Advice on how to get your firearm certificate with information on what police are looking for, what counts as good reason to own a firearm and what the variations are

A firearm certificate, just like a shotgun certificate, lasts for five years but they are very different.

You will need a firearms certificate for anything that isn’t a shotgun. The law doesn’t distinguish between air rifles and more powerful guns; they’re all seen as firearms. However low powered air weapons are not licenced unless they are of a specific type declared as dangerous.

You must be 18 or over to buy an air rifle and ammunition. There are no restrictions at this age and you can use the rifle wherever you have been given permission to shoot.

A firearm certificate will cost £50 for the grant and £40 for a renewal.

How to complete your firearm certificate application

You complete your application for a firearm certificate on Form 201.

You will need to state the calibre and type of gun and ammunition you want to use. This needs to be specific rather than broad; you can’t state a generic group such as .22 CF. You don’t need to give the serial number of the rifle or firearm you wish to buy, unless you are applying to buy a handgun.

Your completed form must be accompanied with four identical passport photographs of yourself. You also need to provide details of two people who have agreed to act as a referee for you. They must be a British resident, have known you for at least two years and be of good character. A family member cannot be a referee.

As part of the process, you will be asked to give permission for the police to approach your GP. If you aren’t registered with a GP in the UK, you can’t complete the form.

How do the police decide who to give a firearm certificate to?

The police will carry out a number of checks including interviews, visits to your property, references from friends and a criminal record check to decide if you are safe to own a firearm or rifle.

The police need to be satisfied that:

  • You are fit to be entrusted with a firearm and aren’t prohibited from possessing one
  • You have good reason for possessing or purchasing a firearm
  • You can possess the firearm or ammunition without being a danger to the public safety or peace

What is good reason to own a fiream?

The police want to see that you need your rifle or firearm on a regular basis for work, sport or leisure. However, chief officers can exercise their discretion over what constitures a good reason.

What are variations?

A variation is needed if you want to change details of the firearm(s) on your certificate. You need to complete Form 202 to apply for a variation.

A “one for one” variation is needed if you are replacing an existing firearm or you want to change the type of rifle or firearm you are allowed to possess. This will be processed for free. Often the application doesn’t need to be re-examined.

If you want to increase the number of guns and/or component parts you hold, including sound moderators, you will need to pay a variation fee of £26.

When don’t you need a firearm certificate?

  • If you have a low powered air gun
  • If the gun is classed as a de-activated firearm
  • If you work in the service of the Crown or police

Young people and firearms

Young people aged 14 – 17 can legally borrow an air rifle and ammunition and use it without supervision on private premises where you have permission to shoot. If you’re in a public place, you need to be supervised by someone aged 21 and over and have a reasonable reason for doing so. At this age you can’t hire or receive a firearm or ammunition as a gift. It must be bought and looked after by an adult.

Children under 14 can use an air rifle but they need to be surpervised by someone at least 21 years old.

What about if you inherit guns?

If you inherit any kind of firearm or shotgun, the person inheriting the guns must declare them to a registered firearms dealer or the police. If you fail to do this, you are breaking the law and could lose any opportunity of getting your firearm certificate and retaining the guns.

It’s advised that you declare these to a firearms dealer who will be able to advise you on their value or how to proceed if you wish to keep the guns.

What if you lose your firearm certificate?

You can have it replaced for a small fee.

If your certificate is very dirty, mutilated or so full that legible entries can’t be made, you are entitled to a replacement for free.

  • ColoursFed

    Veteran, needs advice on obtaining a firearms certificate, for repairing weapons..

  • can you brits possibly make your laws any more ambiguous?

  • bodge

    You need to be registered with a doctor REALLY! The pretty useless medical centre I am registered with does not even have the same doctors for long. I am registered with a medical centre and have used it once in 25 years for a badly swollen knee how the hell do they even know who I am. Ridiculous.

  • Peter Simple

    I let my shotgun certificate lapse years ago. I only ever had a bolt-action .410 with a slightly bent barrel and couldn’t foresee a time when I might feel the need to own a pump-action 12 bore. I will have to see what I can do to undo the consequences of my former complacency.