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