As part of the process of applying for your shotgun or firearms licence, your local firearms officer will visit you and inspect the arrangement you have made to secure your guns. The firearms officers have a degree of discretion in terms of what they will approve, so it’s worth making sure you get the arrangement right.
Shotguns and rifles must be secured at all times, and since February 2011 it has been a crime to fail to take ‘reasonable precautions’ to prevent someone under 18 from gaining access to an air rifle. Whilst this does not mean it has to be in a cabinet, in practical terms a cabinet is the best option to demonstrate you are acting responsibly.
Outwardly many gun cabinets are very similar, but in practice there are substantial but subtle differences in design which go into the construction of the better cabinets which meet the British standard BS 7558/92.
Whilst there are good cabinets that haven’t been tested for the standard, for peace of mind it is worth getting one that has. Small differences to look for include features such as anti-jemmy flush fitting doors, a minimum of 2mm hardened steel construction and full length joint welding. The locks are a vital part of the cabinet and it is worth getting quality locks as there is nothing more frustrating than getting your guns stuck in the cabinet when the lock fails and you want to be out shooting. There are 2 types of locking mechanism commonly found on cabinets:
- Single key, which should be at least 7 lever, that throws a series of bolts. Ideally you want at least 5 bolts spread along the length of the door to be really secure.
- Double key. Generally with this style, you should have separate locks top and bottom, again at least 7 lever, which each directly throw a single bolt.
Your cabinet must be firmly secured, ideally flush fitting to a solid wall with expanding bolts, or similarly strong fixings. Fixing to internal plasterboard walls or thermal block, from which the cabinet can be easily levered away may not be approved. Make sure the cabinet you choose has holes to be secured with at least 4 bolts, and ideally to both the wall and floor. The cabinet should be in an occupied part of the premises; outbuildings and sheds are less likely to be approved. To keep your guns in the best possible condition and prevent rusting, it is also a good idea to have the cabinet placed in a warm dry place so this generally excludes outbuildings.
Another thing to check when choosing a cabinet is to make sure it is large enough, especially if you have a rifle with a scope and silencer. Some cabinets designed for shotguns are cheaper but are not deep enough to take a rifle with a scope on, and if you have to remove the scope, you will need to re-zero it afterwards, which will be endlessly frustrating.
You also need to think about security for your ammunition, which should always be stored separately. There is no requirement to secure air rifle or shotgun ammunition, but it is best practice to do so. Rifle ammunition must be stored securely. The best rifle cabinets have a separate top compartment which is operated with a different key to get around this problem, or even better, get a separate small cabinet in a different part of the house for ammunition.
One last thing to remember once you have your cabinet is that it is important to ensure that you are the only person with access to it. In practice, this means keeping the keys securely and in a place that only you know where they are. There is no point taking all these precautions and then leaving the keys out!