Before you start your firearm certificate application we recommend reading through some of our most commonly asked-about topics, from certificate types to transport. If you’re ready to begin your application, visit our How to apply for a firearm or shotgun certificate.

Which certificate do you need?

Knowing which certificate you need isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Take a look at the table below to see how the characteristics of a gun, not its name, define the certificate needed.

Gun type Characteristics Firearm certificate Shotgun certificate
Firearm Rifled barrel, firing
ammunition
 ✓  
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. For details, and to find out more about the UK firearms licensing laws, visit the UK Government’s website.

Storing and transporting firearms and shotguns

For comprehensive information on storing and transporting firearms and shotguns, we recommend the UK Government’s Firearms security: a brief guide and Firearms security handbook.

Explosives

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 certificates

There are two kinds of explosives certificate available. An acquire 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 visited by a firearms enquiry officer (FEO) at their home address for an interview. 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 is an offence to sell or transfer a firearm, shotgun or ammunition to a person you have grounds to believe may be prohibited.

Overseas visitors

Under Section 17 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, a visitor to Great Britain may, if granted a ‘visitors 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 the online form below 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

Contact us

If you have any further questions about firearm certificates, call the Firearms Enquiries Team on 0207 161 4750 or click ‘Start’ below to complete our quick and simple online form.

Please note, we cannot answer questions regarding the receipt of applications or posting of certificates or other administration.

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