Section 58(2) in the 1968 Firearm Act says that:
Nothing in this Act relating to firearms shall apply to an antique firearm which is sold, transferred, purchased, acquired or possessed as a curiosity or ornament
That’s why antique firearms are often called “section 58-2″s
So no antique firearm requires a licence if it is kept as decorative item and not for shooting.
But what is an “antique” firearm? This is the first lesson that EVERY collector needs to learn. Get it wrong and you face prosecution. Even when the collector has made an “honest mistake” official policy in Britain is to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. I don’t think that is just or reasonable but that is the way that those who administer the law have chosen to behave.
OK, I hope that’s scared you, and it was meant to. But by sticking to a few simple rules, and you can eliminate the risk of making a mistake to almost zero.
The law makes it difficult for us collectors because it does not define what an antique firearm is. Years ago, an antique pin fire revolver needed a licence in Sussex but could be bought and traded freely in Birmingham. That was because every police force interpreted the law differently. British counties are not autonomous federal states, as in the United States, so that was ridiculous and the situation had to end.
In 1989, the Home Office published a series of guidelines on what the police should consider to be antique. The latest version of that guidance can be found in “Guide on Firearms Licensing Law” published by the Home Office and can be found here. Download the PDF file on that page and read Chapter 8 and Appendix 5.