An Overview of Gun Laws in Germany, by Joerg Sprave

The United States has some of the least restrictive firearms laws in the world, so it’s natural that Americans would assume that almost every other country in the world has draconian firearms laws that prevent almost everyone from getting guns.

To help clarify matters, Joerg Sprave of The Slingshot Channel has created a video, embedded below, that offers a primer on the weapon laws in one of the most important countries in Europe: Germany:

A quick recap: There are three kinds of licenses for firearms in Germany:

  • Sport shooting (competition)
  • Hunting
  • Collecting

These licenses collectively allow you to own a wide variety of firearms; Joerg uses as examples an MP5, a Ruger Redhawk, Walther PP, Desert Eagle, and a Mossberg shotgun. Getting any given license is a matter of proving you are knowledgeable about the weapons and passing an exam, with wait times of up to a year.

Unlike in the US, carrying firearms is extremely difficult. The regular gun licenses do not provide for this (you must store the firearms in a safe, and you cannot fire them except at regulated ranges and for hunting and competition), and a very difficult to get license must be obtained before a citizen can do this.

German laws reflect the view of firearms ownership as a potentially dangerous luxury, where dedicated and vetted people are allowed to have guns, but there are major barriers to ownership. In the United States, though, our laws reflect a view of gun ownership as a right, where every person should and ought to be armed. But, still, German laws are not as harsh as they are often supposed to be.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • DW

    “… basically the same type you can have in the US, like for example…”
    > Proceeds to show a proper H&K MP5 sporter with sensible barrel length
    He has got to be farming salt right? RIGHT?

    • Calimero

      Last time I check most US states allow SBRs and supressors. Full auto is a little trickier (and much more expensive). In those states all you have to do is get the ATF paperwork done and voila.

      There’s the $200 tax stamp that is uncool. But guns in Europe are usually a few hundreds of dollars (if not thousands) more expensive than in the US so there’s that …

      • DW

        Yep, no SBR nonsense there, but there are also other nonsenses, like limit of firearms per license for example.

        But he got a honest-to-God unobtainium H und K MP5 sporter there, with unobtainium straight magazine no less!

        • Full auto is not allowed for civilians nor hollowpoints.

          • Tierlieb

            That is wrong, tootiredoftheright.

            Hollowpoints are not a problem at all.

            Full auto is only available for certain collectors or journalists. But getting a license for full auto firearms is really, really hard. It is not impossible but very close, far worse than the US.

          • Category A – Prohibited firearms

            1. Explosive military missiles and launchers.

            2. Automatic firearms.

            3. Firearms disguised as other objects.

            4. Ammunition with penetrating, explosive or incendiary projectiles, and the projectiles for such ammunition.

            5. Pistol and revolver ammunition with expanding projectiles and the projectiles for such ammunition, except in the case of weapons for hunting or for target shooting, for persons entitled to use them.

            That is the law. Prohibited.

          • Tierlieb

            Just because it says “prohibited”, that does not mean “prohibited for everyone”. That would be way too egalitarian. 😉

            As said, even in Germany, there are exemptions. And, as said, it is close to impossible to get one of these exemptions: A collector of full-auto firearms would need to have a collection to be considered a collector. But they would need a permit to start said collection, so officially it seems like a catch-22. There are some ways around it, like extending an existing collection.

            So yes, there are collectors (one associated with the WTM Koblenz comes to mind), journalists (yes, we like articles about full auto guns as much as everyone – though it is way easier to simply go abroad for an article) and at least one gunsmith specializing in this.

          • Spidouz

            Hollowpoints are allowed in most countries in Europe.

          • Many things that are actually on the books and that people do get charged for if they commit a crime are often allowed because its unenforced sometimes because it conflicts with another law.

          • Rocketman

            Like the guy that I recently read about that had a Panther tank in his basement and occasionally took it out to drive it around.
            The local authorities had to know about it but they did nothing for years until someone spilled the beans to the German feds.

        • Tierlieb

          You misunderstood Jörg there, DW: The “license” he talks about is just a piece of paper which fits 8 entries. As soon as you exceed that, you get the next one.
          The permit (hunting, sports, collection/journalism/other) is the hard part, not what Jörg called the license and what you might call the registration instead.

        • Rusty S.

          There’s plenty of straight mags available in the USA, I have a few, I just don’t like them as much as the curved mags.

    • toms

      He forgot to mention the all to important magazine capacity ban there. 10 ends I think
      Also no flash hiders I believe.
      The thing about only being able to shoot on government approved ranges is horseshit. IF someone own’s 50 or so acres, has a berm, and passes the firearms licensing reqs he should be able to shoot. Its your land, they tax you for it. IF someone shoots unsafely arrest them, blanket bans on activities suck.

      He also all but says guns should not be used for self defense. At least I got that feel. Of Course Not!
      Also their semi auto gun buying days are probably very limited due to proposed EU bans looming on the horizon.
      Reasoning with anti gunners, as the Euro’s do, always ends in defeat.

      • Tierlieb

        The mag capacity thing is kinda sorta weird and definitely not effective at all: You can buy whatever you want. No limit. 75rd AK drum mags are comparatively cheap here^^

        If you use a semi-automatic rifle for hunting, you are limited to 2 rounds in the mag.
        If you use a semi rifle in a sporting competition, there is usually a 10 round limit.
        If you use a semi rifle in IPSC, you are not only limited to 10rds, but also to using 20rd mag corpuses at max.

        Note: The latter restriction was the German IPSC foundation giving in to anti-gunners. As you said: Reasoning with anti gunners always ends in defeat.

        As for shooting ranges: That topic is sometimes debated. If it is a shooting range where more people than the owner shoot, it does need a permit. Insurance and all that.

        There is one exception for hunters who are allowed a reasonable amount of rounds within their hunting territory to ensure that their rifle is still zeroed, but that’s far from being interesting, right?

        Building a range for yourself on your own land… there has been some debate. But from a practical perspective, there are so many, uhm, “flexible” laws that can be applied to you (zoning, environmental, noise…), it more or less mandates that you build it so well hidden that no one would notice anyway.

  • BattleshipGrey

    For some reason I couldn’t watch the vid. Does he cover self defense with or without a gun; in or outside of the home?

    I always find it very sad that the decendants of once fierce and determined peoples are legislated into submission. The US isn’t far behind.

    • Anonymoose

      No defensive use allowed.

      • Marc

        But that’s wrong. It’s very hard to acquire and carry for the purpose of self defense (even that is possible in principle), but when you already have a firearm you aquired for sporting or hunting, you can use it in self defense, should you be attacked. Some Hells Angel even shot and killed a police officer through the door and was aquitted because the police failed to identify themselves before trying to break in the door and he believed himself to be under attack from a rival gang

        • Provide reference to your claim about the Hells Angels. Since after all the cop is not there to state wheter he identified himself or not.

          • Also since you state they were a gang that means they would be prohibited from having guns.

          • Tierlieb

            The Hell’s angels case is quite well known in Germany. I’d provide a link, but posts with links usually get stuck in the review process. So simply google “freispruch hells angels polizist”.

            It happened on March, 17th, 2010 in Neuwied. Case identifier BGH (Az. 2 StR 375/11)

            Members of a biker gang are not automatically considered prohibited persons and self-defense laws also cover wrong assumptions.

          • marathag

            use .Com and most links sail thru

          • The Forty ‘Twa

            They have a legal right to self defence whether they are in a gang or not, whether they hold a weapon illegally or not.

  • Ezra Bristow

    Pretty standard European philosophy on firearms: carrying in public is the function of the police but in your own home… there’s some leeway for self defense. The UK and Portugal are the most aggressive in terms of firearms regulation, the official UK police guidelines on gun licensing explicitly state: “ownership of a firearm is a privilege, not a right”

    • Tom – UK

      Could you please provide some evidence to this statement?

  • SpazC

    That was a truly depressing video to watch. On the one hand they can own ,with relatively little hassle, a proper mp5 with stock and normal barrel. On the other, slingshots with arm braces are illegal, period.

    I’ll take US laws over that anyday.

    • santi


    • Full auto weapons not allowed. firearms disguised as other objects, and armour-piercing, incendiary and expanding ammunition are also not allowed for civilians.

    • fmike15

      I knew a guy with a gun store in Germany and he tried to start a paintball business with a place to have “wars” in the woods and once the local liberals got wind of it they had him shut down because it was too warlike.

  • Madcap_Magician

    … so in other words, every other country has draconian gun laws that prevent almost everyone from getting guns?

  • ostiariusalpha

    LOL! Well, obviously Jörg wouldn’t have a huge problem with German weapon laws, as he’s had the time and money to make the system work mostly in his favor. I did get some chuckles from when his mouth was saying that he didn’t see any problem with the banning of arm braces for slingshots, but his face was saying something else.

    • Tassiebush

      Actually he’s been pretty open in the past too that he doesn’t see any real benefit to arm braces. Being a power lifter probably doesn’t hurt either of course.

  • micmac80

    In much of Europe anyone of age and without criminal record can apply for the firearms licence and get one after the medical and a short course onfirearms laws.

    The big difference to US is that self defense firearms licence are rarely issued in most counteries, but the sporting and hunting or collection is no big deal when it comes to collecting full auto guns are non issue.

  • HKmaster

    I know a lot of people are saying full auto weapons aren’t allowed, but is there an exemption for the collectors? could an MP40 from WWII qualify as a collectable and therefore be exempt from full auto restrictions?

    • Nope. Semi auto only for civilians.

    • Gjert Klakeg Mulen

      I don’t know about Germany, but here in Norway if you are a very high ranking individual in the army you can own fully automatic firearms, though i don’t think you can have much on your criminal record. It is highly illegal though to let others shoot the guns who don’t have the “qualification” to do so.
      A buddy of mine knows of a guy who owns a proper MP5 with the fun switch and all.

    • Sir Alec Douglas Home

      Short answer is yes and yes–but good luck if you want to actually shoot the thing, collector’s licenses allow you to purchase, but not *really* to shoot them.

      Generally speaking in Europe you apply for a collector’s license that follows a theme. The most common ‘theme’ I’m aware of is WW2. If your local police are agreeable and you have security arrangements that they are ok with, voila, you can have a collector’s agreement, and pretty much anything goes. I don’t possess one myself, but understand that if you have a collector’s agreement, you can shoot the firearms held under it once a year. As of today, if you do not have a collector agreement, you can still purchase full auto but have to pay about Euro 150 to have the arm switched over to semi. I was flabbergasted to hear of someone at one of my nearby dealers paying to convert a Glock 18 to semi. I mean… why? Other than that I’ve seen plenty of full auto Stens and M1928s on sale, the odd AK (I have heard a well founded rumor of a massive AK collection held privately and legally).

      Shooting on a collector’s license is generally done on the ‘hush hush’. One dealer I frequent had a stock of Stens and Tommy guns in and I asked him how you shoot the darn things, and he said ‘you buy the range officer a bottle of whiskey and you go on Mondays when they are closed, why do you think they all close for one day’. Nothing illegal, just people with full autos don’t want to draw attention to the fact they have them.

      I suspect that the collectors law will rapidly become a relic of the past however, what with the current unpleasantness caused by morons in Europe.

      • HKmaster

        Wow thanks for the info! Shooting full autos only once a year though… Sounds tough 🙁

  • Rock or Something

    Sometimes I see the opposite in terms of what foreigners think how easy acquiring certain firearms in the U.S is. Had foreign visitors or family members think they could just go down the local firearm shop and buy one, no or very little questions asked (legally of course). Or think every AR or AK rifle is capable of fully automatic fire in the U.S. Or didn’t understand that certain States may allow open carry, while others do not.

    • Tierlieb

      Oh, and I so hoped for the “gunshow loophole” 😉

    • Phil Hsueh

      I think that many foreigners who think that have been watching too much The Walking Dead. If all you knew about US gun laws and gun in the country in general was from watching that show you’d think that guns are available near everywhere and every military style rifle is capable of firing full auto.

  • Hezer

    What about Gun laws in Switzerland, Finland, Slovenia or Norway?

    • VH

      The Finnish firearm law has been in turmoil since 2007, when a young man shot around ten people in his school. In 2008 there was another school massacre. So before 2007, you could get licences for pistols and rifles rather easy, but not anymore. In 2011, the firearm law was changed, so that you had to take a medical exam, do a “mental health test” and if the licence is for sports use, you really need to jump through many loops to convince the police that you actually will use the firearm in sports and that the firearm is “well suited” to that particular sport (IPSC etc). This latter part is of course a very subjective matter, which has caused some controversy in the past years.

      But basically, there are four types of licences: Sports, hunting, collecting and work based. The latter is the only type of “self defense”-licence. If you want to hunt, you get your hunting licence, prove that you have some access to hunting grounds (that you belong to a hunting club etc), and you can buy a shotgun or a rifle without too much hassle. Sporting guns (rifles and shotguns) are a bit more difficult to get as I explained above. If you want to be a collector, you need to get a collector’s licence, which takes up to a year to get, and you need to get the police to authorize the space where you will keep the guns. Work licences are very hard to come by, and not many people have them. I think security guards at nuclear power plants are pretty much the only armed guards. The police of course are a different matter.

      Since the school massacres were both done with a semi-auto .22 caliber pistol, pistols are difficult to get. They were virtually impossible to get between 2007 and 2011, until the law was changed and actual guidelines were established. So now to acquire a licence for a pistol, you have to prove that you have been shooting for 2 years in gun club or in the army reserves before you can own a pistol.

      There are a few technical issues as well, A rifle must be at least 840mm long, and it must have a barrel length of at least 400mm, or it is considered as an “other firearm” and “easily concealable” and is thus restricted. This rules out most telescopic and folding stocks. Telescopic stocks must be locked so that they cannot make the firearm shorter than the 840mm minimum, and folding stocks must be welded in the closed position.
      Pistols, that fit in a box of 180x130mm (revolvers in a box 190x140mm) are considered pocket pistols and revolvers, and again “easily concealable” and restricted. Full auto firearms are also strictly regulated. Collectors can obtain licences for “other” firearms, pocket guns and full auto guns, but there aren’t many collectors with these licences.

      As a firearm owner you live in a state of constant fear of the police, because they can seize all your firearms for the smallest offense. Speeding tickets for example. If you get into a fight, even if you didn’t start it, you risk losing all your firearms licences. So if someone assaults you, you just have to take it and under no circumstance hit back. There was even a case when a guy posted a picture of a gun into Facebook, they tried to take his guns away as he was “relaying a message of violence” or something like that.

      So to summarize: If you hunt, getting a firearms licence is rather easy. For sports you need to jump through more hoops. I don’t know how hard it is to get a collector’s licence, but I imagine it’s not very easy. And do not break the law. I hope this wasn’t too confusing.

      • Tassiebush

        Thanks for describing the laws and attitudes of the authorities.

    • Bungameng

      All of them – no CC licenses.

      If you want to start talking about interesting European jurisdictions, you need to go to the Czech Republic & Estonia (both shall issue CC), Slovakia (permissive may issue CC), Austria (used to be permissive may issue, now restricted).

  • John Thayer

    Before 1919 the Second German Reich had pretty decent gun laws. In fact, taken as a whole, European culture reached its absolute peak about the time Queen Victoria died. It has been downhill since them.

  • Travis

    This is not to offend anyone from Germany, but it sounds to me like although the Nazi’s lost the war, many of their ideas remain solidified in the minds of the German (and European) people. The idea that it makes sense to not be allowed to carry a firearm for personal protection but that the government is to be all that the people need is a concept of an enslaved society. The saddest thing for me is that some Americans want to become more European….

    • ostiariusalpha

      These ideas on firearm laws were around before Adolf was a twinkle in his father’s eye; Emperor Maxmillion I banned wheellock firearms in 1517, for instance. It was only really in England that an Assize of Arms law existed, in which the common people were expected to be armed and ready to defend their nation; though that became continuously degraded, beginning in the 18th century on through to the present.

    • Herzer

      “The idea that it makes sense to not be allowed to carry a firearm for
      personal protection but that the government is to be all that the people
      need is a concept of an enslaved society.”

      That idea it’s not
      exclusive to Nazis…I live in a “socialist paradise” (Venezuela), and
      one first things the socialists did when they took power was to
      restrict gun ownership under excuse of reducing crime rates, but the
      real idea behind this was to disarm middle/high-class people.

      The result? our murder rates went up and there are more guns in the hands of gangs than in the police’s hands.

      Sorry for talking about politics in here.
      Sorry about my english too.

      • Tassiebush

        Your insight is valuable and your English is fine.

    • StefaniaBelmondo

      Why bring in the Nazis when these sorts of regulations are in place in all of Europe and have nothing to do with fascism? Does it make your argument sound somehow more ominous?

      If vegetarianism is becoming more popular, is it somehow a sign that Hitler won?

  • GhostTrain81

    Very informative video… but this guy’s demonstration of good firearms safety is… erm… lacking.

  • Brocus

    short version: current firearm ownership restrictions trace back to direct impositions of the Treaty of Versailles and the failing political landscape of the Weimar Republic


  • Alex Nicolin

    In Romania laws are similar to a point to the German ones, but much stricter.

    In order to get a gun, even an air gun, blank firing or rubber ball concussive pistol or bow/crossbow you need a permit. In order to get the permit you need to pass psychological and medical test as well as criminal background check. You also have to pass a theoretical and practical test. The permit is renewed every 5 years – you have to pass the medical and psychological test again. Safe storage (metal locker) is required with separate compartment for ammo. Cops actually come to your country and check the storage. This takes from 1-3 months and the costs are about 200 EUR.

    You will need a written authorization from police for each gun you buy. You can only buy guns trough authorized dealers, even from other private owners. Then you have to register the gun to your permit at the police station. The other person has to get it de-registered. So all guns are permanently registered to an owner.

    You can own guns if you are either a:

    1) Hunter – you have to go to a hunter course and pass hunter certification. Then you have to become a member in a hunting club. Ammo allowance is limited to 500 rounds for each gun you own. Becoming a hunter costs about 500 EUR for the certification and from 100 to 600 EUR per year hunting club membership fee.

    2) Leisure & sports shooter – actually you can only own air rifles unless you are a certified instructor (certification courses cost upwards of EUR 700). As sport shooting instructor you can get handguns and rifles. Ammo allowance is limited as well.

    3) Collector – before you could actually own 25 live and 25 blank rounds for one of the guns in your collection. Now you can’t own ammo. You can basically own any long gun as long is not full auto, or handguns designed before 1945. The catch is that you have to ask written permission from the police each time you get the guns out of storage, for example to go to range or armorer.

  • Calimero

    “Belonging to a criminal organization means you don’t have the right of self defense.”

    Errr… even convicted felons have the right to self defense if they’re not actively engaging in crime at the time. Even US prosecutors and courts have recognized that.

    The question here was whether the guy knew the “assaillants” were cops. He made the case that he didn’t understand they were cops and defended himself against what he thought was unlawful action.

    No-knock warrants/entries look sexy and tactical as f*ck but that doesn’t make it a good procedure except in a very few cases – maybe.

    • In the US there was a case where a convicted felon shoot through a closed door killing a trick or treater. He claimed he fired in self defense. Guess what his claim was rejected since he was a felon banned from gun ownership and he also made no attempt to identify who was at the door.

  • Tierlieb

    May I recap? By now every claim you have made about gun laws in Germany did not hold up (hollow points, full auto guns, self defense).

    So now you explain that the German supreme court is full of idiots because they basically decided
    a) that all human beings have a right to self defense and
    b) that it is a good idea to identify yourself when you knock on the door of a legal gun owner who is known to be in fear for their life?

  • Joshua Madoc

    Germany still has it easy compared to Australia.

  • fmike15

    I lived in Germany as a civilian from the time the wall came down till the early 2000’s and I will say this, in Germany it is easier and cheaper to buy guns on the black market. Not only that, hand grenades and full auto weapons are easily accessible and at that time cost what a good semi auto cost here.

  • fmike15

    In Germany when my friends Father died he inherited some nice hunting rifles which were locked in a safe at his Mothers house. When the economy went belly up he moved to Canada to work. When the German govt. found out, they forced him to return and sell all the rifles for practically nothing before they were confiscated. Don’t ask me why, neither of us can figure that one out. Oh yeah and he wasn’t allowed to take them to Canada either, they had to be legally sold.

  • supergun

    “The U.S. Supreme Court broadly and unequivocally held that licensing or registration of any Constitutional Right is itself UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” — Follett vs McCormick, S.C., 321 U.S. 573 (1944)

  • Rocketman

    If anyone goes to South America they will find that Paraguay is the most reasonable gun laws of all the countries down there. You can obtain a firearm legally if you are only a permanent resident. First you have to apply for a permit and it’s normally granted with a couple of weeks. A permit to carry does take a little longer but isn’t that hard to get and you can own as many guns as you want. They don’t allow any semi-auto rifles except in .22lr. Most people down there use open carry and no one thinks anything about seeing someone with a pistol or revolver on their hip.

  • Cottersay

    Superb video!! I am truly shocked that German citizens have the freedom to own ANY weapon, what with the goofy weapon laws in most/all of Europe.

    HOWEVER, THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION that will tell us whether a German citizen’s guns are paperweights or if they are actually true, functional weapons is: are you allowed to store/keep ammunition in YOUR HOME, or only at your shooting club?? (This is the REAL “gotcha” that most non-American countries use to control their law-abiding citizens and their access to a FUNCTIONING firearm).

    • Tassiebush

      In my context here in Australia ammunition and guns must be locked up separately from each other in safes that meet set standards. Generally that’s two compartments of one safe. It’s obviously not a great set up for defensive use.

  • Great_Baldung

    Would you look at that… blank guns and less-lethal ones.

    As a Greek I’m quite envious of these.