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Air Weapons and BB Guns

Air Weapons

Conventional air weapons do not fall within the remit of the Firearms Enquiry Team, as they do not, except in certain circumstances, require certification. However many people are interested in this subject and have asked for information.

An air weapon differs from a conventional firearm by the fact that it, and the pellets discharged, do not contain any explosive substance.

When the trigger is pulled the pellets are forced from the barrel by the discharge of compressed air or other gas.

Most air weapons are of such limited power that they do not require to be licensed, however there are exceptions to this rule.

The Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969 require that certain air weapons can only be held legally on a firearm certificate. It is possible to measure the velocity of pellets, discharged from an air weapon, by the use of an electronic chronograph. From these measurements the kinetic energy of the pellet at the muzzle can be calculated. Air weapons deemed especially dangerous have a muzzle energy in excess of:

  • In the case of an air pistol: 6 ft/lbs (8-13 Joules)
  • In the case of an air weapon other than an air pistol: 12 ft/lbs (16-27 Joules)(and metric equivalents)

Such weapons are classified as Section 1 firearms and are required to be held on a firearm certificate. These weapons are subject to all the controls and regulations pertaining to Section 1 firearms, although the "ammunition" (pellets) is not.

These rules do not apply to an air weapon designed for use only when submerged in water, e.g. harpoon gun.


BB Guns/Air Soft Guns

BB guns or ball bearing guns, also known as soft air guns are legally sold in shops and on the Internet for people to use in organised 'Skirmish Clubs'. These clubs organise combat games between clubs. Generally this type of recreation if properly organised does not cause concern at all to the police or general public, however when these types of weapons are used irresponsibly by people in public places these types of incidents give the police grave concerns.


It is an offence to be in possession of an imitation firearm in a public place

Follow this link to view section 37 The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003