Applying for a shotgun certificate isn't as complicated as you might think. Here's a straightforward guide.

Whether you’re a seasoned shooter or you’re new to the shooting and have just bought your first gun, you’ll need to be in possession of a valid shotgun certificate. Or maybe you need to renew your shotgun certificate. Either way, here is the advice you need to get you through the process of getting a shotgun certificate (sometimes referred to as a shotgun licence, although certificate is the correct term). We’ve also added some extra advice on applications in the time of COVID and how the pandemic has changed things.

Advice for a shotgun certificate

Read on and you’ll discover the following:

  • How to apply and where
  • The amount of time you may have to wait for a certificate (which depends on where you live in the country)
  • What you will have to pay
  • Action to take if your application is rejected.
  • What the police will expect of you.
  • The gun security you will need to have in place
  • How to renew your shotgun certificate (more below on this)
  • How to get both a firearms and shotgun certificate
a shotgun certificate

Discover what you need to know to get one of these

Who should get a shotgun certificate?

If you own a shotgun then you need to have a valid shotgun 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. (All shooters complain about how long certificates take to come through. Months in many cases.) You also need a shotgun certificate to buy ammunition.

AYA No 1 side by side

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. Find your local police force here. Different police forces have different procedures. Some allow you to apply online.

Applying for your first shotgun certificate is straightforward and will cost you £79.50. Only one form needs to be completed. Email and SMS alerts will keep applicants up to date.

Shotgun certificates and young Shots

UK law changed for the under 18’s 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.

How has COVID changed shotgun certificate applications?

Telephone calls have replaced actual visits in most cases and inspection of gun cabinets and guns can be done via a video call. Be prepared for everything to take a bit longer as well. You’ll find out more about how the pandemic has affected shotgun certificate applications here. 

Applying for your shotgun licence

We suggest printing off two forms. You can use one for a practice run 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.
  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 be 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 one passport sized photograph of yourself. You then return the completed form to the firearms licensing unit of your local police, together with the fee.
  6. Remember to send your application by recorded delivery which allows you to track it (and prove it was posted).
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.
  • When the police officer is satisfied, they will report this to the Chief Office of Police and your shotgun certificate 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 certificate will be hand delivered by a police officer once he is satisfied your security has been installed correctly.

If you’re renewing your certificate

Some forces are offering early renewal of shotgun certificates.This is to even out the workload between the three normal years and the two slack years of the renewal cycle.  You don’t have to accept offers of early renewal. You may be able to apply for a shotgun renewal online, depending on your local force.

  • You can download a firearm/shotgun certificate renewal form here.
  • On the renewal form you must give details of any convictions. This includes motoring offences (including speeding offences), bindovers, formal written cautions and convictions in and outside Great Britain. However parking offences and fixed penalty notices do not need to be declared.
  • It may speed up your renewal application if you include a photocopy of your existing certificates. If you possess a shotgun or rifle it is advisable to belong to one of the shooting organisations (like BASC).  They offer good specialist advice and can put you in touch with an expert in firearms law should you have any problems renewing your shotgun certificate.
  • Keep your original certificates with you whilst waiting to receive the renewals. You will need them to buy ammunition and prove lawful possession of your guns.
  • Use a digital photograph if you are applying online. Paper applications must be accompanied by one passport quality photograph.
  • If your certificate expires before you receive a valid replacement, you should ask for a temporary permit, issued under Section 7 of the Firearms Act 1968. It should be granted in the event of an administrative delay.
  • Always post your renewal applications by recorded delivery to prove that you have done so and ensure safe arrival.
  • You will need to supply the address of your GP practice.
  • It is better to mention an illness than leave it off the form. Those who actively seek help to manage their condition are likely to be looked on more positively. If the doctor’s report shows the applicant is taking the correct medication and that there are no serious issues then a certificate should be granted or renewed. Ticking the ‘yes’ box WILL lead to a letter being written to your GP seeking more information.

What to do if your shotgun certificate application is refused

In this instance, contact a shooting body, such as the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (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.

Some frequently asked questions about shotgun certificates

Q. How much does a shotgun certificate cost and how long does it run for?

A. A certificate is valid for five years, after which it must be renewed  if you wish to continue to possess shotguns. A new certificate costs £79.50 and renewal is £49.

Supervising a Young Shot

Anyone under 15 years of age must be supervised by an adult over 21

Q. How old do you have to be before you can apply for a shotgun certificate? What are the rules on shooting under supervision – and at what age can I buy my own gun and shoot unsupervised?

A. There is no lower age limit for having a shotgun certificate and you sometimes hear of people as young as nine getting one. To some extent it depends on the physique and maturity of the person concerned. Anyone under the age of 15 must be supervised by a person aged at least 21. Those under 18 must get a parent or guardian to tick the appropriate boxes, sign, print their name and date the application.

  • There is no legal requirement for the supervisor to have a shotgun certificate
  • You are not allowed to buy or hire a shotgun or ammunition until you are 18.
  • You may be given a shotgun when you are 15 but there is no lower age limit at which a person may be lent a shotgun.

police and shotgun certificate applications

Q. I have sent off for my shotgun certificate. Will the police want to know where I will be using a gun before giving me permission to buy one?

A. The legislation requires the police to grant a shotgun certificate unless they can show either you don’t have good reason or that you present a danger to the public safety or peace.

  • It isn’t a question of the police granting permission; it is you that has the absolute right to a certificate provided you have good reason and are a sober, sane and upright citizen.
  • The fact that you intend at some time or other to use the gun for sporting, competition or vermin shooting is sufficient and you don’t need to specify any piece of land over which you may shoot.
  • You can also get a certificate if you have no intention of shooting but just want to keep a gun with the ultimate intention of passing it to a friend or relative.


shotguns for clay pigeon shooting

Q. I have always wanted to learn how to shoot clay pigeons but was told I needed to have my own certificate and gun before I could do so. The other day, however, I saw an advert in my local paper inviting people to have-a-go at the sport. The fee quoted covered cartridges, instruction and gun hire. Is this legal?

A. Almost certainly. The law allows somebody without a certificate to borrow and use a shotgun for shooting clay targets provided the clay ground is authorised for this purpose by the police. Shooting schools normally have this authority but it is also possible for an individual running a clay shoot to apply for similar authority.

Q. How many guns can you have on a shotgun certificate, or do you have to buy a new certificate for each gun you get?

A. There is no limit to the number of shotguns that can be held on certificate and you do not need to get another certificate each time you buy a gun. Every time you acquire or dispose of a gun for a period exceeding 72 hours you must inform the police within seven days.

Q. I am applying for a shotgun certificate and have already bought a suitable gun cabinet. I understand the police will call on me once they get the application – what sort of questions will they ask, and what will they be trying to find out?

A. Your gun cabinet should conform to BS7558, which it probably does if it is of recent manufacture. It should ideally be secured to an inner wall of your house but if this is not possible some other method of securing it to the building will be acceptable. It should be out of sight of casual visitors. The police will also look at the overall security of your house. Depending on the level of crime in your area they may suggest such measures as improving door and window locks.

Q. Is it true that the police will not grant a shotgun certificate if you have ever been treated for depression, or received a custodial sentence in the past?

A.  If you have been sentenced to three or more years in prison you are not allowed to possess a gun at any time. For sentences of between three months and three years you are prohibited from holding a gun for five years from the date of release. In all cases you can apply to the Crown Court or Sheriff’s Court to have the prohibition lifted.

It is more difficult to answer the question about depression as it depends so much on the individual circumstances. Provided your doctor is satisfied that you are cured there should be no problem.

Q. Will it help my application for a shotgun certificate if I’m already a member of one of the shooting organisations? 

A. From the point of view of getting a shotgun certificate it doesn’t matter if you belong to an organisation or not. However there are plenty of good reasons for joining one of the main organisations such as BASC, Countryside Alliance or CPSA, not least of which are that they work for the future of the sport and provide good insurance cover. The law specifies that sporting, competition and vermin shooting are good reasons for possessing a shotgun. You do not have to provide proof that you belong to a club or have access to sporting rights in order to obtain a certificate.

Q: I live in quite a rough inner city area. Will this affect my chances of getting a shotgun certificate?

A) Provided you don’t associate with criminals the locality in which you live will have no effect on whether or not you can get a shotgun certificate. So long as the police do not regard you personally as being a danger to the public safety or peace there is no problem. However if you live in an area with a high burglary rate you may have to install more than the normal minimum level of security for your guns.

buying a first shotgun
Q: Do I have to buy a gun straight after getting my shotgun certificate?No, there is no time limit. In fact there is no requirement at all to buy a gun once you have a shotgun certificate. You could, for example, have a certificate just so you can borrow a gun from a friend for up to 72 hours. This is much more flexible than borrowing a gun and using it in the owner’s presence, which you can do without a certificate.
Q: Should I always carry my shotgun certificate with me when I am out shooting?

Q: I recently reapplied for a shotgun certificate but have been turned down.The police have refused to renew my shotgun certificate on the grounds that I pose a threat to public safety or the peace, citing my domestic circumstances.  The firearms officer arrived at my house accompanied by a policeman dressed in a flak jacket with all the accessories, which I found quite intimidating. After eight weeks they returned to my house and informed me that I would have to get rid of my guns immediately. So I went to a gun dealer I know. I asked the policeman whether I should appeal against the shotgun certificate renewal refusal but he said there was no point in appealing as it would cost a lot of money and I would lose in any case. The dealer has sold one of the guns and so I am using the money to pay a local solicitor for advice. Have you anything to add? 

A: It’s not up to the police to decide whether an appeal will be successful, it’s up to the court.  What should have happened is that the licensing manager should have explained the reason for your certificate being refused to you. This isn’t a legal requirement but it is good practice. I would suggest that you now ask for a face-to-face meeting with the firearms officer and a full explanation of what has happened to your shotgun certificate. Of course, this could be turned down but if you were to go to court it would not show the police in a good light.