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Is it legal to borrow or lend a gun?

Is it permittable for friends to borrow guns from one another?

missing shots

Don't worry about what your fellow Guns are doing, focus on your shooting

Key advice on borrowing and lending guns

At the start of the shooting season you may be shooting with friends who have recently ventured into fieldsports and don’t yet own a shotgun.

So what’s the law if you are going shooting with a friend on a formal shoot and the friend, who doesn’t have a shotgun certificate, wants to borrow a gun.  Is borrowing and lending guns legal? Do you need a visitor’s permit or letter from the owner of the shoot?

shooting in field

A borrower without a shotgun certificate may borrow a rifle or shot gun from another person on private premises.

The law on borrowing and lending guns

The rules are covered in the Policing and Crime Act 2017 section 130 which says: “A person (“the borrower”) may, without holding a certificate under this Act, borrow a rifle or shot gun from another person on private premises.” 

Section 11(A) 
of the Firearms Act 1968  also covers this issue, and details how shotguns can be lent and borrowed, as long as all the following are met:

  • The borrower of a shotgun may 
be of any age (to borrow a rifle the user needs to be aged over 17)
  • The lender must be aged 18 or 
older and have a valid certificate in respect of the shotgun.
  • The borrower must be in the presence of the lender; that 
is in sight and/or earshot.
  • Use of a shotgun must comply with any conditions on the certificate held in respect of that shotgun.
  • The purpose of the loan is only for hunting animals, shooting game or vermin or shooting artificial targets.
  • The lender must be a person who has the right to allow others to enter the premises for the purpose of hunting animals or shooting game or vermin, or a person authorised 
by them in writing.

To clarify

  1. The shotgun must be borrowed. Most of us understand the concept of borrowing and lending: a temporary parting of possession for which no charge is made.
  2. Second, the premises — which includes land — on which the borrowing takes place must be private. This would include most farmland or woodland in private ownership, whether or not any public footpath or bridleway runs across it. It would not, however, include designated public access land, Forestry Commission woodland or Crown foreshore to which there is public access.
  3. The borrower must be in the lender’s “presence”. This is not defined in law, and there is certainly no requirement for the borrower to be under the lender’s close supervision. This is required when a person under 15 years old is using a gun under the supervision of an adult over the age of 21.

It is generally held that if the lender is within sight or sound of the borrower, he is regarded as being “present” and the requirements of the law are fulfilled. So the lender could, for example, be standing at another peg in the line of Guns or observing the shoot from the sidelines.

Who is the “occupier” of the land?

A lawful sporting tenant would be an occupier, as would someone with a written licence from the landowner to shoot on a particular piece of ground.

Remember that it is only the occupier who can lend his gun to the non-certificate holder. It is not permissible, say, for a shooting guest or syndicate member to turn up at a shoot with his guest in tow, and loan him a gun for the day, even though many people do exactly this and express great surprise when told that they are breaking the law. “But I’m standing right next to him and supervising him all day,” they say. If you’re not the occupier of the land, you can’t lend the gun.

Young Shots

Likewise, the parent introducing to shooting a child who is not a certificate holder, or accompanying that child on a Young Shots’ day, cannot lend a gun unless they are the occupier. It is for this reason that Young Shots are always encouraged to have a certificate of their own because, as a certificate holder in their own right, they may borrow a shotgun from anyone for up to 72 hours.

borrowing and lending guns

It is not permissible for a syndicate member to turn up at a shoot with a guest and loan him a gun for the day

Are you considering inviting someone who is not a certificate holder to shoot with your gun?

Then ALL of these four tests must be passed:

  • The other person must BORROW your gun
  • You must be the OCCUPIER of the land
  • The land must be PRIVATE
  • You must be PRESENT

A query about borrowing and lending guns

Q: : Is it legal for me and my friends to swap guns on shoot day if we fancy having a shot or two with something different?

A: Yes, assuming you all have valid shotgun certificates.

The law allows a certificate holder to borrow a shotgun from another certificate holder for up to 72 hours without needing to enter the borrowed gun on either the lender or borrower’s certificate. If you notify the police you can extend the loan period for as long as your tickets are valid. However make sure that you only have ammunition on you that is the same calibre as the gun you are using.

Be careful about S1 shotguns. You may not lend a large magazine capacity shotgun to anyone at all – even a friend with the identical gun or the S2 version of it. They aren’t covered by shotgun certificate rules nor the estate rifle exemption, so don’t be tempted to let someone have a go and blat off a magazine full of rounds – you could both end up in serious trouble.

Q:  I understand shotgun licence holders can lend each other a gun for up to 48 hours without telling the police, but is there any limit on how often this can be done?

A: The loan period is actually 72 hours (Section 33 (1) (b), Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997). After that, both borrower and lender must notify their local police of the transaction. There is no limit to the number of times that this loan can take place. In order to be bombproof, the start time of the loan should be recorded somehow, such as by a text at the time the gun is handed over to the borrower, plus a reminder of the time by which it must be returned. It is a good idea to set a reminder on a mobile phone or some other device. Make sure you see the borrower’s certificate and confirm to yourself that it is still valid. For absolute safety, take a photograph of it. It may well be that the borrower still wants to borrow the gun after the 72-hour period has elapsed. There is nothing in law to stop further consecutive 72-hour loans being agreed. However, those start and finish times need recording.

I once heard of someone who lent a shotgun to another certificate holder, forgot about it and could not account for its whereabouts when he renewed his certificate some years later. The 72-hour rule was intended for occasional short-term loans. Don’t abuse it.