Start here to discover what you need to know about how to apply for a shotgun certificate, how long it is likely to take to process, how much it will cost and how to appeal if your application is turned down.

If you have a shotgun in your possession or want to buy one, then you will need a shotgun certificate issued by the police. Legally, you also need to have a certificate to buy ammunition.

Starting the process early is always advisable as there is a growing demand for new certificates and renewals. If you already hold a shotgun certificate, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) recommends applying before you receive the police reminder letter and to allow at least 12 weeks before the expiry of your certificate.

How to apply for a shotgun certificate

You can apply for a shotgun licence here by downloading the application form or get an application form from the shotgun licensing unit of your local police force.

Applying for your first gun licence is relatively straightforward and simple and will cost you £79.50 (or £49 for a renewal). Only one form needs to be completed. Email and SMS alerts will keep applicants up to date at each stage of the process.

New rules mean that anybody the applicant has known for two years can countersign the application – rather than an individual belonging to a listed profession. In addition, certificate holders are not limited to the amount of ammunition they can buy at one time – however they need to remain within the restriction of the amount of ammunition that can legally be possessed at one time.

A shotgun licence is valid for five years.

Completing your application

We suggest printing off two forms so that you can have a practice run first.

To complete the Shot Gun Certificate (SGC) application form you will need:
Downloaded application forms or an application form from the local police.
– An envelope to return your form.
– Four passport style photographs.

BASC suggest referring to the notes with the application form before you complete certain questions. You might also find this further advice from BASC on current fees, licensing department contacts and FAQS useful.

In order to issue a shotgun certificate, the police need to be satisfied that the applicant can possess a shotgun without danger to the public safety or the peace. Part of this involves checking if the applicant has any previous convictions, which means that you must accurately complete Part C of the form.

There are also specific health questions that you must answer in Part B. You must declare any physical or mental health condition that may affect your ability to possess and use a firearm or shotgun safely. These include epilepsy, stroke, stress-related illness, depression, alcoholism, heart disease, cancer.

You will then have to give details of where your gun is to be stored.

The next important bit of the form has to filled in by a counter signatory who has known you personally for at least two years. Such a person cannot be a relative, a serving policeman or police civilian employee, or a registered firearms dealer and should have a responsible and honest reputation.

With your shotgun license application you must also provide four passport-sized photographs of yourself, one of which must be signed on the back by your counter signatory. You then return the completed form to the firearms licensing unit of your local police, together with the fee (£79.50 for a new licence, £49 for a renewal at the time of writing).

Remember to send your application by recorded delivery which allows you to track it (and prove it was posted).

What happens next to my shotgun certificate application?

If your application passes the first stage, you will get a visit from a police officer at your home. They will talk to you about your shotgun certificate application and the proposed safety arrangements you have made. It’s good practice to buy a gun cabinet beforehand and make sure it complies with safety regulations, as this will speed up your application.

If you are asked why you wish to own a shotgun, all you need say is you wish to take part in shooting sports.

If the police officer is satisfied, they will report this to the Chief Office of Police and your shotgun licence will be granted.

If your security was installed and the officer inspected it on his visit, the certificate can be posted to you. If your security has not been installed, your licence will be hand delivered by a police officer who will hand you your certificate once he is satisfied your security has been installed correctly.

And if you’re renewing your licence

Do not send your existing certificate off with your renewal application. You need to keep it safely as long as it remains valid, because you will need to prove that you are in lawful possession of ammunition and shotguns and you will also need your certificate to buy ammunition.

How to appeal a shotgun certificate refusal

Should the Chief Officer of Police refuse your application, you will be informed, in writing, giving the reasons why and of your right of appeal against the decision.

Keep an eye on shooting news as this is a very topical issue that continues to make headlines.

What’s the difference between a shotgun licence and a firearms certificate?

A shotgun licence is different to a firearms certificate although both last for five years. If your gun is not classed as a shotgun then you’ll need to apply for a firearms certificate. It’s important to note that you can’t carry a shotgun on a firearms licence. Whilst technically called a Shot Gun Certificate (SGC), most people refer to it as a shotgun certificate or shotgun licence.

The rules are different in Northern Ireland, where you will need a firearms certificate to possess a shotgun.

If in doubt, it’s best to consult the Firearms Licensing Unit for advice.