What is a Firearm?
"Firearm", within the definition of
the Firearms Acts, means a lethal barrelled weapon of any
description, from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be
discharged. It includes any prohibited
weapon, whether it is such a lethal weapon as aforesaid or not,
and any component part of such a weapon, and any accessory to such
weapon designed or adapted to diminish the noise or flash caused by
the firing of the weapon.
Firearm, within the terms of what
you are allowed to hold on a firearm certificate, would obviously
not include any prohibited weapons. Neither would it include
"shotguns", as they are held on a shotgun certificate. Except, that
is, for Section 1 shotguns, which can only be held on a firearm
What is a Section 1
A Section 1 shotgun differs from a
conventional shotgun, by virtue of the fact that it has a magazine
capable of holding more than two cartridges. These are known as
"pump-action" or "semi-automatic" shotguns, where cartridges from
the magazine are loaded by hand "pumping" the action, or by the
discharge of the previous round. These weapons are required to be
held on a firearm certificate.
What is a prohibited
This is too large a subject to
describe here. It has its own section, Prohibited
Weapons, where greater detail is available.
So, what can be held on a
Well, if you take away Section 2
shotguns, which are held on a shotgun certificate, and also
eliminate prohibited weapons, you can have any other weapon you
want. Provided you can supply a "good
Most applicants require small or
full bore rifles for target shooting,
as a member of a Home Office approved club. Others request
muzzle-loading hand guns for the same reason. Others still, use
rifles for vermin control or
deer stalking. Provided good reason is satisfied, all these
weapons can be legally held on a firearm certificate.
What do I do if I move
Moving house is a traumatic enough
experience on its own, without the worry of firearms. Nevertheless,
it is your responsibility to ensure that your weapons are secure
during the moving process. The easiest way to do this is to arrange
to store your firearms with a Registered Firearms Dealer. Your
shotguns can be temporarily stored with another shotgun certificate
holder, providing he has the accommodation, but remember the 72
hour rule. If he has them for longer than that, they must be
entered on his certificate.
If you are moving within the area
of your present certificate authority, you must inform them
immediately, in writing, and return your existing certificate for
amendment. Please be sure to include a daytime contact
If you have been unable to
temporarily store your weapons elsewhere, you should immediately
secure your cabinet, with rawl-bolts, to a solid brick wall inside
A Firearms Enquiry Officer will
contact you and arrange for a security inspection at your new home.
If you have already returned your old certificate, he will probably
bring your new certificate with him. Should he discover that
security at your new home requires upgrading, he will provide you
with the full details on an official form. You will be allowed
ample time to upgrade your security, normally 28 days, but if you
find you cannot meet the deadline, contact your Firearms Enquiry
Officer. Provided you have made a concerted effort to complete the
work, you will normally find a sympathetic ear, and get a short
If security is found to be totally
inadequate, with little likelihood of meeting the required standard
in the foreseeable future, you will be required to store your
weapons elsewhere until the matter is resolved.
If you are moving to a different
Firearms Licensing authority area, most of the above advice still
holds true, However, you should immediately contact the Firearms
Licensing Office for your new area, and they will inform you of
what their procedure is. You should also inform your present
Firearms Licensing Office of your intended move, in order that your
existing file can be passed to your new authority.
What is an 'Antique' Firearm
The word "antique" is not defined
anywhere within any of the Firearms Acts or Regulations, so how do
we know what is acceptable as "antique"?
Dictionary definitions include "not
of our time" and "a relic of former times".
Consequently it must be accepted
that modern reproductions, even of very old flintlocks, etc.,
cannot be antique.
Many people use the old maxim that over 100 years old means it is
antique. To a great extent this will prove to be true, but there
are always the exceptions to the rule. There are some old weapons
which are still capable of firing a modern centre fire cartridge,
and are therefore not classified as antique.
It may be easier to understand what
is acceptable as antique, if we first establish what is "modern".
Modern, in relation to firearms, has now been established as:
manufactured since or during the Second World War. The following
tables are a guide as to what may or may not be antique. In reality
every case will need to be judged on its own merit.
- All muzzle loading firearms,
except those of "modern" manufacture.
- Breech loading firearms capable of
discharging a rim fire cartridge exceeding .23" calibre (or its
metric equivalent), but not 9mm.
- Breech loading firearms using
ignition systems other than rim fire or centre fire. (e.g. pin-fire
- Breech loading firearms incapable
of firing a centre fire cartridge.
- Breech loading firearms capable of
- a centre fire cartridge
- a rim fire cartridge not exceeding .23" (or its metric
- a 9mm rim fire cartridge
- All firearms of "Modern"
- All ammunition.
If a firearm falls within the
accepted definition of antique, then it is no longer subject to the
provisions of the Firearms Acts, providing it is kept as a
curio or ornament. It will be seen above that no
ammunition can be classified as antique and the possession of
suitable ammunition, for use with an otherwise antique firearm, may
indicate that the firearm is not possessed as a curio or
For further information please
visit The Home Office guidance on Antique Firearms and the Law at
What are 'Deactivated'
Deactivated weapons are any
firearms which have been converted, in such a manner that they can
no longer discharge any shot, bullet or other missile. More
importantly, deactivation is intended to be permanent and such
firearms should be incapable of being reactivated without
specialist tools or skills.
Deactivation work carried out in
the UK since 1st July 1989 will generally have been endorsed by one
of the Proof Houses, the weapon proof-marked and a certificate of
deactivation issued. To these ends, any weapon, even a prohibited
weapon such as a machine gun, can be deactivated. The outcome is
that the weapon is no longer a firearm within the meaning of the
Firearms Acts, and consequently may be possessed without a firearm
or shotgun certificate and may be displayed in the owner's home,
rather than be locked in a gun cabinet.
Deactivation of a firearm is not
something to be undertaken by the layman. There are stringent
requirements before a weapon can be proofed as deactivated and such
work is best left to a gunsmith. A Registered Firearms Dealer is
the best person to speak to if you require a weapon to be
deactivated. He can make all the necessary arrangements for you,
including deactivation of the weapon and getting it proofed.
Although the above references to
proofing and certification do not preclude the possibility that a
firearm which has been deactivated in some other way may also have
ceased to be a firearm within the meaning of the 1968 Act (as
amended), it is important that care is taken when acquiring any
firearm which is described as deactivated. You should ensure that
you are shown the Proof House mark and certificate issued in
respect of any gun deactivated in the UK since 1st July 1989.
Further advice may be sought from
the Firearms Licensing Unit, Registered Firearms
Dealers or the Proof Houses.
See also Deactivation of
What are Imitation Firearms?
Imitation, or replica firearms,
generally fall into two categories:
(a) Those that can be readily
converted into a firearm to which section 1 of the 1968 Act,
(firearms requiring a firearm certificate) applies, and
(b) those that cannot.
Those not requiring
The latter are not required to be licensed and therefore, are not
subject to most of the regulations regarding firearms. To all
intents and purposes they are treated as toys or collectibles.
However, exemption from the
certification procedures does not automatically exempt such a
"firearm" from all the other provisions of the Act, the application
of which should be considered separately.
Those that can be readily converted into section 1 firearms are
treated as such and must be held by virtue of a valid certificate
or permit. Other such imitation firearms may even be section 5
prohibited weapons. For instance, as handguns, subject to certain
exceptions are now prohibited weapons, such a readily convertible
imitation handgun would also be prohibited.
A readily convertible replica of a
rifle, not subject to section 5 prohibition, would be a section 1
firearm and require to be held on a firearm certificate. The owner
would also need to satisfy all the other criteria regarding section
1 firearms, including his need of such a weapon. (see "good
Section 57 (4) of the 1968 Act
includes a definition, which states -
"Imitation firearm means any thing which has the appearance of
being a firearm
(other than such a weapon as is mentioned in section 5 (1)(b) of
this Act) whether or not it is capable of discharging any shot,
bullet or other missile."
Imitation firearms may also be
made, adapted or converted to be capable of firing blank
ammunition. (see "What is a blank firing weapon?")
The Firearms Act
The Firearms Act 1982 provides
control of those imitation firearms readily convertible into
firearms to which section 1 of the 1968 Act applies.
Important aspects of this
Section 1 (1) This Act applies to
an imitation firearm if:
(a) it has the appearance of being
a firearm to which section 1 of the 1968 Act, (firearms requiring a
firearm certificate), applies: and
(b) it is so constructed or adapted as to be readily convertible
into a firearm to which that section applies.
Section 1 (6) For the purposes of
this section an imitation firearm shall be regarded as readily
convertible into a firearm to which section 1 of the 1968 Act
(a) it can be so converted without
any special skill on the part of the person converting it in the
construction or adaptation of firearms of any description:
(b) the work involved in converting it does not require equipment
or tools other than such as are in common use by persons carrying
out works of construction and maintenance in their own homes.
From this it can be seen that great
care must be taken when considering the acquisition of imitation
firearms. Without specialist knowledge or advice the layman could
find himself breaking the law. However, there is a statutory
defence provided within this Act as follows:
Section 1 (5) In any proceedings
brought by virtue of this section for an offence under the 1968
Act, involving an imitation firearm to which this Act applies, it
shall be a defence for the accused to show that he did not know and
had no reason to suspect that the imitation firearm was so
constructed or adapted as to be readily convertible into a firearm
to which section 1 of that Act applies.
Any imitation firearm suspected of
falling within the definition of being so constructed or adapted as
to be readily convertible into a firearm to which section 1 of the
1968 Act applies, would normally require to be submitted for
testing at a forensic laboratory, before any lawful proceedings
Ultimately only a court can decide
whether or not a particular imitation firearm requires a firearm
Possession of an air weapon or
imitation firearm in public place
What are Blank Firing Weapons?
Blank firing weapons generally fall
into two different categories:
Those not requiring
These are imitation firearms, not
readily convertible into a firearm to which section 1 of the 1968
Act, as mended, applies. These "firearms" are not firearms within
the definition of section 57 (1) of that Act, and therefore are not
required to be held on a certificate. (see "What are imitation
Such weapons are capable of firing,
or capable of being adapted or converted to fire, blank ammunition.
With blank ammunition no shot, bullet or other missile is
discharged from the barrel - you just get a "bang" and maybe a puff
Such weapons are often used in
battle re-inactments, theatre and TV productions and for starting
Exemption from the certification
procedures does not automatically exempt such a firearm from all
the other provisions of the Act, the application of which should be
(a) those firearms to which section 1 of the 1968 Act applies,
(b) those firearms to which section
2 of the 1968 Act applies, and
(c) those firearms to which section
1 of the 1982 Act applies.
With regard to (a) above - these
firearms are "real" firearms such as rifles and handguns which are
not subject to section 5, (see "prohibited
With regard to (b) above - these
are conventional shotguns, (but not semi-automatic or pump-action
shotguns with a magazine capable of holding more than two
cartridges), and include smooth bore muskets.
With regard to (c) above - these
are imitation firearms readily convertible into firearms to which
section 1 of the 1968 Act applies.
All the above three types of
firearms can be made, adapted or converted to fire blank
ammunition, but would require to be held on a certificate.
Section 1 (1) (b) of the 1968 Act
requires that ammunition to which that section applies can only be
possessed, purchased or acquired by a person authorised by a
However, section 1 (4) (c) exempts
blank cartridges not more than one inch in diameter, measured
immediately in front of the rim or cannelure of the base of the
cartridge, from this requirement.
How can I take my Licensed Weapons
If you are the holder of a shotgun
or firearms certificate and you wish to take your weapons abroad
within the EEC, then you will need a
European Firearms Pass (EPF). This is issued, free
of charge, upon written application to your Firearms
Licensing Unit. You will need to specify what weapons you will
be taking with you, what country you are visiting and when you
intend to visit. A European Firearms Pass cannot have an expiry
date later than the expiry date on the firearms or shotgun
certificate on which the weapons are held.
If you wish to take your weapons to
any other country, whether in or outside the EEC, you should seek
advice from the embassy or consulate of that country. Even within
the EEC other documents may be required other than your European
All weapons must be declared to
Customs and to the travel company carrying you, whether by land,
sea or air.
Holders of British firearm and
shotgun certificates, wishing to take their firearms to Northern
Ireland, should be aware that a valid certificate of approval, from
the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, is
also required in addition to their firearm and shotgun
It should be noted that air weapons
are also currently required to be licensed in Northern Ireland, and
approval as above is necessary to take them there.
Advice on obtaining approval can be
found by clicking here
Unexpected Possession of a Firearm
- What Should I do?
There have been many incidents
where unlicensed people, through no fault of their own, have
suddenly found themselves in "possession" of firearms or shotguns.
The first criteria is not to panic into doing something silly or
Such an incident could be, for
instance, when a certificate holder dies and the widow or widower
is left with their weapons. In such circumstances the police are
empowered to issue a temporary permit to allow lawful access to the
firearms, thus allowing time for the weapons to be disposed of
Also see "What is a firearms
If you find unlicensed weapons in
your "possession", for instance discovering them in your loft
having just moved into a new address; do not handle them, they
could be loaded and in a dangerous condition. Immediately call your
local police who will make them safe and dispose of them for
Should you find yourself
"inheriting" firearms you have a number of choices. If you are a
certificate holder then you can request that they be added to your
own certificate. This would depend on the weapons not being lost or
stolen, and you having capacity to store them and, in the case of a
firearms certificate, the authority to possess that type of weapon.
You could also request the required authority but would need to
satisfy good reason.
If you are not a certificate holder
you could first request a permit allowing you access to the
weapons, this would give you the time to get them to a Registered
Firearms Dealer for storage, whilst you decided what to do next.
You could then apply for a certificate yourself to allow you to
keep the guns, but remember you would need to satisfy good
Another alternative is to have the
weapons deactivated which
would remove them from all legislation relating to firearms. They
would still retain the original appearance but would be incapable
of discharging a missile.
In all case of doubt, contact your
local police or the Firearms Enquiry Team covering your area. They
will deal sympathetically with your problem and help you find the
right solution. The last thing anybody wants is for unlicensed
firearms to get into the wrong hands.
What is a Firearms Permit?
A permit can be issued by the Chief
Officer of Police, as a temporary authority, for the possession of
firearms or shotguns. It is not normally issued to a certificate
holder, but to someone who, unexpectedly, finds the need to have
legal access to weapons (see Unexpected
possession of a firearm - What should I do?).
The authority is usually of a
restrictive nature and may not allow use of the weapons for
shooting. The permit, by nature of the fact that it is temporary,
has a limited life span, probably about thirty days. This can be
extended in exceptional circumstances.
The idea of the permit is to allow
the holder to transfer or transport weapons, perhaps to a
Registered Firearms Dealer or another certificate holder. It is not
designed as a legal authority in place of a normal certificate.
You could look on a permit as a
How do I Import or Export
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
Department of Trade &
Import Licensing Branch
Tel: 01642 364351
Fax: 01642 364269
Department of Trade &
Export Licensing Unit
4 Abbey Orchard Street
Tel: 020 7215 8070
Fax: 020 7215 0558
For more information on exporting
firearms, visit the Department of Trade and Industry Export Control
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 he is granted a visitor's permit,
have in his possession firearms, shotguns or ammunition without
holding a certificate.
The holder of a visitor's firearms
permit may have in his 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 his 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
section on Fees and Charges.
How do I apply for a Visitor's
Applications for visitor's permits
must be made on behalf of the visitor, to the Chief Officer of
Police, by a person resident in that area. In most cases a private
sponsor will himself be a certificate holder, but this is not a
Applications must be made on Form
107 (Firearm), or 109 (Shotgun).
The sponsor may be a private
individual, or may make the application in the capacity of a club,
shooting syndicate, country estate or shooting organisation.
Group applications can be made for
parties of between 6 and 20 people provided they are all shooting
at the same location and at the same time, or are participating in
the same event or competition. In such circumstances a reduced fee
is payable. See Fees and Charges.
Applications should be made well in
advance of the required date, to allow the proper enquiries to be
made. The information necessary will be provided by the sponsor to
whom all enquiries will be made.
Criteria for granting a
A Chief Officer of Police
must not grant a permit to any person in respect
of whom he has reason to believe:
- That his possession of the
ammunition or weapons in question would represent a danger to
public safety or to the peace; or
- That he is prohibited from
possessing such weapons or ammunition.
If the grant is not precluded on
the above grounds, the Chief Officer of Police must be satisfied
- The applicant is visiting or
intends to visit Great Britain; and either
- In the case of a visitor's firearm
permit, the applicant has good reason for having each firearm and
the ammunition to which the permit relates in his possession, or,
as respects ammunition, for purchasing or acquiring it whilst a
visitor to Great Britain; or
- In the case of a visitor's shotgun
permit, the applicant has a good reason for having each shotgun to
which the permit relates in his possession, or for purchase or
acquiring it, whilst he is a visitor to Great Britain.
When a permit is granted it will
be sent to the sponsor who should forward it to the visitor in his
country of origin, for presentation to customs on his arrival in
Great Britain. The visitor's permit will be accepted in lieu of a
Department of Trade & Industry import licence. Failure to
produce the permit at the time of importation may render the
firearms/shotguns liable to detention or seizure.
Members of EU countries must be in
possession of a European Firearms Pass which should be forwarded
with the application for the permit.
Should an application for the grant
of a visitor's permit be refused there is no right of appeal.
However notification of such refusals will, circumstances allowing,
be detailed by letter in good time to prevent any unnecessary
What is a Prohibited Person?
From 14 July 2014, if a person
receives a suspended sentence of three months or more then they
will not be able to purchase or possess a firearm or ammunition for
a period of five years from the second day after sentence. This
timescale has been set so that a person who is in possession of a
firearm or ammunition is not in immediate breach of the law when
the sentence is passed and has an opportunity to make arrangements
to transfer or dispose of their firearm or ammunition.
However, a person who received a
suspended sentence before 14 July and already has a firearm
certificate would be able to retain their firearm and ammunition
for the duration of their certificate.
Section 110 makes another amendment
to the Firearms Act so that from 14 July 2014, a person who has
served or received a criminal sentence will not be able to possess
an antique firearm. The prohibition applies to anyone who has
served a custodial sentence of more than three years or has served
a custodial sentence, or received a suspended sentence, of between
three months and three years.
A person to whom this applies and
who currently lawfully possesses an antique firearm will need to
dispose of it by 14 July.
The Home Office circular covering this change.
Can I try Shooting without Holding
In short, yes you can, under
Many approved shotgun clubs and
even some Registered Firearms Dealers hold special "open days"
where non-certificate holders can fire club shotguns to test their
interest in the sport. The club or dealer must have a Section 11(6)
permit, issued by the police, which allows such an operation on a
limited number of days per year.
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 which
allow non-members to become "guests", sponsored by a club member,
and to use club weapons to shoot on a limited number of days.
Another way to shoot shotguns and
even rifles without a certificate is when you are accompanied by
the landowner or his agent, (e.g. game warden), shooting on his
land, using his weapons, within the limitations of the authorities
on the certificate, for that weapon.
However, as a non certificate
holder, you cannot borrow another person's gun, if he is not the
occupier of the land you intend to shoot on.
What is a 'Restricted'
The Firearms Amendment Act 1988
removed "pump-action" and "semi-automatic" shotguns, which had a
magazine capable of holding more than two cartridges, out of the
hands of shotgun certificate holders.
They became Section 1 firearms and,
since that time, can only be legally held on a firearms
However, many shotgun certificate
holders already possessed such weapons, and consequently either had
to dispose of them or have them "restricted".
Restriction is the adaptation of
the shotgun magazine allowing it to hold no more than two
conventional size cartridges. A third cartridge can still be held
in the breech, and this is quite legal.
The adaptation must be done in a
manner approved by the Secretary of State and should be carried out
by a fully qualified gunsmith. The adaptation is not legal until
the shotgun has been proved by one of the two Proof Houses, duly
proof marked and a certificate issued by the Proof House.
If you plan to acquire a
"pump-action" or "semi-automatic" shotgun on a shotgun certificate,
you must ensure that the magazine is incapable of holding more than
two cartridges by manufacture or adaptation. In the latter case the
shotgun must be so proof marked and accompanied by a certificate
from the issuing Proof House. The magazine must also be non
Failure to ensure these points may
expose you to being in unlawful possession of Section 1
See also adaptation of shotgun
magazines by the Proof House.
How do I get rid of an Unwanted
If you possess a shotgun, legally
held on a shotgun certificate, and you decide that you no longer
wish to keep it, you have various options as to its disposal.
Firstly you can sell, give or
transfer its ownership to another shotgun certificate holder who
has adequate safe storage for the weapon. Similarly you can sell,
give or transfer ownership to a Registered Firearms Dealer.
You can surrender it at any police
station, from where it will usually go for destruction, unless it
is deemed of particular historical interest. In the latter case it
could be given to a museum or other interested official party.
You can have the weapon
deactivated, after which it ceases to be a "firearm" within the
meaning of the Acts. Consequently it no longer falls within the
restrictions imposed on "firearms" by any of the Firearm Acts and
Deactivation must be done
officially and proved at one of The Proof Houses who issue the
weapon with a deactivation certificate and also proof mark it. This
renders the weapon incapable of being fired and, more importantly,
incapable of being converted back to a firing condition.
See also "What are 'deactivated'
weapons?" and "Deactivation of
You cannot "deactivate" a weapon
yourself; for instance by filling in the barrel or filing off the
firing pin. In such circumstances the weapon will still remain a
"firearm" and require to be held on a certificate. Deactivation
needs to be carried out by a qualified gunsmith in order to meet
the standard necessary for proofing.
If you hold weapons on a firearm
certificate, the scenario is slightly different with regard to
selling, giving or transferring them to another firearm certificate
Unlike shotguns, firearm
certificate holders can only possess those firearms authorised on
their certificate. Thus, before transferring firearms to another
firearm certificate holder, you must ensure that their certificate
carries the authority for the calibre and weapon in question. No
such restrictions usually apply to Registered Firearms Dealers,
except possibly in respect of Section 5 (prohibited) weapons. Even
Registered Firearms Dealers need special authorisation from The
Home Office to handle prohibited weapons.
The option to surrender weapons at
a police station or have them properly deactivated, applies equally
to firearms as it does to shotguns.
You should never destroy and/or
dispose of a shotgun or firearm yourself. Every weapon needs to be
accounted for and irrespective of what you do with a licensed
weapon, you must inform the police authority which
issued your certificate, exactly what you have done with it.
Unwanted Section 1 ammunition can
be disposed of through another authorised firearm certificate
holder, Registered Firearms Dealer, your target shooting club or
surrendered at any police station.