Bill Harriman sets a reader straight in a piece for Shooting Times

Q: I own several shotguns and have a small collection of antique firearms, which includes a percussion musket from the 1840s.

I would like to fire my percussion musket once or twice to see how it works. I read on an online forum that you can do this a few times a year without breaking the law. Is this right?

Percussion musket equals shotgun certificate

A: The best piece of general advice I can give anyone is never to believe anything you read on an online forum.

If you need legal advice, join an association with properly trained staff (such as BASC) rather than chancing your arm with some ill-informed forum dweller.

If you want to fire your percussion musket, it needs to be put on your shotgun certificate and the police need to be informed.

The legal exemption for antique firearms only allows their free possession if they are held as ‘curiosities or ornaments’. It has never been tested at law, but I doubt it includes firing. If you don’t want the bother of applying for an explosives licence for the blackpowder, you can use a substitute such as Pyrodex, which is very effective, but leaves a corrosive residue that needs thorough cleaning. No certificate is needed to purchase the percussion caps. It is also not illegal to load a muzzle-loading firearm with a solid ball. Contrary to a mistaken belief held in some quarters, that does not require firearm certificate authority.

Safe backstop

Be careful where you fire your percussion musket, because the ball will travel hundreds of yards and still be lethal. Always choose a safe backstop, by preference a proper range. Once you no longer wish to fire the musket, it can be removed from your shotgun certificate by making a declaration to the police that you will keep it “as an antique firearm as per Section 58(2) of the Firearms Act 1968 as a curiosity or ornament”.