Firearm certificates: do you know what type you have?
A ticket’s a ticket, right? Wrong! Rod Greenwood takes a closer look at the details – and the responsibility they put on the holder
They say that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and this is particularly true when it comes to firearms certificates (FACs). It is surprising the number of FAC holders that do not know what type of certificate they have or what it permits them to do. This can unfortunately lead to inadvertent breaches of conditions, which could ultimately result in revocation of the FAC. FACs are granted throughout England by firearms licensing departments for the various police constabularies. On the whole, FACs will be assessed and granted in line with the Home Office’s Guide to Firearms Licensing Law, April 2016. However, because each chief constable is ultimately responsible for firearms issues within his or her patch, additional (non-standard) conditions may be applied. There are effectively two types of FAC: ‘Restricted/Closed’ and ‘Open’.
It is likely that the first FAC you will be granted will be a Restricted/Closed variant. So what does that mean? Well, a Restricted/Closed FAC restricts you to shooting on certain pieces of ground that have been approved by the police for particular calibres and where you have lawful authority to shoot.
Restricted/Closed FACs can usually be identified by similar wording to the following: ‘The calibre rifle/combination/smooth-bore gun/sound moderator and ammunition shall be used for shooting vermin such as fox, ground game, deer and any other lawful quarry, and for zeroing practice on ranges, on land deemed suitable by the chief officer of police for the area where the land is situated and over which the holder has lawful authority to shoot’.
It is the responsibility of the certificate holder to ensure that the ground he/she intends to shoot on has been approved by the police for the calibre in question.
Your first FAC may have an additional condition that requires you to be accompanied by a mentor while out shooting until such time that he or she feels that you have developed sufficient experience to go solo. A mentor will be an experienced firearms user, who is in possession of an Open FAC.
One of the pitfalls of a mentoring condition is that the Restricted/Closed certificate holder may inadvertently breach their conditions by accompanying the mentor onto ground that has not been deemed suitable by the chief officer of police for the calibre they are using. Remember, the Restricted/Closed condition applies wherever the holder goes. To overcome this, the Restricted/ Closed FAC holder should take the mentor out on ground that they know to be approved and they have lawful authority to shoot over.
‘Your first FAC may have an additional condition that requires you to be accompanied by a mentor while out shooting’
The ‘lawful quarry’ amendment So what about the ‘any other lawful quarry’ section and why is it important to have it? In 2012/13, the national lead of the UK Firearms Explosives Licensing Working Group (FELWG) and chief constable of Hampshire Constabulary, Andy Marsh, decided that there was too much administrative burden in firearms licensing and that standardisation should be applied across all licensing departments.
In October 2013, a revision of the Home Office’s Guide on Firearms Licensing Law was published, which included the ‘any other lawful quarry’ (AOLQ) condition. AOLQ permits a certificate holder to shoot any quarry that is lawful (where they are authorised to shoot).
While guidance is provided on appropriate calibres for specific quarry, it is the responsibility of the shooter to know what calibre is suitable for which quarry, and when certain quarry is lawful. This includes the need to obtain or rely upon a licence from the relevant licensing authority to permit the shooting of protected species.
For example, if a certificate holder wanted to shoot a protected species and didn’t have the AOLQ condition, they would have to submit their certificate (including any licence) to their firearms licensing department to have a specific amendment added. Thankfully, most firearms licensing departments have now adopted AOLQ as standard and will amend certificate renewals with this condition. Open certificates
Open FACs are usually what most holders strive for, as this variation to their certificate permits them to shoot on any land where they have lawful authority. Open FACs are granted to those who have demonstrated competence with particular firearms and the Home Office has made it very clear in its guidance that the time a certificate is held should not be a factor in deciding whether to open someone’s FAC and that each case should be considered on its individual merits.
Some Restricted/Closed FAC holders wrongly think that once their mentoring condition has been removed, they have an Open variation – this mistake is when inadvertent breaches often occur, so be careful to check your certificate carefully.
Open FACs can usually be identified by similar wording to the following: ‘The calibre rifle/ combination/smooth-bore gun/sound moderator and ammunition shall be used for shooting vermin such as fox, ground game, deer and any other lawful quarry, and for zeroing practice on ranges, on land over which the holder has lawful authority to shoot’.
In some cases, a holder may be granted an Open variation on his/her rimfire calibre/s but not on the centrefires. Make sure you check the conditions carefully before adopting a different approach to your shooting.
Not all holders need to have their FACs opened up as they only ever shoot on one piece of land, such as gamekeepers.
Make sure you know which calibres are legal for your quarry Some restrictions might stipulate shooting from a high seat
Some restrictions demand that you shoot with a mentor
Training and experience may help to secure an Open ticket
The type of shooting you do may determine the type of FAC you are granted