Airsoft Laws in the UK

Are you looking to buy your first airsoft gun? You could think that buying one is quick and easy, a matter of just choosing the best, buying and taking it home for you to admire. Sadly, the process is not always that simple. Purchasing your first gun is more complicated than it appears. Besides, it causes a huge deal of confusion especially if you’re a new player. This article will look at the different dos and don’ts to guide you through the entire process.

The Legal Process

A majority of people are of the notion that airsoft guns are illegal. In the United Kingdom, several cultures are often terrified of anything which resembles a gun. They view all guns to be unlawful, and destructive to a growing economy. In this case, the most compelling things airsoft has over your regular paintball gun is that the airsoft gun can attach a range of airsoft accessories and that it looks like a real firearm, which is desirable for players who would like to play more realistic games.

Interestingly, it is 100% legal to use an airsoft gun when used on private property or at an adequately controlled or organized event. However, it is necessary to hold the right documents and be over the age of 18. Surprisingly, the law states that it is illegal to sell a realistic imitation of any firearm.

What does this mean? Well, the sale of airsoft guns exists through the Violent Crimes Reduction Act of 2006. Despite this, it’s wrong to say that airsoft guns are items sold or bought against the law. In a real sense, they have been categorized under the RIF group.

But what is RIF? Simply put, it’s anything that resembles or is perceived to be a weapon. Such is regardless of its ability to produce any projectile. It could be made from foam, wood or be an airsoft gun.

According to this law, it means that airsoft guns should be made and sold as Imitation Firearms instead. Here, it is worth noting the omission of the word ‘realistic.’ If such a situation were to happen, then the world of airsoft firearms would have come to an abrupt and sad end.

Section 38 explains a “realistic imitation firearm” or RIF as only an imitation of a firearm. However, the distinguishing difference is that it needs to have an appearance that separates it entirely from a real gun.

It must be coloured entirely using bright and unrealistic colours. The most common colours according to the law are red, bright green, blue, and orange. You can customize your gun to have less of the black colour, or a realistic type of colouration and the rest should be some “unrealistic” colour.

Several guns that you’re likely to find are imported to the United Kingdom through the United States and Asian markets. Such means that they come with a bright orange part around their muzzle. Even so, there is no law in the UK which stipulates such a type of colour customization.

After proposing these regulations, a lot of lobbying from the community of airsoft stores created the niche activity of airsoft guns in the eyes of the UK government. Eventually, they came up with a defence for the sale of RIFS.


It’s important to know that defences are used in place of RIFs. There is no ‘permit’ needed to own an airsoft. Despite this, you need to have a legal and credible reason to use a realistic imitation firearm. Also, there are some exceptions under certain activities.

There is no clear membership or scheme system that’s recognised by all authorities in the UK. The main reason behind this is the manner in which the defence was issued and the varied and disparate situations when giving an RIF.

To sell or buy an RIF from various retailers, you must have first convinced them that you are a legally certified airsoft holder. The manner which you take is defined by the self-policing means of the chosen retailer. Usually, retailers access a database to find a registered player if they purchase an airsoft gun which is not in a bright colour.

Retailers might find themselves under the cold and harsh arm of the authorities if they were to sell an airsoft to the wrong individual. Therefore, to avoid such terrible circumstances, retailers require some insurance policy. What does this mean? Well, to buy an airsoft gun, you should first belong to an airsoft site or club which take note of all their airsoft activities. Through this, it is possible to show that they believe the legitimacy of the individual in question.

Defences and Membership

Several schemes or clubs allow airsoft lovers to join to watch their different activities. Hence, they can prove their legitimacy within controlled and organised airsoft events. Remember that none of these clubs are currently classified under legal or official endorsed methods. Even so, some airsoft sellers prefer their clients to hold memberships in any scheme of their choosing.

Some good examples of these projects are:

  • British Airsoft Club
  • Ukara
  • Swat Pass

You need to consult your preferred retailer and discover the types of clubs or schemes that they recommend and use. If you can’t qualify for airsoft, fail to convince your retailer, and you’re above 18 years, you get a “two-tone” gun. Such is also outlined as an imitation firearm (IF). Besides, it is illegal to customize your firearm, through painting or other forms of modifications, once you are unable to get a defence.

What Does a Defence Allow?

Once you qualify for an RIF, you can now purchase an airsoft gun, but that is all that it gives you the authority to do. Similarly, you should not display an RIF in public. If you want to carry one, put it in a concealed box or bag where others can’t see it.


The United Kingdom is a country that puts the lives of its citizens to heart. With the growing rise of terrorism threats and attacks, security has never been higher. Therefore, even though some of the stipulations mentioned above may appear harsh, but unfortunately for UK gun lovers it’s something we have to accept.

It would be in your best interest to familiarise yourself with the law or you may find yourself on the wrong side!

Bio: Jamie Bell is the owner of Airsoft Deals, a UK based airsoft store which sells a range of airsoft accessories online.