The following information is presented by Shanklin Rifle and Pistol Club (SRPC) in good faith. It is our understanding of certain aspects of current legislation covering the licensing of firearms within England and Wales but should not be taken as a complete or definitive statement of the law. Any case of doubt should be referred to a solicitor specialising in firearms law, or the Firearms Licensing Unit of your local police force. Note that Northern Ireland, Scotland and locations such as the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are not covered by the following information and we advise that specialist help should be sought for any legal queries within these territories.
How to obtain a Firearms Certificate (FAC)
Note that FACs and SGCs are NEVER granted for the purposes of self-defence or the defence of property.
This information is believed to be correct as of January 2013. You are advised to check with your local police force, a solicitor specialising in firearms law or any of the national bodies such as the National Rifle Association or the National Smallbore Rifle Association in case of any doubt.
A Firearms Certificate (FAC) is required before you can purchase or possess any firearm, ammunition, or even certain parts of a firearm, like a spare barrel. It is important that any prospective applicant reads fully the section on Gun Law before attempting to apply. The life of an FAC is 5 years before it needs to be renewed. The police will usually remind an FAC holder several months in advance of renewal date. There is no licence requirement at this time to purchase or to hold an Airgun, but see the Gun Law section on Airguns for further details. For further information and application forms, please see your local police force's website. If you are in Hampshire, then you can download the respective forms here
Before an FAC is granted the police will need to be satisfied that an applicant has "good reason" to possess a firearm, and the two most common routes to establishing "good reason" are:
- Having shooting rights over land
- Full membership of a target shooting club.
Note that FAC's and SGC's are NEVER granted for the purposes of self-defence or the defence of property.
Given that SRPC is a target shooting club the rest of this section assumes that the reader is an applicant who wishes to hold an FAC solely for the purpose of target shooting.
On first joining SRPC you will have to sign a declaration that you are not legally debarred from handling firearms by virtue of any previous prison sentences. An application form must then be completed giving your personal details and the names and addresses of two referees who have known you personally for at least two years. The Club will also require a one-off joining fee. You will then serve a probationary period of six months, during the course of which you must make a minimum of eighteen shooting visits to the range. When the six month probationary period has ended, and assuming the necessary number of shooting visits has been completed, at their next meeting, the Club Committee will consider whether you can be accepted for full membership. The Committee will take into account your conduct during the probationary period and, assuming nothing adverse has been reported, full membership will normally be granted at that time. It must be noted however that approval is not automatic at the end of the six months and the Club reserves the right to refuse membership without having to give any reason. Assuming that full membership is granted, you will then be in a position to apply for an FAC. (The police will not entertain applications for an FAC under any circumstances while you are still a probationary member).
When completing the FAC application there are a couple of sections which are particularly worthy of note. One of these asks whether you have ever been convicted of any offence at any time. Do NOT be tempted to "forget" even the most trivial offence, no matter how long ago it was (this even includes motoring offences and speeding tickets). The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does NOT apply when applying for an FAC and the police DO check thoroughly. Previous convictions do not always necessarily mean refusal to grant an FAC, but if you do not declare an offence and it is revealed by the police checks, then you will certainly be refused and will also be looking at a prosecution for having made a false declaration to obtain an FAC.
The second section which needs careful attention is that relating to the two referees who will support your application. These people will be required to complete a questionnaire about you and return it direct to the police, without you seeing what they have written. Members of your family are not permitted to act as referees, nor are serving police officers, nor a Registered Firearms Dealer.
When the FAC application is received by the police along with the necessary fee, they will make an appointment with you to come and inspect your home and your security arrangements for storing the firearms and ammunition. When applying for the FAC, it is sensible to specify the number of firearms for which you can demonstrate "good reason" and intend buying during the lifetime of the certificate. This is better than specifying just the one you intend to purchase initially, but if the police believe that you are inflating the number simply to avoid the charges for future variations, they are likely to refuse you. There is no statutory limit on the number of firearms or the quantity of ammunition you can ask for, but the more you want, the more security the police may insist on before granting the FAC. Seek advice from established Club members on this point, as most issues likely to arise will almost certainly have occurred before and will have been resolved.
The precise requirements for storage of firearms are not actually specified in law. The legislation merely says that firearms "must be stored securely at all times so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, access to the guns by unauthorised persons". In practice a steel cabinet constructed and certified to comply with BS 7558 and bolted to the wall is the norm. The vast majority of commercially available gun and rifle cabinets meet the necessary standards. Again, seek advice from established Club members and your police Firearms Enquiry Officer on the subject of firearm security. If your premises have shared access, for example if you live in an apartment block, the requirements may be more stringent. You should also note that the police will want to ensure that only you in your household will have access to the firearms, so you must be able to reassure them that no other person will have access to the cabinet keys or knows the location of any spare set. Some years ago a well-respected solicitor had his Firearm and Shotgun Certificates revoked because he admitted that his 80 year old mother knew where the spare keys to his gun cabinet were kept. There was no evidence that his mother actually handled the guns - the mere fact that she knew where the keys were was sufficient to cause the loss of his certificates.
Another point to bear in mind is that when your FAC is granted it will specify that the firearms on it are to be used "for target shooting at . . . " such and such a place or places. Note that it means exactly what it says - the firearms are to be used ONLY for target shooting on approved ranges. It would be illegal for you to use your rifle for rabbit shooting, for example, even with a landowner's specific permission, because you would be outside the terms and conditions of your Certificate. Such action, if discovered, would lead to the loss of your Certificate and your firearms. There is nothing to prevent you applying for dual use and having both target shooting and shooting over land on your certificate, provided that you can demonstrate that you have permission for such use.
FACs also authorise the possession of specified amounts of ammunition and you will be asked at the time of application to suggest the maximum number of rounds which you are likely to purchase at any one time and the maximum number you would seek to hold at any one time. You should ask for sensible numbers which will accurately reflect your intended usage. The police will normally agree to numbers which reflect actual usage of ammunition, but will not agree to larger numbers simply on the grounds of it being cheaper to buy in bulk.
Should you wish to do your own reloading of ammunition there is no requirement to declare the number of rounds you manufacture, but the total in your possession at any one time must not exceed the limit on your FAC. You do not need to produce your FAC to buy propellant or cartridge cases, but it is illegal to buy or sell rifle and pistol primers unless the buyer can produce a certificate authorising him to possess ammunition of a relevant kind. The possession of expanding bullets, such as hollow point or soft point, is illegal unless the possessor has an FAC which specifically authorises their possession. This would never be the case for someone who held an FAC purely for target shooting.