Firearm certificates differ from shotgun certificates in that each individual weapon held on the former, needs to be authorised for its use. It is for this very reason that an applicant is required to satisfy the Chief Officer of Police, of his reason for requiring that weapon, for that purpose.
The holder of a shotgun certificate can acquire as many shotguns as he can safely accommodate, without having to prove his reason for needing each individual weapon.
The holder of a firearm certificate has a far more limited flexibility when it comes to possessing firearms. It is a requirement of the Firearms Acts that such certificate holders specify their reason for each and every firearm they require.
What is more, the police must be satisfied that the weapons requested, are suitable for the reasons stated. For instance, it would not be acceptable to request a .303 rifle for controlling rabbits!
Most firearm certificate applications fall into one of two categories and the first we will address here is target shooting.
An applicant for a firearm certificate needs to demonstrate "good reason" for the weapons requested. In the case of target shooting, "good reason" can only be satisfied by the applicant being a full and active member of a Home Office approved club (probationary membership is not acceptable), and the club must be approved for the use of the firearms requested in the application.
It is now a legal requirement that firearm certificates issued for target shooting show in the range use condition the name of the principal Home Office approved club to which the certificate holder belongs. This does not mean however that the firearms authorised can only be used at that location, since certificate holders may be members of more than one club, and may be involved in competition shooting at other venues.
Indeed it is now a requirement that Home Office approved clubs keep a record of members' attendance and the weapons that they use.
Moreover clubs are required to notify the police of those members who have let their club membership lapse, or who have not attended in a twelve month period. Therefore, unless there are extenuating circumstances, this could mean that if a certificate holder were to fail to attend the shooting club regularly, or did not use all of his firearms regularly, good reason for all or some of the firearms held on his certificate could be called into question. This could perhaps ultimately lead to the full or partial revocation of the firearm certificate.
In respect of Section 1 ammunition it is usual only to allow possession of the same calibres as the firearms possessed or to be acquired, and it should be noted that ammunition must also be stored securely.
When good reason has been satisfied and all other enquiries have proved satisfactory a firearm certificate will be issued showing the weapons which you are authorised to purchase; the certificate will also bear conditions showing the purpose for which the firearms are authorised.
The other two most popular reasons for requiring the grant of a firearms certificate are vermin control and deer stalking.
They differ from target shooting in as much as there is no necessity for the applicant to belong to a Home Office approved club. However there are certain other requirements which must be satisfied.
Firstly, the firearms requested must be suitable for the task in hand. There are certain recognised and acceptable calibres of weapon for most vermin and deer, guidance on this can be found in our Vermin Control and Deer Stalking pages.
The second important point is the suitability of the land, which must be safe for the use of the calibre of the weapon in question. Initially land is deemed suitable, or not, by the Chief Officer of Police. This necessitates a land inspection by a Firearms Enquiry Officer, in conjunction with the land owner or his agent. Many and various factors must be taken into consideration including the acreage, position of public footpaths, surrounding roads and dwellings and the general lay of the land. The land owner, or his agent, must also give written permission for the firearms requested to be used on his land for the purpose stated.
When all these points are satisfied, a firearm certificate may be granted, authorising specific weapon/s and ammunition for use on a specific piece of land and "any other land deemed suitable by the Chief Officer of Police."
Like the authorities on a firearm certificate granted for target shooting, only the firearms authorised can be acquired.
It is important to remember that firearm certificate holders requiring expanding ammunition for vermin control must ensure that they request this authority to be on their certificate. Registered Firearms Dealers will not sell you expanding ammunition unless your certificate authorises this.
Many shotgun certificate holders use their weapons for "rough shooting", which is also vermin control. But it should be remembered that, unlike a shotgun certificate, a firearm certificate only authorises specific weapons and often limits their use to certain places.
As with target shooting applicants, a limiting factor is also the number of weapons and ammunition that can be safely accommodated.
Above are described the three most popular reasons for holding a firearm certificate, although there are other uses which are acceptable. Each and every application will be treated on its own merit. If you are not sure, whether or not, your reason for requiring a firearm certificate is acceptable, please contact your local Firearms Enquiry Team for advice before submitting your application.
However, please note that applications for the grant of a firearm certificate for "self-protection" will be refused since firearms are not considered to be an acceptable means of protection in this country.