Skip to main content

How to: Apply for a Pistol Licence (B Endorsement)

I often talk to friends or people at the range and shooting events about pistol shooting, it seems many people who are already interested in shooting activities are keen to try pistol, but don’t know how or where to start. I know that information can be hard to come by at times, and often it seems like people are deliberately making it difficult. For this reason I thought I would give a bit of a shakedown of the current process here in New Zealand.

I will start by pointing out what I would hope is already generally understood information; Firstly It is illegal to shoot a pistol anywhere in New Zealand other than a pistol range which has been approved by the police for this purpose. You must have a specific endorsement on your firearms licence in order to possess a pistol (B Endorsement), and you may only transport it from your pre-approved security (safe) to the pistol range and back again (with the exception of to a gunsmith / store).

It is possible to attend a training course at a pistol range in New Zealand without first having a firearms licence (under strict supervision), but many clubs require that you have at least begun the process towards getting your licence. It is also a police requirement that, after 3 visits as a visitor, you must become a financial member of the club in order to progress your training.

Basic firearms licence

If you don’t have a basic sporting (A Category) licence, you will need to follow the following steps to get one:

  • Attend a firearms safety course (generally one or two evenings)
  • Sit a test on the information you have learned at the course (And pass of course)
  • Pay an application fee (paid at an NZ post shop)
  • Complete an application form from your local arms office (This application will require you to provide details of at least two character references)
  • Install security measures such as a safe / strong room
  • A police vetting officer will then visit you and your chosen character referees to discuss the reasons you would like to own firearms, ensure you are a person of good character, and check your security measures are appropriate
  • If all goes well, you should receive your licence in the mail.

Once you have your licence, endorsements such as the “B” endorsement for pistol shooting can be added to your licence. Or you can apply for endorsements at the same time as you apply for your licence.

The author engages some steel downrange.
The author engages some steel downrange.

Applying for your B Endorsement

In order to apply for your “B” Endorsement you will need to follow the steps listed below:

  • Join a pistol club, attend and complete their training programme (which should comprise of  at least 12 days supervised training and lessons)
  • Join Pistol New Zealand
  • Complete a club range officer examination
  • Complete a 6 month probation period with the club
  • Apply to the club to get permission to apply for your endorsement (the club must deem you as a safe and competent shooter)
  • Visit your Arms officer and get a form (POL67F), or download from the police website (you will need to get it witnessed by a police officer though)
  • Provide your POL67F to your club who will complete their section and send it to Pistol NZ
  • Pistol NZ will then complete their section and forward it onto the arms office [Editor’s Note: I am in the process of applying for my pistol licence, and the AO suggested that PNZ might mail the form back to me, and I could electronically submit back to the AO (i.e. via scan/email)]
  • You will also need to pay an application fee, again via NZ Post
  • You should then expect a visit from a police vetting officer to discuss the reasons why you would like to shoot pistols, inspect your security (you must have a “B” endorsed safe, not your basic “A cat” safe as there are much more stringent measures set on safes for endorsed firearms which can be found on the police website)
  • The vetting officer will also contact at least two referees again. Generally these referees will be people who have a reasonable knowledge and understanding of your shooting activities, rather than just character references
  • All going well you should then receive your new licence with relevant endorsements in the mail

Once you have your endorsed licence you may begin looking to purchase a pistol. Hopefully during your training period you will have had the opportunity to shoot a variety of pistols and types of events, and you may have established an understanding of what you want.

Acquiring a pistol

Once you have decided on a pistol and a place you are purchasing it from, you need to talk with your club and get an Application for a Permit to Procure “Pinky” form which will be signed off by a member of the club executive, authorising you to apply for a Permit to Procure. You take this form with you to your Arms Office and you will be issued two copies of a POL67C Permit to Procure form.

Once you have this Permit to Procure you take it with you to the person or store you are procuring the pistol from, and they will complete their section on the forms. You then take the completed forms and the pistol to your Arms Office who will inspect the pistol to ensure it is the same as the one originally applied for. They will keep a copy of the form so it can be entered in their records and you will be allowed to take the pistol, and your copy of the permit for your records.

Why is it so much effort?

I know that in reading this, it sounds like a long-winded process. To be honest, it is. I would estimate it taking about a year (or longer depending on circumstances) to fully complete the process. There is a reasonable amount of start-up and ongoing costs associated with owning pistols to be aware of (Application fees, Pistol Club joining fees, annual Pistol Club fees, Pistol NZ Fees, not to mention cost of firearms, ammo and equipment). However, after completing the process, I can understand why it is set up this way.

Pistol shooting is great fun, and you will meet some great people, but safety is key (things have the potential to go pear-shaped very quickly with pistols and their very short barrels). By completing the whole process, it ensures that only those people who are very motivated and keen, as well as competent and safe have access to these endorsed firearms. You don’t want to be competing in a match at your range with guys you don’t feel safe around. The knowledge that everyone you are shooting with has completed the above process does provide that assurance of competence and safety.

If you’re interested in shooting pistols, I would highly recommend contacting your local pistol club and enrolling in their next training programme. Visit the Pistol NZ website for a directory of pistol clubs throughout NZ.

Shooting a sporterised Husky M38 at Deerstalkers Auckland range.

Get started shooting: How to get an A Category licence

While you might go to the range or shoot a .22 on someone’s private land – under immediate supervision – to get your first taste of shooting, if you’re serious about owning or shooting firearms, the next step is getting your A Category licence. Here’s a quick guide on the process, what to expect and what an A Cat licence entitles you to do.

What firearms can I own with an A Cat licence?

There are no restrictions on the amount of A Cat firearms you can own. They’re not registered against your name, and you can go buy one from the store straight away, assuming you have your licence and all the associated safety measures in place.

Firearms that are considered A Cat compliant are basically rifles or shotguns that are manually loaded. This means pump actions, lever actions, bolt actions, etc. You can have any features you want on these guns, as long as the overall length is more than 762 mm (30 inches). Anything shorter than that is considered a pistol, and will require a B-endorsement on your licence – which is a whole other story.

This means you can shorten your barrel, or have it in a bullpup configuration, whatever. There is no real minimum barrel length, as long as the overall length is over 762 mm. Which makes sense, as the issue with handguns is conceal-ability.

You can also own a semi-automatic sporting rifle or shotgun, but there are restrictions on these to make sure they don’t fall in to the MSSA (Military Style Semi-Automatic) category, which is governed by an E-endorsement on your licence.

In order to keep your semi-automatic firearm in A-Cat compliant condition, you’ll need to make sure:

  • The magazine holds 7 rounds or less of centrefire or 15 rounds or less of rimfire ammo
  • The mag also can’t “appear” to hold more than the above
  • The butt isn’t collapsible, telescoping or folding
  • There is no bayonet lug present
  • There is no flash suppressor
  • It doesn’t have a free-standing “military style” pistol grip

The pistol grip is the latest addition to the MSSA restrictions, and has been met with a cold-shoulder from the shooting community. Essentially it made a whole lot of unregulated A-Cat firearms illegal and meant people had to modify their rifles or dispose of them. New rifles or shotguns are now usually provided with thumbhole or Dragunov-style stocks.

SKS with Dragunov stock
The SKS my friend Nick is shooting here would be illegal with a free-floating pistol grip instead of the Dragunov-style stock

What do I need to do get my firearms licence?

Well, there’s the obvious stuff first. For those with criminal records or histories of domestic or other violence, a licence to hold a potentially lethal weapon isn’t exactly on the cards. The police firearms officer will do a background check on you, and they’ll also ask to interview two referees. If you’re married or otherwise attached, one of those referees will have to be your spouse, while the other must be a non-related person you’ve known for a couple years or more. Those referees are basically to attest to the fact that you’re a fit and proper person to own a firearms.

However, before you’ve even done this step, you’ll have to sit a test that shows you have a solid understanding of how to safely store and use hunting or sporting weapons. Start your study by asking your local police station for a copy of the Arms Code or get it online. Once you have a thorough understanding of what is involved in the responsible and safe ownership and operation of firearms, you can apply to sit the test.

The test will be held at your local police station, and is facilitated by volunteers who have a wealth of practical firearms experience. They’ll take you through the main points of gun safety, including how to carry a gun in the field and ensuring the firearm is made safe before and after use. There’s a short video and practical demonstrations of how to hold, load and unload a rifle or shotgun.

After all this there is a multi-choice test, for which you have to get almost all of the answers right in order to pass. If you don’t get it right the first time, you’ll have to study up some more and attend another information evening before you can sit the test again.

Once you have your proof of having passed the test, you can go to the local post shop and pay for your licence. The cost is $126.50. You’ll need to get proof of payment along with passport photos to the police. At this point you’ll arrange for your safety check to be done at home. Talk to the police or your local arms officer about what the safety standards are.

For an A Category licence, a good standard is to have a lockable safe with separate ammo compartment (bolts and ammo must be stored separately so as to make the firearm inoperable). These can be picked up for a few hundred bucks on Trademe or other websites, and are usually supplied with expanding bolts and pre-drilled holes so you can secure the safe to either a concrete floor, or the walls and floor if you’re securing to wood (say, inside a closet). The firearms officer will check to see if the safe is actually securely fastened – it’s no good if a potential thief could just lift it up and take the entire safe away, guns and all.

Once you’ve sat your test, paid for your licence and supplied photos, had your referees interviewed and safety checked, it’s just a matter of time before your licence arrives in the post. It could take a few weeks or more, depending on how busy they are – so don’t freak out! Also remember that your licence is valid for ten years and will have to be renewed before it expires if you’re to keep your firearms. Which reminds me…