Legal Information

Home Office Statement – BB Guns

Realistic imitation firearms and airsoft guns

It was also an offence from 1 October to manufacture, import or sell a realistic imitation firearm or Black Airsoft Guns. However, we recognize there are legitimate uses for realistic imitation firearms and have provided, in addition to the defences specified on the face of the Act in relation to the use of realistic imitations for film, television and historical re-enactment, a defence, through regulations, for airsoft skirmishing. The defence relates to “the acting out of military or law enforcement scenarios for the purposes of recreation” for which third party liability insurance is held.

UKARA has put in place arrangements to allow retailers to check that individual purchasers are members of a genuine skirmishing club or site. Under these arrangements, new players must play at least 3 times in a period not less than 2 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; and a member’s entry on the database will be deleted if unused for 12 months.

Non-realistic imitation firearms and airsoft guns

We cannot offer views on the particular items which you sent nor can we interpret or enforce the law as this is a matter for the courts and police respectively.

Those who will not meet the requirements specified in the regulations will not be able to acquire realistic imitations but will still be able to buy non-realistic imitation firearms, as will those who wish to purchase paintball markers. The Act states that an imitation firearm is to be considered distinguishable from a real firearm if its size, shape or principal colour is unrealistic for a real firearm. Accordingly, to provide business with a degree of certainty about what can be traded in, the regulations specify that imitation firearms with a height less than 38mm and a length less than 70mm would be considered unrealistic. Additionally, imitation firearms which are transparent; bright red; bright orange; bright yellow; bright green; bright pink; bright purple; and bright blue are considered non-realistic colours.

Offence to sell an imitation to a person under 18

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”. It will ultimately be for the courts to decide whether any item falls within this definition but it will also apply to non-realistic imitations which nevertheless have “the appearance of being a firearm”. This could include some children’s toys although many toys will look so different from a firearm they might not be regarded as an imitation at all (for example, some of the more futuristic looking space guns). Where a toy is considered to be an imitation firearm (and where an item is considered an imitation firearm), the purchase will have to be made by a parent or other person aged over 18.


Crossbows Act 1987 (c. 32)

Revised Statute from The UK Statute Law Database

This version of this statute is extracted from the UK Statute Law Database (SLD). It is not necessarily in the form in which it was originally enacted but is a revised version, which means that any subsequent amendments to the text and other effects are incorporated with annotations.

There are effects on this legislation that have not yet been applied to SLD for the following years: 2006 and 2007. See the Tables of Legislative effects and the Update status of legislation page on the SLD website.

An Act to create offences relating to the sale and letting on hire of crossbows to, and the purchase, hiring and possession of crossbows by, persons under the age of seventeen; and for connected purposes.

15th May 1987

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-

1. Sale and letting on hire

A person who sells or lets on hire a crossbow or a part of a crossbow to a person under the age of seventeen is guilty of an offence, unless he believes him to be seventeen years of age or older and has reasonable ground for the belief.

2. Purchase and hiring

A person under the age of seventeen who buys or hires a crossbow or a part of a crossbow is guilty of an offence.

3. Possession

A person under the age of seventeen who has with him-

  • (a) a crossbow which is capable of discharging a missile, or
  • (b) parts of a crossbow which together (and without any other parts) can be assembled to form a crossbow capable of discharging a missile, is guilty of an offence, unless he is under the supervision of a person who is twenty-one years of age or older.

4. Powers of search and seizure etc

(1) If a constable suspects with reasonable cause that a person is committing or has committed an offence under section 3, the constable may-

  • (a) search that person for a crossbow or part of a crossbow;
  • (b) search any vehicle, or anything in or on a vehicle, in or on which the constable suspects with reasonable cause there is a crossbow, or part of a crossbow, connected with the offence.

(2) A constable may detain a person or vehicle for the purpose of a search under subsection (1).

(3) A constable may seize and retain for the purpose of proceedings for an offence under this Act anything discovered by him in the course of a search under subsection (1) which appears to him to be a crossbow or part of a crossbow.

(4) For the purpose of exercising the powers conferred by this section a constable may enter any land other than a dwelling-house.

5. Exception

This Act does not apply to crossbows with a draw weight of less than 1.4 kilograms.

6. Punishments

(1) A person guilty of an offence under section 1 shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under section 2 or 3 shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

(3) The court by which a person is convicted of an offence under this Act may make such order as it thinks fit as to the forfeiture or disposal of any crossbow or part of a crossbow in respect of which the offence was committed.

7. Corresponding provision for Northern Ireland

An Order in Council under paragraph 1(1)(b) of Schedule 1 to the M1Northern Ireland Act 1974 (legislation for Northern Ireland in the interim period) which contains a statement that it is made only for purposes corresponding to the purposes of this Act-

(a) shall not be subject to paragraph 1(4) and (5) of that Schedule (affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament), but

(b) shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.


Marginal Citations
M11974 c. 28.
8 Short title, commencement and extent.

(1) This Act may be cited as the Crossbows Act 1987.

(2) Sections shall come into force at the end of the period of two months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(3) Sections 1 to 6 shall not extend to Northern Ireland.