Crime and policing – 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.


The Home Office guide on firearms licensing law was last revised in March 2015. 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 enable us to 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


Changes in the law

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/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

Home Office firearms licensing database

April 2014: 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: