Firearms Certificate (FAC) Disclaimer:
The following information is presented by Emmett and Stone in good faith. It is our understanding of certain aspects of current legislation covering the licensing of firearms within England and Wales but should not be taken as a complete or definitive statement of the law. Any case of doubt should be referred to a solicitor specialising in firearms law, or the Firearms Licensing Unit of your local police force. Note that Northern Ireland, Scotland and locations such as the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are not covered by the following information and we advise that specialist help should be sought for any legal queries within these territories.
Who Can Apply?
Only full members of target shooting clubs or those with permission to shoot over land may apply for a FAC. If your sole use of firearms is for target shooting then you must remain a member of at least one target shooting club or the police will no longer consider that you have a legitimate reason for owning firearms and are likely to revoke your FAC.
The Application Form (Form 101)
This is the main form and its contents are prescribed by the Home Office. The form is used for applying for the grant, renewal or variation of a FAC. Some police forces issued supplementary forms which ask additional questions but they are not mandatory and do not necessarily have to be completed. However unless the questions are irrelevant to the issue of applying for a licence to purchase, own and use firearms and ammunition, my view is that it is better to complete all forms honestly as it will no doubt help your application to slip smoothly through the police’s administrative procedures.
Form 101 is issued by your local police force and can be downloaded from their website. Alternatively, you can get one from your local police station, but if supplies are not available, a call to the Firearms Licensing Department will normally get a form posted to you.
The form should be completed and sent to your Police Firearms Licensing Department and must be accompanied by 4 identical current photographs of the applicant (passport size), one of which must be signed on the back in ink by the applicant. Each of your 2 referees must also sign and date a separate photograph using the words “I CERTIFY THAT THIS IS A CURRENT TRUE LIKENESS OF ….” with your name inserted.
You are not entitled to withhold information about any offence you may have committed. This includes motoring offences, convictions in places outside the UK and (by virtue of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order1975) convictions which are ‘spent’ under the 1974 Act. A conditional discharge and an absolute discharge count as convictions for this purpose.
Suitability to Possess Firearms
The police must be satisfied that you are a fit person to be entrusted with firearms without danger to public safety or to the peace. The police will take into account whether there is any known history of alcohol, drug or medication abuse, violent of unsociable behaviour or mental or psychiatric disorder. Your referees will be asked to indicate any such occurrences and mention anything which gives them cause for concern about your suitability to possess firearms.
If you are applying for the grant of a FAC you must provide the names and addresses of 2 referees both of whom must have known you personally for at least 2 years. Referees must be of good character and must not be members of your immediate family. Police officers/employees, registered firearms dealers or non-UK residents may not act as referees. No payment may be made for references. (Registered firearms dealers may act as a referee in the case of a renewal of a FAC where the dealer is an official of the gun club). Forms 125 must be completed with the factual details required by the forms and should be passed on to your referees. Renewals Applications for renewal of a FAC must also be accompanied by 2 references and one of the referees in such cases must be an official of the approved club named on your FAC.
You can apply at any time to vary your FAC if you want to add a new gun or have a gun you have sold or transferred taken off to regain a ‘slot’ for a replacement. One-for-one variations are usually free but there is a charge if you want to add an extra gun(s).
The application must be accompanied by a cheque for the appropriate fee.
Coterminous FAC & Shotgun Certificate (SGC)
If you also want to possess shotguns for clay shooting or game/rough shooting, you may apply for a coterminous FAC and SGC in which case the joint fees are reduced if both applications are dealt with at the same time. Multi-shot shotguns used in Practical Shotgun disciplines must be included on a FAC. If you already have a shotgun then the police may try and persuade you to go for a coterminous certificate. Depending on how long your shotgun certificate has to run, this may be an economical option anyway.
The Police will undoubtedly require you to keep guns and ammunition in a British Standard ‘Kitemarked’ gun safe(s) or in a properly constructed gun room. Home-made cabinets may be acceptable but you should seek police advice as to construction requirements. The majority of police forces expect you to have a British Standard alarm system if you wish to hold more than 9 guns. An alarm is not however a legal requirement. The gun safe must be securely rawl-bolted to a solid wall of the house and not be in a position which is readily visible to casual view. Inside a wardrobe, concealed under the stairs or in a loft are good places. Ammunition must be kept in a separate lockable metal box, again securely fixed to a wall. Some cabinets have a separate, lockable section for ammunition. 14g steel is usual in BS approved safes and external ‘piano’ type hinges are frowned upon as they are thought to be susceptible to attack – though stout piano hinges with multiple weld points would hold out against attack by a thief for quite a while.
One thing you absolutely must not do is tell the Police that anyone other than yourself has keys to your safe (unless others in your house have FACs for all of the guns kept inside. A case where a solicitor had told his 85 year old mother where he kept a spare key for emergencies resulted in a revocation of his FAC (which he’d held for many years) by the police which was upheld following an appeal.
Quantities of Firearms
There is no legal limit to how many guns and ammunition you may apply for. However, the greater the quantity then the greater will be the necessity to justify your requests to the police. New applicants should be realistic and put down what guns they are likely to buy in the 5 years duration of the FAC and quantities of ammunition which are economical to purchase but are reasonable.
A usual first application may contain one or two .22 rifles, one as a semi-automatic may be required for ‘action’ disciplines and a bolt-action may be more appropriate for precision target shooting. If you can also shoot large calibre centre-fire rifles, then you could also put down for a .303, 7.62mm, .308, 5.56, or .270 rifle etc.
Quantities of Ammunition
For .22 rim-fire the usual quantity would be 750 or 1,500 rounds, depending on how much shooting you do and how easy it is to get fresh supplies. This will allow you to buy another 500 or 1000 before you run out. For serious target shooters or rabbit controllers the required quantity may well be much greater so that a good stock,(all of one batch number so as to maintain the rifle’s zero), can be purchased at one time.
For centre-fire calibres it is more usual to have up to 250 rounds per calibre in this section, which allows the purchase in good time of further supplies of ammunition. Your favourite brand, bullet weight and bullet type may be difficult to obtain so enter enough to ensure that you do not run out. If you live a long way from your nearest dealer or if supplies are particularly difficult it may be sensible to increase the figure.
Black powder can only be bought and stored if you have an Explosives Certificate and a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) “Recipient Competent Authority Transfer Document” (these are free at present but must be applied for on forms obtainable from the police – Pyrodex (a black powder substitute) can be obtained without any certification. You may only store a maximum of 30 kilos of powder but as it is relatively expensive, doesn’t have an indefinite shelf life and is potentially dangerous, this shouldn’t worry you at all. It is worth bearing in mind however that the 30 Kg total would also include any powder in loaded rounds and/or shotgun cartridges and even in primers!
Storage of black powder is best in a lockable wooden box and most Police forces are happy for the box to be portable so in the event of fire it could be taken outside. It is advisable that the box should be kept out of view and most certainly out of the reach of children – which of course goes for all firearms and related equipment.