The purpose of this blog is to take you through the process of getting your Shotgun Certificate so you know what to expect.  The various stages of the application are explained below.  But first is some background information to provide some context.

Guns, in the wrong hands, are lethal weapons and consequently very dangerous.  Therefore, the system of approving gun ownership needs to be regulated to ensure you are a suitable person to be in charge of such a weapon.  In the UK, to own or keep a shotgun you require a Shotgun Certificate; this is obtained through your local police Firearms Licensing Department.  A Shotgun Certificate is different from a Firearms Certificate which is for rifles, but they are both issued by the same department and applied for on the same form.  The process for obtaining a Firearms Certificate is more rigorous because potentially more “damage” can be done with a rifle than with a shotgun.

But before embarking on the exciting journey of acquiring your Shotgun Certificate, you may need some patience!  During Covid, Firearms Licensing Departments concentrated on renewals only; and thus acquired a large backlog of new applications.  Combined with some understaffing, the delays are still significant in certain parts of the country. This has been incredibly frustrating for applicants who are often having to wait a year or more for their licence and before they can buy their first gun and get on with their shooting!  

Form 201 – 2021

Form 201 – 2021 can be found online on your local area police website.  The form can be completed online or sent through the post.  The application is not complicated and requires the following information:

Personal details – name, address etc 

Questions about your mental health

Details of your GP

Details of any convictions or offences you have committed

Information about shotgun security at your premises 

Details of one referee who has known you for two years or more

Passport type photograph

The cost of a new application is £79.50 and a renewal is only £49.00.  Although it is another added cost to shooting, I do feel this is good value for a five-year licence.

Medical History

The application requires a medical report from your GP.  A form is provided for you to send to your GP requesting the report, along with a proforma for your GP to complete.  This is either sent directly to the Firearms Licensing Department or to you to send on.

Whilst most medical practices are reasonably helpful, some can be very slow and a few simply refuse to do it.  Most GP practices charge an admin fee which can vary from £25 up to £250, the latter being rare; but I frequently hear a sum of £120 mentioned.

Companies such as MedCert charge a fee of £60 to provide a report written by one of their own GPs, based on your records which they obtain from your GP.  While it is preferable for you to deal directly with your GP if possible, you may need to resort to MedCert if your GP is very slow, expensive or refuses to play ball.

The main emphasis of the medical report concerns mental health.  Honesty is by far the best policy here, so don’t try to cover up any problems you may have.  If you currently have mental health issues or have had them in the past, this does not mean your application will be automatically declined.  However, if you are found to have lied about it, that may result in a refusal.

Your GP will make a note on your file that you hold a Shotgun Certificate; if in the future any medical reason arises which has a bearing on you as a Certificate holder, they must inform the police. You also have an obligation to advise the police of any mental health problems you suffer after your Certificate has been issued.  Again, it does not necessarily mean you will lose your licence but the police will not take kindly to finding out about it at a later date.  If it is a serious episode of mental health then they may remove your licence on a temporary basis, but this is to protect you as much as anyone else, which is entirely correct.

Processing the Application

Once your application has been submitted, you will receive an acknowledgement by e-mail from the Firearms Licensing Officer (FLO), usually asking you not to contact them about your application!  The general rule is that a new application should be processed within about 12 weeks, but depending on the area you live in, it can, at present, take up to a year or more.  It’s very frustrating not knowing how long you will have to wait but if you haven’t heard anything after three or four months, it’s not unreasonable to make some enquiries.  A renewal should be completed more quickly than a new application, within 12 weeks, but at the moment that often it is taking longer as well.

Visit by the Firearms Licensing Officer

Once your application comes to the top of the pile, the FLO will arrange to meet you at your house, to talk with you and assess whether you are a suitable candidate for a Shotgun Certificate.  They will ask you general questions about yourself, others living in the same premises, any mental health issues you have suffered from, and also enquire about your shooting and why it is you need a gun.  If you mention that you’re a member of The Country Girls UK and have attended one or two of their tuition days because you want to learn to shoot safely, this will be looked on favourably.  If you tell them that you take gun handling and gun safety seriously and have read my blogs on the subject, I’m sure the FLO will give you an extra tick in the box!

Gun Cabinet

The FLO will need to inspect your gun cabinet.  There are guidelines on the police website for firearms security including securing and locating your gun cabinet.  You don’t have to have a cabinet installed before the FLO visit but if you don’t they will need to return to inspect it at a later date, so I recommend that you do so if you can.  I have however heard of some cabinet installations being approved via photographs.

As a side note, you might wish to review your home security in light of having guns in the house and of course, check your insurance policy too for cover for your guns.

Issuing the Certificate

Once you have had a visit from the FLO, your certificate normally follows quite quickly in the post or sometimes it is given to you there and then by the FLO.  Don’t forget to sign it!  Then I recommend you make a copy of it in case you lose it, and keep the original in a safe place.  You’ll need it when you want to purchase a gun and also to buy cartridges.  You should also have it with you whenever you are out and about with your gun!

Happy Shooting everyone!

Written by Nicki Wakeford