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Recreational shooting

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Recreational shooting

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Recreational shooting can refer to several activities including hunting, participating in shooting competitions, or using firearms as a hobby. Firearm regulations vary widely between countries, or even within countries. Some nations, such as the United States and Switzerland are more permissive, while countries such as Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom have much stricter laws.



Australia's gun legislation is quite restrictive. While firearms laws are regulated by state governments, rather than federal, state laws were largely aligned in 1996 with the National Firearms Agreement, which banned civilian ownership of semi-automatic long guns and pump-action shotguns, and created a comprehensive licensing system for all guns. As such, there is little variation between the gun laws of the individual states. Possession of any firearm requires a license respective to whichever category the particular firearm is appropriate to. The only category of firearms available to the average citizen, generally speaking, is Category A, B, and H.

Firearms are divided into the following categories:

Category A

Rimfire rifles (not semi-automatic or fully-automatic), shotguns (not pump-action, fully-automatic, or semi-automatic), air rifles including semi-automatic, and paintball guns.

Category B

Centrefire rifles including bolt action, pump action and lever action (not semi-automatic or fully-automatic) and muzzleloading firearms made after 1 January 1901.

Category C

Pump-action or self-loading shotguns having a magazine capacity of 5 or fewer rounds and semi-automatic rimfire rifles up to 10 rounds. This class of firearms is heavily restricted, and licenses for this category of firearms are generally not available to the average citizens. The only people who may be licensed for this category of firearms are primary producers, farm workers, firearm dealers, firearm safety officers, collectors and clay target shooters.

Category D

All self-loading centrefire rifles, pump-action or self-loading shotguns that have a magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds, semi-automatic rimfire rifles over 10 rounds. Similar to Category C, this class of firearms is also heavily restricted, and licenses for this category are generally not available to the average citizen. Only government agencies (police, military, etc.), occupational shooters, and primary producers (in some states) are permitted to possess firearms out of this category.

Category H

Handguns including air pistols and deactivated handguns. This class is available to target shooters and certain security guards whose job requires possession of a firearm. To be eligible for a Category H firearm, a target shooter must serve a probationary period of 6 months using club handguns, after which they may apply for a permit. A minimum number of matches yearly to retain each category of handgun and be a paid-up member of an approved pistol club. Target shooters are limited to handguns of .38 or 9mm calibre or less and magazines may hold a maximum of 10 rounds. Participants in certain "approved" pistol competitions may acquire handguns up to .45 calibre, currently Single Action Shooting and Metallic Silhouette. IPSC shooting is approved for 9mm/.38/.357 SIG, handguns that meet the IPSC rules, larger calibres such as .45 were approved for IPSC handgun shooting contests in Australia in 2014, however only in Victoria so far. Barrels must be at least 100mm (3.94") long for revolvers, and 120mm (4.72") for semi-automatic pistols unless the pistols are clearly ISSF target pistols; magazines are restricted to 10 rounds.


The laws governing firearms and other weapons in Europe may be more complicated depending on which European nation you're traveling to. For travelers to member nations of the European Union they may be subject not only to the national laws of their destination, but also local laws and the regulations of the European Union.

United Kingdom[edit]

British gun laws are some of the toughest in the world.

The following firearms are generally prohibited:

  • Fully automatic or burst-fire weapons, which may include some air guns.
  • Semi-automatic or pump-action rifles chambered for above .22 caliber (e.g. Colt AR-15, L1A1)
  • Cartridge ammunition handguns, regardless of calibre
  • Firearms disguised as another item (e.g. walking sticks, mobile telephones, etc.)

Semi-automatic shotguns are restricted to a magazine capacity of no more than two shot and is held under section 2 of the Firearms Act, although a 'multi-shot' shotgun can be owned under section 1 (restricted firearms and ammunition) of the Firearms Act. Where the term 'multi-shot' is used, this refers to either a Semi-automatic or pump action shotgun with no restriction on magazine capacity.

All other rifles and their ammunition are permitted with no limits as to magazine size, to include: target shooting, hunting, and historic and muzzle-loading weapons, as well as long barrelled breachloading pistols with a specific overall length.

Iif a home-owner is threatened firearms may be used in self-defence, so long as the force is reasonable. However, self-defence is not a valid reason to acquire a firearms license.

Shotgun possession and use is controlled, and even low-power air rifles and pistols, while permitted, are controlled to some extent. A Firearm Certificate issued by the police is required for all weapons and ammunition except air weapons of modest power (of muzzle energy not over 12 ft·lbf (16 J) for rifles, and 6 ft·lbf (8.1 J) for pistols). Shotguns with a capacity of three rounds or less (up to guns with a magazine holding no more than two rounds, in addition to one in the chamber) are subject to less stringent licensing requirements than other firearms and require a shotgun certificate; shotguns with higher capacity require a Firearm Certificate.


All firearms have to be licensed and must have a unique identifier. Since the European Union creation, a European Firearm License has been created, allowing regulated and declared firearms to be transported cross-borders. An article about Firearms regulations from the Chateau de Janvry can be found here: How to Travel to France with Firearms.

Firearms are divided into the following categories:

  • Category A: Firearms restricted to law enforcement that cannot be owned by civilians. Includes firearms disguised as another object, select fire firearms, firearms of a caliber greater than 20mm, handguns with a magazine capacity greater than 20 rounds, and rifles and shotguns with a capacity greater than 31 rounds.
  • Category B: Handguns with a capacity of 20 rounds or less, manual operation long guns with a capacity between 11 and 31 rounds, semi-automatic long guns with a capacity between 3 and 31 rounds. Also includes any firearm chambered for the following calibers: 7.62×39mm; 5.56×45mm NATO; 5.45×39mm; .50 BMG; 14.5×114mm.
  • Category C: Manual operation long guns with a capacity of 11 rounds or less, semi-automatic long guns with a capacity of 3 rounds or less.
  • Category D: Pepper spray, blank guns, black powder guns, deactivated guns.

Individuals cannot own more than 12 centerfire firearms, and cannot own more than 10 magazines or 1000 rounds per firearm.


German gun laws are rather restrictive.

A firearms ownership license (Waffenbesitzkarte or WBK), is mandatory for each weapon purchased. It entitles owners to purchase firearms and handle them on their own property and any private property with the property owner's consent. On public premises, a licensed firearm must be transported unloaded and in a stable, fully enclosing, locked container. A weapons ownership license does not entitle the owner to shoot the weapon or carry it on public premises without the prescribed container. Owners must obtain mandatory insurance and a means to securely store the weapon on their premises (a weapons locker). Blanket ownership licenses are issued to arms dealers, firearms experts and – with limitations – to collectors. In 2010 there were about four million legal private gun owners.

The requirements to meet to be issued a license include the following:

  • 18 years of age
  • Trustworthiness
  • Personal adequacy
  • Expert knowledge
  • Necessity

Inheritors of legal firearms can obtain a permit without having to demonstrate expert knowledge or necessity, but without them the firearm has to be blocked by an arms dealer. An inheritor's license does not include the right to acquire or handle ammunition.

Prohibited Persons The following types of persons are prohibited from obtaining gun licenses:

  • Convicted felons
  • Have a record of mental disorder or
  • Are deemed unreliable (persons with histories of drugs/alcohol addiction, and known violent behavior)

Valid Reasons for Obtaining a License A valid reason is needed to obtain a gun license. Self-defense is not an accepted reason, but the following are:

  • Competitive shooting
  • Hunting
  • Collecting and firearms' experts

There are individual requirements in obtaining a license for each of these three disciplines.

Prohibited firearms The following firearms are generally prohibited:

  • Firearms defined as "war weapons" by the law (tanks, rocket launchers, heavy machine guns)
  • Fully automatic firearms
  • Pump-action shotguns, if the stock has been replaced by a pistol grip, or the overall length is less than 95 cm, or the barrel length is less than 45 cm.
  • Firearms designed to look like an everyday object in order to conceal their nature.
  • Handguns made after January 1, 1970 that fire ammunition with a caliber of less than 6.3mm, except those for rimfire ammunition.


Swiss firearm regulations are some of the most permissive in Europe, owing to its tradition of a militia-army. Members of the armed forces may store their personal-issue weapons at their place of residence. For private gun ownership, acquisition, and use, the rules are as follows.

  • Swiss citizens and foreigners with a C permit over the age of 18 who are not psychiatrically disqualified nor identified as posing security problems, and who have a clean criminal record can request a weapon permit. Foreigners with the following citizenship are explicitly excluded from the right to possess weapons: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Algeria and Albania.
  • Permits are NOT required for the purchase/possession of the following guns: Single-shot and multi-barreled hunting rifles and replicas of single-shot muzzle loaders, By the Federal Council designated hand bolt-action rifles, which are commonly used in off-duty and sporting gunnery recognized by the military law of 3 February 1952 and shooting clubs for hunting purposes in Switzerland, Single-shot rabbit slayer, Compressed air and CO2 weapons that develop a muzzle energy of at least 7.5 joules, or may be confused because of their appearance with real firearms
  • Weapons that require a permit include semi-automatic and pump-action firearms (e.g: AR-15, Glock, Remington 870), as well as most other firearms. You can only buy up to three weapons at a time with a single permit. After that one must obtain the same permit again for the next three guns and so on.
  • Full auto firearms, laser sights, sound suppressors, as well as various types of knives are classified as forbidden weapons, but may be owned and purchased with a forbidden weapons permit.
  • Prohibited ammo includes armor-piercing bullets, missiles, and projectiles mean to transfer electric shocks

North America[edit]


Hunting and fishing are big business in Canada and they attract many tourists, especially from the US and Japan. Typically the companies that provide services to hunters can also help customers comply with Canadian laws.

Canadian weapons laws are considerably tighter than the US, though there is less variation between provinces than between US states.

  • The Canadian Firearms Center [1] administers the gun regulations.
  • The firearms center also has a page on import regulations and the necessary forms: [2].

Canadian law regulates firearms into three categories: Prohibited, Restricted, and Non-Restricted.

Prohibited Firearms

  • Handguns with a barrel length inferior to 105 millimeters (4.1 in), or;
  • Handguns that are designed to discharge .25 or .32 calibre ammunition;
  • Rifles and shotguns that have been altered by sawing, cutting or any other means, so that either, the barrel length is inferior to 457 millimeters (18.0 in) (regardless of overall length), or; the overall length is inferior to 660 millimeters (26 in)
  • Firearms which have fully automatic fire capability, or "converted automatics" (i.e.: firearms which were originally fully automatic, but have been modified to discharge ammunition in a semi-automatic fashion)
  • Hundreds of other firearms listed by name, including any variants or modified versions. The list includes shotguns, carbines, rifles, pistols, and sub-machine guns, as well as tasers. Examples are the AK-47, FN-FAL, HK G3, Thompson SMG, MP5 SMG, Uzi, and many others. NOTE: As of May 2020, there have been 1,500 models of firearms that have been added by the Government of Canada to the List of Prohibited Firearms. These include the Ruger Mini-14, the M-14, the VZ-58, the AR-15, and several other makes and models, and all variants thereof.[3]
  • Magazines designed for semiautomatic centerfire rifles that exceed 5 rounds, and pistol magazines that exceed 10 rounds(Magazines designed for manually operated firearms and all rimfire weapons have no limits)

Restricted Firearms

  • Any handgun that is not prohibited (Handguns cannot be non-restricted)
  • Any non-prohibited semiautomatic firearm with a barrel length inferior to 470 millimeters (18.5 in)
  • Any firearm that can be fired when the overall length has been reduced by folding, telescoping, or other means to less than 660 millimetres (26 in)

Non-Restricted Firearms

  • any other rifle or shotgun, other than those referred to above. Includes long guns of all types of function except for fully automatic.

All firearms imported into the country must be accompanied by a Non-resident firearm declaration [4]. Getting an import permit for prohibited weapons is effectively impossible for general sporting activities however, and border agents are required to seize and destroy any that come to the border. The declaration forms are to be brought to the border agent in triplicate. They will not make copies at border so have all the necessary paperwork before you get there. Also: Do not sign the forms until you are with the customs agent. Canadian law requires the signatures be done in the presence of a border agent. It is valid to deny the firearm import if the forms were signed before hand. Once a background check is complete the forms approved by the officer it acts as a temporary possession license for 60 days and allows one to purchase ammunition and import up to 200 rounds.

For restricted weapons there some extra steps. They are only allowed to be used at shooting ranges and are specifically banned from hunting. In addition to the declaration forms, one has to contact the Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) in the province one is going for a 60 day Authorization to Transport (ATT)[5]. This must be done well in advance of a trip. CFO's vary on their willingness to issue ATT's. Some have their own requirements such as a specific range and membership, while others will simply issue it after passing a background check. Once issued the ATT number and expiration date are added to the declaration forms accordingly. In theory, as of September 2015, ATT's are supposed to be a condition of license, and by extension the form, but this remains to be seen.

For transport a firearm, at minimum, must be unloaded and made inoperable by removing the critical parts or being bound by a device (such as a trigger lock). Restricted firearms must also be in a locked sturdy container.

If one wishes to borrow a non-restricted firearm from an outfitter or a licensed Canadian citizen, a separate form can be filled out and sent, in advance, to the CFO of the province in question [6].

If one has a criminal record other than traffic/civil violations or crimes of conscience, border agents have wide discrepancy to deny an firearm import. Those with a criminal record should seek and application directly through a CFO well before even considering entering the country with a firearm.

United States of America[edit]

Having gained its independence through the use of arms, it's no secret why guns are an entrenched feature of American culture. Gun ownership is protected as a constitutional right (2nd Amendment of the Constitution), and gun laws in the United States are some of the most permissive in the world. The country is known globally for its unusually lax attitude towards guns. The purchase and possession of most firearms is legal in most jurisdictions without a permit/license.

Shooting sports such as hunting and competitive shooting are widely practiced. Rifle ranges often offer shooter safety and other classes for beginners.

Anyone who wishes to hunt must first purchase a hunting license valid for the state they will hunt in. Licenses are available at many rural stores or by mail/internet directly from the state. They are usually valid for a set period of time, or a set number of kills.

Foreigners on non-immigrant visas who wish to import guns for hunting or competitive shooting must file Form 6 NIA [7] with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [8], as well as have a valid hunting license. Approval generally takes 6-8 weeks, so plan ahead.

It is only legal in the US for US citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders) to purchase or own firearms without any special permit. Foreigner, who are illegally or unlawfully in the United States, are specifically prohibited from possessing any firearm or ammunition. Foreigners lawfully admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa may possess firearm if they are admitted to the United States for lawful hunting or sporting purposes or are in possession of a hunting license or permit lawfully issued in the United States. Another option is to borrow or rent guns from the shooting range of your choice to shoot on premises. While technically illegal without a valid hunting license, the law is rarely enforced for the average tourist.

Individual US States have a significant say over most of the regulations of firearms within their state. Thus, firearm laws vary widely between states. Travelers will want to check with individual states to make sure other restrictions will not apply to them. While most states do not require licenses to purchase firearms, certain states, such as California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, do. On top of that, several states have "Assault Weapon Bans", laws that restrict military-style semi-automatic firearms such as AR-15's.

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