Australia has some of the world’s strictest gun laws. Despite this, it is still possible to purchase a range of firearms in Australia, provided you have the appropriate licence and a genuine need.
There are plenty of gun shops, gun trading places and companies selling guns online in Australia. But before you start shopping, you need to understand the applicable firearm legislation, the legal process for acquiring a gun and the different categories of firearms that are available.
Firearm Licensing in Australia
First and foremost, you need to determine whether or not you’re eligible for a firearm licence. In Victoria, you must be a resident of the state or work with firearms. You must be 18 years of age (or older) for an adult licence and over 12 years of age for a junior licence.
In terms of documentation, you must be able to provide certified copies of International Police Checks from any countries that you have lived in for more than a year. You must be a “fit and proper” person and deemed not to be prohibited by a court.
Additionally, you need to have a genuine reason for owning a firearm. These reasons will differ by state and territory. For example, those who are applying for Category A / B firearms in Victoria can cite target shooting and hunting as genuine reasons.
Depending on the firearm that you’re applying for, you might provide fingerprints. You will need to provide a full set of fingerprints for a Category D Longarm licence, a Category E, a Category 1 Collectors licence, a General Category Handgun licence and a Category E Handgun licence.
Lastly, you are required to take a firearm safety course. For more information about these courses, be sure to contact your local divisional firearm officer.
The firearm categories are the same in all states and territories in Australia. Here we’ve laid out the types of guns that belong to each category.
This list was based on information on the Victoria Police website. If you have concerns or questions be sure to consult official government or police resources.
- Category A / B longarm
With a Category A / B licence you will be allowed to possess, carry and use air rifles, rim-fire rifles, shotguns, muzzle-loading firearms, centre-fire rifles and blank-fire rifles that are at least 75 cm. Additionally, you can use a lever action shotgun so long as it has a magazine capacity of five or less and has black powder ball firing cannons.
Keep in mind that none of these firearms can be automatic or semi-automatic.
Be sure to regularly check for changes in the regulations. As of 1 October, 2019, lever action shotguns have been moved from Category A to Category B.
- Category C / D / E longarm
Individuals with Category C licences will be allowed to possess, carry and use semi-automatic rim-fire rifles with a magazine capacity of 10 rounds or less, semi-automatic/pump-action shotguns with a capacity of five rounds or less and tranquiliser guns.
With a Category D licence you will be able to use everything under Category C but with the addition of semi-automatic centre-fire rifles.
A Category E licence allows you to possess, carry and use machine guns, tear gas guns, shotguns and rifles less than 75 cm in length, mortars, bazookas, rocket propelled grenades and other military firearms.
- Category H
Category H includes air pistols and deactivated handguns. Before you can use Category H firearms, you must use club handguns for a probationary period of six months. Target shooters with a Category H licence will be able to use .38 or 9mm calibre handguns with a magazine capacity of 10 or less. In certain competitions, they may use a .45 calibre handgun.
What Guns are Legal and What can you use it for?
- Category A / B
The genuine reasons to use a Category A / B firearm include sport/target shooting, hunting, primary production, being a security guard, being a prison guard and being a firearm safety instructor.
As with the rest of the categories, you can also have an Category A/B licence for official, commercial or prescribed purposes or for a purpose authorised by an Act or Regulation.
Keep in mind that evidence must be provided for each of these reasons. For example, for sport or target shooting, you must provide your club membership card as well as a letter of endorsement with the official letterhead from said club.
- Category C
For Category C firearms, the approved reasons are primary production, tranquilising, professional hunting and clay target shooting (medical, non-medical and on behalf of a junior licence holder).
- Category D
You are able to gain a Category D licence for professional hunting or for official, commercial or prescribed purposes or for a purpose authorised by an Act or Regulation.
- Category E
Category E longarm and handgun licences are only for official, commercial or prescribed purposes or for a purpose authorised by an Act or Regulation. These firearms are generally reserved for those in the military.
- Category H
Security guards, target shooters, prison guards and those with an official, commercial or prescribed purpose can obtain a Category H licence. Additionally, it is available to those who will possess a firearm on behalf of a Junior licence holder.
Heirloom licences allow an individual to legally own an inherited firearm without having a licence as a user or collector. When given a heirloom licence, the firearm must never be used and made permanently inoperable.
When it comes to firearms, it’s important to follow proper procedure. It can be a lot of work. However, all rules and regulations are there for the public’s safety. Remember, gun laws often change. So, if you’re after a firearm licence, make sure that the information that you’re referring to is up to date. If you need further advice, we recommend visiting official government pages and contacting officials.