Airsofters win exemptions and more in upcoming firearms law

23 May 2016 – The latest draft of the Policing and Crime Bill, currently before Parliament, reveals that airsoft has won all of its lobbying battles – including a raise in legally permitted muzzle energy levels.

Section 102 of the latest version of the bill – which is now nearing the end of its time in the House of Commons – will introduce a specific exemption for airsoft guns from firearms laws.

It will create a new section, section 57A, of the Firearms Act 1968. The key part of that new section reads:

An “airsoft gun” is a barrelled weapon of any description from which only a small plastic missile, with kinetic energy at the muzzle of the weapon that does not exceed the permitted level, can be discharged.

‘Small plastic missile’ is defined as “a missile that is made wholly or partly from plastics, and does not exceed 6 millimetres in diameter.” The permitted power levels will be:

(a) in the case of a weapon which is designed or adapted so that two or more missiles can be discharged successively without repeated pressure on the trigger, 1.3 joules;

(b) in any other case, 2.5 joules.

This is a move back to the only properly researched figures on safe power levels for airsoft BBs, which was conducted on behalf of ACPO some years ago. Originally, in the first version of the Policing and Crime Bill, the power level was set at 1 joule across the board. At the time the government said this was to harmonise English law with that of Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the 1 joule figure for lethality was effectively plucked from thin air.

UK Shooting News believes airsoft has enjoyed this unalloyed victory because the UK Airsoft Retailers’ Association hired the former head of ACPO’s Firearms and Explosives Licensing Working Group, Adrian Whiting, as a consultant. As the man who decided what firearms laws the police would enforce and how they would interpret them, Whiting was the ultimate ace up the sleeve.

Real shooting, in contrast, is struggling to have its voice heard, as other posts on UKSN about the Policing and Crime Bill show.

7 thoughts on “Airsofters win exemptions and more in upcoming firearms law

    1. commonlycalledcosmin

      Not really, I think the government are looking to get everyone to shooting airsoft and to leave those “dangerous real guns alone”. I think this is more why airsoft seems to become more promoted. I actually see local adverts for “skirmishes” and games being promoted even in the local Tesco supermarket, should I set up a rival stall promoting my local rifle range, I bet I would be hounded out of there and the local police called.

      Do not view this as a victory since it sin’t.


  1. Jerry

    I really hate to see Government escaping from another opportunity to look foolish.
    Our politicos take such sweeping positions regarding technical things about which they know so little. And the broad flapping lips of Media continually scream for more, More, MORE!


  2. Gareth A

    Would this change to the Firearms Act 1968 also technically exempt Airsoft guns from the Scottish Airgun licensing law?

    Not sure how that would work.


    1. Gaz Corfield Post author

      Good question. I think so, on the basis that amendments to the main Firearms Acts override devolved stuff passed by the local assemblies…

      I’ll look into this one. Thanks.


  3. Simon Rogers

    On 2nd may 2017 the law will be in effect. I sold last year alone 17.000 airsoft gun ins two tone ie the buyer had no defence to buy a RIF. Those more intended for back garden pinking and such for kids. Plus I did see these guns on a car boot as they are toys. Now kids go to uni kids loose intrested kids grow up and kids die so over night 3rd may 2017 there will be I know excess of 17.000 law beckers just saying as I know most of these people don’t look at these sites don’t look at ukapu sites so how are they to know this toy they bought under there kids bed or loft will net the 5 years in prison. The line for saying I didn’t know is very strong as it’s not been well informed plus now NERF guns and paintball will also be on the list.



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