UK Laws & Regulations

Airsoft is a sport enjoyed by a huge number of people. From keeping fit to socialising and perfecting your skills, there are many benefits that regular participation in Airsoft can provide. And as with anything, it is important to ensure that you understand and are aware of the laws and regulations around the sport before you play.

UK Law On Purchasing Airsoft Guns

There have been a number of changes to laws in the UK over the years that specifically apply to the sale and purchase of Airsoft guns, and how these products are classified. These important acts were designed to prevent realistic looking replica weapons from getting into the hands of individuals who may want to use them for illegitimate purposes. However, UK law does permit the sale and use of Airsoft guns to individuals who qualify for exemption.

Airsoft & The 2006 Violent Crime
Reduction Act (VCRA)

The 2006 Violent Crime Reduction Act (VCRA) introduced some robust changes to the way Airsoft guns are treated under UK law. Originally, this would have seriously changed the way we handle Airsoft guns, maybe to the extent of ending their widespread use as the act made it an offence to supply a realistic imitation firearm (RIF). 

In its original form, this act essentially meant that the sale of airsoft guns became illegal. However, UKAPU, the Airsoft Players Union in the UK, and UKARA, a non-profit organisation dedicated to Airsoft guns, lobbied to secure an exemption for Airsoft RIFs in the act, which were detailed in Commencement 3, Regulations 2007 of which orders 31-40 relate specifically to Airsoft guns.

You are a member of an insured historical reenactment organisation
You represent a film, television or theatre production company
You represent a museum
You are a Crown Servant and pursuing your Crown duties
You are a registered Airsoft player with membership at an insured skirmish site

You can find more information about becoming a registered Airsoft player further down the page.

Airsoft & The 2017 Policing & Crime Act

In 2017, the Policing and Crime Act set out to provide further clarity about Airsoft guns and the specification thresholds that would be allowed. Exemption for Airsoft Guns within the Policing and Crime Act 2017 describes what an Airsoft gun is and why it is not seen as a firearm. An 'Airsoft gun' is not to be regarded as a firearm for the purposes of this Act (s. 57A). According to section 57A(2), the following are described as Airsoft guns.

An 'Airsoft gun' is not to be regarded as a firearm for the purposes of this Act (s. 57A). According to section 57A(2), the following are described as Airsoft guns.

A gun that discharges only a small plastic missile and or any other type of materials.
A gun that can only release any kind of missile with kinetic energy which doesn't exceed permitted levels.
The 'small plastic missile' cited is completely or partly made from plastics, is spherical and is only up to 8 millimetres in diameter (s. 57A(3)).
If the kinetic energy created at the muzzle of the gun is more than the permitted level, it will no longer be considered a soft gun but a firearm.

The permitted kinetic energy level is:

For a weapon built to discharge up to two or more missiles in succession without the need for repeated pressure on the trigger, like in the case of an automatic weapon, 1.3 joules.
For any other weapon that discharges only one shot at a time, 2.5 joules.

Airsoft guns which do not follow the above rules and exceed the set limits are considered illegal and may be categorised at section 5 firearms. If you are caught with a section 5 firearm without a licence, you could face a mandatory 5-year prison sentence.

Additionally, if you run a venue that uses Airsoft guns for recreation, you may need to report full auto weapons over 370fps.

What Is The Difference Between An RIF and IF?

Replica Imitation Firearm (RIF)

A replica imitation firearm is one that very closely resembles a real gun. In terms of airsoft, this means replica imitations that are almost visibly indistinguishable from their genuine counterparts. A simple way of knowing whether an Airsoft gun is classified as a RIF is if it is a single colour such as black, as the real version of the weapon would be. In terms of the law, the 2006 VCRA applies to RIFs and to purchase one of these products it is necessary to satisfy one of the exemption criteria

Imitation Firearm (IF)

An imitation firearm is one that imitates the real thing, however can be easily distinguished from a genuine weapon. In terms of Airsoft, IFs are usually guns that are more than 50% a colour other than black and most often this is a bright blue, orange, green or other colour. These can be purchased by any individual over the age of 18, and proof of exemption from the VCRA is not required.

Can Anyone Buy An Airsoft Gun?

Anyone aged 18 or over is able to purchase a two tone Airsoft gun in the UK. A two tone gun, or imitation firearm (IF) is one in which the main colour is significantly different from a real firearm and is usually a bright blue, orange or other colour used to differentiate an Airsoft replica from a genuine weapon.

If you are in the UK, in order to purchase a single tone replica gun that looks like a real weapon, called a replica imitation firearm (RIF), you must be over 18 years old and meet one of the criteria that qualifies for exemption from the 2006 Violent Crimes Reduction Act (VCRA) as listed above.

For most Airsoft players, the most simple way to qualify for exemption and be able to legally purchase a single tone imitation replica firearm is to become registered.

What Is A Registered Airsoft Player
& How Do I Register?

Being registered is valid evidence to prove you are a regular Airsoft player at an insured site, and so are exempt for prosecution for purchasing a RIF, which includes single tone Airsoft guns.

To become a registered Airsoft player you will need to play three games over a two month period at a skirmish site that is registered with the UKARA. This will mean that you are added to the UKARA database and will be given a unique UKARA number that can be used as evidence that you are able to legally purchase a single tone replica Airsoft weapon.

An important point is that in order to fulfil the requirements of being given your UKARA number, you need to play a minimum of three games over a two month period. This means that even if you play three games on consecutive days, you will not be able to become registered until two months following the date of your first game.

Queries & Misconceptions Around Airsoft

There are some common queries and misconceptions regarding the safe and legal purchase and use of Airsoft equipment in the UK. Let’s cover some of these.

Is Airsoft Safe?

Airsoft is a fantastic sport, offering a great way to keep fit, as well as providing the opportunity to meet people you may not have had the chance to encounter before. Airsoft weapons and ammo are not designed to cause injury, and while you can certainly feel the impact when you are hit from close range, you may struggle to feel any impact at all from longer range shots, particularly through padded or protective Airsoft clothing and gear.

It is important that Airsoft guns and equipment are handled responsibly, and when playing Airsoft, that all site rules and guidelines are followed. When played responsibly Airsoft is no more dangerous than any sport, with the biggest risk of injury being something like twisting your ankle as you run around the site.

Can Children Play Airsoft?

Although children are not legally allowed to purchase an Airsoft gun, it is legal for anyone over the age of 18 to purchase and gift a two tone gun. So if you are a parent, it is completely legal to purchase a two tone Airsoft gun and give it to your child. It is strongly recommended to ensure children participate in Airsoft in a controlled and supervised environment and are taught important safety guidelines before handling a gun.

Airsoft can be a sport for people of a wide range of ages. Children can take part in it as long as they thoroughly understand the rules that come with the sport. A person of any age can experience the physical benefits of playing Airsoft, and creating new social connections can be beneficial to everyone.

Can Airsoft Guns Be Modified To Fire
Live Ammo?

The great thing about Airsoft guns is the range of accessories that you can use to make your gun individual to yourself and to suit your styles of play, such as aiming devices, extended magazines or silencers. A common misconception is that Airsoft guns can be modified to use live ammunition. This is completely false, and Airsoft rifles will only ever fire plastic ammunition!

Does Airsoft Cause Problems With
The Police?

As with a lot of aspects in life, the actions of a select few people can give a bad reputation to something that is for the vast majority of people fun and enjoyable. Taking part in Airsoft skirmishes in a controlled environment where you have permission to play will not cause any issues. Airsoft is a community as well as a sport, so supporting each other by acting responsibly will ensure everyone gets to enjoy the sport. Assuming you purchase Airsoft guns legally and play responsibly, there is no reason to expect any issues or contact with the police.

Enjoy Airsoft Legally and Responsibly

Essentially, Airsoft is an excellent sport for people of all ages as long as everyone acts responsibly and fairly and follows the regulations.

If you have any queries about purchasing Airsoft guns, equipment or accessories,
get in touch with Land Warrior Airsoft where our experienced and friendly team will be happy to help you.

Be knowledgeable, stay safe and enjoy your next skirmish!