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Guidance on Firearms Licensing Law
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Firearms Licensing

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between a firearm and a shotgun?
                In simple terms, a firearm has a rifled barrel and fires bullets; a shot gun (or musket) is smooth bore and fires cartridges or blanks. However, a multi-shot shot gun (capable of holding one in the chamber and more than two in the magazine) or has a detachable magazine requires a firearm certificate as does a short barrelled (less than 24 inches) shot gun.             

How long does my certificate last for?
Firearm - 5 years
Shot gun - 5 years
Explosives Acquire - 1 year
Explosives Acquire & keep - 3 years               
Can another person transport my firearm or shot gun for me?
Any shotgun certificate holder may transport your shotgun without entering it onto their certificate, providing they are in possession of the gun for less than 72 hours. If they will be holding it for longer than 72 hours the gun must be entered onto their certificate and the relevant licensing office informed.

A firearm may not be transported by another person unless they hold a firearms certificate specifically authorising them to possess that gun.

Registered firearms dealers may transport your guns in the course of their business.

What is a prohibited person?
A person who has been sentenced to imprisonment, detention or corrective training for a term of three years or more, is permanently prohibited from having any firearms or ammunition in their possession. This means for life and includes all firearms, even air weapons.

A person sentenced to imprisonment, detention or corrective training for a period of over three months but less than three years is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition for five years from date of release.

              It is an offence to sell or transfer firearms and ammunition to a person you have grounds to believe may be prohibited             

Do I need to declare previous convictions?
Yes, including all traffic convictions and any convictions received abroad.                 
What is the process for destroying or disposing of a firearm?
If you own a firearm or shotgun which you wish to destroy rather than sell on then you may surrender it either to a gunsmith (registered firearms dealer) or to your local police station. You will need to take your certificate as proof of ownership and generally sign a disclaimer to the property.             

Can I own a handgun?
Handguns are banned in England. This applies to any firearm with an overall length of less than 30 cm. However muzzle-loading handguns are permitted.             

What security is required for my firearm/shot gun and ammunition?
An approved gun cabinet meeting British standard 7558 must be securely fitted to a solid brick wall             

Can I use my Firearms or Shot gun Certificate as a form of identification?
A number of organisations notably banks/building societies and phone companies, include firearm and shotgun certificates as an acceptable identification. However this has obvious security implications and certificate holders would be well advised to refrain from using their certificates for anything other than their intended purpose.             

Do applicants have to prove why they want guns?
Applicants for firearms have to show ‘good reason’ for possession of each and every firearm.             

How are applications refused or revoked?
A firearm certificate may be refused or revoked if the applicant/holder is:

  • A danger to public safety
  • Of intemperate habits
  • Of unsound mind
  • Unfit to be entrusted with such a firearm
  • No longer has ‘good reason’ for possession

These decisions may be appealed at court.

How does FET check ‘good reason’ for a possession of a firearm?
All applications are subject to standard police checks. All applicants are visited by an FEO (firearms enquiry officer) to establish bona fides.               
What do I do if I lose my certificate?
Inform the relevant firearms team immediately and report it to a local police station. A fee of £8 is required for a new shotgun certificate and £9 for a firearm Certificate.             

Who do I make cheques payable to?
All cheques are to be made payable to the The Mayors Office for Policing and Crime and must be sent direct to the appropriate Firearms Enquiry Team. Applications  are no longer accepted at police stations within the Metropolitan Police Area.

What do I do if I move house?
Inform the relevant firearms team by email or letter detailing the old address, new address and confirming where your firearms will be stored. We will require your old certificate before an updated one can be printed and a security check may need to be carried out. For any change of address out of our force area your file will be transferred top the relevant licensing office.               
How can I take my firearm or shot gun abroad?
You will require a European Firearms Pass, which can be obtained by sending an email or letter request to the relevant enquiry team listing all the weapons you wish to take abroad with you.             

Can a visitor to the UK possess shot guns or firearms?
Visitor to the UK may be granted a visitors permit, which allows them to have in their possession firearms, shotguns or ammunition. Please see our overseas visitors page.

: Under section 17 of the 1988 Act a visitor to Great Britain may, if he is granted a visitor's permit, have in his possession firearms, shotguns or ammunition without holding a certificate.

The holder of a visitor's firearms permit may have in his possession any firearm (but not purchase one), and purchase, acquire or have in his possession any ammunition, to which section 1 of the 1968 Act applies.

The holder of a visitor's shotgun permit may have in his possession, purchase or acquire shotguns and is exempt from the requirement to produce a shotgun certificate when purchasing cartridges. Both permits are valid for a period of up to 12 months and must show the full details of weapons covered and, in the case of a firearms permit, show details of the quantity of ammunition to be purchased/acquired and held. Similarly, territorial and other conditions as would appear on a firearms certificate, will normally be imposed on a firearms permit.

Separate permits for each police area are not required as both permits will cover the visitor throughout Great Britain.

Can I shoot without a certificate?
Yes under certain circumstances – many shotgun clubs and shooting grounds hold ‘special shooting days’ where non-certificate holders can fire club shotguns to test their interest in the sport.

Approved rifle and muzzle-loading clubs will allow you to shoot club guns providing you are a club member. There are normally provisions within the club rules, which allow non-members to become "guests", sponsored by a club member, and to use club weapons to shoot on a limited number of days.

Another way to shoot shotguns and even rifles without a certificate is when you are accompanied by the landowner or his agent, (e.g. game warden), shooting on his land, using his weapons within the limitations of the authorities on the certificate.

However, as a non-certificate holder, you cannot borrow another person's gun, if he is not the occupier of the land you intend to shoot on.

Must I notify sales and/or acquisitions?
Firearms legislation requires that notification must be made in writing and should be sent to the relevant office. This includes sales/acquisitions abroad; we will accept faxed and e-mail notifications.             

Unexpected possession of a firearm – what should I do?




  • If you find unlicensed weapons, for instance discovering them in your loft having just moved into a new address, do not handle them - they could be loaded and in a dangerous condition. Immediately call your local police who will remove them safely and dispose of them for you.
  • If you are left with firearms that you know had been legally held (this could be due to the death of a Certificate holder, who was a close relative) you have several options.

Temporary Permit - You could request a permit to allow lawful access to the weapons in order to give you time to decide the best means of disposal. The Police are empowered in such circumstances to issue a Temporary Permit, which would normally be restricted to possession only (not use) and be valid for a limited period of time, usually a month, but in certain circumstances can be longer.

To request this, you need to contact the Firearms Licensing authority.

Registered Firearms Dealer - You could arrange for them to be placed with a Registered Firearms Dealer for storage and/or sale.

Certificate Holder - You may know of other Certificate Holders to whom they may be transferred (this would depend on them having sufficient storage and, in the case of guns that had been held on a Firearms Certificate, the authority to acquire that particular type of weapon).

Deactivation - Another alternative is to have the weapons ‘deactivated’, which would render them safe and remove them from all legislation relating to firearms. They would still retain the original appearance but would be incapable of discharging a missile.

What is the cost of a Firearm or Shotgun licence?

How long does the process take once you have received my application?
Every effort will be made to ensure that each application sent in is processed with the utmost efficiency and under normal circumstances within 8 weeks of a correctly completed application being received.             

If you have further questions contact Ask the Police