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FAQs about shotgun certificates

Applying for a shotgun certificate isn't as difficult as you think. To make it even easier our legal expert David Frost answers shotgun certificate FAQs

man with shotgun and labrador

The consultations's proposals will affect all shoots in Wales, big or small

Shotgun certificate FAQs answered

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. Another of regularly asked shotgun certificate FAQs. 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 and I would guess that 12 or 13 is a more normal age for beginning shotgun certificate applications. Anyone under the age of 15 must be supervised by a person aged at least 21.

  • 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 17.
  • 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.
  • My personal preference would be to start at about 12 and use a 20 bore which I regard as the smallest general-purpose 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: What is ‘good reason’ for holding a firearms certificate?

A: If you’re planning on booking deerstalking, you can contact the professional stalkers you are planning to shoot with who will vouch for you. Many people don’t have an area to stalk over and prefer to buy stalking by the day. Even if you only plan to shoot once or twice a year this will be sufficient to show good reason for having a firearms certificate.


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.

shotguns for under £1000

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. And yet another of the shotgun certificate FAQs. 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. Although some forces are now accepting email notifications, generally the notification must be in writing and sent by recorded delivery.

gun cabinet

Clever and practical – this gun cabinet doubles up as a coat rack

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. Queries about gun cabinets are commonly asked shotgun certificate faqs.  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.


in field with gundogs

Laurence Catlow has made a joyful return to shooting after suffering from a crippling bout of depression

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.


shoot lunch

Q. Will it help my application for a shotgun certificate if I’m already a member of one of the shooting organisations? The reason I ask is that a friend says the police need a ‘good reason’ for anyone wanting a gun.

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 an inner city area that has an extremely bad reputation for crime of all sorts. I have been taking shooting lessons and would love to get my own gun so that I can go more often – but will where I live affect my chances of getting a 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. 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.

Q: My shotgun certificate has no more room for further entries. I’ve read that the police are in crisis at the moment when it comes to firearms licensing, and I don’t want to send my certificate in as I know it will take ages to come back. Can I get a continuation sheet?

A) I have seen continuation sheets issued for certificate holders who possess a large number of guns, so theoretically it’s possible. I suggest that you write to the licensing department and explain that all the spaces on table two are used up, and please may you have a continuity sheet that bears your certificate number so as to save the need for a new certificate to be issued. The new sheet could then be glued or stapled to the existing certificate. There is no reason why someone transferring a gun should not write the details under the boxes in table two. The table can be neatly extended with brand-new, self-ruled lines. There is normally enough room for at least one new entry. When you acquire a new shotgun, do not forget to inform the licensing department that issued your certificate that you have done so. That can be done by email to the address on the police website. Ask for a read receipt, and keep a copy of the email with your certificate. That makes you bombproof if anyone tries to allege that you failed to notify the transaction.

You can read more shotgun certificate FAQs and info about renewals here.

Q: Do I have to buy a gun straight after getting my shotgun certificate?

A: 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?

A: There is no legal requirement to do this but it is a good idea to carry a photocopy. Section 48 of the 1968 Firearms Act allows a constable 
to require that a person he has stopped in possession of a firearm, or whom he suspects to be in possession of one, to produce a certificate. If he cannot do 
so, the constable may ‘seize and detain’ the firearm until a certificate can be produced. If you were to be stopped, 
a photocopy represents clear evidence that you are indeed a certificate holder. Furthermore, the officer in question can immediately check that your certificate is valid and has not, for example, been revoked.

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.

It’s always important for shooters to belong to one of the fieldsports organisations, such as BASC, GWCT, Countryside Alliance or National Gamekeepers Organisation. You get experienced, and specialist legal advice from experts when you need it. Your local solicitor is unlikely to have such a base of knowledge.

Q: Should I have lessons before I get my shotgun certificate?

You don’t need to buy a gun or have a shotgun licence before you book professional lessons with a registered coach. You will be able to borrow a gun to use under the instructor’s supervision.