Firearms Licences

Can someone outline the different types of Firearms licence, and what criterea you need to meet in order to gain them? I was inspired by seeing the picture of the Webley on this forum, and its a field I have a great interest in. I thought I'd find the most useful pool of knowledge on this board.


I was referring to privately held weapons by civilians. I didn't really know where to start, so I asked. Thanks for the link, but there really wasn't any need for a whinge was there.
Xplosiverab said:
I was referring to privately held weapons by civilians. I didn't really know where to start, so I asked. Thanks for the link, but there really wasn't any need for a whinge was there.

'Shooting Times' magazine is a good read & you may consider joining BASC (British Assn for shooting & Conservation; UK's governing body for firearms affairs)

what sort of firearm are you arter- and mainly, for what purpose. you also need to gain written permission to shoot your intendended quarry before you apply.
Xplosiverab said:
I was inspired by seeing the picture of the Webley on this forum, and its a field I have a great interest in. Rab
Well, if you are in UK, you can forget about anything like the Webley. Banned.
This explains everything about what the requirements are. For any rifle though you need a good reason to own one such as pest control and target shooting. If you want a rifle for target shooting you must become a full member of a shooting club before applying.
The basic idea is that you apply to your local police force firearms licensing department .

If you want a to possess historical firearms you're in a small category and the police might be a bit unsure of the rules, however. Most people have firearms for shooting. There are two basic categories - ordinary shotguns and the rest. You are entitled to possess a shotgun unless the police can show good reason why you should not be allowed to. If you want any kind of rifle or a high capacity magazine shotgun you have to demonstrate to the police that you have good reason for doing so. For most of us, this is membership of a target shooting club or the need, ability and facilities to shoot game or pests. You also have to show that you have secure storage for your weapons.

All this involves interviews, character references and about 13 passport sized photos. The procedure is a litle less onerous for ordinary shotguns than for the rest.

To possess a historical revolver is going to involve special rules about storage, I think. You might be best advised to look at the website of the National Rifle Association ( the UK one, not the US one). The Met police website also has a lot of info on firearms procedures. If all else fails try googling 'historic firearms' or something like that.
If you want to join the shooting community, lets get the terminology correct first: shotguns and firearms are held on certificates, not licences - a certificate being evidence that an authority has checked the circumstances, and a licence being a temporary permission to do something that would otherwise be illegal. The point is that firearms ownership is a legal right to anyone who isn't disqualified for various reasons (criminal record, mental illness, etc) and that therefore the authority (police) are certifying that you are fit to hold them. This might all seem pointless pedantry to an outsider, but if you become a civilian gun owner, you will soon become aware of what is a very sensitive subject of civil liberties and the rights of the individual - shooters feel that they are a very oppressed section of the community!

You can obtain applications for either a firearms certificate (FAC) or shotgun certificate (SC) from your local Police station, the web, or a Post office. Because many FAC holders also own a shotgun, the forms are now designed so that you can apply for FAC and SC at the same time.

The Police have been given the task of vetting all applicants for FAC/SC. The basic principle of law is that they must/will grant the FAC unless there is good reason why not. In practice (and contentionally), this is turned around so that you have to show good reason why you want a firearm.

At this point another sensitive issue arises: there are 53(?) Police forces around the country, and they are all free to apply the law in their own interpretation. The Association of Chief police Officers (ACPO) issues guidelines (as with many modern laws, there is no longer black and white), and individual firearms departments interpret these as they wish. This means that two shooters living in adjacent identical houses but in different counties might receive wildly different treatment in their application.

"Good reason" to own a firearm can therefore be very different, depending upon which Police area you live in. In general, you need to be part of a shooting club or other organised activity (clay shooting, rough shooting, stalking, etc) or have other provable use for the firearm. One category - into which Webleys fall - is that of "collecting" or having a historical interest in firearms. This category is fine by some police authorities, but severely restricted by others.

The firearms you can apply for broadly fall into several "sections":

Shotgun: but only up to a magazine capacity of 3 rounds, so no US-style pump guns!

Section 1: the most common group, which includes (non semi-auto except .22) rifles, shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than 3, cartrdge air guns, certain miltiaria accrssories and the like. Also includes black-powder percussion pistols.

Section 5: a category usually only held by a few specialist RFDs, this includes semi-auto and auto weapons, and other items which are "prohibited".

Section 7: this allows pistols to be held under very stringent conditions. This is the section that allows collectors to own Webleys and other pistols of non-obsolete calibre (there is a list of old and obsolete calibres which can be owned without an FAC).

Typically, you'll have to join a shooting club of some sort, spend a period under probation and then become a full member (typically six months). The club will then provide reference to the police, who will take this as your "good reason" for wanting a firearm. When you have made your FAC application, the police will send a liaison officer to interview you. Part of this interview will be a review the security arrangements for the storage of firearms - at a minimum a steel cabinet, and quite often a monitored alarm system. Unless there is something obviously wrong with your application, the police will eventually issue the FAC to you.

Thats a lightening overview. My expertise is with Sect1, so one of the Arrse Sect7 owners might be along to give you some more details about that category.
There is no "good reason" clause for shotguns (section 2), although the police will often try to bullsh1t you that there is one. Provided that you have no criminal record and a gun safe (or just a gun clamp in certain circumstances) you have an absolute right to have a shotgun certificate and to own shotguns (single shot, double barrel, pump/semi up to three shot).

Owning the Webley is possible, can't remember which part of section 7 it falls under (i.e. whether it's to be kept at a designated site to be shot for "historical research" purposes or to be kept at home with no ammunition for "collecting purposes"). Expect to part with the thick end of a grand or more to get one though.
Handguns aren't actually completely banned - the conditions for ownership have just been made so onerous that there is no point in owning one. For example, one class of section 7 certificate stipulates that the webley can only be kept in a locked steel box at just one or two designated pistol armouries; one is at NRA Bisley, which therefore is pretty useless for anyone who lives anywhere else apart from Surrey. I've heard from Sect7 owners that they are not permitted to even let anyone else physically touch the weapon, let alone shoot it.

If you want to have the pleasure of owning a "real" weapon and don't want to contribute to the destruction of historic firearms through de-activation, there is in fact a whole list of "obsolete" calibre weapons which anyone can own without any form of certificate. Apart from obvious old guns like flintlocks and pinfires, the list includes all British service rifles up to and including the Martini-Henry in 450/577 (but not the .303 versions), plus many handguns in calibres for which ammunition "is not commonly available" - eg .320 British, .44 S&W Russian, 4.25 Liliput (there are about 300 different obsolete calibres except from FAC requirements).

So, next time you watch "Zulu", you can sit there with Martini-Henry & bayonet, giving the lads some supporting fire....


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Is the assumption then that you can't get ammunition from reloading your own brass? I thought there were places in the USA where you could get things like new brass for the Martini-Henry?
The ammunition itself is not commercially available, therefore it is on "ze list". You can make ammunition for almost anything, but that's irrelevant.

Interestingly, practically every time the section 58(2) list is tested in court, the Home Office loses, since there is actually no legal basis for the list at all -- it's just something the Home Office made up and put in the guidance.
The "making ammunition" point serves to illustrate just how nebulous the law (and its home office "gold-plating") really is:

(a) Anyone can go out an buy a 450/577 Martini-Henry in shooting condition; you don't need any security, you don't need a certificate. You can hang it over the mantlepiece or shoot at the TV when Zulu is on...

(b) You can buy dies, brass, powder & bullets to make 450/577 ammunition. Currently, all of these are available without a certificate ("they" want to ban or regulate this, but it practice it would be an administrative and legal nightmare).

(c) So long as you do not use (b) to actually make a round of ammunition, you are still completely legal and without the need for an FAC.

(d) As soon as you use (b) to make a single round of complet ammunition, (a) becomes a section 1 firearm and has to be recorded on an FAC. The assembled ammunition also becomes section 1.

(e) The fun starts with a typical FAC holder, who might already own several M-H rifles "off ticket" as in (a). Fancying a pop with the old M-H, he applies for a "450/577" slot on his FAC. When he gets his ammunition ready, one of his M-Hs magically becomes an evil firearm, leading to all sorts of odd problems:

(i) Which M-H is the firearm? Are the others still antiques, or do they have to be disposed of because he can only own one "450/577" rifle?

(ii) if one M-H suddenly becomes a firearm, it has to go into a secure cabinet - unlike thousands of its mates which are hanging above peoples' fireplaces. What about the shooter's other two M-Hs which are still above the fireplace?;

(iii) how do you record on the FAC which M-H is actually the firearm? Most of them do not have any serial numbers! If you use your new bullets in one of your other M-Hs, you are technically making illegal use of an antique weapon, as its not on your FAC..

(iv) when you tell the police you have filled that 450/577 "slot", where do you tell them the rifle came from? Er, it was above my fireplace..... That could be construed as illegal possession of a sect 1 firearm (potential 5 years incarceration)

(v) you decide to sell the M-H, but now its a section 1 firearm, so in theory you can't just sell it to the bloke over the road who collects antique weapons...

Items (i) to (v) have all occurred in the real world and have had wildly different responses when asked of different police forces. Most police take the common sense approach and let shooters just get on with it - BUT - and heres the sting - a pedantic police authority could look at those grey areas and prosecute.
so we could techically own an M-H for home defence (well it worked at rourkes drift)
and the bayonet could probably finsh any chav scum off
I was chatting to one police FLO who - typically - knew very little about firearms: he was looking at an M-H and was obviously comfortable thinking it was an antique piece of junk and just one step up from a de-act. Because of the rifle's age and looks, I think he associated it with Brown Besses and muzzle-loaders. When I told him that the M-H was quite capable of killing an elephant stone dead, of target-shooting out to 1000 yards, and had a potential rate of fire of about 20 rounds per minute, he almost fell off his chair! I don't think most people realise the level of technology that was available in 1870...
4T: I met a chap at Bisley who was not only a shooter, but was also a victorian era walt. He wanted to have a Martini Henry to hang on the wall, and another one to be able to shoot with and fire blanks at the fuzzy wussies with. But no, that was not allowed -- the police told him that he had to have a separate rifle for live and blank. The reason was as follows: "you might mix up the live and blank and have an accident at a re-enactment", I kid you not. Given that the 577/450 blanks that I have seen are not full-length cases, it is absolutely impossible to mix them up. And even if you were stupid enough to mix them up, how would having a second identical rifle prevent this?

Thus, the police, in a fit of bizarre logic, insisted that he buy three rifles instead of two.

Here in Holland, things are rather more sensible and he could have done the whole lot with one.
Another great one to ask the plod is about black powder storage: for decades, muzzle-loading old biffers have happily kept their black powder in wooden or tupperware boxes, and no-one ever had an accident - at least not that I've heard about.

Now, in line with ACPO "guidance", police have insisted that everyone puts the black powder in a locked metal container..... for "safety reasons"... wait a minute..... "black powder in a locked metal container"?..... isn't that a.......... B...O...M...B...?!

So now, instead of the chance of black powder flaring off in a spectacular but harmless way from a soft container, the police have gone and created a few thousand IEDs up and down the country.....
My advice would be...move to the Netherlands - everything is a hell of a lot easier over here, hence why I am the proud owner of said shiny Webley!!

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