I have been asked countless times, and not infrequently by experienced shooters, how difficult or onerous getting the certificate to buy black powder is. The answer is, not very difficult at all. As with a firearms and shotgun certificate, the test the licensing authorities must satisfy is, ‘does this person have a reasonable need to have this certificate?’. For the shooter, this is put even more simply, ‘Are they a member of an approved shooting club?’.

Finding and completing form ER4A

The aspirant black powder shooter should contact their local police force firearms licensing department and complete the form ER4A; application for an Explosives Certificate for an individual’s own use in their firearm/shotgun. This is usually available online on your local authority’s firearms licensing page.

This form must be filled out as completely as possible, including the certificate number of any currently held firearms/shotgun certificates. Note also the difference between a certificate to acquire but not keep, and one to acquire and keep. The most common certificate for individual shooters is one to acquire and keep, legally stored at their home premises.

After this is complete, I would recommend mailing the completed form (and any other certificate applications) by recorded post.

For new shooters

Many new shooters will join a club and apply for their firearms/shotgun and black powder certificate at the same time. This is probably the simplest solution, as it’s something of a ‘3 birds, 1 stone’ route for the new shooter. There is nothing stopping you from applying for a black powder certificate further down the line, should you not wish to do it with your first application.

Joining a club will satisfy the police that you have an appropriate need for the certificate. Re-enactors will follow a similar path, being a member of a re-enactment group, for example a Waterloo era group, will necessitate the shooting of black powder firearms. Be aware that it is common for re-enactment members to hold only a certificate to acquire, I would advise contacting your particular group for advice and guidance on how they would like you to approach applying.

For current FAC/SGC holders

Experienced shooters, or those already in possession of a firearms or shotgun certificate who have come to black powder shooting later, are at no disadvantage as regards an Explosive Certificate application compared to those who apply for all at once. Current certificate holders only need fill out the form ER4A, purchase an HSE compliant black powder storage box, and await their visit.

Black powder license

How much does a black powder certificate cost?

It’s free. Unlike a firearms or shotgun certificate, you are not required to pay any monies to your local authority for the granting of an explosives certificate. The wait time will vary, but is generally faster than a FAC/SGC application.

Proper storage of black powder

You will be expected to store the explosives securely, this secure storage comes in the form of a HSE compliant wooden black powder storage box. For further reading, I would direct the more curious reader to the HSE link below concerning the design and logic behind the black powder storage box.

Henry Krank & Co. sell a fully compliant black powder storage box with capacity for 8 bottles of powder for £105, which is the only cost that must be borne when applying. This must be secured with a chain at your chosen place of storage. These boxes will fit both Henry Krank black powder and Swiss black powder with sufficient headspace left in the box as required.

Your completed application

At some point during your application, you will be contacted by your local authority to arrange a visit to check your secure storage. If you have applied for a shotgun/firearms certificate at the same time, you will not require a separate visit for your black powder storage. Assuming your application and storage is in order, following your visit, you should then receive your certificate(s) in a week or two.

When you receive your certificate, check that you are allowed to acquire UN0027 and UN0028, and your storage limit (if one has been given). If all this is in order, you are free to go and purchase some black powder!

Useful links for further information

Here are a few additional links that you may find helpful:

- Our blog post on how to join a black powder shooting club

Link to HSE publication on black powder storage 

- Henry Krank Black Powder Storage Box