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Firearms and Gun Law UK

Generally speaking, all guns are firearms. They fall under the same legislation for licensing purposes. This section answers some common questions about the firearms and gun law in the United Kingdom.

Is a BB Gun a Toy?

The design differences in BB guns mean they may or may not classify as a firearm. Even so, the police say that most BB guns would not be suitable for young children.

Are BB Guns Legal?

BB guns fire aluminium or plastic balls using compressed air or an electrical system. Thus, they may or may not get classified as a firearm.

Are Stun Guns Illegal in UK?

Stun guns are in fact prohibited weapons. They can discharge a large voltage of electricity into the target. The electrical discharge renders the victim incapable of movement for a short period of time. It is an offence in the United Kingdom to possess a stun gun.

A stun gun is a very dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. UK law on stun guns does not allow people to buy them abroad and import or mail them back into the United Kingdom. Doing so is illegal and severe penalties would apply.

Being found in possession of a stun gun means you could face up to ten (10) years imprisonment. You would need authority from the Secretary of State to possess, import, or sell any type of stun gun.

How to Dispose of Unwanted Ammunition or Firearms

Disposing of unwanted section 1 ammunition must follow set procedures. You can dispose of ammunition or firearm by either:

  • Handing it over to a registered firearms dealer.
  • Giving it to another person who is an authorised firearm certificate holder.
  • Surrendering it at your local police station.

Note: UK firearms and gun laws do not allow you to dispose of unwanted section 1 ammunition yourself.

Is Possession of an Imitation Firearm Legal?

In fact United Kingdom law does allow you to have an imitation firearm. But, possessing an imitation firearm in a public place would be against the law. It is also illegal to manufacture, sell, or import a realistic imitation weapon.

Note: An exception may apply if the person in possession can prove a valid reason for having it. Exceptions may also apply for offensive weapons used in film making, historical re-enactments, and theatrical productions.

Possessing an article which is capable of being used to convert an imitation firearm is also an offence. An example would be where a person intends to use the article (by itself or with other articles) to convert such a firearm. The UK gun law exempts registered firearms dealers from this particular offence.

Imitation Firearm Definition

The definition of an imitation firearm is ‘anything, which has the appearance of a firearm’. Thus, it may include toy guns. Many imitation weapons are very realistic in design and shape. It would be difficult to be sure whether it is genuine or not until it actually gets seized.

Can I Use a Taser in Self Defence?

A Taser is a weapon that is capable of discharging an electrical current. As such, it gets classified as a prohibited firearm. In the UK, it is an offence to acquire, possess, purchase, manufacture, sell or transfer a Taser. Exceptions apply where there is lawful authority to do so.

Even so, lawful authority for Tasers would never be granted to any member of the public. The legitimacy of Taser possession and use goes to specified bodies only (e.g. UK Police forces).

Note: Members of the police have the legal power to carry and use Tasers. But, only highly-trained officers can use them and only in instances where they have authorisation to do so. All Taser use by all Police officers gets monitored and reported.

Age Limit to have an Air Weapon or a Shotgun

Air Weapons

  • A young person below the age of 14 cannot possess an air weapon or ammunition at any time. An exception would be to shoot an air weapon on private premises with the consent of the owner. The ammunition must not go over the boundary and they must get supervised by someone who is over the age of 21.
  • A person aged 14 to 17 may borrow an air gun from a person aged 18 or over and use it on private property without supervision.
  • A person aged 14 to 17 may only carry an air gun in a public place if under the supervision of someone aged 21 or over and there is a good reason for doing so.
  • Anyone under the age of 18 may borrow and use an air gun for target practice as a member of an approved club, or at a shooting gallery for air guns or miniature rifles.
  • An adult over the age of 18 can also shoot an air rifle on private premises, shooting club or gallery. There is no requirement for supervision.
  • It is an offence for a person under the age of 18 to purchase or hire an air weapon or ammunition. The same applies for someone to make them a gift of an air weapon or ammunition.


  • There are currently no lower age limits for an applicant wishing to apply for a shotgun certificate. A person under the age of 14 years may not be granted a firearm certificate in any circumstances.
  • A person under 15 years old may not have with him assembled shotgun except while under the supervision of a person of or over the age of 21, or while the shot gun is so covered with a securely fastened gun cover that it cannot be fired.
  • A person under the age of 18 may not purchase a firearm or ammunition.

A person may also use a shotgun on private premises in certain circumstances. A person without a licence may borrow a shotgun from another person on private premises providing:

  • The weapon is being borrowed for either hunting animals or shooting game or vermin, or, for shooting at artificial targets.
  • The lender is at least 18 years old, holds a relevant certificate, and either has the right to allow others to enter the premises for the purpose of shooting animals, game or vermin, or, is authorised in writing by such a person to lend weapons on the premises.
  • The borrower’s possession of the weapon complies with any conditions set out in the lender’s certificate; and during the time the weapon is borrowed, the borrower is in the presence of the lender or another person aged 18 or over who holds a relevant certificate.

A person borrowing a shotgun on private premises may also purchase or acquire ammunition on the premises during the time the firearm is borrowed. This only applies if the ammunition is for use with the borrowed firearm, allowed by the lender’s certificate, and it complies with any related conditions in the certificate.

Deactivated Guns UK Law

Rendering a firearm incapable of discharging any shot, bullet, or other missile makes it a deactivated weapon. Thus, it ceases to be a firearm if both:

  • The weapon bears a mark approved by the Secretary of State denoting the fact that it got deactivated.
  • That company (or person) certifies in writing that work got carried out on the firearm in a manner approved by the Secretary of State for rendering it incapable of discharging any shot, bullet or missile.

The marks derive from one of only two proof houses in the United Kingdom and refer to either:

  • Crossed swords with DA and the year round them for the Birmingham Proof House.
  • DA over a sword and the year for the London Proof House.

Note: Every deactivated weapon must have a certificate stating that deactivation work got carried out on it. But, it is not the same as a conversion. A converted weapon may still fire, whereas a deactivated one may not.

Defectively Deactivated Weapons

It is an offence to make a defectively deactivated gun or weapon available for sale or as a gift to another person. A weapon becomes a defectively deactivated weapon if:

  • It was once a firearm at any time.
  • It got rendered incapable of discharging any shot, bullet, or other missile.
  • It did not get rendered so incapable in a way that meets the technical specifications for the deactivation of the weapon that apply at the time when the weapon is made available for sale or as a gift or (as the case may be) when it is sold or given as a gift.

Note: The offence would not apply if the weapon gets sold (or given as a gift) by a museum, to another museum, providing they both have a museum firearms licence.

What is a Restricted Shotgun?

The classification of a restricted shotgun would be of either:

  • A pump action or self loading style.
  • A barrel length of more than 24 inches.
  • A fixed magazine capable of holding a maximum of two (2) cartridges.

Shotguns with a fixed magazine that can hold more than two cartridges fall under Section 1 of the Firearms Act 1968. Thus means they would be subject to the restriction of a firearm certificate.

What is an Antique Firearm?

In fact, antique firearms are not defined in the UK firearm and gun laws. But, Home Office guidelines suggest you may consider the following as an antique firearm:

  • 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.

Any ‘antique firearm’ must get kept purely as a curio or an ornament and must not get fired. As such, there is no ammunition authorised for this type of weapon.

Where modern ready-made ammunition is easily acquired and used, then the weapon would not get considered as an antique. This is police guidance issued by the Home Office. But, a court of law would make the final decision – where necessary.

The certificate (recorded with the police) must show authorisation to shoot any antique shotgun or firearm. Even so, each case gets dealt with on its merits. Your local police force can offer further advice on individual weapons.

UK Law on Shooting Air Weapons

  • Some air weapons are exempt to requiring a section 1 firearms certificate. See ‘airsoft gun laws‘ for further information.
  • You can use an air weapon on private premises providing you meet the legal age restrictions. You must also get prior consent from the owner or the occupier.
  • Anyone who is shooting or supervising on private premises must not allow the missile fired to go beyond the boundary of those premises. It would be an offence if it happens.
  • The law allows the use of an air weapon at a shooting club or at a shooting gallery (e.g. a fair ground).
  • It is against the law for anyone to have any air weapon (loaded or unloaded) in a public place without lawful authority or a reasonable excuse.
  • It is an offence to discharge a firearm within 50 feet of the centre of the highway if, by doing so, it causes injury, interruption, or endangerment to any person using the highway.

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 Firearms and Gun Law in the United Kingdom