Shotgun Shooting


How do I apply for a Shotgun Certificate?

Click here to download an application form.

Shotgun Certificate Application Form


Can I borrow a shotgun?

A non certificate holder may use a shotgun in the following circumstances:

  • He may borrow a shotgun from the occupier of private land and use it on that land in the occupier’s presence. For a borrower under 18 years old, the occupier must be over 18 years old.
  • Whilst at a shooting ground approved by the police for shooting at artificial targets only.

Note that “occupier” is not defined by the Firearms Act 1968 but may be taken to include the owner, tenant or licence holder.

There is no minimum age at which a person may borrow a shotgun and use it under the circumstances described above, but persons under 15 years old must be supervised by someone over the age of 21 years.

Relevant Act(s): Sections 11(5), 11(6) and 22 -Firearms Act 1968. The Firearms

(Amendment) Regulations 2010


Can I use lead shot?

The use of shotgun cartridges containing lead shot is prohibited for the killing of certain species (in England and Wales) or specific areas (in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). In those instances where the use is prohibited, alternatives to lead shot must be used.

  • England and Wales

In England and Wales, the use of lead shot is prohibited below the High Water Mark of Ordinary Spring Tides, over specified SSSIs, and for the shooting of the following species, regardless of where they occur:

  • Duck (Mallard, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Pintail, Tufted duck, Goldeneye)
  • Geese (Greylag, Pink-footed,White-fronted,Canada)
  • Waders (Golden Plover)
  • Coot and Moorhen
  • Scotland & Northern Ireland

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the use of lead shot is prohibited over wetlands. Wetlands are defined as any areas of foreshore, marsh, fen, peatland with standing water, regularly or seasonally flooded fields, and other water sources whether they be natural or man-made, static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt.

What are the recommended cartridges for game shooting?

There is no legal requirement to use a particular standard of cartridge for game shooting but you should ensure that you use a shot size and load capable of attaining a clean and efficient kill, and that you shoot within range and within the limits of your capabilities. The typical game cartridge for a 12 guage shotgun is 28-32g of number 6 shot, but preferences vary according to conditions and species. Below is a table of suggested shot sizes for certain species.


SpeciesShot Size
Partridge#6 / #7
Pheasant#5 / #6 / #7
Grouse#6 / #7
Pigeon#6 / #7
Mallard#4 / #5 *
GeeseBB/ #1/ #3 *

*Note that lead shot may not be used to shoot wildfowl inEnglandandWalesor in certain areas ofScotland. See herefor details. If using steel shot, it is advised to use a shot two sizes large than suggested.

Always ensure that your gun is proved for the selected cartridge and has the correct chamber length. Old English guns may have 2.5” chambers. Cartridges longer than 2.5” (65mm) must not be used in these guns. Only guns bearing a steel shot (fleur de lys) proof mark should be used to shoot high performance steel shot cartridges. If you have any doubts, see a competent gunsmith.


What are the game shooting seasons in the UK?

Click here for pheasant, partridge and wildfowl shooting seasons


What species can I shoot?

                All birds are legally protected. Certain species may be taken outside the defined close seasons.  The main quarry species are:

  • Pheasant
  • Partridge
  • Grouse
  • Wild Duck (Mallard, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Pintail, Tufted duck, Goldeneye)
  • Geese (Greylag, Pink-footed,White-fronted,Canada)
  • Hare
  • Waders (Woodcock, Snipe, Golden Plover)
  • Coot, Moorhen

For a full list of species and open seasons, click here.

Other species, such as pigeons and corvids (crow, rook, magpie, jay, jackdaw) may be shot under a General Licence for the protection of crops or for the conservation of wild birds. For more information about these species and the conditions of the licence, click here for England and Wales advice and here for advice on conditions in Scotland.

Relevant Act(s): Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981


Can I hold a clay shoot on my land?

If you would like to hold a clay shoot on your land at which people may shoot without holding a shot gun certificate, then the time and place of the shoot must be approved by the Chief Officer of Police for the area in which the land is situated.

  • You should apply to your local Police Firearms Licensing department in good time prior to the proposed date of the shoot.
  • You must ensure that nobody who is prohibited from possessing a shotgun will shoot at the event.

Relevant Act(s): Section 11(6), 21 -Firearms Act 1968.


Rifle Shooting

How do I apply for a Firearm Certificate?

                Click to download an application form.

Firearms Certificate Application

Can I borrow a rifle?

A person who does not hold a firearm certificate may borrow a rifle (the ‘estate rifle’) from the occupier of private land and use it on that land in the presence of the occupier or the occupier’s servant. “Servant” would be taken to include a stalker, gamekeeper or ghillie employed by the occupier.

  • · The borrower must be aged 17 years or older. If the borrower is 17 years old, then the lender must be aged 18 years or over.
  • · The rifle may only be used on the occupier’s land.
  • · The occupier’s servant, if accompanying the borrower, must hold a firearm certificate for the estate rifle.
  • · All conditions on the lender’s firearm certificate must be complied with.

Relevant Act(s): Section 16 (1) Firearms Amendment Act 1988

What are the deer shooting seasons in the UK?

 Click here for shooting seasons

 General Firearms Law

How do I contact my local Firearms Licensing Team?

                Click here  for a list of Police Forces (coming soon)

Unexpected possession of firearms

There may be cases in which people may find themselves unintentionally in possession of firearms. This may be when a family member dies, or when a previously unknown firearm is found in a new or inherited property.  Firstly, do not panic. Do not touch or move the firearm (especially if it is of unknown age) because it could still be loaded. Ensure others cannot access the firearm and call your local firearms licensing team immediately. You can find the contact details here.

The police may:

  • Advise you to transfer the firearms to your certificate (if you have one)
  • Allow you to keep the firearm (if it does not need a certificate – see section below
  • Arrange for the firearm to be destroyed or taken to a registered dealer.

Do I need a certificate for my antique firearm?

Certain antique firearms are exempted from the provisions of the Firearms Act and do not require to be held on a certificate provided they are kept as a curiosity or an ornament and are not intended to be used. Antique firearms include:

  • All muzzle loading firearms, except those of modern manufacture.
  • Breech loading firearms capable of discharging a rim fire cartridge other than 4mm, 5mm, .22inch or .23inch (or their metric equivalents), 6mm or 9mm.
  • Breech loading firearms using ignition systems other than rim fire or centre fire (e.g. pin-fire and needle-fire).
  • Breech loading centrefire arms originally chambered for one of a Schedule of obsolete calibres and retaining their original chambering
  • Shotguns and punt guns chambered for the following: 32 bore, 24 bore, 14 bore, 10 bore (2 5/8” and 2 7/8” only) 8 bore, 4 bore, 3 bore, 2 bore, 1 1/8 bore, 1 ¼ bore and 1 ½ bore and vintage punt guns and shotguns with bores greater than 10.

If you intend to use a firearm, even if it falls within one of these categories, then it must be held on a shot gun or firearm certificate as appropriate.

The exemption does not apply to ammunition, and the possession of live ammunition suitable for use with an otherwise antique firearm may indicate that it is not possessed as a curiosity or an ornament.

Relevant Act(s): Section 58 (2) Firearms Amendment Act 1968

Links to useful resources:

“Firearms Law, Guidance to the Police 2002”

Home Office Firearms Guidance