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BB Guns UK Law: Airsoft Guns

A BB gun is a specific type of air gun designed to shoot small metallic ball projectiles (BBs). This section explains BB gun laws in the United Kingdom.

Are BB Guns Legal or Illegal in the UK?

BB guns fire plastic or aluminium balls. They do so using compressed air or an electrical system. Thus, they may or may not be firearms which means they may or may not be a prohibited weapon.

There is a soft air type of BB gun which resembles a toy gun. Even so, some of them are too powerful to be ‘officially’ classed as a toy.

This type does not fit within the definition of a of a section 1 firearm. As a rule, the low powered gun fires balls made from plastic or aluminium.

The section below clarifies the exemption from holding a section 1 firearms certificate for airsoft guns.

Note: There is an easy way to check whether your BB gun is legal or illegal. Contact the firearms department at your local police station.

Are BB Guns Considered Toys?

What most parents want to know is whether BB guns can be in the possession of young children. As mentioned, the design differences mean they may or may not classify as a firearm.

The soft air type of BB gun is ‘toy like’ in its shape and appearance. Because they fire plastic or aluminium pellets, they usually have a very low power rating. Even so, this is only a comparison to the average type of air weapon.

In certain circumstances, air weapons are powerful enough to injure, maim, wound, and kill. Thus, these types of offensive weapons fit within the definition of a firearm.

As a rule, the power does not classify them as a section 1 firearm. But, most air weapon guns will be about 150 times more powerful than the so called ‘toy like’ soft BB gun.

Note: Given the capability of most BB guns the police advice is not to allow young children to possess one. BB guns are very realistic. Thus, the police treat all reports involving weapons as if they are real live firearms.

Does an Air Weapon Require a Certificate?

It is an offence to possess, purchase, or to acquire a firearm unless you hold a relevant firearm certificate at the time. A firearm, for certificate requirement purposes, means:

  • A lethal barrelled weapon (from which a bullet, shot, or other missile, with kinetic energy of more than one joule at the muzzle of the weapon, can get discharged).
  • A prohibited weapon.
  • Relevant component part in relation to either 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.

An exception applies to the requirement to hold a firearms certificate in relation to airsoft guns. An airsoft gun means a barrelled weapon which is (both):

  • Designed to discharge only a small plastic missile (whether or not it is also capable of discharging any other kind of missile).
  • Not capable of discharging a missile (of any kind) with kinetic energy at the muzzle of the weapon that exceeds the permitted level.

What is the Definition of a Small Plastic Missile?

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 applies:

  • In the case of a weapon capable of discharging two (2) or more missiles successively without repeated pressure on the trigger (1.3 joules).
  • In any other case (2.5 joules).

A certificate would not be a requirement if the air weapon meets the rules of the exemption. Always contact the local police force firearms licensing department if you are unsure.

Note: Did you find the answer you were searching for? If not, you might find it under a different category in the Police Questions and Answers section.

The police treat all calls involving firearms as if it is a genuine firearm. Thus, waving an imitation firearm around could mean you end up surrounded by firearms officers who would be pointing real weapons in your direction.

Answers to Police Questions about BB Gun Laws in the United Kingdom