'Antique firearms' definition and new Regulations

29 March 2021

Section 58(2) of the Firearms Act 1968 exempts firearms regarded as antique from most of the controls under the Act. This includes being able to possess a firearm without a firearms certificate and to trade in them without being registered with the police as a firearms dealer. From 22 March 2021 the Act is amended to provide a definition of 'antique firearm' by inserting subsections (2A) to (2H) into section 58.

New subsection (2A) provides that a firearm is antique if either of the conditions set out in subsections (2B) or (2C) are met. The condition in new subsection (2B) is that the chamber or chambers are those that the firearm had when it was manufactured (or is a replacement that is identical in all material respects) and that the firearm is chambered for use with a cartridge specified in the Schedule of the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021. The condition in new subsection (2C) is that the firearm's propulsion system is of a type specified in regulation 3.

Additional conditions can be provided under new subsection (2D), which allows the Secretary of State to make regulations to specify that either a number of years must have elapsed since the date of manufacture of the firearm, or a fixed date before which the firearm was manufactured in order for it to be antique. For this purpose, the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021 have been created. Regulation 4 details that for the purposes of section 58(2D)(b) of the Act, the firearm must have been manufactured before 1st September 1939.

Therefore, from 22 March 2021 some firearms previously regarded as antique, and therefore exempt from control, no longer qualify as such and must now be licensed. Owners of these firearms have 6 months either to license them or lawfully dispose of them. See section 126 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 and the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (Commencement No. 11 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2021.

Home Office Circular 001/2021 also provides further information on the changes made by the regulations.

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