 25 meters, a handgun is more suitable. For long distances of up to 100 meters for most shooters, a long rifle with some visual aid (scope) would be needed.
Usually, standard issue guns can be used for recreational sports (target) shooting. There are numerous types available and each has their benefits and disadvantages. Much of this depends on the caliber, i.e. in layman’s terms, the strength (and often the size) of the bullet for that given gun. For beginners, .22 long rifle caliber handguns and rifles are best to learn to shoot due to low recoil and ease of use. Most shooters then progress to larger calibers, i.e. to guns which have more recoil and require more experience and control.
In the Czech Republic, as a license owner, you are free to attend shooting ranges or take part in competitions. For more serious shooters interested in competing, it is best to become a member of a shooting club (SSK – Sportovní střelecký klub) and to join the Czech Shooting Federation (Český střelecký svaz) which is an umbrella organization, much like the NRA in the Unites States, but with virtually no political leverage.
This then leaves a question to be asked. Where exactly can you then go and shoot in Prague? Fortunately, there are several commercial shooting ranges in Prague and its proximity available to the general public. Shooting Ranges in and around Prague
When one considers the overall amount of license holders, the amount of shooting ranges is quite low. In Prague alone, there are 8 shooting ranges mapped by Zbranekvalitne.cz, a popular website for gun owners in the Czech Republic.
Shooting range map of Czech Republic:
Red dots = shooting ranges / source: www.zbranekvalitne.cz
Among the most popular shooting ranges with gun rental facilities in Prague would be the following three: AVIM Address: Sokolovská 352/23, Praha 8 – Karlín, 186 00
The Avim shooting range, unlike most others, is located in the center of Prague, approximately 50 meters from the Florenc metro stop. This makes it one of the most popular shooting ranges in Prague, often frequented by both Czechs and expats. The shooting range houses two areas for guests to use. Reservations are advised to ensure that you will be able to shoot at the time which would most suit you. There are two shooting ranges, one small and one large, in total allowing for 7 people to be shooting simultaneously. Avim offers the option of shooting with a professional instructor who will guide those who do not have a gun license. The shooting range is also affiliated with an attached restaurant, Skansen. SSK Magnum Praha (Website in Czech only) Address: Ke střelnici 192/10, Praha 6 - Sedlec
The Magnum Praha shooting range has been in operation for a very long time, much like Avim, but provides one unique advantage over Avim. This is the fact that it houses a 100 meter long shooting range also suitable for long rifles and is situated outside, ensuring fresh air and a more enjoyable experience. Its location, close to Suchdol and Dejvice, makes it a good location for many expats interested in shooting.
This shooting range is very popular and has been operating for a long time as well. It has two ranges, each able to house up to 5 shooters. The shooting range is in the proximity the D1 highway to Brno, very close to the outskirts of Prague, which for many may be placed inconveniently in terms of expat hotspots. The staff is often more strict and some shooting methods are not welcome, i.e. fast consecutive shots. The shooting range, however, is very nicely maintained and certainly one I would recommend if you find yourself in its proximity.
To conclude, it should be said that at all shooting ranges, there are rules that should presented to you upon your first visit. You are legally obliged to follow the rules and will be held responsible for any violation and its consequences. This aside, shooting ranges are safe and provide a unique opportunity to do something different to your usual daily tasks. For many, including me, a visit to the shooting range will offer a relaxing experience.
Is THIS the sport for you? The only way to know is to give it a shot!