On January 31st 2017, a certain set of laws and legislation known as the “Policing and Crime Bill” received some radical changes that changed the way airsoft guns are treated by UK law.
According to gov.uk “the Policing and Crime Act 2017 will enhance the democratic accountability of Police Forces and Fire & Rescue Services through closer collaboration, and build public confidence in policing”.
The Policing and Crime Act revision originally included a number of changes to how firearms and ammunition are considered in UK law, some changes that would, without doubt, have killed airsoft as we know it.
Here are some of the most important bits of information for you to know about the new law.
The New UK FPS Limits
Section 57A of the act, titled “Exemption for Airsoft Guns”, as you may expect, outlines what an airsoft gun is, and hence prevents them from being considered a firearm.
Legally speaking, there are two types of airsoft gun:
The permitted kinetic energy level is — (a) 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; (b) in any other case, 2.5 joules.”
For simplicity’s sake, I’ve put it out into a chart, with corresponding FPS values using a 0.2g BB.
From here-on-out, we’ll refer to (a) as fully-auto and (b) as semi-auto.
|Firing Capability||Joules||FPS (0.2g)|
Now I understand that some of you may be here looking for the limits that they can actually play at. Here’s another table that breaks down the common energy limits at airsoft sites. Please bare in mind that individual sites may/will vary and you should definitely check with the site you intend to play at first.
Common airsoft Site Limits
|Firing Capability||Joules||FPS (0.2g)|
FPS limits have been set for airsoft weapons capable of firing 2 or more BBs with a single trigger pull. This limit has been set to 1.3j, or 370fps using a 0.20g BB.
FPS limits have also been set for single shot airsoft weapons. This limit is 2.5j or 519fps using 0.2g.
A New Airsoft Gun Definition
It’s not just the muzzle velocity that defines an airsoft gun, there are a couple of other definitions that an airsoft gun needs to fill.
An “airsoft gun” is a barrelled weapon of any description which — (a) is designed to discharge only a small plastic missile (whether or not it is also capable of discharging any other kind of missile), and (b) is not capable of discharging a missile (of any kind) with kinetic energy at the muzzle of the weapon that exceeds the permitted level.
In layman’s terms, an airsoft gun is only an airsoft gun if it is designed to fire small plastic missiles (aka, BBs) and does so, below the above muzzle velocities. If the gun can also shoot something else, it must also do so below the limits.
As for the definition of a small plastic missile…
“Small plastic missile” means a missile that — (a) is made wholly or partly from plastics, (b) is spherical, and (c) does not exceed 8 millimetres in diameter.
Airsoft guns exceeding the limits could be very illegal.
Airsoft guns which do not follow the above rules are, legally speaking, no longer considered “airsoft guns” and as such, allow the weapon to be classed in other ways.
Semi-auto airsoft guns exceeding 2.5 Joules
Semi-automatic airsoft guns that exceed their 2.5 joule limits, technically become airguns. This means that they’re subject to all laws that an air-gun would be subjected to. Specifically, age-related use and storage.
You’d have to make a semi-auto airsoft gun fire over 8 joules before it could considered more than an air-gun.
Fully-auto airsoft guns exceeding 1.3 joules
An airsoft gun firing over its limit will be considered an air-gun, however, it cannot be considered an air-gun if more than one missile is fired with a single depression of the trigger.
This means that an airsoft gun, firing harder than 1.3 joules will be considered more than an air-gun and is technically a prohibited weapon and therefore a Section 5 offence.
What do the new rules mean?
Site owners may need to report full auto weapons over 370fps.
Technically speaking, if a site owner measures a weapon and finds it to be over 370fps and fully auto capable, they may be required to report the crime. Whilst there’s no legal obligation for someone to report a crime, they naturally will not want anything to do with an illegal “firearm”.
Naturally, if you’re found to be playing with one, you could be liable to a whole host of crimes. It begins with possession of a section 5 firearm without a license and potentially continues into assault with a deadly weapon, etc etc.
Possession of a section 5 firearm without a license carries a mandatory 5 year prison sentence.
Possession of a Section 5 Firearm without correct documentation comes with a mandatory 5 year prison sentence. If you’re not careful with your upgrades, you could face serious time in prison for simply upgrading the spring in your AEG (or even purchasing an AEG without knowing the fps).
There is still grey area regarding HPA and GBB Airsoft Weapons
Part of the PCA states that airsoft weapons must not be ‘readily convertible’ to fire over the limits with ‘everyday household tools’.
You can make HPA and GBB weapons fire over these limits simply by using more powerful gas for GBB weapons and adjusting the regulator for HPA. Neither requires any special knowledge or tools. In fact, GBB users will often find themselves accidentally firing over site limits purely due to temperature changes.
However, how GBB and HPA weapons fall into the PCA 2017 is still up for consideration and debate.
Airsoft is safe (for now).
A lot of great people who care about our sport have worked hard for our exemption in the bill. Without them, we would be under MUCH stricter guidelines (if it was allowed to continue at all). However, the work is not over, there’s always some small change to legislation or new legislation that’s looking to take away our beloved sport.
We advise that you continue to support the great groups that do the hard work, continue to play airsoft safe and responsibly and stay up to date with any issue through our facebook, UKAPU, UKARA or Popular Airsoft.
If you spot any problems with the above article, or feel you can add extra information, please leave a comment below. I want this information to be as correct and clear as possible.