The starting point for any use of your shotgun or rifle is your Shot Gun or Firearm Certificate.Â It is good practice to check your Certificate if you are doing something out of the ordinary such as travelling.
All Certificates have Standard Conditions.Â These vary from one Police force to another and generally present no problems as far as travelling is concerned.Â There is also a section for Additional Conditions on the Certificate.Â In the case of Shot Gun Certificates, this is usually left blank but in the case of Firearm Certificates, further conditions are frequently imposed.Â Before travelling it is best practice to carefully check that your Certificate has no Condition (either Standard or Additional) that imposes a restriction on handling your gun: for example, travelling to another county or to another country to use it for a lawful purpose there.
The next step is to look at the Firearms Act 1968 (as amended) and see whether it has anything to say about what you propose to do with your gun and the journey that you need to undertake to conduct that activity.
It is imperative that when travelling you remember that under the Firearms Act there is no â€œnotice to produceâ€ procedure. If you are way from home with your rifle or shot gun you must have your Firearm or Shot Gun Certificate with you at all times.
Travelling Within England and Wales
England and Wales are one legal jurisdiction.Â Broadly speaking there are no restrictions preventing you from using your shotgun or rifle lawfully anywhere in England and Wales as long as your Certificate contains no prohibitions to the contrary.
Travelling To and From Scotland
Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and is an important destination for field sportsmen: especially for game shooting (both driven and walked up), stalking and wildfowling.Â There are no restrictions on travel into and out of Scotland for other UK Shot Gun and Firearm Certificate holders.Â It has a separate legal system and this must be complied with.
Travelling To and From Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is also part of the United Kingdom but has a completely separate, yet similar, legal system, based on the Common Law.Â There is some shooting and stalking to be had in Northern Ireland and field sportsmen are an important element of Irelandâ€™s tourism industry.Â Shot guns can be taken into and out of Northern Ireland without undue difficulty.Â There is a rather greater level of sensitivity about rifles however. Before travelling to Northern Ireland,Â a valid Certificate of Approval must be obtained in respect of your gun from the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Travelling To and From The Republic of Ireland
With its rural background, Ireland has a strong tradition of shooting and stalking which draws many visitors to its shores for these sporting purposes. British Firearm and Shot Gun Certificate holders wishing to travel to Ireland with their own gun, must first obtain an Irish Firearm Certificate and a valid European Firearms Pass.
Travelling To and From The Rest of Europe
If you want to shoot in France or Spain or Italy or Germany or elsewhere in Europe, you need to check with the Embassy of the destination country, ascertain what the law and practice is and then comply strictly with whatever you are told.
Travelling To and From The Rest of The World
As for the rest of Europe; if you want to travel with your gun and use your gun there, it is sensible to find out what the local law is and then make sure that you comply with it to the letter once you are there.
Methods of Transport
Personal transport (i.e. your own or a friendâ€™s car) is the least problematic.Â Subject to the considerations set out above there are no additional difficulties.Â However, you must either have your gun with you at all times or it must be fully secured if you leave it in your car.Â It is best if the car has a secure, locked box or case containing the gun or guns bolted or chained to the car.Â Alternatively, that the gun is in a separate locked box or case.Â Where possible shotgun forends or rifle bolts ought to be removed and kept separately or if possible with you.Â It is sensible (and may be a legal requirement), that ammunition is kept apart.Â Rifle ammunition must always be kept in a separate, locked box.Â There may be limits as to amount: either weight or the number of rounds.Â It is best that the gun is at least secured with a security cord attached to the vehicle if there are no lockable boxes or cases available.
If you leave the vehicle and there is no special secure place in the vehicle for the gun you must take it with you, in a suitable slip or case, so that the gun is not visible to members of the public and presents no source of alarm to them. This is an interesting thing to do in a motorway service station!
Travelling by train within the UK presents no particular problems.Â If you are concerned check with the train company before departing, but at present all National Rail service providers are happy for passengers to travel with lawful firearms and shot guns as long as they have their Firearm Certificate or Shot Gun Certificate with them. The National Rail Standard Conditions of Travel make it clear that when travelling by train with your gun it must not be loaded and it must be in a case or sleeve.
The position is more complicated if your journey involves a sea passage.Â At present the following ferry companies allow passengers to bring rifles and shotguns with them as long as they are fully secure in locked boxes or without forends or bolts or are otherwise incapable of being fired: Caledonian MacBrayne, Sea France, P & O, Brittany Ferries, B & I, Stena and DFDS Seaways (Norfokline).
The ferry providers do each have a slightly different procedure for the transport of guns and their ammunition. However, they all reserve the right to refuse the shipment of guns and request that you declare the intention to travel with your gun with your booking. All persons will be expected to hand over the gun and the ammunition each locked in its own container for the duration of the journey.
The real problems start when travelling by air.Â Many carriers will not permit anyone to bring any gun onto their aircraft and nowadays this is the default position.Â If your journey involves flying you must check before booking, adhere to any special terms and make sure that your rifle or shotgun is adequately mentioned on the ticket: the person who accepts your booking and your money will almost never be one and the same as the person who checks you onto the flight and receives your luggage.
At present the following air carriers will accept rifles and shotguns on their flights on strict terms: British Airways, Virgin, Easyjet, Flybe, AirFrance allow for the carriage of guns and ammunition but each airline has a different procedure when declaring and checking in your gun. To avoid disappointment, the best practice is to call the service provider to advise you prior to departure and as stated when booking.
Security when you reach your destination is also an issue.Â It is best to use a hotel or guest house which has a dedicated fully secure gun safe or gun room.Â If it does not have either of these, the hotel safe may do but you must keep the ammunition with you and must make sure that the gun cannot be fired by either removing the forend or taking out the bolt. Alternatively the gun may be secured with a cable or trigger lock.Â If you arrive and the promised firearms safe or secure gun room is not available it is best to keep the gun with you but dismantle it and separate the parts so that no one else can use it.
Once you arrive and all is well, just relax and enjoy your shooting or stalking holiday.
Richard Atkins is a partner in Knights Solicitors.Â He specialises in licencing work, including application and appeals under the Firearms Act 1968.