An antique firearm is not defined in the law but guidelines from the Home Office suggest the following may be considered as antique:
- A muzzle loading firearm of original manufacture (not a modern made replica or reproduction).
- Any breech-loading firearm using a rim-fire cartridge exceeding .23 (but not 9mm).
- A breech-loading firearm of original manufacture, using an ignition system other than rim-fire or centre (e.g. flintlock or percussion).
- A breech loading centre fire firearm originally chambered for cartridges, which are now obsolete AND retaining that original chambering.
Evidence of antique status may include an indication of date of manufacture, details of technical obsolescence, a lack of commercial availability or suitable ammunition, or a written opinion by an accredited expert.
There is a further requirement that any 'antique firearm' is kept purely as a curiosity or ornament not to be fired and for which no ammunition is authorised. If there is any indication that a firearm is to be used (not held purely as a curiosity or ornament), it should not be regarded as an antique and normal certification procedures would apply. The intent to fire an antique weapon, even with blank ammunition or charge (i.e. historical enactment) would take it beyond the term of being held as a curiosity or ornament.
Similarly, if modern ready-made ammunition can be readily acquired and used the weapon may not be considered as an antique (this is a Home Office guidance to help the police, a court will make the final decision if necessary).
If a person wishes to shoot any antique firearm or shotgun it must be shown on their certificate and properly recorded with the police. However, each case should be dealt with on its merits and advice on individual weapons can be sought from the relevant force's firearm department.