Time to get a shotgun certificate. Wondering how to go about it? Read on ...

Here’s our practical guide to help you get a shotgun certificate. We cover

  • How to apply
  • How long your certificate may take to process
  • What you should expect to pay
  • What to do if your application is rejected.
  • What the police will expect
  • What security you need to get in place

get a shotgun certificate

Who should get a shotgun certificate?

Own a shotgun? Then you definitely need a certificate. Plus which, if you’re buying a shotgun and are new to the sport then you need to be applying for your certificate now, long before you get the gun. (Because certificates are notorious for taking time to process.) You also need a certificate to buy ammunition.

If you’re renewing a certificate then don’t hold things up by waiting for a renewal letter. In the days of police cuts you may not get one anyway. Allow at least three months before your certificate expires because it could take that long to get the new one through.


shooting a high bird

Everyone who owns a shotgun needs a valid certificate

How to get a shotgun certificate

You can apply for a shotgun certificate here by downloading the application form or get an application form from the shotgun licensing unit of your local police force.

Applying for your first gun certificate is straightforward and will cost you £79.50 (or £49 for a renewal). Only one form needs to be completed. Email and SMS alerts will keep applicants up to date.

The law and Young Shots

If you’re under 18, UK law changed on 12 December 2019. Although there is no minimum age to get a shotgun certificate (14 for a firearms certificate) legislation now says that arrangements must be made for a person aged 18 or over to take responsibility for the secure storage of the firearms and ammunition held on a young Shot’s certificate. The person aged 18 or over must be the certificate holder’s parent or guardian or another individual who has a shotgun certificate or firearms licence. If the parent or guardian does not have a firearms certificate it may satisfy the police if arrangements are made for the firearm to be kept in a lockable cabinet with two separate locks, where one key holder is a certificate holder and which can only be opened when both key holders are present.


It’s a good idea to print off two forms. Use one for practice and then complete the other in full.

  1. In order to issue a shotgun certificate, the police need to be satisfied that the applicant can possess a shotgun without danger to the public safety or the peace. Part of this involves checking if the applicant has any previous convictions, which means that you must accurately complete Part C of the form.
  2. There are also specific health questions that you must answer in Part B. You must declare any physical or mental health condition that may affect your ability to possess and use a firearm or shotgun safely. These include epilepsy, stroke, stress-related illness, depression, alcoholism, heart disease, cancer. Details of a GP’s involvement in the shotgun application process are given here.
  3. You will then have to give details of where your gun is to be stored. (See ‘law and Young Shots’ above for under-18 applicants.)
  4. The next important bit of the form has to filled in by a counter signatory who has known you personally for at least two years. Such a person cannot be a relative, a serving policeman or police civilian employee, or a registered firearms dealer and should have a responsible and honest reputation.
  5. With your shotgun licence application you must also provide four passport-sized photographs of yourself, one of which must be signed on the back by your counter signatory. You then return the completed form to the firearms licensing unit of your local police, together with the fee (£79.50 for a new licence, £49 for a renewal at the time of writing).
  6. Remember to send your application by recorded delivery which allows you to track it (and prove it was posted).
  7. Do not return any expiring shotgun certificates with your new application. This is crucial as you will need them to buy ammunition and prove lawful possession of your guns.
interior of a Browning gun cabinet

You will need to have access to secure gun and ammunition storage

What happens next to my shotgun certificate application?

If your application passes the first stage, you will get a visit from a police officer at your home. They will talk to you about your reasons to get a shotgun certificate and the proposed safety arrangements you have made.  Make sure you have a secure gun cabinet in place which can be inspected and make sure it adheres to all safety regulations. This will speed up your certificate application.

  • If you are asked why you wish to own a shotgun, all you need say is you wish to take part in shooting sports.
  • If the police officer is satisfied, they will report this to the Chief Office of Police and your shotgun licence will be granted.
  • If your security was in place and has been inspected by the visiting officer, the certificate can be posted to you. Otherwise your licence will be hand delivered by a police officer once he is satisfied your security has been installed correctly.


Guns on a shoot

The police will ask you about your reasons to get a shotgun certificate

If you’re renewing your certificate

DO NOT SEND your existing certificate off with your renewal application. You will need it to prove that you possess ammunition and guns lawfully.

shotgun ammunition

You will need your certificate to buy ammunition

What to do if your shotgun certificate application is refused

In this instance, contact a shooting body, such as the BASC or the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association (CPSA) who will be able to advise you.

Firearm Certificate

Shotgun certificates and firearms certificates are different

What’s the difference between a shotgun certificate and a firearms certificate?

Both shotgun and firearms certificates last for five years but have important differences. Remember that you cannot keep a shotgun on a firearm certificate. Whilst technically called a Shot Gun Certificate (SGC), most people refer to it as a shotgun certificate or shotgun licence.

The rules are different in Northern Ireland, where you will need a firearms certificate to possess a shotgun.