How to get an Air Rifle Licence?

10 Comments22 November 2023  |  Air Arms

How to get an Air Rifle Licence?

Are you ready to take your air rifle shooting to the next level? You’re probably coming to this article because you’ve realised that a general licence can only get you so far. You’re wanting to move on to bigger and more powerful things and you’re ready to take the next step. Well, you’re in luck. In this article we’re going to take a look at Air Rifle licences in the UK, why you need one and how to get one.

Air Rifles 

Air Rifles are extremely popular in the UK - with over 6 million estimated to be used throughout England and Wales alone. Considering this figure and the nature of the sport, it is easy to understand why it is vital for any shooter to follow the legal and safety requirements for obtaining, using and maintaining air guns. 

Not only does using air guns take skill and practice, but it also requires a solid understanding of the rules and laws surrounding the sport to practise safely and correctly. It is a high priority for shooters to understand the quarry around them, as well as themselves and the safety of others. 

To ensure that you're following the proper steps to uphold the safe use of air guns, a person's first step needs to be obtaining the correct firearms certificate from their local firearms licensing unit.

What type of licences are there?

All air rifles require a licence under UK law but only one requires an application. In the UK, there is a General licence and a Firearms certificate

A General licence is a legal document issued by authorities that grants permission to use certain guns for shooting pests, wildlife and birds. This General licence (depending on your area) applies without need for sign-up and covers less powerful guns.

Firearms licence is granted on an individual basis after a thorough application process, which includes checks on the applicant's background, mental health, and suitability to possess firearms. This type of licence is necessary under firearms law, for owning and using firearms, air rifles and shotguns that are not covered under general licences.

Which types of air rifles require what licence?

Air rifles that discharge ammunition with a muzzle energy below 12ft/lb do not require a firearms certificate under UK law as they are not deemed powerful enough to be considered a firearm. There is no certificate required to use these air rifles when target shooting and plinking, but if these air rifles are used to shoot wildlife and birds then you must abide by the General Licence

Air rifles that discharge ammunition (pellets) at a power over 12ft/lb, while covered by a general licence when shooting wildlife and birds - also require the shooter to obtain a Firearms Certificate. This is because these types of air rifles are considered a Section 1 firearm in the eyes of the law. 

Air rifles can range from air pistols, co2 air pellet guns to spring air rifles and PCP air rifles. Find out what the best air rifle (or air gun) is for you - and then determine its power and requirements to see what type of licence they are covered by.

What steps do you need to take to obtain a Firearms Certificate?

For these section 1 firearms (air rifles discharging power over 12ft/lb), you must apply for a Firearms certificate with your local police department. This can be done online or in the post - and there are a few steps you need to take to complete the application.

Before applying for this certificate, you will need to read the guideline notes given on your local police website to ensure you understand the criteria that you need to meet to be an acceptable candidate.

What is the criteria?

Obtaining an air rifle licence requires a few crucial aspects to succeed. The first requirement to look at - before you can even take the first step, is knowing what is legally allowed for your age. 

Make sure you're old enough.

Under UK law, to obtain an air rifle licence, you have to be 14 years of age. However, it is an offence to sell, use, hire or gift an air weapon to a person under 18 years of age. While stipulations allow people under this age to use an air rifle (e.g. if they have a supervisor), you must be recognised as a legal adult in the law to purchase your own air rifle. 

Make sure you're medically sound.

For anyone of legal age, the first step you have to take in order to get your air rifle licence is to obtain a medical form to prove that you're medically sound. 

The medical form must be passed onto your doctor and filled out correctly to ensure you're mentally and physically capable enough to own and use an air rifle. This form will then be passed onto the police department, who will ultimately decide your suitability. This form will usually look at whether you have:

  • Acute stress reactions caused by trauma (including post-traumatic stress disorder)

  • Suicidal thoughts, self-harm or self-harming others

  • Any signs of depression or anxiety

  • Any signs of dementia

  • Any mania, bipolar disorders or psychotic illnesses

  • Any personality disorders 

  • Any neurological disorders 

  • Any alcohol or drug-related abuse

  • Any other mental or physical conditions that may be relevant

If any of the above apply, you may not be competent enough to legally own and use an air rifle. You are responsible for arranging an appointment with a suitable specialist or GP/ doctor to provide the police with the information concerning your medical suitability. It is worth noting that if there is a fee for this, it will be your responsibility to pay.

Your record needs to be clean. 

Any person that is allowed to use and carry an air rifle must be of moral and lawful character. There are many legal requirements and laws that are involved in operating and maintaining air rifles, so the police have to make sure those who are in possession of an air rifle or those who apply for one are responsible enough to do so.

Section 21 of the Firearms Act 1968 restricts the possession of firearms and ammunition of any people previously convicted of a crime.

  • Any person who has received a sentence of 3 months-3 years imprisonment is prohibited from possessing a firearm (air rifle) for five years from their release date. 

  • Any person that has had a prison sentence of 3 years or more is prohibited from possessing a firearm and its ammunition for life.

Make sure you have good, solid referees.

Now that we've covered the medical and criminal criteria, this leads us to the character references. Just like applying for a job, when applying for an air rifle licence, you must provide character references to prove you're a responsible, reasonable and hardworking person.

You will need permission from two people who have agreed to act as your referees to vouch for your character. These referees need to have known you for at least two years - and both have to be residents of Great Britain. These referees cannot be:

  • An immediate family member

  • A registered firearms dealer

  • A serving police officer or police employee

  • A police and crime commissioner (or a member of their staff)

  • A member of the Scottish Police Authority

Your chosen referees must give their date and place of birth, occupation and contact details so the police can cross-reference them as a reliable source.

The final application process will be to show evidence of both proof of person and that you have a good reason to possess a firearm.

Proof of person

You have to provide legal photo evidence - proving that you are who you say you are. Your proof of person is done by either sending in or showing a photocopy of your passport photo so that the police can cross-reference your information and confirm your likeness to the documents provided.  

Good reason

Secondly, you must provide proof that there is a good reason as to why you want to obtain a Section 1 firearm (air rifle). You can't just decide you want to take up hunting for the hell of it. The most common reasons that people offer are either:

  • Target Shooting (providing details of a club you're a member of.)

  • Quarry Shooting (giving proof that you have permission to shoot over a piece of land for pest control or small game hunting.)

Air rifles, while popular, can still be a deadly weapon if safety measures are not adhered to. These checks are in place to make sure you're accessing the licence for legal reasons. 

Now for the costs

When applying for your air rifle licence, you can make the payment online. However, if this is not possible for you, you can make the payment to your local Police and Crime Commissioner.

  • The cost of the firearm certificate is £88.00

  • The cost to renew a firearm certificate is £62.00

  • To replace a lost or stolen firearm certificate is £4.00

Other costs to know are:

  • Visitor permits cost is £20.00

  • Visitor permits (group of 6-20) are £100

While you should be able to find all the information you need on your local police department's website, you can always find contact details by phone or email to get in touch with the firearms licensing team.

How long does the process take, and what does it look like?

To complete your application, you must ensure you have your personal details ready. These details include your email address, phone number, work contact details and current or previous addresses (going back five years).

Applying online

The online application takes 20 minutes to fill out. Always note that the application does not save as you go, so you must complete it in one sitting. 

The steps to apply online are to:

  1. Complete the online version of the form

  2. Upload your GP/medical document

  3. Make the online payment

Applying by post

The steps to apply by post are to:

  1. Download the firearm certificate application from your local police website

  2. To print out the forms and fill them out

  3. Attach one passport-style photo

  4. Write a cheque or postal order for £88 (cash is not accepted)

  5. Post your completed form to the correct address of your local police department

After applying for your firearm licence, keep in mind that the process from start to finish can take up to 12 weeks. If you have a particular date you need your licence by, make sure to organise your time wisely and get your application started.

When you buy an air gun

All that is left to do after obtaining your firearms certificate is to choose the best air gun for you, either online or from local registered firearms dealers. When purchasing any air weapons, you will have to show proof of your firearms licence as well as proof of ID. If ordering online, a delivery service will be offered with an exact date and time to ensure the order goes to the right person.

Get insured

While it is not a legal requirement to have air guns insured, it is always recommended. Air gun insurance can be very affordable and give you and others peace of mind if anything were to go wrong. 

Insurance can cover public liability, personal accident cover, and legal expenses cover. If you're going to use your air rifle regularly, this is undoubtedly a wise choice. A PCP air rifle is usually an expensive air gun. If you're happy paying for the perfect air rifle from leading manufacturers, then you should be more than happy to get it insured.

What to do now?

Now that we have all the information, all that is left to do is to get applying! Obtaining an air rifle licence is a straightforward process that will help you reach the next step in your shooting journey. 

As long as you follow the guidelines and adhere to the legal requirements, the application process should be a smooth and successful one. 

Remember - safety is the number one priority when taking up this kind of sport. The handling of air guns requires proper training and responsibility. As long as you understand the importance of correct rifle ownership, then you can embrace this exciting hobby with respect, awareness and responsibility. 

Always note that laws regarding air guns and firearms licensing can vary from region to region. This article highlights laws currently across England and Wales. Please research information for Scotland,Ireland and Northern Ireland. Please feel free to contact us here for any help or information. 

Valon Krasniqi
21 January 2024  |  18:19

I would like to have air gun at home because I’m very satisfying of shooting on point and I have like hobbies for guns i love them like someone like cars or anything else!
03 February 2024  |  22:21

just for rat's

Bernard Flynn
03 February 2024  |  22:23


Bernard Flynn
03 February 2024  |  22:25

more rat,s

Andrew Pepper
28 March 2024  |  17:34

Just for target practice

Martin Blackburn
10 April 2024  |  10:34

I have a rat problem Iin our garden. After trying all types of poisons which don't work, what type of air gun would people recommend ?

George Ian
23 April 2024  |  18:35

Pigeons in solar panels.

Steve Ansell
16 May 2024  |  20:44

Unfortunately that would be illegal, ALL birds are protected under UK law, there are permissions called "General Licences" that allow certain birds to be controlled in certain circumstances, but protection of solar panels is not one of them.

Mr Brian Chalmers
29 May 2024  |  17:36

For target shooting on private land

John Gibson
15 June 2024  |  10:28

I just want a certificate to cover me shooting targets