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Importing guns from USA to the UK – is it recommended?

Q: I am a relatively new shotgun licence holder and shoot clays. I get on ok with my Browning but I have a shotgun at my brother’s house in the USA that I shoot with regularly. It just seems to fit me so well. It is an SKB trap model with adjustable comb.

I would like to bring the gun over here to the UK and use it as my main gun.

How do I do this? I understand that I would need to have it proofed if I ever intended to sell it.

Can I just bring it back in my checked baggage and when I get home notify my firearms officer, and have it added to my shotgun licence – or is the process more involved?

David Frost advises: 

There are four issues involved here with importing guns from USA.

  1. You need to check with state and federal authorities in the USA to ensure you have the right paperwork to export the gun.
  2. Whenever you fly with firearms you need to inform the airline at the time of booking.  The gun will need to be declared to customs on arrival in the UK and you are likely to have to pay VAT but the import of a gun for personal use does not usually need an import licence.
  3. Talk to your local police to get the gun put on your certificate before you bring it in.
  4. Consider getting the gun proofed in this country. You may have no immediate plans to sell it but circumstances change.

What about buying a shotgun abroad and bringing it back?

Q: What considerations should one take into account when looking to buy a shotgun from a foreign gunmaker and bringing it into the country?

Peter Glenser advises:

A: It is perfectly possible to buy a shotgun abroad and import it into the UK but it may not be straightforward and there could be some considerable difficulties with red tape and dealings with the police and possibly the border force. If importing it personally you will have to make arrangements for it to make arrangements for it to go from the manufacturer to the export port – and the vendor will have to sign your certificate .Some police forces can be helpful and it’s certainly worth checking with your FEO before you start the process.

A hassle

I asked Bill Harriman, BASC’s director of firearms for his views. He said: “I personally couldn’t be bothered with all the hassle of importing a gun. I would much prefer to buy in the UK. That way you save a load of potential grief whilst supporting the UK gun trade. The cynic in me says that if anything goes wrong, you are in the same legal jurisdiction as the supplier, making it easier to sue him if matters can’t be resolved.”

It might well be easier to get the manufacturer to send it to the UK and purchase it here from an Registered Firearms Dealer. If I were determined to import a particular gun, I would outsource the problem to a specialist company – which will be fully insured and will know what is required in each exporting country.

Don’t forget that you will also be likely to have to pay import duty and VAT on your purchase, which may be another factor to consider when you assess whether your would-be purchase is as good a buy as it appears.