Guidance

Exporting firearms

Guidance for businesses and individuals on what licence and supporting documentation you need to export firearms, ammunition and related equipment.

Overview

Firearms, and their parts, components, accessories or ammunition and related software and technology are controlled strategic goods. Unless an exception applies, you need a licence to export any controlled firearms from the UK to another country.

This applies to:

  • individuals
  • businesses, including registered firearms dealers
  • both permanent, and temporary exports, such as for an exhibition, a competition or for the purpose of a holiday

It is a criminal offence to export controlled goods without the correct licence. Penalties vary depending on the nature of the offence.

This information is for guidance only. It is not a statement of law. Before exporting you should refer to the legal provisions in force at the time. Where legal advice is required, exporters should make their own arrangements.

Check if your items are controlled

Check if your items are controlled and find the appropriate control entry using:

If your items are not controlled you should only apply for a licence if you have concerns over the end-user or destination.

Export control legislation affecting firearms

The main 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 is applicable in Great Britain and as such has the force of law within the UK.

The provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol mean that Council Regulation (EU) 258/2012 and Council Directive (91/477/EEC), and all other council directives, continue to apply in Northern Ireland.

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 main difference between entries PL9010 and PL9011 is the destination of the export; PL9010 applies to destinations outside the EU and PL9011 applies to movements within the EU customs territory. 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. This is only when they form part of the personal effects of a person in possession of a European Firearms Pass (EFP).

You cannot use an EFP for exports from Great Britain.

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.

This regulation has been retained in UK law by the European (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and is applicable in Great Britain. The provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol mean that Council Regulation (EU) 258/2012, applies in Northern Ireland.

It 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.

Sanctions and embargoes

All arms embargoes include the export of firearms listed in Schedule 2 of the Order.

Find out about current trade sanctions, including arms embargoes and other restrictions.

Licences for the export of firearms

You need a licence to export firearms unless an exception applies.

Open general export licences (OGELs)

OGELs are licences with set terms and conditions which you must comply with.

OGELs which can be used to export firearms include:

If you cannot comply with the terms and conditions of an OGEL you must apply for a standard individual export licence (SIEL) or open individual export licence (OIEL).

Check what supporting documentation you need to export firearms.

Supporting documentation for SIELs and OIELs

You must support any SIEL or OIEL firearms application with:

  • technical specifications describing the goods to be exported
  • 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

In addition:

The PIC form indicates that the destination country is content to import the firearms.

You must have PIC before submitting a firearms export licence application. However, many countries do not class some weapons to be firearms so an import consent is not issued. In this instance, an end-user undertaking form (EUU) is required. It must be submitted together with a letter or email from the relevant importing countries licensing authorities stating that a PIC or equivalent cannot be issued.

Exporting firearms from Great Britain

Registered firearms dealers based in Great Britain must apply for a SIEL to export firearms or ammunition to any destination.

ECJU’s optional simplified process prior to any SIEL application allows:

  • registered firearms dealers to pre-submit the details of their regular customers
  • the necessary advance checks to be made reducing process time

Check the documentation you need to support a SIEL application for firearms.

An OIEL may be appropriate in some circumstances, such as when a specific prior import consent (or form of import authorisation) is not required.

Exporting firearms from Northern Ireland

Exporting to the EU

The dealer-to-dealer open individual export licence (OIEL) authorises Northern Ireland registered firearms dealers to export certain categories of firearms and ammunition. Dealers must demonstrate a business need to use these arrangements and satisfy the documentation needs. Exports under a dealer-to-dealer OIEL apply solely to other gun dealers in the EU.

If you wish to export firearms or ammunition to any other consignee in the EU, you must apply for a SIEL.

You must supply supporting documentation to support an application to export firearms.

Additional documentation required for firearms exports from Northern Ireland to an EU member state are:

You must forward copies of your completed EC5 form and PIC to firearms-ec5@trade.gov.uk. This must be done at least 2 working days before making a shipment under the authority of a dealer OIEL.

Exporting to non-EU destinations

Apply for a general OIEL for non-EU destinations to cover sales to other registered firearms dealers. This allows multiple exports over a period of usually 3 years.

You must demonstrate a business need and supply supporting documentation for the OIEL application.

Exporting antique weapons

In addition to ECJU’s licensing requirements you must get a separate licence from the Arts Council to export firearms which are:

  • over 50 years old
  • valued over a certain threshold

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 OGEL criteria.

Find out more about licensing requirements for antique weapons.

When you do not need an export licence

If the following exceptions apply you do not need a licence from Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU).

Holders of a European Firearms Pass (EFP)

Individuals in Northern Ireland with an EFP taking personal firearms from Northern Ireland to an EU member state do not need an export licence. 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.

You must 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. 

Contact the Firearms Licensing Unit within your local police authority to get an EFP.

Individuals in Great Britain must apply for an export licence.

Exceptions for certificate or permit holders

Article 16 of the Order provides an exception for the export of firearms as personal effects from the UK to countries outside the EU.

You do not normally need an export licence to take or send the following items overseas if they are for personal use and part of your personal effects:

  • firearms
  • shotguns
  • related ammunition and sights (non-electronic image enhancement)

This only applies if you have either a valid certificate or visitor’s permit for your firearm or shotgun.

You must have the relevant items entered on the certificate. The certificates and items must be ready to be presented by the holder, or their appointed agent, to an HMRC 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.

Other firearms export requirements

In addition to getting an EFP or export licence you must before you export your items:

  • notify your Firearms Licensing Office and provide proof of export
  • inform your ferry operator or airline as the company you are travelling with may have additional rules about carrying firearms, sporting guns or ammunition
  • declare you are carrying firearms to HMRC
  • ensure you have any authority for your firearms to transit any intermediate countries on their way to the final destination

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.

Contact ECJU

Helpline

Export Control Joint Unit
Department for International Trade
Old Admiralty Building
Admiralty Place
London
SW1A 2DY

Email exportcontrol.help@trade.gov.uk

Telephone 020 7215 4594

Contact for general queries about strategic export licensing.

Notices to exporters

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Published 3 September 2012
Last updated 31 December 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated guidance explaining processes for exporting firearms from Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

  2. Updated to reflect current regulations.

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

  4. First published.

  1. Step 1 Check if you need to follow this process

    Follow these steps if you're moving goods permanently from:

    • England, Wales or Scotland (Great Britain) to a country outside the UK
    • Northern Ireland to a country outside the UK and the EU

    What you need to do is different if you are:

    1. Learn about exporting, including making export plans, on great.gov.uk
  2. Step 2 Check the rules for exporting your goods

  3. and Apply for any licences you need to export your goods

  4. Step 3 Get your business ready to export

    You need an EORI number that starts with GB to export goods from England, Wales or Scotland.

    If you move goods to or from Northern Ireland you may need one that starts with XI.

    1. Get an EORI number
    1. Check if you need to register for VAT

    There are processes that can make clearing customs quicker and easier to manage if you export goods regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if you can use Common Transit to move your goods
    3. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  5. and Check whoever's receiving the goods can import them

    The business or person receiving the goods to may need:

    • to make an import declaration in their country
    • licences or certificates to receive goods from the UK

    Check whoever you are sending the goods to is able to import them into their country.

  6. Step 4 Decide who will make export declarations and transport the goods

  7. Step 5 Classify your goods

    You must find the right commodity code to classify the goods you're exporting.

    Your customs agent or transporter might be able to help you with this.

    1. Find the right commodity code for your goods
  8. Step 6 Prepare the invoice and other documentation for your goods

    The completed invoice and any licences or certificates must travel with the goods.

    When filling in the value of your goods on the invoice, use the price you’re selling them for. If you're not selling the goods, use the market value of the goods. List any freight or export insurance you included in the price separately.

    You may need proof of origin if exporting to a country where your goods have a reduced or zero rate of duty.

    1. Get proof of origin for your goods

    You might be able to zero rate the goods for VAT. This means you can charge your customers VAT at 0%.

    1. Check if you can zero rate the goods for VAT
  9. Step 7 Get your goods through customs

    If you've appointed someone to deal with UK customs for you, they'll make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border.

    1. Make an export declaration and get your goods cleared by UK customs

    You may need other documentation to get your goods into the destination country. Ask the person or business buying your goods what information you need to provide.

    1. Check how to bring goods back into the UK if they were rejected for import at another country’s border
  10. Step 8 Keep invoices and records

    You must keep commercial invoices and any customs paperwork.

    If you're VAT registered, record the goods in your VAT accounts even if they are zero-rated.

    1. Find out how to record the goods in your VAT accounts

    If you exported controlled goods, for example firearms, keep the paperwork that shows who owns the goods.