Swedish Gun Laws



Special to the M1911 Pistols Organization

by Anonymous*


This will be a brief summary of the basics of Swedish gun laws, not going into depth on subjects like the various technicalities regarding what kind of pistols are allowed for certain disciplines, mostly because I'm not familiar with them.

The short version is, that everything is technically legal, provided you can convince the police that you have a legitimate purpose for the firearms. Legitimate reasons are the following, in the order of difficulty in aquiring a license: hunting, sport/target shooting, collecting, and self defense.


Hunting

Let's start with hunting. Shotguns, rifles, and in some limited circumstances, handguns, are legal for hunting. No muzzle loading firearms, and no firearms using black powder cartridges either. To get firearms for hunting, one needs to pass a hunter's exam/certificate. (However, those who have been hunting since before the exam system was initiated can continue to do so, and an exam isn't necessary to hunt. Also, a person who has not taken the exam can hunt under the supervision of a person with an exam).

The exam can be done either through evening classes (the cheapest option) or through a weekend class (more expensive, but quicker). The exam consists of a theoretical test about wildlife, what is legal to hunt and when, how, ethics, firearms safety and other topics, and what is essentially six practical tests. Two of them are safety tests, and four are shooting tests. The safety tests concern how to move about when out hunting and how to safely clear the magazine of a bolt action rifle. The shooting tests consists of two shotgun tests and two rifle tests. Shotgun tests are trap shooting, with 4 out of 6 clays required to qualify, and shooting against a running bunny target. The qualifications for passing this were unclear to me, but a sufficient number of pellets have to hit the running bunny. The rifle tests consists of two shooting tests with a .22 LR bolt action rifle, one from a sitting position with support from a bench/table, the other is either standing, using a pole to support the rifle, or sitting on a chair, the rifle un-supported. For the first test, all rounds (4 or 5) need to be within a ten cm circle; for the second test, all rounds need to be within a 17 cm circle.

The second rifle test is with a full caliber rifle, of a type suitable for moose or similarily large animals. Four shots are to be fired against a running moose target, with all four shots needing to be within a circle 30 cm in diameter. For every test you pass, theoretical and practical, you get a small stamp in the book that is one part of your hunter's exam/certificate. I should also add that the practical tests need to be taken in the order I've written them down, even if you only plan on hunting big game and have no use for .22s.

Now that you have an official reason for having hunting weapons, your first stop should be the gun store to get an approved gun safe, which will be required before the first license is granted. To purchase a firearm, you go to the gun store, handle guns until you find something that seems to suit you, write down all the information about it, make, model, serial number, barrel lenght, magazine capacity, action, and take this to the police. I'm unsure if the license application can be for more than one firearm at a time. It was certainly doable in the very recent past, but looking at a .pdf version of a firearms application, there's only room for one firearm. The cost of first application is currently 700 krona ($109 U.S. or 80 Euros), the following applications are 250 krona ($39 U.S. or 29 Euros) each.

Number and type of firearms permitted:

At first, you will be restricted to four long guns. An additional two long guns can be had without too much bother. Anything beyond that will require going through lots of red tape. Each firearm requires its own separate license.

Types of firearms permitted (note: this is for getting a new license, older rules permitted shorter barrels and certain types & brands that are now prohibited from being issued on a license for hunting, all of them are grandfathered to the current owner). Minimum barrel lenght for rifles is 45 cm (17.72 inches), minimum length for shotguns is 48 cm (18.90 inches).

Fully automatic weapons are not legal for hunting. All other types are allowed, with restrictions being applied based on military heritage/appearance for semi-automatic rifles & shotguns. Pump and semi-automatic shotguns are limited to 2 shells in the magazine and one in the chamber; this restriction needs to be permanently done, either by welding, rivets, or two-component adhesive. Thanks to what is probably an oversight, while the 2+1 rule applies to all repeating shotguns used for hunting, lever action and bolt action shotguns do not need to be permanently restricted. Shotguns cannot have a detachable magazine.

For rifles, as mentioned, anything with a military heritage/appearance is now prohibited. This includes but is not limited to: AR-15, Kalashnikov type rifles, FAL, G3, and (since a few years ago) also firearms like the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine, which were previously allowed due to semi-automatic military rifles of a pre-1942 design being allowed. Also prohibited is the Ruger Mini-14 rifle. As mentioned, grandfathering applies, so all licenses previously issued are still valid.

Magazine size, rifles: manually repeating rifles have no restrictions on magazine capacity; semi-automatic rifles do. For most species, 5+1 is permitted, although some species, some of them considered the more dangerous ones, only allow 2+1 or 3+1. Large magazines are legal to possess and to be used for target/fun shooting.

I mentioned handguns. Generally, they are not allowed, except for one circumstance for actual hunting: when hunting foxes, badgers and other burrowing animals, .22 caliber revolvers can be had for killing them, as a rifle would be too unwieldy to aim while being crouching into a burrow/lair.
Reportedly, there are a few people who have large caliber handguns issued for hunting, but I haven't been able to find out more about how and why they got these licenses issued.

Final note regarding long guns for hunting: all licenses are issued for life, and depending on how friendly your local police is, this may also be granted for previously mentioned .22 revolvers.


Target/sport shooting

This is a subject I'm not very knowledgable about, but I know the basics:

To begin with, all handgun licenses issued since 2000 are for 5 years only, after that you have to re-apply for it. The same may be true for rifles and shotguns held for target/sport shooting, although this is policy by the police rather than actual law or regulation. Some police districts have rules for issuing licenses that are stricter than they legally are allowed to be, I recall reading that there are court actions planned against them, and court actions have been taken against them previously.

While highly regulated, the good thing is that there are no laws in place (at the moment, I will mention this later) banning certain types of pistols or rifles, nor are there laws banning certain calibers (although regulations from clubs & associations will certainly ban various types of firearms based on unsuitability, such as older pistols of extremely poor quality, or no commercial ammunition available). If there's a club for the discipline you're interested in, you can join, qualify, and get a license for just about anything, up to and including submachine guns and possibly even assault rifles, although both SMGs and assault rifles have been getting more restrictions around them in the last 15-20 years or so, since they were initially there as a part of the total defense doctrine of the Cold War, something that isn't a concern nowadays. So, in theory, about everything is legal, although some are more available and accepted than others. Sadly, because of the regulations, SMG shooting seems to be a dying sport in this country.

As mentioned, there are currently no laws banning certain types of weapons, although they are seriously suggesting restrictions now, partly because of Breivik's actions in Norway, and partly because of crimes committed with illegal military weapons smuggled in. Suggested restrictions are to ban all fully automatic weapons, most military styled semi-automatic weapons, and to place restrictions on handguns based on whether they can accept magazines above a certain number of rounds, and also making magazines subjected to licenses, either by separate licenses like firearms, or having to show a license for the firearm to purchase one, just as with ammunition. These suggestions have been met with an unusual bit of resistance, both from shooting and hunting associations, and from politicians as well. It will be interesting to see what happens.


Collecting

To collect within a certain area of firearms history, it's almost required to first begin by starting the collection with other militaria (if available). Collections needs to have set limits, for example, "US military rifles, 1860-1960", or "Belgian pocket pistols and revolvers, 1850-1930". Firearms held on collection licenses do not need to be deactivated, but are generally not allowed to be fired either, other than for demonstration of the firearm. Not quite collecting, but I'm mentioning the category here, are firearms inherited, but for which no licenses for either hunting or sport shooting will be issued, say as an example, an older revolver of poor quality, that may still have emotional value. They can be held on a memory license, but are required to be deactivated.


Self defense

The most difficult license to get. I don't know anything about it, other than the fact that the law does allow for them to be issued. I have no statistics on how many licenses are issued, or the requirements to get one.


Gun culture

There really isn't a gun culture as such. Gun ownership, at least for target shooting, and especially with military style rifles, is deemed suspicious. Hunting is viewed more favorably. Although I've read that it was actually completely legal to carry licensed firearms loaded on one's person up until relatively recently, self defense, at least with firearms, is not something that the majority of people in this country wants to consider. Why this is, I don't know.

* Authorís Note: The author is a native resident of Sweden who is a member of a firearms and civil rights related Internet forum with members of the M1911.ORG moderating team. Although he is well qualified to provide the information set forth in the foregoing article, he chooses to remain anonymous. Readers wishing to ask questions relating to this article may submit them through the M1911.ORG administration.

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I would like to thank the author of this International Focus article for sharing with us his knowledge on the Swedish gun laws and gun culture.