Recreational shooting can refer to several activities including hunting, participating in shooting competitions, or using firearms as a hobby. The laws surrounding firearms vary considerably between countries and bringing one nearly always involves some bureaucracy.
- It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn't.
- P.G. Wodehouse, Ring for Jeeves
Firearms are inherently dangerous. Using them safely, even just on the range, requires proper training and using them for hunting or self-defense has additional hazards. Among the basic precautions:
- Never assume a weapon is not loaded. It should become a reflex to check any gun you touch, before doing anything else.
- Control where the weapon is pointed! Outdoors, keep it aimed at the ground except when there is good reason to point it elsewhere.
With some of the strictest firearms laws in the world, with the death penalty being prescribed for unauthorised possession, firearm ownership is not very common in Singapore. That being said, it is possible to get a licence to buy and own firearms in Singapore if you do not have a criminal record, and you are a registered member of a shooting club. Firearms generally must be stored securely at the shooting range, and cannot be brought out without a valid reason (for example, if you are travelling for a shooting tournament).
Legislation differs from one country to the next, but many countries are much stricter than the USA.
The European Union, covering many European countries, has harmonized some of the legislation around bringing firearms. There is a European Firearm License ("firearms passport") meant to ease crossing borders inside the union with a firearm. In addition to the licence you need an invitation to a hunting or sport shooting event or similar documentation showing your need of the arm, a description of your coming participation and, for some countries, advance acceptance from the country in question. For carrying the firearm for other purposes you have to apply separately for permission (for a certain occasion or repeatedly), you may also need permission to get the firearm out of your country.
If you have a fire arms licence of a Nordic country and an invitation to a hunting or sport shooting event, you need no other paperwork to transport and use the weapon as allowed for local residents and needed for participating in the event. Without a Nordic permit you need licence and documentation in accordance with the EU regulations.
A firearm under transport must be unloaded and in an envelope. It must not be transported around needlessly. When stored, it must be in a place where not easily stolen, and additionally locked in or with some piece stored separately. Carrying the weapon for hunting is also regulated in the hunting law (you may e.g. not transport it in a motor vehicle in the terrain). You may not give the arm to anybody else, except someone else with the required licence or under your close supervision.
Hunting arms are restricted to certain types, with requirements varying by game. For hunting big game an easy shooting proficiency test is needed, unless you have documentation on a similar test or right to hunt similar game abroad. Similarly you need firearm and hunting licences from your home country, as getting one here is too time consuming for a visitor.
Hunting rights belong to the landowner. The usual arrangement to get to hunt as a foreigner is being guest of a hunting club (which has acquired rights to hunting grounds), possibly by reciprocal arrangements, or staying at a business with rights to hunting grounds. Hunting permits are also sold for some governmental grounds. For big game you need separate licences, usually acquired by the hunting clubs. Most game have specific hunting seasons, usually in autumn or winter. Check regulations and practices.
Firearm regulation is regulated by law in France. All firearms have to be licensed and must have a unique identifier. Since the European Union's creation, a European Firearm License has been created, allowing regulated and declared firearms to be transported cross-borders. An article about firearms regulations from the Chateau de Janvry can be found here: How to Travel to France with Firearms [dead link].
In general Germany is a very restrictive country when it comes to firearms, however since the Weapons Act (Waffengesetz) was enacted on April 1, 2003 the regulations affecting hunters and recreational shooters have been significantly relaxed.
German law raised the minimum age for the purchase and possession of weapons from 16 to 18 for hunters, and 18 to 21 for marksmen.
Hunters with a European Firearm Licence may transport a documented firearm to Iceland and hunt with a stay no longer than 3 months. Hunters from other countries need an import permit from the Icelandic police in addition to a fire arms permit and an hunting permit.
In order to get a fire arms permit and a hunting permit the hunter needs an Icelandic supporter that is over 20 years of age, the hunter may not have an criminal record and the hunter needs a medical record specially intended for hunting. These documents need to be sent to the environmental agency of Iceland and the Icelandic police. Classes for both permits are held by the environmental agency.
A firearm under transport must be unloaded and in an envelope. When stored, it must be in a locked locker.
Hunting is allowed in the commons. The largest continuous area in the commons is the entire interior of Iceland. Hunting in other regions require a permit from the landowner and payment fees regularly apply in that case. Hunters are required to return a hunting report each year to the environment agency of Iceland.
Quotas apply to hunting reindeer and the hunter needs to apply for a quota to the environmental agency. Reindeer may only be hunted during the summer. Hunting periods apply to most bird species.
Hunting is popular in Sweden, but regulated by strict laws and local regulations. Also note that in Sweden you are never allowed to carry any kind of shooting weapon without a special permit, and failure to observe Swedish law in this case may incur severe fines, permanent confiscation of the weapon and possible imprisonment, as the carrying of a weapon without permit is considered a criminal offence.
If you have a firearms permit from any Nordic country and an invitation to a hunting or sport shooting event, you need no other paperwork to carry the weapon as allowed for local residents.
The UK has very strict gun control laws. Pistols are illegal in the UK, and special dispensation had to be gotten for the pistol shooting events to go ahead for the Commonwealth Games and Olympics. Even the Olympic pistol shooters cannot train at home and have to train in Switzerland due to this restriction. Rifles and shotguns may be owned with a permit, which is granted if you have a valid reason, such as for sport shooting. Even police officers (with the exception of Northern Ireland) are forbidden from carrying firearms during their regular patrols, and must request for special armed units to be dispatched when necessary to carry out their duties.
A small number of professional shoots for game birds are organised, but these are considered by many to be an establishment perk with a price tag to match.
Hunting and fishing are big business in Canada and they attract many tourists, especially from the US and Japan. Typically the companies that provide services to hunters can also help customers comply with Canadian laws. You need a hunting or fishing license and may also need a gun license.
Canadian weapons laws are considerably tighter than the US. While hunting licences are provincially issued, regulations on firearms are federal, leaving little room for variation between provinces.
- The Canadian Firearms Centre administers the gun regulations.
- Canada Customs have a page on import regulations.
A number of weapons are classed as prohibited. Getting a permit for these is generally impossible. Prohibited firearms include short-barrelled guns, fully-automatic weapons, rifles with collapsible stocks, and most 25 or 32 caliber pistols. Various other things are also prohibited — including mags with over 5 rounds for a long gun or 10 for a pistol, silencers, replicas such as Airsoft guns, switchblade knives, teargas or pepper spray (unless sold as dog or bear repellent).
There are also restricted weapons — any pistol that is not prohibited, M16 and AR-15, various others. Permits for these may be possible, but there is considerable bureaucracy to be dealt with.
The only weapon that would be relatively easy to import, or to rent, is one that is neither restricted nor prohibited, such as the typical hunter's rifle or shotgun. Even for that, there would be paperwork. There is no equivalent to the US second amendment in Canadian law; four-figure fines (or worse) for any undeclared firearm at Canadian customs are not uncommon and jail terms are possible.
The United States has a strong gun culture compared to most other Western countries, and the right for US citizens to own and bear firearms is enshrined in the constitution. However, the regulations are much more restrictive with regard to foreigners.
Shooting sports such as hunting and competitive shooting are widely practiced. Rifle ranges often offer shooter safety and other classes for beginners.
Anyone who wishes to hunt must first purchase a hunting license valid for the state they will hunt in. Licenses are available at many rural stores or by mail/internet directly from the state. They are usually valid for a set period of time, or a set number of kills.
Foreigners on non-immigrant visas who wish to import guns for hunting or competitive shooting must file Form 6 NIA  with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as well as have a valid hunting license. Approval generally takes 6-8 weeks, so plan ahead.
It is only legal in the US for US citizens and legal permanent residents (green card holders) to purchase or own firearms without any special permit. Foreigners who are illegally or unlawfully in the United States, are specifically prohibited from possessing any firearm or ammunition. Foreigners lawfully admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa may possess firearm if they are admitted to the United States for lawful hunting or sporting purposes or are in possession of a hunting license or permit lawfully issued in the United States. Any guns purchased by foreign hunters while in the US are likely to be subjected to export restrictions. Another option is to borrow or rent guns from the shooting range of your choice to shoot on premises -- call ahead to see if this is an option.
Individual US States have a significant say over most of the regulations of firearms within their state. Travelers will want to check with individual states to make sure other restrictions will not apply to them. The pro-gun lobbyist organization, the National Rifle Association (Commonly referred to as the NRA)  provides an excellent service that explains most relevant state-by-state laws.
While it is not illegal outright to own a firearm in Australia, you generally need a reason to be granted a licence to buy one. In general, licences are only granted if you are a farmer who lives in a rural area, or if you are a member of a legitimate sport shooting club. Carrying a firearm down the street in an urban area is rare, and might draw some unwanted attention to you.
- See also: Animal ethics
In July 2015, an American dentist was excoriated by media for killing a collared lion named Cecil, a protected animal alleged to have been unlawfully lured out of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe at night using bait. Cecil was well-known locally and wore a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University wildlife study. While the guides have been charged and the dentist may be extradited, ensuing publicity encouraged governments to propose stricter import restrictions and airlines to refuse to transport hunting trophies. Within a few weeks, at least half a dozen major airlines banned trophies of the "big five" African large game animals - lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros or buffalo. More are expected to follow.
Various restrictions apply to the import and transportation of hunting trophies for specific species; threatened or endangered species in particular are subject to import bans imposed by most national governments in response to the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Export permits may be required to ship polar bear skins; animals poached illegally may also be excluded from cargo by airlines and transportation companies. Hunting of elephants for their ivory, problematic to dwindling populations in the wild, has attracted increasing government attention. In general, the more exotic (or rare) the species, the greater the restrictions are likely to be on transport of parts or trophies.
Individual nations may apply their own Customs restrictions, often arbitrarily; anything from a Newfoundland sealskin purse (where seals are plentiful) to a set of antique Scottish bagpipes (made before the ban on commercial use of ivory pieces) can and has been taken from hapless voyagers by US authorities. Even if the item is lawful, there are often confusing requirements for documentation and limitations on which ports of entry will accept a shipment
Anyone planning to hunt abroad and bring back trophies needs to check this in advance.