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 gas pressure generated either by the release of a coiled spring acting upon a piston, or the discharge of compressed gas from a cylinder.
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 specially dangerous have a muzzle energy in excess of:
In the case of an air pistol: 6 ft/lbs
In the case of an air weapon other than an air pistol: 12 ft/lbs
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) are not.
These rules do not apply to an air weapon designed for use only when submerged in water, e.g. harpoon gun.
Under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, air weapons using a self contained gas cartridge (i.e. a cartridge containing both the compressed gas propellant and the projectile, such as is used in the Brocock system) are classified as Section 5 firearms and subject to general prohibition. Anyone owning such a gun when the act came into force on January 20th 2004 had until May 1st that year to either obtain Section 1 firearms certification for the weapon, or to surrender the weapon to the police – failure to have done so is a criminal offence.
It is illegal to:
A Young Person under 17:
A Young Person under 14:
Please note that the above is a distillation of those parts of the law that apply to air guns for guidance only, and is not to be regarded as a complete statement of firearms law.