The discussion of the Alien series of films and the props used in them is the aim, but if it's got Big Bugs and Big Guns, then they are welcome too!

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 Post subject: Replica Firearms the VCRA and you
PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 3:28 pm 
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Location: Cornwall
Service Number: A05/TQ2.0.12145E1
Country: United Kingdom
There seems to be some confusion regarding what people can and cant do regarding replica weapons.
This is an information only thread not for discussions.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 4:41 pm 
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Location: Sunny Cornwall
Country: United Kingdom
Righty... James has asked me to put a précis of the laws governing RIF's and other such things that we may encounter as part of our hobby.
I was involved with the draft of this legislation when in came into force, being both an ex-police officer and an airsoft site owner.

Sorry, but this will be long winded... That's the law for you.


There are a number of different parts of legislation which cover various aspects of this, and not all of it is particularly clear.

I'll try and address the points in some form of logical manner (but it may go astray).

1: Is a Pulse Rifle or other "Aliens" based weapon a Realistic Imitation Firearm (RIF)

Yes. In short.

Section 36 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 states.
A RIF (replica imitation firearm).

Meaning of “realistic imitation firearm”

(1)In sections 36 and 37 “realistic imitation firearm” means an imitation firearm which—
(a)has an appearance that is so realistic as to make it indistinguishable, for all practical purposes, from a real firearm; and
(b)is neither a de-activated firearm nor itself an antique.

(2)For the purposes of this section, an imitation firearm is not (except by virtue of subsection (3)(b)) to be regarded as distinguishable from a real firearm for any practical purpose if it could be so distinguished only—
(a)by an expert;
(b)on a close examination; or
(c)as a result of an attempt to load or to fire it.

That's a lot of 'Legalese' and full of double negatives but the crucial part of this is 2a/b.
What it means in practical terms is that if Mrs Miggins the blind 80 year old (Not an Expert) thinks it's a gun when she sees it for a few seconds from 30 yards away (Not on close examination), then for the purpose of the legislation it IS a RIF.

So it matters not that is does not represent any real world firearm, if someone would think it's a gun, then it is.

Subsection C, covers the need for it to be only a physical appearance and not have a requirement to physically discharge any projectile. So this covers resin props, or any other solid item fashioned to look like a firearm.

2: Can I carry my Pulse Rifle in Public?

In short... NO.

In reality, yes depending on the circumstances.

Section 37 of the Firearms Act 1968 states.

Section 37 : Possession of air weapon or imitation firearm in public place
3. This section will come into force on 20 January 2004. It adds to the list of firearms covered by the offence in section 19 of the Firearms Act 1968 of carrying a firearm in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. That offence currently applies to loaded shotguns, loaded air weapons or any other firearm (whether loaded or not) together with its ammunition. Subsection 1 of section 37 adds to this unloaded air weapons and imitation firearms. Subsection 3 adds the offence to the list of arrestable offences in England and Wales set out in Schedule 1A to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
4. An imitation firearm is already defined in section 57(4) of the 1968 Act and covers anything which has the appearance of being a firearm whether or not it is capable of discharging a shot, bullet or other missile.
5. A public place is also defined in section 57(4) of the 1968 Act. It includes any highway and any other premises or place to which at the material time the public have or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise.
6. There is no statutory definition of a reasonable excuse. This will depend on the facts and circumstances prevailing at the time and police officers will need to exercise discretion when deciding what action, if any, is appropriate in each individual case. It should be borne in mind that the intention of the offence is to protect the public from the misuse of firearms and there is no intention of preventing legitimate activities such as actors using imitations for film or theatrical work or historical re-enactment.

So whilst it is technically ILLEGAL to carry an Imitation Firearm in public, there is some unquantified reasonable excuse (you've got to love the Law) to allow it.

So this does not mean you can blindly carry your Smart Gun onto the Tube and parade round the streets with it... But if for instance you are at a Convention or an event then you can argue that 'reasonable excuse'.

The practical solutions for this are to have your RIF in a bag or case whilst it is being transported and to have them stored out of sight whilst at home.
If organising an event to where the public may have access, it is wise to notify the Police of your attendance and intentions. This saves any unwarranted action in the case of a false call to them during this time.

When using your RIF in public, be sensible. Don't go pointing it at random people passing by or bursting into the local shops demanding a double chocomoccholatte.
Stick within the boundaries of your event and play it safe.

3: Can I fire my airsoft weapon in public?

NO... NO... and NO again.

Don't do it. Plain and simple.

ANY airsoft weapon still falls under the technical definition of being an 'air weapon' albeit a low powered one.

It is an offence to fire an air weapon without lawful authority or excuse within 50 feet (15 metres) of the centre of a public road in such a way as to cause a road user to be injured, interrupted or endangered.

Please remember....
A public place is also defined in section 57(4) of the 1968 Firearms Act. It includes any highway and any other premises or place to which at the material time the public have or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise.

So if you've organised an event on private land, but are allowing members of the public to enter then it classes as a public place.

4: Is it legal for me to own a RIF.

Yes. with some exceptions.

There are no restrictions on OWNERSHIP of Replica Imitation Firearms, although the VCRA 2006 brought in some restrictions regarding the Sale/Import?manufacture of such items.

I must stress, that the following only relates to SALE... As the 'purchaser' you DO NOT Commit any offences. The onus is on the person 'selling' the stuff to you. If they are not convinced of your entitlement then they should NOT be selling to you.

If you MANUFACTURE (Comes later) or IMPORT a RIF, then the onus falls upon YOU.

Section 36 VCRA 2006 states.
Manufacture, import and sale of realistic imitation firearms

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if—
(a)he manufactures a realistic imitation firearm;
(b)he modifies an imitation firearm so that it becomes a realistic imitation firearm;
(c)he sells a realistic imitation firearm; or
(d)he brings a realistic imitation firearm into Great Britain or causes one to be brought into Great Britain.

So, if you make one, modify an imitation firearm (I'll come to this one later), sell one or import one you commit an offence under this act.

There are some defences to this offence under statute and regulation.

Second part is the Defence under the Statute, or the Airsoft Skirmishing one (which is under a regulation rather than written into the statute... Slightly different in a technical sense, but that need not bother you).

Those purposes are—
(a)the purposes of a museum or gallery;
(b)the purposes of theatrical performances and of rehearsals for such performances;
(c)the production of films (within the meaning of Part 1 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (c. 48)_see section 5B of that Act);
(d)the production of television programmes (within the meaning of the Communications Act 2003 (c. 21)_see section 405(1) of that Act);
(e)the organisation and holding of historical re-enactments organised and held by persons specified or described for the purposes of this section by regulations made by the Secretary of State;
(f)the purposes of functions that a person has in his capacity as a person in the service of Her Majesty.

The defence under Regulation is stated as thus (Home Office Circular 031/2007).

The regulations provide for two new defences. The first is for the organisation and holding of airsoft skirmishing. This is defined by reference to “permitted activities” and the defence applies only where third party liability insurance is held in respect of the activities. The second new defence is for the purpose of display at arms fairs, defined in the regulations by reference to “permitted events”.

The regulations also specify the persons who can claim the defence for historical re-enactment. This is restricted to those organising or taking part in re-enactment activities for which third party liability insurance is held.
For manufacturers, importers and vendors to claim one of the defences, they must be able to show that their conduct was for purpose of making realistic imitation firearms available for one of the reasons specified in the defences above. How they should satisfy themselves of this will vary from case to case and it might be advisable for them to keep a record of this for each transaction. In some cases they could ask to see, for example, a letter from the commissioning film or television company.
In others, for example an importer, they might want to rely on orders from a supplier to the film industry. For re-enactments, it would be advisable to ask to see any membership card and to check that either the individual or the re-enactment society holds the required insurance. For airsoft skirmishing, the Association of British Airsoft is putting in place arrangements to allow retailers to check that individual purchasers are members of a genuine skirmishing club or site. The key elements of these arrangements are:

new players must play at least 3three times in a period of not less than two months the two months before being offered membership
membership cards with a photograph and recognized format will be issued for production to retailers
a central database will be set up for retailers to cross-check a purchaser’s details
a member’s entry on the database will be deleted if unused for 12 months.
The defence for airsoft skirmishing can apply to individual players because their purchase of realistic imitation firearms for this purpose is considered part of the “holding” of a skirmishing event.
Section 38 defines a ‘realistic imitation firearm’ as an imitation firearm which has an appearance that is so realistic as to make it indistinguishable, for all practical purposes, from a real firearm. ‘Imitation firearm’ is defined in section 57(4) of the Firearms 1968 as ‘any thing which has the appearance of being a firearm…whether or not it is capable of discharging any shot, bullet or other missile’.

So, if you attend a fully insured airsoft site for the purpose of 'airsofting', you can avail yourself of this defence to satisfy a potential seller.

Once you have it... It's legal to own (unless you do something stupid with it!)

Under 18's are prohibited from purchasing them too... Although ownership is a bit of a grey area.

This is NOT A LICENCE....
There is no such thing as an Airsoft or UKARA Licence.
The UKARA database is merely a tool for the collation of information for the retailers to use to verify your details easily. There is no 'requirement' to be on it, but it does make things easier for proving your entitlement for a defence under regulation.

5: Can I paint my Blue Pulse Rifle green, or make a resin/foam one??

In short... No.

Not unless you can avail yourself of one of the defences as described above.

To do so is technically 'manufacture'.

In reality, you are unlikely to be pulled up on this bit of legislation unless you've done something else even more stupid to warrant some Police attention. So this being added to your charge sheet will probably be the least of your worries.

6: What is an Imitation Firearm and can I buy one?

An Imitation Firearm (IF) is something simply altered to make it 'unrealistic' (usually by painting it bright colours). If you are over 18, you can purchase these with no other restrictions.

Home Office Circular 031/2007 states:

Whether an imitation firearm falls within the definition of a realistic imitation firearm should be judged from the perspective of how it looks at the point of manufacture, import or sale and not how it might be appear if it were being misused - for example, in the dark and from a distance.
Subsection 2 provides that an imitation firearm should not be regarded as distinguishable from a real firearm if only an expert can tell the difference or the difference is only apparent on close examination or as a result of attempting to load or fire it. Subsection 3 provides that in determining whether an imitation firearm is realistic, its size, shape and principal colour must be taken into account, and it is to be regarded as realistic if these features are unrealistic for a real firearm.

Subsection 4 gives the Secretary of State a power to make regulations specifying dimensions and colours that will be regarded as unrealistic. This is designed to provide business with a degree of certainty over what they can trade in. The aforementioned Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 (Realistic Imitation Firearms) Regulations 2007 specify the following dimensions and colours:

a height of 38mm and a length of 70mm. An imitation firearm with dimensions less than this is to be regarded as unrealistic
bright red
bright orange
bright blue
bright yellow
bright green
bright pink
bright purple

An imitation firearm whose principal colour is not one of those listed in the regulations does not automatically fall to be regarded as realistic, although it is more likely that will be the case. In these circumstances, the general test of whether it is distinguishable from a real firearm, taking into account its size, colour etc, should be applied. It is worth keeping in mind that the intention behind this measure is to stop the supply of imitations which look so realistic that they are being used by criminals to threaten and intimidate their victims.

So purchasing a Blue Snow Wolf PR is perfectly legal for anyone over 18. Or indeed making a resin/foam version etc.
As soon as you paint it to look 'realistic', the issues begin.

7: I'm just a costumer or collector... Do I fall into any of the 'defence' categories?

er... No.

These are not areas of hobbies that were discussed as part of the consultation process and as thus were not included in the statute or the defence under regulation.

There is some potential thin strand of argument under the 're-enactment' banner, but this has never been pursued.

There are some gaping holes in the legislation, and the VCRA has to date (to the best of my knowledge) not been tested in Court. So some of the finer points of it may well be up for debate should the worst come to the worst.

I am by no means a Lawyer on this, so if in any doubt, please seek the correct Legal representation or consult your local firearms department.

I hope this is now as clear as mud.


You don't have to be pitilessly sadistic to work here.... But it helps.

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