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The UK is widely known to have some of the tightest gun laws in the world and for good reason. Around the world, it is understood and appreciated that guns are used for a variety of purposes. These purposes range from clay pigeon and target shooting to simply collecting vintage pieces. In the UK though, you need a license to state your intentions with your gun and prove your legal ownership.

If you need advice on getting a gun license in the UK, we can help explain the process to you. Once you have obtained your license, we have a variety of sporting guns to choose from in our Gun Room.

What is the Difference Between a Firearm License and a Shotgun License?

A firearms certificate and a shotgun certificate are both valid in the UK for five years. However, there are differences between these two types of important documents. Importantly, if your gun is not classed as a shotgun, you will need to apply for a firearms certificate. It is very important to note that you cannot possess a shotgun under a firearms licence and vice versa.


A popular reason for gun ownership in the UK is for target shooting

UK Firearms Certificates

When it comes to possessing a firearm in the UK, one of the biggest differences with gun laws around much of the world is that simply having a license does not allow you to carry it as you please. In the UK, you need a license to possess the firearm in question. You will also need to transport it from place-to-place, such as gun ranges and storage location. It will need to be proven that you need your rifle on a regular basis for the purposes of work, sports or leisure.

Firearms Certificate Applications

You can apply for a firearms certificate in the UK on the GOV.UK website. You will need to state what type of gun and ammunition you want to use on your application. This needs to be very specific. You’ll need to provide more than a generic group such as .22 rifle with ammunition. Furthermore, you should state where you are going to keep your guns and ammunition. It is a part of the possession criteria, which requires you to store the firearm appropriately and safely.

Your form must include four identical passport photographs of yourself. You will also need to specify two people who can act as your referees. These people must be British residents, have known you for at least two years and be of good character.

It must also be noted that the referees cannot be a family member. They also cannot be registered firearms dealers, employed by the police or your area’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). You will also need to give permission for the police to approach your GP to make sure you are sound of mind and health.

To obtain your certificate, the police who will be carrying out the checks and verification need to be satisfied that:

  • You can be trusted with a firearm and are not prohibited from possessing one for any reason
  • The reason you have given for purchasing or possessing a firearm is good enough
  • Your possession of the firearm or ammunition will not be a danger to public safety or peace
  • You do not have a criminal record

Shotgun Certificates in the UK

As with any other gun in the UK, you will not be able to purchase a shotgun or any ammunition without a shotgun certificate. The ‘good reasons’ for having a shotgun are the same as those which are detailed above to do with firearms. If you are asked, you can simply say that you want to take part in shooting sports.


Getting a gun license is a long, detailed process

Shotgun Certificate Application Process

To apply for a shotgun, you can apply via the Gov UK website or go and get a form from the shotgun licensing department of your local police station. Applying for a shotgun is relatively straightforward and will cost you £79.50 for the first time, or £49 for a renewal license. However, paying for the application is no guarantee of acceptance.

If your application passes the first stage, you can then expect a visit from a police firearms officer to your home. They will speak with you about the reasons you wish you to have a shotgun and also talk you through the proposed safety arrangements that you have made.

Make sure that you have a secure gun cabinet by the time of inspection that you can show to the police officer. This needs to adhere to the safety regulations, so do your research. Having this in place will work to speed up your certificate application. In the case that the police officer is satisfied, they will go back and report back accordingly. Afterwards, subject to the necessary checks, your shotgun licence can be granted.

If your security was already installed when the police officer dropped round, then your certificate can simply be posted to you. If you have not got your security installed before the visit, then your licence will have to be hand-delivered to you by a police officer. He or she will only award you the licence if they are satisfied that your security is installed correctly, according to the legal regulations.

Renewing A Firearms or Shotgun Licence

When you are renewing your license, make sure that you hold on tight to your current one and do not think you are meant to send it off with the renewal applications. You will need it as long as it remains valid since you will need to prove that you are in lawful possession of ammunition and firearms.


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