Frequently asked questions
Firearm and shotgun safety
What security precautions should I take when NOT using my weapon?
When not in use, always keep your weapons safe and secure, preferably locked away in your gun cabinet.
Section 1 ammunition must be stored separately to your weapons. It is preferable to store your shotgun cartridges, locked and secure, in a separate cabinet or compartment.
What other precautions should I take when handling my weapon?
Never put a loaded weapon away in your cabinet. Always prove that a weapon is unloaded as soon as you handle it.
Always prove that the weapon is unloaded before handing it to someone else. Never load your weapons indoors.
Never allow unauthorised persons access to your weapons. Never allow unsupervised or unsuitable persons, especially children, access to your weapons.
Never leave a weapon, even unloaded, unattended. Never stand a firearm or shotgun in such a position that it can fall or be knocked over.
What provisions should I make for transporting my weapon(s) in a vehicle?
When transporting a weapon(s) in a vehicle, the following steps are considered appropriate regarding your duty of care to ensure the safe custody of the weapon(s):
Always keep your firearm or shotgun in its case or cover whilst transporting it and hidden, preferably in the locked boot or other secure load carrying area of the vehicle.
Never transport a loaded weapon.
Vehicles used frequently for transporting a weapon(s) should ideally have an immobiliser and/or alarm fitted. This should be together with provision for securing the shotgun to the structure of the vehicle for example, security cases, cage, cable or clamp.
If the vehicle is left unattended for any reason, the weapon should be broken. Where available, the vital operating parts of the weapon(s), should be removed and carried on your person. The remainder of the weapon should be concealed, preferably in the locked luggage compartment.
Remember, when taking a weapon(s) to a venue which involves an overnight stay or longer, ensure the accommodation provides secure storage facilities.
Leaving your weapon(s), in the care of a hotel or guest house patron, even in their safe, may expose them to being in unlawful possession of a firearm or shotgun.
Separating and retaining possession of integral part may prevent it being used or using portable security devices such as security cords.
Ammunition should be stored separately from the firearm and this too be concealed from view.
Registered Firearms Dealers
What level of security do I require for my RFD business?
Advice on security is set out in the home office security handbook 2005 which is available online.
Once inspected, any significant changes to your arrangements should in the first instance be reported to your local Firearms Licensing Department.
What should I do when I receive my Certificate of Registration?
Please ensure you carefully read and understand the conditions entered on your certificate of registered as a Firearms Dealer. If you are in any doubt please refer your enquiry to your local Firearms Licensing Department who issued the certificate.
What are my obligations when transferring firearms (including shotguns) and ammunition to firearm or shotgun certificate holders?
You must comply with the instructions on a firearm or shot gun certificate in respect of making a transaction entry and notifying a relevant transaction to the relevant Police Force.
In respect of a firearm certificate it is very important that you are aware that there must be an unused authority present on a firearm certificate authorising the type of firearm, Section 1 component part or accessory before the transfer is completed.
Equally the correct calibre and quantity of ammunition to be transferred is authorised by the buyer’s firearm certificate.
Note: Accessory in relation to firearm certificates means detachable sound moderators and flash hiders.
Section 33 (1) (b) Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 does allow for a shotgun to be sold, let on hire or given, or lent to a shotgun certificate holder for a period of not more than 72 hours without the need to give notice of the transfer taking place.
In such circumstances the Firearms Dealer must make an entry in their register of the shotgun being transferred and who to and also record in their register the details of the shot gun being returned.
It is illegal to complete a sale (accept full payment) for a firearm, Section 1 component part or accessory or shot gun to a person who cannot produce a firearm or shot gun certificate authorising them to acquire the firearm etc.
You may only take a deposit on a purchase prior to sight of the relevant certificate giving authority to purchase the firearm.
Firearms Dealers who are limited to the sale of air weapons, their component parts and accessories must ensure they only sell to persons who are at least 18 years old.
Note: sound moderators for air weapons must also be recorded in the dealers register.
Air weapon licensing
Why is it called an air weapon, rather than an air gun or air pistol?
The Air Weapon and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 makes reference to the term weapon throughout. This follows the Firearms Act 1968, which provides the definition of an ‘air weapon’ and exemptions placed upon it.
What air weapons are covered by the new legislation?
Section 1 of the 2015 Act sets out the meaning of air weapon for the purposes of the licensing regime.
Any air weapon to be covered by the regime must first be a firearm within the meaning of section 57(1) of the 1968 Act: that is, it must be a lethal barrelled weapon from which a bullet, missile or other projectile can be fired.
In addition, only air weapons defined in section 1(3) (b) of the 1968 Act are devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This does not include a weapon which has been declared specially dangerous by the Secretary of State.
Throughout this guidance, any reference to air weapon means air rifle, air gun or air pistol, as set out in section 1(3) (b) of the 1968 Act.
Against this background the definition of air weapons for the purposes of the 2015 Act covers all air weapons with a muzzle velocity exceeding 1 joule (0.74 ft/lbs), but not those required to be held on a firearms certificate under the 1968 Act i.e. air rifles with a muzzle velocity exceeding 12ft/lbs (16.3 joules) or 6ft/lbs (8.15 joules) for an air pistol.
Do component parts of an air weapon fall under the new legislation?
The component parts of an air weapon, and any accessory to such a weapons designed or adapted to diminish the noise caused by discharging the weapon, will fall within the remit of the new legislation and therefore, if held, will need to be certificated.
Although there is no statutory definition for the term component part, the Home Office Guidance states:
The term component part may be held to include (i) The barrel, chamber, cylinder, (ii) Frame, body or receiver, (iii) Breech, block, bolt or mechanism for containing the charge at the rear of the chamber (iv) Any part of the firearm upon which the pressure caused by firing the weapon impinges directly. Magazines, sights and furniture are not considered component parts.
How can I find out how powerful my air weapon is?
Muzzle energy is simply the energy of a projectile measured at the moment it is expelled from the muzzle of an air weapon. In order to calculate the power of an air weapon, you need to use a chronograph. A chronograph is an instrument used to measure the velocity of a projectile fired by a weapon.
To calculate the approximate muzzle energy, by using the chronograph, you can measure the speed of the pellet (in feet per second) when fired. You will also need to know the weight of the pellet in grains. Taking both these figures allows you to undertake the following calculation;
speed(ft/sec) multiplied by speed(ft/sec) multiplied by weight(grains) divided by 450240 = This gives you the result in foot pounds force (ftlb).
Many firearms dealers will have a chronograph but it would be advisable to contact them prior to attending to ascertain if a chronograph is available.
Police Scotland will not be able to test air weapons for you.
What animals am I permitted to shoot?
There has been no change in law as to the animals (quarry) you are allowed to shoot with your air weapon.
Many websites give specific advice as to the shooting of live quarry and it is recommended that you seek the advice of one of the shooting organisations. Such as the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS) or directly from Scottish National Heritage (SNH).
The onus will always remain on the shooter to safely fire using the correct weapon and ammunition in targeting quarry.
You can shoot mammal pests at any time provided you have the landowner’s permission. Many air rifles are suitable for rats, squirrels, rabbits and other small vermin.
Can I still collect air weapons?
There is no intention in law to prevent someone legally and safely undertaking their hobby or pastime.
Where the air weapon does fall under the legislation, there will be a requirement on the owner of the weapon to hold an air weapon certificate (or authorised as per the transitional arrangement in place for existing firearm or shotgun certificate holders) even if the air weapon is not to be fired.
There will be an expectance on behalf of the police that the collection is ‘bona fide’ (real) and is held securely.
If the air weapons are never fired, the air weapon certificate may be conditioned to say that they can be held but that they cannot be fired.
Can I continue to shoot on my own land at targets?
“Plinking” is a term often used by those who use air weapons and refers to informal target shooting undertaken at standard or non-standard targets, such as cans and bottles, often in built-up areas.
If undertaken in a confined space such as a domestic garden it is incumbent on the shooter to consider if this can be done safely with a suitable backstop to prevent over-shots or ricochets and to provide evidence of this in support of their application.
The applicant should be able to demonstrate to the Chief Constable that shooting can be undertaken safely in such circumstances.
You must be aware that you could be committing a criminal offence if any air weapon pellet goes beyond your land, whether it is directly fired or an accidental ricochet.
Shooting in areas to which the public have unrestricted access, or in communal gardens or similar areas is not acceptable.
The determination of safe shooting will always rest with the applicant. It is their responsibility to ensure that the land is safe.
I use my air weapon to control vermin in my back garden, is this still acceptable?
Pest control is a valid reason for having an air weapon. The size of your garden must be considered as well as the availability of a suitable backstop. Smaller gardens may be prohibitive to safe shooting but that will be something you can discuss with the police.
What are the transitional arrangements for existing firearm and shotgun certificate holders?
If you are aged 14 years or over and hold a valid firearm and/or shotgun certificate that was issued prior to 31 December 2016, you will not need to apply for a separate air weapon certificate until your existing certificate expires.
This allows you to use and possess air weapons but not acquire any further or purchase air weapons.
If you wish to buy or otherwise acquire a new air weapon from the 31 December 2016, then you will need to apply for an air weapon certificate.
A Registered Firearms Dealer would need to see this before any transaction takes place.
When your existing firearm or shotgun certificate is due for renewal, you can then apply for a new air weapon certificate at the same time. If you request your air weapon certificate to expire in line with one (co-terminus) or both of your existing certificates (tri-terminus), you will pay a fee of £5.
I participate in paint ball, do I need a certificate?
Paintball guns are generally powered by carbon dioxide and are designed to be used in adventure games and similar events.
Home Office guidance notes that in proper and normal use they are unlikely to cause serious injury.
Nor were they designed as weapons. As such, they are not considered to be firearms and do not, therefore, fall within the air weapons licensing regime.
Paintball guns owned or used for other purposes, or used to fire non-standard ammunition, may need a certificate – you should contact Police Scotland for advice.
I participate in airsoft and I am a member of Ukara, do I need a certificate?
Airsoft guns with a muzzle energy below 2.5 joules (or 1.3 joules for fully automatic guns) are not covered by the 2015 Act.
These guns are already controlled by the firearms legislation, notably the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006.
Airsoft guns above these muzzle energies may require a certificate – you should contact the police for advice.
I have an old air weapon that does not work, do I need a certificate?
Yes, whether the weapon cannot presently work or not is immaterial.
How much air weapon ammunition can I have?
Air weapon ammunition is not covered by the air weapon legislation.
Do I need a separate certificate for each of my air weapons?
No, once successful in your air weapon certificate application, you can hold as many air weapons as you wish, as long as you have appropriate security measures in place for them.
I had my firearm/shotgun certificate revoked previously, does that prevent me from applying for an air weapon certificate?
Being revoked previously does not automatically preclude you from holding an air weapon certificate. The determination of suitability will take all of the circumstances into account including those surrounding the revocation.
It should be noted however that you would not, in most circumstances, be granted an Air Weapon Certificate where you would, in all likelihood, be refused a Firearm or Shotgun Certificate.
What if I possess an air weapon but do not apply for a certificate?
It is an offence under section 2(1) of the Air Weapon and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 for a person not authorised by law, to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon without holding an air weapon certificate after the 30 December 2016.
A person who commits such an offence is liable on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine, or both.
On conviction on indictment, this rises to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or a fine, or both.
My child wants to shoot, they are 10, is this allowed?
Yes, but only if certain criteria are met.
The child could join an approved rifle club, or borrow a legally held air weapon from the occupier of private land and use and possess the air weapon on that land as long as they are supervised by someone aged 21 years or over who is the actual occupier of the land or an employee or agent of the occupier (as long as they hold the legal authority under their own air weapon, firearm or shotgun certificate), and the child complies with all the attached conditions to that certificate.
Can my child get their own certificate as they are under 18?
If you are aged 14-17, you can apply for an air weapon certificate in your own right (though the transitional requirements if you hold a firearm or shotgun certificate still applies), though a parent or guardian must also consent. At 18 years of age, they must apply for a full air weapon certificate.
There will be additional conditions applied to the air weapon certificate that will prevent them from buying, acquiring, being gifted or owning an air weapon, however they will still be able to possess and use an air weapon.
They will also be conditioned to one or more of the following:
- They may use and possess an air weapon only for sporting purposes (including shooting live quarry) on private land
- They may use and possess an air weapon only for the purposes of target shooting on private land
- They may use and possess an air weapon only for the purposes of participating in events or competitions
- They may use and possess an air weapon only for the purposes of the holder’s membership of an approved air weapon club
- They may use and possess an air weapon only for the purposes of protecting livestock, crops or produce on land used for or in connection with agriculture
- They may use and possess an air weapon only for the purposes of pest control.
PERSONS UNDER 14 YEARS OF AGE CANNOT HAVE THEIR OWN AIR WEAPON CERTIFICATE.
I am 15 and shoot quarry with my father's weapon, is this allowed?
Only if certain criteria is met. You can borrow an air weapon from the occupier of private land and use and possess the air weapon on that land without holding an air weapon certificate:
- if it is under the supervision of the occupier of the land or an employee or agent of the occupier, and
- if they hold an air weapon certificate (or firearm or shotgun certificate during the transitional phase), and
- are complying with all conditions attached to that persons certificate.
Will I be covered by my mother's air weapon certificate as I work on her farm?
No, you would need your own air weapon certificate unless your mother is supervising you at all times on her own land.
My child is 11 years old but joins me shooting targets in the garden. If I have a certificate, can we keep doing this?
If you are successful in your air weapon certificate application, and your garden is a safe place to shoot targets, you will be able to continue shooting at targets. You child can also continue shooting targets as long as you are supervising while they shoot.
Surrendering an air weapon
There are various options available to you before the legislation takes effect on 31 December 2016:
- If you wish to sell the air weapon, you could contact a registered firearms dealer who could buy it or sell it on your behalf
- If you wish to sell it on and have a buyer available immediately to you, you should ensure that the buyer is authorised to hold an air weapon under the legislation, before the sale is undertaken
- If you wish to sell it, but do not have a buyer available, you can apply for a police permit to hold it for a short period which will allow you time to find a buyer or consider next steps
- If you wish to have the air weapon destroyed, you can hand your unwanted air weapon to any police office in Scotland. Police Scotland will then have the weapon destroyed
I want to surrender/give my air weapon away, what are my responsibilities?
You should make all attempts to ensure that the air weapon does not fall into the hands of those who would misuse the air weapon.
After the 30 December 2016, you will have to apply for an air weapon licence or a permit to continue to hold on to it until you can dispose of it.
If you wish to sell the air weapon, you could contact a registered firearms dealer who could buy it or sell it on your behalf.
If you wish to sell it on and have a buyer available immediately to you, you should ensure that the buyer is authorised to hold an air weapon under the legislation, before the sale is undertaken.
If you wish to sell it, but do not have a buyer available, you can apply for a police permit to hold it for a short period which will allow you time to find a buyer or consider next steps.
If you wish to have the air weapon destroyed, you can hand your unwanted air weapon to any police office in Scotland. Police Scotland will then have the weapon destroyed.
I know the official surrender period to the police is over, can I still hand it in?
Yes you can. Even though the surrender period is over, police offices will always accept surrendered weapons of any kind and arrange for their destruction.
It may be a good idea to phone ahead to your local police office to ensure it is open and they will be able to provide specific advice and may arrange to have specially trained officers who will be to accept and make safe surrendered air weapons.
Remember if you are transporting a weapon in public ensure it is adequately covered to prevent causing alarm to members of the public.
I will have to get rid of my air weapons, if there any compensation available?
There is no compensation for people who need to dispose of their air weapons. This was never set down in legislation.
If you must dispose of your air weapons, it may be better to sell them to someone authorised to possess them, such as an air weapon certificate holder or a Registered Firearms Dealer.
If I am borrowing an air weapon when I am in Scotland, do I need a permit?
If you will be shooting under the supervision of an air weapon certificate holder (or firearm or shotgun certificate holder during the transition period) on their own land, or at an approved club or other authorised venue, then you shouldn’t need a permit. However, if you will be shooting on your own then you will need a visitor permit.
Can I bring my air weapon from Northern Ireland as I have a certificate that covers me there?
A Northern Ireland firearm certificate will not allow you to possess an air weapon in Scotland and you will need an air weapon certificate or visitor permit to use, buy or acquire air weapons while in Scotland. Visitor permits are issued by Police Scotland. You can apply for a permit after 1 July 2016.
Can I take my air weapon to Northern Ireland if I hold a valid air weapon certificate in Scotland?
No. Legislation is different in Northern Ireland and you will require to possess a Visitors permit. Specific advice can be provided by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
I live in England, do I need a visitor permit to come to Scotland do shoot my air weapon?
If you currently have a firearm or shotgun certificate that expires after the 30 December 2016, you can continue to use and possess your air weapons until such times as they expire.
After this period, you will need to apply and possess a visitor’s permit or a full air weapon certificate before bringing your air weapons into Scotland.
A person who does not hold a shotgun or firearm certificate would require to have an air weapon certificate or a visitor permit to visit Scotland after 30 December 2016.
Can I apply for an air weapon certificate if I do not stay in Scotland?
Yes you can.
Do I apply to my own licensing authority or is it Police Scotland?
It will be Police Scotland.
Can I take my air weapons to England or Wales?
The Air Weapon and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 does not apply to England and Wales hence you may possess/use an air weapon in England and Wales without having a visitor permit or an air weapon certificate.
That said, clearly you would require to have a licence or visitor permit to have them in Scotland in the first place.
Can I still apply for group permits in respect of air weapons?
A person may apply for visitor permits on behalf of a group of up to 20 people – for example, a school or club.
In the case of groups, any or all individuals may be granted, or refused, a permit to use and possess air weapons.
The decision not to grant to one or more individual(s) in the group, detracts in no way from those persons who meet the qualifying criteria and are granted a permit. A group application does not permit the purchase or acquisition of further weapons.
Recreational shooting facilities
At our events, we have always had a target shooting element with air weapons, can this continue?
Yes, events like funfairs and gala days with air weapon ranges can also be approved. From 31 December, Police Scotland will be able to issue an Event Permit allowing non-certificate holders to use air weapons at a specified time and place.
An individual responsible for organising the event should apply to Police Scotland on Forms AWL5 which will be available from this website from 1 July 2016.
Do I need to hold an air weapon certificate to hold an event?
No, but it would be advisable to have someone who holds an air weapon or firearm/shotgun certificate present during the event. This is because they will have some knowledge of safe weapon handling and can ensure security aspects are fully considered for the safe running of the event.
It must be noted that the granting of an event permit relates specifically to the obligations of the Chief Constable under Section 17 of the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015, and does not infer any liability for the safe operation of the event, which remains the responsibility of the organiser.
The granting of the permit does not absolve the organiser from the requirement to obtain any other applicable permission, nor the need for adequate public liability insurance.
At events, do all air weapons users need to be supervised by someone holding a valid air weapon certificate or relevant firearm/shotgun certificate?
No, however it would be advisable to have someone who holds an air weapon or firearm/shotgun certificate, or someone who is knowledgeable in safe weapon handling, present.
These considerations will assist in ensuring the event passes off smoothly and ensures security aspects are fully considered for the safe running of the event.
It must be remembered that no matter how well an event is organised, the human factor comes into play and any misuse of an air weapon can lead to tragic consequences.
Air weapon clubs
I am a member of an air weapon club, does this confirm my good reason?
Yes, as long as you are attending and using your air weapon. Police may contact the club to confirm this information.
I am in a Scout group and we use air weapons a lot, how will this new legislation affect our group?
At least one member of the club should hold an air weapon certificate and they would be responsible for ensuring safety aspects in reference to weapon handling is adhered to and that reasonable precautions are taken for the safe custody of all air weapons possessed.
Provided they are over the age of 21 they may supervise any child in the use of an air weapon.
The responsibility for ensuring the location for shooting is suitable and safe would fall upon the supervising certificate holder.
A scout group would not be considered an Air Weapon Club as they would not meet the specific criteria for a club.
I am in an approved rifle club, does that cover me for shooting air weapons?
No. Being in a rifle club does not automatically grant approval for air weapons also.
As an approved rifle club, you can apply for approval of air weapon status and this approval will fall in line with your approved rifle club expiry.
Does my air weapon club need to be approved?
If all members are legally able to possess and use air weapons, either by their own air weapon certificate or by the transitional arrangements in place for firearms and shotgun certificate holders, then no.
If you have one member who isn’t, you will need to apply to become an approved air weapon club for that person to continue shooting.
Why would my air weapon club want to become approved?
Members of an approved club can use air weapons at the club without requiring their own licence. This includes borrowing air weapons from licence holders at the club. Members can also use borrowed weapons at other venues – for example at a competition – as long as it’s part of the club’s activities.
I have a firearm/shotgun certificate, how does that affect me shooting at a club?
You can continue with your shooting until such times as your existing firearm or shotgun certificates expire. If your club is approved, you can continue shooting at the club past your expiry date as long as the shooting is undertaken purely as a club activity.
Can I borrow weapons at the club without a certificate?
Yes, as long as you only borrow air weapons at the club. This includes borrowing air weapons from certificate holders at the club. You can also use borrowed weapons at other venues – for example at a competition – as long as it is part of the club’s activities.
If I am in an approved club, can I still shoot elsewhere?
If you are shooting in respect of your connection to your approved club, i.e. a competition, or invited to another club, you can shoot without an air weapon certificate.
If you own your own air weapons, or use them in activities which are not connected with club activities, even zeroing or practising elsewhere, you will need to have your own air weapon certificate.
For more information visit the Firearms Service Level Agreement.
Can I use a semi-automatic shotgun for shooting wild bird?
You can shoot certain species of game birds, quarry birds and waterfowl during the shooting season. You cannot shoot birds in the closed season.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 prohibits the use of any semi-automatic shotgun for shooting wild birds. For this purpose semi-automatic means a self-loading or pump-action gun capable of holding more than three cartridges.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 provides for the issue of General Licences for the shooting of bird pest species. These licences do include the use of multi-shot shotguns, for pest species of bird only, not quarry species of bird such as (grouse, pheasant, and partridge).
Service level agreements
How long do applications take?
We will deal with applications in accordance with our SLA below which applies for firearms, shotgun and air weapon certificates.
|Grant of new certificate||16 weeks from receipt of application|
|Renewal of an existing certificate||Before the expiry of the current certificate|
|Visitor's permit||6 weeks|
|European Firearms Passes||6 weeks|
|All other requests||As received and as soon as reasonably practicable|
Our timescales for all applications within this SLA are dependent on there being no errors in the application (such as missing information, a failure to complete the declaration, or making an application at short notice) and there being no issues or concerns with regard to the applicant that require us to carry out additional work.
Existing licence holders
We will deal with applications in accordance with our SLA above, with our primary focus being those whose certificates are due to expire.
When you renew your certificate(s), we encourage you to submit your application as early as possible so we can process it by the expiry date.
We will deal with new applications in accordance with our SLA above in order of date received although we may amend our prioritisation process having taken cognisance of exceptional circumstances should these arise.
We would encourage you to submit a new application in a timeous manner to allow us to complete all necessary checks within our timescales.