Frequently asked questions

Q1) How long does it take to process a grant/renewal application?

It can take up to 10 weeks to process an application providing all supporting evidence in relation to the application has been received.

Q2) What is the difference between a firearm and a shotgun?

A firearm is a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or missile can be discharged and includes any accessory designed or adapted to diminish the noise or flash caused by firing the weapon.

A shotgun is a smooth-bore gun, fires cartridges or blanks, does not have a barrel less than 24 inches in length and a barrel exceeding two inches in diameter, has no magazine or a non-detachable magazine incapable of holding more than two cartridges and is not a revolver gun. If in doubt, contact the Firearms and Explosives Licensing Department. Do applicants have to prove why they want guns?

Applicants for firearm certificates are required to show their 'good reason' as to why they require each and every firearm. They have to state which calibre and weapon type they require, what they want it for and where they wish to use it. For example a .22RF rifle may be authorised to use for vermin control on a specific piece of land or a .308 rifle may be used for target shooting whilst a member of a specific club.

Q3) Can I try shooting without holding a certificate?

You may be able to shoot under certain circumstances which include:

At an organised clay pigeon shoot whereby a Section 11(6) permit has been granted, which allows non-certificate holders to shoot. 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 for non-members to become 'guests', sponsored by a club member and to use club firearms to shoot on a limited number of days. Section 11(5) of the Firearms Act 1968, allows you, without holding a shotgun certificate, to use a shotgun when you are accompanied by the occupier of the land (landowner or holder of sole shooting rights) to shoot on his land using a shotgun borrowed from the occupier. Section 16(1) of the Firearms Act 1968 (as amended) allows a person to borrow a firearm from the occupier of private premises and use it in the presence of either the occupier or their servant without holding a firearm certificate in respect of the rifle.

Q4) What is a prohibited person?

A person who has been sentenced to preventive detention or imprisonment for three years or more will be prohibited for life.

A person who has been sentenced to Borstal training or imprisonment for three months or more but less than three years, will be prohibited for FIVE years from release. When are renewal reminders sent out?

Reminders are sent out to renew certificates two months prior to expiry. The responsibility is left to the certificate holder to ensure that they send the application form and necessary paperwork in prior to the expiry date.

We ask that the application form is received within four weeks of the expiry in order for renewal enquiries to be completed. What do I do if I 'buy, sell or transfer' a firearm or shotgun?

Firearms legislation requires that all notifications are to be sent in writing to the Firearms and Explosives Licensing Department without delay.

We ask that you provide the details of the gun including serial number, the nature of the transaction, and the name and address of the other party. This allows for an accurate record to be maintained.

Remember – You only write on your certificate when you sign it!

Q5) Must I notify of change of address?

Conditions on your certificate state that you must notify a change of permanent address. Please send in a letter informing us of the new address and contact telephone number as you will require a security visit in order to be given a new certificate.

Q6) What do I do if I change address?

You must notify the Firearms Licensing Department who issued your certificate, in writing, of any change of your permanent address. If your guns are still being kept at your old address you still need to notify that you have moved.

Q7) How do I transfer a gun?

Before you transfer any gun you must ensure that the person you wish to transfer the gun to has a valid certificate authorising them to acquire that particular type of gun. Only original certificates should be accepted not photocopies.

In the case of a Section 1 firearm the person must be authorised to acquire that particular calibre of gun. A sound moderator is classed as a firearm and requires authority on your certificate before it can be acquired. You must then complete the rear of that person’s certificate in the boxes provided giving details of the transfer and then notify the Firearms and Explosives Licensing Department who issued your certificate, in writing, that you have disposed of the gun. The notification should be sent to the Firearms and Explosives Licensing Department within seven days. There is no need to send in your certificate.

Q8) How do I dispose of an unwanted gun?

If you wish to dispose of a gun you can take it to your local police station during office hours where the gun can be surrendered for destruction. No fee is charged for this service.

Firearms which are held on certificates should not be disposed of by the certificate holder without informing the Firearms Licensing Department who issued the certificate.

Q9) How do I apply for an additional firearm certificate?

This is called a variation. You will need to fill in the form Application to vary a Firearm Certificate giving ‘Good Reason’ for your requirement for the second firearm.

You do not have to obtain any further photographs of referees for this application and the completed form 201 together with your Firearms Certificate should be forwarded to the Firearms Licensing Department together with the fee of £20 for this service.

Q10) What happens to my application?

Applications are received by the Firearms and Explosives Licensing Department and are checked to make sure that they have been completed correctly and the appropriate fee paid.

Form 201 is a national form, which ensure continuity of applications throughout the country.

Background checks are then made to confirm that you are not prohibited or have criminal convictions, which would question your suitability to possess a firearm. Applications are then forwarded to the Enquiry Officer for your area and a home visit will be arranged.

The Enquiry Officer will visit all applicants for the grant, renewal of firearm, shotgun and explosives certificates and certain firearms variation applications, to assess their suitability and security arrangements for the storage of the weapons, ammunition and in the case of applications for Section 1 firearms, your ‘Good Reason’ for requiring it.

The completed enquiries are returned to the Firearms and Explosives Licensing Department where, if the application is successful, a certificate is issued. The certificate will either be posted directly to you or sent back to the Enquiry Officer for personal service where a gun cabinet has to be installed.

Q11) What do I do when I receive my Certificate?

You must sign your certificate in ink in the box provided. When you purchase a gun, whether from a shop or a private individual, they are required to complete the reverse of your certificate with the details of the gun you have purchased.

You do not have to send in your certificate but are required to notify the Firearms Licensing Department in writing within seven days that you have obtained the gun.

Q12) What should I do if I unexpectedly come into possession of firearms or shotguns?

It could be that your partner, who held a certificate for the gun, has died suddenly or a member of your family who held a certificate has died.

Contact the Firearms Licensing Department as soon as possible and they will arrange for a temporary permit to be issued. This will enable you to legally dispose of the gun(s) or to place them in storage, either with a gun shop or with someone who has a certificate, pending your application for a certificate.

If you have moved house and found un-licensed guns at your new address.

Do not handle them, as they may still be loaded. Contact your nearest police station and arrange for an officer to visit and make them safe. If the guns are left to you in a will.

The executor of the estate should obtain the necessary authority (temporary permit) for the guns to be taken to a Registered Firearms Dealer for storage pending your application for the required certificate to possess that type of weapon.

Q13) Can I Import / Export a Firearm or Shotgun?

To permanently import or export firearms will normally require the grant of a licence from the Department of Trade and Industry.

The import and export of firearms is a complex subject and advice should be sought from the following:

Import Export Department of Trade and Industry
Import Licensing Branch
Queensway House
West Precinct
TS23 2NF

Tel: 01642 364351
Fax: 01642 364269

For more information on importing firearms, visit the the Foreign Commonwealth Office website or write to:

Department of Trade and Industry Export Licensing Unit
4 Abbey Orchard Street

Tel: 020 7215 8070
Fax: 020 7215 0558

For more information on exporting firearms, visit the Export Control Organisation.

Q14) How can a visitor to the UK possess firearms or shotguns?

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

The holder of a visitor's firearms permit may have in their 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 they 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.

For cost of a permit visit the Fees and Charges section.

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