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Export & Import


A high proportion of our products find their way out of the United Kingdom to customers abroad.

Those residing in countries within the EU benefit from 'free' passage of goods across borders but usually suffer the indignity of paying VAT on their purchases. However this 'free' trade between EU countries does not extend to firearms and there will always be some level of control on their import and/or export.

The level of control moves up a gear when firearms enter/leave the UK from/to countries outside the EU.

The rules are pretty mind-numbing so the easiest answer is to explain to us what you are trying to achieve and we will try and suggest a practical solution.

However, if you are of an enquiring nature, the following notes attempt to explain the complexities.

Updated June 2018.

Import to the UK

Please be aware that certain types of weapon are banned in the UK with very few exceptions.

These include nearly all breech loading handguns, semi-automatic rifles of any calibre other than .22RF, all fully automatic weapons, all incapacitating sprays, eg. pepper spray.

There are a few exceptions to this but if you are allowed to utilize them, you will probably already know.

To bring a permitted firearm into the UK at any international entry point you must hold a certificate to possess the weapon.

What this means is:

If you hand-carry a firearm through UK customs and you don't have a UK Shotgun Certificate, UK Firearm Certificate or a UK Visitor's Certificate (all of which require the specific firearm to be actually listed) or a Registered Firearm Dealer registration, your firearm(s) will be impounded.

If you ship the firearms through a shipping agent and the final recipient does not have the authority as above, he or she could be in serious legal trouble. The UK authorities take a very dim view of any firearm possessed without the correct authority.

The hand-carrier must also have an import license for the firearm unless he or she is importing the weapon as their personal property, they can prove that they took the firearm out of the UK recently and/or are taking it back out again after their trip.
If not, they may be liable for import VAT and duty on the value of the item.

Heritage Guns is a Registered Firearms Dealer (as all bone-fide businesses in the UK dealing or repairing firearms must be) and is therefore allowed to hold permitted shotguns and rifles for sale or repair.

Furthermore, Heritage Guns has all the necessary documentation to allow us to import permitted weapons into the UK (Open Import License or OIL).

What all this means in practise is as follows:

If you want to hand carry a firearm into the UK, you will need some kind of authorizing certificate. Otherwise you would need to be met at customs by an officially authorized person who can take the firearm into safe keeping as you pass through customs: expensive and easier said than done!

The Visitors Permit can be applied for by any UK Certificate holder on behalf of their visitor. It costs 20 per visitor at time of writing, generally lasts approx. 3 months and takes about an hour to complete the application (done by your sponsor). You will need to provide scans of identification etc. and expect to pay something to cover time, postage etc.

If you want to ship a firearm to the UK, you will need to supply a pro-forma invoice for a realistic valuation of the item (customs are not Muppets!) and the consignee's Import License details.

Otherwise, look forward to the possibility of a long delay and a large bill!

If sending items for repair or renovation from outside the EU that can be documented as over 100 years old, you will pay VAT at 5%, which may be reclaimable by the consignee, and there is no duty. But assume there will be a delay while the charges are calculated, payment made and collection arranged.

Export from the UK

Just because you sent/carried a firearms to the UK, it does not follow that the authorities are going to let you export it again without paperwork.

If you brought the gun in with you on a Visitors Permit, Customs will probably accept that as evidence enough that the gun is your private property but you will need to carry it out again as personal property. However, make sure that it is logged into the customs ledger on arrival as this is the only evidence that you have not purchased it in the UK and therefore now need an export license to take it out.

If for example you leave it behind for repair, unless you travel back to collect it yourself, its shipping back to you will most likely be considered a straight forward export requiring an export license of some sort.

There are two kinds of export license: an Single Individual Export License (SIEL) and an Open General Export License (OGEL).

In the last two years, the OGEL (Historic Military Goods), which had been used to export pre-1897 sporting shotguns for many years, was made useless by the arrival on the export control scene by 'PL9010'. It is apparently still possible to use the OGEL for export of pre-1897 rifles but not shotguns.

So rifles manufactured before 1897 (ie. on or before 31st December 1896) can be exported to many countries under the OGEL (Historic Military Goods) with no more formality than recording the firearms details against the OGEL. One must be registered with the authorities to use the relevant OGEL (Heritage Guns are).

The aforementioned 'PL9010' is the result of EU legislation which attempts to ensure that all firearms exported from the EU have a specific 'permission to import' from the receiving country, ie. it is attempting to tighten up control on the international aims trade, especially the 'black market'. It applies to all firearms manufactured after 1889: amazingly, firearms made before 1890 are not subject to ANY export licencing control. Note: this does not apply to prohibited firearms such as most breech loading pistols, fully automatic weapons etc.

So the outcome of PL9010 is that there is no licence required for the export of a pre-1890 shotgun or rifle but anything manufactured after 1889 must have an SIEL, its associated 'End User Certificate'  and 'Permission to Import' to be exported from the UK.

Now we come to the unforeseen glitch in the EU regulation.

Guns made after 1898 must have a Form 6 (the 'permission to import' required by PL9010) from the US Bureau of ATF and be imported through a FFL (not necessarily an FFL with an importer's license, for more details see the B of ATF Form 6 [see para 3 General Information] or contact us).

However, guns made before 1899 are not considered as firearms by the ATF, they will NOT issue a Form 6 against them and do not require an FFL for import so therefore there is no 'Permission to Import' which PL9010 was designed to enforce!

The UK export licencing authority know this but will still insist upon a 'permission to import' until you patiently explain (for the umpteenth time!) that the USA will not provide one for any firearm manufactured before 1899.

Each country of destination will have its own rules relating to the importation of firearms but if we again take the example of the USA, shotguns made in 1898 or before are treated as antiques and can be imported direct to the purchaser without any import license or the involvement of an FFL (Federal Firearm Licensee).

Organisations in the UK that export regularly to other destination countries and have an established consignee in that country(s) can apply for a OGEL to cover post-1889 firearms.

All the paperwork described above can be initially in an electronic format but you must have the hard copy eventually.

In the case of a post-1889 firearm needing an SIEL, you will also need to complete an 'End User Undertaking', a form confirming that you are not a bad person and are not going to subsequently re-export the firearm to a banned country.

For firearms made after 1889, the duplication of paperwork in the two countries involved can create a long lead time for any export. For example, the lead time on a US Form 6 is 8-12 weeks and the UK SIEL can not be submitted until you have the Form 6. The lead time for the UK SIEL varies but can be 4-8 weeks. We therefore have a possible lead time with an SIEL of up to 5 months!


The UK does not charge for import and export license but the origin or destination country may.

However you should be prepared to pay for the time spent in preparing the applications to the respective authorities.

Import to the UK
You will have to find the method of shipping that most suits your circumstances and depth of pocket.

Ideally you should be looking for an insured service that will deliver direct to the items final destination, otherwise you could be looking at additional costs for collecting the item from the shipper's offices.

If an import into the UK requires a customs broker to prepare the paperwork you should expect to pay between £100 and £150 for their time PLUS VAT and Duty (these vary with the age of the item) as appropriate.

We can recommend several companies that offer this service.

Export from the UK
As the UK has no courier nor mail services that will handle firearms internationally you will have to air or sea freight the item to its destination country.

The cost of this might include UK export license application, destination import license, packing, UK customs entry, shipping, customs clearance in the destination country and then final shipping to the consignee.

As you can see, an individual item exported from the UK can be very expensive. Economies of scale kick in if items can be grouped together but this means delay as the consignment builds.

Please Note: We offer the information above as a guide only to the complexities of import to and export from the UK. We do not generally undertake the import/export of items that are not destined for or originating from our workshop and stock lists. However, we receive a great many enquiries about import/export and we always try to put the enquirer in touch with someone who can help or advise.


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