Brit reader Adam Pugh read yesterday’s ‘Which Gun Would You Grab’ post and saw, well, a few problems with the way gun laws in the Land of Hope and Glory were portrayed. Being an aspiring gunsmith, he appears to have experience navigating Blighty’s ballistic barriers to bangstick ownership. Being from Cambridge, he eschews the Oxford comma and for that we salute him. Here are his corrections and amplifications . . .

1. Semi-automatic centrefire guns are not banned outright – only semi-automatic centrefire rifles and pistols. You can own semi-automatic shotguns in both Section 2 (shotgun certificate, limited to 2+1 capacity, 24+” barrel – 40+” OAL) or Section 1 (firearms certificate, unlimited capacity, if semi or pump then same dimension requirements as Section 2, if SxS, O/U, bolt or lever action then 12+” barrel – 24+” overall length). Restrictions on Section 2 shotgun ammunition dictate that the cartridge must contain five or more shot, none of which exceeds .36 inch in diameter. Slug is available on a Section 1 certificate. 

2. Neither application for Section 2 or Section 1 certificates requires a visit to a police station – or any other government building. Once the application is received and partially processed, an appointment is made by the relevant police force for a Firearms Enquiry Officer (FEO) to visit the applicant at their home at a time convenient to the applicant. An interview then takes place, within which the FEO forms a personal impression of the applicant’s suitability to own firearms.

3. At the present time, every eligible person in the UK who wishes to own a Section 2 shotgun has the right to do so and needs to show no special reason. It would be improper (and without basis in law) for an FEO to ask why you wanted one – and the applicant would be under no obligation to answer. In almost all cases though, a simple reply of “clays” or “pest control” would be more than sufficient – and possibly expedient.

4. Every firearm and the overall ammunition allowance on a Section 1 ticket requires justification on the part of the applicant. The standard reasoning for applying for a “high capacity” shotgun (a British term), would be for crop protection/vermin control, practical or a target shotgun. The latter two disciplines would ordinarily be deemed acceptable “good reasons” to request an allowance for slugs.

5. Both an application for a shotgun or firearms certificate needs to be supported by referees – one for a shotgun and two for firearms. If you wish to apply for both certificates you can do so on a coterminous basis, in which case the requirements for the firearms certificate take precedence.

Please don’t think for one second that I’m in favour of the current licensing process in the UK – I most certainly am not. It’s convoluted, overly-bureaucratic and not necessarily fit for the purpose that it was originally intended – that of protecting the public. What it does is waste tax payers’ money, discourage new people from participating in the sport (I’m sure many opponents of shooting sports will see this as a positive) and has a huge negative impact on the manufacturing and retail sectors associated with shooting. And then there are the problems and inconvenience it causes for the thousands of law-abiding citizens who choose to participate in target and sport shooting.

The lesson you should all take from this is, in my opinion, never take a step back when new legislation is proposed in your own country. And most of all, appreciate just how good you all really have it – even those of you in comparatively restricted locales such as California.

Recommended For You

76 Responses to The Straight(er) Skinny on UK Gun Laws

  1. Always good to have accurate knowledge on the firearms laws and processes of other nations rather than just internet hearsay. It wasn’t until recently that most Americans knew about just how restrictive Israel’s firearms laws were and many times nations like the Czech Republic get lumped into the same group as Britain when one talks about European Gun Control/Laws. Thank you.

    • Thanks from me as well. I recall a good friend who bought her first pistol, a .45, when she was visiting in England in the late 1960’s. She said it wasn’t any real problem, you just had to join a club.

      How tremendously wrong she turned out to be. The small incremental steps have been devastating in totality.

  2. Very nice write up brother Adam. TTAG needs to form an International Brigade. Would love to read what foreign locals think of their particular firearm situations.

  3. Now if someone could do a skinny on the weapons for self defense in the UK.

    (Spoiler-alert: they’re all illegal.)

      • I heard that in the UK you must keep arms locked up and unloaded at all times when not in use. I’ve also heard that they can do random inspections to check to see if you are complying with storage requirements. If so, then for most purposes the weapons would be very difficult to use for even home defense. But I talk to quite a few people from Europe. I may be remembering info about some other country. For example, I was talking to a guy from Sweden. He said hunting is still popular there, and it’s possible to own a bolt action rifle if one is willing to jump through the hoops, but that storage requirements are very strict.

        • When I lived in Australia one of the requirements for a duty handgun (I worked in the security field) was a government issues book (AUSD $75, at that time) i had to include make, model, caliber how many rounds I was taking and the reason the gun was being used.

        • Serial # had to be included as well the the book had to be filled out daily, gun had to be kept in the safe when off duty, never was but my book was perfect. And thank you glad to be here.

        • I live in Sweden and I have a lot of semi auto sporting rifles such as an ar15. It is very hard to get a license for this here and atm the police have enacted a ban with zero legal support for it. Unfortunately since this is a socialist state we have no legal action to take against the state if they decide to f*ck us.

  4. Where would I find more on the information in section 1? I feel un-knowledgeable asking, but:
    – Specifically, what is “SxS, O/U”?
    – So then capacity on semi-auto shotgun is unlimited? (or just pump?)
    – “must contain five or more shot” means that there must be at least 5 pellets, right? Since there is a .36″ limit, I would think that minimum count would be unnecessary.

    Any help would be appreciated. If there is a publication that would answer my questions, a link would be good. Thank you!

    • Hi Patrick, in answer to your question: “”So then capacity on semi-auto shotgun is unlimited? (or just pump?)” At present (and as always, subject to change), no Section 1 shotguns are limited in their ammunition capacity, nor does it matter if they feature fixed or detachable magazines. The shot size limitations bring the choice of cartridge up to (and I believe include) approximately 000 buckshot – although I’ve never seen anything bigger than 0 buck (what’s called SG in the UK) openly for sale. You could of course reload your own. Anything which falls outside of this remit must be placed on a Section 1 ticket (slug for example). Justification is then necessary for its use (practical/target shotgun) and the amount of ammunition held – in many cases 250 to buy, 300 to hold at any one time – although this figure is at the discretion of the individual’s local constabulary. Some people will have more (with good reason) and some slightly less.

  5. I would be on board for more internationalism. aka international gun laws.
    I know quite a bit about Europe. Especially austrian, swiss and german laws but I hardly know anything about africa or asia.

    If people are interested I could do something on Austria. Home of Americas favorite gun 😉

      • Yeah, CR would be a great one, their laws might make a few American states look downright dictatorial, I’ve heard firearms ownership over there is pretty easy and cheap!

      • There you better find a czech mate! 🙂
        I dont speak the language and the last time I went to prague it wasnt firearm related.
        Austrians usually only go to slovakia or the czech republic for cheap stuff:
        cigarettes, booze, women… XD

        I know that gun owners need to pass a test for semi-autos. And if they get 100% their license is also valid for concealed carry. They are not allowed to have hollow points (only for hunting). And there are limitations where to carry (bars…) Bolt-action rifles and double barrel shotguns are regulated similar as they are here in austria. But I think they dont have a 3-day cool down phase.

        Generally Hunters in europe have it way easier. Thats because we have fairly strict hunting regulations. You have to pass an theoretical and practical exam. Which takes about 5 hours. I went to a course for about half a year. Thats also why they have certain benefits.

        Regardless were in the EU.

        • Thanks for the input!

          Yes, it’s disappointing that the restrictions there do exist. There is a lot of permit getting, registration, tests, etc., but in the end most adults can buy a gun and carry it concealed most places (I think bars, but not schools). Yes, it’s limited to two guns and no HP ammunition, but in the world of very concealable weapons, HP becomes less important as wound cavity size gives way to just getting enough penetration.

          Given that distinction (most adults being able to carry most places) I think that sets the CR apart from most of Europe.

        • Not terrible for Europe, but it’s a bummer that you now have to take the written and verbal tests in Czech instead of being able to bring a translator.

    • That is a great idea for a series on ttag. “The world wide gun laws: part 1 – insertcountry”

      Besides the entertainment factor, it would be a great resource.

    • In Japan, firearms are highly restricted, including BB guns (all metallic projectiles), which is why Airsoft started there. In China, there is very limited legal ownership of long guns in rural areas…though COSCO and Norinco export $#!+loads of legal and illegal weapons to countries like Canada. That corporatist ‘authoritarian democracy’ Singapore–which Western business and political elites look at as the model they want to turn Canada, the U.S., etc. into–has extremely restrictive gun laws. In Singapore, armed security (e.g., cash in transit) is handled by an arms-length, quasi-police security firm (Certis CISCO). More info here:

      http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/singapore

      The big difference between Canada and the UK, post-1993, is our Firearms Act, which requires a five-year renewable license for simple POSSESSION of a firearm. A day late on renewing your license, and you can potentially face jail. The Conservative government here got rid of the Non-Restricted (long gun) registry, but refuses to repeal licensing.

    • Yeah. What I took away from this piece is this: the next time Germany (or whoever) invades the UK, America MUST NOT come to her aid. NEVER AGAIN.

      Every time we do, they pass more restrictive disarmament laws as soon as the war’s over. You won’t allow a truly armed populace, then your self-defense is your business from here on.

      Disarm and holler for help when the shit comes in all you want; we won’t help anymore.

        • 1066, if you want a successful invasion. A few failed attempts (like the Hartlepool monkey), and some consider the Glorious Revolution of 1688 an “invasion”, but that was the last credible effort.

          The big “invasion scare” of 1940 was more about keeping the population in the fight and the US on-side as a potential ally (and ensuring she didn’t veer towards Germany), than a serious threat: Peter Fleming, among others (Ian’s older brother) was heavily involved in the planning at the time and the informed opinion was “bring it!” – Operation Sealion would have taken out half-a-dozen German divisions and a shedload of their shipping in a wonderful self-inflicted slaughter of Nazi troops.

          (Now, the U-boats, *there* was a serious threat that could have taken the UK out of the war… but that’s a different story)

        • Well, maybe 1215, when King John invited hundreds of the most vicious Flemish knights, (among them my ancestor) to bolster his defiance of the English Barons. Sadly, my family had a history of picking the loser in a battle, and one of them died fighting alongside Richard III. We sunk into obscurity, apart from causing a ruckus in church circles (and one of us married Pocahontas in America). (the Buck family)

  6. So NJ is even worser than I thought.
    Though at least we can have semi-auto centerfire pistols/rifles. Limited to 15 rounds. As are rimfire guns. Plus no evil features like adjustable stocks, flash supressors and shoulder things that go up.

  7. Raised on Strunk & White, I’ll keep my serial comma thankyouverymuch.

    Great write up. I agree, we need more local international perspective…yeah.

      • God’s Own Chain-Smoking Nymphomaniac.

        Seriously, Rich? God and an Atheist Slut walk into a bar. The Atheist Slut says, “this is all MINE!”

        God says, “I’ll have a double rye with bitters!”

        • I like Ayn Rand, there are excellent points in her work. I am not, however, an objectivist. She said herself that you either agree with her theory on objectivism 100% or you’re not an objectivist. I’m a Christian, not exactly copasetic with her views, therefore I am not one.

          But that doesn’t meant there aren’t valid points to be found in her work.

          Plato and Aristotle didn’t believe in God, does that invalidate The Republic or analytics?

          Billy Joel is a devout atheist, is Only the Good Die Young any less meaningful?

          Niels Bohr was an atheist, should we go back to the Rutherford Model and forget 70 years of nuclear research?

  8. “And most of all, appreciate just how good you all really have it – even those of you in comparatively restricted locales such as California.”

    This statement makes my skin crawl. Appreciation nothing, we demanded our rights then took them by force through blood, sweat, and tears. It is an awful shame to see what has happened to our well earned rights over the course of time, and softening of the general public. I refuse to take on the mentality that begs for scraps and is thankful for what we can get. I don’t appreciate how good we all really have it, I want our 2A back – all of it!

    • That comment was more about his sense of loss of rights than an encouragement for us to accept our current state.

  9. “It’s convoluted, overly-bureaucratic and not necessarily fit for the purpose that it was originally intended – that of protecting the public. What it does is waste tax payers’ money, discourage new people from participating in the sport … and has a huge negative impact on the manufacturing and retail sectors associated with shooting.”

    You have that backwards. The latter list is the purpose for which these laws were originally intended, and “protecting the public” is just the paint job they used to sell it.

  10. Well, I feel so much better now. Maybe I’ll even move to the UK. Let me think about that for a couple of . . . Nope, I don’t think so.

  11. “It’s convoluted, overly-bureaucratic and not necessarily fit for the purpose that it was originally intended – that of protecting the public.”

    Adam, regardless of what the official story is, that was never the purpose of such laws. Just like in every other country, the purpose of gun control is to increase government power.

    • Interestingly, the first comprehensive gun control laws were brought in by British conservatives, after WW I, who feared the rabble of returning troops, in an early 20th Century Red Scare:

      http://dvc.org.uk/dunblane/clayton_1.pdf

      Remember that the pinup girl of conservatives in Canada and the U.S., Margaret Thatcher, pushed tightened gun control on the country (“If gun laws need to be tightened up, or if we think that it could prevent anything more like this, then of course that will be considered”). The only difference between conservatives and progressives on gun control is that the conservatives pretend to want them for crime control, and the progressives for issues like violence against women. The real agenda is the expansion of state power, in order to protect corporate interests. Obama-Bush, Harper-Chretien, Cameron-Blair have all been pushing our countries toward the authoritarian, quasi-democratic, corporatist model of countries like Singapore, or modern Russia.

  12. Well, I’m glad that Adam sorted it all out for us.

    Is it just me, or do British restrictions read like Chinese car stereo instructions?

    • “It’s convoluted, overly-bureaucratic…”

      That was my takeaway as well, just more confusion…Section 1, Section 2, blah blah blah, please, please let me own a gun!

  13. Hi guys, it was with some surprise that I saw my recent post upgraded and near the top of TTAG when I logged in this evening – a pleasant surprise for sure! I wrote my original post, as although it’s certainly expedient for the UK to be held up as an example of the damage that overly restrictive legislation can do to our sport and rights – the criticism leveled against the British system must be accurate to remain wholly valid. I agree with a great many of the comments that my statement provoked; yes the legislation’s a total mess, yes in many ways the legislation is there to remove firearms from public ownership as much as possible rather than simply protect the public from their misuse – in fact the Association of Chief Police Officers is openly antagonistic to the civilian ownership of any and all potential weapons, especially firearms. No you should not necessarily consider yourselves lucky from the point of view that you can still enjoy your sport relatively unimpeded, but rather, because your rights have not yet been wholly subsumed by the state. I reiterate: keep fighting for your rights, fight to maintain those that you still enjoy, and fight to regain those which have already been mired in legislation. Never, ever, stop fighting.

    • But it will, any day now, honestly, we’ve been *promised* that more gun laws mean fewer armed criminals… surely those nice politicians weren’t wrong? I mean, politicians wouldn’t *lie* to us to win votes, would they?

      • I’m waiting for the plan to disarm only bad people first. As soon as all of us are registered and categorized as unfit the lists will be made.
        Someone here suggested everyone would just fork them over. I don’t think they believe that and they would be doing the collecting. The Ozzies didnt turn them all in and in the UK thwy still find caches.

        • They got the legal and registered weapons, like my Glock 21, because serial number VA799 was on the system as belonging to me & I needed to either hand it in or do five years’ time. There aren’t that many illegal firearms around in the UK (not zero, but the numbers aren’t huge) which is why patched-up deactivateds, modified Baikal air pistols, replicas and imitations feature so prominently when you dig down.

          Trouble is, the people who owned registered, legal firearms were the law-abiding, sensible types (with, literally, two exceptions in twenty years…), so disarming us made the square root of f***-all difference to the crime statistics. However, it won some cheap votes and some hysterical tabloid support for politicians falling over each other to “get tough on gun violence”, and that was all that counted. (However, now there’s no lever to pull: how do you make ‘illegal guns’ more illegal? Double Secret Illegal status?)

  14. “Special Purpose” & ” Good Reason”

    Huh, that sounds like what comes after “Reasonable Restrictions” & “Common Sense.”

  15. Enjoyed the article, knowing every little detail can not be included short of writing a book. That sounds like what the “common sense gun control” beavers are trying to sell here in the US.

  16. We have it good, as you say in the last sentence, because we’de have it no other way. You have it bad because you allowed it to happen. Period. England has bigger problems than firearms. Mainly that within 25 years you’ll be a Muslim nation. Well done cowards. You represent every example of what not to do in a western, formerly free nation. I recently went to Londonistan and was disgusted by what I saw. Not just the utter alteration of your society in record time. But more than that the “tough guy” attitude on every street in the city. It felt like the 4th grade play ground. Young “ruffians” grouped together almost daring you to pass too closely. It’s on every corner! The brawny fellas rule the streets. You just don’t find that in America. An armed society truly is a polite society. Here in Florida we’de push our way through the rabble and say, “you’re blocking the sidewalk boys!” If they assaulted us, which they wouldn’t, we’de blow 3 smoking holes through the thugs chest before they even realized they were being shot at. Time for a revolution England….I’m sorry if the truth hurts. You can’t blame the Yanks for this one.

    • Well, mostly, yeah. But I would point out to you that in the states that gang of ruffians would probably be armed and selling dope, so you would still probably want to avoid them. Unless you’re buying dope.

      • And I feel you are probably part of the problem “Juan”. Pray we never meet! If you are a native Anglo-saxon then you are exhibiting classic rationalization (look it up simpleton) for what you’ve allowed to become of a once proud and dignified country. Anger issues? You may actually be on to something there….it is aggrevating to watch. I’m not too angry however since it’s your island that was ruined. Now go buy your prayer rug, grow your dirty beard, and hope the true men of Great Britian never wake from their slumber. You are a coward and a fool and thinking men do not kneel anymore at the alter of multiculturalism. It destroys all it touches.

  17. Go to the Japanese embassy and tell them you want to immigrate to Japan. They will just laugh and say, ” Japan is for Japanese.” Try it. Now am I to believe that an entire nation like Japan is racist? Some will say yes but they are low intellect imbeciles. The Japanese are among the most tollerant of all people, but, the nation of Japan realizes that immigration will ruin the country. You can come as a guest or as a conquering army….those are your alternatives, but either way you will not call yourself Japanese. They do not allow civilian ownership of firearms. I disagree with this but it’s their call. They have no 2nd amendment equivelant. They never had civilian ownership of guns traditionally due to Bushido. Infact, they despised using a gun but sure respected the right of self defense. Nor did Japan fight a god-aweful bloody revolution against a tyrannical and oppressive government. Great Britain is different in many ways….. They simply caved in when confronted with sugary liberalism 70 years ago and now they regret it. The streets are ruled by hoodlems. They incarcerate people for shooting a burglar standing in their living room. It’s called madness. But watch! Something is changing and I suspect the queen could go on television tonight and with one articulate sentence open the hearts of Englishman to what must be done at some point. It would open the doors of hell for others unfortunately but this is called cause and effect. It’s your island, just don’t ask Americans to send you the guns again to do it. You actually don’t need them. You still the moral upper hand……after all it’s your damn country. You are the indigenous people. Wake up before all is lost!!!

    • I’m sorry Marine 03 but you’re absolutely wrong about so many of the things you’ve written. Your rhetoric is extreme, what you’ve said reminds me in many ways of the likes of Anders Behring Breivik. Look up his “manifesto” online – I’m sure you’ll find a kindred spirit in him.

  18. These are laws for England, remember Scotland and Northern Ireland are different. You are allowed handguns in Northern Ireland.
    Glad I escaped, I Like my AR15s and Glocks.
    Michael, Ex Pat

    • Firearms legislation is the same in England, Scotland and Wales at present Michael. There is pressure currently from the Scottish Parliament to devolve from Westminster the power to legislate for firearms. The Scottish Parliament is also pushing to further restrict ownership of air guns (that is air guns with a muzzle velocity of less than 6fft·lbf for handguns and 12ft·lbf for long guns), they intend to do this by introducing a licensing system similar to that of Section 1 firearms. Ridiculous I know, but the Scottish National Party are rabidly hoplophobic. The Scottish Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill has also intimated that he would like to see all persons restricted to no more than three firearms overall. He’s the absolute embodiment of anti-democratic process.

      • There have actually been as many deaths from high powered air weapons as from firearms in New Zealand recently, so regulations have been tightened. Air pistols and air rifles which resemble genuine military arms are now restricted to firearms license holders, and also the high power models capable of causing death.

  19. In New Zealand we do not follow the British model. Firearms regs were mainly left up to the Police to devise, which is good because they are pretty gung ho about guns themselves. Only firearms license holders are registered. Once approved, they can buy anything allowed within that category, with no waiting period. Silencers are legal too, and common. Our limitations are that rimfires can only hold 15 rounds, and centrefire rifles can only hold 5 rounds. We are allowed semi auto rifles. Holders of stricter licenses can buy military style weapons, like AR15s and AK47s, and pistol club members can buy pistols, just as in the US. But they cannot be carried. All weapons must be locked up in a safe separate from ammunition, and bolts locked separately. Self defense is not a valid reason for purchasing or owning a gun of any kind. Overall, I think we have a good system, and the most liberal in the Commonwealth. There are plenty of opportunities for good shooting, either at ranges or in the very many mountainous areas.

  20. I should point out that responsibility for administring the Firearms Act is that of the Police. They supervise training courses run by Mountain Safety, and an experienced Firearms Officer interviews the applicant and their referees, which have to include relatives and neighbors. There has been spectacular success with this system, with only occasional hunting accidents resulting in death by firearms. We have gangs who sometimes take potshots at each other, usually with cut down shotguns, but there are rarely fatalities from this. They, of course are outside the official system. The mental health problems resulting in school shootings are usually detected well before a license is issued. Immature idiots do not get licenses, and habitual drunks and criminals also miss out. The irony is that the demonstration of safe operating of a weapon is usually done with a Lee Enfield, the military rifle of NZ forces in WWII and Korea, but this 10 round rifle no longer meets regs with a 5 round limit! I think shows where politicians have intruded in the process, and the demonstration may be intended to reinforce this point.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *