About firearms licensing
Before you start your firearm certificate application read through some of the topics we're most commonly asked about, from certificate types to transporting firearms. If you’re ready to begin your application, visit How to apply for a firearm or shotgun certificate.
Which certificate do you need?
To find out which certificate you need take a look at the table below to see how the characteristics of a gun, not its name, define the certificate.
|Gun type||Characteristics||Firearm certificate||Shotgun certificate|
|Firearm||Rifled barrel, firing
|Shotgun or musket||Smooth bore, firing
cartridges or blanks
|Multi-shot shotgun||Capable of holding more than three cartridges||✓|
|Air rifle||Kinetic energy in excess of 12ft/lbs||✓|
There are some circumstances in which you can shoot without a certificate.
By law you must have a certificate to acquire, keep, transfer, store or manufacture explosives. We issue explosives certificate in accordance with the Explosives Regulations 2014 (ER2014).
If you’re planning to store more than 2000kg of explosives, please contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Acquire only certificates
There are two kinds of explosives certificate available. An acquire only certificate authorises the holder to acquire and use a designated amount of explosives on that day only. Any unused explosives must be either returned to the supplier or suitably destroyed.
Acquire and keep certificates
An acquire and keep certificate authorises the holder to store an approved amount of explosives at a specified location. The maximum holding approved will depend on the type of explosive and the storage facility in place.
Certificate approval and prohibited people
All applications are subject to standard police checks and applicants are interviewed by a firearms enquiry officer (FEO) at their home address. Each application is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
A person who has been given a suspended sentence (after July 2014), or sentenced to imprisonment, detention or corrective training, for a period between three months and three years is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition for a period of five years from date of release or date of sentence in the case of suspended sentences.
A person who has been given a suspended sentence (after July 2014), or sentenced to imprisonment, detention or corrective training, for a period of three years or more is prohibited for life from having any firearm, including air weapons, or ammunition in their possession.
It's an offence to sell or transfer a firearm, shotgun or ammunition to a person you have grounds to believe may be prohibited.
Under Section 17 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, a visitor to Great Britain may, if granted a ‘visitor's permit’, possess firearms, shotguns and ammunition without holding a UK firearm or shotgun certificate.
A visitor’s permit allows an overseas resident to travel into the UK to attend various shooting events. The visitor will need a sponsor who is resident in the UK. This person does not need to be a certificate holder.
A permit may be valid up to twelve months, but the validity will normally relate to the duration of the proposed visit.
To find out more and apply for a visitor’s permit, visit our How to apply for a firearm or shotgun certificate.
Changes of address
If you hold a firearm, shotgun or explosives certificate and move to a new permanent address, you must notify us as soon as possible. Use our online change of address form and be sure to tell us:
- your full name
- your current certificate number
- your old and new address
- your plans for storing the firearms
- any change in contact information or GP details if applicable