Two questions about shotguns and auctions answered by our experts

Q: I have sent two shotguns that I no longer use to auction. Do I have to tell the police?

A: Not immediately, as you have not disposed of them until they are actually sold. They may fail to sell and you may want them back.

In the first instance, keep the auctioneer’s property receipt so that you can prove where they are if anyone asks. When the guns sell and you have received post-sale advice notifying you of this, you should then tell the Chief Constable who issued your certificate that you have disposed of them. You will need to give the auctioneer’s full details and his authority for possessing firearms, such as his RFD number.

You do not need to send your certificate in when you tell the police that you have disposed of the guns. In the interests of good housekeeping, after the sale strike a line through the entry on your certificate and annotate it with the date and destination of the disposal. This can be formally recorded by the police when you next renew.

How to buy a gun at auction

Auction houses can seem like hostile environments, where amateurs may be ripped off whether buying or selling.

In reality, most are friendly institutions that will give honest assessments of your possession or target item and guide you through the process.

The sales can be fun, too, though it is worth remembering that the auction house is a business and not a charity.

Freelance auctioneer David Porter is a regular face at many of the top gun sales in the country, especially at the specialists Holts. He believes it pays to go with a large, reputable house rather than take your chances with a smaller outfit: “I am biased,” he admitted, “but I would always say the bigger the better. You need people who are enthusiastic and passionate about selling a gun that is dear to you it makes a difference.”

“You want a big team of experts to consult as they will have a wider knowledge. It is a question of trust that the estimation and reserve prices are accurate.”

There is an age-old joke of the punter waving to his friend across the room and accidentally buying an expensive lot. Indeed, David often uses it to relieve tension and raise a few laughs. However, in reality, there is no chance of it happening, as David points out, “Over the years, the auctioneer learns the body language of someone who wants to bid. They tend to sit up in their chair or catch your eye. It doesn’t matter if you raise your hand, wink or wave your programme, I’ll soon catch on.”

However, if you do bid, then you must be prepared to stump up the cash: “When the hammer falls, a legal contract is formed, as strong as if you had signed a piece of paper. If you were to walk out of the room or refuse to pay, then you could be legally pursued. It can be disruptive, but in my 15 years of selling guns, this rarely happens. Bidders at firearms auctions are more heavily vetted than others.”