Guidance

Firearms licensing

Licensing guidance, good practice on firearms law, and forms for applying for approvals under the law.

The possession of firearms and ammunition in Great Britain is regulated mainly by the Firearms Act 1968.

Guidance

The Home Office guide on firearms licensing law was last revised in April 2016. It is intended to assist consistency of practice between police forces by providing them with comprehensive guidance, and also to encourage an understanding among firearms users and the general public of the considerations involved. You can also read the legislative changes that have been made since the guidance was last published in April 2016.

The guidance is only available as an online document. This will help us update the guidance promptly if there are any changes to legislation or processes which help maintain the accuracy of the guidance provided.

Firearms security handbook provides guidance for police and others on securely storing and moving guns.

Firearms security: a brief guide is also available.

The 2011 leaflet air weapons: a brief guide to safety contains information on the safe handling and storage of air weapons, the different types of air weapons and air weapons and the law.

Other publications include:

Maritime security

The following guidance on maritime security is available:

Medical information

From 1 April 2016, information sharing processes between GPs and police have been introduced to ensure that people licensed to possess firearm and shotgun certificates are medically fit. The Home Office guide on firearms licensing law contains a section on medical information, and the British Medical Association has issued guidance for GPs about firearms licencing.

Apply for a licence

Apply for a shotgun or firearm certificate

Apply for or manage a prohibited weapons and ammunition (section 5) authority

Apply for or manage a shooting club approval

Apply for or manage a museum licence

Firearms licence fees

The Firearms (Fees) Regulations 2019 were made under section 32ZA of the Firearms Act 1968 and section 15B of, and paragraph 3A of the Schedule to, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988. With effect from 1 October 2019, the Regulations specify the fees for museum firearm licences, club approval and section 5 authorisations.

The fees are (with certain exceptions for museums) intended to recover the costs of the Home Office, Scottish Government and the police in administering applications. Fees are payable on grant. The applicable fee levels are set out in the Firearms (Fees) Regulations 2019. Further information is contained in Home Office Circular 006/2019: Firearms (Fees) Regulations 2019.

Contact

Email: dflu.fees@homeoffice.gov.uk

This address deals with fees, invoices and billing queries for firearms licensing.

If you cancel your application

We consider how much to charge for cancellations case by case. You may be charged any costs already owed, relating to administration, travel or accommodation arrangements, if:

  • you cancel your application following a police inspection
  • you cancel your application after you receive an outcome from us

We may also ask for our administrative costs to be paid within 10 working days. We can email you extra information about these costs.

Changes in the law

7 May 2021: The Firearms (Amendment) Rules 2021

The Firearms (Amendment) Rules 2021 introduces changes made under The Firearms Rules 1998 to allow for the recording of the “unique identifying mark” on the firearm or shotgun or it’s component parts to be recorded on the prescribed forms for firearm and shotgun certificates and, clarification of the obligation to inform the chief officer of police of the theft, loss or destruction in Great Britain of a firearm or shotgun certificate, or of any firearm or shotgun or ammunition to which the certificate relates.

View the Home Office Circular 002/2021 : The Firearms (Amendment) Rules 2021

22 March 2021: Antique Firearms Regulations 2021 and the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (Commencement No.11 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2021

The law on antique firearms is changing. From 22 March 2021 some firearms previously regarded as antique, and therefore exempt from control, no longer qualify as such and must now be licensed. Owners of these firearms must act by 23:59 on 21 September 2021 to licence them or lawfully dispose of them.

View the Home Office Circular 001/2021: Antique firearms

12 December 2019: Firearms Regulations 2019 and the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Rules 2019

The amendments made under the Firearms Acts introduce changes to the controls on firearms relating to:

  • responsibility for secure storage arrangements in relation to certificate holders under the age of eighteen
  • the particulars to be entered by firearms dealers into their register of transactions in order to reflect new marking requirements for firearms and essential component parts
  • the notification of certain deactivated firearms held in the United Kingdom and their transfer

Forms are available to notify the Secretary of State of possession, or transfer, or a deactivated firearm.

View the Home Office circular 010/2019.

1 October 2019: The Firearms (Fees) Regulations 2019

Fees for firearms licensing were reintroduced following a full public consultation.

The government introduced the measure in Parliament via statutory instrument in July 2019. The instrument came into force as law on 1 October 2019.

The new fees are intended to recover the costs of the Home Office, Scottish Government and the police in administering applications. There are certain exceptions for museums. Fees are payable on grant. The applicable fee levels are set out in the Firearms (Fees) Regulations 2019.

10 June 2019: Firearms (Amendment) Rules 2019

The amendments made to the Firearms Rules came into force on 10 June 2019 and require applicants for registration with the police as a firearms dealer to complete a medical declaration. Applicants must also provide details of their ‘servants’ at each place of business so that relevant background checks can be completed by the police.

View the Home Office circular.

16 May 2019: Offensive Weapons Act 2019

The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 introduces new prohibitions under the Firearms Act 1968 on certain rapid-firing rifles (section 5(1)(ag)) and “bump stocks” (section 5(1)(ba)), which increase the rate of fire of self-loading rifles.

The prohibitions came into force with effect from 16 May, to the extent that they prohibit the manufacture, sale, transfer or acquisition of such weapons. The prohibition on possession will come into force at a later date, following completion of surrender and compensation arrangements.

28 June 2018: revised EU Implementing Regulation affecting deactivated firearms

Implementing Regulation 2015/2403 has been revised. On 28 June 2018 revised deactivation standards (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 34.1KB) come into effect. EU Commission Implementing Regulation 2018/337 introduces changes affecting deactivation standards within EU Member States.

If you have any questions please contact public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

21 April 2017: firearms controls in the Policing and Crime Act 2017

Information about the new legal provisions on firearms in the Policing and Crime Act 2017.

8 April 2016: change in law affecting deactivated firearms

The Implementing regulation 2015/2403 (PDF, 394KB, 11 pages) ‘Establishing common guidelines on deactivation standards and techniques for ensuring that deactivated firearms are rendered irreversibly inoperable’, was published in the EU Official Journal on Saturday 19 December 2015. This has effect from 8 April 2016. All firearms submitted to the Proof Houses from 8 April must comply with Home Office guidance and additional measures relating to European Commission Regulation {EU} 2015/2403.

12 March 2015: notice of a change to the cost of firearms licensing fees

From 6 April 2015 there will be new fees charged by the police for administering firearms licences. This follows the public consultation held in November and December 2014.

The response to the government consultation on increasing firearms licensing fees administered by the police - which includes details on the new fees - is available.

22 December 2014: notice of a change in law affecting registered firearms dealers and computerised records – EU Weapons Directive 2008/51.

The Home Office has revisited its position on the implementation of article 4(4) of the EU Weapons Directive 2008/51 (amending Council Directive 91/477). We do appreciate that it is not ideal to be changing our approach at this late stage. However we have reconsidered the scope of the requirements and have decided that rather than mandating firearms dealers to computerise their records we will rely on the National Firearms Licensing Management System (England and Wales) and SHOGUN (Scotland), with both the police and firearms dealers continuing to record current information.

This means that firearms dealers can continue to keep paper-based records although we would continue to recommend computerised records as a matter of best practice.

Firearms dealers will not be required to record anything more or less than they are already required to do now but records will need to kept and maintained for a minimum of 20 years.

The requirements for what has to be recorded as part of the directive are already covered by section 40 and schedule 4 of the Firearms Act 1968 and Part IV of Schedule 5 to the Firearms Rules 1998. Therefore the only difference for firearms dealers will be the length of time they must hold their records for.

Please note that there is no requirement for registered firearms dealers trading only in air weapons or ammunition to comply with this EU Directive. If you have any questions please contact public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk, or read the further information about the new legislation.

Changes to the Firearms Act 1968

From 14 July 2014, if a person receives a suspended sentence of 3 months or more they will not be able to purchase or possess a firearm or ammunition for a period of 5 years from the second day after sentence.

From 14 July 2014, a person who has served or received a criminal sentence will not be able to possess an antique firearm.

The prohibition applies to anyone who has served a custodial sentence of more than 3 years or has served a custodial sentence, or received a suspended sentence, of between 3 months and 3 years.

A person to whom this applies and who currently lawfully possesses an antique firearm will need to dispose of it by 14 July.

Read more information on firearms licensing legislation and in the below leaflets:

Antique firearms: what you need to know (PDF, 44.6KB, 3 pages)

Antique firearms: information for buyers and sellers (PDF, 47.5KB, 3 pages)

Further information

On 18 November 2015 the EU Commission published proposals to amend the Firearms Directive 91/477/EEC as amended by Directive 2008/51/EC. You can read the Draft amending directive (PDF, 308KB, 19 pages). Negotiations on the directive are ongoing.

Further information will be added to this page when it is available.

Travelling to EU countries with deactivated weapons for historical re-enactments and commemorative events

If you are travelling to an EU country with deactivated weapons, these must conform to the technical specifications set out in the EU Implementing Regulation on deactivation standards which came into effect on 8 April.

If you are returning to the UK you will also need to comply with the additional measures required by the UK. Weapons deactivated to other standards must not be taken to other EU countries, nor will they be admitted into the UK.

The Proof Houses are aware of the likely increase in demand for their services and the urgency of such requests in relation to the centenary anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and related events. Re-enactment and living history societies and individuals should contact the relevant Proof House as soon as possible and tell them of the numbers and types of firearms which need certifying. The Proof House will endeavour to meet requests ahead of travel but cannot guarantee all firearms will be certified in time.

All costs incurred as a result of this certification must be met by the owners of the deactivated weapons. The government will not provide any financial assistance to cover these costs and it will not provide compensation for any claims arising as a result of the additional certification requirement.

The onus remains on individuals to check with the relevant authority if import licenses are need before travelling with deactivated. Please read the guidance on importing deactivated weapons back into the UK.

Police use of firearms

For general information for the police on the use of firearms, you need to go to the following pages on The National Archives:

Drugs and Firearms Licensing Unit (DFLU) contact details

Firearms enquiries

For any query about the legislation relating to firearms in the UK, or other firearms-related question.

Firearms applications

You can contact the Home Office by telephone on: 020 7035 4848.

Published 19 December 2012
Last updated 21 April 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated the Changes in the law section with the Firearms (Amendment) Rules 2021.

  2. The law on antique firearms is changing. From 22 March 2021 some firearms previously regarded as antique, and therefore exempt from control, no longer qualify as such and must now be licensed.

  3. List of recent legislative changes published.

  4. Updated guidance on rifles and muzzles, cancellation policy and contact details.

  5. Updated to include firearms licence fees, including how to pay and contact details

  6. Added details of The Firearms (Fees) Regulations 2019.

  7. Updated to add information on Circular 010/2019: Firearms Regulations 2019 and the Firearms (Amendment) (No.2) Rules 2019 and links to transfer and possession notification forms.

  8. Additions to changes in the law: Firearms (Amendment) Rules 2019 and Offensive Weapons Act 2019.

  9. Implementing Regulation 2015/2403 has been revised. On 28 June 2018 revised deactivation standards come into effect.

  10. Added unit organogram.

  11. Changed email addresses.

  12. Updated contact details.

  13. Added 'Apply for a licence'.

  14. Added information about firearms provisions in the Policing and Crime Act 2017.

  15. Firearms enquiries phone number has been updated.

  16. Added guidance about travelling to EU countries with deactivated weapons for historical re-enactments and commemorative events

  17. Guidance on deactivating firearms published in accordance with Commission Implementing Regulation 2015/2403.

  18. Contact details for DFLU added.

  19. Proposals to amend the Firearms Directive 91/477/EEC published.

  20. New guidance on deactivating firearms published.

  21. Guidance added on sharing medical information between GPs and police.

  22. Change in law on deactivated firearms added.

  23. Updated maritime security links

  24. Updated information on firearms licensing law.

  25. Notice of a change to the cost of firearms licensing fees.

  26. Notice of a change in law affecting registered firearms dealers and computerised records

  27. Changes with effect from 14 July 2014 published.

  28. First published.