183 firing ranges have closed in the last five years.

Kevan Jones Labour, MP for Durham, asked during a debate:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many UK firing ranges have closed since 2015.”

James Heappey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, responded:

“Between 1 January 2015 and 20 January 2020 183 UK Defence Ranges have been centrally recorded by the Defence Regulator as being closed.”

Of course, this isn’t really much of a surprise given the reduced numbers in the armed forces.

In 2010, the fateful Strategic Defence and Security Review was published. As part of the plans, the British Army was reduced by 23 regular units, and by 2020 was hoped to number 117,000 soldiers, of whom 82,000 would be regulars and 30,000 will be reservists. They’re still quite a bit short of that figure but that’s covered extensively elsewhere.

The British Army’s 2020 strategy, published in 2015, aimed to have 82,000 army personnel and 30,100 reserves by March 2019. According to MoD statistics, the British Army only had 79,790 trained personnel in October 2018, and 26,960 trained reserves.

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the numbers alone are enough to make me cry when we used to have treble that amount..but quite a chunk of the 82,000 are unable to go on the front line,due to medical issues etc..think i heard in the region of 10 or 12,000,and nothing against the reserves served and trained loads of them but they do not do frontline work full time being as they only have nights weekends and the odd camps,so when the crap hit,s the fan getting numbers up and equipping them is going to be very hard…back to painted broomsticks

Robert blay

Army reserves served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and performed to the very highest standards expected of them. Todays reserves are a very different force from those of the 80’s and 90’s.


That’s just not true. They are a bloody liability.


Only as individual or small numbers attached to a regular unit. Out of all the reserves supposedly available, the planning figure is about 4-5000 deployable at relatively short notice. Some are ok, some are keen, many are not. But again it will depend on which unit they are, how motivated etc. I was lucky as we had motivated lads coming to us, but never able to operate or deploy as a formed unit. The SDSR last time which increased the reserves at the expense of the regulars was wrong from the start. The Government used the justification that the Australians… Read more »

Paul T

The problem in future years will be that as the Full Time Army’s strength decreases, the pool of Reservists available becomes depleted too, classic Chicken and Egg situation, hopefully a situation doesn’t arise where it comes to bite the MOD on the backside !.

Stuart Wallace

Closed to free up land for house building – MOD under political pressure?


It’s a pity so little is done to encourage shooting sports in the UK. Plenty of these ranges would be viable for target shooting if people in the local area where encouraged to sign up as members.


More likely simply to save money, given that the 2010 review occurred just after the financial crisis. Selling to raise money would have been an extra boost for MoD coffers but I doubt if it was required that it be for housing only.


Next time we face a major conflict (& I think there will be one sooner or hopefully later), we’ll be in an awful state trying to recreate asap all the facilities & capabilities we’ve let disappear.
The more we disarm & weaker we let our forces become, the more we encourage any future aggressor. We’re already probably weaker than what’s needed.


Spot on its a point I have made elsewhere on this site, we will I fear pay a price for this one day. I also, as I have stated elsewhere have a horrible feeling that the Gov is once again pushing for major cuts to our conventional forces in the new defence review, its looking like another rushed job driven by the treasury as the review is supposed to be done and dusted by autumn, so surely is not going to be an in depth review but another bean counting exercise

Daniele Mandelli

Do we actually need that many though?

All the major training areas have been retained and often enhanced, SPTA, SENTA, STANTA, Otterburn, and so on. Most barracks also have firing ranges.

Then of course there’s BATUS.


Most barracks certainly do not have firing ranges. In fact of all the camps I’ve been on only one had a range and that was a little 25m range, not a full sized rifle range.

Some locations are lucky and have a sort of garrsion complex range that multiple camps can share (eg Bulford, Tidworth, Larkhill etc all share a set of ranges), but the majority do not even have that.

Daniele Mandelli

Maybe I should be using the term “many” and not”most” as I did? Looking at Military sites, especially from above using the likes of GE, I see what I took to be ranges on “many” barracks? Long, relatively thin areas of grass with targets at one end and covered cabins at the other? What are they?

Just checked two examples of what I meant – Bassingbourn, looks small, and Fort George, much longer.

And a tiny example at an MoD, ex RAF Station. Digby. Looks really small?


Hi Daniele, sorry for the late reply, I missed your response. I wouldn’t even say many, although yes it’s far from “no barracks have ranges.” Unfortunatley I’ve not visited any of the three camps you’ve mentioned in person so I can’t attest to the quality of the ranges (although Fort George seems to have a actual Range). The one in Digby is probably the most common type you’ll see, it’s 25m range and those are baisically pointless for the Army, effectively all you can do is zero rifles on them (which you tend not to do because if the rifle… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Hi Dern. Great explanation thank you. And thanks for the late reply, I’d long forgotten this!


Of course, all these issues are very important Harold. But this is a defence website and therefore contributors discuss defence issues. Hopefully, most on this forum would agree that the points that you mention are important for the country, themselves, and their loved ones.


The article gives the army full time trained strength at 1 Oct 2018 as as 79,790. This was phase 1 trained. Phase 2 trade trained strength was 76,130 and the 2020 target is 82,000 trade trained. The trade trained strength at 1 Oct 2019 was down to 73,470. The workforce requirement with actual unit organisations was 82,030 and so the deficit was 8,560.


Defence infrastructure is actually a really big deal. It is really easy to sell off ranges and other defence land to make short term savings. However, if we ever have to face a large scale conflict again, the land will have to be repurchased at greatly inflated prices. Thus the actual ‘save’ for the MOD is a false economy.


Back to the article the number is likely the consolidation of TACs which seems to be the lacking part of analysis. On the subject of resource, perhaps we need to focus on what skills can be maintained part-time and what can only be honed with constant use. Those that say resources are a liability, are maybe subject to some requirement for numbers and not common civvie skills. Cyber, I’m sure that the transferable skills from a career in industry are comparable to that of a full time member. But from experience 3 years to become an expert in cyber on… Read more »


My brother-in-law was a techie teacher and on a tour in Iraq (RNR) was asked if he could repair a PC that had been dropped into a fuel tank. Military stupidity meets civil intelligence. The answer of course was no.


You think they would be using air rifles again to save money!