Airsoft UK | Everything To Know About Playing Airsoft In The UK
Airsoft in the UK has been gaining in popularity over the years. It's a fun way to get some exercise, meet new people, and immerse yourself in an exciting and tactical sport. However, before you jump in and start playing airsoft in the UK, it's important to understand the legal power limits in the UK and how to apply for membership in UKARA (United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association). We will explain more on that last point later. In the UK, there are strict regulations in place when it comes to airsoft guns, and this all came about after the enactment of the Violent Crime Reduction (VCR Bill) many years ago.
These strict regulations are designed to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the game, as well as the general public. Airsoft guns are required to meet certain power limits, which are measured in joules and fps (Feet Per Second). Exceeding legal power limits can result in serious consequences, so it's crucial to understand the rules before you start playing. Getting started in airsoft can be a bit daunting at first, but it's a simple process that we will go over and explain in this blog. If you're interested in playing airsoft in the UK, then read on.
Is airsoft legal in the UK?
Yes, airsoft is legal in the UK, but there are certain rules and regulations that players must follow to ensure safety and responsibility. One of the most important things to know as a UK airsoft player is the UKARA (United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association) membership. This is a national database that tracks players and their purchases to ensure that only responsible and experienced players have access to airsoft guns. To become a UKARA member, you must play at a UK airsoft game site that is UKARA registered. This means that the site owner is responsible for verifying that you have played at least 3 times in 2 months, a requirement to getting approved for UKARA membership.
Once you have played at a UKARA registered site 3 times in 2 months, the site owner will then sign you on as a regular player and you can apply for a UKARA membership. The benefit of UKARA membership is huge. It means you can purchase airsoft guns in their realistic form without any bright colors painted on them to denote that they are toys. If you do not have a UKARA membership you can still own an airsoft gun however, part of the gun will need to be painted in 2-tone colors. To comply with the law, UK airsoft players without a UKARA must have 51% of their airsoft gun covered in a bright color, typically pink, blue, green, or orange. This is to ensure that the guns are easily distinguishable from real firearms and to prevent any confusion or misunderstandings.
The UKARA membership is essentially used for buying non-2-tone airsoft guns from shops and airsoft websites UK, but this doesn’t just limit you to UK airsoft retailers. At Redwolf Airsoft, we ship to the UK and offer a 2-tone service where we paint the guns in 2-tone to comply with UK law. However, if you are a UKARA member, you can simply provide your UKARA number when checking out of our shopping cart, and the package will clear customs and get to you without having to 2-tone the gun. It's important to note that UK Customs & Border Control does have access to the UKARA database, so they will look up the number to ensure it is valid before clearing the package for entry.
Do you need a license for airsoft guns in the UK?
No, you do not need a license to own or use an airsoft gun in the UK. However, there are certain regulations and requirements that players must follow to ensure safety and responsibility. As we talked about in the above section, you do not need a license to own an Airsoft gun or RIF (Rifle Imitation Firearm) to play or collect airsoft guns in the UK. However, you will need a UKARA membership if you wish to buy guns that imitate the look of real firearms (airsoft guns that aren’t 2-tone).
UKARA is a database that tracks players and their purchases to ensure that only responsible and experienced players have access to airsoft guns. If you do not wish to get a UKARA membership or haven’t got one yet, then you can get a 2-tone airsoft gun. As stated above, UK airsoft players without UKARA that wish to buy an airsoft gun or RIF must have 51% of their airsoft gun covered in a bright color, typically pink, blue, green, or orange.
How to get an airsoft license in the UK?
To become a UKARA member, you must play at a game site that is UKARA registered. This means that the site owner is responsible for verifying that you have played airsoft in the UK at least 3 times in 2 months. Once you have played at a UKARA-registered site 3 times in 2 months, the site owner will then sign you off and you can apply for a UKARA membership. The process from the time you complete your 3 games within 2 months and getting your UKARA number can be anywhere from 1 week to 1 month, so be patient when waiting for your UKARA number.
You can find a list of registered UKARA UK airsoft sites on the Playairsoft website. This website will give you a map of all the fields where you can play airsoft in the UK to get you UKARA, as well as what the site fps (feet per second) limits are, a brief description of the field, the weather forecast, what systems are allowed and if it’s an indoor or an outdoor site.
Can you buy airsoft guns in the UK?
Yes, you can buy airsoft guns in the UK, but certain regulations and requirements must be followed to ensure safety and responsibility. In the UK, airsoft guns are classified as realistic imitation firearms (RIFs) and are subject to strict regulations regarding their appearance and power limits. To comply with these regulations, airsoft guns in the UK must be a minimum of 51% a bright color, typically pink, blue, green, or orange, and must meet certain power limits measured in joules.
Fortunately, there are several ways to purchase airsoft guns in the UK. You can visit local airsoft shops in your area to purchase airsoft guns and accessories such as JD Airsoft, High Pressure Airsoft, Land Warrior Airsoft, A2 Airsoft, Combat South Airsoft, and Crawley Airsoft. These shops often have knowledgeable staff that can help you choose the right gun for your needs and answer any questions you may have or make any custom airsoft guns in the UK you need. However, you are not limited to buying airsoft guns from local shops.
Redwolf Airsoft is also a registered business in the UK, but our office in Cheltenham only distributes equipment to local airsoft stores. Players may purchase from us directly through our online store and we ship to the UK daily by air from our main international warehouse in Asia, which carries a huge selection of guns and gear. We offer airsoft guns and accessories that may not be readily available in the UK, including exotic models made of the Japanese domestic market. For non-UKARA members, we also offer a 2-tone service where we paint the guns in 2-tone colors, with the bright color covering at least 51% of the surface area, to comply with UK law. Before purchasing an airsoft gun from anywhere overseas, it's important to ensure that the airsoft gun meets UK power limits and appearance requirements. We have a UK office, so we understand clearly the legal requirements. You do not need to worry when purchasing from us, because anything you purchase from our website will be shipped to you in UK-compliant form. Also, keep in mind that UK Customs and Border Control has the right to charge import and VAT tax from abroad, just like when you purchase from a local airsoft store.
Can you own an airsoft gun in the UK?
Yes, you can own an airsoft gun in the UK. In 2007 a bill was enacted called the violent crime reduction act, or VCRA. Before this act, you could walk into a shop and buy an airsoft replica. Now, things are a little more complicated but RIFs (Realistic Imitation Firearms) are still available to almost everyone if they get involved in airsoft. Airsoft guns in the UK are classified as realistic imitation firearms (RIFs) and are subject to strict regulations regarding their appearance and power limits. To purchase an airsoft gun in the UK, you must be at least 18 years old.
Additionally, to purchase an airsoft gun in the UK, you must have a valid defense, such as a UKARA (United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association) membership. This is not a license but a membership for purchasing airsoft guns that aren’t 2- tone and this extends ONLY to airsoft. You cannot use a UKARA membership to buy any other imitation firearm that is not airsoft. It's important to note that airsoft guns in the UK are not considered firearms and do not require a license to own or use. However, airsoft guns must be used responsibly and safely by not brandishing them in public and also by transporting them in a proper rifle case or gun box. As well as complying with UK law regarding appearance, power limits, and being over the age of 18 or having a responsible adult present when using, if you are under 18.
How much does airsoft cost in the UK?
Surprisingly, airsoft is a relatively cheap hobby to get involved in, especially when compared to other outdoor activities. Enough ammunition for a full day of play (about 3000 BBs) will cost £8-£12, and a very effective airsoft replica like the Arcturus LWT MK-1 CQB 10-inch Airsoft AEG Rifle can be bought for about £150 on Redwolfairsoft.com. There are cheaper options out there like spring-powered rifles but for playing, it won’t be as effective or as easy as an AEG.
When ordering online you have to pay a 3.2% import tax if demanded by UK Customs, and potentially VAT, although customs sometimes won’t always charge you this. If you buy within the UK, the price you pay will already have the import tax and VAT included within in. Shipping your airsoft guns from overseas may cost less than buying locally, but it depends on how much you are ordering and how heavy the package is. If you order the Arcturus gun that we mentioned, shipping will cost anywhere from £30-£50; again it depends on how heavy the Airsoft gun is. In most cases, even when you factor in overseas shipping and the potential taxes you need to pay for have the airsoft gun imported, you may still end up paying less. Do the math and compare for yourself before deciding to buy local or from an international retailer like RedWolf Airsoft.
Admission costs to a game day usually cost £20-£30. To rent a replica and face protection usually costs another £20. For such a fantastic full day out, this is a very favorable cost. All you need to turn up with is some dark or military-style clothing which you can find at surplus stores, and we recommend wearing sturdy boots with ankle protection as well as gloves. Getting your fingers shot at without any gloves can sting. When you get into the hobby, you can easily find yourself spending thousands each year on posh replicas and kits, but this is personal preference; in reality, skill will always win the day and any high-end equipment might give a casual player a marginal advantage over someone who has spent the bare minimum.
What is the legal FPS for airsoft in the UK?
Airsoft guns are measured in two units; the first is fps (Feet Per Second) is a measure of the speed of a 0.2g 6mm BB projectile as it travels through the air. It is expressed in feet per second and indicates how fast the projectile is moving when it leaves the barrel of the gun. Fps is a common way to measure the velocity of airsoft guns. The other is Joules (usually listed as a number then the letter J, for example 1.25J). In airsoft, it is used to measure the kinetic energy of the projectile as it leaves the barrel of the gun. There is a direct mathematical formula for joules, which is derived as a function of both the weight of the BB and the velocity at which is travels.
Energy (Joules) = 0.5 x mass (Kg) x (velocity (m/s)) ^ 2
Where mass is the weight of the BB in Kg, so a 0.2g BB would equal 0.0002Kg.
Velocity is the speed of the BB as indicated by a chrono in meters / second.
The higher the Joule rating, the more energy the projectile has and the more force it will impart upon impact. England, Wales, and Scotland, with the commencement of the Policing and Crime Act 2017, the Firearms Act 1968 has been amended to define the maximum power levels that Airsoft replicas are allowed to have. Exceeding any of these limits could ultimately result in a prison sentence, depending on what has been exceeded. Please reference the graph below to see what the UK power limits are.
Now these limits above are the legal limits for airsoft in the UK and Northern Ireland however, game sites may not adhere to these limits and may go slightly under to keep the guns from being overpowered. For example, most sites for AEG/GBBRs that can do full auto will have a 350 fps limit and must be under 1.3j. If sites allow DMRs (Designated Marksmen Rifles) you can do 400 fps and be below 1.8J, and for snipers and hand cocked guns you can usually go as high as 2.5J and 500 fps.
Do keep in mind that all UK airsoft fields across the UK will have different rules for fps limits so it is always best to contact the field you are going to play at to find out what these limits are. Northern Ireland is very different from the UK mainland. The Limits are set at 328 fps and 1.0J maximum. So keep this in mind if you live in Northern Ireland.
Where can I shoot my airsoft gun in the UK?
For airsoft in the UK, it is illegal to discharge an airsoft gun in a public place or any area where members of the public could be endangered. This includes forests, parks, and towns. Therefore, it is not recommended to shoot an airsoft gun in any public area. Not only is this illegal but it can also get you shot by the police who think you are endangering the public. Airsoft guns in the UK can be used in designated UK airsoft Sites/ fields or skirmish sites, which are specifically designed for airsoft games and have strict safety rules and regulations in place. When traveling to and from airsoft game sites, be sure to transport your airsoft gun in a proper carrying bag or case.
These sites are licensed and insured, and players must wear protective gear at all times. There are also airsoft events that you can go to such as NAF (National Airsoft Festival) in the UK or Stirling Airsoft. These are big UK airsoft events and are hosted all over the UK and are safe places for you to use your airsoft guns. Some of these events are hosted on military training sites with purpose-built infrastructure, which is extremely exhilarating. Use of pyro during airsoft games is also legal and common, which adds greatly to the immersive nature of the game.
It is legal however to shoot an airsoft gun in the UK on private property, such as in your back garden or house, as long as you take appropriate safety precautions and ensure that the BBs do not leave the boundaries of your property. It is important to note that shooting an airsoft gun on private property may still be subject to noise and disturbance regulations, so it's best to check with your local authorities before doing so.
Can you take airsoft guns on a plane in the UK?
In the UK, it is generally possible to transport airsoft guns on a plane, but it is up to the airline's discretion whether they allow airsoft guns to be carried as checked baggage or not. If you plan to travel with your airsoft gun, it is important to contact your airline in advance to find out their specific policies regarding transporting firearms or replicas. Some airlines may require you to fill out additional paperwork or declare your airsoft gun at check-in, while others may not allow airsoft guns to be transported at all.
When packing your airsoft gun for transport, it is recommended to put it in a sturdy gun box or rifle bag and secure it with a lock. It's important to note that airsoft guns cannot be carried on as hand luggage, and must be checked in as hold baggage. We highly advise that you arrive at the airport 3 hours early to provide ample time for inspection by airport police so that you do not miss your flight. For international travelers, it's also important to check with relevant authorities in your destination country to ensure that you are complying with local laws or regulations regarding the possession and transport of airsoft guns. If you're looking for information on air travel with airsoft guns, the UK Airsoft Players Union (UKAPU) website is an excellent resource. They have compiled a detailed list of airlines that allow airsoft guns, which you can find by following this link.