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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 find a practical solution.

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

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 caliber 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) and to defer VAT and import duty were appropriate (Inward Processing Relief or IPR).

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 £12 at time of writing, 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!), the consignee's Import License details and, if you are wanting to defer VAT and Duty, the consignee's IPR reference.

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

In fact with items over 100 years old, it can be easier to pay the 5% VAT, which we can be reclaim, 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).

Most firearms 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).

Each country of destination will have its own rules relating to the importation of firearms but if we 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).
[Note that the definition of 'antique' is 2 years different between the UK (pre-1897) and USA (pre-1899)]

Conversely, guns made after 1896 must have an Individual Export License and its associated 'End User Certificate' to be exported from the UK and guns made after 1898 must have a Form 6 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).

The UK export can be simplified by using the facility of an exporter who holds an appropriate Open General Export License but this does not remove the need for an 'End User Certificate' from the foreign purchaser, be they a dealer or end-user. None of the above costs much to achieve, just the patience and time to deal with the paperwork.

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-1896 firearms.

One of the requirements for the issue of an SIEL (or post-1896 OGEL) is a 'permission to import' from the destination country. UK customs will not issue an export license for a firearm until they have evidence of the permission's issue.

Initially this can be in an electronic format but we must have the hard copy eventually.

You will also need to complete an 'End User Undertaking', a letter confirming that you are not a bad person and are not going to subsequently re-export the firearm to a banned country.

Using an OGEL to export post-1896 firearms does not get round the need for this permission so, although the export license is in place in the UK, without the import permission being in place in the destination country, you may not be able to export.

For firearms made after 1896, 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! It is this lead time that makes the use of a post-1896 OGEL so attractive.


The UK authorities do not charge for import and export licenses 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 our workshop, 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.

This is a service that we can usually arrange.

Export from the UK
As the UK has no courier nor mail services that will handle firearms internationally we would 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 imagine, little of the above can be priced up before the individual circumstances are known so we suggest that you contact us for a quotation when the situation arises.

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.


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