Gun ownership is a privilege and comes with considerable responsibility. It is important therefore, to understand the legal requirements associated with your sport and make sure you are fully compliant.

Whilst the rules and regulations are strict, don’t be put off from applying to own a firearm, the law is there to protect and ensure the safe and responsible use, not to impinge on the enjoyment of your sport.

The guidance given here is a basic summary designed only as a starting point.

Before purchasing any gun (other than an airgun subject to age) you will need to apply for a shotgun or firearm certificate by contacting your local police force.

You simply need to satisfy them that you are responsible person, this process involves:

  • Completing an application form
  • Providing 4 passport photographs
  • You will need 2 referees for a firearm certificate and 1 referee for shotgun certificate
  • Paying the appropriate fee for the certificate you are applying for – currently £50.00 for a firearms certificate and £50.00 for a shotgun licence

Note that there are two types of licence, each lasts for five years:

1. SHOTGUN Certificate:

Section 1(3) a of the Firearms Act 1968 (as amended) defines a shotgun as:

  • A smooth bore gun (not being an air weapon);
  • Having a barrel not less than 24’(60.96cm) and a bore less than 2’’ (5.08cm);
  • Either having no magazine, or a non- detachable magazine incapable of holding more than two cartridges;
  • Not a revolver gun


A shotgun fires a cartridge that is packed with a gunpowder charge, wadding and lead pellets. There is a variety of cartridge weights and pellet quantities depending on what type of quarry you are shooting.

A shotgun certificate does not restrict the holder to a number or type of shotgun once issued.

2. FIREARM Certificate:

Section 1 of the Firearms Act 1968 (as amended) applies to all firearms except:

  • A shotgun;
  • An air weapon (unless declared ‘specially dangerous’)
  • Prohibited weapons such as centre fire self-loading rifles, handguns, machine guns etc. (unless specifically authorised).

Rifle bullets vary in size, velocity and range. So if you want a hunting rifle or powerful target gun you’ll need a Firearms Licence and a Shotgun Licence if you wish to join a live game shoot or attend a clay pigeon shooting range with your own gun.

A firearm certificate will specify the calibre of firearms, ammunition and quantities that the holder can possess. If a different firearm is required the holder must apply for a further verification to their licence.


Gun Ownership

As part of your gun licence application a member of your local police force will visit your property and inspect where the gun is to be kept to ensure that is kept in a secure, locked cupboard or attached to a gun clamp which is raw-bolted to a wall.

It is also important to know that some types of firearms are strictly prohibited in the UK and possession for any reason is a serious criminal offence (unless you have express authority to possess the item from the UK Home Office which is generally only given for strict Professional purposes).

These are commonly referred to as Section 5 firearms (referring to the relevant section of the Firearms Act which prohibits them). As a rule of thumb, if it is a handheld weapon (pistol or revolver), has a larger than normal barrel or is capable of rapid fire then it should be treated with extreme caution.

(Owners in Northern Ireland are subject to different rules and regulations. See the PSNI website for further guidance)


The exception to this is the small-bore rim-fire rifles often used for target shooting and pest control – these are classed as Section 1 firearms and simply require a Firearm Licence.


Failure to comply with the law can bring with it a custodial sentence, therefore, if you have any doubts or questions in relation to gun ownership always ask your local police firearms department or your local registered firearms dealer first.

Other excellent sources of help and guidance include:

Moving your Firearm

When travelling with a gun (say to a shoot or club) the gun should be in a sleeve or container that prevents the gun being fired. The firing mechanism should be separated from the gun when travelling and a gun should never be left unattended in a vehicle.