Shot Gun Certificate

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Before you're allowed to fire a musket as part of a Fairfax event, you will have to have a Shot Gun Certificate and a Certificate to Acquire Explosives. Until you have these you may be able to carry a musket in a battle or a skirmish but you won't be able to fire it. That isn't usually a problem because there will be enough people around you making enough noise to make sure that the public won't realise that you're not actually firing. In reality, taking part in a few events as a non-firer will help to prepare you for the time when you can start making a noise.

SHOT GUN CERTIFICATE

You will have to apply to your local Police force for a Shot Gun Certificate. The usual source for an application form is the firearms unit and staff at your local Police station will tell you where to find them. You may even be able to download a form for your area from the Web. The process is that you send the form with the fee (currently around £50.00) and two passport-style photos, one of which must be certified in much the same way as a passport photo. A firearms officer will usually visit you at home, assuming that is where you plan to keep the musket and will want to see where you intend to store it when you acquire one. He or she may also want to see proof of your membership of Fairfax Battalia. Forces vary in their approach to storage: some insist on a full-blown gun cabinet while others are satisfied if it is chained to a brick wall. Once you have the licence you can then acquire a musket. When you do this you must tell the firearms unit and usually the firearms officer will come to visit again to make sure that the storage is as required.

The questions on the current form are simple but you will need two passport-style photographs and one of them has to be certified in much the same way as a passport photograph.

The application form refers to firearms in addition to Shot Guns: these are rifles and hand guns and you will not need a certificate to own one of those. The only part that you need to concern yourself with is the Shot Gun.

At the time of writing, the current form seems to have been simplified. In the past, it asked about the type of gun and the answer to that would have been 'Black powder, muzzle-loading musket'. It asked when and where used and the answer was 'At various organised English Civil War historical re-enactment events throughout the year'. It also asked about ammunition and the answer was 'No ammunition is required, the musket is only to be used for firing blanks'.

Once you have the certificate, then you will be able to acquire a musket. However, you must remember to bring your certificate and your Explosives Certificate to every event with you. Without it, the powder officer will be unable to issue you with powder.

EUROPEAN FIREARMS PASS

If you are going to be taking your musket to events abroad, you will need to have a European Firearms Pass. In most forces, you can get one of these at the same time as applying for your Shot Gun Certificate by including a letter asking for a pass with the certificate application. If you already have a Shot Gun Certificate and want to apply for a pass, contact your local firearms unit. In Staffordshire, all that is needed is to send an email requesting a pass. The email needs to include your name, date of birth and certificate number. If you have more than one weapon on your Certificate the email must include the serial number of the gun to be covered by the pass. The firearms unit also requires wording in the email that gives them permission to use one of the spare passport photographs they have of the holder of the Certificate. There is no charge for the pass in Staffordshire but procedure and the costs may vary in other forces.

When you travel abroad, remember that your musket must be in a shotgun bag with the gun's number attached to the outside of the bag in large figures.

CERTIFICATE TO ACQUIRE EXPLOSIVES

This is usually referred to as a black powder (or just a powder) licence and most people apply for one at the same time as they apply for a Shot Gun Licence. That is because, without a powder licence, you cannot be issued with powder at an event. Again, the application form comes from the firearms unit at your local Police force and the first part of it is straightforward.

The second part contains questions that you may have difficulty with. The questions vary from one force to another but the examples below are taken from the Metropolitan Police application form.

'Dates between which the explosives certificate is required': usually the powder licence runs for more or less the same length of time as the Shot Gun Certificate.

'Total number of acquisitions to be made during this period': Answer this by writing 'Various times throughout the period.'

'Purpose for which the explosives are required': Answer this by writing 'Controlled displays at organised English Civil War historical re-enactment events.'

'Place(s) where the explosives are to be used': Answer this by writing 'Various locations where re-enactment events take place.'

'Amount of explosives required on any one occasion': Answer this by writing 'Less than 20 grammes.'

'Please state below how any unused explosives are to be disposed of': this will be by returning any unused explosives to the designated powder officer at the event.

VISIT BY FIREARMS OFFICER

Some firearms officers are knowledgeable about matchlock muskets and re-enactors in general while others rarely encounter them and, as a result, are very wary. What they want is to see that you are a responsible individual and that the organisation is known and trusted. In conversation, emphasise the fact that you will be trained in the use of the weapon and that there is a great emphasis on safety. At an event, the process is that the designated powder officer will check licenses, require a signature and will then issue powder. In the early stages, you will have only enough powder to fill the 12 flasks on your bandolier. If you have any powder left at the end of the display, you will be expected to return it to the powder officer as soon as possible.

CERTIFICATE TO ACQUIRE AND KEEP EXPLOSIVES

You are unlikely to need this type of certificate for some time, but, if you want to get one, the application form is usually the same as that to acquire but not keep explosives: you simply have to complete different parts of the form. In addition you will need to demonstrate that the powder will be kept in safe and secure conditions. Generally this means in a lockable, solid box that is chained to a brick wall in an outhouse or garage.

If you can acquire and keep powder you will also need a licence to transport it from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). You can apply for this online although you will need to make copies of your licences and send them to the HSE. One point to note is that if you do not have one of these licences and the route between the plastic camp at an event and the battlefield passes across or along the public highway, your loaded bandolier will have to be carried by somebody who has a licence to transport powder.

OWNING A MUSKET

You may decide to buy your own musket or you might be able to borrow one from your regiment.

You can buy muskets second-hand and good guns will probably cost from around £200.00. If you want to buy a new one, it will probably cost in excess of £300.00. If you want to buy your own gun, ask for advice from somebody in Fairfax: the best place to start is with the commanding officer of your own regiment. Resist the temptation to grab something you see advertised at a bargain price because it may be entirely inappropriate.

When you collect your musket, whether it's on loan or you're buying it, you will need to take your Shot Gun Certificate with you. There is a section on the Certificate that has to be completed by the person you get the gun from, showing details of the gun and of the person who has transferred it to you and they have to sign it.

Remember that when you acquire your first gun you must tell the firearms unit that issued your Shot Gun Certificate so that they can come out and make sure that it is being stored as agreed.

When you dispose of a musket, you have to be satisfied that the person you are transferring it to has a valid Shot Gun Certificate and you need to read the section dealing with transferring a musket. (In Staffordshire this is headed 'Instructions to anybody who sells, lets on hire, gives or lends firearms or ammunition, to the holder of this certificate'.) You must then follow the instructions to the letter.

FURTHER ADVICE

If you need to know anything else about owning a musket, ask.