There were 157,581 FACs on issue on 31 March this year, an increase of 2 per cent on the previous year.
Comparable figures are only available back to 2009 but BASC’s Paul Dale said wider analysis of the figures showed that not since 1988 had the number of certificates been this high.
He said: “The number of firearm certificates on issue started to decrease between 1988 and 2002 but has been steadily rising ever since to give us the figure we see today.
“The more people who take part in shootingsports, the louder our voice and better our position for promoting the sport becomes.”
Elsewhere, shotgun certificates increased by 1 per cent, as did the number of people holding a certificate of either kind (now 586,583).
The average rifle shooter owns two rifles and one sound moderator – there are currently 335,162 rifles covered by certificates.
And the average shooter remains a man aged at least 50 fifty – 94 per cent of licence holders are male, and 63.7 per cent are over 50.
Nearly all applications for certificates or renewals continue to be approved – 98 per cent of firearms certificate applications and 97 per cent of shotgun certificate applications.