Changes to Antique Firearms Regulations: What you need to know

A farmer using a laptop on farm

The NFU is encouraging members to double check any antique firearms they own after a change in legislation means they may no longer be exempt from licensing requirements. This follows the government acting to close loopholes exploited by criminals to use antique firearms in violent crime.

Since 22 March 2021 some firearms and shotguns previously regarded as antique, and therefore exempt from control, no longer qualify as such and must now be licensed. Owners of these firearms must act by 21 September 2021 to licence them or lawfully dispose of them.

NFU assistant land management adviser Annabel James said:

“If you have any antique firearms or shotguns you must check you are complying with the new regulations before the 21 September deadline. If you don’t act you may be seen to be in unlawful possession of a prohibited weapon. If you have a firearm you think might be affected the Firearms Licensing team in your local police force should be able to provide guidance.”

What classes as an antique firearm?

Section 58 of the Firearms Act 1968 and the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021 set out in law which firearms can be regarded as antique, and therefore exempt from licensing. To be regarded as an antique, a firearm must:

  • Have been manufactured before 1 September 1939, and
  • Either have a propulsion system of a type specified in the 2021 Regulations (for example, muzzle loaders, pin-fire or needle-fire) or the chamber(s) are those that the firearm had when it was manufactured (or a replacement that is identical in all material respects) and it is chambered for use with a cartridge specified in the 2021 Regulations, and
  • Be sold, transferred, purchased, acquired or possessed as a curiosity or ornament, i.e. not to be fired, even occasionally.

The new Regulations contain an appendix (Appendix 3) which is a list of centre-fire and shotgun cartridges now classed as obsolete, and therefore exempt as antique. Following their use in crime, seven cartridges which previously appeared in the Home Office obsolete cartridge list have been omitted from the equivalent list in the 2021 Regulations. These cartridges are:

  • 320 British (also known as .320 Revolver CF, short or long)
  • 41 Colt (short or long)
  • 44 Smith and Wesson Russian
  • 442 Revolver (also known as .44 Webley)
  • 4mm Dutch Revolver
  • 6mm German Ordnance Revolver
  • 11mm French Ordnance Revolver M1873 (Army)

Further details can be found on the Gov.uk website.

What do I need to do now?

Since 22 March 2021, only antique firearms which meet the above criteria can continue to be lawfully possessed without being licensed.

There is a transition period of six months, in which time you need to decide what to do with any antique firearms which are no longer exempt from licensing control. You have until 21 September to make the decision.

If you only hold licensed firearms and shotguns then you do not need to take any action.

The following possibilities are open to anyone possessing an unlicensed firearm or shotgun which is no longer exempt as an antique:

  • Sell it to a Section 5 Registered Firearms Dealer or through a Section 5 auctioneer
  • Donate it to a museum
  • Have it deactivated so that you can continue to keep it without a certificate
  • Surrender it to the police
  • Apply for a Shotgun or Firearm Certificate, or a variation to an existing one

In relation to the last option, the certificate or variation does not need to have been granted by 21 September, you merely need to have submitted a complete application by that date. If the certificate is granted you will be required to store the antique firearm in accordance with the security requirements.

For further advice on transitional arrangements visit the Gov.uk website.