Recent changes to the law relating to Antique Firearms

22 April 2021

The law surrounding possession of firearms, including lawful possession, is complex and the consequences of falling on the wrong side of it can be very serious. Even if an individual lawfully owns a firearm and has the requisite certificates, it is imperative to remain on top of the requirements and any changes in the law. 

The latest change is in relation to the controls on antique firearms made by the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021 (“the Antique Regulations”) and the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (Commencement No.11 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2021 (“the Commencement Regulations”), which bring into effect section 126 of the Policing and Crime 2017 Act (“the 2017 Act”). These changes came into effect on 22 March 2021.

Previously, the Firearms Act 1968 did not define what constituted an “antique firearm”, but the age and purpose (such as possession for curiosity or as an ornament) of the firearm were instrumental factors in determining whether it fell into the “antique” category.  However, the new Regulations provide more clarity by bringing into force the definition as set out in section 126 of the 2017 Act, which refers to the type of cartridge the firearm was designed to use, and its propulsion system. The Antique Regulations also specify that a firearm manufactured after 1 September 1939 cannot be considered to be an antique.

What do existing owners of former antique firearms need to do?

There will be individuals who own a firearm that was previously considered to be an antique, but as a result of the changes in the law, no longer fall within the definition of an “antique firearm”. The Commencement Regulations provide for this type of situation and have implemented a transition period. Those individuals have a period of six months, ending at 23:59 on 21 September 2021, within which to make an application to their local police force for a firearm or shotgun certificate, or to vary an existing certificate. Failure to do this could lead to the commission of an offence such as being in possession of a prohibited weapon or the offence of being in possession of a firearm or shotgun without a certificate. 

When applying for a firearm or shotgun certificate in relation to a former “antique firearm”, the usual requirements for the grant or renewal of a certificate will apply; the police will still need to be satisfied that applicants are fit to be entrusted with the firearm, are not a prohibited person, and will not represent a danger to public safety or to the peace. However, it will not be necessary to show that there is a “good reason” for possessing that formerly “antique” firearm.

If an individual decides not to licence a firearm that no longer falls within the “antique firearm” definition, they will need to dispose of it by the end of the transition period by surrendering it to the police, selling it, exporting or deactivating it or donating it to a museum.

Further Information

For further information on the issues raised in this blog post, please contact a member of our criminal litigation team.


About the Author

Leena is a barrister in the Criminal Litigation department. Her practice covers all areas of criminal defence, white collar crime and internal investigations.

Leena advises individuals who hold shotgun or firearms certificates in relation to applications to grant or renew a certificate, as well as in circumstances where a certificate has been refused and where there has been revocation of a certificate.


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