Information correct as of date of publication.

I have been asked countless times, and not infrequently by experienced shooters, how difficult getting an Explosives Certificate to buy black powder and black powder substitutes (Triple 7 & Pyrodex) is. The answer is; not very difficult at all, provided a good reason can be shown.

Before reading any further, if you need clarification on the differences between black powder and black powder substitutes, read our blog - Black Powder or Pyrodex and Other Smokeless Propellants

As with a firearms certificate, the test the licensing authorities must satisfy is, does this person have good cause to have this certificate? For shooters, this can be evidenced by whether they are a member of an approved shooting club, or can some other reason (for example re-enactment) be demonstrated?

If you are not a member of an approved shooting club, and are thinking of getting into shooting (in general, or black powder), read our blog - How To Join A Black Powder Shooting Club.

Shooting a Matchlock Musket

How to get an Explosives Certificate, Black Powder Licence or Black Powder Certificate?

For clarity’s sake, all three of the above refer to the same document, which is properly called an Explosives Certificate, which is the term used here out. This document is applied for by completing an ER4A form.

Where do I find form ER4A and how do I complete it?

The form is available online, your local issuing force’s website likely has them available for download and completion.

The force’s firearms licensing website frequently has a list of the various forms, simply find the form ER4A; application for an Explosives Certificate for an individual’s own use in their firearm/shotgun. If your local force does not have them available online, simply searching ‘form ER4A’ on a search engine will find one, the forms are not ‘force specific’.

The form must be filled out as completely as possible, including the certificate number of any currently held firearms/shotgun certificates, and returned to your issuing force. Happily, the certificate is free of charge.

Do I need an acquire or an acquire and keep Explosives Certificate?

This depends on what you are intending on doing.

For all shooters, you will need a certificate to acquire and keep. This means you can both buy and store the powder.

Acquire only certificates are generally for re-enactors only, as this permits you only to hold and use the powder in very limited quantities and situations, i.e, a small amount for practical display at a re enactment. Once the cause or day has ended, you would not be entitled to retain any unused powder for use another time.

What information should I include on the application?

Following the standard information (your details, address, previous convictions, etc), you are required to list your experience handling and using explosives. Each person’s circumstance is naturally different, so I will not provide an example wording, but for most shooters this will be when, why, how and with whom you have previously used black powder (or Pyrodex, Triple 7 etc).

Aside from the above, the most important information to include are the explosive types to be purchased and the quantities.

For black powder, you will need to apply for UN0027 and UN0028.

If you wish to purchase Triple 7 or Pyrodex (black powder substitutes), you will need to apply for UN0499 and UN0501.

There is no harm in applying for UN numbers for both black powder and black powder substitutes.

You will also need to state a quantity of explosives for which you are applying. It would be wise to apply for around 10kg, as if you leave this section blank, your issuing authority will likely allocate you an amount, which may be as low as 1kg.

The end of the form contains a declaration that all applicants should read carefully and familiarize themselves with the contents. Do not gloss over this and sign the form without understanding what you are signing.

For new shooters

Many new shooters will join a club and apply for their firearms/shotgun and explosives certificate at the same time. This is often the simplest solution, as it kills three birds with one stone. Should your club not allow black powder shooting, or you do not wish to apply for an explosives certificate at first, there is nothing stopping you from applying later provided the criteria are met.

Joining a club permitting the use of black powder ought satisfy your local authority 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 Napoleonic re-enactment group) will necessitate the shooting of black powder. As per previously, it is common for re-enactors to hold a certificate only to acquire. I would advise contacting your particular group for advice and guidance on how they recommend you approach applying.

For current firearms/shotgun certificate 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 explosives certificate application compared to those who apply for all at once. Current certificate holders only need fill out form ER4A, purchase a HSE compliant black powder storage box and await contact from their licensing authority.

Storing your black powder

As you will glean from the form, you are required to store your black powder in an approved container. This is a plywood box built to prescribed HSE standards.

Our boxes are made in England to the required specifications and will satisfy any application for an explosives certificate. See below.

Wooden Black Powder Storage Box

Wooden black powder storage box with eight compartments. Fully compliant with the Health and Safety Commission HSC regulations on storing powder. Suitable for both Henry Krank and Swiss Black Powder bottles.

Made in the UK.

  • Height 37cm
  • Width 45cm
  • Depth 25cm