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UK Crossbow Law Explained

There are several reasons why the legal status of a crossbow can be a complex one. Crossbows have similarities with some firearms as well as a potential use as a lethal weapon.

CROSSBOW LAWS: Most legal jurisdictions categorise the crossbow as a firearm. This classification exists for technical purposes even though it does not use combustion to propel a projectile.

According to UK crossbow law, you do not need a licence or registration to own a crossbow. But, the Crossbows Act 1987 governs the age limits for selling or buying them.

Note: In England, Wales, or Scotland you must be at least 18 years old to buy a crossbow. Likewise, it is illegal to sell a crossbow to anyone under the age of 18.

You must have adult supervision to be in possession of this type of weapon. Persons under 18 can only use them when supervised by a person who is at least 21 years old. The Crossbows (Northern Ireland) Order 1988 makes similar prohibitions.

Note: The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (section 5) prevents the use of a crossbow for hunting birds. Further prohibitions come from the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (section 50). The law makes it illegal to be drunk in a public place while in possession of a crossbow.

Technical Rules Relating to Crossbows

In the United Kingdom the statutory controls fall under the Crossbows Act 1987. This act makes it an offence:

  • For anyone under the age of 18 years old to hire or sell a crossbow.
  • To sell or hire a crossbow (with a draw weight of 1.4 kilograms or greater) to any persons under the age of 18.

Further prohibitions apply to persons who are below the age of 18. The crossbow law bans them from possessing this type of article:

  • Which is capable of discharging a missile.
  • Or parts of a crossbow which together (and without any other parts) can be assembled to form a crossbow capable of discharging a missile (unless supervised by someone aged 21 or over).

There are severe penalties for selling or hiring a crossbow ‘illegally’ in the United Kingdom. The maximum penalty can be a six (6) month prison sentence or a fine (not exceeding level 5).

The maximum penalty for anyone under the age of 18 who buys, hires, or has possession of a crossbow is a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Deer Act 1991 add further legislation to crossbow law UK. Thus, using any type of bow and arrow or crossbow for hunting purposes would be breaking the law.

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Answers to Police Questions about Crossbow Laws in the United Kingdom