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Firearms are treated very differently in various parts of the world, ranging from total prohibition to being freely available. Draconian legislation does not seem to stop the misuse of firearms, it just makes it harder for the law-abiding citizen to carry on his or her interests: however, we must accept that it is our responsibility to abide by the Law – whatever our opinion.
The criminal use of licensed firearms is extremely unusual in the U.K. and thankfully the holder of a Firearm or Shotgun Certificate is demonstrably the most law-abiding citizen. Please work with your local Police Firearms Licensing Officer politely but firmly, ensuring that your rights are upheld. Nothing is achieved by argument – except making it harder for everyone next time. Join at least one of the National Bodies which protect your interests --- in the U.K. this would include the NRA, NSRA, BASC, HBSA, MLAGB, VAA, Arms & Armour Society and many others (regrettably one of our strengths and weaknesses?). Ensure that you are an active member – making them represent you and also work towards a common and unified National Body. If you are not a member, then you can have no right to complain about what they do!

Domestic Legislation in countries other than the U.K. affects trade in Firearms and their accessories. Classic Gun Company strives to abide by the letter of the law with regard to all domestic and foreign legislation and regulations and expects its customers to do the same: please bear with us if we feel obliged to ask for more information concerning your orders -- and please be patient with the tortuous (and sometimes costly) systems set in place by the Powers-That-Be for carriage, import or export ---------- thank you.

(U.K. customers are strongly advised to acquire a copy of the Home Office 2002 publication “Firearms Law – Guidance to the Police” (ISBN # 011 341273 8) Although not “Law” it is a clear, structured exposition of the framework under which your Chief Officer of Police should work). It is available via We can provide this as a .pdf file if necessary. (There is an update of this in the offing but the gestation period is very long.)


There are EU Directives in place which deal with the possession and use of “weapons”: however, some Countries reserve the right to impose additional or different Laws / Regulations. Eventually it is to be hoped that there will be “harmonisation” within the EU but it would be unrealistic to hope that UK domestic legislation would change significantly: even within the UK there are significant differences, especially with regard to Pistols and Revolvers – and now the Scottish Nationalists are pressing for the ability to pass their own Firearms Legislation, whilst in Eire people are now getting back the right to firearms prohibited during “the troubles”.

Strictly speaking all firearms are licensable in the U.K. but certain parts of the Kingdom (Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Channel Islands) have their own domestic legislation, e.g., in Northern Ireland differs in that all “bullet firing weapons” (including low power airguns) require certification and cartridge pistols/revolvers are NOT Prohibited Weapons.

Many types of Antique Firearms may be held without a Certificate under the Section 58(2) EXEMPTION of the current Firearms Acts – i.e., if they are held solely as “Curios or Ornaments”. (more on this later!).

The majority of airguns are exempted from Certification due to their low muzzle energy: those above the statutory limits are not. (It is interesting to note that an air RIFLE above 12 ft-lbs m.e. becomes a Section 1 firearm = F.A.C. required, but an air PISTOL above 6 ft-lbs requires certification and because it is smaller than 300mm barrel length or 600mm overall our current laws make this a "short firearm" and it becomes a PROHIBITED WEAPON!)

In the U.K. the basic classifications of firearms under the current legislation are:-

“Section 1” – requiring a Firearm Certificate: rifles, short-barrel or large capacity shotguns or modern (post 1939) muzzle-loading pistols and revolvers; specially conditioned F.A.Cs may permit the holding of certain Prohibited Weapons.

“Section 2” – requiring a Shotgun certificate: shotguns with barrels over 24” or holding no more than 3 cartridges; if your SGC is specially conditioned you may collect "Walking-Stick Shotguns".

“Section 5” – Prohibited Weapons: these require either specific authority from the Home Secretary (for a Registered Firearms Dealer) or a specially conditioned F.A.C. (e.g., for a Humane Killer, Tranquilliser Gun for Vets or for “Heritage Pistols" -- commonly called "Section 7 firearms").
There are a number of classes of “Section 5”, the more frequently encountered being
s.5(1)(a) = fully automatic arms;
s.5(1)(b) = Centre-fire Self-Loading and Pump-action rifles;
s.5(1)(aba) = “short firearms” --- Eurospeak for pistols and revolvers, with a barrel length of less than 300mm or overall less than 600mm --- the Law actually says "OR" but Home Office Guidance to the Police says "AND", leading to confusion;
s.5(1)(ac) = “short shotguns” (barrel length less than 24") and
= “firearms disguised as other objects” – normally encountered as Walking-Stick Shotguns.
s.5(1)(c) refers to “expanding ammunition” which requires specific authority on the FAC and may NOT be used for target-shooting (--- i.e., it is o.k. to go into the hill and tack a playing card to a tree to zero your stalking rifle but NOT to take it to a proper certificated range!)

Section 7 Firearms (Heritage Pistols) can only be held on a specially conditioned Firearm Certificate: logically this means that they change status as they move from the Dealer (held under s.5.1.aba) to the Collector --- and when the collector dies they instantly become s.5 again! (See s.7 below).

“ SECTION 58(2)”
text copied from Chapter 8 of the Home Office Manual of Guidance:

“Section 58(2) of the 1968 Act exempts from the provisions of the Act – including certificate controls under sections 1 and 2 and prohibition under section 5 – all antique firearms which are sold, transferred, purchased, acquired or possessed as curiosities or ornaments.”

The term “Antique firearm” is, as yet, undefined in law but the Guidance makes it clear that IF the item is “used” then the exemption cannot be claimed and the firearm MUST be certificated.
There is a rebuttal presumption that ammunition should not be held, which creates a problem for the collector of both Firearms AND Ammunition. The Home Office provides a list of “obsolete chamberings” (Appendix 5 of the “Guidance”) to assist the Collector and the Police.
Although the letter of the law does not prohibit the possession of the component of ammunition for s.58(2) firearms, or equipment to assemble such ammunition, such possession puts at risk the whole concept.

Classic Gun Company will NOT supply reloading components or equipment for “obsolete chamberings” unless the prospective purchaser can show proper authority for the assembled ammunition.

Unlicenced Firearms

An individual discovering these (e.g., in the deceased effects of a relative) does NOT have to surrender them to the Police: there is provision in Law for them to be passed into the lawful possession of another -- e.g., a Registered Firearms Dealer -- but one must ensure that the third party has FULL authority:

For example -- Joe finds a Luger in the bottom of Uncle Alf's "army trunk" in the attic. This MUST be passed to someone either to an RFD with Home Office Authority under s.5.1.aba. or with a Firearm Certificate with valid variation under s.7 for that specific item, or handed into the Police. In the latter instance the firearm is liable to be destroyed.

Such firearms are frequently "not of Proof" --- see "PROOF" below.

Please contact me for best advice.



The Gunbarrel Proof Acts are really the FIRST examples of consumer protection in the U.K. Any firearms which are offerred for sale or transfer MUST be "Of Proof" --- i.e., have been tested for safety with a higher-than-normal cartridge and bave been stamped with "Proof Marks" accordingly. At one time the two Proof Houses (London and Birmingham) used to permit "Certificatres in lieu of marks" for valuable / collectible guns and "Certificates of Inability to Prove" for those for which Proof Ammunition was not available. Strictly-speaking this was ultra vires (beyond the powers granted under the Gunbarrel Proof Acts) and nowadays this is not possible.

The PROOF LAWS are entirely separate from the Laws regarding posession of Firearms.

Logically, an 18th Century musket or a Colt Model 1851 "Navy" revolver is still a firearm under the Firearms Acts (although it might be posessed WITHOUT a Certificate as a "curio or ornament under s.58(2)) --- and thus if offerred for sale or transfer it SHOULD be "Of Proof", although it has to be said that custom and practice in the Antique Trade for the last 150 years has been to sell Antique Firearms without regard to their Proof status.


Deactivated Firearms

Due to the stringent regime in the U.K. many collectors and re-enactors have decided to collect / use firearms which have been de-activated. In the old days (!) it was commonly considered enough to drill a hole in the breech of a Martini, saw the firing-pin off a Webley revolver or fill the bore with lead. This was NOT actually legal.

To possess a firearm without a certificate it HAS to be either eligible under s.58(2) or to have been stamped and certificated as deactivated by either of the Proof Houses. Due to concerns in some quarters about criminal "re-activation" of "deacts" the specification for deactivation has frequently been made more drastic although currenlty the earlier "deacts" are still legally acceptable. There are moves afoot in certain quarters to try to have current specs retrospectively applied to older "deacts".

Some collectors / re-enactors also use Imitation Firearms --- sometimes called "Replicas" -- but there is confusion about the meaning of the terminology.



The provisions of the Act provide a minefield in that there are definitions of "Imitation Firearm" and "Realistic Imitation Firearm". Trying to explain it in simple terms is difficult, but basically it is legal to own a DEACTIVATED REAL firearm, but (in most cases) not a Realistic Imitation one -- which never WAS a firearm and is defined as something which someone "reasonably thinks is a firearm" (!). "Imitation Firearms" now have to be either transparent or certain "bright" colours ..... it is not illegal to paint a Realistic Imitation Firearm fluorescent green (for example), but it IS illegal to re-paint it black as this would be "converting an Imitation Firearm into a Realistic Imitation Firearm" !!!
That's why I don't often handle this part of the trade --- sorry.

European Union

The 1991 EC DIRECTIVE (91/477/EEC) on Control of the Acquisition and Possession of weapons has FOUR categories, viz.,

Category A
1 Explosive military missiles and launchers
2 Automatic firearms
3 Firearms disguised as other objects
4 Ammunition with penetrating (AP) explosive or incendiary projectiles and the projectiles themselves
5 Pistol & revolver ammunition with expanding projectiles and the projectiles, except in the case of weapons for hunting or target-shooting, for persons entitled to use them. (MY EMPHASIS – Jim H.)

Category B
1 All handguns and short rifles, carbines and smooth-bore guns with a barrel not exceeding 30cm (11 5/6”) or an overall length not exceeding 60cm (23.6”) except single shot rimfire pistols with an overall length of 28cm (11”) or more. NOTE – this is the concept of “short firearms” in our domestic legislation – WITHOUT the common European exclusion of most .22 pistols.
2 All semi-automatic rifles and smoothbore guns;
(i) with a magazine and chamber which can together hold more than 3 rounds; or
(ii) where the magazine and chamber together cannot hold more than 3 rounds but could be converted to a larger capacity with ordinary tools; or
(iii) with a detachable magazine; or
(iv) in the case of smooth-bore guns which have a barrel of less than 24” (60.96cm); or
(v) which resemble automatic weapons.
3 Repeating (that is, pump-action, bolt-action, lever-action) and other manually loaded, smooth-bore guns, and smooth-bore revolver-guns, with a barrel of not less than 24” (60.96cm).

Category C
1 Repeating (that is, pump-action, bolt-action, lever-action) and other manually loaded rifles and single-shot rifles.
2 Repeating (that is, pump-action, bolt-action, lever-action) and other manually loaded, smooth-bore guns, and smooth-bore revolver-guns, with a barrel of not less than 24” (60.96cm).
3 Semi-automatic rifles and smooth-bore guns:;
(i) where the magazine and chamber together cannot hold more than 3 rounds and which cannot be converted to a larger capacity with ordinary tools, for example smoothbore guns which have been adapted in accordance with section 2(3) of the 1988 Act; and
(ii) which do not have a detachable magazine; and
(iii) which do not resemble fully automatic weapons; and
(iv) which, in the case of smooth-bore guns, have a barrel length of not less than 24”.
4 Single shot rimfire pistols with an overall length of more than 28Cm (11”).
5 Any shot gun with a magazine.

Category D
Any shot gun without a magazine.


Different countries have different domestic legislation, which may change with time, e.g., until recently France had 8 Categories of "Weapons" which have now been reduced to 4 --- but at the current time no-one is really confident about the application of the changes!



ANTIQUE FIREARMS in the USA are regulated by CFR27, para 178 (Code of Federal Regulations), viz.,

Antique firearm (a) Any firearms (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898 (my emphasis -- JFH) and (b) any replica of any firearms described in paragraph (a) of this definition if such replica (1) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional fixed center-fire ammunition, or (2) uses rimfire or conventional fixed center-fire ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.

This means that ANY Firearm made before 1899 (NOT "pre-1898" as is so often quoted, even by prominent FFLs and others) is not considered to BE a "firearm" and thus there is no requirement for FORM 6 documentation on importation -- however to EXPORT from the U.K. a licenceable firearm which is "U.S. Antique" may require an Export Licence and that normally requires "Import Authority" ---- fun!!!. Things are slightly complicated by the fact that most people in the Gun trade in the USA talk about "pre 1898", which is not correct -- and, indeed there are several States where their domestic legislation state that. Some States even go so far as to prohibit the possession of components of ammunition to "aliens" or even their own citizens without a Firearm Identification document of some sort. My advice is to tread warily.

The (U.S.) licenceable part of any firearm is the FRAME -- so barrels, cylinders etc are NOT "firearms" under Federal Law. They ARE in the U.K., which can create problems.

I can help with Import/Export, via a Federally Licensed Dealer who is also a Licensed Importer and Exporter -- but the paperwork at both end is getting more tedious and License Fees (sic) in the USA have increased by a factor of 10 recently: it is not unusual to be quoted in excess of US$500 for the paperwork for one or two guns --- and then there are Packing and Transport costs.


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Page created 06-Feb-2010. Page last updated 05-Feb-2013