Clubs and Target Shooting
Unless you are a landowner, or have the permission from a landowner to shoot vermin or larger game with a Section 1 firearm, you will need to join a Home Office approved rifle and/or muzzle-loading pistol club.
This is necessary for you to establish good reason for the possession of such a gun.
Shooting clubs, like all other sports clubs, provide social and legal benefits connected to your sport or chosen discipline, but their main advantage is in the training and knowledge which you will gain during your probationary period. Through this training you will learn to handle guns confidently and be aware of the safety aspects surrounding the sport.
There are clubs of all types which cater for target shooters, muzzle-loaders, practical shotgun users, military collectors and re-enactment groups for every imaginable historical period. Not all of these activities require possession of a firearm certificate, but you will find that the legal complexities make it more favourable to do so. Membership of an approved club will open up all these possibilities to the novice shooter. You will meet many characters in the sport, including experts on not only the technical and historic aspects of firearms, but also uniforms and other associated militaria.
If you merely wish to shoot firearms without the added responsibility of guns being stored at your own premises, you can do so by joining a club which possesses a Club Firearms Certificate. This allows members to use club guns, held on that certificate, without the requirement for them to have a certificate in their own right. However, most people join a club with the intention of obtaining their own personal firearm, held on their own firearm certificate. You will be able to do this on completion of your probationary period as laid down by the club rules.
How do I join a club?
To have shown an interest in this sport you have probably already come into contact with shooters, and this is important. Shooting at the beginner's level is not a sport for the solitary individual. Whether this contact was personal or through sport publications or even the internet, we strongly advise that you join one of the recognised and reputable shooting organisations.
All approved clubs must meet certain criteria to obtain that approval. The matters that affect the new shooter are:
Please be aware that all approved clubs maintain liaison with the police, and will notify the police if any member has not shot or attended the club within the last twelve months.
Home Office approved shooting clubs
Section 44 of The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 makes it a requirement for any person wishing to possess a rifle or muzzle-loading handgun solely for target shooting, to be a member of a Home Office Approved Club.
Section 44 (1)(b) of the same Act requires an approved club to be specified on the holder's firearm certificate. However the certificate does not have to specify all the clubs the holder belongs to, only his principal approved club.
Any rifle, miniature rifle or muzzle-loading handgun club can apply to the Secretary of State, (i.e. Home Secretary via the Home Office), for approval. Approval is granted under Section 15(1) of The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, as amended by Section 45 of The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997.
When a club has such approval, members of that club can possess firearms and ammunition, without holding a personal firearm certificate, "when engaged as a member of that club in target shooting".
Approval also allows a free firearm certificate to be issued, by the police, to a responsible officer of that club, usually the club secretary. This allows him/her to purchase or acquire weapons and ammunition for the use of club members for target shooting. Club members may not purchase or acquire weapons or ammunition unless they hold a personal firearm certificate.
Applying for club Home Office approval
Application for club approval must be submitted on Form 124, obtainable from Police Firearm Licensing Offices or some shooting organisations.
If your club has, or intends to have, its own armoury for the storage of its weapons the application should be sent to the Police Firearms Licensing Office which covers that area. If your club has no storage facilities, then the application should be sent to the Police Firearms Licensing Office covering the area in which the club principally operates.
No fee should accompany your application at this stage. You will be invoiced for the fee, currently £84, on notice of approval.
Applications in England and Wales are forwarded by the police to:
The Home Office
Extent of approval
The Home Office approval will only cover target shooting with the types of firearms listed in the approval. There are three possible categories:
In exceptional circumstances the Home Secretary may allow some variation of the criteria or the conditions of approval. However, he must be satisfied that it would be reasonable to do so in the exceptional circumstances prevailing.
Criteria for Home Office approval
The following criteria must be satisfied before a club can be granted approval. Once granted, the same criteria become conditions of continued approval, which can be withdrawn if a club, at any time, fails to meet these conditions.
If approval is granted, the approval will be subject to a set of standard conditions which will reflect the approval criteria listed above. In certain cases, the Secretary of State may attach further specific conditions to a club's approval, as he sees fit.
Variations in the terms of the criteria for approval
In exceptional circumstances, it is possible for the Home Secretary to allow some variation of the criteria, or the conditions of approval. However, he must be satisfied that it would be reasonable to do so in the exceptional circumstances which prevail.
Extending or renewing club approval
Applications for club approval to be extended to cover additional categories of firearms should be made on Form 124, and submitted to the same Police Licensing Authority that dealt with your existing approval application.
No fee is payable for such applications.
Approval lasts for six years. Applications for renewal should also be made on Form 124 and submitted as above. A fee of £84 is payable, for which you will be invoiced on approval.
Cheques, drawn on a branch of a UK bank, should be made payable to:
Cadet Corps and School Clubs
The Secretary of State approves cadet corps for possession of firearms and ammunition under section 54(5)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968, (as amended by Section 28 of the Armed Forces Act 1996).
The information contained in these pages does not apply to cadet corps, nor to school rifle clubs. For further information on these two categories, contact the Home Office at:
The Home Office
Guidance on the Criteria
The club must be a genuine rifle and/or muzzle-loading pistol club set up for the purpose of target shooting. The club's constitution should implement the conditions of approval.
Club officials should be responsible people who are not disqualified from being in possession of firearms.
Clubs must make their own arrangements for assessing whether or not prospective members are of good character. Police Firearms Licensing Departments should not be asked to disclose whether or not someone has a criminal record. Prospective members should not be required to apply for a firearm or shotgun certificate as a means of determining good character. Firearm certificates are not normally issued to someone just because they are a probationary member of a club.
Club Liaison Officers should normally be a member of the club committee. He/she should establish contact with the local police Firearms Licensing Officer and agree what information should be supplied and at what frequency. They should also set up a system so that the liaison officer can contact the firearms licensing officer as often as is necessary, and vice versa.
The attendance register should be kept for all shooting members of the club, although its principal use will be in relation to those members who hold firearm certificates. This is to comply with Lord Cullen's recommendations that shooters should not have firearms on their certificates which are not used regularly. For this reason it will be necessary to record, in the register, the description of the firearms used, as given in the members firearm certificate. All visiting shooters should also be logged in the same way. In the case of competition shoots between clubs, the responsibility for recording the attendance of a team member will lie with the club that the shooter represents. In the case of open competitions, the organising club will record details of competitors. Clubs should retain their attendance records for a minimum of six (6) years.
The police should be informed within one month of the cessation of any club membership. Notifying the police when a firearm certificate holder's membership has ceased, or when such a member has not shot with the club for a period of twelve (12) months, will allow the police to check whether the individual is still using his/her firearms regularly at another club or approved range. The period of twelve (12) months should be calculated separately for each individual member.
Casual membership enquiries need not be reported - only those which reach the stage of a formal application. The police should be informed when an application for membership is submitted formally to the club, and its outcome.
Whether a prospective member has ever had an application for a firearm or shotgun certificate refused, or had a certificate revoked, should form the basis of a question on the club's membership application form. There are many reasons for refusal or revocation, and not all will count against an individual with regard to his application for club membership. Clubs should therefore ascertain the reason for refusal/revocation in order to make an informed decision.
There are three (3) categories of approval: Full-bore Rifle, Small-bore Rifle and Muzzle-loading Pistol. Rifles chambered for pistol ammunition above .22 rim-fire are regarded as full-bore rifles. Clubs seeking approval in order to use such rifles will therefore need to have access to a range with a suitable safety certificate. The national associations are able to provide advice on the construction and use of ranges. Clubs which are affiliated to the National Small-bore Rifle Association or the National Rifle Association will be able to obtain a safety certificate for their ranges from the Ministry of Defence.
The security arrangements for the storage of firearms must be satisfactory to the local Chief Officer of Police, acting through the force Firearms Licensing Department.
The ban on "day" or "temporary" membership is to stop casual shooters being able to come in off the streets and shoot. It should not be confused with properly organised guest days, competition shoots between clubs or competitions open to individuals who are not members of that club.
Examples of recognised outside organisations, whose members may be guest members of approved rifle and muzzle loading pistol clubs, are Scouts and Guides, schools, Rotary Clubs and Women's Institutes. The duty to notify the police of guest days is laid on the club secretary, although this may be delegated to their club liaison officer.
A probationary period of three (3) months is a minimum for new members. It is open to clubs to set a longer probationary period should they see fit, either as a standard practice or to extend the probationary period of an individual if it is deemed necessary. The club may end a probationer's membership at any time.
Recognised coaching qualifications for the purpose of Home Office criteria for approved clubs are:
Great Britain Target Shooting Federation
National Rifle Association
National Small-bore Rifle Association
The Muzzle-Loaders Association of Great Britain
The National Associations are able to give advice on safety training courses for probationary members.
Although the probationary period may be waived in certain circumstances, the individual concerned has no right to insist on this. It is for the club to decide whether or not the probationary period should be waived or not for an individual, considering all the circumstances.
The Secretary of State may, in exceptional circumstances, allow a club to have more probationary members than full members. This may be appropriate for example, at a university club at the beginning of an academic year.
Clubs can have non shooting categories of membership such as associated, family, social or honorary memberships. Such members are not covered by Section 15 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 (as amended), and must not have access to firearms or ammunition, except as participants on a guest day.
Further information can be obtained from your local Police Firearms Licensing Department, or:
In England and Wales
National shooting organisations.
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