Shotguns and their Ammunition

AuthorLaura Saunsbury/Nick Doherty

Chapter 4

Shotguns and their Ammunition


4.01 The F(A)A 1988, substituting a new definition of ‘shotgun’ for that formerly supplied by the FA 1968, defines that term to mean:

A smooth-bore gun (not being an air gun)1which—

(a) has a barrel not less than 24 inches long2and does not have any barrel with a bore exceeding 2 inches in diameter; and

(b) either has no magazine or has a non-detachable magazine incapable of holding more than two cartridges; and

(c) is not a revolver gun.3

As to paragraph (b) above, a gun which has been adapted to have a non-detachable magazine will not fall within the definition unless the conditions concerning approved marks, which are detailed in para 3.04, items (a) and (b), are fulfilled.4

4.02 In short summary a ‘shotgun’ is a smooth-bored gun, either single- or double-barrelled, with barrels at least 24 inches long. It may be pump-action or self-loading (but not a revolver), but if so it must have a magazine capacity limited to two shots. This is in addition to the round in the chamber. If such a gun has a greater magazine capacity it falls within section 1 and must be held on a firearm certificate. If it has a barrel less than 24 inches it is in section 1. If it were to have a large capacity magazine and a barrel shorter than 24 inches, then it becomes a

1The term ‘air gun’ is not defined by the Firearms Acts.

2This length is measured from the muzzle to the point at which the charge is exploded on firing

(FA 1968, s 57(6)(a); F(A)A 1988, s 25(1)).

3FA 1968, s 1(3)(a); F(A)A 1988, s 2(1), (2). ‘Revolver gun’ means a gun containing a series of chambers which revolve when the gun is fired (FA 1968, s 57(2B); F(A)A 1988, s 25(2)).

4FA 1968, ss 1(3A), 58(1); F(A)A 1988, s 2(1), (3).

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prohibited weapon.5If a gun falls within the ordinary definition of a shotgun then it is described as a ‘section 2 shotgun’ and can be held on a shotgun certificate.

4.03 The definition of ‘shotgun ammunition’ is only provided by the Firearms Acts by exemption. As we have seen at para 3.12, ordinary shotgun ammunition6

is excluded from the kinds of ammunition which are classified as section 1 ammunition and therefore does not require separate certification.


4.04 Shotgun certificates were introduced in 1968 to counter the increasing use of shotguns for criminal purposes. Briefly, the intention was to control the use of shotguns by means of certificates similarly to, but less strictly than, the ways in which rifles and handguns had been controlled by firearm certificates for many years. Shotgun ammunition is not, however, controlled by certificates, although production of a certificate is required to purchase shotgun ammunition.

4.05 You will commit an offence7if you have in your possession8or purchase or acquire9a shotgun without holding a shotgun certificate,10but a certificate is not needed for the possession of component parts of a shotgun, nor in the following cases:11

(a) If you use a shotgun at a time and place approved for shooting at artificial targets by the chief officer of police for the area in which that place is situated.12

(b) If you hold a firearm certificate issued in Northern Ireland which authorises you to possess a shotgun.13

5This is if it is a pump-action or semi-automatic gun. Large capacity lever action or bolt-action shotguns remain in s 1.

6It must have more than five shot, none of which are larger than .36 of an inch, FA 1968, s 1(4)(a), see para 3.12.

7The maximum punishment on summary conviction is imprisonment for 6 months, or an unlimited fine, or both or, on indictment, 5 years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine, or both (FA 1968, ss 2(1), 51(1), (2) and Sch 6, Part I).

8For some guidance on the meaning of ‘possession’, see para 3.13 et seq, ‘When do I need a firearm certificate?’.

9‘Acquire’ is defined to mean hire, accept as a gift or borrow (FA 1968, s 57(4)).

10FA 1968, s 2(1).

11See also paras 1.53 and 1.67 for two general exceptions to the need for a shotgun certificate.

12FA 1968, s 11(6). It is important to note that the exception only operates while a gun is being used in this way at the approved time and place and will not cover the possession of a gun immediately before or after such a use.

13FA 1968, s 15.

(c) If you borrow a shotgun from the occupier of private premises14and use it on those premises in the presence15of a person with permission to shoot.16

(d) If you are able to bring your case within any one of the exceptions applying to firearm certificates which are at para 3.22 et seq, ‘Exceptions from the need to hold a firearm certificate’. In the case of the exception regarding the person for whom a shotgun is carried, that person will require a shotgun certificate instead of a firearm certificate. See para 3.28 et seq for details.

(e) If you hold a visitor’s shotgun permit.17


4.06 Firearms Rules regulating applications for shotgun certificates came into force on 1 September 1998. For general observations about making applications for a firearm certificate, which apply equally to applications for a shotgun certificate, see para 3.53 et seq, ‘How do I get a firearm certificate?’.

4.07 Your reasons for having the gun are not required to be given on your application. This appears to be a strange omission since, as mentioned below, the absence of a good reason will entitle the police to refuse the certificate. Despite this omission, satisfactory reasons will be needed by the police. That said, the threshold to demonstrate good reason for having a shotgun certificate is generally somewhat lower than the corresponding requirement to demonstrate good reason for having a firearm certificate.

4.08 The certificate will list particulars of the shotguns to be covered by it and provide for entries to be made when a gun is transferred (including the identification numbers if known).18

14The term ‘private premises’ is not defined in the Firearms Acts, though the word ‘premises’ includes any land (FA 1968, s 57(4)), and ‘land’ includes land covered with water (IA 1978, s 5 and Sch 1). Contrasting the term with ‘public place’, discussed in Chapter 15, it is suggested that it means any land, water or buildings other than those to which the public are admitted with or without payment.

15It remains for the courts to decide how near to you the occupier must be when you are using a gun. Meanwhile, it is suggested that if the occupier is at your side or perhaps in the same shoot as yourself the condition is fulfilled, but not otherwise. Further, ‘occupier’ ought to include the occupier’s agents, such as a gamekeeper.

16See para 3.48 et seq, ‘Authorised lending of firearms and shotguns on private premises’ for full details.

17FA 1968, ss 7(1), 8(1), 9(1), 11(1), (2), 12(1), 13(1), 54, 57(4); F(A)A 1988, ss 16(1), 17(1),

18(1), 19, 25(1). As to visitors’ shotgun permits, see Chapter 7.

18FA 1968, s 28(2A); Firearms Rules 1998, r 5(6) and Sch 2, Part II.

86 The Firearms Law Handbook

4.09 Except in the cases mentioned in para 4.20, where the police cannot issue a certificate, a certificate will be issued to you if the police are satisfied that you can be...

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