Carry firearms or discharge firearms

You can only carry firearms or discharge firearms from an aircraft in Australia if you have one of the following permissions:

  • Government employee/associated agency - if you're an employee of a government or associated agency and are required to carry or discharge a firearm as part of your employment, you must have the appropriate permissions.
  • Commercial or private operations - if you're a commercial or private operator who carries firearms and discharges firearms as part of your operations, you must have the appropriate permissions.

How to apply for permission

You must fill in and send us the right form.

Government employee or associated agency

Commercial or private operators

If you're a commercial or private operator you must provide operating procedures with your application.

The operating procedures can either:

  • encompass the appropriate criteria described on this page for the carriage and/or discharge of firearms
  • vary from the appropriate criteria described on this page, but in this case you must also send us a supporting safety case.

Renewing your permission

You must submit your renewal applications at least 30 days before the end of your current permission. This allows time for us to review and renew your permission.

Operating procedures for carrying firearms and ammunition

Your operating procedures must address the following criteria.

  • You must observe the aircraft weight and performance limitations listed in the relevant aircraft manual.
  • You must store live ammunition in appropriate containers. You must restrain the containers to hard points within easy reach of the firearm operator. The containers must be securely closed during take-off and landing to minimise the possibility of live ammunition spilling out during an accident.
  • Only 1 firearm operator in the aircraft can carry out live firing.
  • The only people permitted to carry a firearm during animal culling operations are:
    • the firearm operator
    • authorised personnel required for essential duties relating to the animal culling operation.
  • All occupants of the aircraft must wear seatbelts during the flight except where we have approved a safety harness.
  • Firearms must remain unloaded except immediately prior to the firing operation and, when loaded, must be aimed outside the aircraft.
  • The pilot-in-command (PIC) and the firearm operator should maintain communication by intercom for the duration of the culling operation. If the intercom should fail during a flight, the culling operation must stop.

Check with you state and territory authority for any other licence and approval requirements.

Operating procedures to discharge a firearm from an aircraft

If your firearm will be discharged while aboard an aircraft you must also add the following criteria along with the procedures outlined above.

Preparing for the operation

  • The full use of SARWATCH facilities may be made at the discretion of the pilot. As some operations may be conducted over remote outback areas, the PIC must, where necessary, ensure that the following equipment is loaded in the aircraft prior to leaving base:
    • emergency rations
    • survival kit
    • first aid kit
    • adequate supply of water for the crew
    • serviceable emergency locator transmitter (ELT) beacon. Staff must be shown where the ELT is and how to use it in case the pilot becomes incapacitated.
  • The PIC must make sure that no people or unintended stock could be harmed during the operation. Conduct a thorough survey of the area and communication with all parties before, and if necessary, during the operation.
  • The PIC must ensure that the aircraft dual controls be removed and blanked to prevent accidental jamming or interference in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.

During an operation

  • The PIC must ensure that thorough communication with all parties takes place before the operation. This, includes a separate briefing between the PIC and the firearm operator that covers the following points:
    • Firing technique, including ‘arc of fire’ to prevent firing into the aircraft rotor system or any other part of the aircraft.
    • Ensuring that the firearm ejection system won't interfere or damage any part of the aircraft or its occupants.
    • Storage of live ammunition.
    • Storage and disposal of used cartridges.
    • Firearm to be unloaded prior to landing.

Discharge a firearm from a helicopter

  • Do no discharge a firearm in flight if it may cause hazard to persons or property. You also must not discharge within 3 nautical miles of any city, town or populous area without our specific approval.
  • The types of firearms used from helicopters are limited to:
    • shotguns
    • anaesthetising guns
    • rifles
    • semi-automatic rifles.
  • The use of a revolver or similar handgun will generally not be approved.
  • The use of semi-automatic rifles are generally restricted. Restrictions include firearms where the direction of the ejection of the empty casings is below the horizontal and not greater than 90 degrees back from the direction of fire.
  • The firearm can only be used by a person licensed to carry and discharge the firearm. The pilot must not unhand the flying controls at any time to assist in the operation of the firearm.
  • The aiming and firing of the firearm must always be in arc. This is a minimum of 30 degrees below the rotor arc and forward of 90 degrees from the direction of flight.
  • If you are using a semi-automatic rifle, the PIC of the helicopter must first conduct a ground trial. A collection case must be used where the ejection of empty cases presents a foreign object damage hazard because if engine ingestion or contact with the main and/or tail rotor blades.
  • Any used cartridges must avoid contact with external features of the helicopter. Depending on the type of firearm used, one of the following methods should be used:
    • Deflection shields will be used for semi-automatic weapons to ensure that spent cartridges are deflected downward and away from the aircraft.
    • Extraction bags will be used on those weapons that have them fitted.
    • Use manual extraction for bolt action firearms, and place the spent cartridge in a suitable container restrained in the aircraft. Securely close these containers during take-off and landing to minimise the possibility of spent cartridges spilling out in the event of an accident.
  • The firearm operator must dispose of a weapon to ensure that there is no interference with any part of the helicopter. The pilot must tell the firearm operator how to dispose of the weapon depending on the requirements of the specific aircraft.
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