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Should I always carry my shotgun certificate when I’m out in the field?

Is it a legal requirement? Bill Harriman clears things up.

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Q: I have been told by a gamekeeper that it is the law to always carry my gun licence with me when I am shooting. However, four months ago, I sent mine to the police for renewal and they still have it. This means I can’t carry my licence with me. Where do I stand legally?

AL The gamekeeper is entirely wrong because the law does not require you to carry your shotgun certificate (or firearms certificate) while shooting. However, it is good practice to do so because, under Section 48 of the 1968 Firearms Act, a constable can “seize and detain any firearm(s) and ammunition” you are carrying if you cannot produce a certificate when required to do so. It can be inconvenient to go to a police station to show a certificate to reclaim guns.

The law does not admit a photocopy, but any sensible officer will accept sight of one, particularly when verification can be easily made through the control room.

Don’t return an expiring certificate

It is never a good idea to send an expiring certificate back to the licensing department because you need it to prove authority to possess firearms as well as to buy ammunition. The law does not require you to return it. In the case of shotguns, the 2014 Firearms (Amendment) Rules state renewal applications should be accompanied by the expiring certificate “if it is available”. A need to buy ammunition and show lawful possession means the expiring certificate is not available.

What to remember

  • A photocopy is clear evidence that you are a certificate holder
  • If the original certificate becomes illegible or damaged, the police will replace it for nothing, providing that the remains can be produced.
  • If a certificate is lost entirely, a replacement will cost you £4.
  • Shotgun certificates and firearm certificates are important legal documents. It is easy for them to become lost or damaged if carried in the field every time you go out and there is a strong argument for keeping the originals in a safe place 
at home, possibly in your gun safe. (Read our list of the best gun safes.)
  • All shotgun owners have to renew their certificate every five years so check yours regularly to see when yours is due.
  • It pays to think ahead especially when dealing with renewals. Do not wait for a police renewal letter. Get your renewal application to the police at least 12 weeks before your certificate is due to expire. Don’t get caught out by a slow response from your issuing police force – it can take quite a while to get your certificate through depending on where you live.
  • If your certificate expires before you receive a valid replacement, you should ask for a temporary permit, issued under Section 7 of the Firearms Act 1968. It should be granted in the event of an administrative delay where the applicant has submitted their application in good time.
carry my shotgun certificate

You don’t have to carry around your shotgun certificate

Do I have to send my certificate to my shooting club?

Q: I have been invited to join a syndicate but the shoot secretary has asked me to send a copy of my shotgun certificate. Surely this is confidential information? Is there any legal requirement for me to comply?

A: Many syndicates, wildfowling clubs and other shooting venues wish to verify that those joining them are lawfully authorised to possess shotguns. This is a reasonable and responsible action on the part of those running a shoot or a shooting club. However, shoots or clubs may only retain a copy of a certificate if they are registered under the Data Protection Act.

While there is no legal requirement for you to show your certificate, there is equally no legal requirement for the shoot to accept you as a member if you decide not to show it to them. My advice would be for you to show your certificate to the shoot captain or secretary and allow them to make a note of, say, the expiry date but not to allow a copy to be kept.