- Updated 17-8-2018 with the ‘FAQ Section’
- Updated 18-10-2018 with renewal info
- Updated 18-2-2019 with Theory/Practical Combination
- Updated 29-5-2019 with Endorsement Details
- Updated 25-11-2020 with new application form details
Why would you want a Firearms Licence?
I have learnt, over a few years, that the reasons for a new shooter to get a firearms licence is as varied as the owners themselves. People from all age groups, races, religions, social economic groups and more own and use firearms regularly.
However, there are three core (and one extra) reasons people decide to undertake the path to responsible firearms ownership.
Certainly, for the majority of firearms licences issues in New Zealand, the main reason is to purchase and use a firearm as a tool for the hunting of animals. Though, the actual reason people hunt is varied and wide and includes…
- Tradition – there are more than a few third or fourth generation hunters in NZ
- Economics – for some, if they don’t hunt their meat, there isn’t meat to be had.
- Traceability – a modern drive towards, sustainable, organic meat harvest
- Fun – it’s a reason to get outdoors, to explore the bush and come back with something
There is a healthy, and growing sports shooting community in NZ as well. Many disciplines are small enough that you may not be aware of them – but just do a little digging, and you find something that appeals.
I personally got into the path of firearms ownership via hunting, but quickly diverted into competitive pistol shooting for a couple of years before returning back to the long-guns (rifles) and headed into long-range field shooting competition.
There is also a large community of both antique and modern firearms collectors in New Zealand. This is probably the most controlled class of firearms ownership, with very strict controls in regards to traceability and security. But, if you are driven to build a collection of pre-WWII personal sidearms from a specific region in the world, for example, you can do it in New Zealand.
And, of course, plenty of people just enjoy owning and shooting firearms. It’s a great hobby, that anyone (anyone fit and proper to do so) can get into easily.
Who needs a firearms licence?
Anyone who wants to legally own and use (without supervision) firearms in New Zealand needs to have a Firearms Licence. Unlike some other places in the world, New Zealand licences its population to own a firearm. Once deemed fit and proper, we can go out and purchase firearms as we like. With some exceptions (some firearms require additional endorsements) most firearms are owned through this process.
If you just want to try out shooting a gun – you may not need a licence. Anyone can use an A category (refer further down) firearm without a licence if they are under the direct supervision of a licence holder. Anyone can also shoot pistols (B Category) on an approved pistol range, again, under the direct supervision of a licence holder.
If you are interested in checking out and maybe even shooting a gun – I strongly suggest you get in touch with a local club (check out our resource list here) – most are more than willing to get you out and have a go. If you are in Auckland – get in touch with me1 as I am more than happy to help facilitate interested parties in having a go.
It should be noted that airguns are covered under firearms law – there are age restrictions that require a licenced holder, and not everything can be owned. I don’t claim to know all the details – I would suggest you consult with the Police or your local airsoft/paintball/airgun club on that one.
Who can get a firearms licence?
Anyone over the age of 16 can apply for their New Zealand firearms licence.
Visitors to New Zealand, who are planning on staying less than a year, are recommended to instead apply for a visitors licence.
In July/August 2018, the process of applying and obtaining a New Zealand Firearms Licence changed. Until then, there had never been a practical component of the firearms licence testing. Now, it is a combination of a theory test (understanding the law) and a practical course (showing basic firearms handling competency).
Essentially though, when you apply for a licence, you will be assessed for your suitability to own and use firearms. It’s a big responsibility. As I often say to people, firearms owners are some of the few people in New Zealand that have officially been recognised as ‘fit and proper people’ by the New Zealand Police and Government.
Download and Pay for the firearms licence
You are reading this on the internet, so download the form from here, and fill it in. Then you need to pop into a PostShop, pay the licensing fee and get a receipt. The cost of a new firearms licence is $126.50, with endorsements being another $204.
Get some passport photos, submit the application
The photo has the same requirements as a passport – many chemists will be able to help you out here. You need two of them if physically submitting the application, otherwise, you need a digital file.
Once you have gathered all the required info/documents – the new preference is to upload the application form over here. This includes the photo file, a scan of payment receipt and your identification documents.
If you are unable to upload the files then, take the application form and ID, the receipt of payment, the two photos and pop into your local police station. Say hello to the nice folks behind the counter, and hand in your application.
The background check
The police will undergo a background check to ascertain if you have any major issues or history that may preclude you from having a firearms licence. Once this is done, they will send you a letter to let you know all is well and its time to go through the Firearms Safety Program.
The Firearms Safety Program
This is where the new system diverts from the previous. There are two parts. A theory test and a new practical assessment.
The Theory Test
Download, or get a copy of the New Zealand Arms Code from your local police station. Study it, learn it, memorise it. While to be blunt, you won’t need to retain all of its contents – the theory test is a test of your understanding and comprehension of that document. Then, pop over and go through an online quiz to see how you are getting on.
Also – now is a really good time to mention these as well…
The Seven Rules of Firearms Safety
- Treat every firearm as loaded
- Always point firearms in a safe direction
- Load a firearm only when ready to fire
- Identify your target beyond all doubt
- Check your firing zone
- Store firearms and ammunition safely
- Avoid alcohol or drugs when handling firearms
Firearms Safety Course
From 1 March 2019, the Firearms Safety Course will be a three and a half hour session delivered by firearms instructors from the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council at venues across the country.
Once you have received the confirmation letter from the Police (having already submitted the application) then you can pop over here and book – https://www.firearmsafety.org.nz/
Firearms Theory Test
30 minutes to answer a multi-choice scratchy. It’s easy, if you have read the Arms Code.
If you don’t get it done the first time around, after the course, you get to try again.
Fail again, it’s noted, and you likely need to sit down with an Arms Officer and have a chat.
Firearms Practical Training
The firearms practical training course is a two-hour session delivered by firearms instructors from the Mountain Safety Council (I am one of them – if you book in Point Chev in Auckland, you are likely to meet me there) at venues across NZ.
The point of this training is to give you some hands-on time with firearms, and an opportunity to learn and practise the basic, core safety principles in regards to handling firearms.
When you turn up (be on time!) you will need to bring:
- Your letter from the NZ Police saying you can undertake the Firearms Safety Program
- Proof of identity such as a drivers license or passport (something with photo ID ideally)
- DONT – bring any firearms or ammo (for a start, you don’t have a firearms licence, and disabled firearms are provided)
The course will take approximately three hours and cover off:
- The Teory Test
- Safety precautions and general handling skills with different types of firearms
- Safe carriage of firearms, including checking the firearm is safe and placing or removing it from a rifle carry bag, transit case or a vehicle
- States of readiness (load, action, instant, unload)
- There is no live firing of firearms in this course.
Nearly there! Now for the interview.
The final step in the process is the interview with a Police Arms Officer. At this time, they will also check your security measures are in place.
Remember, don’t panic. The person that comes out to see you will be just that. A person, a fellow human being. Treat them as such. They have likely heard every answer that anyone could come up with already. It’s their job to ascertain your suitability to own and shoot firearms. They are nice folk, doing there job. Offer them a cup of tea or coffee, make them comfortable, and you will have no issues. Go into it defensively, and don’t be surprised if you get an equal reaction.
A lot can be said about Gun Security – and it’s important to recognise New Zealand has some of the best requirements in the world. However, can I please request you go above and beyond – and don’t just do enough to scrape through. If you have to ask ‘is it enough’ – then it probably should be better. Just IMHO, of course.
After you get your licence
This should just be the beginning of your journey into firearms training and education. By that, I mean, you should seriously consider getting in touch with a local club or organisation and go and learn more from experienced people. Even if you have already handled firearms (in another country, growing up, in the military) – there is plenty to gain and understand about the local culture by joining a club.
Endorsements (pistols, collectors, dealers)
This has changed a lot recently.
I personally, used to have my A, B, D, E licences. The E not longer exists, and I may get my B back next year. But, what do they actually mean?
- Pistols (B endorsement) – yes, you can own and shoot handguns in NZ
- A collection of pistols or restricted weapons (C Collectors or Museum endorsement)
- Pistols or restricted weapons for performing a play/film/re-enactment (C Theatrical endorsement) – you know all the guns they have in movies?
- Dealers Licence – the ability to buy and sell firearms for commercial gain (D Licence )
- Military-style semi-automatic rifles or shotguns (E endorsement) – NOW INVALID as all MSSA’s are currently prohibited. This has been replaced by the P endorsement.
- Pistols or restricted weapons for hire or sale (F endorsement – dealers)
I would suggest, just focus on your A initially – it’s a separate process for the endorsements – and while I do encourage people to get into competition shooting – let’s take it one thing at a time aye.
This first video is a little bit of retro goodness – though some of the info is a little outdated now..
A couple of FAQs
Firstly, thanks for the awesome response in regards to this article. It’s appreciated – and lets me know I am on the right track.
A couple of questions have come up more than once – so I thought I would clarify where I could – these answers are put out there under collaboration with the NZ Police – but – like all things – you have to understand there are exceptions, and without me understanding the entire situation, it’s hard for me to give definitive answers sometimes.
- No. I am not an Arms Officer. Nor am I a lawyer – so case-specific questions, sorry, but I have to be a little off-hand-ish in my answers.
- Renewals – no – firearms licence renewals do not have to go through the new system. However, a renewal is not a reinstatement (due to losing it for whatever reason) nor is it a re-application after a license has lapsed for a period in time. These situations are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Talk to your RO.
- The cost remains the same. There is no charge for the practical element of the firearms licence – or – more correctly, it’s included in your initial payment.
- I get asked – a lot – about security – the police now have a document addressing many of the concerns.
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