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Firearms Law & Guidance

Is changing almost every day, we will try and keep you up todate

See notes at the bottom of the page for personal imports

**See our " REMOTE FIREARMS SALES & TRANSFERS" tab for guidance on purchasing a firearm from another FAC/SGC holder who is remote from you.


Information For Guidance

with over 750,000 licences Issued in the uk

covering both section 1 and section 2 firearms

it is important for every holder to understand the law

it is a requirement of being licenced.

Click Here For Guidance 

Updated Report

HMIC Report September 2015 

Firearms licensing missing the mark


The current inconsistent and inadequate firearms licensing regime puts the public at risk, according to a report published today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

Get the report

Targeting the risk: an inspection of the efficiency and effectiveness of firearms licensing in police forces in England and Wales

The inspection gathered information from all 43 police forces in England and Wales, as well as looking in detail at the practices for firearms licensing in 11 representative forces. Inspectors looked at the policies and procedures in the management and provision of over 150,000 section 1 firearms licences that are on issue, covering over half a million firearms and over half a million shotgun certificates that are on issue, covering almost 1.5 million shotguns.

HMI Stephen Otter who led the inspection said:

“Firearms licensing is not an area which police forces can afford to get wrong: public safety relies on it. Examples of good practice exist but these are the exception.

“We found that, too often, forces are not following the Home Office guidance that is in place, sometimes inexcusably compromising public safety.

“Lessons from past tragedies have not always been learnt and this fails the victims of those events, including their families, unacceptably. Unless things change, we run the risk of further tragedies occurring.

“Central to the improvement of the licensing process is the establishment of a set of clear rules, carrying the weight of the law, that chief constables should be obliged to follow. This must include applicants providing a report from their GP of their medical suitability – including their mental health – to hold a firearms licence.”

The current arrangements to assess the medical suitability of a firearms certificate holder or applicant are substantially less effective than for applications for a public service vehicle licence. The report recommends that the Home Office should ensure that licensing does not take place without a current medical report from the applicant’s GP, and that the police are notified of any relevant changes of medical circumstances.

Inconsistency was a key theme in the report’s findings. The report found that of the 11 forces inspected:

  • Seven forces did not deal correctly with expired licences, leaving firearms holders in possession of their firearms without certification. One of these forces had over 1,200 temporary permits on issue as of May 2015;
  • Only four forces inspected had effective monitoring and audit arrangements in place;
  • In the 11 forces inspected, there were between one and 168 notifications outstanding regarding expired licences.   Inspectors reviewed 55 of these records and found 22 which gave cause for concern, including poor record keeping and inaction; and
  • Four forces did not have sufficient resources to handle current or anticipated future demand and a further force did not have a plan for its long-term resourcing

The report also analysed data provided from all forces, which again demonstrated the inconsistency across England and Wales:

  • The overall time span taken by forces to grant both firearm and shotgun licensing applications ranged from an average of five days to 165 days;
  • The average time taken by forces to complete the application process varied: five forces took in excess of an average of 100 days to grant a section 1 firearm certificate whereas 13 forces took an average of 40 days or less;
  • For shotgun certificates 18 forces took in excess of an average of 60 days, whereas five took an average of less than half of this time;
  • Some certificate holders told us that their referees had never been contacted. Of the 43 forces, only 28 contact referees for all new grant applications and only 14 of these contact all referees for renewals;
  • All forces undertake home visits when certificates are initially granted, but 11 forces don’t visit applicants for the renewal of a section 1 firearms certificate and 20 don’t visit all applicants for the renewal of a shotgun certificate; and
  • Seven of the 43 forces had not undertaken a review of current certificate holders’ suitability, as advised by the national policing lead for firearms, based on revised guidance from the Home Office. Over 7000 cases were reviewed by 21 forces which led to 260 licences being revoked.

Clearer and more authoritative guidance must be put in place to properly protect the public. This includes definitive guidance on contacting referees and on the police’s obligations around visiting prospective and current licence holders to inspect how the firearms and ammunition are stored. Additionally the police must be given a legal right of entry to an applicant’s premises; something they do not currently have.

Get the report

Targeting the risk: an inspection of the efficiency and effectiveness of firearms licensing in police forces in England and Wales


  1. The police are not obliged to make contact with an applicant’s GP unless prompted to do so by the disclosure of a medical condition, although they often write to the GP after the certificate is issued to enquire whether the GP knows of any medical reason why the applicant should not hold a certificate. The GP in turn is not obliged to respond, nor to note that the patient holds a firearms certificate in case of subsequent medical conditions.
  2. The 11 police forces where inspectors reviewed policies and procedures for firearms licensing and conducted interviews with police officers and staff were:
    • Dyfed Powys Police;
    • Dorset Police;
    • Warwickshire Police;
    • West Mercia Police;
    • Cumbria Constabulary;
    • Durham Constabulary;
    • North Yorkshire Police;
    • Lincolnshire Police;
    • Surrey Police;
    • Sussex Police; and
    • Essex Police.
  3. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales, together with other major policing bodies.
  4. For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday on 020 3513 0600. HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729



Some information as a guide.

The types of firearm that we commonly come into contact with can be split into the following sections (arranged in order of ease of ownership):

Air Weapons


Air rifles with a power output of less than 12ft/lb are available to shooters without the need for a licence. For air pistols, the power limit is reduced to 6ft/lb. On no account should owners try to improve the power output of an air weapon because if they exceed these limits, they are considered ‘Section 1’ firearms.

There is no security requirement for air weapons but owners are advised to store them securely so that they may not be stolen or misused by another person.
To use an air-rifle or air-pistol on enclosed private land a person must have the requisite permission and must be legally old enough. It is an offence for a person under 17 years old to be in possession of an air weapon, or ammunition for it, except:
a. As a member of an approved club for target shooting.
b. Whilst at a shooting gallery where only air weapons or miniature rifles not exceeding .23 calibre are used.
c. Whilst under the supervision of a person aged 21 years or over, or whilst shooting, on private premises, including land, provided the missile is not fired beyond those premises.
d. From the age of 14 years old, whilst on private premises with the consent of the owner. No supervision is required.


‘Section 58’ Antique Weapons


The Home Office has a list of ‘Obsolete Calibre’ rifles, shotguns and pistols. These may be bought, sold and possessed without a licence of any kind, provided that they are owned as curios only. These weapons may not be fired and to possess ammunition for them is likely to invalidate any claim that they are not for use. No ammunition is considered ‘obsolete’.

Among the ‘obsolete calibres’ we find vintage pin-fires, muzzle-loaders, rim-fires (not including .22 and .9mm) and large bore shotguns like 4-bore and 8-bore. The rules only apply to pre-1939 manufactured weapons (so a 1995 Pedersoli 12-bore muzzle-loader is not considered ‘obsolete’ under Section 58 but an 1840 Manton is).

Pre 1939 rifles, shotguns and punt guns chambered for the following cartridges: 32-bore 24-bore, 14-bore, 10- bore (2 5/8" and 2 7/8" chambers only), 8-bore, 4-bore, 3-bore, 2-bore, 1 1/8 bore, 1 ¼ bore and 1 ½ bore, are all considered ‘obsolete’.

Any weapons listed on the ‘Obsolete Calibre’ list may be hung on the wall or form part of a display, as there are no security requirements. It is important to stress that any attempt to fire a Section 58 weapon is an extremely serious offence, which could lead to a prison sentence.


Anyone who attempts to make or discharge a cartridge from such a weapon is commiting an offence.


‘Section 2’ Shotguns


Most shooters do most of their shooting in the UK with a shotgun. The law defines this as a smooth-bored gun with barrels of not less than 24”. If the gun is a semi-automatic or pump-action, the magazine must be restricted to hold no more than two shells, with a third in the chamber. This is quite confusing these days because some modern wildfowling magnums are chambered for 3 ½” shells. This makes it possible to load more than the legal maximum number of shells into the gun if you use 65mm cases. Readers are strongly advised not to do so because the police may construe your shotgun as a Section 1 firearm if it is used in this way.

To buy, sell or possess a ‘Section 2’ shotgun you are required to hold a valid Shotgun Certificate.


This can be applied for through your local police station and is issued by your constabulary. They will ask you to complete a form and provide photographs and pay a fee. They will visit you and check your security before deciding if they will issue you a Shotgun Certificate. It is the right of every citizen to have a Shotgun Certificate granted unless the chief police officer believes there are grounds to stop you from having one. He must make these grounds clear in the case of a refusal. A past conviction for a serious crime may be one such reason.

The security requirement for shotguns is quite stringent. The police will inspect your security and advise you on their requirements. The law says you must secure your guns from theft. This usually means you will need to lock them in a steel cabinet of police-approved design and quality. see our website for examples. The cabinet must be secured to a supporting wall by means of coach bolts and be flush with the wall to prevent it being prized away. A SGC holder may have as many shotguns as he wishes, providing he can secure them to the police’s satisfaction.

Each shotgun must be entered on the SGC and the police must be informed of each purchase and disposal. A SGC holder may borrow a shotgun from another SGC holder for 72 hours without informing the police.

When travelling with shotguns, try not to leave them unattended in a vehicle.

They should be stowed out of sight and the fore-ends should be removed to render them useless should they be stolen. Trigger locks or cable ties are also a wise precaution.


‘Section 1’ Firearms


Shooters wishing to use a .22 for rabbiting, a .17HMR for vermin control, a .243 for foxing or a .308 for stalking will need a ‘Section 1’ Firearms Certificate. This enables the holder to possess the exact calibre, number and type of rifles specified on the licence and outlines the purposes for which each may be used. Therefore, if you are found shooting rabbits with your .308 and it specifies on your licence that it is for deer shooting, you will be committing an offence. 

Unlike ‘Section 2’ shotguns, a ‘Section 1’ firearm must be required for a specific purpose (called ‘Good Reason’) and the police need to be satisfied that the applicant needs it and has good cause to want it for the specified purpose. If you cannot convince the police of your need, they do not have to grant the FAC.

A first FAC is usually restricted and the owner may only use his rifle on land specified or approved by the police for that calibre weapon. An experienced FAC holder may be granted an ‘open licence’ which means he can use the rifle anywhere he judges it to be safe and appropriate, within the law.

Another type of gun that is considered a ‘Section 1’ firearm is any shotgun with a barrel shorter than 24” or a semi-auto or pump-action gun with the capacity to hold more than two shells in the magazine, or any shotgun with a detachable magazine. Air rifles which exceed the 12ft/lb power output limit are considered ‘Section 1’ firearms.

Security for ‘Section 1’ firearms is similar to that for shotguns except that the police are more likely to insist on a monitored alarm and they also require ammunition to be locked securely (ideally in a separate section from the rifles).

In order to buy and sell ‘Section 1’ firearms, the police must grant permission in advance for each sale or transfer. Any ammunition purchased must be entered on the FAC by the seller and the amount of ammunition possessed is restricted and specified by the police.

When travelling with firearms, do not leave them unattended and whilst travelling, bolts, magazines and ammunition should be stowed separately from the rifle. Trigger locks and cable ties are also a wise precaution.


‘Section 5’ Prohibited Weapons


‘Section 5’ covers weapons that are prohibited unless special permission is granted by the Home Secretary. This section covers automatic weapons, military weapons and modern handguns. Specialist collectors and dealers are able to gain Section 5 authority but it will not be available to the vast majority of shooters and collectors. 


Not Sure?


If in any doubt about your legal status, please contact your local firearms licensing department or talk to a registered firearms dealer.

If you find a gun in your attic or if a relative dies and you find yourself in possession of a weapon for which you are unlicenced or do not the authority to possess, the law allows for you to hand it to a registered firearms dealer. 


He will ask for your name but you are not obliged to provide it.

He will then inform the police that a firearm has been handed-in anonymously and they will check that it has not been used in crime and then authorise the RFD to dispose of it legally.

The police would rather unlicensed guns be ‘in the system’ and they will not seek to penalise the honest hand-over of firearms that are currently unlicensed. 

To be honest do not bring them here call you local unit for collection or hand them into your nearest police station, go into the police station first and then tell them you have firearm/s to be handed in.


If in doubt call us and we can advise you  0333 577 2666


The same can be said for live ammunition Do not touch them call the police straightaway.


However, if you find a firearm in the street or any other place.


Please do not touch it

call the police straightaway on 999.


For further information on firearms licensing call your local firearms and explosive unit,

May 2017 Did You Know...

~Non-commercial imports of firearms, their components and ammunition
17. An import licence is not required for the temporary or permanent import from outside the EU of your own firearms listed on a Firearm Certificate, Shotgun Certificate or a British Visitors Permit (BVP) as long as your domestic authority is presented and the firearm freely declared to Customs at the UK Border.

This includes weapons such as sporting shotguns, hunting rifles, certain air weapons, black powder pistols, their component parts and standard ammunition that is neither expanding, incendiary or armour piercing.
Declaring your personal import

18. If you are travelling with your firearm, you should go to the Red Point or Red Point telephone at the Port or Airport on arrival to make your declaration. Pre-warning the Port or Airport of your arrival may speed up the time taken to check your authority.

19. If you are returning with a newly acquired firearm or shotgun you must check:
 Your airline or ferry company’s policy on the transport of such items,
 That you are in full compliance with the laws in the country where you purchase the item concerning its possession, transport and export,
 You have your UK domestic possession authority to present to UK Customs.

20. If your item is being shipped or posted from a non-EU country, it must have a declaration on the package that clearly identifies its contents. Your item will then be held by UK Border Force whilst the validity of your domestic possession authorities is confirmed with the issuing constabulary. Your item will only be released when UKBF are satisfied that the correct authorities are in place.

21. If you are transferring a newly acquired firearm or shotgun into the UK from an EU country, you must obtain a transfer licence (irrespective of whether you are returning from a trip with the item or having it shipped to you). The transfer licence is issued by the relevant authority in the transferring Member State.

More information on importation can be found on the website

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