|Obtaining your FAC|
To own a rifle in the UK you need a Firearm Certificate, usually known as an FAC (or simply a 'ticket' by shooters). You must have what the Police call 'good reason' to own that particular rifle and this can be for either target shooting or pest control/deer stalking. There are other categories such as the collecting of historically significant firearms but I won't go into that here.
To obtain a rifle or rifles for target shooting you must join a Home Office approved shooting club. You cannot join immediately but must attend for a probationary period, usually three or six months. If after your probationary period, the other club members think you are safe and serious about shooting you will allowed to join and can apply for your FAC.
To be granted a rifle for shooting animals you must be able to prove that you have land on which you are permitted to shoot. Usually, in the case of pest control, a letter of permission from the farmer or landowner stating that you have his permission and stating what you can shoot is sufficient. It is often also useful to provide an Ordnance Survey map with the various boundaries marked out. For a first time application you will probably only be granted rimfire calibres such as .22 LR or .17 HMR. If you prove to be safe and keen, you can think about applying for bigger calibres such as .223 Rem or .204 Ruger after a year or two. Of course, the Police are reasonable, if you can prove you have grown up on a farm and have been handling guns under supervision for years, they may take a more flexible view.
Deer stalking is more awkward. You would probably be best to go on several accompanied stalks, either commercial or with a highly experienced friend. The Police would probably then grant you an FAC for a stalking rifle but still stipulate that you must be mentored or accompanied for a year or two until you can prove that you are 'experienced'.
It is a bit of a slog applying for your FAC but it is well worth doing. Primarily, you need to have a clean record with the Police. Any serious convictions will rule you out. Minor convictions and minor traffic offences are probably OK but you must be HONEST. the whole point is to prove to the Police that you are trustworthy and safe to possess firearms. If your record is clean, you must have an approved rifle cabinet bolted to a secure wall, 4 passport photographs, two people of good standing to act as personal referees, a cheque for £50 (£60 if you are applying for a shotgun certificate at the same time), alot of patience filling in the forms and some good biscuits in the cupboard. Once your forms get to the Police, they will make an appointment to come to your house and talk to you. They will check your cabinet and have a chat with you to check your suitability - this is where the biscuits come in. If they approve your application, your FAC should arrive within a few weeks.
The rule book
The information the Police refer to run the firearm licensing system is published by The Home Office and the current version is called the '2002 Firearms Law Guidance to the Police' and is available on the downloads page. If you ever have a mental query about licensing or are stuck for advice, it is well worth a read.
Remember, if you stick to the rules, shooting is an absorbing, highly social, satisfying and safe pastime. It can also be horribly, horribly expensive - ENJOY!