Recreational shooting can refer to several activities including hunting, participating in shooting competitions, or using firearms as a hobby. The laws surrounding firearms vary considerably between countries and bringing one nearly always involves some bureaucracy.
|“||It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn't.||”|
—P.G. Wodehouse, Ring for Jeeves
Firearms are inherently dangerous. Using them safely, even just on the range, requires proper training and using them for hunting or self-defense has additional hazards. Among the basic precautions:
- Never assume a weapon is not loaded. It should become a reflex to check any gun you touch, before doing anything else.
- Control where the weapon is pointed! Outdoors, keep it aimed at the ground except when there is good reason to point it elsewhere.
With some of the strictest firearms laws in the world, and the death penalty being prescribed for unauthorised possession, firearm ownership is not very common in Singapore. That being said, it is possible to get a licence to buy and own firearms in Singapore after passing background checks if you are a registered member of a shooting club. Firearms must be stored securely at the shooting range, and cannot be brought out without a valid reason (for example, if you are travelling for a shooting tournament).
Legislation differs from one country to the next, but many countries are much stricter than the USA.
The European Union, covering many European countries, has harmonized some of the legislation around bringing firearms. There is a European Firearm License ("firearms passport") meant to ease crossing borders inside the union with a firearm. In addition to the licence you need an invitation to a hunting or sport shooting event or similar documentation showing your need of the arm, a description of your coming participation and, for some countries, advance acceptance from the country in question. For carrying the firearm for other purposes you have to apply separately for permission (for a certain occasion or repeatedly), you may also need permission to get the firearm out of your country.
If you have a firearms licence of a Nordic country and an invitation to a hunting or sport shooting event, you need no other paperwork to transport and use the weapon as allowed for local residents and needed for participating in the event. Without a Nordic permit you need licence and documentation in accordance with the EU regulations.
A firearm under transport must be unloaded and in an envelope. It must not be transported around needlessly. When stored, it must be in a place where not easily stolen, and additionally locked in or with some piece stored separately. Carrying the weapon for hunting is also regulated in the hunting law (you may e.g. not transport it in a motor vehicle in the terrain). You may not give the arm to anybody else, except someone else with the required licence or under your close supervision.
All firearms in France have to be licensed and must have a unique identifier.
In general, Germany is a very restrictive country when it comes to firearms; however, since the Weapons Act (Waffengesetz) was enacted on April 1, 2003, the regulations affecting hunters and recreational shooters have been significantly relaxed.
German law raised the minimum age for the purchase and possession of weapons from 16 to 18 for hunters, and 18 to 21 for marksmen.
Hunters with a European Firearm Licence may transport a documented firearm to Iceland and hunt with a stay no longer than 3 months. Hunters from other countries need an import permit from the Icelandic police in addition to a fire arms permit and a hunting permit.
In order to get a fire arms permit and a hunting permit the hunter needs an Icelandic supporter that is over 20 years of age, the hunter may not have a criminal record and the hunter needs a medical record specially intended for hunting. These documents need to be sent to the environmental agency of Iceland and the Icelandic police. Classes for both permits are held by the environmental agency.
A firearm under transport must be unloaded and in an envelope. When stored, it must be in a locked locker.
You are never allowed to carry any kind of shooting weapon without a special permit, and failure to observe Swedish law in this case may incur severe fines, permanent confiscation of the weapon and possible imprisonment, as the carrying of a weapon without permit is considered a criminal offence.
If you have a firearms permit from any Nordic country and an invitation to a hunting or sport shooting event, you need no other paperwork to carry the weapon as allowed for local residents.
The UK has very strict gun control laws. Pistols and semi-automatic assault rifles are illegal in the UK, even for sporting purposes, and special dispensation had to be gotten for the pistol shooting events to go ahead for the Commonwealth Games and Olympics. Rifles and shotguns may be owned with a permit, which is granted if you have a valid reason, such as for sport shooting. Even police officers (with the exception of Northern Ireland) are forbidden from carrying firearms during their regular patrols, and must request for special armed units to be dispatched when necessary to carry out their duties.
Hunting and fishing are big business in Canada and they attract many tourists, especially from the US and Japan. Typically the companies that provide services to hunters can also help customers comply with Canadian laws. You need a hunting or fishing license and may also need a gun license.
Canadian weapons laws are considerably tighter than the US. Regulations on firearms are federal, leaving little room for variation between provinces.
- The Canadian Firearms Centre administers the gun regulations.
- Canada Customs have a page on import regulations.
A number of weapons are classed as prohibited. Getting a permit for these is generally impossible. Prohibited firearms include short-barrelled guns, fully-automatic weapons, rifles with collapsible stocks, and most 25 or 32 caliber pistols. Various other things are also prohibited — including mags with over 5 rounds for a long gun or 10 for a pistol, silencers, replicas such as Airsoft guns, switchblade knives, teargas or pepper spray (unless sold as dog or bear repellent). In the wake of the mass shooting in Nova Scotia on 18th and 19th April 2020, firearms regulations have been tightened, with military-style assault rifles now being prohibited.
There are also restricted weapons — any pistol that is not prohibited and various others. Permits for these may be possible, but there is considerable bureaucracy to be dealt with.
The only weapon that would be relatively easy to import, or to rent, is one that is neither restricted nor prohibited, such as the typical hunter's rifle or shotgun. Even for that, there would be paperwork. There is no equivalent to the US second amendment in Canadian law; four-figure fines for any undeclared firearm at Canadian customs are not uncommon and jail terms are possible.
Most Canadian National Parks ban firearms entirely, with a rare few exceptions in Northern Canada for licensed guides in specific parks in polar bear country and native first nations on native land. As the polar bear is protected, use of lethal force in self defence is very rare – park officials monitor bear activity to help visitors avoid bear encounters and guides attempt other things — a warning shot, flares, air horns, perhaps bear spray/pepper spray — before escalating to gunfire.
The United States has a strong gun culture, and the right for US citizens to own and bear firearms is enshrined in the constitution. However, the regulations are much more restrictive with regard to foreigners.
Shooting sports such as hunting and competitive shooting are widely practiced. Rifle ranges often offer shooter safety and other classes for beginners.
It is only legal in the US for US citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders) to purchase or own firearms without any special permit. Foreigners who are illegally or unlawfully in the United States are specifically prohibited from possessing any firearm or ammunition.
Foreigners on non-immigrant visas who wish to import guns for hunting or competitive shooting must file Form 6 NIA with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as have a valid hunting license. Approval generally takes 6-8 weeks, so plan ahead. Any guns purchased by foreign hunters while in the US are likely to be subjected to export restrictions. Another option is to borrow or rent guns from the shooting range of your choice to shoot on premises – call ahead to see if this is an option.
Individual US states have a significant say over most of the regulations of firearms within their state. Travelers will want to check with individual states to make sure other restrictions will not apply to them.
While it is not illegal outright to own a firearm in Australia, you generally need a reason to be granted a licence to buy one. In general, licences are only granted if you are a farmer who lives in a rural area, or if you are a member of a legitimate sport shooting club. Carrying a firearm down the street in an urban area is rare, and might draw some unwanted attention to you. The carrying of semi-automatic assault rifles and other military-grade weapons by private citizens is illegal in Australia.
Although gun ownership is not outright illegal in New Zealand, gun laws were tightened considerably in the wake of terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch in 2019. It is illegal to possess semi-automatic weapons and military-grade assault rifles in New Zealand, and ownership of any other type of firearm requires a firearms licence.