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Buying your first Airsoft gun in the UK

You could be forgiven for thinking that buying your first airsoft gun would be a simple step. A matter of selecting the one you like best, handing over some cash and taking it home to treasure but unfortunately it’s not quite that easy. Buying your first gun is more complex than it may seem and causes a great deal of confusion amongst new players.

It’s not uncommon for people first exposed to airsoft or airsoft guns to exclaim “is that even legal?!” It’s true, certainly in the UK the majority culture seems to be one that is terrified of anything even remotely shaped like a gun and the incorrect notion that all guns are illegal is rife. That said, one of the most appealing things airsoft holds over your average day playing paintball is that you CAN own a realistic looking replica gun and you can take it home and customise it to your hearts content. It goes without saying that airsoft IS 100% legal when carried out on private premises or at an organised event with the appropriate insurance. It might come as a surprise then to find out that in the strictest interpretation of the law, it’s actually illegal to sell a Realistic Imitation Firearm.

The laws stating that the sale of such items were passed as part of the Violent Crimes Reduction Act 2006. This did not specifically state that airsoft guns where illegal, moreover lumped airsoft guns into the category of RIFs. A RIF is simply anything that could be perceived as a weapon, regardless of its ability to fire any kind of projectile. This could be made from wood, foam or be a functional airsoft gun. As those laws stood, unopposed, they would have meant that all airsoft guns would have needed to have been converted to, or sold as an Imitation Firearm instead, (Notice the omission of the “Realistic”). In practical terms, this would likely have meant the end of airsoft as we know it.
Section 38 defines a “realistic imitation firearm” as “an imitation firearm which has an appearance that is so realistic as to make it indistinguishable, for all practical purposes, from a real firearm”.

To qualify as an IF, a gun must be coloured predominantly in a unrealistic and bright colour. (These specific colours are set in law, the most commonly used are bright red, bright blue, bright green and bright orange.) There is some ambiguity about how this colouring can be applied and in what proportions, but in practical terms, the gun should be less than half black or a realistic colouration and the rest should be visibly an “unrealistic colour”.

Many guns we find imported to the UK are manufactured for the US market. This means they have a bright orange section around the muzzle. There is nothing in UK law pertaining to this and as such, a bright orange muzzle on a gun means absolutely nothing in UK law.

After these laws were proposed, extensive lobbying from the airsoft retail industry bought to light the then niche activity of airsoft in the eyes of the Government and as a result, a defense was established for the sale of Realistic Imitation Firearms.

Defenses

The word “defense” is used in relation to RIFs and it’s important. There is no “license” to own an airsoft gun although providing you have legitimate reason to use a RIF in a law-abiding manner, under some pre-defined activities, exception can be made.

Due to the manner in which this defense was granted and the disparate and varied circumstances under which a defense is given, the airsoft industry was asked to be “self policing” and as such, there is no centralised scheme or membership system that is fully recognised by authorities across the board.

In order to purchase or sell a RIF from a retailer, you must be able to convince them that you are a legitimate airsofter eligible for a defense under law. How you do this is down to the self-policing policy of the retailer in question.
If a retailer were to take a customers word that they were an airsofter with legitimate intentions for their purchase, and that individual turned out to be lying and wished to use the RIF in illegal activities, it is likely that the retailer would find themselves under the scrutiny of the authorities. As something of an insurance policy, and a manner in which to diligently record their checks and measures, many retailers require players to be part of a number of schemes that record their airsoft activity to an extent where it is possible to demonstrate they believe the person in question to have legitimate use for an airsoft gun.

Memberships and Defenses

There are a number of schemes and clubs in place that allow airsofters to join in order to track their activity and prove their activity within organised airsoft (and therefore a defense in law). None of these schemes are currently recognised as an official or legally endorsed method, however some retailers prefer customers to be members of one or another.

Examples of these schemes and club include:
UKARA
British Airsoft Club
SWAT PASS

Being a member of one of these schemes or clubs still does not give you a license as such, because individual retailers may only recognise and feel comfortable with dealing with customers that are members of certain clubs or schemes. This is the individual retailers decision to make and they withhold the right to refuse a sale if they are not satisfied that the customer has a legitimate use for the product. It’s important to check with your preferred retailer to find out which schemes or clubs they recognise and use.

If you are unable to qualify for a defense or unable to convince your chosen retailer of it in a manner that suits their business practice, you may be offered a “two-tone” gun, as outlined above as an IF, if you are over 18. Unless you subsequently qualify for a defense, it is illegal to “manufacture a RIF” by painting or otherwise modifying the gun.
What a defense allows
When you have a defense, you may purchase airsoft guns but that is the extent of what it allows you to do. Under no circumstances, defense or not, are you allowed to brandish or display a RIF in a public place or carry one in public without an adequate bag or box that completely conceals it from public view.

The VCRA and Airsoft

Since October 2007 you can only buy a realistic imitation firearm (one that looks like a real gun) if you meet one of the following conditions:

You must be over 18 years of age to buy either a realistic or an imitation firearm.
You are an airsofter with membership of an insured skirmish site.
You are a member of a properly insured historical re-enactment group or society. – Historical re-enactors also include living history associations such as the military vehicles trust. You will need to prove membership.
You are a film, television or theatre production company. – Think plays, operas, that kind of stuff. You and a buddy with a camcorder do not cut the mustard here. You need to be a genuine, registered film production unit.
You are (or are acting on behalf of) a museum – Refers to a museum that is open to the public – a private collection just for you is not good enough.
You are a Crown Servant in pursuance of your Crown duties – You must have specific relevance to obtaining a RIF such as if you are in the forces or similar and are using it as a training aid.
If you cannot meet any of these criteria, you can still buy an imitation firearm, one who’s principle colour is significantly different to that of a real firearm – i.e. bright green, bright blue etc.

The VCRA 2006 concerns itself with sale, manufacture and import ONLY. If you buy an imitation firearm and either gift it to someone else, or allow them to use it – regardless of their age – you are not contravening the Act. So, a parent can buy a two-tone airsoft gun and give it to their child to use or keep.

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AI500 – KIT UP

T1-(Aug 14, 2014 11-57 AM)NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D7100Each and every Ai500 event, we find ourselves in a bit of a frenzy to get geared up and in our selected team kits. This time around we mixed things up a little and the usual green/tan divide is no longer. Instead we are working with two teams, Viper and LSD, who will be equipped with camouflage patterns and block colours respectively. This will allow us to reflect the themes of each team with Viper being a paramilitary organisation and LSD being more of a casual security outfit. it’s these little details that have been carried through the theme of recent Ai500 games that have led to a friendly but still competitive rivalry between the factions. This of course ensures a good game for all! It’d be remiss of us to neglect the themes, so we have put our thinking caps on and come up with a pair of characteristic load outs to help inspire and prepare you!

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For the first time in recent memory, we will be dividing the Ai team up over the two factions… Yep, we are all hoping to get out and have a game this time round! This will give you the opportunity to give your favourite Ai staff member a good old fashioned shooting up at some point over the weekend. This has also meant that we need to address our kit separately.

Ben D. our esteemed Art Director has opted to join the Viper force and will be working under Andy S. as his second in command. This means Ben D. will be gearing up in all his camo finery and attempting to take the field by storm. On the other hand, I (Ben W.) will be joining Scott C. as the 2IC of the LSD force and sticking with the ongoing theme, I’ll be gearing up in slightly more casual attire. Kit aside, we can’t wait to meet in the middle and give each other some stick!

Always Ready

Despite our thoughts being mainly with the impending Ai500 event, the kit we have assembled hasn’t been bought solely for this game. Most of it is stuff we have tried and tested and been impressed with. We want to really focus on making this the biggest, best  game we have all year and there’s no space for trialling kit that may or may not work out. This isn’t to say we didn’t treat ourselves to a few new gadgets though!

GAME ON! (Ben W.)

“I chose this particular kit selection because I wanted something lightweight, simple and uncluttered.I’ve been running these great Craghoppers shirts and trousers for about 18 months now and in all conditions they are ideal. They are NOT waterproof but even if the get soaked through they dry off rapidly which is arguably more important. Instead of being thick and overbuilt they are airy and comfortable to wear for long periods.

The 5.11 Range Vest is also something you’ll see me gaming in frequently. It’s simple, light and very versatile and is a lot cooler and less restrictive than a plate carrier. As 2IC, I’m probably not going to be looking to get into the thick of every fight, but with the range vest I’ll be able to pack enough ammo to defend myself and go on recce patrols with my rifle. Of course the KG-9 will give me plenty of close-quarters punch in the event our compound gets over-run.”

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GAME ON!(Ben D.)

“After checking out the Ai500 site a few months ago during the preparation I’ve been itching to gear up and get gaming there. It’s got so much potential and since I’ve been playing a lot of woodland games lately, I’m eager to have a bit of CQB fun. It’s also a good excuse for me to give my favourite Mayflower plate carrier an airing!

Although I’ll be running as part of the command team, there’s no way I’m going to hide away. I want to lead from the front and set an example for the rest of the team, after all,  you can’t ask people to do something you wouldn’t! I’m gearing up for direct action in close quarters with my favourite TM Recoil L119A1. I infrequently use a pistol so it’s unlikely that I’ll bother with the hassle. With the kit I have here I feel confident that I’m kitted up and ready to deal with anything!”

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Call to Arms

If you are particularly active within the airsoft community, you may have already been made aware of and indeed read through the recently publish paper from The Law Commission, entitled “FIREARMS LAW: A SCOPING CONSULTATION PAPER”.

In short, the paper has been published to solicit responses from invested parties regarding the reformation of the current UK Firearms law and it is encouraging at this point to see that Airsoft activities have made it into consideration already.  This is undoubtedly due to the work of Frank Bothamley and Dan Collins of UKARA, names you may already be familiar with who are mentioned in the acknowledgements.

Once comments and responses have been collated, they will be put forward to Parliament and will be taken into earnest consideration as part of the formation of new laws. A great many complaints have been voiced about the state of the current UK laws in this area and now is the chance to make your voice heard before it is too late.

Amongst other points, the paper seeks to discover if and what the “Lethality Threshold” of projectiles should be and then and how this would influence the air weapons trade. Questions put forward then go on to consider if Airsoft should be given a specific exemption from these limits.

The document is available to read below in PDF format and  the Law Commission are open for comments regarding the matter up until  21 September 2015.

By email to: firearms@lawcommission.gsi.gov.uk

OR

By post to Karl Laird, Criminal Law Team, Law Commission of England & Wales,

1st Floor Tower, 52 Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1H 9AG.

Tel: 020 3334 3162 / Fax: 020 3334 0201

If you send your comments by post, it would be helpful if, whenever possible, you could also send them electronically (for example, on CD or by email to the above address, in any commonly used format).

 

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Airsoft International Volume 11 Issue 1 On Sale Now!

001 COVERBUY AI ONLINE NOW!

10 – Gallery – Reader’s images from around the globe.

12 – LCT SR3M First Look – Ian Stokes gets his hands on the first one in the UK.

14-15 –  A Hard Day’s Night – First look at super-affordable night vision kit.

16-21– Alongside the ANA – An exclusive preview of the story of a Canadian infantryman in Afghanistan.

24-25 – Ready Room – Another new team under the spotlight this month.

28-29 – Local Load Outs – Your chance show of your finery!

32-33 – Viper Footwear – Top quality and affordable footwear from Viper Tactical.

34-35 – Players of War – Ian Stokes gives us a site report from WW2 themed PoW

38-39 Firing Point – Another subject of contention discussed by Frenchie.

42-49 – Kit Up – BACK IN BLACK – Multicam Black forms the basis of our latest load out.

50-51 – Springers – What makes a spring gun worth while, find out here.

54-60 – Gas Pistol! – No less than 25 gas pistols rounded up and ready to fill your hand.

66-69 – WE MSK – It’s been in the armoury for months but the weather is right to give the GBB a proper work out.

72-76 – Beta Project Sterling SMG – It wasn’t so long ago that this was just a pipe dream but the second Sterling AEG hits the shelves and we check it out.

80-85 – A New Breed – The range of Krytac AEGSs analysed inside and out.

88-92 – Tried and Tested – The TRI PRC-152 radio is on test and we check out the new Incentive Designs ID-5

94-95 – Bagged & Tagged – Maxpedition packs that will make the transition from everyday to safe zone

97-99 – Workshop – Jay makes a flying start on Project: Charlie!

101-107 – Devil’s in the Details – We fit an ASCU V3 inside a TM Recoil AK, it was tight but it works!

109 – French Letter – Another deep thought from our man Frenchie to round out another issue.

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