Martial arts are a good means of self-defense – but only if you are capable of practicing them and have sufficient knowledge of them. In order to still be able to defend oneself, self-defense weapons can help. For some of these weapons, however, a small or normal gun license is required.

In this article, we would like to name requirements that apply to the weapons license in Germany and for whom the small weapons license or the large is required.

Background information about firearms licenses

In the following you will find background information, when you need a weapons license at all and for which weapons. Because it is distinguished between the purchase, the leading and the transport of weapons and there are limit values (e.g. with firearms), when a weapon license is necessary at all.

Important: The weapon licenses concern the carrying of the weapon, not its acquisition!

Distinction: Acquiring ≠ Carrying

There is always talk of a firearms license being required for a particular firearm. But what exactly is it required for? For acquisition, for carrying or for use?

  1. Acquisition: the acquisition of alarm pistols, alarm ammunition, etc. is possible for any adult, even without a gun license. For a “live pistol” or other weapons, a gun permit is mandatory.
  2. Carrying: Here there are very clear rules on how a weapon may be carried. And only holders of a firearms license are allowed to carry the weapon in question. The more dangerous the weapon, the stricter the rules usually are. Therefore, they may often be carried only in closed and inaccessible containers. Carrying in public or at public events is subject to even stricter rules.

Example of alarm firearm:

  1. You are allowed to buy a scare gun from the age of 18, even without a firearms license.
  2. But carrying it (outside your own home) requires a small firearms license! Without a small firearms license, you can only legally store the weapon at home.

What you have to pay attention to

Even after you have legally obtained your firearms license as well as associated firearms, you must continue to pay attention to these things:

  1. Transportation: Basically, weapons and ammunition must be transported separately from each other. They must not be accessible, therefore a lockable case is recommended. The transport should also not be visible to third parties.
  2. Use: Most weapons that are not used in the compulsory exercise of a profession are subject to strict rules and may not be used in public. Of course, only a holder of a firearms license may carry and use the weapon. In the context of self-defense, however, almost everything is allowed, even if there may be trouble afterwards as to why the weapon was carried in the situation in question.
  3. Identification: When carrying a weapon, you must always carry your weapon license (+ if available weapon ownership card) and your identity card with you. Otherwise, the weapon will be confiscated during a police check and the proof must be provided afterwards.

Definition: What is a weapon?

The Weapons Act WaffG distinguishes in §1 paragraph 2 between:

  • Firearms
  • objects equivalent to firearms
  • portable objects intended to “eliminate or reduce the ability of a person to attack or defend himself”

Firearms: Regulation on firearms license & firearms possession card

A firearm is anything that propels a projectile through a barrel. These weapons require a firearms license to carry. An equivalent item would be, for example, a scare pistol or a softair weapon, i.e. weapon-like items without such projectile effect.

For firearms applies:

  • Projectile energy is less than 7.5 joules, no firearms license is required for purchase, but a small firearms license is required for carrying
  • Bullet energy is over 7.5 joules, then a large firearms license and a firearms possession card is required.

Normally, you cannot acquire a weapon above this limit from a weapon dealer without proving your permission by a weapon possession card according to §10 paragraph 1 of the WaffG. This applies to all pistols and rifles that fire live ammunition. Surely there are dubious websites where this is possible. Don’t be tempted, because trouble is inevitable – if you are caught buying or using the weapon for self-defense and then it is discovered that you did not legally acquire it or are not allowed to own it.

The War Weapons Control Act KrWaffKontrG prohibits the use as well as the possession of any machines and devices recognized as war weapons. This includes – according to annex War Weapons List 29. a) to d) – almost all fully automatic rifles, carbines and submachine guns as well as pump shotguns. If you come across a dealer who wants to sell you such weapons, quickly distance yourself from this offer and report the violation to the authorities.

Weapons without a license

Other portable items thus include anything that can be used for self-protection but has nothing in common with a firearm, such as:

Weapons license vs. weapons possession card

Two terms you should have heard before in connection with firearms are the firearms license and the firearms possession card.

  • The firearms license entitles you to carry and use a firearm.
  • The gun ownership card only allows possession. A hunter or sport shooter therefore needs both.

For the legal acquisition of firearms within the meaning of the Weapons Act, you need their registration in a weapons ownership card. You can achieve this, for example, by a hunting license(§13 WaffG) or by membership in a shooting sports association, which exists for at least 12 months(§14 WaffG). The acquisition of a firearm without reason is not allowed. When you reach the age of 18, you are allowed to purchase various replicas of weapons, some of which look confusingly similar to a real firearm. These include, in particular, semi-automatic paintball and softair weapons (markers) with a bullet energy of up to 7.5 joules. For fully automatic markers, this limit drops to 0.5 joules. The weapons must have an F symbol in the pentagon.

Even though the forbidden is known to be the most appealing, you should keep your hands off weapons. Violations of the weapons law can lead to large fines and even imprisonment. More details about what you are allowed to acquire and own are explained in this section. Keep in mind that different regulations may apply to soldiers, police officers, or employees of security services. We deal here with the regulations for the normal consumer.

Large Weapons License FAQ

Very few of you will need a so-called “large firearms license”, but we would like to answer the most important questions about it:


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For which weapons is a large weapons license necessary?

As mentioned at the beginning, this applies to all firearms with a bullet energy of more than 7.5 joules. This can be an air rifle or a live pistol. In addition, a weapons possession card is still necessary.

However, there are also weapons that are basically prohibited in Germany, even a weapons license does not change anything. These are on the one hand prohibited weapons, such as butterfly knives, brass knuckles, etc., or weapons of war (grenades, fully automatic firearms).

Apply for a large weapons license: Requirements in Germany

The conditions for the issuance of a (large) weapons license are regulated in §4 of the WaffG. You must

  1. be of legal age
  2. have the reliability and personal suitability
  3. the necessary expertise and
  4. prove a need and
  5. have a liability insurance.
  6. Present your certificate of good conduct.
  7. Have no problems with drugs or alcohol.
  8. Be able to store the firearm and ammunition properly.
  9. This permit is valid for 3 years, before the need and the suitability must be proven again.

Especially the point 4.) has it in itself. Because the shooting sport can also be practiced without a large weapons license. All that is required is a weapons possession card. A credible need is mostly the profession (security service, etc.), but not a threat situation, etc..

Where can I apply for the large weapons license?

Apply with the above information and documents to the authority in your district. This is often the public order office, the city council or the police department. It is best to make a short call to the police (on the regional telephone number, not 110) and ask briefly where the large weapons license can be applied for.

How much does a large firearms license cost?

A large weapons license is for good reason associated with a high examination effort and also costs. This ensures that only people who have a personal and professional suitability receive a large weapons license. In total, you can also expect to pay about 500€ in costs:

  • For the required insurance
  • For documents (certificate of good conduct, etc.)
  • For the expert examination

Small Arms License FAQ

According to Statista, the small firearms license is becoming increasingly popular. Thus, the number of issued weapons licenses rose in 2017 the 0.5 million limit in Germany. The small firearms license entitles the holder to carry, for example, alarm firearms. It does not involve the acquisition, but only the carrying of the weapons.


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For which weapons do I need a small firearms license?

The small firearms license entitles the holder to carry certain firearms:

  • So-called SRS weapons, which includes alarm pistols, irritant weapons, signal weapons.
  • So-called RAM weapons, which meant Real Action Markerand comes close to an air pistol.

Small firearms license: requirements & documents

The small fire arms license is required for carrying alarm, signal and irritant weapons with the seal of the PTB (Physikalisch-technische Bundesanstalt). Requirements for issuance are:

  • A minimum age of 18 years applies,
  • Freedom from previous convictions and
  • no alcohol or drug abuse.

How to apply for a small firearms license?

The application for a small firearms license differs in the individual federal states. This is because in some federal states the police, the public order office or the administration is responsible for issuing it. The application must take place on site and cannot be submitted online.

  • For the appointment you should bring your valid ID, sometimes the last registration certificate is also required.
  • It is best to call your regional police administration and ask where you can apply for the permit.
  • Since it is so inconsistent, it is best to inform yourself in advance, enter “weapons license + state / city” in Google, you will certainly find suitable tips.

What does the small firearms license cost?

For the small firearms license you must expect costs of about 50 to 100 euros. The costs arise from the issuance of the certificate of good conduct and the administrative costs.

Conclusion: Weapons licenses = safety for all?

Weapons that fire live ammunition are not suitable for self-defense. They are suitable for hunters or for shooting sports. When defending oneself with a live weapon, it is extremely likely that the attacker will be seriously injured or, in the worst case, will appropriate the weapon and injure others.

  • Thereare better ways to defend yourself in an emergency. You can learn a martial art or acquire a self-defense weapon that will disable the attacker and give you enough time to escape. This variant provides you with security without having to assume that you will seriously injure or even kill the attacker when defending yourself. In addition, you can not run out of ammunition.
  • Shotguns are basically a good way to defend yourself against several opponents and incapacitate them. This gives you time to escape. If you want to use your alarm gun only for your own four walls, then you do not need a small firearms license, this is only necessary for carrying outside your own home.

However, it is not quite easy to obtain – at least a large – weapons license. And that is also good. Because weapons are not toys. Not everyone should have access to weapons, not even by accident (e.g. children). So be aware of the seriousness of the situation, if you acquire a weapon, in all facets: acquisition, storage, use, transport, security, etc..

In the picture: Small firearms license Source: Wikipedia

Attention: Our content has been carefully prepared, but legal norms change and some are subject to interpretation. We can not guarantee on the following information, for legally sound advice please seek legal advice from a lawyer. Status 12/ 2018