Guidance

Firearms and export control forms

Exporting firearms, ammunition and related equipment to other countries, including within the EU, for businesses and individuals.

This guidance will continue to apply during the transition period. Read more information on the transition period.

Overview

Firearms, and their parts, components, accessories or ammunition and related software and technology are controlled strategic goods. Unless an exception applies, you will need a licence to export any controlled firearms from the UK to another country. This applies even if the export is temporary, such as for an exhibition, a competition or for the purpose of a holiday.

Legislation

The key domestic legislation which governs the export of firearms is the Export Control Order 2008, as amended (‘the Order’). Council Regulation (EU) 258/2012, as amended (‘the Regulation’) is also directly applicable and as such has the force of law within the UK.

You can find the complete list of controlled firearms and related items in the UK Strategic Export Control Lists.

You can use the online checker tool to work out if the items are controlled and find the appropriate control entry.

If your items are not listed on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists, you may still need a licence under end-use controls or trade sanctions and embargoes.

Export Control Order 2008, as amended (‘the Order’)

Firearms, their parts, components and accessories are described by control entries ML1 and ML2 of Schedule 2 of the Order. Ammunition associated with these firearms, and their specially designed components, are described in ML3 of Schedule 2 of the Order. ML21 and ML22 control respectively software and technology in relation to firearms and ammunition specified in ML1, ML2 and ML3.

Some firearms, their parts, components and accessories are controlled under entries PL9010 and PL9011 of Schedule 3 of the Order. PL9010 and PL9011 only apply when Council Regulation 258/2012 does not. The key difference between entries PL9010 and PL9011 is the destination of the export; PL9010 applies to destinations outside the EU and PL9011 applies to destinations inside the EU. However, please note that the items described in these PL entries do differ slightly, for example, there are additional controls in PL9011 for devices that can be converted from firing blanks and optional deactivation standards.

The Order provides for simplified procedures for the temporary export of firearms, ammunition or sights that form part of the personal effects of a person who are in possession of a European Firearms Pass.

Council Regulation (EU) 258/2012, as amended (‘the Regulation’)

The Regulation implements Article 10 of the United Nations Protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition.

The Regulation applies to transfers of firearms not specified in ML1 or ML2 and includes parts (including sound suppressors or moderators), components and ammunition, as described in Annex I. Defined terms in the Regulation only apply to the items described in the Regulation.

The Regulation only applies to exports to destinations outside the EU. It does not apply to exports destined for the armed forces, the police or the public authorities of the EU Member States – but in such cases, PL9010 and PL9011 will likely apply. Article 9 of the Regulation provides simplified procedures for the temporary export of firearms and related items by hunters and sports shooters, exporting firearms controlled by the Regulation, as part of their accompanied effects.

Sanctions and embargoes

All arms embargoes include the export of firearms listed in Schedule 2 of the Order. You can find out more about current trade sanctions, including arms embargoes and other restrictions.

Licensing considerations

The Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) administers the UK’s system of export controls and licensing for strategic items. Any individual or business, including registered firearms dealers, exporting firearms temporarily or permanently, will need an appropriate export licence issued by ECJU.

You need a licence to export firearms from the UK, except if you are an individual with a European Firearms Pass (EFP) taking personal firearms from one EU Member State to another. This exception is outlined in Article 9 of the Regulation. Article 15 of the Order also provides an exception for the temporary export of firearms as personal effects from the UK to EU Member States. This exception does not extend to weapons specified by ML1 or ML2. To get an EFP, contact the Firearms Licensing Unit within your local police authority.

Article 16 of the Order provides an exception for the export of firearms as personal effects from the UK to countries outside the EU. Export licences are not usually required where the holder of a valid firearm or shotgun certificate, or visitor’s firearm or shotgun permit takes firearms, shotguns, related ammunition and sights using non-electronic image enhancement for use therewith, abroad with them, or has them sent for their personal use as part of their personal effects, provided:

  • these items are entered on the certificate
  • the certificates are presented by the holder, or their appointed agent, with the items to an HM Revenue & Customs officer at the place of export

This exception does not apply to exports to Iran, or to a country or destination specified in Parts 1, 2 and 3 of Schedule 4 of the Order.

If these exceptions are not relevant, you will need to obtain a licence from the ECJU.

Types of licences for firearms exports

Open General Export Licences (OGELs)

OGELs are pre-published licences that permit the export of certain controlled goods to certain destinations. Before using these licences, you need to carefully read, understand the regulations and make sure that you can meet all the specified terms and conditions. You then need to register to use the licence.

The OGEL (Historic Military Goods) allows, subject to certain conditions, the export of historic military goods from the UK where the exporter is established in the UK, providing the goods are worth less than £35,000 and were manufactured before 1897.

The OGTL (Sporting Guns) allows rifles, pistols and related ammunition and telescopic sights to be imported and subsequently exported via the UK, provided the items are for sporting or recreational use.

Some exports may be made under an appropriate military goods OGEL or the Open General Transhipment Licence (OGTL).

You can find out more about OGELs and check whether there is an OGEL that covers the export you wish to make using the OGEL Checker.

You can register for an OGEL using our online licensing system.

If you are unable to meet all the terms and conditions of an OGEL, you will need to apply for an export licence. Licences available for the export of firearms are briefly set out below.

Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL)

SIELs cover multiple shipments of specific quantity of controlled goods to a named consignee or end user and are usually valid for 2 years.

Supporting documentation required for a SIEL to export firearms

You will need to submit a number of documents with your SIEL application to export firearms. These include:

  • technical specifications describing the goods to be exported
  • an End User Undertaking form (EUU) or a Stockist Undertaking (SU), as appropriate, completed by the organisation or company to whom the items are being sent, confirming that the end-use of the items
  • a copy of your Firearms Certificate or Section 5 authority to demonstrate that you legally hold the firearms that you intend to export
  • if you are exporting firearms to EU Member States, a completed EC3 form (EC firearms and ammunition transfer document for SIEL applications); the EC4 form can be used as a continuation sheet for the EC3 form
  • a copy of the Prior Import Consent (PIC) from the relevant authority in the destination country of import

The PIC form indicates that the destination country is content to import the firearms. You need to have PIC before submitting an export licence application. However, many countries do not class some weapons to be firearms and hence an import consent is not issued. In this instance, an EUU will be required, together with a letter or email from the relevant importing countries licensing authorities stating that a PIC or equivalent cannot be issued.

The ECJU aims to provide a substantive response to SIEL applications within 20 working days of receipt of the application, provided that it has all the information required to process the application.

Open Individual Export Licence: Dealer-to-Dealer

The ECJU provides some more flexible licensing arrangements for registered firearms dealers, which avoids the need to apply for a new licence for every export. This option is known as a Dealer-to-Dealer OIEL, which is valid for 3 years. It authorises UK registered firearms dealers only to export certain categories of firearms and ammunition solely to other gun dealers in the EU.

If you wish to export firearms and ammunition to any other consignee in the EU, you must apply for a SIEL. Dealer-to-Dealer OIELs are only issued if the dealer can demonstrate a business need to use these arrangements and can satisfy the documentation needs.

For non-EU destinations, a general OIEL may be applied for - to allow multiple exports over a period of usually 3 years - to cover sales to other registered firearms dealers, provided a business need can be demonstrated.

You can find out more about OIELs and using SPIRE to get an export licence.

Supporting documentation required for OIELs

All applications for OIELs need supporting documentation. The documentation required can vary between applications and you should look at the separate guidance notes available on using SPIRE to get an export licence. You might also find it helpful to see the guidance on submitting export licence applications correctly.

Documentation requirements include:

  • technical specifications describing the goods to be exported
  • an OIEL undertaking completed by the organisation or company to whom the goods are being sent, confirming that the end-use of the items matches the OIEL conditions
  • a copy of your Firearms Certificate or Section 5 authority to demonstrate that you legally hold the firearms that you intend to export
  • a copy of the Prior Import Consent (PIC) from the relevant authority in the destination country of import.

A PIC indicates that the destination country is content to import the firearms. You need to have PIC before submitting an export licence application. However, many countries do not class some weapons to be firearms and hence an import consent is not issued. In this instance an EUU will be required, together with a letter or email from the relevant importing countries licensing authorities stating that a PIC or equivalent cannot be issued.

Using Dealer OIELs and requirements for EC5 forms and PICs

Before making each shipment under the authority of a Dealer OIEL, copies of valid documentation must be forwarded to the Home Office at least 2 working days beforehand.

For further information contact:

Firearms Section
Public Risk Unit
Home Office
5th Floor, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

Tel: 0207 7035 1782 Fax: 0870 336 9030 Email: firearms@homeoffice.gov.uk

You must include copies of completed EC5 form (a transfer declaration form which is required for Dealer-to-Dealer OIELs) and PICs (obtained from the relevant issuing authority in the country of import). Where consignments are being exported under an OIEL, a document referring to that licence and giving details of the firearms being transferred must accompany each consignment. If you have registered to use an OGEL or hold an OIEL, you will be subject to regular audits conducted by the ECJU Compliance team.

Find out more about compliance audits.

Other licensing considerations for firearms exports

Export licensing requirements of the Arts Council

In addition to the ECJU’s licensing requirements, a separate licence issued by the Arts Council is required for firearms over a certain age and monetary limit. Any items over 50 years old would require a separate licence from the Arts Council who are responsible for licensing cultural goods. This licence is required (unless certain exceptions apply) if you are exporting from the UK for cultural reasons. Depending on the nature of your export, you might be able to use the Arts Council’s Cultural Goods OGEL or an individual licence if you don’t meet the criteria.

You can find out more about the OGEL (Objects of Cultural Interest).

For further information contact the Arts Council:

Export Licensing Unit
Arts Council
14 Great Peter Street
London SW1P 3NQ

You can telephone the Export Licensing Unit on 020 7973 5188, 020 7973 5228, 020 7973 5139, 020 7973 5387, 020 7973 5194 or 020 7973 5241.

You can email elu@artscouncil.org.uk

You can also find information on exporting old or valuable firearms (Arts Council website).

Points to note

A breach of export controls is a criminal offence punishable with fines and/or imprisonment. Find out what actions you need to take in the event of a breach.

It is also important to remember that obtaining a European Firearms Pass or an export licence from the ECJU does not absolve you of all of your export responsibilities. For instance, before you export your items, you need to:

  • notify your Firearms Licensing Office and provide proof of export
  • inform your ferry operator or airline; the company you are travelling with may have additional rules about carrying firearms, sporting guns or ammunition
  • declare carrying firearms to Customs
  • ensure that the import of the firearm is acceptable to the authorities of the destination country (by obtaining an Import Permit or PIC from the relevant issuing authority); this must be done before the personal effects export takes place.

You should be aware that the ECJU cannot be held responsible for any actions that authorities in the destination country might take if they believe relevant import regulations have not been satisfied.

This guidance does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for your own consideration and provision of legal advice in this or any other context.

ECJU contact details

Helpline

Contact the helpline for general queries about strategic export licensing.

Export Control Joint Unit
2nd floor 
3 Whitehall Place
London
SW1A 2AW

Email: exportcontrol.help@trade.gov.uk

Telephone: 020 7215 4594

Notices to exporters

Notices to exporters from the ECJU contain important information about:

  • amendments to open general export licences
  • changes to the list of controlled goods
  • updates on legislation and sanctions

Sign up to receive email alerts to notices to exporters.

Published 3 September 2012
Last updated 23 December 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect current regulations.

  2. This page has been updated to reflect current legislation.

  3. First published.