Scotland’s New Airgun Licence Explained

From 1 January 2017, you will need an Air Weapon Certificate to own or use an airgun in Scotland

From 1 January 2017, you will need an Air Weapon Certificate to own or use an airgun in Scotland. You can apply for one from 1 July 2016

Under the terms of The Air Weapon and Licensing (Scotland) Act, 2015, airgunners in Scotland will need a Scottish Air Weapon Certificate (AWC) to possess or use an airgun from 1 January, 2017.

As part of the shooting community’s awareness campaign – and with the help of BASC Scotland – here’s the latest information we have, laid out in a question-and-answer format…



How do I apply for a Scottish AWC?

If you own any currently licence-exempt airgun – sub-12ft/lb air rifle or sub-6ft/lb air pistol – you must apply to Police Scotland for the new Scottish AWC. Application forms are available from them, or online from here.

How long have I got to apply for my Scottish AWC?

The application process is open from 1 July 2016 and, technically, you have until 31 December 2016 to apply – but we strongly recommend you put in your application prior to 31 October 2016. That is because if you make your application before this date, but do not receive your new Scottish AWC by 1 January 2017, you will still be able to hold – though not use – your airgun. But if you applied during November or December 2016 and are still awaiting your Scottish AWC on 1 January 2017, you will then have to make alternative arrangements to store your airgun(s) in order to stay the right side of the new law.

How easy is it going to be to get granted a Scottish AWC?

The standards expected for the grant of a Scottish AWC will be similar to those for a firearm certificate (FAC), but Police Scotland have indicated the process will be administered “with a light touch”. Your application will require two, identical ‘passport type’ photographs and will need to be countersigned by someone who’s known you for at least two years.

You will not need a police-approved gun safe, nor a high security alarm system installed, although the application form does ask what type of security and storage you have in place. It would be prudent – and in line with The Crime and Security Act, 2010 – to store your airguns in a locked cabinet or room to keep ensure against ‘unauthorised use’, especially if you have minors in (or visiting) your property.

You will need to provide a ‘good reason’ for possessing an airgun, such as target shooting, pest control or collecting. If you simply plink in the garden, the police will need to assess the safety of the land on a case-by-case basis and it may be better to apply now to become a member of an ‘approved’ airgun club.

The same applies if you are a collector, as it’s possible the granting of a Scottish AWC may restrict you to simply owning – not firing – your collection.

If you inherit an airgun, you will either have to hand it in to the police or get a Scottish AWC for it. In some circumstances, Police Scotland will consider issuing a short-term police permit to allow you to sell it. A police permit will not allow you to use the airgun, however.

How much will a Scottish AWC cost?

The Scottish parliament has set the fee of a Scottish AWC at £72, which covers a five-year period. However, in order to help even out future renewal cycles, the new legislation allows for Police Scotland to grant the initial Scottish AWC over a shorter period. In this case, the cost will be pro-rata (and any overpayment will be refunded).

Pro-rata fees will also apply to applicants aged 14, 15, 16 and 17 years (£50, £37.50, £25 and £12.50 respectively); they will then need to apply for a new, five-year Scottish AWC when they reach 18 years of age.

Renewal of a five-year Scottish AWC has been set at £48.

Is there an age limit for the application?

You can apply for a Scottish AWC from age 14. Airgunners under the age of 14 cannot apply for a Scottish AWC; in that event, their normal shooting supervisor should apply.

Will I have to list all my airguns on the certificate?

No – the Scottish AWC licenses the person, not the airguns themselves. Once you have been granted a Scottish AWC, you can own and shoot as many airguns as you wish, subject to their power level not requiring a Section One FAC.

However, you will need to advise Police Scotland of any ‘variations’ from your original application, such as moving address or changing your shooting permission. There is a £20 fee for this.

Will I need a licence if I shoot at an approved airgun club?

No – not if you use the club’s airguns on loan. But if you want to bring your own airgun to use at the club’s target shooting facilities, you will need to be in possession of a Scottish AWC.

I am the secretary of an airgun club. How do I apply for the club to secure ‘approved’ status?

Club secretaries need to apply to Police Scotland after 1st July for a target shooting club’s approval. To be approved, a club must have an up-to-date list of members and at least one safe place to shoot and store the club’s airgun(s). The Scottish parliament has set the club approval grant and renewal fees at £45; it’s £30 for existing shooting clubs looking to secure approval as an airgun club. A copy of the club’s approval must be on display at the venue at all times while shooting is being undertaken.

Do I need a licence to buy airgun ammunition?

No – you just need to be 18 years of age.

Will I need a Scottish AWC for just the ‘component parts’ of an airgun, like a silencer?

Yes. You will need one to own or acquire individual components that are required to fire the airgun – such as a spring, bolt or piston. More general components, like sights or bipods, will not require a certificate, though.

Isn’t it worth simply applying for a full-powered airgun now, on an FAC?

Many Scottish airgunners are considering ‘moving up’ from sub-12ft/lb air rifles now that they have to buy a certificate anyway. If you want to do this, your application to Police Scotland will be subject to the usual criteria, including ‘good reason’. Of course, you cannot own an air pistol with an output greater than 6ft/lb.

I already have a shotgun / firearm certificate. Can I simply add my airgun(s) onto it?

No – the Scottish AWC is an independent licence, and you will need to apply separately for it. However, if you currently hold either an FAC or SGC that expires after 31 December 2016, you don’t have to apply for your Scottish AWC until your current FAC or SGC comes up for renewal. However, if you wish to purchase another airgun before your SGC/FAC renewal date, you would need to make an application for the grant of a Scottish AWC.

I don’t want to buy a licence. What do I do?

Scottish airgunners who decide not to get a certificate will need to dispose of their airguns by 31 December 2016. Police Scotland has 72 centres to which you can take your unwanted airgun should you want to hand it in – but you will get no compensation for doing so. You can find your nearest hand-in station by contacting Police Scotland, or entering your postcode into their website.

Remember: if you choose not to apply for a Scottish AWC, you must not be in possession of any airgun after 31 December 2016. If you are, you could face a two-year jail sentence, hefty fine, or both.

I am a landowner who runs a one-off airgun shooting event every year. How does this affect me?

After 31 December 2016, events like funfairs and gala days with airgun ranges will have to be approved by Police Scotland. The organisers must apply to them for an event permit which allows non-certificate holders to use airguns at a specified place and timeframe. The fee for an event permit is £40 and the permit must be prominently displayed at the event.

I live in England/Wales, but want to bring my air rifle/air pistol with me when I visit Scotland. Does the new law apply to me?

After 31 December 2016, you will need a visitor permit to own, use, purchase or acquire an airgun while in Scotland. These are issued by Police Scotland, and you will need to apply before your planned trip. An individual permit costs £20. Group permits (up to parties of 20) are also available, up to a maximum of £100.

If you currently hold either a firearm certificate (for a live round or high-powered air rifle) or a shotgun certificate that’s valid past 1 January 2017, you’ll be covered by that pro tem – but once it’s expired, you will need to independently apply for a visitor permit specifically for your airgun whenever you want to bring it into Scotland.

What about soft airguns?

The new Scottish AWC only applies to guns which are defined in law as airguns. Soft airguns are exempt (though subject to their own legislation by way of the Violent Crime Reduction Act, 2006).


The UK’s largest shooting associaiton, BASC, has a dedicated FAQ page with further information relating to the new Scottish AWC, here.

For more information on the new airgun legislation, and to make any online applications, visit the Police Scotland’s dedicated airgun website, here.

Well-known airgun authority Nigel Allen is the editor of Britain's award-winning shooting magazine, Airgun Shooter (available worldwide). Email:

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2 comments on “Scotland’s New Airgun Licence Explained
  1. Julian Gordon says:

    Hi All.
    Does the SNP stand for the Scottish National Party or the Scottish Nazi Party?
    Julian Gordon [New Zealand]

  2. Greg says:

    Ho there I have a baby desert eagle which fires 4.5 mm .177 it fires at 420 fps will I require to buy a licence before the 1st of January 2017?

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