[Sticky] I want to buy a WW2 gun - Chomley's idiots guide to the VCRA
Q. I want to buy a WW2 airsoft gun.
A. Well, you can't - selling them, importing them and making them is against the law now in the UK.
Q. Huh, since when?
A. Since the relevant part of the Violent Crime Reduction Act came into force in October 2007
Q. I don't want a REAL gun, just an airsoft toy!
A. Ah, in the eyes of the law its what it looks like that matters. If it looks like a real gun (and all our WW2 stuff obviously does) then the Act does not allow its sale.
Q. Wait, how come you all have them then?
A. It isn't an offence to own them and it isn't an offence to buy them in the UK if you are over 18.
Q. You are telling fibs - in your first answer you said I couldn't buy one!
A. No I didn't, I said you couldn't be sold one.
Q. That's splitting hairs!
A. Maybe, but the government's logic is that if you can't be sold one then you can't buy one. The offence is in the sale, not the purchase within the UK. If you buy from overseas then yes, that is an offence.
Q. So how come they are for sale in magazine adverts, web sites and specialist shops? My mate bought an MP40 the other day!
A. That's because written into the Act and by special dispensation there are a few tight categories that ARE allowed to purchase.
Q. Aha! Tell me more...
A. The exceptions that matter to you are two groups - reenactors and airsofters
Q. I'm not a reenactor - I've just started buying kit.
A. So you are an airsofter then?
Q. I've done paintball.
A. Riiiight... to get the airsofter skirmishers defence you need to be an airsoft skirmisher. At the very least you need to be a member of your local airsoft site or have other proof you have attended airsoft games such as a site-stamped attendance card.
Q. What about this UKARA thing then?
A. Because it is the seller that is potentially breaking the law, major retailers in the UK set up a register of people who can prove their defence. The retailers can consult this database and rely on the information within. Retailers stand to be fined or imprisoned if they are found to be selling to those who don't have a defence and so will take all steps possible to establish this.
Q. Great, how do I get this licence?
A. Woah, it isn't a licence! Its just a retailer's scheme to make things easy. Anyway, to get a UKARA number you need to be a member of a recognised airsoft site and played three games in not less than two months.
Q. But I only want to do WW2 games!
A. Sorry, to get UKARA to need to be an airsoft skirmisher and this requires you to play airsoft!
Q. Bugger, my local site charges Â£40 a yer membership and Â£25 a game - that's Â£115 just to be able to buy a gun!
A. Yup, too late to complain to your local MP though!
Q. Is there a cheaper way?
A. Well, some retailers accept just a site membership card - particularly those shops that are part of the airsoft site.
Q. I really don't want to play ordinary airsoft - I just want to do WW2.
A. It really is recommended that you have the three games of airsoft anyway. It will give you an idea of airsoft etiquette, you might find you don't like the idea of being shot at and when you come to do WW2 you can appreciate how distinctly different WW2 games are to regular airsoft.
Q. Any other options?
A. Some sites runs WW2 games where you can hire a gun and if they are part of the UKARA scheme then these games count towards your three games.
Q. Anything else?
A. Not for you but if you are a reenactor and a member of a recognised and insured reenactment society then your club membership card and a copy of the insurance certificate is accepted by many retailers.
Q. That sounds easy - I'll join a reenactment group.
A. Well, not so easy - any reenactment group worth their salt will suss out someone trying to abuse them as a means of just buying a RIF, many have a probation period anyway.
A. Realistic Imitation Firearm - it's how our guns are described in the act.
Q. Well, I'll just buy my gun from Hong Kong then, its cheap enough.
A. As said at the beginning, you cannot import without a defence. Your package WILL be stopped in customs and you will be contacted by HMRC who will ask for documentary proof that you have a defence. If you can't satisfy them then your guns will be impounded, possibly a knock on the door from the boys in blue and you risk prosecution.
Q. I'm told I can be 'gifted' a RIF and everything is OK. (In other words, someone who is over 18 buys an IF or who has a defence and buys a RIF then passes it on as a gift to someone who doesn't have a defence.
A. The Act doesn't specifically prohibit this. That doesn't mean you cannot be arrested and taken to court though though - it is up to a court to interpret the law and decide on legality. Should you or the purchaser be arrested and taken to court then you will have to rely on your lawyers to make your case. Clearly gifting goes against the intentions of the Act.
Q. I'm 16 and I want to buy a cool Thompson.
A. Sorry, no can do, 100% against the law - no exceptions.
Q. My 19 year old brother did!
A. WW2 airsoft guns can only be sold to over 18s who are proper airsoft skirmishers or are reenactors.
Q. Oh. Am I allowed to hire one?
A. Yes, there are WW2 game organisers that have hire schemes.
Q. Can I borrow my brother's Thompson?
A. Yes, no problem. He would be a fool though as you will only break it.