UK Firearms Certificates Explained

20th Mar 2018

UK Firearms Certificates Explained

Firearm Law in the UK can, on the face of it, be a little complicated. For people that aren’t familiar, it’s not always easy to tell which firearms are legal, which ones you can own and the difference between the kinds of firearm certificate available.

In this blog we’re going to put it all into perspective so that you can have a firm grasp on the different firearm legislation and the kinds of firearm certificate in the UK.

Firearm ownership in the UK is governed primarily by 2 kinds “license”. In the UK firearms licenses are called “certificates” and are a literal certificate which is issued to an individual person and outlines which firearms they are legally allowed to own. There are 2 kinds of certificate which you can apply for:

  • Shotgun Certificate
  • Firearms Certificate

Before we get into the depths of what each of these certificates mean, it’s important that you understand that neither certificate has an obligation to each other. A beginner may think that a “firearms” certification would allow you to own any type of legal firearm. However, the two are completely separate, and cover you for specific different firearms, with no overlap between the two.

Shotgun Certificate

A shotgun certificate is the simpler of the two certificates to obtain and allows you to own specific kinds of shotgun. The kinds of shotgun you can own under this certificate are widely used for sports such as clay pigeon shooting and for shooting game.


The kinds of firearm you can own with this certificate:

The shotgun must:

  • Have a barrel no shorter than 24inches (from muzzle to breech)
  • Have a barrel with a bore not exceeding 2 inches in diameter
  • Have no magazine, or have a non-detachable magazine not capable of holding more than 2 cartridges.

This is what is most commonly known as a “section 2” firearm.

There a number of caveats to these stipulations which can be found on the government’s website. However, common sense prevails here, if you’re trying to find a loophole here to own some exotic shotgun, you’re not going to find one.  

In addition, just because a shotgun does not meet the criteria above, doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t own it. It may fall under the classification of a section 1 firearm, some of which you can own under a Firearms Certificate, read on for more information and how to apply for either.

Your shotgun certificate will list the type of shotgun that you are certified to own, and you may own as many as you can safely store in accordance with the law’s guidance.

Firearms certificate

A firearms certificate entitles you to own a section 1 firearm. A section 1 firearm is a much broader category than the above shotgun category and is difficult to define in a few paragraphs. For most shooters looking to shoot a large calibre rifle, you will need to get yourself a firearms certificate.

The firearms you can own are taken on an individual basis by your local police force, using their discretion and experience to ensure that you have a valid reason to own the firearm. This includes comparing the firearm type with the type of shooting you plan on using it for.

A firearms certificate lists the exact firearm you own, rather than the “type” and you’re limited to these firearms. If you wish to amend your certificate with more or less weapons, you will need to file for a “variation”.

Applying for a Certificate

A shotgun or firearms certificate application can take several weeks to become approved, so ensure that you are applying in plenty of time from when you intend to begin shooting.

Your shotgun certificate will cost you £79.50 on initial application and will cost you £49 for renewal every 5 years. A firearms certificate on the other hand is a little bit more expensive at £88 for the initial application, £62 for a renewal and £20 for a variation.

The form can be filled out online, and you’ll receive regular email notifications as to its progress.

The firearm and shotgun certificate application forms are relatively indepth, and will ask for a lot of personal information to ensure that you’re not a danger to the public or yourself when owning a firearm. It will also ask for 2 “referees” who will count as character references. You’ll need to supply the details of your GP and the land in which you intend to shoot over. For shotguns, you’ll need to provide the kind of shotgun you intend to shoot. However, for firearm certificates, you’ll need to provide the exact information on the model and the kind of shooting that you intend to do with it.

You will then receive a visit from the police so that they can investigate how you intend to store the firearms and ammunition, and to ensure that it is done so safely. They’ll also do their due diligence and further checks to ensure that you will be a safe gun owner.

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