Applying for a firearms certificate (FAC)

In the simplest terms, the law requires that you have a FAC before you may have unsupervised access to rifled firearms, shotguns with a magazine that will hold more than two cartridges and certain other items. There is no general right to such access and you have to show “good reason” for possession. The system for issuing and renewing FACs is in the hands of the police.

Before they will let you have your FAC the police will need to be satisfied that:

  • You are not prohibited from possessing a firearm;
  • You have good reason for possessing the ones you wish to acquire;
  • You can possess and use firearms and ammunition without being a danger to the public safety or peace.

The two most common routes to establishing "good reason" are either having shooting rights over land or being a full member of a Home Office approved target shooting club, so for you, the first hurdle is to become a full member of LERA.

Membership of LERA requires a probationary period, typically 3-6 months, during which you attend shoots regularly and undergo training in safe shooting. When you have completed your training, been signed-off by the Chairman as a competent and safe shooter and are a full member of LERA you may apply to your local police force for a FAC. In the meantime, you can start getting all the paperwork together.

 

The Forms

You can download the necessary FAC application forms from the website of your local firearms licensing unit .

You will need two referees who are prepared to state that you are a fit and proper person to possess firearms. Each referee must have known you for a minimum of two years, must be resident in the UK and must not related to you. 

A recently-introduced requirement is that you give your doctor’s name and address to the police and give them permission to contact the surgery if they wish to do so.

You will also need to provide four identical passport photos.

The current fee for the issue of a FAC can be found from the website of your firearms licensing unit.

 

Starting Out

Your FAC will give you permission to acquire a certain number of rifles, but they will be defined only by their calibres. Thus, you may have authority to acquire two rifles in 0.303 calibre. The exact types of rifle you buy are your choice: the police are only interested in numbers and calibres.

You will probably shoot a variety of firearms as a club probationer and that may help you make up your mind, or you may already know what you want, which may be why you chose LERA in the first place.  Failing that, talk to other LERA members to see what they have on their FAC. Some members manage happily with just one or two rifles, others build up quite a collection. On the whole, it is probably better to ask for more rather than less, within reason.

Remember that LERA runs competitions with a number of classes for entry, which would make it quite appropriate to think in terms of, say, a No1, a No 4 and a No 5 to begin with and to add a foreign military rifle such as a Mauser and something in 7.62 NATO as well. Another possible acquisition would be a 0.22 Enfield training rifle.Thus you would ask for three 0.303s, a 7.92, a 7.62 and a 0.22. A good tip if you plump for 7.62 or 5.56 is to specify 7.62/0.308 or 5.56/0.223 to avoid any future difficulty with ammunition purchases. (With both of these calibres be sure you know exactly what your rifle is proofed to fire – a 0.308 cartridge may be generate much higher pressure than one in 7.62 NATO, for example.)

Certanly it is better to ask for permission to acquire several rifles rather than specifying just the one you intend to purchase initially – like all hobbies, shooting tends to grow on you. Also remember your that FAC will be valid for five years so you will have plenty of time to add rifles later.

Although there is no statutory limit on the number of firearms you can ask for, bear in mind that the more you request the more security measures the police may insist on before they will grant your FAC. Some forces use a rule of thumb that more than six requires the fitting of a burglar alarm

Your FAC will also authorise the possession of specified amounts of ammunition and you will be asked at the time of application to suggest the maximum number of rounds of each calibre you would seek to hold at any one time. If unsure, ask your LERA friends or your Firearms Enquiry Officer (FEO) what amounts would be appropriate. The police will normally agree to numbers which reflect reasonable usage but will not agree to larger numbers simply on the grounds of it being cheaper or easier to buy in bulk. 

 

Storage

The precise requirements for storage of firearms are not actually specified in law; the legislation merely says that firearms "must be stored securely at all times so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, access to the guns by unauthorised persons".

A steel cabinet constructed and certified to comply with BS 7558 and bolted to a masonry wall is the usual solution. However, you will be required to remove the bolts from your rifles before locking them up and to secure them separately. Some cabinets have a small internal lockable box or drawer for this purpose.

Make sure your cabinet is big enough not only for what you plan to get now but also has a bit of space for expansion. If you are intending to have any scoped rifles then make sure you get an extra deep version and it is worth ensuring plenty of space between the rifles so you do not damage them.  Most cabinets require two keys but some more expensive “vault locking” cabinets work with just one, which is more convenient. 

Also think about where you will store the ammunition. If you have a cabinet with the integral internal lockable section mentioned above, you may be able to squeeze it in there. Alternatively, you may have a completely separate ammunition safe.  Do not underestimate just how much space ammunition can take up, especially if you have several different calibres in stock.

Any cabinet must be mounted to the actual masonry fabric of your house, not to a stud partition wall or in an outbuilding or garage. If possible, fix the cabinet somewhere that is not obviously visible through a window or to casual visitors. You can actually buy gun cabinets that look like pieces of antique furniture, if your tastes and budget run that way.  Also think about the possible effects of damp or condensation if considering storing your valuable rifles in an attic or cellar.

If in any doubt then contact your police firearms department or wait until they visit as they will need to check both the position and security of the cabinet before you can get your FAC.

 

Access

Since the law requires that you prevent access to your firearms and ammunition by unauthorised persons, you must be able to ensure that no other person will ever know the location of any keys, including spare sets.

A cautionary tale: some years ago a well-respected solicitor had his FAC revoked because he admitted that he had told his mother where the spare keys to his cabinets were kept in case he forgot. There was no evidence that his mother ever had access to his firearms, or even intended to, but the mere fact that she knew where the keys were was sufficient to cause the loss of his certificate. 

For convenience you might prefer to have all of your rifle and ammunition cabinet keys in a separate locked key safe to which only you have the key or combination.

 

Visit and Checks

Then sit back and wait. You will be contacted by the police to arrange a visit to inspect your cabinet (or advise what type and where it should be put) and discuss the number and types of firearms and ammunition that you have asked for and what you intend to use them for.

The police will also carry out a number of checks including interviewing you, possibly contacting your GP, taking up your references and carrying out a criminal record check before they decide if you really are safe to own a rifle (or two, or three…….).

Sadly some initial FAC applications in certain areas can take upwards of twelve months to conclude, whereas other neighbouring police areas can manage it in two months or less.  Similar timescales can be expected for future variations.  Either way, if you haven't heard anything at all from them within a month of applying then it is worth giving them a call just to confirm that they have actually received it and see if they know yet when your visit is likely to be. You can also look to see if your cheque has been cleared as that will at least confirm that they have received your application.

Good luck!