Free Movement of Firearms for Sporting Purposes

Free Movement of Goods

Goods from both European Union Member States and countries outside the European Union have been circulating freely within the European Community since 1993.

Temporary importation of goods  

Elimination of all administration documents

Since the introduction of the new VAT scheme and the elimination of all administration documents required for intra-community trade all previous provisions which related to the temporary importation of goods are no longer applicable.

Temporary Importation of Sporting Equipment

This has meant that the temporary importation of sporting equipment for use in competitions or for any other sporting activity is entirely exempt from restrictions.

There are, however, still some issues which need to be tackled by the European Union Member States.

Transfer of Firearms for Sporting Competition


The transfer of firearms in the European Union is governed by the European Council Directive 91/477/EEC which deals with the control of the acquisition and possession of weapons.


What is meant by a firearm?

The Directive divides firearms into the following four categories:

  1. Category A – prohibited firearms such as automatic and military firearms 

  2. Category B – firearms subject to authorisation such as semi-automatic firearms or percussion firearms

  3. Category C – firearms subject to declaration such as repeating long firearms or long firearms with single-shot rifled barrels

  4. Category D – other firearms such as single shot firearms with smooth-bore barrels

What does the Directive Say?

The Directive lays down strict rules on the transfer of firearms between European Union Member States in relation to the following two scenarios:

  1. The transfer of firearms without the physical displacement of persons through EU Member States

  2. The transfer of firearms when an individual moves with them through EU Member States with their own firearms

European Firearms Pass

The second group which includes such people are marksmen or hunters when they move throughout the European Union for Sporting purposes are subject to less stringent rules when they take certain types of firearms with them if they have a European firearms pass which is now used in all European Union Member States and is provided for by Article 12(2) of the Directive.

Transfer without the physical displacement of the person

This scenario is governed by Article 11 of the Directive which states that before a firearm is transferred between EU Member States the individual concerned should provide the Member State in which the firearm is situated with the following details:

  • The names and address of the persons selling (or disposing of) the firearm

  • The names and addresses of the persons purchasing or acquiring it for the owner

  • The destination address of the firearm

  • The exact number of firearms to be transported

  • The information that will enable the firearm to be identified

  • A declaration stating that the firearm has undergone a check in accordance with European Union Standards, namely the Reciprocal Recognition of Proofmarks on Small Arms

  • The means of transferring the firearms

  • The date of departure

  • The estimated time of arrival 


That EU Member State will then examine the conditions under which the transfer of the firearm is to be carried out with particular attention being paid to the security conditions. If the Member State feels that the conditions are satisfactory then a licence will be issued which must accompany the firearm until it reaches its final destination.

The licence must be produced whenever it is required by the authorities of the EU Member States of which the firearm passes through.

Transfer of Firearms involving the physical displacement of the person

When firearms are transferred through European Union Member States which involve the physical displacement of a person this will only be authorised if that person has obtained authorisation from one of the Member States through which he is traveling. This authorisation must be entered on the European firearms pass which the holder must present when requested to do so in any of the EU Member States through which he is traveling.

Does prior authorisation have to be provided by all EU Member States through which he is travelling?

For the travel with the firearm through various EU Member States, authorisation is only required from one of the EU Member States. This is due to the European Union operating the internal market whereby goods can move freely through the EU Member States. Accordingly authorisation from one EU Member State is valid across all EU Member States.

Invitation to Practice Activities

Whereby a sportsman has an invitation to practice his or her activities in a particular EU Member State which involves traveling to a different EU Member State less stringent rules will apply. This relates to marksmen carrying a firearm which falls within category B, C or D and to hunters carrying a firearm which falls within category C or D.

In the case that an invitation to practice activities is carried by the holder of the firearm prior authorisation from the Member State as described above is not required in principle.

Rules Adopted by different EU Member States

As the Directive is required to be implemented by all EU Member States as a minimum it is possible for any EU Member State to adopt more stringent measures than those contained within the Directive.

As a consequence, many EU Member States require authorisation and have different procedures in relation firearms. If an individual wishes to travel through one of these EU Member States then they will be required to adhere to all requirements of the EU Member State.

Prohibited Firearms

The exemption on prior authorisation from Member States for marksmen and hunters does not apply to journeys to Member States which prohibit the firearms in question, thus limiting the exemption granted to hunters and marksmen in possession of the European firearms pass.