Category Archives: Legal

Media nonsense

The Evening Standard has printed a very inaccurate and misleading report on antique firearms.

It follows on from an arrest in London a few days ago.  I am not going to comment on that case because it sub judice but I am going to comment on the misleading statements in the report, which give a completely false impression of the law surrounding antique firearms.

The author implies that Tommy guns and Browning HiPower pistols may be owned as antiques.  This far fetched nonsense.  These remain section 5 prohibited firearms and absolutely nothing in the antiques exemption changes that situation.  There is no “loop hole” in the law.

The head of Nablis is quoted as saying “Our concern is that at the moment you are entitled to walk down the street with an antique firearm capable of firing real bullets”, a statement which is seriously disingenuous and misleading.  If someone were to be found with an antique revolver in a shoulder holster in a public place, then the “curio or ornament” exemption would be void and the person carrying the gun could be prosecuted, regardless of whether it was loaded.

He goes on to say “We are finding criminals with a knowledge of the law. They recognise that they can carry these weapons with little or no risk of jail.”.  If that is the case then that is down to the incompetence of prosecutors who have the legal tools at their disposal to deal with criminals who carry antique firearms to threaten and intimidate.  I suggest that Clive Robinson acquaints himself with them.

The article is correct that antique firearms can be bought at arms and militaria fairs on the continent.  They can also be bought at arms and militaria fairs in the UK.  The photograph in the article implies that Thompsons, Uzis, sawn off shotguns, Browning HiPower pistols and the like can be bought freely on the continent.  This is seriously misleading and untrue.  They cannot.

The law on antique firearms has stood since the Pistols Act of 1903 and is robust and protects public safety.  It has stood the test of time. The only case we know of where an antique firearm has been used in crime was in the murder of bandsman Lee Rigby, where one of the terrorists was armed with an antique KNIL Dutch service revolver.  When he attempted to use the gun, it blew up taking half his hand with it.  Which rather proves the point that antique firearms are no threat to public safety but may be a threat to criminally inclined morons who try to make them work.

There has been a rush of these fear mongering articles about antique firearms and we wonder whether someone in ACPO has found a new hobby horse to ride after the demise of compulsory identity cards?

Home Office Guidance – CAUTION

The Home Office publishes a guide to what may constitute an antique firearm.

This guidance has no statutory foundation and is, in effect, simply a gentleman’s agreement not to prosecute should an old gun meet the conditions set out in the guidance.  However it is not definitive and there are cases where guns not covered by the guidance may be accepted as antique.

For example, the obsolete centre fire cartridge 41 Colt is not covered by the guidance.  However I have successfully argued with my licensing authority that revolvers chambered for 41 Colt should be considered antique and several such firearms were removed from my certificate as a result.

BUT very strong caution needs to be advised should  anyone choose to step outside the Home Office guidance.  At the very least, an accredited expert’s opinion should be sought, but this is not a magic talisman against the authorities arresting and prosecuting a gun collector.

For anyone thinking of acquiring an old gun not on the Home Office list, I would strongly advise either lodging the guns in question with an RFD (Registered Firearms Dealer) or keeping them on a personal firearms certificate until they have received confirmation of the gun’s antique status from their local firearms department.

A collector might prevail in court, but possibly at a considerable cost to his health and wealth.  The authorities are ruthless and uncompromising when it comes to prosecuting suspected breaches of firearms law.  Being proved right by a jury may be very little recompense for the humiliation of being arrested and thousands spent on defence lawyer’s fees.

Here endeth the sermon

What is an antique firearm


Cased Tranter 80 bore revolver

I have posted an article about the conditions that an old gun must satisfy to be considered an antique in the UK.

The law doesn’t define it but there is guidance that does.  Ultimately it is up to a court to decide whether or not, taking all the facts of the case into consideration, whether a particular gun is antique.

However if a collector sticks to the Home Office guidance then he or she will never be prosecuted.

Some police licensing departments have accepted guns as antique that are not covered by the guidance.  But’s that an advanced topic for another time!