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.


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.

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.

Approval of rifle and muzzle-loading pistol clubs explains what approval means and how clubs can apply for it. It also explains the criteria and conditions which they must meet in order to obtain approval and remain approved.

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

Changes in the law

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.

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

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, 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.

Home Office firearms licensing database

June 2016: Please note that the Home Office has commissioned a replacement database for recording the status of applications from Registered Firearms Dealers, shooting clubs and museums. When the database goes live, we will be able to receive applications from firearms dealers and museums on-line. We are intending to become fully digital at the end of the year.

Applications from shooting clubs will continue to be processed in the same way as now – Form 124 completed by the club and submitted to the local police. The police will then make enquiries on behalf of the Home Office prior to sending the application to us for consideration.

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

See our unit organogram (PDF, 109KB, 1 page) for full details, or you can contact the Home Office by telephone on: 020 7035 4848.

Published 19 December 2012
Last updated 28 June 2018 + show all updates
  1. Implementing Regulation 2015/2403 has been revised. On 28 June 2018 revised deactivation standards come into effect.
  2. Added unit organogram.
  3. Changed email addresses.
  4. Updated contact details.
  5. Added 'Apply for a licence'.
  6. Added information about firearms provisions in the Policing and Crime Act 2017.
  7. Firearms enquiries phone number has been updated.
  8. Added guidance about travelling to EU countries with deactivated weapons for historical re-enactments and commemorative events
  9. Guidance on deactivating firearms published in accordance with Commission Implementing Regulation 2015/2403.
  10. Contact details for DFLU added.
  11. Proposals to amend the Firearms Directive 91/477/EEC published.
  12. New guidance on deactivating firearms published.
  13. Guidance added on sharing medical information between GPs and police.
  14. Change in law on deactivated firearms added.
  15. Updated maritime security links
  16. Updated information on firearms licensing law.
  17. Notice of a change to the cost of firearms licensing fees.
  18. Notice of a change in law affecting registered firearms dealers and computerised records
  19. Changes with effect from 14 July 2014 published.
  20. First published.