Shotgun Law

  • It is an offence (except in certain circumstances) to possess a shot gun without a current shot gun certificate or temporary police permit.
  • It is an offence to give or sell a shot gun to someone who is not authorised to possess it – usually by virtue of a shot gun certificate.
  • When acquiring a shot gun, you must inform the police force who issued your certificate by recorded delivery within seven days of the transfer. If you give or sell a shot gun to anyone, (or lend a gun for more than 72 hours) you must enter it on the other person’s certificate and also notify the police force which issued your own certificate by recorded delivery within seven days.
  • It is an offence to sell or offer for sale a shotgun which is out of proof.
  • One certificate holder may borrow a shotgun from another for 72 hours or less without notifying the police, or entering the details onto the borrower’s certificate.
  • In most cases it is an offence to sell cartridges to someone without seeing their shotgun certificate.
  • You are responsible for the security of any shotguns in your possession at all times.
  • When not in use, shotguns must be stored securely, so as to prevent – so far as is reasonably practicable – access by unauthorised persons.
  • When in use, reasonable precautions must be taken for their security.
  • It is an offence to sell or hire a shotgun to someone under 18 years of age.
  • It is an offence for a person under the age of fifteen to have with him an assembled shotgun except while under the supervision of a person of or over the age of 21, or while the shot gun is so covered with a securely fastened gun cover that it cannot be fired.
  • It is an offence to be in possession of a loaded shotgun in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.
  • It is no longer a requirement to hold a game licence in order to take or kill game in England and Wales. No game may be shot on Sunday or Christmas Day and in certain counties it is an offence to shoot wildfowl on a Sunday. Legislation and the requirement for a game licence is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland so always check if you are unsure – never guess at what the law requires.
  • All birds and many animals are protected. There is an “open” season for quarry species and it is an offence to kill or attempt to kill them at other times. Certain species of birds may be shot by authorised persons at any time under an Open General Licence issued annually by Natural England. This is, as it says, “open” and “general”; individuals do not need to carry or even hold a copy of the licence.
  • It is an offence to shoot wildfowl or game with a self-loading gun having a magazine capacity of more than two cartridges.
  • You may only lend a shotgun to someone without a certificate if you are with that person, on land of which your are legally the occupier or if you are at a clay pigeon shoot where the Chief Constable has granted special permission to allow non-certificate holders to shoot.

Remember – ignorance of the law is no excuse. If in doubt, always ask.


  • Keep your shot gun secured – preferably in a purpose-built gun cabinet – when not in use. Ensure that no-one else has access to the keys – remember it is your responsibility to ensure that unauthorised persons (which includes anyone who hasn’t got a shotgun certificate) do not have access to your guns.
  • Store your shotgun ammunition separately from your guns. The law does not require you to keep shotgun cartridges secure; however, it is good practice to do so. They are best stored in a cool, dry place where inquisitive children cannot get hold of them.
  • When travelling in a vehicle, keep your guns and ammunition out of sight, preferably in the locked luggage compartment. It is preferable to keep the guns in their slips or cases.
  • If you have to park your vehicle for any reason, ensure the guns are stored as above, and park the vehicle where you can see it if at all possible. The vehicle must be locked, and any anti-theft devices set. It is a good idea to park in such a way as to prevent easy access to the part of the vehicle containing your guns, such as backing the car very close to a wall to make it difficult for a thief to get at the boot.
  • Where possible, remove the fore-end of the shot gun and take it with you. There are also various security devices that can be used if necessary.

The shotgun

  • Always ensure that your shot gun is in a safe condition, and that the mechanism is properly adjusted.
  • Hammer guns require particular care, such as carrying them uncocked, except when expecting a shot.
  • Pump-action and self-loading shotguns also require care, as it is more difficult to check their status (i.e. loaded or otherwise) than the standard single or double-barrelled shotgun.
  • Always clean and dry your shotgun after use. Never put a damp gun into a steel cabinet.
  • If a fault develops, have it rectified before using the gun again.
  • Never use a gun with badly dented or pitted barrels.
  • Have your gun serviced regularly by a competent gunsmith.

The cartridge

  • Ensure that the cartridge type and shot size is suitable for both your purpose and your gun.
  • Never imagine that a heavy load and a tight choke justify shots at extreme range.
  • Do not allow cartridges of different bores to become mixed. A smaller size (say a 20 bore) can be inadvertently loaded into a 12 bore gun and lodge in the barrel. If a 12 bore cartridge is then loaded and fired, it can burst the barrel.
  • In the case of a miss-fire, keep the barrels in a safe direction, and open the gun cautiously after waiting 30 seconds.

How do I know I am safe?

One of the easiest ways is to arrange for an assessment to be carried out by a professional coach or shooting instructor. Many shooting grounds and a number of shooting organisations provide this service for a fee.


It is advisable to have adequate legal liability (third party) insurance when shooting. A number of shooting organisations provide this type of insurance for their members.