Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

The information I require is not available on the Drop down lists provided within the application?

If you are submitting an online application and you cannot find the information you require on the drop down list, please contact FEB. We advise that you do not proceed with completing  the application unless the option to select other is available. FEB will check the information and add to the relevant drop down list if applicable.

Do I need to add a sound moderator to my firearm application?

Yes, if you are acquiring a sound moderator please ensure you add the sound moderator under the add your firearm section of the online application form. We want to avoid you needing to submit two variations.

Will the application run on Internet Explorer (IE) version 9?

Please be advised that the Firearms Licensing Online application will not run on un-supported browsers. IE 9 is a known un-supported browser. PSNI advise that you download an alternative browser or update IE 9 to version 11.

The application will not display an error should you proceed to apply using the un-supported browser. We strongly advise you ensure you are running IE 11 as a minimum prior to proceeding with your application. If you have any concerns / queries please contact FEB.

What are the current fees for a firearm certificate?

The fee is £98 for the grant/further grant of a firearm certificate or £30 for the variation of a firearm certificate. Click HERE for more information.

How do I contact you?

If your query is specifically in relation to the completion of an online application form please contact our helpline on 0800 7839899 between 10am – 12pm and 2pm – 4pm Monday – Friday.

For general enquiries you can contact Firearms and Explosives Branch by phoning the Police Service of Northern Ireland non-emergency number 101 between 2pm - 4pm Monday - Friday. You can also ask to speak to your local Firearms Enquiries Officer for help using the same number.

To contact Firearms and Explosives Branch by email: firearms@psni.pnn.police.uk, or you can write to us at:

Firearms and Explosives Branch
PSNI Lisnasharragh
42 Montgomery Road
Belfast
BT6 9LD

Why do some applications take longer than others?
Applications are processed as quickly as possible while still making sure the requirements on the Chief Constable under the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004, such as our public safety remit, are fully fulfilled. The information required can be different for every application, and parts of the process such as any Firearms Enquiries Officer interview can also take varying amounts of time, therefore it is impossible to use the turnaround time of one application to predict another. Firearms and Explosives Branch constantly look for improvements and new ways to improve the service we provide.
Where do I find details about how to fill in the application and about what I need to send?

Please see the detailed guidance notes on https://www.psni.police.uk/advice_information/firearms/online-application-information/.

If any aspect of the application is missing or incorrect you will be asked to re-submit the entire application.

What do I do if I want to move home into or out of Northern Ireland?

New residents of Northern Ireland should apply for a firearm certificate using the initial grant application form. If you are a Northern Ireland firearm certificate holder moving outside Northern Ireland you should inform Firearms and Explosives Branch.

We will send your file to the police service responsible for licensing where your new home is located in order to assist with your application process there.

Please contact the firearms licensing service responsible for your new home for further advice or, for those moving to Northern Ireland, please call 101 (the Police Service of Northern Ireland non-emergency number) and ask for the local Firearms Enquiries Officer for further assistance.

It should be noted that you cannot bring firearms to Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland or Great Britain without a Visitor’s Permit or Certificate of Approval respectively.

What is the difference between a Certificate of Approval and a Visitor’s Permit? What needs to be sent with these forms?
A Certificate of Approval is required from visitors from Great Britain visiting Northern Ireland with their firearms. A Visitor’s Permit is required from those visiting from outside Great Britain, including the Republic of Ireland. See Travel Information for more information.
Where can I find out more about Northern Ireland’s firearms legislation?

The Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 states that, unless exempted, a firearm certificate is required for the purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition in Northern Ireland. A guide to the law can be found HERE.

What is a firearm?

The term ‘firearm’ is defined as a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged and includes any:

  1. Prohibited weapon, whether it is such a lethal weapon or not. 
  2. Component part of such a lethal or prohibited weapon.
  3. Accessory to any such weapon designed or adapted to diminish the noise or flash caused by firing the weapon.

‘Component Part’ in relation to a firearm means:

  • Barrel, chamber or cylinder.
  • Frame, action, body or receiver.
  • Breech block, bolt or other mechanism for containing the pressure of discharge at the rear of the chamber.
  • Part of a firearm which directly bears the pressure caused by firing.
  • Magazine.

In Northern Ireland, airguns and CO2 guns having a discharge kinetic energy in excess of one (1) Joule (0.737 ft lbs) must be held on a firearm certificate.

When is a firearm considered to be an antique?
Who do I make cheques payable to?

Your cheque should be made payable to Police Service of Northern Ireland. A Postal Order can be used.

How old must I be to have possession of a firearm?

It is possible for a young person between the ages of 16 and 18 to hold a firearm certificate, but only under certain specific conditions.

Under Article 7(2) of the Firearms (NI) Order 2004, the Chief Constable may grant a firearms certificate to a young person for an airgun, shotgun or .22 rifle, only if the firearm is to be used for pest control or the protection of livestock on agricultural land occupied by the young person or on which he works and also resides.

Under Article 7(3) of the Firearms (NI) Order 2004 the Chief Constable may grant a firearm certificate to a young person for an airgun or shotgun for sporting purposes, provided he is under the direct supervision of a person who has attained the age of 21 years and has held a firearm for that type of firearm for at least three years. Such supervision will be for a period of at least 12 months. In practice, to enable full supervision of the young shooter, the firearm will require to be held on a certificate by the supervisor.

Any airgun that is capable of discharging a missile with a kinetic discharge energy greater than 1 Joule (0.737 ft lbs) must have a firearm certificate. Airguns below that level do not require a license.

Our specially trained staff are here to help with your enquiries and you can contact the Firearms and Explosives Branch by email: firearms@psni.pnn.police.uk or call your local police on 101 Non Emergency Number for more information.

How long does my firearm certificate last?

A firearm certificate will normally be valid for 5 years. It is your responsibility to ensure a new application is made in good time before your certificate expires.

What circumstances make me a person prohibited from possessing firearms?

Article 63 of the Guidance on Northern Ireland Firearms Controls explains that a person convicted of a crime and sentenced to a period of imprisonment or detention in a young offenders’ centre of 3 years or more is prohibited for life from purchasing, acquiring or having a firearm or ammunition in his possession. Where the sentence is for a period of 3 months or more but less than 3 years he is prohibited for a period of 8 years.

Further information can be found in the Guidance on Northern Ireland Firearms Controls document here.

Who can be a referee?

Article 4 (2) (c) of the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 requires applicants to provide the names of two suitable referees, both of whom must be of good character and have known the applicant for, at least, two years. A person is not a suitable referee if they are:

  • A firearms’ dealer.
  • A police officer or member of the police support staff.
  • A resident outside the United Kingdom.
  • A relative of the applicant.
  • A relative in relation to a person means:
  • The father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, grandmother, grandfather, grandson or granddaughter of the applicant or of the applicant's spouse or former spouse.
  • The brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew (whether of full-blood or half-blood or by affinity) of the applicant or of the applicant's spouse or former spouse and includes, in relation to a person who is living or has lived with another person as husband and wife, any person who would fall within paragraph (a) or (b) if the parties were married to each other.

Members of firearms clubs making an application for a target weapon may have a club official as one of their referees, provided that person is of good character and has known the applicant for, at least, one year.

The other referee must fulfil the normal criteria given above.

Why am I asked to disclose certain medical conditions?

The application form for a firearm certificate requires the applicant to give permission for the police to approach the applicant’s GP in order to obtain factual details of the applicant’s medical history so far as it relates to their fitness to possess firearms without danger to public safety or the peace. If an applicant does not have a GP they cannot fulfil the criteria to be issued with a firearm certificate as they cannot complete the application form.

An applicant must disclose any physical or mental health condition that may affect your ability to safely possess and use a firearm. The questions on the application form ask: Are you being treated for any medical condition, including any alcohol or drug related condition, whether controlled by prescription medicines or not?; Do you have, or have you ever had, epilepsy?; Do you have a physical disability including sight related conditions (excludes normal spectacle use)?; Have you attended a medical professional in the last 5 years for treatment of depression of any other kind of mental or nervous disorder?.

If in doubt, consult your GP. The police may contact your GP and/or specialist to obtain factual details of any medical history in respect of your application.

What do I do when I receive my certificate?

You must sign your certificate in ink in the box provided. It is important that you read the conditions entered on the certificate.

Does an airgun require a certificate?

In Northern Ireland airguns and CO2 guns having a discharge kinetic energy in excess of one (1) Joule (0.737 ft lbs) require to be held on a firearm certificate.

For airguns below that limit the following restrictions are in place.

Under Paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 of the Firearms (NI) Order 2004, persons under the age of 18 cannot possess such firearms, unless they have attained the age of 14 years or are under the direct supervision of a person of 21 years or over.

Persons not holding a firearms certificate cannot purchase such firearms, unless they have attained the age of 17 years.

Ammunition for an airgun can be purchased and possessed without holding a firearm certificate.

Where can I find further information about cancelling, or changing/selling a firearm?

Please see HERE.

Must I notify a change of address?

General condition 3 (printed on page 1 of your firearm certificate) states you must notify the Firearms and Explosives Branch of a change of address. You can do so by completing the online form here.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your firearm is kept in a secure place, as per the general conditions shown on page 1 of your firearm certificate. This will require temporary storage with a firearms dealer during your change of address.

How do I apply for an additional firearm?

This is called a variation. You will need to fill in an application form giving ‘good reason’ for your requirement for the additional firearm.  The application form can be found at https://www.psni.police.uk/advice_information/firearms/online-application-information/variation-application/

How do I dispose of an unwanted firearm?

There are various options for disposing of unwanted firearms.

You can sell, give away or transfer ownership to a firearms dealer or another certificate holder who has adequate and safe storage for the weapon and has been authorised to hold it on their firearm certificate.

You can surrender the firearm at a police station. Please call 101 to make arrangements for this to take place.

You can have the weapon formally deactivated (see below).

Every firearm needs to be accounted for and Firearms and Explosives Branch, who issued the certificate, must be informed as to what has happened to it.

Please also see the section ‘Instructions to anybody who sells, lets on hire, gives or lends firearms or ammunition, to the holder of this certificate’ on page 3 of your certificate which states time limits for updating Firearms and Explosives Branch.

To transfer a firearm to another person a variation application is required, unless the transfer refers to a ‘one on one off’ exchange carried out by a firearms dealer. If a firearm is being transferred between firearm certificate holders the firearm should be lodged with a firearms dealers until the process is completed.

What is a deactivated firearm?

Please see Article 3 of the document Guidance on Northern Ireland Firearms Controls for further information.

How do I keep my firearms secure?

It is your responsibility to ensure that your firearms and ammunition are stored safely and securely at all times. You must take any necessary steps to prevent unauthorised access, so far as is reasonably possible. A gun cabinet is required - specification BS 7558 (1992) - and it must be secured to the fabric of a building.

If you are moving your firearm and ammunition by vehicle then it must be hidden from direct view and stored within a locked box or secured to an anchorage point.

Never carry a loaded weapon in a moving vehicle - it is dangerous and inappropriate.

Store your firearm with a local firearms’ dealer if you intend to leave your residence unattended for any considerable length of time.

You can also refer to the Firearms Security Handbook, published by the Home Office HERE 

Our specially trained staff are here to help with your enquiries and security arrangements. You can contact the Firearms and Explosives Branch by email: firearms@psni.pnn.police.uk or call your local police on 101 for more information.

How does use of social media affect firearm security?

The security requirements for storing your firearms are published in a document called Guidance on Northern Ireland Firearms Controls, which is available online.

Appendix 10, 44 (a) of this document states…

44 Security Conditions

(a) A firearm certificate is conditioned to require that “firearms to which a certificate relates must be stored securely at all times so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, access to them by unauthorised persons.”

Which means the FAC holder is required to take reasonable steps to prevent unauthorised access. For example, in the event of a burglary at the FAC holder’s home if it can be found that he or she contributed to the theft  by leaving the cabinet keys where they can be found, then this could lead to revocation. 

The same also – whether or not a burglary takes place - applies to instances where, for example, someone has posted a photo of their FAC showing the home address online as this could contribute to a burglary.

Beyond this, every instance is different but if you post pictures of yourself with your firearms on social media and someone can then search to work out your location then this is obviously unwise at best. Depending on the individual situation, carelessness on social media could lead to revocation as a breach of the conditions of your FAC as above as it could compromise your personal safety and security of the firearms.

What do I do if I unexpectedly come into possession of firearm?

There are number of reasons why someone may find themselves in possession of an unlicensed firearm, through no fault of their own. A certificate holder has died and the widow or widower is left with the weapons for example, or after moving to a new address they are discovered in a loft. The first thing to consider is your safety. Do not handle the firearms as they could be loaded and in a dangerous condition.

Call the police immediately and they will attend the address, make the firearms safe and remove the firearms will then be removed from the property while a decision is being made about what will happen to those firearms. You then have several options:

  • You could chose to inform the police that the firearms can be destroyed.
  • If you are a certificate holder then you can request they are added to your own certificate. This would depend on the firearms not being reported lost or stolen and you have the capacity to store them and, in the case of a firearm certificate, the authority to possess that type of weapon, but you would need to satisfy the ‘good reason’.

An alternative is to have the firearms deactivated meaning they would retain the original appearance but would be incapable of discharging a missile.

For further advice please see Appendix 12 of the Guidance on Northern Ireland Firearms Controls document HERE.

You should also contact your local Firearms Enquiries Officer who will assist you to make the right decision.

Can I try shooting without holding a certificate?

Please see Schedule 1 of the Guidance on Northern Ireland Firearms Controls document HERE.

Can my partner or member of my family transport my firearm for me?

Not unless they hold a certificate in their own right for the firearms.

Where can I find information about travelling with my firearm or visiting Northern Ireland with a firearm?

Please see HERE.

When are reminders sent out?

Letters reminding certificate holders that their firearm certificates are due to expire are sent out 12 weeks in advance of the expiry date.

Applications should be submitted as soon as possible and must be received within 8 weeks of the expiry of your certificate.

As long as the application is received at Firearms and Explosives Branch prior to expiry and we have issued a receipt letter then firearms will not be seized or required to be lodged with a dealer.

It is illegal to be in possession of firearms without a valid and current certificate. It is the responsibility of the holder to ensure that they are in legal possession. In the event of a certificate being allowed to expire, police will make contact to arrange for the firearms to be taken into safekeeping until a new certificate is issued.

How do I inform police if my certificate is lost or stolen, or request a replacement?

Contact your local police on 101 (non-emergency number) immediately if the certificate is lost, misplaced, defaced, destroyed or stolen.

You must also apply for a duplicate certificate.

Complete Form 30/1 and send it to the address below. The fee is £14.

Firearms and Explosives Branch
PSNI Lisnasharragh
42 Montgomery Road
Belfast
BT6 9LD

Our specially trained staff are here to help with your enquiries and you can contact us at any time by email: firearms@psni.pnn.police.uk.