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What the new firearm and shotgun certificate figures published by the Home Office tell us about shooting sports today

On 23 July the Home office published its annual statistics on firearms and shotgun certificates

Rachel Carrie

Keen female Shot Rachel Carrie

The new firearms and shotgun certificate figures make interesting and encouraging reading for shooting sports, with over half a million people actively involved. On 31 March 2020, there were 586,351 people in possession of a firearm and/or shotgun certificate.

The number of firearms held on a certificate has increased slightly whilst the number of shotguns has remained stable.

It’s also good news for women shooters – female certificate holders increased in line with a five-year trend.

Keen Shot and game cookery writer Rachel Carrie commented: “It’s great to see that more and more women are becoming certificate holders, although this is not a true picture of how many women are actually participating in shooting now. That figure will be much higher and is only increasing year on year.  The Home Office statistics do however prove that more women are taking shooting seriously and committing to gun ownership, proving women are no novelty act.  Gun manufacturers have really helped this rise by developing new female friendly products; I helped Krieghoff develop their first line of women’s shotguns launched in 2019 and they have been manufacturing since 1886.”

Rachel Carrie game cookery book

Rachel Carrie has written a popular game cookery book

A strict licensing system

As Bill Harriman, BASC’s director of firearms points out. “Our licensing system is among the strictest in the world … with a total of 25,983 successful grants over the last year, shooting sports clearly continue to draw in new crowds.”

Ninety-seven percent of new applications for firearm and/or shotgun  certificates were granted with a 3% refusal rate.

shooting in Norfolk

Norfolk is one of the top ranking counties for shotgun certificate holders

Geographical differences

It’s hardly surprising that country districts have the highest number of shotgun certificate holders. Top rates are in Dyfed-Powys (6,886), Norfolk (6,569) and Suffolk (5,837).  The areas with the highest number of firearms (held on certificates) per 100,000 people are the country areas of North Yorkshire (2,887), Dyfed-Powys (2,675) and Cumbria (2,565).

Age of owners

It is 50 to 64-year olds who are most likely to hold a firearm and/or shotgun certificate. Over a third (36%; 210,245) of firearm and/or shotgun certificate holders were aged 50 to 64.

Firearms and guns owned per certificate holder

An average of 3.8 firearms were held on a firearms certificate, an increase of 0.1 compared with the previous year.  As at 31 March 2020, an average of 2.4 shotguns were held on a shotgun certificate.

You can download the full government document here.

Mark Heath, head instructor at the West London Shooting School commented: “It’s positive to observe that more people are getting into shooting.  It’s fantastic to see female certificate holders increasing in line with a five-year trend too. I do feel that ladies remain underrepresented within rifle shooting and that is something we’re working hard to change. I also hope that the trends seen in these latest figures will be further supported in the future, with outdoor sports being encouraged by the Government, in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. Shooting can help facilitate the call for us all to adopt more active lifestyles.”

In addition BASC saw a growth in female membership of 12% in 2019 and reports it has been growing steadily for over five years.