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Firearm and Shotgun information

Everything you need to know about firearms licensing can be found in the Home Office Publication Guide on Firearms Law 2015.

Click on the links below for more information:

What is the definition of a firearm?

The definitions of Firearm and Shotgun and ammunition for the purpose of the 1968 Act (as amended) are given in section 57 of the Act. The definition of ‘firearm’ extends to certain imitation firearms

‘Firearm’ means a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged. This includes any prohibited weapon, whether it is such a lethal weapon or not, any component part of such a lethal or prohibited weapon, and any accessory to any such weapon designed or adapted to diminish the noise or flash caused by firing the weapon. 

‘Lethality’ is not defined in legislation and although case law exists, only a court can decided whether a particular weapon is capable of causing a lethal injury and would therefore be considered a firearm for the purpose of the Acts.

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What is the definition of a shotgun?

‘Shotgun’ means a smooth-bore gun (not being an air weapon) which: 

  • has a barrel not less than 24 inches in length and does not have any barrel with a bore exceeding 2 inches in diameter. The length of the barrel is measured from the muzzle to the point of ignition (breech face). For a muzzle loading gun the point of ignition may be taken as the touch-hole or nipple that is nearest to the breach:
  • either has no magazine or has a non detachable magazine incapable of holding more than two cartridges (see guidance 2:13). It should be noted that a gun that has been adapted to have such a magazine only meets the criterion if the magazine bears an approved mark and the adaption has been certified in writing either by one of the two proof houses or such other person as the Secretary of State has designated, as having been carried out in a manner approved by the secretary of State; and
  • is not a revolver gun (that is, a gun containing a series of chambers, which revolves as part of the firing cycle)

Further information can be found in the guidance

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Why do I need a certificate to own a firearm or shotgun?

Firearms law and licensing is in place to allow the legitimate possession and use of firearms by those judged safe to do so. The overarching consideration in all firearms licensing is public safety.

The purpose of the firearm certificate procedure is to ensure, in so far as is reasonably possible, that a certificate is only issued to a person who: 

  • is found to be a ‘fit person’ and
  • has demonstrated a ‘good reason’ to own a firearm

Before granting or renewing a firearm certificate, the Chief Officer of police must be satisfied that the applicant can be permitted to have the firearms/ammunition in their possession without danger to the public safety or to the peace. 

For further information see guidance 10:1

Shotgun certificates are the mechanism for licensing smooth bore guns that do not require firearm certificates. The shotgun certificate differs from the firearm certificate in that it authorises a person to have in their possession, purchase, or to acquire an unlimited number of shotguns without the need for approval in respect of individual guns

For further information see guidance  11:1

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How do I obtain a certificate?

Before applying for a certificate, it is advisable to take advice from other shooters to enable you to give consideration as to what type of certificate you require. You may wish to take up shooting as a hobby or indeed you may require a gun to use as part of your trade. Also you may consider it useful to attend some form of training course to give you not only practical advice but also the foundations of firearms legislation.
Application forms can be obtained either by downloading them from the Application Forms page, or direct from the Firearms Licensing Department by sending an email request to: HQ-[email protected].

Once you have completed the application form send it to the following address: 

Firearms Licensing Department,
Lancashire Constabulary,

It is very important you answer all the questions on the form as this will prevent any delay in processing the application.

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What is a co-terminous certificate?

Many people wonder what a coterminous certificate is. If an applicant requires both a firearm and a shotgun certificate, issuing a co-terminous shotgun certificate is a way to ensure they both expire at the same date. There is a cheaper cost to the applicant and reduced administration for the police force issuing it. 

Section 11 of the 1988 Act allows the life of a shotgun certificate to be reduced so that it expires on the same day/date as the applicant’s firearm certificate. A reduced fee is payable so long as the shotgun certificate is renewed and made co-terminous at the grant or renewal of a firearm certificate. There is no reduced fee when the applicant is applying for grant or renewal of a shotgun certificate but requests the expiry date to coincide with the firearm certificate expiry date.

Normally the best way to do this is to wait until the firearm certificate is due for renewal and then request the shotgun certificate is also renewed. Complete the application form in the normal manner then post it together with the reduced fee.

See: What are the fees?


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How do I complete the application form?

Please see Firearms Application Checklist page.

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What about photographs?

Applications must be accompanied by 4 identical photographs of you and sized 45mm x 35mm.  The photographs must be full-face and without a hat and must be a current true likeness.  Ordinary passport photographs are suitable for this purpose.  A computer generated likeness is acceptable if it is full-face, against a plain background and printed on good quality gloss or matt paper.  If you are applying for both a firearm and a shotgun certificate you need only submit 4 photographs.

One of the photographs must be signed in ink, on the back, by you the applicant.

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Who can be a referee?

See guidance 10.11

A referee may be of any background or occupation. They must be of good character and someone whom the police may trust to give honest replies to the questions contained on the referee form (it should be noted that the referee is not required to guarantee the applicants good behaviour).

Members of the applicant’s family may not act as referees. A family member is given its common understating and for these purposes includes co-habiting partners.

Serving police officers, police support staff, Police and Crime commissioners or their support staff may not act as referees. Registered firearms dealers may not act as referees except under specific circumstances as described in the guidance notes 10.15.

There is no requirement for the referee to have any knowledge of firearms or shooting sports, but they should be able to comment on the applicant’s general character and background.

The ability of the referee to offer a reliable view of the applicant is more important than their profession or status.

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What about previous convictions?

See guidance 10.7

By virtue of the rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Exemptions) order 1975, the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 do not apply to an application for a firearm or a shotgun certificate. An applicant is therefore not entitled to withhold information about any previous convictions, however old or minor (including motoring) offences, on the grounds that it is ‘spent’ for other purposes. This includes convictions outside Great Britain. A conditional discharge and an absolute discharge both count as convictions for this purpose. Details of fixed penalty notices and parking offences do not need to be declared. If in any doubt it is better to disclose. On an application to renew only those convictions acquired since the grant or last renewal need to be detailed. 

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What are the fees?

See the Firearms Licensing page for details of the Fees.

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What are the age restrictions?

Below is an easy to follow chart on ages in relation to the possession of Section 1 Firearms and Section 2 Shotguns:

                                    Under 18 Under 15 Under 14
Purchase any firearm or ammunition No  No  No

Possess section one firearm


Yes  Yes


1,2,3 (see below)

Receive gift of section one firearm  Yes  Yes  No
Possess assembled shotgun


 Yes No

4, 5 (see below)


4, 5 (see below)

Receive shotgun as a gift  Yes  No  No


  1. Carry for sporting purposes (not to be used)
  2. Member of cadet corp, rifle/pistol club or miniature rifle club (as a member of the corp/club the member engages with drill practice/target practice)
  3. Miniature rifle range (not exceeding .23 calibre) shooting galleries
  4. Under supervision of someone 21 years or over
  5. Secure gun cover - unable to fire 

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How do I keep the guns secure?

The law does not define how firearms/shotguns should be stored but before any certificate is issued by the police the Chief Officer of Police must be satisfied that any owner of a firearm or shotgun keeps the guns so that there is no danger to the public.

The reason for this being one of safety in that the guns, if not secured properly, could fall into the hands of criminals or persons such as young children or inexperienced persons. In all cases where a gun falls into the wrong hands, the consequences could and have proved fatal.

It is also a condition on all firearm and shotgun certificates that each gun held must be kept secure. It is an offence not to do so, which could result in a court appearance and also the revocation of your certificate should the conditions be breached in any way.

Please note that, in Lancashire firearms and shotguns must be stored with a certificate holder. There are various forms of security, some of which are mentioned below: 

Gun Cabinet - An ideal place in which to keep firearms/shotguns is in a lockable gun cabinet (BS7558 approved), which should be located in a protected part of the premises (i.e. not in a garage or outbuilding), out of sight of casual visitors and secured to the internal structure of the building.

Gun Clamps - Gun clamps are an effective way to store individual guns, but unless the clamps are positioned in a particular way they provide little or no security for the gun - ask your supplier for installation details. From a security point of view, the gun clamp should be used for one gun only (in addition to other security) and out of sight.

Securicord - Again, as with gun clamps, securicord is acceptable, but only when used as an additional method of security. At all times the gun(s) should be out of sight of casual visitors.

Gun Rooms - Many people prefer to keep their guns locked in a purpose-built gun room. Before you construct a gun room, it would be advisable to contact the police for advice.

Alarm Systems - All forms of the above security can be further enhanced by the addition of an alarm system. Again, you can contact the police for advice.

Safety Whilst Travelling - Always try to transport a firearm/shotgun in its case or in a protective gun cover, although the use of a cable security device may prohibit this. Bear in mind that a firearm and shotgun certificate carries a condition relating to the security of the gun in that, while in transit, reasonable precautions must be taken for the safe custody of the gun. The gun should be out of sight in the vehicle and the vehicle should always be properly locked when left unattended.

Security of Ammunition - It is just as important to keep ammunition secure. With Section 1 ammunition, it is a condition of the firearm certificate to do so and it is a stipulation that such ammunition be stored separately from guns.


Security is your responsibility. You could lose your right to possess guns if you are negligent in securing guns and ammunition.

Security standards are very important and each case will be examined on its merits when consideration is given in respect of the application for a firearm or shotgun certificate.

Any keys to cabinets, guns rooms, etc, should also be stored discreetly to avoid easy access to your firearms/shotguns.

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