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It is an offence to possess, purchase or acquire a firearm without holding a relevant firearm certificate at the time. A firearm for the purpose of requiring a certificate means:

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

There is an exception to the requirement to hold a firearms certificate in relation to airsoft guns. An airsoft gun means a barrelled weapon which:

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

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 above is:

  • in the case of a weapon which is capable of discharging two or more missiles successively without repeated pressure on the trigger, 1.3 joules;
  • in any other case, 2.5 joules.

As long as the air weapon fits within the exemption above, you will not require a certificate for it. If in doubt contact your local force's firearms licensing department.

Please note that all calls to police involving firearms are treated as if it is a genuine firearm so be aware that if you do wave an imitation firearm around you could find yourself surrounded by firearms officers pointing real weapons at you.

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Answers in this FAQ section are provided by the 'Ask the Police' website. Produced by the Police National Legal Database (PNLD) team, 'Ask the Police' is an official police site approved by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). All FAQ answers are © PNLD.