You can start looking for a gun before your certificate arrives - as a reputable dealer will be happy to reserve a gun for you

First off, where should you look for your first gun?

We’d recommend that you start off by buying your first gun from a gun shop. In that way, you will be able to ask all the questions you want and benefit from the vast amount of knowledge a dealer will have on their subject.

A dealer will check you for gun fit and suggest any improvements. He will ask you about the sort of shooting you plan on doing and how frequently. In this way he will be able to suggest the right model for you – and your budget.

Furthermore, the dealer will also be able to help you through the legal process of being a gun owner – advising on getting your shotgun and firearms certificates, how to keep and transport the gun and the etiquette of gun ownership.

Many gun owners are frustrated by the amount of time it takes to get certificates through (a lot depends on where you live in the UK as these charts show) and so you should allow several weeks for your application to be approved and certificate issued before the shooting season starts in earnest.

Should you buy a new or secondhand gun?

Well, that’s a question. There are advantages to buying a new gun and advantages to buying a secondhand one. 

A new gun

If you invest in a new gun you will get a guarantee from the manufacturer or importer so you can have confidence in knowing that it is going to turn in a certain level of performance. In addition, spare parts are likely to be easier to order and you don’t have to worry about the gun being mishandled by a previous owner.

On the downside, a new gun is of course likely to be more expensive than the secondhand option. Besides the gun itself, you’re going to have to apply and buy a shotgun or firearms certificate, invest in a secure gun cabinet and have some lessons. All this adds up.

Also, if you take to shooting well you may want to upgrade to a new gun in a year’s time, particularly if you have bought a beginner’s gun first off. And like new cars, a new gun depreciates sharply in value.

Secondhand guns

You’re more likely to find a greater selection of guns that fit your budget if you’re buying secondhand. A good dealer won’t sell you a bad gun and in any case it is illegal to sell an unsafe gun. Choose well and your gun should hold its value for a couple of years.

On the negative side you probably won’t get a guarantee with a secondhand gun and if the model you choose is out of production it could be hard to get spare parts.  So it would be my advice to avoid guns that are not currently being produced or imported, as you could be stuck to find crucial spares such as firing pins and springs.

Buying privately

Of course you could be offered a gun on private sale. Don’t dismiss this out of hand because you may be offered something special for the price. However, do take the advice of an experienced shooter and ask them to look at the gun with you, so that he can advise on whether the gun is safe and offers good value.

If you are buying a gun privately you will also need to make sure that the seller holds a certificate and you must of course inform the police of your purchase.

Be prepared

As always, you’ll get more out of the experience if you walk into a gun shop fully prepared first. Do your research online.

Have a look at the guns for sale on the Shooting UK Marketplace to see what you could buy for your money. If you want a gun in good condition you’re probably going to have to spend more. You might also have the pleasant surprise of seeing that your budget will buy you more than you expected.

The legal side of owning a gun is extremely important. A dealer will help you apply for your new certificate and enter your details if you have some queries. Remember that although a shotgun or firearm certificate doesn’t limit the amount of guns you can own, the police must be kept aware of every purchase you make.