It is an offence to possess, purchase or acquire a firearm without holding a relevant firearm certificate at the time. A firearm for the purpose of requiring a certificate means:
- a lethal barrelled weapon, a barrelled weapon from which a shot, bullet or other missile, with kinetic energy of more than one joule at the muzzle of the weapon, can be discharged;
- a prohibited weapon;
- relevant component part in relation to a lethal barrelled weapon or a prohibited weapon;
- an accessory to a lethal barrelled weapon or a prohibited weapon where the accessory is designed or adapted to diminish the noise or flash caused by firing the weapon.
There is an exception to the requirement to hold a firearms certificate in relation to airsoft guns. An airsoft gun means a barrelled weapon which:
- is designed to discharge only a small plastic missile, whether or not it is also capable of discharging any other kind of missile, and
- is not capable of discharging a missile, of any kind, with kinetic energy at the muzzle of the weapon that exceeds the permitted level.
A small plastic missile for the purposes of this exemption means a missile that is made wholly or partly from plastics, is spherical, and does not exceed 8mm in diameter.
The permitted level referred to above is:
- in the case of a weapon which is capable of discharging two or more missiles successively without repeated pressure on the trigger, 1.3 joules ;
- in any other case, 2.5 joules .
Air weapons (air rifle, air gun, air pistol)
An air weapon will be classed as a firearm if it is 'a lethal barrelled weapon' as outlined above. If it is not a lethal barrelled weapon, an air weapon is exempt from the requirement to hold a firearms certificate provided it is not designed or adapted for use with a self-contained gas cartridge system, or declared by the Secretary of State as specially dangerous.
An air weapon is deemed specially dangerous if:
- It has a muzzle kinetic energy in excess of:
- in the case of an air pistol: 6 ft lb;
- in the case of an air weapon other than an air pistol: 12 ft lb; or
- Is disguised as another object.
As long as the air weapon fits within the exemptions above, you will not require a certificate for it. If in doubt contact your local force's firearms licensing department.
Please note that all calls to police involving firearms are treated as if it is a genuine firearm so be aware that if you do wave an imitation firearm around you could find yourself surrounded by firearms officers pointing real weapons at you.