Until now, keeping track of weapons has been the duty of 551 different local authorities and much of the information was held on paper.
But civil servants in Cologne have been collating and computerising the data since April, and the national database should be live from January 1.
The new database would offer a “considerable improvement to safety in Germany,” said Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, who has been in charge of the project, which also fulfils EU guidelines that member states should adopt by 2014.
Requests for information about weapons from local authorities could take months to process and the new system would make investigations easier and quicker, said president of the Federal Criminal Police (BKA) Jörg Ziercke.
The BKA had been saying for years that the original system had to change.
Police trade union GdP welcomed the register, saying it would mean officers called out to a disturbance would be able to check whether a gun was registered at the location. Such information could save lives, said GdP head Bernhard Witthaut.
But socialist party Die Linke voiced concern that Friedrich had been too hasty in launching the facility. MP Frank Tempel said he was worried that it would not be able to completely replace the old system in January.
Parliament decided on the national register in April of this year at least in part as a reaction to two massacres over the past decade.
A 19-year-old shot 13 teachers, two students and a police officer at his former school in Erfurt in 2002, before killing himself. Seven years later a 17-year-old shot and killed 15 people in and around his school in Winnenden before also killing himself.
Gun crime, never high in Germany when compared with many other countries, dropped considerably over the past decade – in 2000, police registered 19,400 crimes in which involved a firearm. By 2011, this figure stood at 11,700.
Of the 2011 statistics, 5,600 were shootings and 132 were incidents in which a gun was involved in a murder, manslaughter or assisted suicide investigation.